China weakens UN sanctions on North Korea
By Kim Young-jin
The U.N. Security Council (UNSC) ordered the freezing of all assets abroad of three North Korean state companies Wednesday to punish the recalcitrant state for its failed April 13 rocket launch.
While some experts did not expect the move to inflict major pain on Pyongyang, it was seen as a warning over future provocations including a third nuclear test.
Approved by the committee in charge of sanctions on Pyongyang, the measure targets entities involved in the North’s illicit missile and nuclear programs and follows up on a UNSC statement denouncing the launch.
The targeted firms are the Amroggang Development Banking Corporation with links to the financing of the North’s ballistic missile sales; the Green Pine Associate Corporation, responsible for much of the country’s arms exports and the Heungjin Trading Company, used to procure technology related to missile design.
Seoul, Washington and others suggested other entities be affected. But the committee, which decides by consensus, settled on the three because China, the North’s main ally, only approved that number.
“These measures will increase North Korea’s isolation and make it harder for Pyongyang to move forward with its illicit programs,” the U.S. mission to the U.N. said in a statement. “The Committee’s strong and united response shows that the Security Council is determined that there be consequences for this provocation and any future North Korean violations.”
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said the committee also banned new items and technology from being transferred to or from North Korea on two lists dealing with missiles and material related to its nuclear program.
Experts said the expanding of sanctions was a symbolic move.
“These are basically paper companies,” Bahng Tae-seop of the Samsung Economic Research Institute said. “But it was important that both the U.S. and China were involved and it leaves room for more sanctions in the case of a nuclear test.”
New commercial satellite imagery shows preparations for a test are underway at Pungye-ri, the site of tests in 2006 and 2009.
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization is reportedly monitoring the North’s moves.
Despite international pressure, some expect Pyongyang to follow through on the test in order to save face for the launch failure and bolster the military credentials of its inexperienced young leader Kim Jong-un.
Already under two rounds of sanctions for its missile and nuclear tests, many are skeptical of whether further punitive measures from the U.N. can convince the North to change its ways.
Such doubt is fueled by the perception that Beijing shields its ally from the full brunt of international sanctions.
John Delury, an assistant professor at Yonsei University, was skeptical over whether China would change course over its neighbor.
“They think you minimize the sticks and continue to engage them as much as you can, opening up, over the long run, a different path for them,” he said.
The launch, which the North claimed was to put a satellite into orbit, was widely seen as a ballistic missile test violating UNSC resolutions. The rocket fell apart shortly after liftoff.
The Security Council’s move brought the number of sanctioned North Korean entities to 11.