Global Policy Forum

Sanctions Against North Korea

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Following the 9/11 attacks in the US, Washington put North Korea on the "axis of evil" list and has since contended that North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons poses a serious threat to the world. Several times, the US administration proposed bringing North Korea before the UN Security Council to impose economic sanctions. However China, North Korea's main ally and trading partner, indicated that it would likely veto any sanctions on Pyongyang.

Following North Korea's nuclear test in October 2006, Security Council members imposed sanctions on Pyongyang. The "targeted" sanctions include an embargo on military and technological materials and luxury goods, as well as a set of financial sanctions. A month after the Council adopted the US-backed sanctions, North Korea agreed to return to the Six-Party Talks, including China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, the US and North Korea. The talks, which begun when North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003, are a negotiation forum on Pyongyang's nuclear program.

Key Documents | Articles

Key Documents


Resolution 1718 (October 14, 2006)

The Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, unanimously imposed sanctions on North Korea, in reaction of Pyongyang's nuclear test. After arduous negotiations, this softer version establishes an embargo on military and technological materials, as well as luxury goods, but does not include reference to military intervention as the US proposed initially. Furthermore, the resolution demands the freezing of North Korea's financial assets with the exception of funds necessary to meet basic needs.

Resolution 1695 (July 15, 2006)

In this resolution, the Security Council explicitly condemns the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) nuclear weapons program. While calling for a diplomatic solution to the situation, the Council demands that the DPRK cuts back its missile launches, which jeopardize peace and security in the region. In addition, the 1695 resolution bans all member states from transactions with North Korean involving material, technology or financial resources transfer connected to DPRK's missiles or weapons of mass destruction programs.

Resolution 1540 (April 28, 2004)

Resolution 1540 affirms that “proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as their means of delivery, constitutes a threat to international peace and security.� The Security Council urges all States to take additional effective measures to prevent proliferation, including nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery.

Resolution 825 (May 11, 1993)

The Security Council adopted a resolution calling upon North Korea to reconsider withdrawing from the Treaty on Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The resolution urges North Korea to honor its non-proliferation obligations under the Treaty.


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North Korea Still Has Long Way to Go to Produce Viable Weapon, Say Experts (December 12, 2012)

The Pyongyang leadership has completed a successful rocket launch, which placed a satellite into orbit. According to the North Korean government, the satellite serves for weather and crop monitoring. As the launch technology is very similar to that required for ballistic missiles, the UN Security Council has condemned the move as a violation of resolutions 1718 and 1874, which prohibit North Korea from launching ballistic missiles. Experts on the North Korean nuclear program assert that Pyongyang is yet to develop reasonable target accuracy and to acquire a nuclear weapon that is small enough to fit on a missile. Nevertheless, this recent development intensifies concerns over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. (Guardian)

South Korea to Get Longer-Range Missiles under New Deal with US (October 7, 2012)

With the permission of the US, South Korea has extended the range of its ballistic missiles to reach all of North Korea. In response, North Korea has declared that its missiles can now strike mainland US. After missile tests in 2006 and 2009, North Korea’s already crippled economy has been sanctioned by the UN. With a recent power transition in the North and upcoming presidential elections in the South, tensions are again rising on the Korean Peninsula. (Guardian)


N Korea Ready to Hold Nuclear Talks (August 24, 2011)

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, has recently announced his willingness to accept a nuclear-test moratorium and to resume the six-party talks on his nuclear program. North Korea’s uranium enrichment has already triggered international sanctions. At the same time, North Korea has agreed to move forward on a natural gas deal with South Korea. (Al Jazeera)

North Korea Sends SOS to World to Feed its Starving People  (February 11, 2011)

Around 40 North Korean Embassies are asking foreign governments for aid to help feed hungry people close to starvation. China usually provides food supplies in response to requests by North Korea, however China too is facing food shortages due to ongoing drought. Some key food donors make humanitarian aid contractual on the North Korean government's nuclear program and other security issues. Both the US and South Korea have reduced food aid during recent political tensions.  (The Independent)


