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UN Sanctions Not Enough: Expert

Posted October. 25, 2006 07:06,   


UN sanctions are not powerful enough to make North Korea return to the six-party talks, argued Marcus Noland, senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics (IIE) in the United States. Also an expert on the North Korean economy, he said at a recent interview with Dong-A Ilbo that he expects the North Korean government would now choose to keep a low profile and hope for China and South Korea to lose interest in the sanctions.

Noland: Nuclear armament is not just a means but also a critical goal for the North Korean regime. Therefore any sanctions that aim to make it give up such a goal must be comprehensive in its content and rigorous in its application. The first sanctions draft introduced by Japan, such as the ban on all exports and imports (with the exception of humanitarian relief supplies) and the suspension of financial dealings is minimal in its power to make North Korea return to negotiations. The (currently on-going) limited and partial sanctions will not easily change the North’s attitude.

Q: How prepared would North Korea be against such sanctions?

Noland: I believe it has set aside quite a considerable amount of oil, including the diesel reserves sent by the South in 2004. Tens of millions of dollars flowed into North Korea in the first half of this year through China’s investment. In some regions, soldiers appear to have collected crops from villagers. The military will try to pass on the burden of sanctions to the rest of the people.

Q: How much shock do you think is needed to make North Korea return to the negotiating table?

Noland: [On the precondition that it is pure conjecture] It will return if China stops its oil shipments for two or three months. The problem is that if countries make repeated verbal warnings to not tolerate North Korea’s actions but do not deliver strong enough penalties and incentives to actually change its behavior, North Korea may become used to such situations (of only limited sanctions) and one day step over the red line. In that sense, we are now on a highly dangerous track.

Q: If the South Korean government decides to cancel the Gaesong Industrial Complex and Mt. Geumgang tourism projects, would it have a substantial impact on North Korea’s actions and its economy?

Noland: I believe it will have an important effect. Less inflow of cash will cause some economic shocks but not to a great extent. Rather, the symbolic effect in politics will be stronger in showing that South Korea will not always provide benefits to the North no matter what the North does. Then North Korea will no longer be able to treat the South as just an ATM machine, from which it can withdraw money whenever it wants.

Q: But the South Korean government is maintaining that it will continue its engagement policy toward the North.

Noland: If I lived in Korea, I myself would also support the engagement policy. Engagement is very important as a tool to induce the fundamental changes of the North Korean regime. But from some time back, the South Korean government seems to have lost its perspective. Engagement is just a tool to achieving the goal of making changes in North Korea, but now it seems engagement itself has become the goal. Proper engagement must entail some conditions and reciprocal factors. Not unilateral but interactive policies and measures must be taken in order to make North Korea change. Such a task should have begun several years ago, but now is also a chance to improve the circumstances. Stopping the Gaesong Industrial Complex and the Mt. Geumgang tourism projects will send precisely this message. It is not easy for me to discuss in detail the South Korean government’s responses, but it seems to be placed in a very confusing state.