FACT CHECK: Did The UN Pass A Record Number Of Resolutions On North Korea In 2017?

Kush Desai | Fact Check Reporter

Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin claimed Sunday on NBC that the U.N. has passed more resolutions on North Korea “than ever before.”

Verdict: True

The U.N. passed more binding resolutions on North Korea in 2017 than in any other year since the Korean War ended.

Fact Check:

Officials announced Thursday that President Donald Trump had agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Commentators have raised concerns about how the historic meeting may legitimize the isolated North Korean state, as well as Kim, whose regime has been widely condemned for human rights abuses.

Mnuchin pushed back on this criticism on “Meet the Press,” telling NBC host Chuck Todd that the Trump administration has taken and will maintain a hard line on North Korea.

Mnuchin: This isn’t about elevating anybody. This is about – the president has been very clear that he wants to do everything possible to protect America and its allies, that the existing situation of testing nuclear weapons and missiles is completely unacceptable. I’ve sat in multiple tri-lat meetings with Japan and South Korea with the president. He’s been very clear. He’s spoken to all the allies including NATO. We’ve had more U.N. resolutions than ever before. So I think this is a very clear strategy that’s working.

The U.N. Security Council passed four binding resolutions directly condemning or sanctioning North Korea by name after the Trump administration took office in 2017. This is the most passed in any single year since the Korean War ended in 1953, breaking the record of two resolutions passed each year in 2006, 2013 and 2016.

These counts do not include more routine resolutions, such as those extending the mandate of an advisory panel on North Korea, or resolutions that don’t mention North Korea directly and only cite prior resolutions that do.

Also excluded are non-binding resolutions passed by the U.N. General Assembly and Human Rights Council that do not typically address North Korea’s nuclear program. The General Assembly and Human Rights Council each passed a resolution in 2017, for example, concerning human rights abuses in North Korea.

Recent sanctions have severely limited North Korea’s ability to import crucial goods like crude oil and petroleum products, as well as income from citizens working abroad who must now return home within the next two years. The Trump administration has imposed sanctions of its own, including those directed at Chinese firms that the Treasury Department said were helping North Korea evade U.N. sanctions.

Experts predict that, due in large part to these sanctions, North Korea’s U.S. dollar currency reserves – which it needs to pay for vital imports – may run out by October.

South Korea’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong credited the leadership of the Trump administration for these and other developments in the lead up to North Korea’s historic diplomatic overture.

“I explained to President Trump that his leadership and his maximum-pressure policy, together with international solidarity, brought us to this juncture,” Chung recently told reporters at the White House.

But Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, doesn’t believe that all of the credit for the recent U.N. measures belongs to the Trump administration. “In a way, you can credit North Korea for all the resolutions because they were the ones misbehaving so often,” he told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

North Korea has made quick advances in its decades-old nuclear and missiles program in the past year. The country conducted 20 missile tests in 2017, the most of any year except 2016. “They would have a failure and then they would immediately have another test, and then maybe the third one would succeed. It was unusual that they were testing that often,” Klingner said. “It’s different under Kim Jong Un, whether it’s his patience or his eagerness.”

The North test-launched a missile in May that experts think could reach the U.S. territory of Guam. After two test-launches in July, the country demonstrated a capability to strike Hawaii, Alaska and much of the continental U.S., including Los Angeles and Chicago.

Then in early September, North Korea claimed it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, adding that it had also successfully loaded a nuclear device onto an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

The North tested a missile in late November that some estimated could strike any part of the continental U.S., including Washington, D.C.

These advances have come amid worsening rhetoric between the U.S. and North Korea. “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump declared in August. “They will be met with the fire and the fury like the world has never seen.”

Klingner notes that 2017’s record number of U.N. resolutions doesn’t exist in a vacuum – it represents a continuation of prior efforts. “Each administration is building on its work and the work of previous administrations,” he explained.

North Korea, in fact, has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006. But while many of the early sanctions primarily targeted its ability to import military technology, sanctions passed after 2016 – and especially in 2017 – have broadened in scope to hit North Korea’s economy by limiting key exports like mineral ores and textiles.

“You don’t pass a weaker resolution than the one before,” Klingner remarked.

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Kush Desai

Fact Check Reporter