The UN Security Council — by a unanimous 15-0 vote — imposed new sanctions on North Korea on August 5, sanctions that reportedly could cut the communist state’s $3 billion annual export revenue by one-third. The sanctions were imposed as a punitive measure in response to Pyonyang’s two ballistic missile tests in July.
Reuters reported that the U.S.-drafted resolution bans North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore, and seafood. It also prohibits countries from increasing the current numbers of North Korean laborers working abroad, bans new joint ventures with North Korea, and any new investment in current joint ventures.
Russia and China were among the Security Council members voting for the resolution, which some observers might find surprising, given that China is North Korea’s largest trading partner, making up at least 85 percent of Pyonyang’s total trade.
The prevailing view reported by most news media is that China’s support for the sanctions came about as a result of pressure exerted by the United States during a series of talks following North Korea’s July 4 missile launch.
This view was strengthened by U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley’s July 25 statement to the media: “We’re constantly in touch with China.... Things are moving but it’s still too early to tell how far they'll move.” Haley added that she was pleased with China's initial response to the U.S. proposal because it showed “seriousness.”
“We know that China’s been sharing and negotiating with Russia, so as long as they are doing that, we’re going to continue to watch this closely to make sure it is a strong resolution,” she told reporters.
“This resolution is the single largest economic sanctions package ever leveled against the North Korean regime,” said Haley. “This is the most stringent set of sanctions on any country in a generation.
“And this time, the council has matched its words and actions.”
Following passage of the resolution, the White House released a statement reading:
President Donald J. Trump commends the United Nations Security Council for passing a new resolution that increases sanctions on North Korea in response to its recent ballistic missile tests. The President appreciates China’s and Russia’s cooperation in securing passage of this resolution. He will continue working with allies and partners to increase diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea to end its threatening and destabilizing behavior.
Trump’s efforts to push China and the UN to take the lead on reining in North Korea have been misguided, however. Back in June, Trump indicated that he believed that China — which is the chief ally of the Pyonyang regime — was actually willing to assist in getting North Korea to stop its nuclear and missile tests. When such efforts apparently failed, Trump tweeted: “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi and China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out.” However, he tweeted, he knew that “China tried.”
The New American’s foreign correspondent, Alex Newman, has observed that nothing productive can be achieved by trusting the UN to stop North Korea from pursuing its weapons programs, largely because two of the Security Council’s permanent members, Russia and China, are allies of Pyonyang — with China being its most important ally.
While some may view those two nations’ votes supporting the sanctions as notable progress against Pyonyang, the more notable (but rarely discussed) effect is to further strengthen the UN. There has been a long history of Russia (or its predecessor, the old Soviet Union) engaging in action that appears to go against the UN, but in effect, strengthened not only the world body, but also helped the communists in both China and North Korea.
Back in 1950, two days after the Soviet-trained North Korean army invaded South Korea with assistance from the Communist Chinese military, the UN Security Council authorized sending UN forces to Korea to repel the North Korean invasion. As a permanent member of the Security Council, the Soviet Union might have vetoed this action, however the Soviets had boycotted the Council meetings since January 1950, protesting that the Taiwanese “Republic of China” and not the mainland “People’s Republic of China” held a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. The Soviet deputy foreign minister accused the United States of starting armed intervention on behalf of South Korea and challenged the legitimacy of the war for several reasons. However, the Soviet objections were as insincere as they were transparent. The Soviets had an apparent vested interest in the conflict, as they had supported the North Koreans with both training and weapons, and it would have been easy for them to end their boycott and cast a veto against the UN operation, if they so desired.
But the onset of the war benefited communist objectives, since it not only strengthened the UN but allowed Soviet officials in the UN to sabotage the efforts of those supporting the South Korean defense. They did this by passing along all significant U.S. military plans to the North Koreans. This was accomplished because all U.S. and allied plans were sent through the UN under-secretary for security and political affairs, a Soviet named Constantine E. Zinchenko. During the war, the Soviet Lt. General Alexandre Vasiliev (who had been the Soviet representative on the UN Military Staff Committee from 1947 to January 1950) took a leave of absence from his UN job and was appointed by the Soviets and Chinese to be in command of all Chinese troop movements across the 38th parallel. Vasiliev received all of his military information about troop movements of all UN forces in Korea directly from his superior, Zinchenko.
While the players have changed during the past 67 years, one factor remains. Instead of helping to “rein in” North Korea, China and Russia are much more likely to use their influence at the UN to help the Pyonyang regime. As Alex Newman wrote for an upcoming issue of The New American:
The allegedly “rogue” dictator ruling North Korea is not just some lone nut “fat kid” with nuclear weapons, as he is often portrayed in the establishment press in the United States and around the world. Instead, he appears to be a tool of powerful communist and global forces hoping to exploit his seemingly bizarre, erratic behavior as a means of centralizing and globalizing government control, primarily through the UN.
While it may seem that the UN is the perfect vehicle for bringing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un under control, the more likely explanation is that Kim is just a convenient villain to frighten those who want to empower the UN and establish global control.
Photo of UN Security Council: Screenshot of UN image