Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, has described the latest UN sanctions on North Korea as “the most stringent set of sanctions on any country in a generation.” But even that won’t necessarily mean that the measure, which was approved unanimously Saturday by the Security Council, can either impede Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear programs or compel it to return to negotiations. North Korea is already subject to separate U.S. sanctions and six previous rounds of UN sanctions, which have done little to change Pyongyang’s long-term behavior.
Among other restrictions, the new sanctions call for a total ban on North Korea’s major exports, including coal (from which it earned $1.2 billion last year, according to the Associated Press), iron and iron ore ($251 million, according to the AP), lead and lead ore ($113 million, the news agency reported), and seafood ($295 million, according to the wire service). They also target institutions and individuals that aid the North’s nuclear and missile programs, including the Foreign Trade Bank (FTB), the country’s main foreign-exchange bank. According to some estimates, the sanctions will cost North Korea $1 billion a year—a third of its annual export revenue. What is particularly significant about these latest sanctions is that China, North Korea’s main political benefactor and largest trading partner, voted along with the U.S. to tighten the restrictions that were imposed in response to North Korea’s tests last month of two intercontinental ballistic missiles that experts say can reach the U.S.