North Korea ignores UN sanctions

Dhaka,  Sun,  24 September 2017
Published : 11 Aug 2017, 19:33:06

North Korea ignores UN sanctions

M Serajul Islam
The Trump administration celebrated a rare victory in foreign relations last week. Its Ambassador to the United Nations Nickey Hailey succeeded in getting the other 14 UN Security Council members, including China and Russia, behind a resolution it sponsored on North Korea. The resolution clamped new sanctions worth US$ 1.0 billion on the reclusive state as punishment after it violated the international agreement and tested new ballistic missiles.

On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump had said many times over that if elected as the President, dealing with North Korea and its aggressive new leader Kim Jong-un would be an easy task for him. 

He had said that he would negotiate with him a deal he would not be able to refuse. The North Korean leader simply ignored the sweet words about him by the new American leader whose praise for him was the first by a western leader about him.  In fact, thus far no western leader thought it prudent to praise him, his father or his grandfather in public. 

The North Korean leader welcomed the 45th US President, Donald Trump by blasting new ballistic missiles soon after his inauguration making it clear that North Korea is developing missiles that could carry nuclear weapons to the US mainland.

Those early missile tests did not jolt the new US President who instead even alluded to the possibility of a visit to Washington by the North Korean leader, calling him a "smart cookie" while in between threatening a limited attack on North Korea that the US military knew could be undertaken at costs too great to carry out. 

Thus, in between praise and threat, President Donald Trump set his misplaced ego aside and asked the Chinese to rein the rising threat from North Korea. The Chinese, of course, do not conduct international relations in any manner as the new US President. For them, the conduct of international relations is truly a game of chess played at the level of the Grand Master. They know that in the US President, they have a chess player who is a novice.

Therefore, they are not going to do anything to please President Donald Trump. They know that Kim Jong-un is unlike his father and grandfather and would not be easy to handle. They are concerned with the sudden dramatic rise in missile tests under him. Nevertheless, they know that even the ambitious new leader is well aware of his country's huge dependence on China and that it would perish if China simply turned the other way. Fifty per cent of North Korean trade is with China and China supplies 90 per cent of the North Korean supply of oil. China, on its part, is aware that if North Korea failed as a state either by US aggression or by its own actions like unilaterally attacking South Korea or Japan, it would have a nuclear holocaust or a humanitarian disaster of nightmarish proportions.

Therefore, China supported the US-sponsored UN resolution against North Korea, well aware that it would have no major impact on North Korea or its missile tests. China would do nothing that would provoke North Korea beyond its limits or push it over the edge.  And with the latest UN sanctions whose success would depend largely on China, the latter cannot be depended upon to enforce it to the satisfaction of the United States. 

Therefore, the victory that the Trump administration claimed over the UN Security Council resolution was one claimed in a hurry. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expected the sanctions would force North Korea to give the undertaking to stop its missile tests and negotiate with the hitherto dormant group Six-Party talks for ending the sanctions that have been designed to be the severest thus far.

Secretary Tillerson's expectations were thrashed by North Korea with contempt. The country's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said that it now has the entire US mainland within the range of its missiles and there was no question of giving up its nuclear weapons programme. 

To add to Washington's concerns, The Washington Post reported recently that these missiles were capable of carrying nuclear warheads.  In fact, North Korea under the current leader is more convinced than ever that with its missile programme on fast track with the US as the target, it has much more leverage with the US and its allies than ever before. Therefore, it would deal with the US and its allies from a position of strength and not under threats and sanctions.

The US President, in an ironic sort of way, is getting the taste of the world of alternative facts that he has been trying to create, a make believe world where his words would be law, where there was no question of anything he did being defeated, where those around him would prostrate before him all the time. The North Koreans have successfully built that world of alternative facts already and unlike the US President, successfully. 

North Koreans believe that the sun rises on the eastern skies of North Korea and sets on its western skies; that North Korea is the greatest power on earth and no leader could compare to its Great Leader, its Dear Leader and now the incumbent leader. Therefore, the current leader has no worries about what the people think while taking actions against the USA or leading the country on any path, even a nuclear one. 

The North Korean leader has inherited a firmly established world of alternative facts where he could even put to death anyone for simply inadvertently napping during one of his official addresses!

The US President's world of alternative facts is crumbling all around him. The reason for the failure of the US President to build his world of alternative facts like the North Korean leader is in the fact that the US has a Constitution, the rule of law and institutions whereas in North Korea none of these exists in anyway to challenge the North Korean leader.

Thus North Korea reacted to the UN sanctions with threats against the United States that angered President Trump to state that it would attack North Korea with "fire and fury like the world has never seen." That also did not cause undue concern in Pyongyang that issued a statement that it was "carefully examining" a plan to strike the US military base in Guam with missiles. 

CNN analyst Fareed Zakaria analysed the war of words between Washington and Pyongyang and concluded that the US President's threats against North Korea were really full of sound and fury signifying nothing. 

Fareed Zakaria was convinced that unless in a state of madness, the United States would not be able to strike North Korea even in a limited way without causing a major catastrophe where its allies South Korea and Japan would become the victims.

It was interesting that although the western nations all backed the United States on the UN Security Council resolution, none of these US allies expressed any enthusiasm for President Trump's resolve to strike North Korea with "fire and fury like the world has never seen before." 

They felt about the US President's threat the same way as Fareed Zakaria; that his threats if carried out, would create a catastrophe like the world had never seen before.  

The war of words left North Korea the winner notwithstanding the UN sanctions against it because the US President's world of alternative facts where he thought he could do whatever he wanted did not exist in reality. 

And these developments pointed at a new direction in international relations in the post-Obama era -- a perceptible shift of the centre of political gravity. President Donald Trump is actively and unwittingly helping the transfer of that gravity from the west to the east, where Westernisation and its many centuries-old dominance in international politics are beginning to give way to Easternisation with China in the leadership role.

The writer is a former Ambassador.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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