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Sanctioning North Korea

Interviewee: Kara C. McDonald, International Affairs Fellow in Residence, Council on Foreign Relations
Interviewer: Jayshree Bajoria, Staff Writer, CFR.org
June 19, 2009

Following North Korea's second nuclear test in May, the UN Security Council voted unanimously on Resolution 1874 for tougher sanctions on North Korea. The resolution calls upon UN member states to inspect cargo vessels and airplanes suspected of carrying military materiel in or out of North Korea. The new round of sanctions also contain financial and trade restrictions designed to hurt the North Korean regime and the country's elite. CFR International Affairs Fellow Kara C. McDonald, former director for UN Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council, who worked on the draft of Resolution 1718, which was adopted after North Korea's first nuclear test in 2006, says the new resolution is "one of the strongest, if not the strongest sanction resolution" thus far adopted by the UN Security Council.

However, she points out that most provisions in the resolution are optional and the impact will really depend on the compliance of member states. Yet, McDonald adds, this resolution increases the ability of countries like the United States to pursue contraband materials and to pressure other states to inspect cargo vessels. The United States also hopes it will "impact the [North Korean] regime behavior in coming back to the negotiating table," she says.

North Korea has promised to defy the resolution by pursuing its nuclear program or conducting another test. McDonald says that "it's essential that the Security Council partners be in negotiations now about what the next steps will be when that happens," so that they are prepared to respond strongly. Depending on the nature of North Korean activity, she says, the response could involve use of existing sanctions to ratchet up pressure on the political elite or a new round of sanctions that tighten currently optional provisions, such as the use of force for vessel inspections, to make them mandatory.

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