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U.N. hits North Korea with new sanctions

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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.

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.

But Western officials and analysts doubt that North Korea has the capability to conduct a nuclear strike against the U.S. mainland. They are more concerned that Pyongyang may deliver on its threat this week to rip up a 1953 truce that halted the fighting in the Korean War and cut off a military hotline with the United States.

"We take all North Korean threats seriously enough to ensure that we have the correct defense posture to deal with any contingencies that might arise," Mr. Davies told reporters after testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The U.N. resolution also bans the sale of luxury goods to North Korea, where the ruling elite is notorious for its lavish lifestyles while much of the rest of the country lives in abject poverty.

China is a vital source of economic and food aid to North Korea. It has been reluctant to press North Korea too hard out of concern that the regime could collapse, sending a wave of refugees into China and paving the way for South Korean dominance on the peninsula.

"U.S. policymakers have not been able to persuade China that the cost of Beijing's continued support for North Korea far outweigh the perceived benefits," said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Mr. Davies, however, said he sees encouraging signs that China is rethinking its policy on North Korea.

"I think the safest thing to say about the Chinese calculus is it's evolving," Mr. Davis said at the committee meeting. "There are some stunning developments occurring within China."

In a surprising move, Mao Zedong's grandson, a general in China's People's Liberation Army, this week called on North Korea to take steps toward denuclearization. Recent editorials in Chinese media have also criticized the North Korean regime.

"China is always the get-out-of-jail-free card for North Korea," Mr. Davies said.

But, he added, there are signs that China "is beginning to step up, even more robustly to play its role."

Asked if she thought the latest U.N. resolution could break North Korea's defiance to earlier sanctions, Mrs. Rice said: "The choice … lies of course with the decisions that the North Korean leadership make."

"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 for its ballistic missile, conventional and nuclear weapons programs,” she said.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.

 

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