Did the Security Council Authorize the U.S. to Blockade North Korea?

by Julian Ku

Although I can’t seem to find a version online, the U.N. Security Council appears to have agreed unanimously on a new resolution imposing sanctions and an inspections regime on North Korea. According to the NYT, the tough new resolution “authorizes all countries to inspect cargo going in and out of North Korea to detect illicit weapons.”

As far as I can tell, though, there is less to the inspections regime, which was heavily debated, than meets the eye.

(1) Does this authorize the U.S. to impose a stricter, stiffer blockade on North Korean shipping? Probably not, since it is simply an right to inspect, not block all shipping. Moreover, the U.S., I believe, already claims that it holds the legal power to inspect cargo on the high seas. Its Proliferation Security Initiative is aimed at this goal (a power China disputes). And North Korea’s territorial neighbors — China and South Korea — can certainly carry out inspections at their borders. The question is whether the resolution obligates China and South Korea to do so.

(2)But China has already said it will not really enforce this clause. So maybe it isn’t obligatory. Or maybe China will simply do whatever it feels like doing, whether or not there is a “legal” obligation floating out there. And without China’s enforcement, there isn’t much reason to believe this resolution’s inspections regime will accomplish a whole lot.


2 Responses

  1. The PSI is a cooperative arrangement consistent with international law and frameworks. It does not authorize unilateral U.S. inspections on the high seas, as the United States has recognized. Treaties with flag states, some concluded in light of the concern with WMD expressed in the PSI, may authorize inspections on the high seas.

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