Today, the UN Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution tabled by the US to slap additional sanctions on North Korea. The document proposes a ban on Pyongyang’s textile exports, prevents the hiring of North Korean labourers overseas and introduces an oil embargo.
North Korea imports all the crude oil it consumes—some 520,000 tons a year—most of which comes from China. An embargo would disrupt much of the country’s Soviet-era manufacturing plants and reduce transportation options for North Koreans.
But even if the plan isn’t vetoed by China and Russia today (which is probable), it’s highly unlikely that Pyongyang will give up its hard-won nuclear capabilities to resume oil imports. Rather, the regime will turn to other energy sources, particularly its large coal reserves, which can be converted into oil via the Fischer-Tropsch process.
A more productive avenue would be the resumption of talks between the North and key international stakeholders. Over the weekend, Angela Merkel pointed to Iran-style nuclear negotiations as a feasible option and one Germany was “prepared to play a very active part in”.
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Simon is the founder of Foreign Brief who served as managing director from 2015 to 2021. A lawyer by training, Simon has worked as an analyst and adviser in the private sector and government. Simon’s desire to help clients understand global developments in a contextualised way underpinned the establishment of Foreign Brief. This aspiration remains the organisation’s driving principle.