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Challenges in Implementing UN Sanctions Against North Korea


North Korea reacted angrily this week to the U.N. Security Council resolution calling for punitive sanctions against Pyongyang following its announcement that it had tested its first nuclear weapon. However, questions remain about the degree to which the major international players are prepared to implement the U.N. resolution.

Meanwhile U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is traveling to Japan, South Korea, China, and Russia to marshal strong support for implementing the resolution.

The Security Council voted unanimously to impose strict sanctions on North Korea, overcoming objections from Russia and China by excluding the threat of military force. Resolution 1718 bars the sale or transfer of material that could be used to make nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons or ballistic missiles, and it prohibits trade with North Korea in luxury goods.

But Dmitri Siderov, Washington bureau chief of the Moscow daily Kommersant, says the significance of Russia’s vote has been overblown. Speaking with host Judith Latham of VOA News Now’s International Press Club, Mr. Siderov says the Russians agreed to sanctions only if they excluded the use of military force, which he believes will “mean nothing” to Pyongyang.” Furthermore, he notes that it is China that controls 70 % of export goods to North Korea.

However, Jehangir Pocha, Beijing correspondent for the Boston Globe, says it is an encouraging sign that earlier this week China actually began inspecting cargo trucks traveling to North Korea, although it has not agreed to inspect ships at sea. Mr. Pocha observes that China is starting to construct a border fence with North Korea because of its concern that, if North Korea “falls into chaos,” China will be flooded with refugees. And he notes that in the long run Beijing must calculate the possibility of North and South Korea eventually reuniting, which helps explain China’s reluctance to antagonize Pyongyang.

North Korea’s other major trading partner is South Korea. And Sung Joon Kim, Washington correspondent for the Seoul Broadcasting System, says the South is not entirely happy with the resolution although Seoul has announced its support. In general, he says, South Korea prefers to pursue its “sunshine policy,” believing that having an economically and political stable North Korea is in its own interest.

On the other hand, Japan is wholly behind the Security Council sanctions against North Korea, as Ken Karube of the Jiji Press wire service explains. North Korea poses a direct threat to Japan, so it is a “big thing” for both Japan and the international community that Beijing is now on board. Mr. Karube says it is extremely important to prevent a second nuclear test. However, U.S. officials say that American spy satellites have detected vehicle movements in North Korea that may signal preparations for another test.

But some of America’s European allies – and especially Germany – are less enthusiastic about the sanctions, although they officially back the U.N. resolution. Matthias Rueb, Washington bureau chief of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, says in some European societies that nuclear weapons are perceived as evil, no matter who possesses them.

To listen to all of the comments, click on the audio link above.