The U.S. wants the U.N. Security Council to approve a range of new sanctions, including a full ban on exports of oil to North Korea. Experts say an oil embargo would be a major shift in international efforts to squeeze Kim’s regime.
“Something like this has not been tried before,” said Kent Boydston, a research analyst at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “It would be a different kind of sanction that would have broader impact on the economy.”
A prolonged halt in oil supplies could eventually bring the North Korean economy to its knees. But it would need the support of China, North Korea’s main trading partner, and Russia — both of which can veto the measure at the U.N.
The escalating crisis over North Korea is a thorny problem for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is trying to project strength and stability ahead of a key meeting of the Communist Party next month. That makes experts skeptical that he will take drastic measures at this point against Kim Jong Un.
Global Times, a Chinese state-run tabloid that often expresses nationalistic views, suggested in April that Beijing might cut off North Korea’s oil supply if it carried out another nuclear test. But after Pyongyang went ahead with the test, the newspaper poured cold water on the idea of an oil ban.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is also opposed to an oil embargo, telling South Korean President Moon Jae-in that he’s concerned it may harm civilians, according to a spokesman for Moon.