Politics The US pulled off a big win getting China to agree to sanctions on North Korea — but the nuke program won't stop

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The UN sanctions approved over the weekend will not stop North Korea from building and testing missiles and nuclear devices.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in this undated photo released by KCNA play

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in this undated photo released by KCNA

(Thomson Reuters)
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The UN Security Council on Saturday voted unanimously to introduce a set of hard-hitting sanctions that could cost North Korea billions of dollars, but while it signifies a big diplomatic victory for the US, don't expect North Korea to stop its nuclear- and ballistic-missile programs.

According to Yun Sun, a senior associate at the Stimson Center who is an expert on China and North Korea, the US essentially persuaded China to agree to the extensive sanctions on Pyongyang by threatening to sanction Chinese banks that do business with North Koreans.

With China on board, Russia, a country that refuses to even acknowledge that North Korea has built an ICBM, decided against a conspicuous veto that would draw attention to its dealings with Pyongyang.

"It's quite impressive how the Americans got the Chinese to agree to such comprehensive sanctions," said Sun, who described the sanctions as "unprecedented, the most comprehensive, most extensive we have seen so far."

President Donald Trump said that he was "very happy and impressed" with the 15-0 UN vote passing the sanctions and that he had called South Korea's president to talk it over.

But will these sanctions stop North Korea from building and testing missiles and nuclear devices?

"The answer is no," Sun said. "The belief that sanctions are going to bring North Korea to its knees have been proven to be false assumptions."

According to Sun, during economically lean times, it's the North Korean people who suffer. Pyongyang has prioritized its military and will most likely fund its weapons programs above all else.

Kim watching a military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People's Army. play

Kim watching a military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People's Army.

(Thomson Reuters)

Additionally, John Park, the director of the Korea Working Group at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, told South Korea's Hankyoreh that North Korea had billions stockpiled from years of a trade surplus. He projects that the regime could survive for years even under these strict sanctions.

After the latest sanctions passed, the US offered North Korea an olive branch, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying Pyongyang could signal diplomatic talks if it "stopped testing these missiles."

North Korea replied that "under no circumstances" would it table the missile program for talks.