Pyongyang fires projectiles in protest against UN sanctions

A North Korean military's missile firing drill in North Korea.
A North Korean military's missile firing drill in North Korea. PHOTO: EPA

A defiant North Korea fired short-range projectiles into the sea off its eastern coast to protest against the strongest-ever new sanctions on Pyongyang that the United Nations Security Council had imposed just hours earlier.

The sanctions, passed unanimously on Wednesday and welcomed by world leaders, are unprecedented in scope, targeting specific sectors to cut off any potential funding for North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes. The European Union yesterday said it was considering more economic sanctions on the North after the UN resolution.

It took Washington and Beijing seven weeks to negotiate the measures after Pyongyang drew international criticism for its recent nuclear and missile tests.

"The international community, speaking with one voice, has sent Pyongyang a simple message: North Korea must abandon these dangerous programmes and choose a better path for its people," said United States President Barack Obama, after the vote.

South Korean President Park Geun Hye praised the "unprecedentedly tough" sanctions, pledging to make efforts towards peace and unification, while JapanPremier Shinzo Abe urged North Korea to "sincerely heed the strong warnings" and comply with the resolution.

Cooperation from China and Russia, North Korea's allies which voted for the sanctions, is crucial to implementing the new sanctions effectively, said analysts.

China and Russia must "recognise that a rogue nation like North Korea will sooner or later become a strategic dilemma for them" and cooperate with the international community in curbing North Korea's nuclear ambitions, said Dr Kongdan Oh of the think-tank Institute of Defence Analyses.

Experts said the new sanctions may make it harder for North Korea to finance its nuclear programme or slow it down, but had doubts of a long-term deterrent effect. Pyongyang has managed to boost its nuclear capability despite being under UN sanctions since 2006.

Implementation is key, but the complexity of the new sanctions may make them harder to enforce, said Dr Katharine Moon from US think-tank Brookings Institution.

"Many countries do not have the capacity or know-how to abide by the sanctions regime. Training on enforcement mechanisms will be necessary, but whether the UN would provide it is questionable."

China, North Korea's closest ally and biggest trading partner and aid provider, stressed through its UN envoy Liu Jieyi on Wednesday the importance of dialogue, saying UN resolutions alone could not solve the North's nuclear issues. Still, in a show of its commitments to the sanctions, it stopped coal imports from the North on Tuesday and froze all remittances to Pyongyang on Wednesday, ahead of the UN sanctions vote, reported Korean media.

Scepticism of China's commitment abounds, however, with Dr Lee Ki Beom of The Asan Institute for Policy Studies saying that Beijing might change its mind later and support the North.

"There are loopholes that give China discretion to strike a deal with North Korea to provide some form of economic support without violating UN sanctions," he noted, adding North Korea could register its ships under another country's name to avoid cargo inspection and the 50,000 North Koreans working overseas could find other ways to send money back.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2016, with the headline 'Pyongyang fires projectiles in protest against UN sanctions'. Print Edition | Subscribe