New sanctions on North Korea could bite deep

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The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on February 2 to adopt the toughest sanctions on North Korea in more than two decades.[1] These stronger sanctions come after North Korea continues to defy the Security Council’s previous sanctions and its own international obligations by recently conducting a nuclear test and rocket launch in early January and February.[2] Security Council Resolution 2270 imposes sanctions to hold North Korea accountable for what Secretary Kerry called the regime’s “increasingly provocative behavior and the threat it poses to not only security on the peninsula, but also the world.”[3] Referring to the Resolution, President Obama said, “[t]oday, the international community has sent Pyongyang a simple message: North Korea must abandon these dangerous programs and choose a better path for its people.”[4]

Cui Tiankai
Chinese UN Ambassador Cui Tiankai. While China's status as
one of five permanent Security Council members allowed it to
block several prior attempts to sanction North Korea, it joined
the unanimous vote to impose new sanctions on the Hermit
Kingdom after North Korea's latest missile and nuclear tests.
Photo via U.S. Dep't Agriculture.

North Korea continues to develop nuclear weapons despite past sanctions and a U.N. ban on all nuclear-related activity.[5] North Korea was a party to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons until January 2003, when the reclusive country announced its immediate withdrawal. [6] The Treaty does allow for withdrawal.[7] However, the Security Council still has the authority under Chapters V and VII of the U.N. Charter “to order mandatory measures [including sanctions]. . . that must be complied with by all Member States of the United Nations” if the Security Council determines that North Korea’s actions pose a “threat to international peace and security.”[8] This enables the Security Council to impose these sanctions on North Korea in order to lure the country back to the negotiating table and resume talks with the reclusive country.[9]

The newest Security Council resolution, with its tough sanctions, reflects growing anger over North Korea’s increasingly defiant and dangerous behavior.[10] The sanctions passed largely thanks to China’s cooperation and support.[11] As one five permanent Security Council members, China has vetoed several previous measures against North Korea, which “has been heavily dependent on Chinese economic and diplomatic support.”[12] China has become frustrated with North Korea’s determination to develop nuclear weapons.[13] China and the United States negotiated and drafted the resolution over seven weeks.[14] The sanctions include “mandatory inspections of cargo leaving and entering North Korea by land, sea, or air; a ban on all sales or transfers of small arms and light weapons to Pyongyang; and expulsion of diplomats from the North who engage in ‘illicit activities.’”[15] The resolution also includes measures banning the “supply, sale, or transfer of [valuable minerals]” from North Korea and restrictions on the supply of jet fuel to North Korea.[16] Shortly after the resolution was passed, North Korea fired several projectiles into the sea.[17] It seems that North Korea will ignore yet another set of sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council.[18] Only time will tell if these sanctions have any effect on North Korea’s ability to obtain nuclear weapons, but it may be too late.[19] As of March 8, the country claims to have miniaturized nuclear warheads to fit on ballistic missiles.[20]

[1] Press Statement, Sec. State John Kerry, Adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2270 on North Korea, (Mar. 2, 2016), available at [] [hereinafter Kerry Press Statement].

[2] Kerry Press Statement, supra note 1; see also Camila Domonoske, U.N. Security Council Approves New Sanctions on North Korea, Nat'l Pub. Radio (Mar. 2, 2016), [].

[3] Id.

[4] Press Release, Statement by the President on United Nations Security Council Resolution 2270, (Mar. 2, 2016), available at [].

[5] See id; see also Edith M. Lederer, UN Approves Toughest Sanctions on North Korea in 20 Years, ABC News (Mar. 2, 2016), [].

[6] Christopher Le Mon, Did North Korea’s Nuclear Test Violate International Law?, Opinio Juris (Oct. 9, 2006) [].

[7] See id.

[8] See U.N. Charter art. 25, 39, 41–42; seeid. (discussing the Security Council’s authority under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter to determine if a “given situation constitutes a threat to international peace and security” and how to take action under Article 25).

[9] Oren Dorrell, S. Korea: North Fires Projectiles into Sea Hours After U.N. Security Council Approves Sanctions, USA Today (Mar. 3, 2016), [].

[10] Lederer, supra note 5.

[11] Dorrell, supra note 9.

[12] Dorrell, supra note 9.

[13] Dorrell, supra note 9.

[14] Lederer, supra note 5.

[15] Lederer, supra note 5 (discussing sanctions imposed by Resolution 2270); see also S.C. Res. 2270, paras. 6, 13-14, 18, (Mar. 2, 2015), available at: [].

[16] Meetings Coverage, Security Council, Security Council Imposes Fresh Sanctions on Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Unanimously Adopting Resolution, U.N. Media Coverage SC/12267 (Mar. 2, 2016), available at [].

[17] Dorrell, supra note 9.

[18] Dorrell, supra note 9.

[19] Steve Almasy, North Korea Claims to have Nuclear Warheads that Can Fit on Missiles, CNN (Mar. 8, 2016),

[20] Id.

Posted by Madison L. Beveridge on Tue. March 8, 2016 8:31 PM
Categories: North Korea, South Korea, United Nations, WMD

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