The rhetoric coming from North Korea is heating up, which is a good indication that the latest U.S.-led action in the UN Security Council got the attention of the paranoid Pyongyang leadership. Last weekend the world saw a strong and united Security Council tell the North Korean regime that its illegal and dangerous acts must stop. This time, continuation of their illegal nuclear program was met with actions, not just words.
The Security Council’s action has thrown the dictators of Pyongyang off their stride because it hits them where it hurts most: The hard currency the regime gets from its exports and the slave labor of the North Korean people. The resolution is the single largest economic sanctions package ever leveled on North Korea. It targets the regime’s exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood – the mainstays of its economy – and reduces them by about one-third. It is the most stringent set of sanctions the United Nations has leveled on any country in a generation.
Almost as important as the content of the sanctions is the fact that the Security Council spoke with one voice in imposing them. North Korea’s neighbor, China, has a critical role to play when it comes to Pyongyang. Not only did the Chinese vote for the resolution, they worked cooperatively with the United States and other countries to bring the resolution to a vote. Russia – another country that has favored North Korea at times – voted for the resolution as well.
The UN’s action also puts a long overdue spotlight on the plight of the North Korean people. The development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles is expensive. While its own people go hungry, the North Korean regime diverts its scarce resources – most of which come from the exports targeted in the UN resolution – to these illegal programs. What’s more, North Korea is facing its worst drought in sixteen years. The regime has shamelessly begun to ask for international assistance, even as it plows its hard currency into nuclear development. We will continue to stand for the human dignity and rights of the North Korean people even as we respond to the regime’s nuclear threat.
While its own people go hungry, the North Korean regime diverts its scarce resources – most of which come from the exports targeted in the UN resolution – to these illegal programs.
These sanctions are a big win for peace and security, the United Nations, and a unified Trump Administration foreign policy team. But we are not kidding ourselves. We have not solved the problem – not even close. The threat posed by an outlaw, nuclearized North Korea has not gone away. In fact, it is rapidly growing more serious. In just the last month, North Korea has fired two missiles capable of reaching San Francisco, Tokyo, Paris or Sydney.
The members of the Security Council and all nations must do more to increase the pressure on North Korea. We’ve passed sanctions that cut deep – but only if they are enforced. All UN member states now have the obligation to implement these and past sanctions on North Korea.
For our part, the United States will continue to keep all options on the table. We prefer to end this crisis through dialogue, but our eyes are wide open. We will fight to see this resolution and others implemented to the fullest. We will continue to put maximum pressure on North Korea at the United Nations and elsewhere to change its ways. And our joint military exercises with South Korea will go on as they have for nearly 40 years. Despite what the dictators in Pyongyang claim, these exercises are meant to protect the United States and our allies. Unlike the North Korean nuclear and missile programs, they are open, transparent and defense-oriented.
Saturday was a strong day at the United Nations – all the bluster coming from Pyongyang is proof of that. But we will need many more such days in order to end the crisis created by the North Korean regime. The goal of the United States is and has always been a stable Korean peninsula, at peace, without nuclear weapons. It is now up to the North Korean regime to demonstrate, through its actions, that it shares this goal.