Doubts Surface on North Korea's Role in Ship Sinking (July 23, 2010)

At first marginal and incredible, reports casting doubt on the finding that North Korea attacked the Cheonan are gaining ground in South Korea. Critics point to items that call into question the integrity of the Seoul-led investigation into the incident. These range from the politically-significant timing of the government's announcement of its findings to detailed scientific models that reveal striking inconsistencies in the results. In light of such criticisms, polls find that a large portion of South Koreans do not believe Pyongyang sank the ship. This national sentiment has reportedly made unanimity at the Security Council unlikely. (Los Angeles Times)

VIDEO: US Announces New Sanctions Against North Korea (July 21, 2010)

On a visit to the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the US will impose new sanctions on North Korea.  The announcement is part of the US's response to the contested sinking of a South Korean warship. The US and its regional ally South Korea have been running joint naval exercises.  In response, China has expressed concern over increasing tensions between the two countries that have technically remained at war since 1953. (BBC and North Korea Press TV)

VIDEO: Security Council Statement Condemns "Attack", Skirts Blame (July 8, 2010)

The UN Security Council has passed a presidential statement condemning the March attack that caused a South Korean naval vessel to sink. South Korea has charged North Korea with committing the attack, a claim that Seoul says is corroborated by an international investigation. Under pressure from China, however, the statement does not call North Korea responsible. The statement instead strongly implies that the sinking was caused by a deliberate act that violated the Korean Armistice Agreement. The presidential statement is similar in tone and effect to the one that addressed Israel's raid of a Gaza-bound flotilla in May. (Article: Washington Post, Video: Associated Press)

China Says "Concerned" about South Korea-U.S. Drill (June 22, 2010)

China has expressed concern about joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises involving a U.S. aircraft carrier. China has called for restraint in the wake of South Korea's allegations that North Korea sank one of Seoul's navy ships. China prefers that the Security Council only act after the South's claims have been independently substantiated, and believes that military drills like these may "escalate tensions and harm the interests of countries in this region." (Reuters)

U.N. Report Raises Concerns about North Korea Sanctions (June 12, 2010)

A new U.N. report has shown that a majority of states have lagged on compliance with sanctions against North Korea. All states are required to submit reports on their implementation of sanctions resolutions, but 111 of 192 member states have not. Officials and diplomats have had difficulty determining whether the delays are due to capacity issues or political dissent. In any case, the report highlights the problems inherent in the enforcement of sanctions resolutions - including those imposed on Iran. (Reuters)


Punishing North Korea Won't be Easy (June 11, 2009)

The Security Council will vote this Friday on a draft resolution extending sanctions against North Korea for its continued nuclear arms program and testing. In the past, North Korea has defied such sanctions. The burden of enforcement lies with China, but China not enthusiastic about enforcement. Past failures of the Council suggest that diplomatic and economic engagement with North Korea may be more effective than threats, punishments and enforced isolation. (Los Angeles Times)


Strategic Dialogue on North Korea (May 22, 2009)

In spite of renewed sanctions by the Permanent members of the Security Council, plus Japan and South Korea, North Korea continues its nuclear activity. Author John Feffer believes that "North Korea will only change internally when its external relations change dramatically and that will require a new US approach." Feffer acknowledges that this approach should break away from isolationist policies, threat, containment and even war and instead prioritize "economic engagement and diplomatic normalization."  (Foreign Policy in Focus)


What's Up with North Korea? (April 5, 2009)

North Korea attempted to launch a satellite into orbit on April 5, 2009. Although the exploration of space is a sovereign right, UN Security Council resolutions restrict North Korea from testing missiles. Following the launch, Japan called an emergency Security Council meeting but the council remains divided over the issue with Russia and China favoring a more inclusive approach to North Korea. The author of this article argues that the US should not support sanctions as a response. South Korea and Japan should also refrain from additional sanctions. (Foreign Policy in Focus)


