What if North Korea Conducts a 6th Nuclear Test?

Korea Chair Snapshot

While the Trump administration may be reviewing all options, including military ones, in its North Korea policy, a sixth nuclear weapons test will likely compel the U.S. and the international community to respond with heightened sanctions. Such a package might include:  

  • Increased sectoral sanctions – Cut off petroleum exports (i.e. crude oil) to North Korea and impose a complete embargo on all coal shipments being bought from or sold to North Korea. The current UN sanctions allow some coal trade but with a yearly cap.

  • Transportation / shipping sanctions – Institute a global ban prohibiting Air Koryo from transiting airports around the world. North Korea’s state-run airline is used to transport bulk cash, luxury goods, and materials for Pyongyang’s illicit activities.

  • Interdiction regime – Design a regime to inspect and interdict North Korean vessels sailing on the high seas instead of merely at port stops.

  • Targeted trade sanctions – Embargo agricultural products among UN member states such as ginseng and seafood being imported from North Korea to earn foreign currency for the regime.

  • Slave labor – Implement a worldwide ban among UN member states on the use of North Korean forced labor to earn currency for the regime.

  • Imposition and enforcement of financial sanctions/secondary sanctions – Unilaterally pursue more sanctions designations for individuals and organizations in 3rd party countries ( including China ) that facilitate North Korean money laundering, re-export of materials, or illicit activities that help build their nuclear weapons program. Have the Justice and Treasury Departments seek further listings of Chinese nationals and banks that facilitate illegal North Korean transactions to institute fines and indictments.

  • State sponsor of terrorism – Relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.

  • Suspension of diplomatic credentials – Consider an effort to suspend North Korea's diplomatic credentials as a member state in the United Nations.

  • Involvement of Southeast Asia and Europe – Encourage Southeast Asian and European countries to take punitive steps against North Korean missions under suspicion for transacting illicit activities on behalf of the regime.

    Photo credit: Woohae Cho/Getty Images
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    Victor Cha
    Senior Vice President for Asia and Korea Chair

    Lisa Collins