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Editorial: Strict enforcement of N. Korea sanctions needed to pressure Kim regime

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has voted unanimously for new sanctions on North Korea, including a complete ban on the country's two main exports: iron ore and coal.

The U.N. has now imposed sanctions on North Korea eight times since 2006, when the regime of Kim Jong Il conducted its first atom bomb test. The newest round took about a month to put together after the North's first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch, and is a staunch declaration by the entire international community that it will not accept North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons development.

Russia and China appeared to vote for the sanctions somewhat grudgingly, but vote for them they did.

China came around after the United States dropped its request for a total ban on oil exports to North Korea, while it appears that Russia had no intent of holding out alone and using its Security Council permanent member veto power to kill the sanctions package. There is no change in China's and Russia's insistence that Washington open direct talks with Pyongyang, but the two countries aligned with the U.S. for the time being to get the sanctions in place.

Previous sanctions on the North have put caps on export volumes and values, and also allowed exceptions. The latest version, however, has done away with this leeway. The U.S., which championed the resolution, estimates that a thorough implementation of the sanctions will wipe out a third of North Korea's annual export income, or some $1 billion.

China, which accounts for 90 percent of trade with the North, must strictly enforce the sanctions, including cracking down on smuggling. Russia, which has been drawing noticeably closer to North Korea, must do the same.

The Kim Jong Un regime's launch of an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S. mainland has piqued global interest. The North's nuclear arms development program is no longer just a problem for Northeast Asia.

Amid the latest developments, the ASEAN Regional Forum security conference was held in Manila, attended by the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as well as foreign ministers from regional players including Japan, South Korea, the U.S., and North Korea. The meeting ought to have been a precious opportunity for the North to get its message out to the world, but its insistence that its atomic arms program was entirely for self-defense was not well received by the other nations. Indeed, it is perfectly natural that the assembled foreign ministers were so frank with their criticisms and worries about North Korea.

Japan's freshly minted foreign minister Taro Kono, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha also held a meeting at the forum, and voiced unanimous resolve to implement the U.N. sanctions thoroughly. It is necessary that these three nations cooperate to strengthen the international cordon around North Korea and pressure the Kim regime to give up its missile and nuclear arms programs.

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