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Sanctions draw mixed reactions over concerns for efficacy

NK remains quiet, reports claim major cyberattack may be in the works

The UN has imposed its toughest sanctions on North Korea to date, but South Korea’s politicians and experts remain divided on how efficient they will be.

On Tuesday, the presidential office and the ruling party welcomed the measures, hailing them as an example of the international community uniting to bring Pyongyang under control.

Seoul’s presidential office welcomed the new resolution, saying that its approval confirms that the international community holds the shared belief that stronger measures are needed.

The United Nations Security Council holds vote on sanctions resolution against North Korea at United Nations headquarters in New York on Monday. EPA-Yonhap
The United Nations Security Council holds vote on sanctions resolution against North Korea at United Nations headquarters in New York on Monday. EPA-Yonhap

“(The presidential office) highly rates the UNSC unanimously adopting resolution 2375 in a short period of time,” Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Park Soo-hyun said.

“North Korea must realize the fact that reckless challenges against international peace will only bring stronger sanctions.”

Park also warned Pyongyang not to “test the international community’s resolute will” and reiterated Moon Jae-in administration’s call to engaging in dialogue to achieve “complete, irreversible and verifiable” dismantling of its nuclear program.

The ruling Democratic Party of Korea voiced similar views, saying that despite measures being softened from the draft, the rapid and unanimous decision shows that international cooperation is being strengthened.

Although the US had sought to completely cut off North Korea’s fuel imports, the measures were reeled back due to opposition from China and Russia.

The resolution limits fossil fuel exports to North Korea, and imposes a complete ban on importing textiles and related products from North Korea. In addition, work permits for North Koreans will not be renewed, and no new North Korean workers can be hired outside of the country.

Under the new measures, North Korea’s annual refined petroleum products import is capped at 2 million barrels from 2018, and importing LNG and condensate will be prohibited.

In addition, conditions for searching North Korean vessels have been eased, and North Korean entities have now been banned from conducting international projects. Existing projects must now be shut down within 120 days.

Although this is the first time the UNSC adopted measures limiting Pyongyang’s fuel imports, critics here say that the sanctions are insufficient.

“A compromise that does not include direct sanctions on Kim Jong-un and a complete ban on crude oil exports was passed,” Rep. Chung Woo-taik, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party floor leader said.

“Although the sanctions reduce 90 percent of North Korea’s main export items, and cut oil imports by over 30 percent, (the measures) will not be able to prevent (development of) nuclear missiles.”

Minor opposition parties also chimed in, with the People’s Party saying that the latest resolution appears unlikely to have real impact.

North Korea has so far remained quiet on the sanctions, despite threats that it is “ready to take any final resort” against the US should tougher measures be imposed.

However, Japanese media reported on Tuesday that Pyongyang is reviewing plans for a large scale cyberattack as retaliation.