DN - Defence Notes

New report urges aggressive North Korean sanctions

31st July 2017 - 01:07 GMT | by Wendell Minnick in Taipei


A new Washington research paper released on 21 July recommended warning China that the US will use military force if North Korea does not curtail its nuclear ambitions.

The Washington-based Center for a New American Security (CNAS) recommended aggressive new sanctions that go far beyond previous sanctions initiated by the West. 

These hard-hitting sanctions appeared in a new policy paper entitled 'A Blueprint for New Sanctions on North Korea’, by the organisation’s Energy, Economics and Security programme.

The report gained praise from US experts on North Korea, including former US intelligence analyst, Bruce Bechtol, now a member of the board of directors of the Council on US-Korea Security Studies and president of the International Council on Korean Studies. 

‘It is important to go after banks laundering North Korea’s dirty money, largely gained from military proliferation, but we cannot stop there,’ Bechtol said.

‘We must go after front companies, banks and individuals being used as intermediaries in places like Malaysia, Singapore and several countries in Africa,’ he pointed out.

The report suggested eight types of sanctions, including attacking secondary sources of income, including everything from textiles to oil. 

Firstly, by blacklisting foreign companies that trade with North Korea on many levels that are not currently covered by Western sanctions, including North Korean exports, this would emulate the sanctions on Iran’s oil exports enacted by the 2012 US National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). 

Second, it recommended all payments to North Korean entities be held in escrow accounts outside Pyongyang. This is the same tactic used in the 2012 NDAA. By controlling the purse strings, money would only be released for humanitarian goods such as food and medicine.

Third, add all eight North Korean trading ports to the Specially Designated Nationals List under the US Treasury that targets support for terrorist and organized crime groups.

Four, the report suggested targeting insurance companies that underwrite cargoes to and from North Korea.

Five, develop and enforce sanctions against foreign banks that transact with Pyongyang front companies outside North Korea. There might be hesitance in the US targeting Chinese financial institutions, but when the US imposed sanctions on the Bank of Kunlun in 2012 for its dealings with Iran, it did not cause Beijing to end its cooperation with the US on confronting the Iranian nuclear threat.

Six, start a high-profile public diplomacy campaign to discredit any trade with North Korea, underscoring human rights abuses, nuclear weapons development and regional destabilisation.

Seven, CNAS proposed introducing a far-reaching diplomatic outreach campaign to build support for US sanctions and prevent miscalculation, especially between Beijing and Washington.

Finally, it espoused setting clear expectations with China and others that North Korea is a top-tier US national security priority. 

The US should explain to China that ‘if North Korea’s nuclear development reaches a certain threshold, military force might be the only tenable US option… it surely prefers sanctions to an outbreak of violence on the Korean Peninsula’.

Joshua Stanton, founder of the Washington-based One Free Korea, said the recent US Congress Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea (BRINK) Act outlines similar provisions for new sanctions, ‘so the legal tools are either in place, or will be after the next nuke or missile test’. 

Stanton’s concerns are that the Trump administration may not be adequately staffed with intelligence analysts, investigators, lawyers and diplomats to execute the BRINK Act or the aforementioned CNAS recommendations.

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