June 3, 2018 | Memo

Maximum Pressure 2.0: How to Improve Sanctions on North Korea

FDD Research Memo

Read the full memo here.

President Donald Trump cancelled his June 12 summit with Kim Jong Un after North Korea displayed “tremendous anger and open hostility,” as Trump put it in his letter to Kim. The president’s cancellation was not definitive, as preparations continued with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meeting a senior North Korean official in New York last week. Pyongyang’s diplomatic games are likely part of Kim’s attempt to undermine the Trump administration’s maximum pressure policy. If the White House concludes that Kim has not made a strategic decision to denuclearize, the U.S. should initiate the second, tougher phase of the maximum pressure campaign. The U.S. should expect Kim and his patrons to do everything they can to undermine the sanctions regime, yet sanctions are ultimately the only non-military leverage Washington has to solve this crisis.

A robust sanctions regime requires constant maintenance to sustain pressure on its target, especially a target like North Korea that is expert in finding loopholes. During the first phase of the maximum pressure campaign, China increased implementation of sanctions thanks to the Trump administration’s focus on the issue and perhaps a fear that the crisis could spiral into a military conflict. Beijing’s response represents a success story for the maximum pressure campaign, but also a vulnerability, since Chinese leaders could provide Pyongyang with sanctions relief at a time of their choosing. Just days before cancelling the summit, Trump tweeted that China had already begun relieving sanctions.

Read the full memo here

Anthony Ruggiero, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, was the nonproliferation advisor to the U.S. delegation to the 2005 rounds of the Six-Party Talks and spent more than seventeen years in the U.S. government. Follow him on Twitter @_ARuggiero.

Follow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.