North Korean export of weapons can be interdicted. More easily today than at any time in our past. A series of bilateral treaties were begun years ago. The idea of each treaty was to allow the country you are agreeing with to search any of your shipping on the high seas or in port. In return, you are allowed to search their shipping. In a way, this can be seen as giving up freedom of the seas.
The U.S. has fought wars to defend freedom to move in the open sea. These treaties can be seen as giving up this right. This is not entirely correct. U.S. shipping can go anywhere on the open sea. However, the U.S. is allowing others to help us stop other countries from abusing those same rights. North Korea has already been caught in a number of embarrassing attempts. These treaties played a major role in why North Korea was caught in the first place. This is also why North Korea has issued the threats of war for violation of ‘freedom of the seas’ today.
The treaty agreements began as direct treaties between the U.S. and individual countries with which we have mutual interests in maintaining open trade. Other countries began to make these same agreements with other countries and today, much of world trade is subject to interdiction if any of the countries suspects that a particular cargo is in question. A direct result has been some of the widely publicized searches of North Korean and Iranian ships. A number of illegal activities have been exposed that stood a good chance of not being caught if these arrangements had not been in effect.
The growth of this treaty concept has allowed for much more effective law enforcement. Economic sanctions can also be more effectively enforced. Of course, some of the world will be outside of this ‘umbrella’ but the world should be better off because of our mutual interest in enforcement of international law and order.