The world has but one choice: to tighten sanctions on the Kim Jong Un regime of North Korea while at the same time seeking ways to shift that regime's confrontationist policies.
The United Nations Security Council recently adopted yet another set of sanctions against Pyongyang, though the body appears to have recoiled from the harsh measures first proposed by the United States. But that is not the whole picture.
Japan and the U.S. had favored a complete ban on oil shipments to North Korea, but this was diluted down to an upper limit on crude oil and refined petroleum products. However, this also amounts to a warning that oil will be next on the embargo list if the North continues its provocative ways. Furthermore, the new sanctions ban all exports of North Korean textiles -- the country's main export item.
The U.S. prioritized quick passage of the new sanctions package, and China also showed that it was ready to cooperate. In recent times, these measures have taken months to work out among Security Council members. That being the case, it is remarkable -- and quite significant -- that the sanctions were agreed upon and passed just a week after the North's nuclear test.
This is the ninth sanctions package passed against North Korea by the Security Council since 2006, and all of them have been unanimous votes. However, we cannot say that previous sanctions have had any real effect. Even as the sanctions have become more severe with each new edition, Pyongyang has continued its missile and atomic weapons programs.
One reason the Kim regime has continued to run wild is the somewhat lax enforcement of U.N. sanctions. However, that appears to be changing.
China, by far North Korea's largest trading partner, has released an official statement calling for full enforcement of the sanctions. Southeast Asian countries that have been used as a back door for trade with North Korea in the past are now showing signs of moving toward proactive enforcement. In Latin America and the Middle East, too, some countries have begun to take a second look at their relations with North Korea.
The one obstacle is Russia, which has maintained a half-hearted attitude to sanctioning Pyongyang. We would like to see Russia recognize its responsibilities as a major power.
One background reason why North Korea continues to plug its ears to the outraged voices of the global community is the regime's deeply held belief that it needs nuclear weapons to guarantee its survival. The North protests that the Iraqi and Libyan dictatorships were shattered by U.S. and allied military forces because they had given up on their nuclear programs.
Thus, Pyongyang needs to be shown there is more profit in abandoning its nuclear self-defense doctrine in favor of cooperating with the international community. And that is what the international community should itself be aiming to do.
North Korea had warned that it was "ready and willing" to take "last-resort" measures should the U.N. Security Council pass the newest sanctions. Should Pyongyang use the sanctions as a pretext to fire off yet another ballistic missile or undertake similar actions, it would further aggravate the situation.
The international community must maintain unity on the North Korean question, and make it absolutely clear that the world will not tolerate further provocations.