The Effectiveness of Economic Sanctions against a Nuclear North Korea

By Kim, Suk Hi; Martin-Hermosillo, Mario | North Korean Review, Fall 2013 | Go to article overview

The Effectiveness of Economic Sanctions against a Nuclear North Korea


Kim, Suk Hi, Martin-Hermosillo, Mario, North Korean Review


Introduction

On July 5, 2006, North Korea test-launched an array of missiles, which ended a self-imposed moratorium of eight years. Ten days after the missile test (on July 15, 2006), in its toughest official response to North Korean actions since 1994, the United Nations (UN) Security Council adopted Resolution 1695. This resolution condemned the missile tests, demanded North Korea cease all activities related to its ballistic mi - ssile program, and required all member states to comply with measures limiting North Korea's access to missile-tested materials or technology. On October 9, 2006, North Korea set offits first nuclear test. The UN Security Council voted unanimously on October 14 to slap North Korea with trade, travel, and other sanctions as punishment for its claimed nuclear weapons test. This resolution (1718) is much stronger than the earlier resolutions; it calls for inspection of North Korea cargoes, bars the travel to UN member states of North Koreans responsible for North Korea's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program, requires UN member states to freeze the financial assets of North Korean people or entities designated by the UN as engaged in North Korean WMD activities, and requires the establishment of an oversight committee.

Under the latest resolution (2094), tougher sanctions impose penalties on North Korean banking, travel, and trade, and were passed in a 15-0 vote that reflected the country's increased international isolation. China, the North's longtime benefactor, helped the United States draftthe sanctions resolution, in what outside experts called a sign of Beijing's growing annoyance with Pyongyang's defiant behavior on the nuclear issue. The Chinese had entreated the North Koreans not to proceed with the February 12, 2013, underground nuclear test, their third. It is questionable whether these new sanctions will work. In other words, will the sanctions compel North Korean leaders to comply fully with UN demands, or will they lead the North Korean masses to rebel against their leaders? This article discusses reasons for the possible failure of these new sanctions against North Korea, the consequences of their failure to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, and policy options on a nuclear North Korea.

The Effectiveness of Sanctions Against Outlaw Countries

The term "economic sanctions" means restrictions on normal commercial relations with a target country, including trade, investment, and other cross-border activities. Economic sanctions are either unilateral or multilateral. A unilateral sanction is imposed by one country, such as the U.S., against another country, such as North Korea. Multilateral sanctions require the cooperation of at least two nations. The clearest examples of multilateral sanctions are those imposed by the Security Council of the United Nations.

Multinational sanctions were relatively rare before 1990. The UN Security Council, obviously incapacitated due to Cold War-related veto powers, imposed sanctions only twice (Rhodesia in 1966 and South Africa in 1977) in the 45 years of its existence prior to the August 1990 embargo of Iraq.1 Since 1990, however, the UN Security Council has increasingly imposed economic sanctions to prevent, manage, or resolve violent conflict. When a UN sanction is imposed, all UN member nations are required to comply with the order and to enforce the sanction against the outlaw country.2

The active utilization of sanctions as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy dates back to the aftermath of World War I, when U.S. President Woodrow Wilson suggested that the adoption of sanctions was a method that could keep the world free of war. However, empirical studies on the effectiveness of economic sanctions by Pape3 and others found that historically, sanctions have a poor track record. The rare success of cases such as South Africa is associated with unique factors that are unlikely to be found elsewhere. …

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