Forbidden Fission: UN Sanctions Won't Put Pyongyang Off Nuclear Weapons

© AFP 2022 / KENA BETANCURA poster ad that reads : "DPRK: STOP NUCLEAR GAMBLE!" is displayed on a street near Times Square in New York on February 9,2016
A poster ad that reads : DPRK: STOP NUCLEAR GAMBLE! is displayed on a street near Times Square in New York on February 9,2016 - Sputnik International
The draft resolution for tougher sanctions against North Korea that the US submitted to the UN with China's backing will not discourage Pyongyang from developing nuclear and ballistic missiles, North Korean expert Michael Madden told Sputnik.

On Friday, Washington, with Beijing's backing, submitted a new resolution to the UN Security Council for additional sanctions against North Korea to deter it from progressing further with its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Michael Madden, a North Korean expert who runs the North Korean Leadership Watch blog, told Radio Sputnik that the sanctions are unlikely to succeed in stopping the programs, even if they do harm to the North Korean economy.

​"It's not a terrific economy but in the last couple of years they've had modest growth and they've had some progress in terms of domestic economic development so it will remain to be seen if the sanctions affect that," Madden said.

"One of the things that they've done is to allow the technocrats that are within North Korea's cabinet to start managing programs, these people are very experienced [in dealing with] the fundamental flaws in North Korea's economy, they know some of the fixes they need to make."

"There have been some light reform measures that they've taken since Kim Jong-un has come to power, there's a little more flexibility for the technocrats, there's a little more flexibility in terms of food production, there's some very basic market principles that they're applying to their economy and I think that has affected growth rates over the last couple of years."

A North Korean long-range rocket is launched into the air at the Sohae rocket launch site in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang February 7, 2016. - Sputnik International
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North Korean President Kim Jong-un and many of those in his circle are more open-minded because they were educated abroad, and Madden said the president is aware of the gaps in his knowledge and open and amenable to advice, particularly from technocrats and economic planners.

"There is a certain degree – a very specific degree because it's a totalitarian state – of flexibility that he has allowed officials to have in terms of formulating policies." 

However, that flexibility does not extend to its nuclear program, and sanctions will not make Pyongyang give up its nuclear program, Madden warned.

"North Korea has basically said on a number of occasions that they have no intention of giving up their nuclear weapons program, and no intention of stopping space launches, and we're going to have to take them at their word."

"They have numerous reasons for that, they'll say 'Iraq and Libya got rid of their WMD programs, look what happened there,' and to a certain degree they're justified in their thinking based on what they've seen happen to other similar political systems after they negotiated away their WMD programs."

Madden said that Beijing has supported the US proposal for tougher sanctions against Pyongyang because of legitimate concerns about the potential for nuclear fallout and earthquakes as a result of the weapons tests, which "annoy China to a great extent, especially the nuclear weapons tests."

A North Korean woman walks down the streets of Pyongyang, North Korea on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 where the winter season has started - Sputnik International
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While China and North Korea share a close relationship, China's influence is somewhat exaggerated by a lot of external observers and government policy makers, and Pyongyang is likely to react with open hostility to the proposed sanctions, Madden said.

"Kim Jong-un spent last week inspecting military exercises; we're probably going to see him inspecting more military exercises, they're certainly going to tighten social controls." 

"Once the sanctions are passed, we'll see some very interesting statements coming out of North Korea, they'll just continue to heighten tensions on the Korean peninsula, and that's what we'll be seeing."

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