After nearly two months of debate, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a new resolution (2270) to punish North Korea for its most recent violations of previous U.N. resolutions. The document augments earlier U.N. measures against Pyongyang, reflecting growing international concern and resolve to confront the regime’s defiance and expanding nuclear and missile capabilities.

The new resolution goes beyond previous resolutions by increasing financial sanctions, expanding required inspections of North Korean cargo, and targeting key exports. Though praiseworthy, the resolution requires extensive and forceful implementation to be effective. A number of countries, most notably China, have been lackadaisical in enforcing previous resolutions.

Counterintuitively, North Korea’s fourth nuclear test and sixth long-range missile test triggered a stronger international action than its first tests.

U.N. Resolve for Stronger Sanctions

There is now near unanimity of view that stronger sanctions must be imposed on North Korea for its serial violations of international agreements, U.N. resolutions, and U.S. law. Even experts and pundits who once derided sanctions in favor of diplomatic engagement with North Korea now grudgingly admit the necessity of punitive measures on Pyongyang.

South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. Congress all responded strongly to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests this year. President Park Geun-hye stood up to Chinese pressure and economic blackmail by moving forward on U.S. deployment of the THAAD missile defense system to South Korea and pulled the plug on the inter-Korean venture at Kaesong. This, however, failed to induce North Korean reform or moderate the regime’s aggressive behavior.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe imposed unilateral Japanese sanctions, and the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly and bipartisanly passed the North Korea Policy and Sanctions Enforcement Act (NKPSEA) to induce President Barack Obama to move beyond his policy of timid incrementalism and to more fully enforce U.S. law.

U.N. Resolution 2270 follows this trend by including some impressive new sanctions, which, of course, could have been included in previous resolutions had it not been for repeated Chinese obstructionism.

Both Beijing and Moscow reportedly watered down U.S.-proposed drafts of this month’s resolution. The resolution takes aim at North Korea’s access to the international financial system in order to constrain its nuclear and missile programs.

Important Financial Provisions

A significant though easily overlooked provision is banning all financial institutions from initiating or maintaining a correspondent account with North Korea unless it is approved by the U.N. 1718 committee. Previously, the U.N. requirement was to prohibit correspondent accounts only if reasonable grounds exist for believing that they could contribute to North Korean nuclear or missile programs. If fully implemented, this new requirement could force disclosure of and increase scrutiny of all North Korean financial transactions.

Given international financial institutions’ extreme sensitivity to reputational risk, this clause could also lead to increased due diligence efforts to prevent being even unwittingly complicit in North Korean illicit activities or cancelation of links with North Korea.

In 2005, the U.S. declared Macau-based Banco Delta a “money laundering concern,” which, accompanied by sub rosa meetings by U.S. officials throughout Asia, led 24 financial institutions to sever relations with Pyongyang. It is unclear whether a financial institution that maintains a correspondent account with North Korea without 1718 Committee approval would itself be placed on the U.N. sanctions list.

The new U.N. resolution is also notable for requiring mandatory inspections of all North Korean cargo transiting a country rather than only those suspected of carrying prohibited items. U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power declared that all “cargo going into and coming out of North Korea will be treated as suspicious, and countries will be required to inspect it, whether it goes by air, land, or sea.”

The resolution was passed with U.N. Charter Chapter 7, Article 41 authority rather than Article 42 (which allows for enforcement by military means). This would authorize naval ships to intercept, board, and inspect North Korean ships suspected of transporting precluded nuclear, missile, and conventional arms, components, or technology. There have been instances of U.S. naval warships engaged in slow-speed chases with North Korean freighters since they did not have authority to board the vessel.

Lax Chinese Inspections

The vast majority of all North Korean trade is with China, with much of that transiting the common border, notably the Dandong-Sinuiju crossing. In the past, Beijing has been lax in inspecting North Korean cargo and has turned a blind eye to North Korean proliferation occurring in China. For China to faithfully inspect all North Korean cargo transiting by air, land, or sea would require a substantial policy shift.

Some media have reported that the resolution bans export of all North Korean coal, iron, gold, and rare earth minerals. Such a provision targeting exports of North Korea’s principal means of trade would reflect a remarkable policy shift from focusing only on illicit and prohibited acts of the regime. However, the resolution prohibits North Korea from selling coal, iron, or iron ore unless the transactions “are determined to be exclusively for livelihood purposes,” which would seem to cover normal economic trade activity. The export of gold, titanium, vanadium, and rare earth minerals does appear to be totally banned.

The resolution reiterates a prohibition against “public and private financial support [that] could contribute to [North Korea’s] nuclear or a ballistic missile programs.” The vague wording allows a range of interpretations but could be used to prohibit South Korean return to the Kaesong industrial zone in North Korea or other joint economic ventures. Some experts had argued that Seoul’s involvement may have been in violation of existing U.N. resolutions, particularly after President Park Geun-hye stated that the majority of South Korean-provided funds had been diverted to the regime’s nuclear program.

Overall, the new U.N. resolution marks yet another step by the U.N. to punish North Korea for its blatant and repeated violations.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power declared it was “the strongest set of sanctions,” just as her predecessor Susan Rice claimed in 2013 that the previous resolution contained “some of the toughest sanctions imposed by the United Nations.”

Though increasingly frustrated with its troublesome ally, China continues to act like North Korea’s lawyer in the U.N. Security Council, allowing some measures but hindering stronger efforts. There are recent reports that China has reduced its imports of North Korean coal and some Chinese banks have ceased transactions with North Korea. This trend would be encouraging if maintained and expanded rather than subsequently fizzling out, as have previous Chinese efforts to get tough with Pyongyang.

The collective U.S., South Korea, Japanese, and U.N. punitive measures are welcome, if long overdue, to punish North Korea for its defiance of laws and resolutions. Hopefully they will eventually moderate North Korean behavior, but in the meantime, they enforce laws and will constrain both the import and export of prohibited nuclear and missile materials.

With everyone adopting stronger sanctions, Kim Jong-un may perceive himself to be painted into a corner and compelled to take even more provocative and desperate steps than before. According to the South Korean National Intelligence Service, Kim Jong-un directed the Reconnaissance General Bureau to launch terror attacks against the South.

With no apparent off-ramp on the highway to a crisis, the danger of military clash on the Korean Peninsula is again rising. The U.S. and its allies must remain vigilant, particularly in the run-up to the annual Key Resolve/Foal Eagle joint military exercises starting this month in South Korea, which typically have triggered North Korean threats of tactical attacks and nuclear strikes.