Summary of current and proposed trade sanctions on DPRK

From the Korea Times:

You may be surprised to hear that North Korea is either in violation, or the target, of more than 13 U.S. laws, which include laws dealing with transfer of missile technology to other countries and human rights issues. Three of these laws, however, have direct bearing on U.S. economic sanctions against North Korea.

The first is the U.S. Export Control Act of 1949 that became the basis for the U.S. invoking a total embargo against North Korea on June 28, 1950, only three days after North Korea invaded South Korea. The second is the Trade Agreement Extension Act of 1951 that was the basis for banning the most favored nation (MFN) tariffs on North Korea’s exports to the United States. As you know, all member countries of the World Trade Organization have to abide by the MFN regulation that requires these nations to levy the same low tariffs to all member nations of the WTO. Without MFN, there is no way for North Korea to export anything to the U.S. because higher tariffs make them impossible to compete. The MFN is so widely spread that it is now known as the normal trade relation (NTR). North Korea was denied MFN tariff status on September 1, 1951.

The third is the Export Administration Act of 1979 that allowed North Korea to be branded as a terrorist state when its agents blew up KAL 007 on November 19, 1987. At the time of the explosion, Korean Air Lines 007 was in flight from Bagdad (Iraq) to Bankok (Thailand). The explosion killed 115 passengers and crew. On January 20, 1988, North Korea was placed on the list of countries supporting international terrorism.

Placement on the list made it impossible for North Korea to borrow development funds from international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

On May 25-28, 1999, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry visited North Korea and delivered a U.S. proposal. On September 13, 1999, North Korea responded positively by pledging to freeze long-range missile tests. On September 17, 1999, President Clinton agreed to the first significant easing of economic sanctions against North Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953 by announcing the lifting of most export restrictions applied to North Korea in response to North Korea’s willingness to cease long-range missile testing.

Details of eased U.S. economic sanctions on North Korea were announced on June 19, 2000. Key provisions included that the ban on exports to North Korea had ended, that U.S. passports were valid for travel to North Korea, and that U.S. travel service providers were authorized to organize group tours to North Korea. Among the notable U.S. sanctions that were not lifted are the denial of MFN status and the placement on the list of countries supporting international terrorism.

You may wonder what more economic sanctions can be levied against North Korea beyond the three already in place. To answer this question, you need to know the extent of North Korea’s foreign trade.

Contrary to what you may have heard or believe, latest United Nations trade data indicate that North Korea has trade relations of imports, exports or both with no less than 108 countries, which exclude South Korea because inter-Korean trade is not recorded as trade data in the U.S. trade database. North Korea’s major trading partners in 2004 were, in order of the amount, China ($585,651,972), Japan (164,101,115), Germany ($100,739,000), Brazil ($73,412,125), and Mexico ($47,662,978) for exports, and China ($799,450,316), Russia ($204,818,560), Brazil ($169,921,763), India ($121,080,999), and Netherlands ($120,525,232) for imports. The total amount of North Korea’s exports for 2004 was $1,256,533,361, while the total amount of North Korea’s imports for the same year was $1,937,738,240, with the trade deficit of $681,204,879, representing no less than 54.2 percent of total exports.

Now you have an idea. The new economic sanctions may take the form of a multi-national ban of trade with North Korea. The new economic sanctions may also include a complete ban of any transfer of money to North Korea from many Koreans who live in Japan and support North Korea.

There is no doubt that a complete ban of North Korea’s foreign trade, if imposed, would easily lower the current North Korean GNP to the 1999 level when hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of North Koreans starved to death.

In view of the large number of countries engaged in trade with North Korea, it would be impossible to impose a complete ban on North Korea’s foreign trade without naval blockade, which may escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula so rapidly that China and South Korea may not be willing to go along with multilateral economic sanctions.


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