Why a US embargo on North Korea is Not Practical
One dilemma facing the US and the international community is how to persuade North Korea to go back to negotiations regarding denuclearization. After attempting various levels of sanctions and negotiations, the remaining options include modifying the strategy to sanctions, embracing North Korea as a nuclear nation or taking more offensive actions. One of the proposed alternatives is an embargo, in which all ships to and from North Korea will be restricted. But, such action is unrealistic.

The growing threat from North Korea

Although North Korea poses an increasing threat to the US and its partners, this isn't the Cuban missile crisis of 1960. Unlike Cuba, North Korea isn't an island, and cannot be besieged by the US and the allied army. Also, the closeness of Cuba to the US made the barricade realistic given the proximity of the USA navy to the Cuban home port. Again, there was no major fleet in the vicinity that could readily come to Cuba's help. However, for North Korea, both Russia and China will have to endorse the idea of blocking all shipments to and from North Korea if the blockade was to succeed.

Furthermore, China's claim for the South

The Russia and China factor

Even though Russia and China opted for passive strategies, fleets entering and exiting North Korean waters may pass through China and Russia's territorial waters. Although ships leaving North Korea may be captured when they leave for international waters, stopping every ship entering the Russian or Chinese waters might be unrealistic. And, even if Russia and China were to support the US's attempts to create a trade embargo around North Korea, they would have to be actively involved in the embargo. Otherwise, Russia or China could continue supplying North Korea through land routes to keep the regime running.

Furthermore, China's claim for the South China Sea complicates matters. China’s failure to accept the decision against it by the Court of Permanent Arbitration would make it doubtful that China will support a US-enforced embargo of its territorial waters. For instance, the US Navy and the Royal Australian Navy imposed a maritime blockade on North Korea between 1950 and 1953 but it was frustrated by China.

It is important to note that a significant channel of commerce between the US and China lies across the Yellow Sea, along the Korean coast. Therefore, any maritime agreements, including those that North Korea may initiate, which could endanger the sea route, might have serious economic implications for both the US and China.

The Korean Peninsula factor

Attempts to put embargoes North Korea may trigger the fall of the North Korean regime or motivate it to start a new confrontation on the Korean peninsula. Due to these factors, China will be unwilling to consent to such a move. It would weaken the stability that China seeks on the peninsula and possibly alter the diplomatic situation on the peninsula in a way that is disadvantageous to China's interest.

Fixing the North Korean dilemma would require skills and creativity, as well as collaboration with the neighboring states. In the absence of Pyongyang's radical measures, it's unrealistic to expect the North Korean neighbors to endorse something that could constitute an embargo.

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