that is justified by events in the last two years and would provide more sticks to deal with the DPRK. South Korea is also justified in
taking steps to protect itself from further attack absent a forceful showing by the United Nations, and the United States will support its
ally in those efforts.
China’s interests on the peninsula are complex, but the argument for China supporting sanctions would be persuasive: North
Korea has once again engaged in provocative acts that threaten East Asian peace and stability right on China’s doorstep. The
international community will not let these acts go unpunished, and from the Chinese point of view, strong action through the United
Nations, where it has a voice, is the preferred course.
Moreover, China has supported U.N. sanctions against North Korea in the past, and in a new step it began to enforce them in
2009. The United States should make clear that China’s cooperation with regional partners during this crisis would be a signal of its
intention to continue on the trajectory toward becoming a more responsible international player.
The U.N. sanctions that followed North Korea’s nuclear test last year, coupled with a disastrous currency reform effort in the
DPRK, have already put intense strain on North Korea’s regime, which just completed a trip to Beijing to ask for more aid this month.
(It remains unclear whether Beijing agreed to this aid, though some reports have stated that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao turned down
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il’s request on the basis that the aid violates U.N. sanctions, which may explain the Dear Leader’s
departure one day earlier than scheduled.) Additional sanctions will send a clear message to the North Koreans that the international
community will not stand for its antics. South Korea can use its own sanctions to send a strong message as well since it’s the main
purchaser of North Korean exports.
The Cheonan incident has made the already troubled Six Party Talks even less likely in the short term. South Korea previously
stated it had no intention of resuming six-party talks until the Cheonan investigation was complete. Now that the probe indicts the
North Koreans, it is unlikely ROK officials will want to be in the same room with their northern neighbors anytime soon. For them and
the United States the incident will have to be resolved before talks can resume.
But in the meantime, the United States can work with the other four members of the talks—South Korea, Japan, China, and
Russia—to coordinate efforts to address North Korea’s actions in the larger and longer-term context of denuclearization and regional
If there is any silver lining to the Cheonan sinking, it’s that the United States can use the recent events to demonstrate its
renewed commitment to the Asia-Pacific region. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to Asia next week will highlight the importance
of America’s stabilizing presence there. She will have the opportunity to show American sympathy for its South Korean ally and
discuss a proper response with America’s South Korean, Japanese, and Chinese counterparts.
Finally, the State Department should seriously consider putting North Korea back on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, which
increases the kinds of sanctions available to the United States. The Bush administration removed the DPRK from the list in 2008, but
since then North Korea has been caught sending weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah, and is widely suspected of providing arms and
possibly training to the Tamil Tigers. Removing DPRK from the list was a bargaining chip used to incentivize the country’s efforts
toward denuclearization. Given recent events, it’s time to leverage the list once again.
Winny Chen is a Policy Analyst and Manager of China Studies for the National Security and International Policy Team at American
The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and
free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values
and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to
significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is "of the people, by the
people, and for the people."
Responding to the Korean peninsula crisis
Family members of deceased sailors from the sunken South Korean
naval ship Cheonan participate in a memorial service aboard a naval
ship on Baengnyeong Island, South Korea, on April 30, 2010. An
international investigation found overwhelming evidence this week that
North Korea was to blame for sinking the ship.
The United States Must Hold North Korea
Accountable for Its Aggression
By Winny Chen
May 21, 2010-The sinking of a South Korean warship, the
Cheonan, and the finding this week that North Korea was to
blame turns a tense situation on the peninsula into a full-
blown crisis. The South Koreans have so far been restrained
in their response and look to be seeking recourse through
further U.N. sanctions in the coming days. The United States,
for its part, must stand with its South Korean ally and the
international community, and send a firm and unambiguous
message that North Korean aggression is not acceptable
and will be met with consequences.
South Korea stated its intention to take its case to the U.
N. Security Council. The United States should unequivocally
support further sanctions and work to persuade other
members, particularly China, to back the resolution. It should
also seriously consider putting North Korea back on the
State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list—a move