The Trump administration should reject calls for relaxing sanctions in return for only a partial, flawed agreement. Washington must implement a comprehensive strategy of diplomacy, military deterrence, containment, pressure, law enforcement, and confrontation of North Korean human rights violations. This includes targeting North Korean entities engaged in cybercrimes. The UN assessed that North Korea gained an estimated $2 billion using “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyberattacks to steal from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges.
The regime so far has shown no sign of abandoning its nuclear and missile arsenal nor its continued defiance of the international community. It is possible that North Korea’s mounting economic problems could lead it back to nuclear talks. But the amount of pressure North Korea feels in the months ahead will depend not so much on international sanctions as on the extent of COVID-19 in the country and Pyongyang’s response measures.
A former CIA deputy division chief for Korea, Bruce Klingner is a senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center.