Responding to Nork nukes with empty threats

Benny Avni:
Mere hours after North Korea seemingly carried out an underground nuclear test Tuesday morning, our UN ambassador, Susan Rice, vowed to take “swift” and “significant action” against Pyongyang’s rogue regime at the Security Council.

To bolster her efforts, new Secretary of State John Kerry picked up the phone Wednesday to consult with his counterparts in all relevant capitals.

Well, almost all: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was unavailable, apparently too busy.

After the phone sessions, Kerry announced, “The international community now needs to come together with a swift and clear, strong, credible response.” And added, “What our response is with respect to this will have an impact on all other nonproliferation efforts,” including Iran’s.

So Turtle Bay diplomats are sharpening their resolution-drafting pencils, as higher-ups in Washington, Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo and (when available) Moscow work to coordinate the response to the latest provocation by “Dear Respected” Kim Jong-un. (“Dear Respected” is the regime’s term for the new tyrant, after “Dear Leader” for his dad and “Eternal Leader” for his grandpop.)

Expect the council to impose a new set of sanctions soon. As Rice vowed Tuesday, the council “will not only tighten the existing measures, but we aim to augment the sanctions regime.”

But what does the tough talk mean?

The United Nations has already sanctioned pretty much everything that moves in Pyongyang. The best it’ll be able to do now is add new hard-to-pronounce names to its sanction lists and designate more North Korean banks and companies (which change names faster than UN bureaucrats can identify their designation) for embargo. Oh, and maybe add more materials of possible use to North Korea’s nuclear programs to the no-commerce lists.

Later, America and others may follow by adding some names to our own additional-sanctions lists.

All this may slow down North Korea somewhat. But very little of Pyongyang’s business with the outside world is done formally (or legally). Instead, it deals with other sanctioned regimes, like Iran’s, and with rogue Russian, Pakistani and other nuclear and ballistic technicians.

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The North Koreans said they did the test to protest the current sanctions regime.  It appears they will continue escalating their response until we do something meaningful, or more likely until China cuts them off.

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