President Trump signed a presidential executive order on September 21 “imposing additional sanctions with respect to North Korea.”
In the order, Trump cited the communist regime’s “provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions and policies … including its intercontinental ballistic missile launches of July 3 and July 28, 2017, and its nuclear test of September 2, 2017 each of which violated its obligations under numerous UNSCRs [UN Security Council Resolutions].”
The order blocks the transfer of all property in the United States or in the possession of a U.S. person to entities in North Korea. It also prohibits residents of the United States from engaging in a number of listed industries in North Korea, from engaging in exports or imports to and from North Korea, and assisting or acting on behalf of anyone engaged in property transfers blocked pursuant to the order.
The order also prohibits aircraft and maritime vessels that have departed from North Korea from entering the United States for 180 days.
The sanctions became effective at 12:01 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time, September 21, 2017.
In a tweet on September 22, Trump lashed out at the North Korean leader: “Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!”
Trump’s executive order followed his strong speech at the UN on September 19, during which he pulled no punches in condemning the Pyongyang regime, saying, in part,
No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the well-being of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea….
It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would arm, supply, and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict.
No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles. The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing, and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That’s what the United Nations is all about. That’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do.
It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future. The United Nations Security Council recently held two unanimous 15-0 votes adopting hard-hitting resolutions against North Korea, and I want to thank China and Russia for joining the vote to impose sanctions, along with all of the other members of the Security Council.
Following Trump’s speech, Kim fired back, in a statement released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 22. In the statement, Kim raised the bar for delivering new insults against Trump, stating, “A frightened dog barks louder.” The North Korean strongman continued:
[Trump's] remarks which described the U.S. option through straightforward expression of his will have convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last.
Now that Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of a war in history that he would destroy the DPRK, we will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.
Action is the best option in treating the dotard who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wants to say.
Kim’s use of the word “dotard” sent journalists around the world searching online dictionaries. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “dotard” as “an old person, especially one who has become weak or senile.”
The escalating rhetoric between Trump and Kim aside, the constitutional conservative — or “constitutionalist” — must decide whether or not Trump’s imposition of sanctions is the best strategy for dealing with the Pyongyang regime.
Former congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas), a man long admired by libertarians and constitutionalists for his defense of the Constitution and a noninterventionist foreign policy, has spoke out often about the use of sanctions as a foreign policy tool. Anticipating Trump’s signing of H.R. 3364, which increased sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea, Paul wrote a column on July 24 in which said the fresh sanctions were “a prime example of how little thought goes into U.S. foreign policy.” “No matter what the problem, no matter where on earth it occurs, the answer from Washington is always sanctions,” said Paul. “Sanctions are supposed to force governments to change policies and do what Washington tells them or face the wrath of their people. So the goal of sanctions is to make life as miserable as possible for civilians so they will try to overthrow their governments. Foreign leaders and the elites do not suffer under sanctions. This policy would be immoral even if it did work, but it does not.”
Despite the good sense Paul made in his argument, some of us old-time, hardcore anti-Communists may feel like making an exception when it comes to a notorious, incorrigible communist tyrant such as Kim — who is unlikely to respond to anything but the harshest measures.
However, even if our leaders decided that sanctions were the only option for dealing with Kim’s regime, there are other problematic ingredients found in both Trump’s UN speech and in his executive order. These objectionable points are related to Trump’s reliance on the United Nations as source of authority for the sanctions and as a vehicle for enforcing them.
In his executive order, Trump cites the United Nations Participation Act of 1945 and three Security Council resolutions alongside the Constitution and U.S. laws as his authority to impose the sanctions. This is the same error former President George W. Bush made to justify our invasion of Iraq. As a sovereign nation, the United States should never require permission from the UN to implement its foreign policy. If our president decides that sanctions are the best option, he should impose them on U.S. authority alone — not the UN’s.
Likewise, in his speech at the UN, Trump noted that the Security Council recently held two unanimous 15-0 votes adopting hard-hitting resolutions against North Korea and said, “It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behavior.” Presumably “all nations” would work together through the UN and under UN authority.
It is exactly that mentality that got the United States embroiled in the UN’s police action in Korea from 1950 through 1953 — a conflict in which 33,686 Americans were killed.
Whether or not sanctions are the best option, the decision to impose them (or not impose them) should be made solely on our own authority as a sovereign nation. UN authority should never be sought after in making our foreign policy decisions. In fact, withdrawing the United States from UN membership would solve that dilemma once and for all.
Photo: AP Images