Experts: U.S., S. Korea must disrupt North’s illicit activities

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The United States and South Korea will have to enforce U.N. sanctions against North Korea by disrupting the totalitarian regime’s counterfeiting and weapons trafficking operations, according to Asian affairs specialists.

“South Korea and the U.S. need to implement more sanctions, and the U.S. needs to expand the sanctions” if they are to have any impact, said Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation.

Nicholas Eberstadt, a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, said the North Korean regime “thinks it operates in a penalty-free zone,” but it could be hobbled if nations such as South Korea and the United States disrupt its international criminal enterprises.

On July 9, the United Nations issued a statement “deploring” the sinking of a South Korean warship in March that killed 46 sailors. Though an international panel determined that a North Korean submarine sank the ship with a torpedo, the U.N. statement did not attribute blame to anyone.

North Korea, which has denied any responsibility in the incident, has declared the U.N. statement “our great diplomatic victory.” Pyongyang had threatened military action if the United Nations declared the North’s involvement in the sinking of the Cheonan.

Susan E. Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said July 9 that the U.N. “statement is clear that it seeks to resolve outstanding issues through diplomatic means [and that] there are various vehicles through which that might be accomplished.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is traveling in Asia this week and will visit South Korea and attend the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi, where the State Department “anticipate[s] a very broad and diverse discussion about North Korea,” among other issues.

“The United States is considering a variety of options associated with North Korea,” Kurt M. Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said Thursday.

But Mr. Eberstadt called the U.N. statement “toothless” because it adds no new measures to enforce U.N. sanctions and avoids directly accusing North Korea.

U.N. sanctions have been in place against North Korea since 2006, when it tested a nuclear weapon. They have never been strictly enforced, however, and some countries are overtly lax in their implementation.

According to Kwang-Jin Kim, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, a nongovernmental organization focused on human rights, Pyongyang relies heavily on illegal enterprises and international trade, and Kim Jong-il uses much of the money to buy the loyalty of his subordinates.

Consequently, the sanctions against North Korea’s illicit activities would have a resounding impact on the communist government, which already is experiencing internal problems, he said.

“If we target [the North Korean leader’s] money and the royal court economy, it directly affects the regime,” said Mr. Kim, a former North Korean government official who defected.

Chuck Downs, a former Pentagon official and currently the executive director of Human Rights in North Korea, said the solution isn’t adding more sanctions “but seeing if we can keep the current ones strong.”

“We have seen in the past that sanctions have a positive impact on the regime,” he said.

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About the Author
Michelle Phillips

Michelle Phillips

Michelle Phillips is a student intern with the Washington Times through the National Journalism Center covering international affairs.

After growing up overseas, Ms. Phillips returned to the U.S. to attend Rice University for her bachelor’s degree, and is entering her junior year there. She discovered her love of journalism in college while working for the school newspaper, the Rice Thresher, ...

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