DPRK (North Korea) Historical Chronology (September 30, 2008)

This timeline shows North Korea's nuclear disarmament from 1985 to 2008. Although the UN installed a committee to supervise the imposition of UN sanctions on North Korea, other countries like those involved in the six-party talks and especially the US took a leading role in pressuring North Korea to disarm. (Security Council Report)

Denuclearization of the DPRK – A Role for the United Nations? (July 2008)

This Korea Economic Institute report argues that the UN has been playing a secondary role, behind the US and UK, in trying to disarm North Korea. According to the report, a unified UN approach to the problem is unlikely due to the diverging national interests of the P5. Also, humanitarian concerns in the region remain a priority for the UN, forcing the organization to ease its political stance in fear of possible backlash against civilians. The report argues that the UN, instead of the US or UK, should take the lead in disarming North Korea.


Koreas Working Closely at UN (October 29, 2007)

In a United Nations Third Committee meeting, North and South Korea demonstrated conciliatory efforts towards North Korea's nuclear program. The “two Koreas� have submitted a joint draft for a General Assembly resolution that focuses on decreasing North Korea's nuclear program. The draft also re-instates a continuation of the six-nation talks in Pyongyang, which started in 2004. If positive talks continue, China will press for the Security Council to lift the sanctions against North Korea's nuclear program imposed after the Pyongyang nuclear test. (Yomiuri Shimbun)

UN Tries to Verify North Korea Claims (July 15, 2007)

Upon receiving US$25 million of frozen assets from a Macao bank, and 6,200 of 50,000 promised tons of fuel from South Korea, North Korea announced the closure of its Yongbyon nuclear weapons facility. US envoy to North Korea, Christopher Hill, warns that the declaration is only the first step. Once IAEA inspectors and US spy satellites verify the plant's closure, Hill hopes for a list of all of North Korea's nuclear assets and the size of its arsenal. (International Herald Tribune)

North Koreans Arm Ethiopians as US Assents (April 7, 2007)

Shortly after successfully pushing for the imposition of strict UN sanctions against Pyongyang, the US allowed Ethiopia to purchase arms from North Korea, in violation of the UN ban. According to the New York Times, the US allowed the deal to take place, because it sees Ethiopia's intervention against the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia as being part of the “war on terror.�

N. Korea Vows to Shut Reactor Once US Lifts Sanctions (March 14, 2007)

Officials in Pyongyang say that they are waiting for the US to lift financial sanctions against a Macau bank before they disable the Yongbyon nuclear reactor and a plutonium factory as agreed in return for economic assistance. Washington previously accused the Macau bank of helping North Korea launder money and traffic in counterfeit US currency. US officials say that the bank's funds that are deemed clean will be released, but this may take weeks. (McClatchy)

Sanctions and the Road to War in Korea (January 18, 2007)

This Japan Focus article argues that US-backed UN sanctions against Pyongyang only exacerbate the already tense situation between the two countries and pushed North Korea to carry out its October 2006 nuclear test. In addition to being expensive to maintain, the author argues that sanctions will be ineffective in forcing Pyongyang to accept an agreement it opposes and may even increase the risk of war. The article concludes that Washington needs to change its policy towards Pyongyang by engaging in direct talks and that the US should stop trying to expand the scope of UN resolutions.


Why N Korea's Neighbors Soft-Pedal Sanctions (November 29, 2006)

While UN Security Council Resolution 1718 has imposed sanctions on North Korea, this Asia Times piece argues that “no international sanction regime against North Korea worthy of its name is in place, and there is no chance that such regime will emerge in future.� According to the article, by maintaining economic cooperation with North Korea, neighbors China, Russia and South Korea show no intention to punish Pyongyang's nuclear ambition. The author claims that the division in sanctions' enforcement proves a “major divergence of interests� between local concerns of neighboring countries and global interest of others countries, such as the US.

