Well, as you can see, almost no one is actually being sanctioned. I’m not really for or against sanctions–it depends on whether they work and OFAC did say it would significantly hurt NK and I agree–but they really only blocked 10 entities and six individuals, most of whom are Chinese. This is more of a warning shot at China, telling them to stop supporting North Korea’s military aggression toward the United States. In this way, it may help. Kim Jong Un showed a vague sign of backing down on bombing Guam when he announced he would bomb outside of U.S. territorial waters about Guam. However, that could also be an attempt to get us to shoot down their missiles even though they are allowed to test them in international waters. Under international law, we’re not allowed to do that, which means they could say we provoked them. If we do nothing to stop them, it only takes a slight course correction or even a miscalculation to actually hit Guam. Therefore, it’s not clear what KJU is doing, but it’s more likely that he’s trying to trick us into doing nothing in response to missiles getting closer and closer to U.S. territory.
However, there’s another problem with these sanctions. There is an interconnected system of alternative financial networks that span the globe but are heavily concentrated in China, Pakistan, Iran, and other countries allied with China. That’s why we have to block the people that are helping people who are already blocked. In other words, we may have to widen the net further to help those who are helping the helpers. Eventually, they could get smart and get people to help them who are also influential to the United States, meaning we’d have to hurt ourselves to hurt China and North Korea.
To clear, these sanctions are aimed squarely at China, and it is meant to be a strong statement, as we all know Trump hates China. However, it’s a little breathless. I prefer sanctions over the alternative to going to war, but if they don’t work, you have to try something else. If we don’t, then we could making China think we don’t have any other options, and if we really don’t, then they could put us in check or at least in a reactionary position in which we basically keep chasing them while they stay one step ahead of us like they’ve been for a while now.
So what has China done already? Well, they are very angry, and they’ve issued strong threats. They keep pushing their faux agenda of diplomacy, trying to pretend they’re the bigger man just like they audaciously lied when they said they’d become the world’s leader in clean energy moments after Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord. Please also note that China may have had a hunch 14 out of 15 countries would vote in favor of the recent UN Security Council sanctions, meaning China had to be the 15th in favor or they’d look like they were more allied with North Korea than they are pretending to be these days. In short, even if China told the truth, it should be standard protocol to assume it’s a lie because they do it so much. It’s very hard to tell what they are really thinking, which is why you have to look at its actions, which is also hard, and that’s exactly what they want.
In conclusion, these sanctions aren’t really going to be enough. The Trump Administration will likely continue to escalate to more and wider sanctions to reign in support for North Korea’s threats against the United States, but it’s likely that China will be able to survive it.