At the United Nations, China is locking horns with the United States’ efforts to blacklist cargo ships suspected of violating international sanctions against North Korea.[i] The U.N. is grappling with how to respond to North Korea’s nuclear weapons.[ii] Currently, the U.S. is seeking to convince other U.N. members to take a “maximum pressure” approach towards North Korea by strangling its economy until they agree to negotiations.[iii] However, other countries, such as China and Russia, want more evidence before blacklisting additional ships suspected of aiding North Korea.[iv] Currently, U.N. countries are not permitted to hail or board North Korean ships in international waters.[v]
In October 2017, after North Korea tested nuclear and long-range missiles, the U.N.’s Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea, tasked with overseeing relevant sanctions relating to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),[vi] unanimously created new sanctions that cut North Korea’s oil imports by 89 percent and blacklisted four ships known to abide by U.N. policy.[vii] Since then, the U.S. has proposed blacklisting ten additional cargo ships when it revealed declassified intelligence reports with the U.N.’s Security Council and formally accused these ten vessels of violating sanctions.[viii] China has only agreed to blacklisting four of the ten ships but did not provide reasoning.[ix] The U.S. has alleged that China is not listing the remaining six ships because they have links to Chinese companies.[x]
China’s vote is critical because the U.N.’s Security Council must have approval by consensus.[xi] The Chinese agreed to list includes three vessels that operate under the North Korean flag: the Ul Ji Bong 6, Rung Ra 2 and Rye Song Gang, and the Panamanian-flagged vessel Billions No. 18.[xii] China did not blacklist the Lighthouse Winmore, Xin Sheng Hai, Kai Xiang, Yu Yuan, Glory Hope 1 nor Sam Jong 2, whose registered owner is a Chinese company.[xiii]
As of now there are no lawsuits taking place, but there might be legal consequences as a result of the blacklist. The U.N. Security Council has the authority to place travel bans on any person or entities providing support to North Korea’s nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile related projects.[xiv] Some may argue that suffocating North Korea’s economy hurts innocent parties and question if this is against human rights. However, critics would argue that, though it might violate human rights, it is a small price to protect others from nuclear war.
[i] Michael R. Gordon & Andrew Jeong, China Resists U.S. Efforts to Blacklist Ships Through U.N., Wall St. J. (Dec. 29, 2017), https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-resists-u-s-efforts-to-blacklist-ships-through-u-n-1514567476 [https://perma.cc/2SM9-QPA7].
[iii] Rick Gladstone & David E. Sanger, Security Council Tightens Economic Vise on North Korea, Blocking Fuel, Ships and Workers, N.Y. Times (Dec. 22, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/22/world/asia/north-korea-security-council-nuclear-missile-sanctions [https://perma.cc/MRD2-LABE].
[vi] Security Council Committee. Established Pursuant to Resolution 1718 (2006), U.N. Sec. Council Subsidiary Organs, https://www.un.org/sc/suborg/en/sanctions/1718 (last visited Jan. 12, 2018).
[vii] Gladstone & Sanger, supra note 3.
[xiii] Gladstone & Sanger, supra note 3.
[xiv] Security Council Committee, supra note 6.