Look at this sequence of facts, actions and comments: Today, Trump signed an executive order penalize individuals and organizations doing business with North Korea -- doing business with the DPRK will now jeopardize one's access to the U.S. financial system or result in having one's assets frozen, or both. Trump said, "It is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal rogue regime...Foreign banks will face a clear choice. Do business with the United States, or facilitate trade with the lawless regime in North Korea.” Okay. That not surprising or on its face a terrible thing. It may even be a good thing. Trump, standing with the leaders of Japan and the ROK also said, "I'm very proud to tell you that, as you may have just heard moments ago, China, their central bank has told their other banks -- that's a massive banking system -- to immediately stop doing business with North Korea." Okay. China hasn't publicly issued a statement to that effect, but apparently they have done privately. Reuters cites several unnamed sources attesting to this action, but Treasury Secretary Mnuchin wouldn't corroborate that the Chinese action/order has been taken. Strange.... Re: American banks --> U.S. financial institutions -- like JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America -- are already barred by law from pursuing any financial transactions directly or indirectly with North Korea. But those banks will now risk having their own assets frozen or being shut out of the U.S. financial system. "If banks really want to investigate their own North Korean transactions, they're going to need to investigate the companies, and the companies that do business with those companies," said Anthony Ruggiero, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. The Trump Admin has in essence imposed a new administrative regulation on U.S. banks without formally stipulating a regulatory requirement. (That's just an observation about the EO's impact on U.S. businesses/banks -- odd given Trump's stance on regulations -- however, it's not the central point of this post/thread.) Fact: China by far does the most business with the DPRK So now I come to the part where the Trump Admin.'s rationale stops jibing and starts to look like yet another half-assed action. "This action is directed at everyone. It is in no way directed specifically at China." Say what? Well if it's not directed at China, what's the point? By the chart above, the DPRK has ~$640M trade deficit, of which $545M is being financed, apparently, by Chinese banks. Since the DPRK is a wholly owned and operated command economy, we can assume that all of the trade deficit (debt) is state debt, not private debt. If the sanctions' purpose isn't to unequivocally and primarily put China on notice that the U.S. expects it to strictly enforce/comply with its as yet not-officially-announced avowal to cease trade with the DPRK, there's not much point to them. If the sanctions purpose is to unequivocally and primarily put China on notice that the U.S. expects it to strictly enforce/comply with its as yet not-officially-announced avowal to cease trade with the DPRK, then have the integrity to say so. What is the impact on shipping? The EO bars aircraft and ships that have visited North Korea from stopping in the U.S. for 180 days. When asked to quantify the impact of that provision, Mnuchin wouldn't say or just doesn't know, saying that he wasn't prepared to provide a number but calling the sum "very significant." Really? "Very significant?" Well, let's just think about that and try to get a sense of whether it even is "significant" or even implementable. That provision of the EO has one of those "this applies except when it doesn't" clauses: In other words, if a vessel is already permitted to stop in the DPRK, it can keep doing so and then sail/fly right on over to a U.S. port. Also, "entered into" and/or "granted" by whom/whose statutes? Since when did the U.S. have any authority to grant anything having to do with foreign-flagged vessels porting in the DPRK? Note: I don't know whether shipping contracts, permits and licenses are given/applicable on the vessel-level, shipping-company-level or some other level. I know individual vessels can be denied entry I know that rights given at a level higher than the vessel-level can make for a lot of ships to which the "vessel" provision will not apply. I have made no effort to research maritime law and such laws pertaining to the U.S., the DPRK and the ~190 possible nations that might flag ships. I'd have thought someone in the Trump Admin. would have, but I can't be sure for Trump himself, let alone his Administration, has often said things that don't align with the facts of a situation, history or the law; thus one cannot just give them the benefit of the doubt because he/they've not earned it. The provision applies to specific vessels, not to the merchant fleet of a given nation. Is it even possible to know whether a given ship or plane landed in the DPRK? Have people truly not traveled enough to know that's all but impossible? "Back in the day" (it may still be so, I don't know), having a Cypriot visa stamp in one's passport could prevent one from being admitted to Greece. How did folks get around that? The Cypriots stamped a piece of paper and you just kept it in your passport until you left Cyprus, at which point, if one needed to enter Greece, one simply discarded the paper. If one thinks shippers cannot devise means of obfuscating the fact that they had a DPRK stop, one is terribly naive. Insofar as it's halting the DPRK's trade with the PRC that is essential in putting an end to KJU's cash flows and gains from trade, just how many vessels involved in DPRK-PRC trade might one expect also come to U.S. ports? North Korea-China trade suspended due to frozen Amnok River North Korean Defector Tells How He Secretly Made Millions For Kim Regime. He sent "millions of U.S. dollars to North Korea simply by handing a bag of cash to the captain of a ship leaving from the Chinese port city of Dalian, where he was based, to the North Korean port of Nampo, or by giving it to someone to take on the train across the border." How North Korea Cheats Sanctions It's no wonder Mnuchin couldn't quantify the potential impact of the "vessel" provision. By my reckoning, the "vessel" provision isn't worth the shot and powder it'd take to blow it to kingdom come. From the above, it appears again that Trump has taken a half-assed -- half of the prohibitions seem useful and the other half seem like "lip service" -- approach to problem solving.