While the UN Security Council accepted the restrictions that would be imposed on North Korea by the latest sanctions placed last Monday, the decision to go after Kim Jong-un's assets and to put an embargo on oil exports was pulled back just enough not to trigger China's and Russia's veto powers. For the time being, sanctions are the only diplomatic solution that the U.S. and its allies have left to show some resolve against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) missile and nuclear tests.

Sanctions, war, and caution

The latest sanctions, once again, test the limits of the new Trump administration's determination to confront North Korea, despite the fact that Trump has already gone past the point of the threatened nuclear war.

Although, neo-cons like John Bolton -- who was the U.S. Ambassador to the UN under the Bush administration -- aggressively disagrees with sanctions, and would prefer regime change instead. The consensus is that there are no other options left but sanctions, at the very least, if it means that the result was to hold talks.

John Bolton's point of view makes a difference since he had been under considered for Secretary of State by the current Trump administration. That being the case, his views are bound to be influential with the sitting president. And even if the latest sanctions were crippling, they do not guarantee that there is a solution to stop North Korea's frequent missile tests. The U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, claimed that the recent sanctions were the most aggressive yet but, as mentioned, even the UN Security Council was even-handed with them as they only restricted oil exports to Pyongyang by 30 percent.

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Russia and South Korea maintain 'balance'

Rogue states surrounding North Korea, however, make even the enforcement of the most crippling sanctions less of a possibility. A recent report by the Washington Post titled: "How Russia quietly undercuts sanctions intended to stop North Korea’s nuclear program," explains how Russia has jumped in to fill the trade gap that China is leaving behind, as Beijing has started to increased economic pressure on the DPRK.

Both Russia and China have consistently objected to putting more sanctions on their neighbor, saying that completely isolating North Korea would lead to a crisis. The report referred to a smuggling operation from Russia's port city of Vladivostok to North Korea's Rajin where a dedicated ferry line had to be established. The article points out that Russian citizens set up front companies to conceal business dealings with Pyongyang. For this reason, the U.S. has also put sanctions on Russia.

It is reported that Russia is currently smuggling diesel and other fuels.

At the same time, even South Korea has reportedly been working with Russia to provide subsidies to Pyongyang. This would be done through what South Korean President Moon Jae-in refers to has his Northern Policy. The announcement of this policy came after previous sanctions and was announced by South Korea's Ministry of Unification on Friday of last week. South Korean President Moon Jae-in had visited Russia a day before it was announced where he talked about strengthening cooperation with North Korea and Russia in order to force North Korea to change their mindset.