The September 21st Sanctions and the Korea Topic

The September 21st Sanctions and the Korea Topic

Late yesterday (9-21), both the China and the US blocked all bank transactions with North Korea.

US sanctions target “individuals, companies, financial institutions that finance and facilitate trade with North Korea.” (The Atlantic)

China has also enacted similar sanctions: Separately, Reuters reported, citing unnamed sources, that China’s central bank instructed its financial institutions to stop doing business with North Korea, a move that could have devastating financial consequences for Pyongyang (The Atlantic)

This has a number of implications for your debates this weekend.

First, it substantially undercuts the Con’s argument that China won’t cooperate due to THAAD deployments. The US completed the deployment of the full THAAD battery on September 7, but on September 21st China added these new, significant sanctions.

Anna Fifield in Tokyo and Abby Phillip and Peter Whoriskey in Washington contributed to this report.9, 21-17, Washington Post, Trump Imposes New Sanctions on North Korea, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/09/21/trump-says-the-u-s-will-impose-new-sanctions-on-north-korea/?utm_term=.fb5ac908a168

The executive order “opens the door for the U.S. to unilaterally enforce a trade embargo against North Korea,” said Joseph DeThomas, a former State Department official who focused on North Korea and Iran and is now a professor of international affairs at Pennsylvania State University. “It gives us the power to play that game if we wish to.” In the past, Chinese officials have objected to suggestions that the United States could punish foreign companies trading with North Korea, but there are signs that China and the United States are becoming more agreeable on North Korea. “The positive comments about China when [Trump] made the announcement indicates that there’s some good cooperation rather than confrontation,” DeThomas said.

While it is possible that China could add more sanctions, there are practical limitations to that – they fear the collapse of the regime. And, more significantly, if they increase the sanctions (for example, if they cut off oil supplies), the regime may collapse, triggering war. I wrote about this dilemma here.

Second, The steps announced Thursday almost certainly will raise tensions with Pyongyang.” So, while it is still difficult to win that a deliberate ware will happen, animosity, and hence the chance of accidental and miscalculated war have increase.

Third, while the Con’s diplomacy good argument is obviously currently struggling, there is evidence that there is still hope for diplomacy

Anna Fifield in Tokyo and Abby Phillip and Peter Whoriskey in Washington contributed to this report.9, 21-17, Washington Post, Trump Imposes New Sanctions on North Korea, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/09/21/trump-says-the-u-s-will-impose-new-sanctions-on-north-korea/?utm_term=.fb5ac908a168

U.S. officials say there is still time and room for diplomacy if North Korea shows that talking could be productive. Other countries, including China and Russia, are pressing Washington to make a greater effort toward talks and an eventual bargain that could buy Kim out of his weapons without toppling his regime…. Sitting down with South Korean President Moon Jae-in before the trilateral discussion with Japan, Trump said the nations are “making a lot of progress.”

KTAL News continued: His emphasis on economic efforts to end the standoff was a sign the President has not exhausted diplomacy in his dealings with North Korea, despite his warnings earlier in the week of dire military consequences should the nuclear provocations continue…. Trump insists that military options are on the table for dealing with North Korea, but his aides have said diplomacy is the preferred outlet for containing the nuclear crisis. Trump himself appeared to open the door for talks with North Korea, an option he’d previously ruled out. Asked at the end of the photo-op whether dialogue was still possible with North Korea, Trump said: “Why not?” The remark indicated fresh openness for talks with Pyongyang, despite his insistence earlier this month that “talking is not the answer.”

Fourth, while the sanctions have increased, there is no sign that they are effective

Anna Fifield in Tokyo and Abby Phillip and Peter Whoriskey in Washington contributed to this report.9, 21-17, Washington Post, Trump Imposes New Sanctions on North Korea, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/09/21/trump-says-the-u-s-will-impose-new-sanctions-on-north-korea/?utm_term=.fb5ac908a168

There is no sign, however, that economic penalties are having any effect on the behavior of the Kim regime and its calculation that nuclear tests and other provocations will ensure its protection or raise the price of any eventual settlement with the United States and other nations.