Latest Stories

North Korea to face sanctions for nuke, but China key


SEOUL — For the past decade, the world’s most powerful nations have turned to sanctions in an attempt to punish North Korea for a series of rocket launches and nuclear tests. Their stated goal: to stop North Korea’s march toward acquiring an arsenal of nuclear-armed long-range missiles.

The sanctions, however, have failed to slow Pyongyang down. It conducted a third nuclear test Tuesday despite warnings of more international punishment.

Once again countries are looking to the United Nations to tighten already harsh multilateral sanctions.

But the U.S. and its allies will also consider boosting their own national penalties against North Korean companies and individuals.

Here’s a look at these countries’ current non-U.N. sanctions and the reasons why many argue that for any real change to happen in North Korea, a reluctant China must also embrace tough, unilateral penalties against its ally.


China is seen as the only major power with any real influence on North Korea as it pursues nuclear weapons. It provides most of North Korea’s fuel, a good deal of its food and accounts for an increasing share of its trade and investment.

But despite recurring nuclear and missile tests by Pyongyang, Beijing has been reluctant to take unilateral action against a neighbor it sees as a valuable buffer between U.S. troops stationed in South Korea and Japan.

“China can make a difference,” said Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul. “The question is whether it will make a difference.”

Beijing’s current options range from issuing harsh condemnation to supporting sterner U.N. sanctions, something it did after the North launched a rocket in December that the U.N. said was a cover for a banned missile test.

But many outsiders are pushing for more, including calls for China to restrict its food and fuel aid.

Beijing, for example, could turn “off the spigot of the Daqing pipeline that supplies (North Korea) with much of its oil, as Beijing did nearly a decade ago in March 2003,” according to Elizabeth Economy, an Asia specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations.

But Kim Dong-gil, deputy director of the Center for Korean Peninsula Studies of Peking University, said that although China will likely sign on to whatever measures are agreed upon at the U.N., he strongly doubts China will take unilateral action against the North.

China’s “unpleasant choice,” Lankov said, is “between a nuclear, relatively stable North Korea, and a non-nuclear but unstable North Korea.” For China, political collapse in North Korea “is a greater evil than North Korea’s nuclear adventures.”

Still, there is growing disgust among the government and the public in China with Pyongyang’s behavior.

The nuclear test, which took place less than 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Chinese border, was widely criticized on China’s popular Twitter-like Weibo microblogging service, with users calling it anti-social and urging the government to reconsider its assistance to the Pyongyang.

“Can China really allow this insane country to have nuclear weapons,” wrote a user identified as Little Eagle King.

United States

The U.S. does not maintain a comprehensive embargo against North Korea, as is sometimes presumed, and Americans are still free to travel there.

But legislation and executive orders, some dating back six decades, strictly regulate trade and aid, and assets are blocked for dozens of sanctioned North Korean companies, government agencies and individuals.

Washington is considered a sanctions trailblazer.

“Attention will now turn to Washington to see if the Obama administration lives up to its promise of significant repercussions if Pyongyang so blatantly and quickly disregards the latest U.N. resolution,” said Bruce Klingner, a former U.S. intelligence official and now a North Korea analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington.

Justification for U.S. restrictions includes Cold War-era legislation that regulates U.S. dealings with communist countries, worries about the spread of weapons of mass destruction and North Korea’s poor record on human rights, religious freedom and human trafficking.

Trade between the countries is minimal. U.S. companies can export to North Korea, but have to apply for a license to do so.

For nearly all items, other than food and medicine, there is a presumption the request will be denied, according to a 2011 report by the Congressional Research Service. There are tight controls on access to computers and software. Arms transfers and sales are forbidden.

The Treasury Department must approve any imports from North Korea, and weighs all requests on proliferation concerns and on questions of who might profit. Transfers from the North Korean government itself are generally prohibited. Using a North Korea-flagged vessel for any transaction is prohibited.

The U.S. blocks North Korea from receiving support from international financial institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Aid from the U.S. itself is also heavily restricted. North Korea is barred from government programs offering credit and investment guarantees.

The U.S. blocks assets and business transactions with individuals and entities on a sanctions list maintained by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control because of their suspected involvement with North Korea in weapons proliferation and other arms-related material, money laundering, counterfeiting, narcotics trafficking and trade in luxury goods.

Klingner called for Washington to set up more unilateral sanctions against not only North Korean entities but also “all those other banks, businesses and government agencies of other countries that have facilitated North Korea’s behaviors. Washington needs to call upon other nations to match our efforts.”

