North Korea has aggressively continued its nuclear advancements, which have threatened its neighbors and the West, despite receiving tough sanction from the United Nations. Kim Jong Un's regime's defiant testing of nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles increased last year when the reclusive country launched two nuclear missiles, one in January and the other in September.
The U.N. Security Council tightened its sanctions against Pyongyang following the January 2016 nuclear test, which was the country's fourth, followed by a series of ballistic missile tests starting February 2016. At the time, the 15-member Council, along with American and Chinese officials, negotiated for weeks calling for inspections of all cargo going in and out of the country, banning all weapons trade and expanding the list of individuals facing sanctions. The U.N. also urged all countries to expel North Korean diplomats accused of illicit activities.
However, many expressed their skepticism about the effectiveness of sanctions, some of which have been in place since 2006, as Pyongyang continued expanding its nuclear weapons program.
In September, Pyongyang conducted its fifth and largest nuclear test forcing the U.N. to impose new penalties, which included cutting the Asian country's annual export revenue. A resolution was adopted at the time to slash North Korea's coal export, believed to be its biggest, by about 60 percent with an annual sales cap of $400.9 million, or 7.5 million metric tons, whichever is lower. The ban was also imposed on copper, nickel, silver and zinc exports. Other than this, the sanctions also expanded the list of people subject to asset freezes and travel bans.
North Korea’s largest trade partner, China, hailed the sanctions at the time, with China’s Ambassador Liu Jieyi saying: “The resolution adopted by the council today demonstrates the uniform stand of the international community against the development by DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) of its nuclear missile programs and forward the maintenance of the international non-proliferation regime,” adding that the measures “are not intended to produce negative consequences on DPRK’s humanitarian situation.”
The move was reportedly aimed at cutting North Korea's revenue by more than $800 million every year.
In a statement, South Korea "strongly" welcomed the new sanctions against North Korea, saying they were appropriate for the "gravity and urgency of nuclear and missile threats."
"North Korea must heed to the strong warning of the Security Council that unless it makes a strategic decision to take the path towards denuclearization ... it will not only face more economic difficulties and diplomatic isolation, but it would also see its rights and privileges as a member of the UN suspended," the statement said.
However, this did not stop North Korea from its provocative actions as the country's leader said in his latest New Year address to the nation that it was in the final stages of preparing to test an intermediate-range ballistic missile (ICBM).
"Research and development of the cutting-edge tech weapons are actively progressing and strengthening our defense capabilities, including last stage preparation of tests for Intercontinental Ballistic rocket launch have been continuously succeeding," Kim said in his New Year's remarks.
This year, in February, Pyongyang tested a ballistic missile, which it claimed was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The missile test, which was supervised by Kim, was the first missile test since President Donald Trump took office. The Pukguksong-2 missile flew about 310 miles, ending up in the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
On Thursday, a new U.N. report documented Kim’s smuggling of nuclear materials, cash and ammunition with the help of institutions that transfer arms, cash and gold on behalf of the Kim regime using fake names. A report is expected to be released within a week.
“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) is flouting sanctions through trade in prohibited goods, with evasion techniques that are increasing in scale, scope and sophistication,” the panel of experts behind the report said, according to CBS News.