As the Olympics in South Korea comes to an end, the Trump Administration has unveiled a new sanctions package against North Korea that will impact trading and shipping companies that are based in Kim Jong Un’s regime.
“The administration sanctioned nearly 60 companies and ships and one individual it says are helping North Korea evade an international ban on coal exports and restrictions on fuel imports. That trade has enabled leader Kim Jong Un’s regime as he pursues an intercontinental ballistic missile that can target America’s mainland,’ writes the Wall Street Journal.
“Through today’s actions, we are putting companies and countries across the world on notice,” said Steven Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary. “Those who trade with North Korea do so at their own peril.”
“We will keep standing strong until North Korea stops threatening our country, our allies, or until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missiles once and for all,” said Mike Pence, the U.S. vice president.
Prior to the Winter Games, Kim and President Donald Trump had a series of threatening exchanges.
After Kim said that a “nuclear button” is always on his desk, Trump was quick to respond.
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” tweeted Trump.
The White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said “our policy hasn’t changed at all,” meaning the U.S. will still be taking a strict stance in regard to North Korea.
It appears although the Trump Administration is doing just that
“We imposed today the heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country before,” said Trump in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference last Friday.
“Treasury is aggressively targeting all illicit avenues used by North Korea to evade sanctions, including taking decisive action to block the vessels, shipping companies, and entities across the globe that work on North Korea’s behalf,” said Mnuchin. “This will significantly hinder the Kim regime’s capacity to conduct evasive maritime activities that facilitate illicit coal and fuel transports, and erode its abilities to ship goods through international waters.”
Trump also alluded to previous comments made by White House officials that “military action” is still very much on the table.
“If the sanctions don’t work, we’ll have to go to phase two, and phase two may be a very rough thing,” said Trump.
Trump’s efforts to pressure North Korea to halt building its Nuclear Weapon program has proven to be fruitful in the past and helped reconnect South Korea and North Korea.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that Trump deserves “big credit” for the recent meetings between the enemies.
“I think President Trump deserves big credit for bringing about the inter-Korean talks,” said Moon at a news conference, as reported by Reuters. “It could be a resulting work of the U.S.-led sanctions and pressure.”
However, other countries are hindering the United Nation’s efforts to introduce stricter sanctions on North Korea.
“Despite its success at the U.N., the U.S. has still struggled to get several key U.N. members, notably China and Russia, to fully enforce the sanctions. The U.S., for example, asked a U.N. sanctions committee to list 18 ships as sanctions violators, but China prevented 10 of those ships from being designated, officials disclosed Thursday. The sanctions committee operates by consensus, so China effectively has a veto over which ships get listed,” writes the WSJ. “As a result, the U.S. is also taking unilateral action in sanctioning ships, companies and their owners, as it has in the past against Chinese banks and other firms. The ships and companies are registered, located or flagged in North Korea, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and several small nations known as maritime havens.”
Experts argue that China needs to also be given consequences for perpetuating the issue with North Korea.
“China, the biggest enabler of North Korea’s destabilizing activities, only gets a slap on the wrist, escaping any punishment in this package,” said Senator Ed Markey (D., Mass.).
“We’ve made no secret of the fact that Chinese are not where we would like them to be,”
said Christopher Ford, a senior State Department official
“The Trump administration released photos of ships that had doctored registration numbers exchanging cargo with North Korean vessels at sea. One photo, taken last December, shows a Panamanian-flagged ship exchanging what could be oil with a North Korean ship — which was masquerading as a Chinese vessel,” writes USA Today.
“The President has made it clear to companies worldwide that if they choose to help fund North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, they will not do business with the United States,” said Mnuchin.
Author’s note: It’s time to ramp up the pressure on North Korea and also on China. The Trump administration promised to increase sanctions, but will these be enough? Or is military action inevitable?