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US imposes heavy sanctions on North Korea

US imposes heavy sanctions on North Korea

Contrary to his vow this week to 'totally destroy North Korea' if the United States were forced to defend itself or its allies, President Donald Trump has preferred applying economic pressure rather than military action against North Korea. In an effort to further choke off its trade with the outside world, presenting a united front with South Korea and Japan in hopes of forging a common strategy for confronting the isolated nuclear-armed Pyongyang, Washington has issued a new executive order targeting major North Korean industries, international banks, and global shippers. During the lunch that he had hosted for President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, it became clear the for the US and its allies, it was unacceptable that others financially support North Korea.

This united action came amid reports that China's Central bank had instructed the country's banks not to do new business with North Korea and to wind down old loans, in keeping with United Nations sanctions. As North Korea's dominant economic partner, China holds the most sway with Pyongyang, but it remained unclear if its latest action would be enforced enough to have any real impact. Interestingly, even after Trump's thundering remark in the United Nations speech earlier this week – when he mocked North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, as 'Rocket Man' on a 'suicide mission', he made it clear on Thursday that he was still open to negotiations. However, Kim refused such openness and denounced Trump as a 'rogue and gangster fond of playing with fire'. He even vowed retribution: "I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire." The new penalties seek to leverage the dominance of the U.S. financial system by forcing nations, foreign companies and individuals to choose whether to do business with the United States or the comparatively tiny economy of North Korea. However, many experts of the international politics have the opinion that these sanctions may not deter North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's drive to threaten the United States with a nuclear weapon, but it may slow down Kim's moves. On the other hand, for the Trump administration, though, even failed sanctions will help make the case to China and others that it sought every option to force North Korea to the bargaining table before turning to more drastic steps, such as intercepting shipping or mounting a cyber attack on the country's weapons program. Surprisingly, when Trump, Moon, and Abe were displaying their show of solidarity against North Korea during the lunchtime, the most important regional player President Xi Jinping of China was not in New York, skipping this year's United Nations session.

However, Trump claimed that Chinese President Xi Jinping had taken a very bold move to order Chinese banks to cease conducting business with North Korean entities. It may be noted that China is North Korea's chief ally and economic lifeline. Some 90 per cent of North Korean economic activity involves China, and Chinese entities are the main avenue for North Korea's very limited financial transactions in the global economy. Beijing is also suspected of turning a blind eye to some of the smuggling and sanctions-busting operations that have allowed Pyongyang to rapidly develop sophisticated long-range missiles despite international prohibitions on parts and technology. But, China's recent willingness to punish its fellow communist state signals strong disapproval of North Korea's international provocations, but China and fellow U.N. Security Council member Russia have also opposed some of the toughest economic measures that could be applied, such as banking restrictions that would affect Chinese and other financial institutions. The repeated economic sanctions by Washington against Pyongyang, however, does not appear to leave a sign 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. But, since dialogue is the most effective way of resolving conflict, 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.

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