- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2013

The U.N. Security Council on Thursday unanimously approved new sanctions on North Korea to punish it for its Feb. 12 nuclear test, hours after Pyongyang threatened a “pre-emptive” nuclear strike against the United States.

The Security Council voted 15-0 on a resolution drafted by the United States and China, North Korea’s key ally, as the White House dismissed North Korea’s bluster and urged it not to miscalculate.

The resolution, designed to send a powerful message to North Korea’s new young leader, Kim Jong Un, targets financial activities on North Korean banks; imposes travel sanctions on blacklisted North Koreans; and bans the transfer to and from North Korea of ballistic missile, nuclear and chemical weapons technology.

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China’s U.N. ambassador, Li Baodong, said adoption of the resolution — the fourth such effort to curb North Korea’s nuclear program — was not enough.

“We want to see full implementation of the resolution,” Mr. Li said.

“The top priority now is to defuse the tensions, bring down heat … bring the situation back on the track of diplomacy, on negotiations,” he added, while calling for a resumption of stalled six-nation talks aimed at removing nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the U.N. action will further isolate the dictatorial regime and “bite hard.”

Hours before the U.N. vote, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman in the capital Pyongyang threatened a nuclear strike on the United States.

Pyongyang will exercise its right to “a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors” because Washington is “set to light a fuse for a nuclear war,” North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted an unidentified spokesman as saying.

New U.N. sanctions will also prompt North Korea to act sooner on a threat, made following the nuclear test, to use “powerful second and third countermeasures,” he added. Pyongyang has not disclosed what those measures are.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. is “fully capable of defending against any North Korean ballistic missile attack.”

The top U.S. envoy on North Korea, Glyn Davies, said the U.S. will take necessary steps to defend itself and its allies, including South Korea, where it bases nearly 30,000 U.S. forces.

The U.S. also provides what it calls a “nuclear umbrella” security guarantee to both South Korea and Japan, neighbors of North Korea which do not have atomic weapons, and missile defense capabilities.

Pyongyang has responded to previous sanctions with belligerent rhetoric, nuclear tests and missile launches. Its Feb. 12 test came in response to U.N. sanctions that punished the regime for launching a long-range ballistic missile in December.

North Korean officials said after the nuclear test that they had used a miniaturized nuclear device. If true, this means North Korea is closer to putting a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile.

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