Wednesday 2 March, 2016 Update: New Sanctions On North Korea, Syrian Ceasefire Holding…For Now

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The UN Security Council has adopted a stringent set of new sanctions against North Korea, after a month of raucous behavior by Pyongyang which included the supposed test of a thermonuclear device and a thinly disguised test test of a banned long range missile. The sanctions are far more expansive compared to previous sets, which included a widely accepted link to proliferation activities. The new sanctions have removed this precondition, in essence taking away any presumption of innocence.

The sanctions include inspection of all goods going into and out of North Korea by air, land and sea, places strict restrictions on the North’s supplies of aviation fuel for its air force, and bans the sale of all conventional arms and military hardware to Pyongyang. There are a host of other equally strict sanctions included in the resolution, leaving no doubt that this is a punishment.

China has done a 180 with regards to its dealings with North Korea. The reluctance by Beijing in the past to apply pressure to Kim Jong Un is gone. The possible deployment of US THAAD missile batteries to South Korea possibly played a role in this reversal. Whether or not China remains committed to the sanctions remains to be seen.

How Pyongyang responds to the resolutions and sanctions remains to be seen. Either way, expect to see North Korea lash out in some way in the near future.

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The ceasefire that has been in place between the Syrian government and opposition groups since Saturday appears to be holding, despite claims from senior opposition officials that government forces were endangering the deal through attacks against their groups. All parties involved in the ceasefire, from the US and Russia to the UN agree that there have been some incidents and steps are being taken to deal with them. However, the incidents are nothing that appear to have the strength to endanger the ceasefire.

That could change soon, however. Syrian President Bashir al-Assad has said that he is making every effort to keep the peace despite opposition groups violating it ‘within the first hour.’ The government’s restraint will not last forever, he stated in an interview published on 1 March by SANA. With so many opposition groups involved in the conflict, a consistent worry is that a single violation…real or alleged…..by one opposition faction could provide Assad and his allies cause to declare the ceasefire broken and resume offensive operations against all groups.

 

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