The sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council can harm the economy of North Korea. However, the sanctions are not likely to bring a regime change or disarming of the aggressive state. In response to sanctions, North Korea can either escalate its aggressiveness or can simply change trading partners and maintain a comfortable level of trade.

Can nuclear tests be stopped by sanctions?

The UN Security Council has imposed new sanctions because its nuclear test on 3rd September violates Security Council resolutions.

The new sanctions choke the country's oil supplies by 30 percent, blocks its textile exports, and stops remittances from workers abroad. The immediate rationale is to discourage testing of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.

Why does the United States not use military retaliation?

The action of N.Korea was to test a hydrogen bomb. The actions are military in nature, however, the United Nations and Trump Administration is not willing to use military force even though using military force can be effective.

The North Korean actions show that the country has assumed that the U.S. will not use military retaliation. The cost of military retaliation could be high for the United States and there is little political support for military retaliation. Imposing Economic Sanctions means strong economic damage but is that all the U.S wants? The target of the Trump Administration is regime change but this may not be achieved through economic sanctions.

Is harming North Korea’s economy the purpose of UN sanctions?

Economic sanctions can slow down the technological development of North Korea and these sanctions can make the people of North Korea indigent but they also reflect the reluctance of United States to take military action. This will breed even stronger resentment towards the United States and its allies. The regime can still become more aggressive and use ballistic missiles or weapons of mass destruction.

It is questionable whether a military action can be countered with economic embargoes. One option is that North Korea can simply change its avenues of trade. It can change its markets and trade partners. It can bypass sanctions and maintain a healthy level of trade. Further, the moment the UN Security Council imposes sanctions it makes mockery of institutions such as the World Trade Organization that is meant to safeguard the free flow of trade and investment.

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