Study Argues for New Ways to Pressure North Korea
SEOUL—The top U.S. and South Korean officials for North Korea
policy agreed to consider new punitive action against Pyongyang for
its latest missile launch. But a forthcoming study from Harvard
University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology scholars
argues that the current sanctions approach has failed and calls for
deeper engagement by the U.S. with China to pressure the Kim Jong
Pyongyang on Thursday lauded its first successful launch of
missile from a submarine, a breakthrough that shows it is making
progress in developing a harder-to-track threat to U.S. bases and
allies in Asia. Mr. Kim was shown on state television directing the
launch and hugging officials in delight afterward.
Mr. Kim said the missile program showed how North Korea had
demonstrated its strength "after breaking the chains of sanctions,"
according to a state media report.
Following North Korea's fifth nuclear test and a long-range
rocket launch this year, both violations of United Nations'
resolutions, the U.N. Security Council imposed tougher new
sanctions on Pyongyang in March. The U.S. and other nations added
bilateral penalties on North Korea.
U.S. and South Korean officials say it is too soon to tell
whether the new sanctions, which primarily seek to cut off North
Korea's sources of foreign currency for its nuclear-missile
program, are having an effect. But following North Korea's latest
message of defiance, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea
Policy Sung Kim and his South Korean counterpart Kim Hong-kyun
spoke by telephone to discuss a further response.
The officials agreed to cooperate at the U.N. and review other
countermeasures, according to a statement from South Korea's
foreign ministry. The U.S. State Department didn't immediately
respond to a question about potential further action against North
It is unclear if Pyongyang will face additional sanctions, but a
study expected to be released soon argues that the advance of North
Korea's nuclear-missile program despite years of sanctions shows
that the existing approach is ineffective. John Park of Harvard and
Jim Walsh of MIT say that North Korea has grown resistant to
sanctions by building up its business operations inside China,
Pyongyang's sole major economic and political ally.
Through interviews with a dozen former managers of North Korean
state trading companies, the scholars found that over the past
decade North Korea has embedded its businesses in China, hired more
Chinese middlemen and become part of the local business
environment. In doing so, the businesses, which handle both illicit
trade in items like missile parts and legal trade, have become
harder to target through sanctions that blacklist specific
companies or individuals.
The scholars argue that North Korea has learned over years of
being targeted by sanctions how to strengthen its external trade
and financial connections.
"We're now seeing some of the fruits of this creative labor,"
said Mr. Park, referring to North Korea's acceleration of its
nuclear-missile program this year.
Some sanctions advocates argue that the latest round of
penalties on North Korea are significantly stronger than those in
the past and will eventually prove to be more effective. The U.S.
administration has also created the option of blacklisting Chinese
companies that do business with sanctioned North Korean entities,
an approach that some favor to confront Beijing over its trade
links with Pyongyang.
But Mr. Park and Mr. Walsh argue that the U.S. should seek to
work more closely with Beijing to counter illicit North Korean
businesses inside China. They say the U.S. could offer assistance
to extend China's existing domestic anticorruption campaign to
North Korean entities. Further cooperation could be offered in
helping with maritime law enforcement, they say.
China's foreign and public security ministries didn't respond to
a question about Beijing's efforts to prevent illicit North Korean
trade. But a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman earlier this week
said China had an "unimpeachable record" on meeting its
international obligations to tackle North Korea's nuclear-missile
The U.S. State Department didn't respond to a question about
North Korea's illicit operations in China, while a call to North
Korea's embassy in Beijing rang unanswered late Thursday.
Coordination between the U.S. and China over North Korea has
been complicated by Beijing's strong objections to a decision by
Washington and Seoul to deploy an advanced missile-defense system
in South Korea. After a missile launch by North Korea earlier this
month that landed in Japanese-controlled waters, the U.N. Security
Council failed to reach agreement on a statement of condemnation
after China called for language opposing the missile-defense system
to be included, according to diplomats at the U.N.
Write to Alastair Gale at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
August 25, 2016 12:25 ET (16:25 GMT)
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