North Korea Agrees to Return to Talks (October 31, 2006)

Just weeks after the UN Security Council voted for financial and arms sanctions against North Korea, Pyongyang has agreed to resume nuclear talks. While the UN resolution remains in force, China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, the US and North Korea will discuss both the sanctions and the nuclear program. Yet, experts differ on the possible results of what will be the sixth round of talks on North Korea's nuclear program. Whereas some argue that dialogue will lead to denuclearization, others claim that the potential for dispute “will only escalate.� (Reuters)

The Big Question: With Sanctions Threatened against North Korea, Do They Ever Work? (October 11, 2006)

As the UN Security Council considers imposing sanctions on North Korea to end its nuclear ambitions, this Independent article examines the effectiveness of sanctions as a tool of international relations to influence another country's behavior. The past adoptions of sanctions by the Security Council against 16 different regimes reveal little success in reaching their primary goals to influence the targeted state's conduct. Furthermore, the application of sanctions leads to serious drawbacks, most importantly, “comprehensive sanctions can end up hurting the people they are designed to help,� the author concludes.

UN Weighs Sanctions against N. Korea (October 10, 2006)

With the UN and worldwide condemnations of North Korea's nuclear test, this Reuters

article analyzes the potential actions Security Council members may take against the Pyongyang. While Japan and the US call for strong sanctions including embargo on weapons related materials and luxury goods, China and Russia, North Korean's neighbors and main source of food aid, still hesitate on how the Council should respond to the nuclear test.

North Korea Test a Blow to Diplomacy (October 9, 2006)

This BBC article underlines the key role that China plays in providing an effective answer to the North Korean nuclear test. Because China is one of Pyongyang's main economic partners, Chinese participation in UN sanctions can contribute significantly to isolate the North Korean regime. Yet, Beijing hesitates to sanction North Korea's nuclear ambitions with the risk to face a flow of refugees in Northern China if the North Korean regime collapses, preferring instead a less confrontational option.

Wrong Path on North Korea (September 6, 2006)

The Bush administration is pushing for sanctions against North Korea in response to its recent ballistic missile tests. This Washington Post article calls the move towards sanctions “a grave mistake� more likely to intensify tensions between Pyongyang and Washington. The US government should opt for negotiations rather than confrontations to persuade North Korea discussing its nuclear program, the authors say.

UN Imposes Limited Sanctions on N. Korea (July 16, 2006)

After ten days of negotiations, the UN Security Council has voted unanimously to impose limited sanctions on North Korea following missile tests in the Sea of Japan. The resolution condemns Pyongyang and bars all UN Member States from selling the regime technology or materials related to missiles or weapons of mass destruction. The decision comes after China threatened to veto any resolution based on Chapter VII of the Charter that would permit the use of force in ensuring the resolution was upheld. North Korea rejected the resolution and promised to push ahead with more missile tests. (Associated Press)

New North Korea Resolution Offered (July 13, 2006)

China and Russia have put forward a new draft resolution addressing North Korea's missile tests. Both states remain opposed to an earlier draft resolution sponsored by Japan that would have allowed for military enforcement and sanctions against Pyongyang. China argues that the Japanese resolution could frustrate their efforts at restarting the six-nation talks aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. While their resolution contains no threat of sanctions, it is a stronger step than the statement by the Security Council president that they earlier deemed a sufficient response. (New York Times)

China Critical of UN Draft on N. Korea (July 12, 2006)

China has characterized a draft UN Security Council resolution condemning North Korean missile tests as an “overreaction� and warned that it would endanger efforts at restarting negotiations over Pyongyang's nuclear program. British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry doubts that a vote on the draft resolution would have “produced an outcome� – suggesting China would use their veto to stop the resolution being adopted. Beijing remains concerned that the resolution would open the door to the use of force against North Korea. (Washington Post)

North Korea's Allies Resist Action in Security Council (July 6, 2006)

The UN Security Council finds itself deeply divided on the issue of sanctions as a response to North Korea's missile tests. While the US, Japanese and British ambassadors have attempted to present a united front in condemning the attacks, China and Russia have mirrored their positions on Iran and Sudan in taking a different stance to the US and its allies. Both states argue that a Security Council resolution could worsen the situation and stress the need to return to talks. China's threat of exercising its veto has been successful in diluting previous Security Council responses to Pyongyang's missile tests. (Cybercast News Service).


