National Security

Upping the Pressure on North Korea

“President Trump authorized the US Treasury to effectively cut off any foreign individual or entity that does business with North Korea from the US financial system, including foreign banks.”

President Trump has called for and now implemented new stronger sanctions on North Korea in an apparent attempt to slow if not halt the regime’s continuing race to nuclear power.

The new executive order signals US willingness to take a more aggressive approach to cutting off world trade with North Korea. The United States is poised to economically punish businesses anywhere in the world that continue to deal with North Korea and Kim Jong Un.

The executive order “opens the door for the US to enforce a trade embargo against North Korea unilaterally,” said Joseph DeThomas, a former State Department official who focused on North Korea and Iran and is now a professor of international affairs at Pennsylvania State University. “It gives us the power to play that game if we wish to.”

President Trump announced his decision to impose the new stronger sanctions on Thursday.

Kim responded to Trump’s remarks at the UN General Assembly in a statement on state media, calling the president “mentally deranged” and threatening to take the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”

There is speculation that the Kim regime will soon test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific in a move that would be seen as a strong provocation to the US, Japan, and South Korea.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said the expanded sanctions won’t necessarily “change Kim’s attitude” but “will slow down” his weapons programs. Trump said the measures are intended to disrupt critical North Korean shipping and trade networks by targeting any entity that does business with the nation.

North Korea’s nuclear program is a grave threat to peace and security in our world

The sanctions are a real threat to China should they continue to trade with the rogue regime. Chinese banks held $144 billion of assets in the US at the end of December, according to data from the US Federal Reserve. Most of those assets are held by the Bank of China and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. China’s oil companies also may be exposed. China is the biggest oil supplier to North Korea, providing almost all the estimated 15,000 barrels a day of crude oil and oil products that the country imports, according to the US Department of Energy.

In a move of solidarity, considering the danger the nation could face should the sanctions affect their assets, China made a stunning announcement which President Trump spoke about at a meeting with leaders from South Korea and Japan about strategy to deal with the North Korea problem. He said that Chinese President Xi Jinping had ordered Chinese banks to cease conducting business with North Korean entities. The President praised Xi, calling the move “very bold” and “somewhat unexpected.”

“North Korea’s nuclear program is a grave threat to peace and security in our world, and it is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal, rogue regime,” President Trump said. He added that the United States continues to seek a “complete denuclearization of North Korea.”

With the signing of the executive order, President Trump authorized the US Treasury to effectively cut off any foreign individual or entity that does business with North Korea from the US financial system, including foreign banks. The order has far-reaching ramifications outside of the financial markets. Vessels and aircraft that visit North Korea or engage in ship-to-ship transfers with another ship that has visited North Korea would be banned from the US for 180 days.

As the North Korean dictator flaunts his nuclear aspirations, he is finding the world a much smaller place. The reach of North Korea continues to shrink as the world finally starts to take action to halt the threat of a nuclear-capable North Korea.

In a show of world support, something the Trump administration has sometimes lacked, the European Union is considering new sanctions that could include a ban on EU companies exporting oil to North Korea, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said at a briefing in New York.

The UN Security Council this month approved another round of sanctions that will cut North Korea’s imports of refined petroleum products to 2 million barrels a year, ban textile exports, and strengthen inspections of ships that are believed to be carrying cargo in breach of sanctions. The measure stopped just short of a total ban or oil embargo against North Korea as well as a call to freeze the North’s assets worldwide to protect the sanctions against a veto from China or Russia.

President Trump praised the U.N. Security Council for passing two recent resolutions against North Korea that the president called “hard-hitting.” “We must do much more,” he said. “It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behavior.”

In his speech before the UN General Assembly Tuesday, President Trump threatened to “totally destroy” the North if necessary and referred derisively to Kim as “Rocket Man.” Still, the president and his aides have emphasized that they are continuing to do what they can to put economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea to avoid a military conflict.

“We don’t want war,” U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters. “At the same time, we’re not going to run scared. If for any reason North Korea attacks the United States or our allies, we’re going to respond.”

Jon Harris

Jon Harris is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and former Army NCO, Sergeant Morales Club member, civilian law enforcement officer, and defense contractor with over 30 years in the law enforcement community. He is published in Army Trainer Magazine, authored regular columns in several newspapers, and is the author of the Cold War novel Breakpoint. His adventures as a security contractor in Afghanistan and Iraq can be found on www.dispatchfromdownrange.com. He holds a B.S. in Government and Politics and an M.S. in Criminal Justice and is currently completing his Juris Doctor degree.

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