North Korea’s weekend nuclear test is fueling a new round of US pushes for sanctions, both unilateral sanctions as well as at the UN Security Council. North Korea’s extremely limited trade with the world, however, limits actual options to sanction them.
That’s mostly meant sanctions against companies that did business with North Korea in the past, or banks that did business with other hanks that are linked to North Korea. That the moves target major Chinese banks risks some of the world’s banking industry giants over very limited North Korea ties.
Directly going after North Korea is something officials really want to do, however. This has led them to target one of the few things North Korea does import: oil. Some officials are really hopeful that cutting off all oil to North Korea could have an impact.
No oil could stall the nation’s tanks and other military vehicles. On the other hand, it would also cost the nation its agricultural vehicles. North Korea is already on the verge of starvation, and this could make it much worse.
As with most sanctions buildups, however, it’s not clear there’s an end-game envisioned at all. Rather, more sanctions are intended to cripple an economy and harm the nation’s population. North Korea has no economy to speak of, and making the population even hungrier isn’t going to give them any more political influence.