North Korea rejected tighter United Nations sanctions aimed at curbing its nuclear expansion, describing the move as an “act of war” and vowing to avenge U.S. sympathizers who approved it.
The U.S. “must abandon its hostile policy” toward North Korea, “learn to co-exist” and “wake up from its pipe-dream of our country giving up nuclear weapons,” the Korean Central News Agency said Sunday, citing a Foreign Ministry spokesperson.
The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved new sanctions Friday targeting North Korea’s economy following the launch of a ballistic missile last month that Kim Jong Un’s regime said shows it can now target the entire continental U.S.
A week after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called out Russia and China for their support of Kim’s regime, the 15-member Security Council passed its fourth resolution against Pyongyang in 13 months. The new restrictions are meant to slash North Korea’s imports of refined petroleum products, further restrict shipping and impose a 24-month deadline for expatriate North Korean workers to be sent home, up from a 12-month deadline in earlier drafts of the resolution.
“We believe maximum pressure today is the best antidote to the risk of war,” Francois Delattre, France’s ambassador to the UN, told reporters on his way in to the Security Council chambers. “The case of North Korea is getting more serious with each passing day.”
The new resolution cuts deliveries of petroleum products including diesel and kerosene by almost 90 percent, to the equivalent of 500,000 barrels per year starting Jan. 1. In September, the council demanded imports to be cut to the equivalent of 2 million barrels from 4.5 million barrels. The new resolution would also cap crude imports at current levels of about 4 million barrels annually.
To try to reduce smuggling and ship-to-ship transfers of North Korean coal and other banned goods, the measure says countries can “seize, inspect, freeze (impound) any vessel in their ports” if there are grounds to believe the vessel was used to transport banned items. The measure also prohibits insurance for all North Korean-affiliated vessels, but it stopped short of authorizing foreign fleets to board suspect vessels without their owners’ permission in international waters.
The resolution’s passage is a political victory for the President Donald Trump’s administration, which has spent much of 2017 urging other nations to ratchet up the pressure on North Korea. While much of that work has focused on China — North Korea’s top trading partner — the administration has sought to close off all foreign sources of income for Kim’s regime. Tillerson and U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley have praised nations such as Mexico and Peru for expelling North Korean envoys, as well as allies like Kuwait for agreeing to cut back on their use of North Korean workers.
The U.S. should not forget for “even a second” that Pyongyang is now capable of “posing a substantial nuclear threat” to its mainland and those countries that approved the new resolution against the regime will be responsible for all the consequences, the KCNA statement said. “We will make sure for ever and ever that they pay a heavy price for what they have done.”
China Saturday called for “all sides” to implement the UN resolutions “in a comprehensive and balanced manner.”
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China hoped “all parties will work with China to promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Xinhua news agency reported.
Trump praised the Security Council’s decision on Twitter, saying “The World wants Peace, not Death!” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a separate tweet that “Secretary Tillerson and Ambassador @nikkihaley agree: our pressure campaign against #NorthKorea must, and will, continue until denuclearization is achieved.”
North Korea has repeatedly defied Security Council resolutions to halt its nuclear weapons and missile testing. The UN’s top envoy to North Korea, Jeffrey Feltman, said this month that he was “deeply worried” about the prospects of a diplomatic solution to the crisis after meeting officials in Pyongyang.
Haley said after Friday’s vote that more could be done to isolate Kim’s regime.
“Should the North Korean regime conduct another nuclear or ballistic missile test, this resolution commits the Security Council to take even further action,” Haley said. “It sends the unambiguous message to Pyongyang that further defiance will invite further punishment and isolation.”
The governments of South Korea and Japan both issued statements Saturday welcoming the tighter sanctions.