Sanctions no solution to DPRK issue

Updated: 2013-09-19 14:11


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SYDNEY - While sanctions continue to heap upon the "hermit state" of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), an Australian expert has questioned their efficacy in the face of ongoing human rights abuses, warning that sanctions "only breed hatred."

Dr Emma Campbell, a researcher in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, said Wednesday through email to Xinhua that sanctions would only further punish an already suffering population, entrench a hatred of the West and reinforce the regime's tight grip on power.

Returning from a recent visit the DPRK, Campbell's research will fly in the face of the expected hardline foreign policy of Australia's new conservative government.

Australia has had autonomous sanctions in place against DPRK in response to its missile and nuclear tests in 2006. These measures are in addition to Australia's implementation of United Nations Security Council sanctions in relation to the DPRK.

As a consequence, Australian law currently prohibits "the use or dealing with the assets of, and the making available of assets to, a person or entity designated by the Minister for Foreign Affairs other than as authorized by a permit issued by the Minister for Foreign Affairs."

Dr Campbell's warning followed Tuesday's release of a United Nations report by the Hon Michael Kirby on human rights abuses by the DPRK.

"It has long been said in international relations that sanctions only breed hatreds,"said Dr Campbell.

"On a recent trip to the DPRK, those hatreds were much in evidence. Our local guides blamed international sanctions, more commonly 'U.S. sanctions' as the root cause of the country's current woes."

"Current sanctions meant to curtail North Korea's nuclear program and tackle the appalling human rights record which now threaten to make the lives of the most vulnerable even worse," Campbell added.

Australia, having maneuvered its way onto the presidency of the UN Security Council for the first time in more than 27 years, has little to fear from a direct confrontation with its far-flung neighbor in the north.

Rory Medcalf, director of the International Security Program at the highly regarded Lowy Institute, said Australia has nothing to fear from the DPRK.

"At this stage, there's no evidence that North Korea can mount a nuclear warhead to any of its missiles,"he said.

Sanctions have long been regarded as an effective tool when diplomacy has failed.

Yet, as the beleaguered Iraqi population would attest, sanctions are far from victimless.

Australia goes beyond agreed UN sanctions, choosing to prohibit, for example, DPRK ships from entering Australian waters, or its nationals from entering or transiting through Australia.

In August, Foreign Minister Carr said Australia would maintain sanctions and diplomatic pressure on the DPRK regarding its nuclear ambitions.

"We strongly support South Korean President Park's call for North Korea to 'change course' and abandon its nuclear weapons and missile programs,"Carr said.

And then back in March, Carr again upped the stakes declaring Australia was tabling further autonomous sanctions on the back of DPRK posturing, despite UN sanctions in place.

"United Nations sanctions impose strict embargoes on the supply of weapons and nuclear materials to North Korea. Australia is considering further autonomous sanction on North Korea and has urged all nations to ensure strict enforcement of existing measures."

However, those sanctions may not be having the desired effect.

Dr Campbell said that"rigidly enforced"sanctions would stop essential international assistance getting to locals.

"The regime's domestic policies have crippled the North's economy and its belligerent behavior appears to have exasperated even its purported ally, China."

"But that does not take the international community off the hook. The current sanctions have not only failed to curtail the nuclear ambitions and human rights abuses of the ambitious North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, they are also constraining the actions of humanitarian NGOs trying to carry out life-saving activities inside the DPRK.

"For example, one European diplomat told me that because of sanctions targeted at banks dealing with the DPRK, humanitarian agencies had resorted to carrying large amounts of cash into North Korea to maintain basic operations. The remittance of funds to UN agencies and embassies operating in North Korea is being hampered. "

Defense policy expert Hugh White has previously dismissed the DPRK as a threat to Australia on nuclear terms.

"It is also very unlikely indeed that North Korea would choose Australia as a target. So Australia's risks in a crisis are not of a direct attack,"Dr Campbell said.