Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin unveiled the biggest weapon the U.S. has in its arsenal against North Korea, and it’s not a bomb.
No bank in any country should be used to facilitate Kim Jong-un’s destructive behavior. This new executive order will authorize Treasury to impose a range of sanctions such as suspending U.S. correspondent account access to any foreign bank that knowingly conducts or facilitates significant transactions tied to trade with North Korea. These sanctions will be forward-looking and applied to behavior that occurs following today when President Trump signed the executive order. Foreign financial institutions are now on notice that going forward they can choose to do business with the United States or with North Korea, but not both. This new executive order enables Treasury to freeze assets of anyone conducting significant trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea. It also allows us to freeze assets of actors supporting North Korea’s textile, fishing, IT and manufacturing industries.
The target of this executive order, which is wholly legal and proper for the president to sign, is certainly China. China is North Korea’s biggest trading partner by far. It will hurt China far worse than anything we could do to North Korea. And China can force North Korea into starvation or negotiation.
While Beijing has joined the international community in condemning North Korea’s missile launches and nuclear tests, it doesn’t want a war on the Korean peninsula or Kim’s regime to collapse. Either event may trigger a rush of refugees and the potential for U.S. troops on its border, risking social unrest and a heightened security presence that could further hinder trade.
“The situation facing the Korean peninsula is complicated,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a press conference in Beijing.
Lu said at the press conference that “China opposes the imposition of sanctions outside the framework of the United Nations Security Council”.
In his address at the assembly, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said negotiation remained the only solution to the North Korea problem, while warning its neighbour not to pursue the development of nuclear weapons.
As long as goods can flow into and out of North Korea, all the military threats we make are simply saber-rattling. Kim Jong-un will continue to provoke until we back down from a potential holocaust for South Korea. This is what he’s done for decades. But if the U.S. truly punishes China with banking sanctions and assets freezes, just like we did to Iran, soon they will push North Korea to the table, or make it clear that the Hermit Kingdom is on its own taking on the U.S. in a military battle.
The money bomb is a much bigger weapon than anything our military possesses. History shows that it always has been (read your World War II history of Japan).