Korean Peninsula News Update

So, I have been traveling for spring break and have had a bunch of homework due, so i have been unable to update.  In light of this, I will post a news update and some analysis of events.  I will vow to post more often on this blog, sorry for not posting for a whole month.

Now, on to the news.  First, sanctions were released by several international entities as a response for the nuclear test in January and the rocket launch in February.  The United States passed the “North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enforcement Act of 2016 on March 2.  This act is the strongest sanctions act to pass the presidents desk.  The act sanctions several entities related to North Korea, cutting several from operation within the United States.  This act was closely followed by the passing of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2270.  Like the bill passed in the United States, UNSCR 2270 is the strongest sanctions act on North Korea passed by the United Nations.  UNSCR 2270 sanctions 16 people, 12 companies, 31 ships as well as adding snowmobiles, aquatic recreational vehicles and luxury watches to the list of sanctioned luxury items.  These two sanctions bills were met with opposition by Pyongyang.  As its symbol of defiance and opposition, Pyongyang fired off several small projectiles into the sea.  The implementation of the sanctions has so far been successful, with both China and the Philippines rejecting and capturing blacklisted ships.  Hopefully this addition to the sanctions regime will assist in bringing Pyongyang to cooperate with the international community, but loopholes are being exploited, as just yesterday North Korea’s sanctioned ambassador to Myanmar was replaced.

This week has seen many developments in North Korea.  The first story of the week was the sentencing of Otto Warmbier.  On Wednesday, Otto was tried before the North Korean high court and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.  Again, as in his confession from a few weeks ago, Otto was in tears and regretful for his actions in stealing the slogan.  (Video of the sentencing can seen at the Daily Mail. )  Recently, North Korean state media has also released video footage of the moment when Warmbier allegedly stole the propaganda slogan.  This footage can be seen at The Blaze.  Warmbier may be released in a year or two, as Kenneth Bay was a few years ago.  Many analysts have argued that Warmbier will be used as political leverage.  Given the rise in tension, I agree with these arguments, but hope the United States and Sweden – Sweden negotiates on behalf of United States in Pyongyang since Washington has no diplomatic relations with North Korea – can bring Warmbier back safely.

The second story this week coincides with the military drills, which ended on March 18.  North Korea, as a response to the drills, fired off two missiles into the East Sea.  One is said to have blown up in flight, but the first was said to have reached its target.  Early reports cite that the missiles were Nodung class missiles, making this the first time that North Korea has fired off medium range missiles in two years.  More information, past the confirmation and early reports has yet to surface – at least I have been unable to find any more information.  The test has been shadowed by the possibility that North Korea may conduct another nuclear test soon.  This report can been seen at 38North.  With tensions raising almost everyday, the possibility of a dangerous rise is as prevalent as possible.

This week has shown a sharp rise in tensions on the peninsula.  In the author’s opinion, the current actions of North Korea are a way for Kim to bolster support before the Worker’s Party Congress in May.  After the congress a warming in relations may occur, as well as a drop in provocative behavior.