The United Nations Security Council has adopted a new sanctions resolution against North Korea -- the 10th of its kind -- in response to yet another ballistic missile launch by the country in November. The sanctions entail enhanced pressure on the North, targeting its lifelines of petroleum supply and foreign currency revenue.
Under the new scheme, the export of petroleum products such as gasoline to North Korea will be slashed by 90 percent to 500,000 barrels a year. While the export of crude oil to the North will remain unchanged, the resolution threatened to further limit oil supply to the country if it were to continue test-firing intercontinental ballistic missiles and conducting nuclear tests.
North Korea has stockpiled oil in anticipation of further sanctions against the country. While Pyongyang is expected to attempt to procure additional oil through smuggling, such underhand tactics may have their limits, and the country will inevitably face tougher energy circumstances.
The new sanctions have also beefed up restrictions to be placed on North Korea's exports to other countries. Together with the previous sanctions against the North, the country's foreign currency earnings from exports will fall to close to zero. Measures to repatriate North Korean workers abroad to their home country within two years are also part of efforts to block the country from acquiring foreign currency.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is in dire need of raking in foreign currency in order to cement his power base at home and promote his country's nuclear and missile development programs. It is essential to sever all of the North's means of foreign currency acquisition to make Kim keenly aware of the pain of the sanctions.
Situations surrounding North Korea have rapidly deteriorated over the past two years. Over the course of the decade since North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, the United Nations had adopted four sets of sanctions resolutions against the country. Last year alone, the world body adopted two such resolutions, followed by four thus far this year.
Earlier this year, North Korea carried out a nuclear test some 10 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima by the U.S. in 1945, and repeatedly launched intercontinental ballistic missiles apparently capable of striking the continental U.S. Kim declared last month that his country had succeeded in completing the state nuclear force.
While U.S. President Donald Trump has taken a hard-line stance toward Pyongyang, the underlying U.S. policy has been centering on bringing North Korea to the negotiating table. If the North moves ahead with acts of provocations to further boost tensions, however, it could develop into a military confrontation between the two nations.
The international community shares an awareness that the crisis surrounding North Korea has rather deepened. China, which is North Korea's ally alongside Russia, has recently turned around to emphasize the implementation of anti-North sanctions. Russia also complied with sending North Korean guest workers home under the most recent sanctions. Countries in Southeast Asia and Africa are also beginning to distance themselves from North Korea.
The international community is adopting an increasingly tough stance against North Korea becoming a nuclear power. The North must squarely face up to the fact that it is further isolating itself in the global community and should strive to turn around its policies.