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UN’s sanctions-fuelled approach to North Korea must end

The panel, established in the wake of North Korea’s second nuclear test in 2009, has acknowledged the shortcomings of sanctions over the years and even their negative impact on the humanitarian situation in North Korea.

The panel’s mandate is set to officially expire on April 30. But even if the panel is saved before the deadline, it is high time the UN changes its strategy towards North Korea to one prioritising diplomacy over sanctions.


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As an agency created to protect and promote international peace and security, the UN should provide an impartial platform to facilitate diplomatic dialogue between North Korean representatives and officials from other UN member states. Through such forums, all member states can exchange views on ways to amend the UN’s overall strategy towards North Korea while taking into account Pyongyang’s opinions and concerns.

The secretary general could also appoint a special envoy or group specifically tasked with engaging North Korea diplomatically and promoting dialogue with the international community. Such discussions could cover the possibility of sanctions relief, confidence-building measures and the establishment of a regular regional security dialogue hosted by the UN.

Further isolation of North Korea is not conducive to international peace and security. On the contrary, it increases the risk of not only regional instability but also possible conflict that could have global repercussions. As the US Institute of Peace argued in a September 2020 special report, isolating North Korea from the international community is self-defeating.


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