South Korea

Seoul slapped independent sanctions on rival Pyongyang after the 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship that Seoul blames on Pyongyang. North Korea denies involvement in the sinking, which killed 46 South Koreans.

Those measures banned North Korean ships from entering South Korean waters, slashed cross-border trade, restricted South Koreans from traveling to North Korea, and prohibited additional investment in North Korea. Humanitarian aid was drastically cut, except for certain cases, including that for infants and other vulnerable people. Travel restrictions have been eased in some cases.

South Korea also bans luxury items from being shipped into North Korea. That includes liquor, cosmetics, leather goods, fur products, carpets, jewelry, electronics, vehicles, boats, optical equipment, watches, musical instruments and antiques.

Seoul says it is open to all possibilities but isn’t currently mulling new unilateral sanctions and believes the 2010 penalties are putting pressure on North Korea.


Japan bans exchanges of people, goods, ships and flights between the two countries. In principle, no North Korean citizens are allowed to visit, while Japanese are asked to abstain from traveling to North Korea.

Tokyo also limits the amount of cash that can be carried to North Korea to 100,000 yen, while payments of 3 million yen or more must be reported to the government. Japan also bars North Koreans from receiving technical education and training related to sensitive nuclear technology.

A government official, who requested not to be identified because the information was not given through formal disclosure procedures, said Tokyo will follow the lead of other major nations in determining any further sanctions.


Associated Press writers Sam Kim and Youkyung Lee in Seoul, South Korea, Elaine Kurtenbach and Malcolm Foster in Tokyo, Matthew Pennington in Washington, and Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: China , Foreign affairs , international relations , Japan , News , North korea , nuclear tests , Sanctions , South korea , US , world

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  2. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  3. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  4. Massive infra spending set
  5. OFW brings MERS virus to Philippines
  6. DOJ to NBI: Arrest Cedric Lee, 4 others
  7. Cardinal Tagle to faithful: Join politics to clean it
  8. Estrada, Gigi Reyes denied access to evidence from other respondents
  9. Thoughts on Holy Week
  10. Lacson’s wife loses diamond earring to thieves but recovers jewelry quickly with police arrest
  1. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  2. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  3. Netizens cry: 6/55 Lotto was rigged
  4. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  5. ‘Wife of Jesus’ theory papyrus not fake – Harvard study
  6. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  7. Gay college instructor arrested for oral sex with student
  8. ‘King’ Yabut and I: Driver bares Makati dad ‘abuses’
  9. It was difficult having Japanese blood
  10. Palace: We can’t blame increase in population on Vitangcol
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Pork payoffs to newscasters Erwin Tulfo, Del Prado, others bared
  4. UP back on top as ‘average’ student aces bar
  5. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  6. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  7. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  8. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  9. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  10. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’


  • DOH asks co-passengers of OFW carrier to test for MERS-CoV
  • 5.5-magnitude quake hits Sultan Kudarat
  • Passengers denied chance to escape sinking South Korea ferry
  • Firetruck rams California eatery; 15 injured
  • Heavy traffic reported on NLEx, SLEx
  • Sports

  • PH youth boxers off to stumbling start in AIBA World tilt
  • Durant has 42, Thunder beat Pistons 112-111
  • Walker leads Bobcats over Bulls in OT, 91-86
  • Man City slips further out of title contention
  • Federer would skip tennis to be with wife, newborn
  • Lifestyle

  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • This is not just a farm
  • Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  • Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  • Entertainment

  • Will Arnett files for divorce from Amy Poehler
  • American rapper cuts own penis, jumps off building
  • Jay Z to bring Made in America music fest to LA
  • Why Lucky has not bought an engagement ring for Angel
  • Derek more private with new girlfriend
  • Business

  • Asia stocks fail to match Wall Street gains
  • Fired Yahoo exec gets $58M for 15 months of work
  • PH presses bid to keep rice import controls
  • PSEi continues to gain
  • Number of retrenched workers rose by 42% in ’13
  • Technology

  • DOF: Tagaytay, QC best at handling funds
  • Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  • Tech company: Change passwords or suffer ‘Heartbleed’
  • Filling the digital talent gap
  • SSS to shut down website for Holy Week
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Syria most dangerous country for journalists, PH 3rd—watchdog
  • Japan says visa-free entry still a plan
  • First Fil-Am elected to Sierra Madre, Calif. city council
  • UC Irvine cultural night to dramatize clash of values in immigrant family
  • Filipino sweets and info served at UC Berkeley Spring Fest
  • Marketplace