- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2013

North Korea on Friday scrapped all nonaggression pacts with South Korea and cut off a hotline with Seoul after the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved new sanctions on Pyongyang to punish it for its Feb. 12 nuclear test.

North Korea “abrogates all agreements on nonaggression reached between the North and the South,” the state-run Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement.

“It notifies the South side that it will immediately cut off the North-South hotline,” said the statement, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Friday’s statement was the second belligerent response to the sanctions vote in two days, as Pyongyang threatened Thursday a “pre-emptive” nuclear strike against the United States. The White House dismissed North Korea’s bluster and urged it not to miscalculate.

The U.N. Security Council on Thursday voted 15-0 on the sanctions resolution drafted by the U.S. and China, North Korea’s key ally.

The resolution, designed to send a powerful message to North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, targets financial activities of 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 in comments reported by The Associated Press.

“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 E. 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 of Pyongyang threatened a nuclear strike on the United States.

The leadership in Pyongyang will exercise its right to “a pre-emptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors” because Washington is “set to light a fuse for a nuclear war,” Korean Central News Agency quoted an unidentified spokesman as saying.

New U.N. sanctions also will 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.

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

Seoul and Pyongyang signed the so-called Basic Agreement in 1991 pledging not to invade each other and to seek peaceful unification. This pact has served as the basis for future peace accords between the Asian neighbors.

Friday’s action was not the first time that Pyongyang has scrapped the nonaggression pacts. It made a similar announcement in January 2009. South Korean officials said at the time that the pacts could not be torn up just because one side no longer wants them.

North Korea and South Korea are technically still at war since the Korean War ended in a truce and not a peace treaty in 1953. There are 28,500 U.S. troops deployed in South Korea.

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.

While 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 about threats on the peninsula.

“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 Associated Press reported.

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. Davies 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 also have 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 whether 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.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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