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North Korea remains quiet on new sanctions

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, center, presides over a meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang, Nov. 30. Yonhap
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, center, presides over a meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang, Nov. 30. Yonhap

By Kang Seung-woo

North Korea has yet to take any actions against a series of independent sanctions it has called"hostile acts" by South Korea, the United States and Japan for its recent missile tests.

Pyongyang watchers say the North Korean regime's focus on holding a party meeting later this month to discuss next year's state policies may discourage the country from responding to the fresh punishment. In addition, given that the unilateral sanctions are more symbolic, it may not feel the need to respond, they added.

The foreign ministry came up with the second sanctions package on North Korea under the Yoon Suk-yeol administration, Friday, blacklisting eight individuals and seven institutions for their involvement in the country's nuclear and missile programs.

The punitive measure came hours after the U.S. Department of Treasury had imposed sanctions on three senior North Korean officials for their connections to its unlawful ballistic missile program. Following the South Korean announcement, Japan also placed three institutions and one individual involved in Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs under its own sanctions.

The sanctions block any U.S.-based assets of the designated individuals and bans transactions with them.

This year alone, North Korea has fired more than 60 ballistic missiles, including eight intercontinental ballistic missiles, and there is speculation that it may conduct its seventh nuclear test soon. Despite North Korea's repeated violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions, the international community has failed to hold the reclusive country accountable for its destabilizing acts due to opposition from China and Russia.

In addition to the respective sanctions, U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken took issue with North Korea's human rights violations, Friday (local time), designating the totalitarian state along with 11 others as countries of concern over religious freedom ―- a subject that the North has been strongly sensitive to. However, the North Korean regime has not issued any rebuttal statement.

Hong Min, the director of the North Korea Research Division at the Korea Institute for National Unification in the South, attributed the country's silence to its preparations for a plenary meeting of the ruling Workers' Party's Central Committee.

According to its state-run Korean Central News Agency, Dec. 1, North Korea plans to convene the meeting late this month, during which its party members will review this year' s achievements and discuss plans for next year.

"The regime seems to be intent on preparing for the plenary meeting, so there may have been no responses to the sanctions," Hong said.

The analysts said the independent sanctions are symbolic and not enough to change North Korea's behavior.

"They are more like disgracing North Korea's name rather than taking any special actions, so they are too weak to restrain its acts," he added.

Instead, Hong said the independent sanctions by the three countries at the same time can show the close coordination between the allies against North Korea's military threats.

"The latest sanctions by the three countries underscore their strong and united determination to respond decisively to North Korea's nuclear and missile development," the foreign ministry said in a statement, Friday.

Kang Seung-woo

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