THE UN’S VOTE ON NORTH KOREA: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
As of yesterday, the 14th of October, the United Nation’s Security Council, invoking Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which permits enforcement measures by the council, fully condemned North Korea for its nuclear test of the 9th of this month. The unanimously adopted resolution also enjoined North Korea to refrain from: “any further nuclear test or launch of a ballistic missile.” The Council also enjoined North Korea to return to the Six Party Talks over its nuclear ambitions, abandon its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes, “in a complete verifiable and irreversible manner.” The Council, as predicted on this site earlier, slapped economic sanctions on Pyongyang, specifically it prohibited any trade in armaments, and spare parts, as well as any items which could: “contribute to DPRK’s nuclear-related, ballistic missile-related or other weapons of mass destruction-related programmes.” Financial sanctions, on items and or individuals related to the above programmes, were also approved, as was a partial travel ban. Finally, and most controversially among the member states, all member states were called upon to cooperate in thoroughly inspecting cargo to and from the DPRK. In response, the DPRK’s representative denounced the Council’s as a "gangster-like" action, which his government “totally rejects.” On the Council’s vote and the resolution, see:
As was widely reported elsewhere, the Council’s action came only after considerable discussion and negotiations between Russia, China, the United States and Japan. With the first two powers, insisting on the removal of any language that even hinted at the use of force. Something which the United States and its allies agreed to (see: www.ft.com, www.lemonde.fr & www.en.rian.ru), in order to pass the resolution. So, what the Council in effect passed was a hodgepodge, a mixture of wrist slapping (the economic sanctions and travel ban), and a potentially significant measure (the interdiction and cargo inspection). As per the former, no one, accept for publicists for the current American administration, truly believes that North Korea’s current rulers, a clique that quite willingly allowed perhaps ten percent of its population to starve to death in the mid-1990’s, is going to be stopped from proceeding with its weapons programme, by virtue of such meager measures. As per the latter, its usefulness, lies in how it will be enforced. And, by whom. While Japan, enthusiastically and South Korea, reluctantly have agreed to abide by the Resolution, the key to the success of the measures taken is of course China. And, already, Peking has indicated that it is not entirely enthusiastic about the interdiction provisions of the UN resolution. As its Ambassador in New York, Wang Guangya, made quite clear on the Saturday the 14th, stating that:
“China strongly urges the countries concerned to adopt a prudent and responsible
attitude in this regard and refrain from taking any provocative steps that may intensify the tension.” See: www.afp.com.
So, the question is what concretely has been accomplished? That is not yet predictable. It would appear that much hinges on how aggressively the interdiction effort will be enforced. Especially of course by China. As per Secretary of State Rice, who plans to visit the Orient this week, China is fully on board with the programme, of reversing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. Stating that: “I am quite certain that China is going to live up to its responsibilities” (see: www.afp.com & www.reuters.com). The key issue being here how China defines its ‘responsibilities’? It would appear that they do not include economic sanctions which are so biting that they would threaten to bring down the North Korean regime. The question is quite simple actually: either the interdiction is harshly and effectively enforced in such a manner that they will, perhaps result in Pyongyang, returning to the Six Party talks, or they will not. And, while Rice and Bolton may prattle about Peking’s ‘obligation’ to enforce the measures voted on by the Council, it is highly unlikely that China will take any action which it sees at not being in its best interests. Of course, China was as outraged by the North Korean test as the other Great Powers, the only difference, is that it appears to be much more willing to accept the fact that Pyongyang is a nuclear power, as a sort of fait accompli, than the rest of the world is.
For my own part, I foresee that the PRC, will do the minimum necessary to both maintain face with the International community in exercising its ‘obligations’ and ‘responsibilities’, vis-`a-vis North Korea, but in such a fashion that Pyongyang, can regard it as more of a pro forma action, than anything else. Meaning of course, that the deadlock on the nuclear issue will continue. Which means that if the United States truly wishes to stop or reverse the North Korean programme, it must climb down and enter bilateral talks with Kim Jong Il. However distasteful that may be. Unfortunately, nothing else will possibly result in a positive resolution of this problem. A problem, which contrary to Bush et. al., will not get better as time goes on. Only worse (on Peking’s real concerns about the crisis, see Alexandre Y. Mansourov’s article in www.nautilus.org) & Francoise Gere in www.lefigaro.fr.com.