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PSI Proliferation Inspections Struck From UN Sanctions

Following yesterday’s sudden resistance to North Korea sanctions from China, Russia and South Korea, the three regional actors have come to terms with an amended sanctions package as presented by the United States. At issue for the North Korean neighbors was language regarding the potential use of force and North Korean cargo inspections.

The Los Angeles Times article appearing in the Seattle Times describes National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones indicating that, while China agreed that “strong measures” against the North Korean regime were necessary, “it [China] wanted only sanctions related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” Yet at the heart of the disagreement over the original US sanctions proposal is the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), considered more effective at combating proliferation than the IAEA because it includes an enforcement mechanism consisting of willing states. The PSI enforced inspection of incoming and outgoing North Korean cargo for elicit or dual-use materials was the most effective non-proliferation measure against North Korea that was proposed.

Yesterday, South Korea said explicitly that it opposed the inspection of North Korean cargo and the South Korean governing party went so far as to question any limited role that South Korea currently plays within the Proliferation Security Initiative. Since 2005, South Korea has maintained non-participating “observer’s status” within the PSI.

As China and Russia oppose any PSI activity in efforts to stop the proliferation of missile and weapons of mass destruction technology by North Korea, critics question the sincerity of their stated concern regarding this proliferation. It is not lost on them that both Russia and China have had an active technological role in the nuclear program in Iran – itself built around equipment and technology largely gained through illicit proliferation through the AQ Khan international proliferation network - while the North Koreans have fed the Islamist regime long-range missile technology.

While a senior analyst with Seoul’s Korea Institute for Defense Analyses warns that nuclear-tipped missiles are North Korea’s next goal, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev has been ordered to Pyongyang for direct talks with the regime.

Many believe that once again the United Nations has disappointed, as while the list of sanctions that looks to be approved by the UN Security Council will likely seek to prevent shipments of expensive suits, gold watches, and high-end perfumes, it will not contain any provisions for further preventing the import or export of nuclear weapons technology or related equipment and weapons, including through cargo inspections.