North Korea responds to sanctions by the UN Security Council

North KoreaBy Ryan Haag | CIB Asia Desk

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) recently passed new sanctions against North Korea as a result of Pyongyang’s fifth nuclear test on September 9, 2016. The sanctions resulted in a verbose response by the North Korean government directed at the UNSC and the United States (US). It can be established with high confidence that such rhetoric is usual and sanctions will not have any serious effect for months, thus solidifying the view that the North Korean regime will remain stable throughout 2016.

On November 30, 2016, the UNSC unanimously passed resolution 2321, aimed primarily at limiting the coal exports of North Korea, which account for a significant portion of the government’s revenue. This occurred at the same time as Japan and South Korea issued unilateral sanctions against North Korea. Japan has banned ships from docking at its ports if they have also docked in North Korea. South Korea is blacklisting senior North Korean officials that allegedly have close ties to Kim Jong-un, including Hwang Pyong-so, reportedly the second most powerful individual in the country outside of the Kim family.

On December 1, 2016, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying, “the DPRK strongly censures and categorically rejects [sanctions] as another excess of authority and violation of the DPRK’s sovereignty by the UNSC acting under instructions of the [US]”. North Korea also said, US President Barack “Obama and his lackeys” are mistaken if they can undercut its status as a nuclear-powered country. The statement concluded with a vow to implement “tougher countermeasures for [self-defense]”.

The statement is evident that North Korea will not give way to sanctions and underscores the importance, from their perspective, of their nuclear program. North Korea’s response emphasizes exactly why North Korea is upset at the US and continued sanctions by the UNSC. North Korea has long disapproved of US involvement in the Korean peninsula and any actions that seek to contain or control the country. The tone signifies further defiance and why North Korea has chosen to develop nuclear capabilities. The statement reflecting countermeasures is purposely and typically vague, as North Korea is known to regularly issue such ambiguous statements.

Multiple sources have corroborated North Korea’s statement, including the Korea Times and Yonhap News Agency. It is important to note that the visible show of frustration on behalf of North Korea is not entirely for show. Sanctions do have the potential to diminish stability in the country, but not until the middle part of next year. The verbose rhetoric can thus best be described as representative of the unwillingness of North Korea to cede to international pressure. Since the effects of sanctions will not be evident until next year, my original forecast that stability has slightly increased in North Korea remains unchanged.


Anonymous (2016) “N. Korea Condemns Latest UN Sanctions”, The Korea Times, 2 December.
Park, J.M. and Kaori, K. (2016) “South Korea, Japan impose new unilateral sanctions on North Korea”, Reuters, 2 December.
MacDonald, H. (2016) “North Korea’s Foreign Ministry Condemns New UN Sanctions”, NK News, 1 December.