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Russian experts: Sanctions will hardly stop North Korea’s nuclear missile program

March 03, 18:19 UTC+3 MOSCOW
North Korea’s nuclear program is developing, and the country has managed to successfully launch its satellite into space
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© AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

MOSCOW, March 3. /TASS/. The unprecedentedly tough UN Security Council resolution on North Korea over Pyongyang’s nuclear tests will hardly stop the country’s research in its missile and nuclear program, according to experts polled by TASS.

They say that the previous decade shows North Korea’s nuclear program is developing, and the country has managed to successfully launch its satellite into space. No matter how the international community sees this in the framework of global attempts to thwart proliferation of nuclear weapons, Pyongyang to some extent feels like a besieged fortress and considers this program to be the only way to survive and protect itself from South Korea’s to incorporate it. And it looks like Pyongyang will not be persuaded to think otherwise. At the same time, Moscow is trying to ensure that sanctions against North Korea will not result in "suffocating" the country’s economy.

On Wednesday, March 2, UN Security Council unanimously approved an unprecedentedly tough resolution against North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear test on January 6 that violated all previous UN SC resolutions. The document imposes a partial trade blockade on North Korea. UN member countries are now banned from purchasing the following from North Korea - coal, iron ore, rare earth metals, gold, vanadium and titanium. Deliveries of rocket and jet fuel to North Korea were also prohibited, along with any types of weapons and luxury goods.

Long preparations

The resolution was approved unanimously by UN Security Council despite different attitudes among UN SC members toward Pyongyang. Deputy head of Eurasian integration at the Institute of CIS Countries Vladimir Evseev said that North Korea provoked such actions by carrying out a nuclear test on January 6 and launching a satellite on February 7. "Two such events one after another predetermined such unanimity," Evseesv told TASS adding that "deliberate aggravation raised very serious concerns even in Moscow."

However, unanimous voting does not mean real unanimity. "This resolution was coordinated for unprecedentedly long - for almost two months," deputy head of the Department of Korea and Mongolia at the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Science Alexander Vorontsov told TASS. "There is no unanimity. The fact that voting was unanimous is natural because nuclear tests, development of nuclear program violate the regime of nuclear non-proliferation. Russia is one of depositaries of the Non-Proliferation Treaty," he added.

"In such conditions, Russia couldn’t not support the resolution. Moscow which has been actively cooperating with North Korea over last years, rather toughly reacted to a satellite launch. The North Korean ambassador in Moscow was summoned to Russian Foreign Ministry twice and handed the notes of protest," Evseev said.

Against economic "suffocation"

When coordinating the resolution, Russia insisted of leaving the humanitarian sphere out of sanctions reach. The problem is that, unlike with the situation with Iran, for instance, sanctions imposed on North Korea this time have nothing to do with the nuclear missile program but will inevitably deal a blow to the country’s economy.

"The reaction of the international community should be firm and aimed at closing channels of feeding North Korea’s nuclear missile programs, but at the same time take into account the difficult humanitarian situation in the country and not to harm legitimate ties with foreign partners in civil spheres of the economy," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a recent conversation with US State Secretary John Kerry. Russia’s Ambassador to UN Vitaly Churkin added that "the resolution should not be used to ‘suffocate’ North Korea’s economy."

According to Vorontsov, Russia "tried to soften the resolution in a sense that it does not include the civilian sector of the economy." "Our principled position is that sanctions should be directed against the military-industrial complex, against the nuclear program but not against the economy, and they should not disrupt the living standard of the population," the expert noted.

There will definitely be "some kind of a pause" in the relations between Russia and North Korea, and development of bilateral cooperation will inevitable slow down, he went on. "In general, Pyongyang understands Russia’s global commitments. Economic relations will develop. Russia made every effort to soften the draft resolution. In particular, we managed to maintain the large-scale business project in Rason - we bring our cargoes there, including coal," Vorontsov reminded.

"Bilateral trade turnover will definitely not increase," Evseev said. "All projects that are not exclusively between Russia and North Korea, multilateral projects will not be implemented," he added noting that bilateral relations at the political level are also expected to tone down for some time.

No big impact

Experts are unanimous that the international community should not expect big effects from sanctions. North Korea has been living under sanctions for quite a long time and still continues with its course.

"No sanctions can change the internal political situation in North Korea," Evseev noted. "In any case, this will be presented by leadership in Pyongyang as another attempt to pressure an independent state which should unite around its leader while being surrounded by enemies. The nuclear missile program will continue and, most likely, even be sped up," he said.

North Koreans "are convinced that only strong defense potential that includes nuclear missile components is capable of ensuring their survival in the modern world where everything is decided by those who are strong, where regimes unfavorable for Washington are overthrown easily and rather swiftly," Vorontsov said. "That’s why Pyongyang considers what is called nuclear deterrent potential as a necessary element of survival and preserving the state. It is so hard to imagine that they will refuse this even under the pressure of sanctions," he concluded.

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