Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. is preparing to announce the “toughest and most aggressive” economic sanctions against North Korea in the coming days, boosting pressure on the bellicose government during the Winter Olympics.
Pence, who is set to lead the U.S. delegation at the opening ceremonies Friday, made the announcement in Japan on Wednesday, following meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“The United States of America will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever — and we will continue to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs once and for all,” Pence said.
Sanctions rarely succeed in changing the target regime’s behavior, and in the case of North Korea we can say with some confidence that they are doomed to fail. When it comes to halting their development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, we can say that sanctions have already failed. It benefits no one to continue policies that have failed so badly on their own terms, but this is exactly what Pence is boasting about this week.
North Korea is already one of the most sanctioned and isolated regimes in the world, so it is difficult to pressure them more than they have already been pressured. Since North Korea considers its nuclear arsenal to be essential to regime survival, it is extremely unlikely to respond to further punitive measures by yielding to U.S. demands on this issue. North Korea has consistently responded to international pressure by becoming more intransigent and intensifying its pursuit of the nuclear weapons and missiles that the U.S. insists it must not have, so it is delusional at this point to believe that more of the same will produce a different result. The Trump administration’s inflexible pursuit of an unrealistic goal on North Korea will lead only to more failure and dangerously heightened tensions.