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Bird in Hand

Author: Kara C. McDonald
July 22, 2009
Foreign Policy


As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in Thailand for talks with her Asian counterparts, a central topic of discussion will be security on the Korean Peninsula. Two weeks ago, North Korea celebrated America's independence with a fireworks show of its own: seven ballistic missiles launched into the Sea of Japan.

This latest launch and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meetings add urgency to the international debate about how to compel more-responsible behavior from the Hermit Kingdom. This discussion misses a critical point, however. One of the strongest multilateral sanctions architectures ever created already exists to pressure North Korea; it just needs to be enforced. The United States was complicit in emasculating this sanctions regime. So, before jumping into lengthy negotiations over yet more sanctions, why not enforce the coercive measures already on the books?

In response to North Korea's first nuclear test in October 2006, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1718, which authorized three types of sanctions: an embargo on arms and luxury goods, a travel ban, and an asset freeze against individuals or entities contributing to North Korea's weapons program. The resolution banned all transfers in or out of North Korea of heavy weaponry and ballistic-missile technologies and inputs. The resolution did not specify the luxury goods banned, nor did it name the individuals and entities to be designated for the travel ban and asset freeze. Instead, it established a sanctions committee to undertake these tasks.


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