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New sanctions against North Korea are a hard lift, so US needs a Plan B, experts say.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield (Avery Jensen/WikiCommons)
June 04, 2022

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

The Biden administration must look beyond the United Nations for ways to deter North Korean provocations while China and Russia wield veto power, analysts told RFA.

China and Russia last week vetoed a bid by Washington at the U.N. Security Council to sanction North Korea for its recent ballistic missile launches. The other 13 council members supported the resolution.

“The Biden administration needs to pivot to Plan B,” Anthony Ruggiero of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies told RFA’s Korean Service.

“The administration’s U.S. sanctions last week were a weak response to North Korea’s six ICBM tests,” he said, suggesting that its May 27 announcement of unilateral sanctions on two Russian banks, one individual and a North Korean company would have little effect.

“Biden must rebuild the diplomatic, military, and economic pressure campaign against Pyongyang outside the U.N. Security Council,” Ruggiero said.

Washington has promised to push for more U.N. sanctions if Pyongyang were to test its seventh nuclear weapon, which U.S. and South Korean intelligence believes it is preparing for.

“We absolutely will,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said on Tuesday when asked whether the Biden administration would act on its pledge.

She also blasted China and Russia for voting down last week’s sanctions bid.

“This was an unthinkable abdication of their responsibilities to the council and to protecting international peace and security,” she said. “Now they will have to explain their dangerous choice to the General Assembly.”

Soo Kim, a policy analyst at the California-based RAND Corporation, told RFA that such U.S. efforts at the U.N. are mostly bids to impress upon the global community “that the DPRK weapons activity still stands as a persistent and growing threat to not only the region but to international stability.”

“Realistically, the Beijing-Moscow pushback on North Korean sanctions is a major obstacle to exacting punishment on the Kim regime for its weapons provocations,” she said. “The U.S. is aware that, at this point, getting China and Russia’s cooperation on sanctions is impossible. So Washington is probably not intending for any major breakthroughs on this front.”

While sanctions are indeed necessary, Kim said, the U.S. would do better to seek an alliance outside of the U.N. to address concerns over North Korea’s weapons development.

“It’s one thing to discuss plans for extended deterrence in the region – this will not stop or deter North Korea’s weapons ambitions,” she said.