North Korea offered a rare admission that international sanctions are having a detrimental effect on society, but it remains to be seen whether the increased pressure will deter the regime from continuing its weapons development programs.
Kim Chol, the director of the Economic Institute of the Academy of Social Sciences, revealed in an interview with Kyodo News that petroleum prices have risen sharply in recent months due to international sanctions. In response, the North Korean regime is encouraging people to use public transportation and ride bikes.
“(Oil) imports have largely been restricted,” Kim Jong-guk, an official from the institute in charge of external affairs, explained, adding that sanctions have made it difficult for North Korea to make payments to China and other countries.
Gasoline prices first jumped in April, leading some to conclude that China might be cutting shipments to North Korea, just as it did coal imports from North Korea earlier this year.
Pyongyang has been testing new missiles at an alarming rate this year. The North has successfully tested new short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles, each with distinct improvements over the actual combat capabilities of their predecessors. North Korea has also successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, which many analysts believe could reach Alaska, with some expert observers even suggesting that it could potentially strike additional U.S. targets at greater ranges.
Having abandoned the Obama administration’s policy of “strategic patience,” the Trump administration’s approach is one of “maximum pressure and engagement.” The current strategy involves economic sanctions, military deterrence, and diplomatic pressure in an effort to force Pyongyang to the negotiating table. The Trump administration also has high hopes that China will step up to resolve the North Korean issue for the international community, although many are beginning to question whether Beijing and Washington’s interests are in alignment.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said Sunday that the U.S. intends to call for a tough resolution to punish North Korea for its recent test of an ICBM in violation of international bans preventing the country from testing this type of weapon. She also indicated that the U.S. plans to put increased pressure on China to rein in its neighbor. Haley threatened bilateral trade between China and the U.S. if Chinese companies are allowed to continue to engage North Korea illegally.
As Pyongyang — North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in particular — regards its ballistic missile technology and nuclear weapons as essential tools for its survival, it is unclear whether sanctions will stop North Korea from pursuing a nuclear deterrence capability through weapons advancements.
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