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RELEASE: New CAP report Outlines Sanctions that Could Put Real Pressure on North Korea
Press Release

RELEASE: New CAP report Outlines Sanctions that Could Put Real Pressure on North Korea

Washington, D.C. — In the wake of North Korea’s latest nuclear test, a new report from the Center for American Progress says that a new round of tough, smart, and carefully targeted sanctions could help avert a military conflict.

The report finds that North Korea is much more vulnerable to specific types of sanctions than observers realize, but the United States has only barely begun targeting these soft spots. China is also vulnerable, both economically and diplomatically, in ways the United States is not exploiting, the report says.

“Instead of blowing hot and cold with China and exchanging blustery rhetoric with North Korea, the United States needs to double down on a strategy that deals an economic blow against the regime on par with the blow that brought Iran to the negotiation table in 2013,” said Melanie Hart, a co-author of the report.

The report says that targeting those vulnerabilities could have a major impact on diplomacy and help avoid an all-out war. President Donald Trump has failed to press a strategy that goes after North Korea and China in a sustained way. Such a strategy should be rooted in six critical factors:

  • North Korea’s urban elites are Kim Jong Un’s new weak spot.
  • North Korea is more exposed to U.S. and global financial systems—and thus more vulnerable to U.S. and international sanctions—than many observers realize.
  • China owns the North Korea problem in ways that the international community has thus far failed to exploit.
  • China is profiting from its gatekeeper role in ways that the international community has largely ignored.
  • Existing sanctions primarily aim to block North Korean exports, but imports are the regime’s bigger vulnerability.
  • The United States has powerful tools in its arsenal that it has yet to fully exploit for action against both China and North Korea to bring Kim Jong Un to the negotiation table.

Read the report, “Getting Real on Sanctions Is Key to Pressuring North Korea,” by Melanie Hart and Renee Ding.

Other CAP experts available to comment on North Korea include:

  • Kelly Magsamen, vice president for National Security and International Policy
  • Vikram Singh, senior adviser on national security, democracy, and technology
  • Michael Fuchs, senior fellow focusing on U.S. foreign policy priorities and U.S. policy toward the Asia-Pacific region.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Sam Hananel at or 202.478.6327.