When China agreed recently to a new round of UN-imposed sanctions against North Korea, many were surprised Beijing went along with them, including the president of the United States. But several weeks after the new sanctions have been put in place, what we see on the ground in North Korea is a mixed bag.
And in fact, the people complaining the loudest appear to be Chinese traders and business people.
That said, not all trade has been cut off between the two countries: Despite the sanctions, goods are still flowing back and forth across the border, though the Chinese government has implemented them far more strictly than many would have imagined:
The trucks still rumble across the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge, and a nearby pipeline still pumps crude oil to keep the regime alive in Pyongyang.
But here in the Chinese city of Dandong, at the center of this country’s trade with North Korea, pain and frustration are mounting.
Sanctions approved by the United Nations Security Council to punish North Korea for its nuclear and missile tests and bring it to the negotiating table are starting to bite.
“Personally, the sanctions are hurting me a tremendous amount,” one Chinese trader said, explaining that almost 80 percent of the goods he used to send back and forth across the border — ranging from textiles to chemicals — are now forbidden.
Still, there is this reality:
But Beijing will never completely cut the regime’s jugular vein, experts said. It fears that a cut in oil supplies could leave China facing a nightmare scenario: either a hostile and desperate nuclear-armed enemy or, if the regime collapsed, a refugee crisis followed by an American puppet state right on its border.
“Why do we sanction?” asked Lu at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences. “We believe that wrongdoings deserve punishment, but punishment should not be seizing them by the throat and trying to choke them to death.”
North Korea is used to being sanctioned, and the North Korean people are used to doing without. Sanctions aren’t going to be any more effective in the long run to change Pyongyang’s behavior than they have in the past, with North Korea or anyone else, simply because as long as there is demand for goods, someone will supply them…somehow.
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