Take Away Their Mercedes
Nol, Marcus, Newsweek International
Past sanctions on North Korea, like those banning luxury goods, haven't worked because states cheated.
Last September, satellite photos of North Korea revealed construction of a large new missile-launch facility near the Chinese border. Now speculation is growing that Pyongyang may be about to test a multistage rocket, one potentially capable of reaching the U.S. West Coast. South Korean intelligence officials estimate that the launch site is 80 percent complete, and their U.S. counterparts claim the North is moving forward with preparations, including engine tests.
Should Pyongyang fire its new weapon, it would be just the latest in a recent string of bellicose moves, including abrogation of all military accords with Seoul (which led the South to raise the alert level of its forces). Some pundits see this aggressiveness as an attempt to punish the conservative South Korean government for jettisoning the "sunshine policy" of its predecessors and making further economic aid conditional on North Korean reform. Others see it as a test of the new Obama administration. Still others say it reflects a power struggle in the North--or that it's a test drive for potential arms buyers like Iran, Syria and Libya.
Pyongyang will probably claim a test launch represents none of the above. After a 1998 launch, for instance, it insisted its only goal was to loft into orbit a satellite warbling "immortal revolutionary hymns," such as the "Song of General Kim Il Sung," at 27 megahertz.
Whatever the truth, President Obama will find himself in an awkward situation: having said that he'll negotiate with U.S. enemies, he'll also feel compelled to respond to a provocation. This, most likely, will mean a return to the U.N. During the campaign, candidate Obama promised that if North Korea reneged on its international commitments, he'd lead a multilateral effort aimed at "suspending energy assistance, reimposing sanctions that have recently been waived and considering new restrictions."
There's just one problem: U.N. sanctions have been tried before, and failed. Following North Korea's last major missile launch, in July 2006, the U.N. Security Council demanded that Pyongyang suspend all ballistic-missile activities and re-establish an earlier moratorium on launches. The U.N. also imposed limited economic sanctions, which were broadened that October following a nuclear test to include heavy weapons and luxury goods.
Yet none of these measures changed North Korea's behavior, probably because they were implemented less than zealously. …