US May Take North Korea Issue to UN (June 5, 2005)

Amid continued inability to convince Pyongyang to drop its nuclear weapons program, the Bush administration considers bringing North Korea before the UN Security Council. According to a Washington official, the US “will come to a decision� over the next couple of weeks.� Meanwhile, “taking the issue to the United Nations carries its own perils� – China, North Korea's main ally and trading partner, has previously indicated that it will likely veto any sanctions on Pyongyang. (Los Angeles Times)

US Is Warning North Koreans on Nuclear Test (May 16, 2005)

After North Korean officials claimed they removed 8,000 spent nuclear reactor fuel rods for “bomb-grade� plutonium processing, the US said for the first time that it would take “punitive action� if Pyongyang conducts a nuclear test. Japan said action would include possible UN sanctions, but US officials failed to give specifics. Imposing sanctions would require the consent of veto-wielding China, which says its government “does not have tangible achievements� in ending North Korea's nuclear program. (New York Times)

White House May Go to UN Over North Korean Shipments (April 25, 2005)

In an effort to halt North Korea's nuclear program, the White House has threatened to bring the matter before the UN Security Council and establish a quarantine. The measure would allow the US, China and other countries to intercept shipments “that may contain nuclear materials or components� in or out of the country, and would serve as an alternative to the six-nation negotiations with North Korea. A resolution might include political as well as economic sanctions, but permanent Security Council member China could oppose such steps to avoid a confrontation with Pyongyang. (New York Times)

Seoul Plays Down Threat to North (April 19, 2005)

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan has said that the US will push for UN sanctions if North Korea does not give up its nuclear weapons program. North Korea refuses to engage in multilateral talks if the US does not abandon its “hostile� attitude towards the country as the previous three rounds of talks with Russia, the US, South Korea, Japan and China did not lead to improved relations. Seoul remains keen to avoid economic sanctions on Pyongyang and wants the parties to exhaust all diplomatic options before the Security Council adopts the matter. (BBC)


Peace: The Real Solution to Famine in North Korea (July 23, 2003)

Christine Ahn argues that five decades of suspended war between the US and North Korea, as well as US-led sanctions against the country, keep North Korea mired in poverty. (ZNet)

North Korea's Pattern of Escalation on Hold - for Now (April 7, 2003)

The UN Security Council will hold its first official talks on North Korea. The US remains distrustful of North Korea's nuclear program and hopes to build a case for limited sanctions, but China opposes such efforts. (Christian Science Monitor)

US Shaping North Korea Sanctions (February 27, 2003)

The Pentagon and the US State Department are developing detailed plans for sanctions against North Korea. The sanctions will include halting the country's weapons shipments and cutting off money sent there by Koreans living in Japan. (New York Times)

Sanctions Would Not Be Easy (February 12, 2003)

Different countries' considerations and lack of consensus within the UN makes imposing sanctions on North Korea complicated and uncertain. (Associated Press)

UN Gives North Korea One Last Chance (January 7, 2003)

The International Atomic Energy Agency urges North Korea to allow the return of nuclear inspectors or face sanctions by the UN Security Council. Meanwhile the Korean Central News agency warns: "If the US unleashes a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula, it will not escape its destruction." (Guardian)

South Korea Says Sanctions on North Korea Won't Work (December 30, 2002)

As the US calls for economic sanctions on North Korea, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung says "Pressure and isolation have never been successful with communist countries -- Cuba is one example." (Reuters)

