The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously last Wednesday to condemn North Korea’s pariah leader Kim Jung Un and his band of brown-nosed zealots for their latest scurry into the frontiers of nuclear warfare.
The move comes two months after Pyongyang claimed to have tested a nuclear weapon at an underground facility in the northeastern part of that hermit nation, close to the Chinese border.
The new sanctions, which will include mandatory inspections of all cargo leaving and entering North Korea by sea or air, constitute the toughest retribution against Pyongyang in more than two decades, and this time around, even China has given its blessing.
But the big question is whether or not the sanctions will do any good.
Few countries have endured such extreme or long-lasting international embargos as North Korea, but to date, these sanctions have done little to deter the authoritarian regime in its nuclear ambitions or heavy-handed abuse of its own citizens.
Quite simply, Kim Jung Un, like his father and grandfather before him, cares little about the outside world or his international image as a despot.
His overall attitude is indifference, basically: “Another day, another sanction. Ho-hum, so what?”
If the threat of sanctions has had any effect on Kim, it is to rev up his ominous threats even further in his ongoing game of nuclear chicken.
He even went so far yesterday as to order his military to be ready to use its nuclear weapons at any time and to switch on to “pre-emptive attack mode in the face of growing threats from our enemies.”
North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), on the other hand, responded to the news of the latest U.N. chastisement with a blasé editorial disparaging the potential effects as minimal in what it proclaimed as a self-reliant economy.
And, to a large degree, the KCNA is right.
Economic sanctions will not affect Kim and his cronies, who don’t have to worry about their popularity, which is officially mandated by the state, not won by their actions.
In North Korea, sanctions are felt by the populace, not by the ruling elite.
Resources have always been scarce for the North Korean masses, who have for decades endured repression, lack of freedom of expression, lack of medical facilities, lack of education, power outages and even famine at the hands of the Kim dynasty.
Meanwhile, Kim and the nation’s core elites that underpin his entitlements to absolute power will continue to live high on the hog, oblivious of the toll the sanctions will take on the country’s crumbling economy.
For North Korea’s elite, luxury goods will always be accessible, thanks to the country’s bosom buddy China, which is all too happy to provide Pyongyang with access to international goods in exchange for appropriate political kowtowing and hard, cold cash. (In fact, China is North Korea’s most important ally, biggest trading partner and main source of food, arms and energy.)
The crux of the problem lies in the fact that the international community is trying to use a rational approach to temper an irrational dictator.
Consequently, while the Security Council continues to reprimand Pyongyang, the bad boy newbie of nuclear powers continues to be defiant, knowing full well that the world wouldn’t dare to take military action against his tirades.
In the meantime, Kim and his political playmates are moving headlong toward the day when — either intentionally or unintentionally — their nuclear toys blow up in their faces, potentially taking down a large segment of East Asia along with the totalitarian regime.
Thérèse Margolis can be contacted at [email protected].