Sanctions: “No Bullet Proof Affaire”

Currently busy with my minor ‘International Protocol and Diplomatic Studies’ in Thailand, I seek to understand on what ground nation’s make decisions. Decisions that are always made by waging the pro’s and con’s to find the best solution for a particular problem. Why do nations make the choices and what how far do these choices reach?

As North Korea Mourns Focus Remains On Stability Of Korean Peninsula

North-Korea’s Foreign Policy

A nation which has been making controversial decisions in a matter of occasions is North-Korea. The nation has a history of many military provocations; proliferation of  military-related items; long-range missile development; weapons of mass destruction programs including tests  of nuclear devices; and massive conventional armed forces are just a couple of examples the outcomes of the decision North-Korea makes. 1

Southeast Asia a major source, transit and destination of weapons

Most of North-Koreas decisions are counterproductive in the eyes of the most nations of the world. The nation’s dictator, Kin Jong-un always tends to take decisions that neglect worldwide peace. But looking back into history, North-Korea has acquired some allies. The Communist Republic of Cuba is one the nation’s main allies, next to China. Both North-Korea and Cub are under communist rule and see this as their main link between each other. This bilateral relationship with each other is not always to prevent conflict, and respect worldwide peace efforts though.


Kim Jong-un checks new weapon

Commonly, nations seek prosperity in a peaceful way by finding legal channels to create a flourishing economic situation by making use of each other’s attributes. In the situation of North-Korea things are different very different.

Firstly, North-Korea sees itself almost solemnly surrounded by ‘enemies’ which try to stop their conquest of gaining back South-Korea they lost years ago. Secondly, they are facing heavy embargoes by most international states affiliated to the United Nations. 2 Because the nation is pursuing nuclear weaponry, the organizations functioning under United Nations have banned almost every way of trade between North-Korea and other world states, with exemption of the main necessities like food and water.

As North-Korea is still pursuing military might a current example Panamanian officials announced on the 13th of July, 2013, that they had intercepted a North Korean ship with a suspicious cargo of supposable Cuban sugar on board. 3 Suspicious, because this particular ship named “Chon Chong Gang” is known for the transportation of illegal cargo such as drugs and illegal weaponry. After Panama officials took a closer look at the vessels inner compartments they where surprised to find missile parts and even two disassembled MIG-21-Fighter planes. According to Cuban officials the weapons were sent to North-Korea for maintenance. It is doubtful if this is the real reason for sending armory to North-Korea, as the nation desperately needs weapons to fuel its military apparatus. 4  Another example of illegal arms entering North-Korea is a delivery of 87 Hughes helicopters in 80’s. This shows that there are real floors in the sanction put on North-Korea. 5


Chon Chong Gang Vessel 

This makes me come to my main point. If North-Korea is able to purchase and receive weaponry from outside its own borders, despite the heavy international sanctions, what are the possibilities for other South East Asian countries which want to purchase illegal weaponry? Furthermore, what can be done to stop this illegal flow of weapons in Asia?

Cuba – North-Korea Weapons Deal

Illegal arms trade is still a big issue in South East Asia today. This very lucrative business is next to drug trafficking and human trafficking a steady income for illegal traders. Furthermore critics see the demand not decreasing in the future. 6  Many see this as a real risk concerning the Asian security. If illegal arms trade stays at the level as we know it today new or ongoing conflicts can arise.

Illegal arms trade, also known as “black globalization” is a worldwide problem. Southeast Asia faced many military dictatorships which were heavily dependent on the use and distribution of weapons. The long history of military might in this part of Asia made Southeast Asia a major source, transit and destination of weapons, especially small arms and light weapons (SALWs). 7  Large surpluses of weapons can be found around this area, even today. Vietnam’s state-owned firearms possession for example entails approximately 9.8 million weapons. A country such as Vietnam with so many weapons in its possession, a arms conflict could mean disastrous consequences. 8

As in the case of North-Korea, sanctions (see Christine’s blog) can help to stop illegal as legal weapon trade. But by putting sanctions on a nation creates the feeling of distrust in the nation and can even make the situation even worse. In my opinion to stop international illegal arms trade we need to create an international agreement that tries to stop every form of illegal trade. A start has already been done by creating a new “Arms Trade Treaty on June 3. This is the world’s first-ever treaty with such a magnitude. 9


Arms Trade Treaty 

Concluding, western powers must keep taking illegal weapon trade seriously. But in my opinion they are focusing far too much on individual nations such as North-Korea. Even though it is important to keep North-Korea from receiving weapons, we must not forget other nations around it too. Illegal weapon trade is still ongoing and there is no sign of decrease. Today’s weapons restrictions need to be overlooked and changed if needed. Initiatives such as the first-ever ‘Arms Trade Treaty’ are steps to the right direction but we still have a long way to go.


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