- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The United States and China called Tuesday for tougher U.N. sanctions to punish North Korea for its latest nuclear missile test, as the secretive Stalinist state threatened to scrap the 1953 truce that halted the Korean War.

Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Li Baodong, China’s U.N. envoy, prepared a draft resolution targeting the illegal activities of North Korean diplomats, North Korea’s illicit banking relationships and its bulk transfers of cash. The sanctions also would impose new travel sanctions on North Korean officials.

The support of China, North Korea’s closest ally, is seen as key for passage of the resolution in the U.N. Security Council. A vote could be held at a council meeting Thursday, according to a Western diplomat who spoke on background after a closed-door meeting at the United Nations to discuss the resolution.

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North Korea will be subject to some of the toughest sanctions imposed by the United Nations,” Mrs. Rice said.

The draft resolution “builds upon, strengthens, and significantly expands the scope of the strong U.N. sanctions already in place,” she said.

In Washington, U.S. officials denounced North Korea for threatening to discard the cease-fire agreement that brought an end to the fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War.

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North Korea “will achieve nothing by threats or provocations, which will only further isolate” the regime, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

In the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, a military spokesman said the government of Kim Jong-un will “completely nullify the Korean armistice” because of ongoing military exercises between the United States and South Korea.

“The war exercise being done by the United States and the puppet South Korea is a systematic act of destruction aimed at the Korean armistice,” the spokesman told the North Korean Central News Agency.

North and South Korea are still technically in a state of war, and the United States has 28,500 troops stationed in the South.

The spokesman also said North Korea will cut off a North Korea-U.S. military communications hotline at Panmunjom, a village on the border of the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.

Richard Bush, an Asia specialist at the Brookings Institution in Washington, downplayed North Korea’s threat to cancel the truce.

“Threatening to end the armistice is one of Pyongyang’s hardy perennials, an action that conveys frustration that Washington is not willing to talk with it on anything close to North Korea’s terms,” said Mr. Bush, director of the think tank’s Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies.

“There is a danger that Pyongyang may sometime resort to conventional military provocations, and Seoul, Washington and Beijing need to be prepared, but North Korea really doesn’t need to ‘cancel’ the armistice in order to mount limited attacks,” he said.

On the sanctions resolution, Mr. Bush noted the importance of China’s support for the measures because it has been lax in enforcing the existing sanctions against North Korea.

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