Japan and North Korea Haggle over Humanitarian Issues (December 20, 1999)

As well as food aid, the two sides are discussing humanitarian issues with Tokyo showing concerns over some 10 Japanese allegedly kinapped by North Korean agents. (Agence France Press)

US and North Korea Talks Resume in Berlin (November 19, 1999)

According to a Western diplomat last week, North Korea was interested in benefiting from an easing of sanctions and moving toward normalizing ties. (Reuters)

Interview with President Kim Dae-jung of South Korea (November 8, 1999)

Excerpts from an interview about the sunshine policy towards North Korea and the global human rights issue. "The UN...should be at the center and have active discussions with the sovereign nations. They should try very hard to promote and implement human rights and also bring very peaceful pressure on those nations. " (Washington Times)

Neighbors Sense Change in North Korea (November 1, 1999)

Washington Post's article about the status of North Korea after the Berlin agreement to stop testing new missiles in return for a relaxation of economic and political sanctions by the US, and two different views on it.

US Study Finds Lack of Control in UN Food Aid to North Korea (October 12, 1999)

"World Food Program estimates that 90 percent of North Korean institutions that receive food aid, including hospitals, orphanages and schools, have rarely been allowed to observe the actual distribution of food to beneficiaries." (New York Times)

Clinton Ends Most N. Korea Sanctions (September 18, 1999)

Republican leaders say he's bowing to pressure, but other voices imply the move is a step in the right direction. (Associated Press)

Clinton Eases North Korea Sanctions (September 17, 1999)

A New York Times's article about President Clinton's order to ease the strict trade, banking and travel restrictions against North Korea.

Easing Sanctions (September 17, 1999)

Report by the North Korean Central News Agency on the decision to ease sanctions against North Korea after the country agreed to suspend long-range missile tests.

Seeking to Prevent a North Korean Missile Test (August 30, 1999)

An article contributred by Kim Dae Jung, president of South Korea, "South Korea will do everything it can to prevent Pyongyang from launching its missile." (Global Viewpoint)

Why Do Kazakhs Keep Trying to Ship MIG's to North Korea (August 27, 1999)

"What Kazakhstan officials describe as a rogue group that included senior government officials had already delivered an undisclosed number of the jets to North Korea before the deal was discovered last month and the shipments halted." (New York Times)

North Korea Agrees to Talks with US Aide on Missile Test (August 26, 1999)

ANew York Times article on the feasibility to improve the relationship with North Korea as the United States, South Korea and Japan have shown an unusually high degree of diplomatic coordination in condemning North Korea and pledging to slow down food and oil assistance if the test is carried out.

North Korea Offers to Negotiate on Missile Tests, Easing Crisis (August 19, 1999)

According to a view of an expert on North Korea, the missile seems to be the last few leverages Pyongyang has to negotiate with foreign countries.

North Korea, UN Generals Hold Meeting Amid Missile Threat (August 17, 1999)

An Agence France Presse article on the meeting between Generals from North Korea and the United Nations Command to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula, amid heightened fears of a new long-range rocket.

Is North Korea Ready to Fire Rocket? (August 12, 1999)

Washington Post article on North Korea's strategy surrounding the feasibility of Pyongyang's missile.

Envoy to North Korea Delivers Clinton Letter (May 27, 1999)

Under a proposal presented to North Korea by envoy William Perry, the US seeks to gradually lift long-time sanctions in exchange for major consessions from North Korea, such as stopping its long-range missile program.

U.S. Experts To Tour N. Korea Site (May 11, 1999)

U.S. experts will visit an underground construction site in North Korea to try to determine whether the facility is being built for nuclear weapons development.

Millions of North Koreans Suffer During Famine (April 27, 1999)

CNN report on the disastrous famine in North Korea.

South Korea Pleads for End to Sanctions Against the North (June 8, 1998)

The government of South Korea has joined the chorus of US reports in calling for an easing of the sanctions on North Korea (Detroit News Wire Services)



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