North Korea unfazed by sanctions

In this March 7, 2013 photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and distributed March 8, 2013 by the Korea News Service, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, uses binoculars to look at the South's territory from an observation post at the military unit on Jangjae islet, located in the southernmost part of the southwestern sector of North Korea's border with South Korea. Seven years of U.N. sanctions against North Korea have done nothing to derail Pyongyangs drive for a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the United States. They may have even bolstered the Kim family by giving their propaganda maestros ammunition to whip up anti-U.S. sentiment and direct attention away from government failures. (AP Photo/KCNA via KNS) JAPAN OUT UNTIL 14 DAYS AFTER THE DAY OF TRANSMISSION
In this March 7, 2013 photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and distributed March 8, 2013 by the Korea News Service, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, uses binoculars to look at the South's territory from an observation post at the military unit on Jangjae islet, located in the southernmost part of the southwestern sector of North Korea's border with South Korea. Seven years of U.N. sanctions against North Korea have done nothing to derail Pyongyangs drive for a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the United States. They may have even bolstered the Kim family by giving their propaganda maestros ammunition to whip up anti-U.S. sentiment and direct attention away from government failures. (AP Photo/KCNA via KNS) JAPAN OUT UNTIL 14 DAYS AFTER THE DAY OF TRANSMISSION

The U.N. has been unable to shake the nation's nuclear ambitions. It's trying again.

Posted: March 10, 2013

SEOUL, South Korea - Seven years of U.N. sanctions against North Korea have done nothing to derail Pyongyang's drive for a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the United States. They may have even given the Kim family's propaganda maestros ammunition to whip up anti-U.S. sentiment and direct attention away from government failures.

After fresh U.N. sanctions leveled at North Korea on Thursday for its latest nuclear test, the question is: Will this time be different?

Since 2006, North Korea has launched long-range rockets, tested a variety of missiles, and conducted three underground nuclear explosions, the most recent on Feb. 12. Through it all, Pyongyang has been undeterred by a raft of sanctions - both multilateral penalties from the United Nations and national sanctions from Washington, Tokyo, and others - meant to punish the government and sidetrack its nuclear ambitions.

A problem with the approach, analysts said, is that outsiders routinely underestimate North Korea's knack for survival. The sanctions are intended to make life more difficult for a country that has crushing poverty, once suffered through a devastating famine, and lost its Soviet backers long ago, but Pyongyang often manages to find some advantage.

North Korean citizens are both defiant and dismissive about sanctions.

"The sanctions are a trigger, a confrontation," said Kim Myong Sim, 36, who works at Pyongyang Shoe Factory. "History has shown that Korea has never even thrown a stone at America, but the U.S. still continues to have a hostile policy toward my country."

If North Koreans have "the respected general's order, we will wipe Washington from the Earth," she said, referring to leader Kim Jong Un. She said North Koreans have "already suffered sanctions in the past, but we have found our own way and have become self-reliant."

Sanctions "may be doing more to strengthen the regime than hasten its demise," according to a 2011 essay by John Delury and Chung-in Moon, North Korea specialists at Yonsei University in Seoul.

"They have generally been counterproductive by playing into Pyongyang hard-liners' argument that U.S. hostility is the root cause of North Korea's predicament, " Delury said in an interview Friday.

"These sanctions will bite, and bite hard," U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said.

But they may also play into Kim Jong Un's hands.

Kim can build the same image his late father, Kim Jong Il, looked to create - that of a strong leader developing nuclear weapons despite outrage from the U.S. superpower, said Ahn Chan-il, who heads the World Institute for North Korea Studies in Seoul.

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