Unacceptable. Won’t be tolerated. Serious consequences. Those are just a handful of the scolding phrases uttered over the past two decades at every bend on North Korea’s road to becoming a nuclear state to its more recent advances in weapons and missile technology.
There have been sanctions designed to stop North Korea from acquiring weapons technology and conventional arms, sanctions to block its ability to move money around the world and sanctions to prevent the ruling Kim family and its cronies from getting personal watercraft and fancy watches.
The United Nations was already considering a new round of measures to punish Pyongyang for its fourth nuclear test, conducted last month, when leader Kim Jong Un ordered the latest launch of a long-range rocket thought to be part of his country’s ballistic missile program.
Denunciations of North Korea’s behavior and pleas for China–a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council–to get tough on the regime followed immediately, prompting a familiar sense of deja vu.
Although sanctions have no doubt made it harder for Pyongyang to do business, they clearly have not forced the regime to change its behavior or prevented significant advances in the North’s nuclear weapons program. Indeed, no matter how strong any sanctions may be, they count for almost nothing if China is not on board.