New US sanctions hurt Korean peace bid

By Li Jiacheng Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/26 19:33:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT



The US on Friday slapped North Korea with the toughest-ever sanctions. The fresh package of punitive measures targets 56 shipping and trading companies and vessels, including an individual (a Taiwanese businessman), 27 entities and 28 vessels located, registered, or flagged in North Korea, China, Singapore, Marshall Islands, Tanzania, Panama, and Comoros.

The measures also freeze the assets held by these entities and individuals in the US and forbid American citizens from dealing with them. They bring the total number of US sanctions against Pyongyang to 450. The tough measures not only target the North but also impose "secondary boycott" sanctions on third parties which have business relations with Pyongyang. The White House intends to further isolate Pyongyang and cut off revenue streams for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. North Korea will then run short of foreign exchange and oil, much needed for economic development.

The North's recent peace overture to the South will end up in vain. But the sanctions will not make North Korea give up its nuclear program but instead strengthen its determination to have atomic weapons. 

It is obvious that Trump is keeping up his "maximum pressure campaign" against Pyongyang. He even warned of a "phase two" that could be "very rough" and "very, very unfortunate for the world" if the new sanctions fail. There's no doubt that he intends to launch military action in the second phase.

Now that the two Koreas are proactively seeking dialogue, Trump's announcement of the fresh sanctions casts a dark cloud over warming inter-Korea relations. Since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un offered an olive branch to the South in his New Year's Day address, inter-Korea ties have improved with frequent interactions during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, and culminated in Kim Yo-jong handing over her brother Kim Jong-un's letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Seoul. The letter invited Moon to visit Pyongyang at the "earliest date possible."

As the Games unfolded, North Korea started mending its tumultuous relationship with the South as well as the UN Security Council only to have Trump's new measures squander a budding opportunity.

Washington's intention to destroy the peace effort has been fully exposed. Trump has neither paid attention to Seoul's concerns nor given a damn to the long-awaited Olympic détente.

His move will not only undermine inter-Korea talks but also bring disaster to US-North Korea dialogue. US Vice President Mike Pence, a hardliner on the North, said on his return flight from the Games that Washington would open the door to talks with North Korea, giving the rest of the world a streak of hope. But the new sanctions package will definitely irritate North Korea, an isolated nation that never buys the US' "carrot and stick" policy. Now, a dialogue between the two countries is out of the question and the first summit between the Koreas will be plunged in uncertainty and the Korean Peninsula will again see tensions spiraling.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the US move would "bolster the international community to carry out resolutions from the UN Security Council" and reaffirmed that Seoul and Washington would work closely to achieve North Korea's denuclearization peacefully. But it sounds like mere rhetoric.

Given Washington's aggressive maneuver, Seoul has to take a back seat in this geopolitical game. All its efforts at peace on the Korean Peninsula will probably come to a naught.

The author is a research fellow with the Research Center or the Economies and Politics of Transnational Countries at Liaoning University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn



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