North Korea threatens nuclear attack as UN approves 'severe' sanctions
Published Thursday, March 7, 2013 6:44AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:25PM EST
North Korea ramped up its threats to obliterate the United States with a nuclear attack after the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to impose severe new restrictions on the isolated nation.
North Korea said it’s cancelling a nonaggression pact with South Korea and a hotline with the U.S. in response to the sanctions.
China, a traditional ally to North Korea, drafted Thursday’s resolution along with the U.S., with the goal of condemning recent nuclear and ballistic tests and making it harder for the isolated nation to obtain financing and materials for its weapons programs.
"The strength, breadth and severity of these sanctions will raise the cost to North Korea of its illicit nuclear program and further constrain its ability to finance and source materials and technology towards ballistic missile, conventional and nuclear weapons programs," said Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN shortly after the resolution passed.
Ahead of the vote on Resolution 2094, an unidentified spokesperson for North Korea's Foreign Ministry threatened "a pre-emptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors," warning that Washington's actions could result in a nuclear war.
And North Korean Gen. Kang Pyo Yong told a crowd of thousands that Pyongyang has long-range nuclear missile aimed and ready to fire on Washington.
"Intercontinental ballistic missiles and various other missiles, which have already set their striking targets, are now armed with lighter, smaller and diversified nuclear warheads and are placed on a standby status," Kang said.
They appeared to be the most specific threats of nuclear violence to date. However, North Korea is not yet believed to have the technology to build a warhead small enough to mount on a missile that could reach the U.S.
The White House said Thursday the U.S. is fully capable of defending itself against a North Korean ballistic missile attack.
The U.S. has land-and-sea-based systems in East Asia designed to intercept shorter-range missiles. Another system in the U.S. that’s meant to defend against long-range missiles is still being tweaked.
Key details of the newly imposed sanctions:
- When North Korea tries to move money to pay for nuclear and ballistic purposes, "countries must now block those transfers even if the money is being carried in suitcases full of bulk cash," Rice said.
- Countries that apprehend North Korean agents attempting to make arms deals or sell nuclear technology are required to expel those agents.
- Countries must block the travel of people working for companies involved in nuclear and missile programs.
- Member states will have the authority to inspect cargo whenever arms smuggling is suspected.
- North Korean vessels must agree to inspections at sea, or be refused entry to destination ports.
- Specific items that could be used in nuclear or ballistic weapons development will be banned from export to North Korea.
Rice said the sanctions will result in tougher restrictions for North Korean diplomats working abroad, as well as a ban on the export of luxury items to North Korea.
"As a result North Korea's ruling elite who have been living large while impoverishing their people will pay a direct price for this nuclear test,"
Rice told reporters, adding that every United Nations member state is obligated to enforce all the sanctions.
The new sanctions are intended to send a powerful message to North Korea that the international community condemns its ballistic missile and nuclear tests -- and its repeated violation of Security Council resolutions.
"Taken together these sanctions will bite and bite hard," Rice said. "They increase North Korea's isolation and raise the cost to North Koreans leaders of defying the international community."
China's UN Ambassador Li Bao Dong said the goal now is to "bring down the heat" and focus on diplomacy and restarting the six-party talks aimed at ending nuclear activity on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea performed a nuclear test on Feb. 12 in defiance of UN warnings.
The test was the country's first since Kim Jong Un took power after his father's death.
The test raised international concerns that North Korea is close to producing a warhead that could be fitted to a long-range missile.
With files from The Associated Press