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Triumph of diplomacy

Editorial |

Sanctions have become the bulwark of the international system…from Iran to North Korea via the junta in Myanmar. That truism gets reflected in the latest cache of crippling curbs imposed on North Korea by the UN Security Council, though the reprisal in response to the second ICBM test was masterminded by Donald Trump’s America.

In point of fact, the resolution, crafted by the US, was accepted without a word of disapproval from China and Russia. The unanimous adoption of sanctions, despite the occasionally overbearing presence of the representatives of Beijing and Moscow, was without question a rare triumph of diplomacy, indeed the comity of nations. This must be reckoned as the striking feature of what has collectively been projected as UN action against Kim Jong-un’s North Korea, more importantly its militarist postures.

The economic connotation can be hugely damaging, not least the ban on exports worth over $ one billion for a cloistered country whose total exports were valued at $ 3 billion last year. Clearly, reports that the missile was capable of striking at Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York besides Alaska would appear to have unnerved the West. Small wonder that last week’s sanctions signify the single largest economic reprisal ever targeted against North Korea. The US has had its way in the Security Council after having stumbled in its dealings with Syria in the face of opposition from China and Russia.

For the resolution, which bears the imprint of the White House, also bans additional permits to North Korean labourers ~ believed to be a source of funds for the regime in Pyongyang. Prohibited too are new joint ventures with North Korean companies, matched with a ban on foreign investments in the existing ones.

The fineprint of the sanctions is obvious ~ to ratchet up the economic pressure on Pyongyang and compel the “hermit kingdom” to head for the negotiating table, there to take a call on its nuclear and missile programmes.

Thus far, there is not the faintest indication that it will; rather the North has threatened what it calls a “thousand-fold” vendetta against the US, recalling Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s muscle-flexing after the 1971 war and the emergence of Bangladesh. Six rounds of sanctions have already been imposed, and these have failed to suspend North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes.

The latest resolution bans the export of coal, iron, lead and seafood products, representing onethird of last year’s exports and estimated to be worth $ one billion. Nine officials have been mentioned in the blacklist, banning their travel and freezing their assets. This can be contextualised with the asset-freeze on two companies and two banks.

The UN sanctions are as sweeping as they are potentially crippling for the economy. Yet to bring the Kim regime to its knees is a different kettle of fish altogether.