BREAKING: U.N. Security Council Unanimously Approves Sanctions on North Korea
The 15-nation United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Thursday for tough new sanctions designed to punish North Korea for its February 12 nuclear test. The resolution, which was drafted by the United States and China, tightens financial restrictions on Pyongyang, includes unprecedented travel restrictions, and aims at making it more difficult for North Korea to ship and receive banned cargo, in violation of previous U.N. sanctions.
Hours before the vote, a North Korean official threatened a pre-emptive strike against the United States and South Korea. The official said Washington is trying to ignite war on the Korean peninsula, and declared that the North would exercise its right for “a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors.”
The North’s hostile rhetoric follows quickly after it threatened to nullify the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953 on Tuesday. After that statement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry admonished Pyongyang for its “belligerent and reckless moves that threaten the region, their neighbors, and now, directly, the United States of America.” Kerry continued, “Our preference is not to brandish threats to each other. It’s to get to the table” to negotiate.
After the Security Council’s vote, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters that “taken together, these sanctions will bite and bite hard.” “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 program,” Rice said.
China and Russia urged restraint. “Let’s keep our minds cool and keep focused on the need for the only possible rational course of action, and that is returning to six-party talks,” Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said. Similarly, China’s U.N. Ambassador Li Bao Dong said that China “want[s] to see full implementation of the resolution” and that the top priority now is to “defuse the tension, bring down the heat, [and] focus on the diplomatic track.”
Diplomacy, however, did not seem to be on the minds of North Korean or South Korean officials.
“Today is not the day for talking about dialogue,” said South Korea’s Ambassador Kim Sook.
In North Korea, Army Gen. Kang Pyo Yong told a crowd of tens of thousands that North Korea was prepared to launch long-range nuclear-armed missiles at the United States. “Intercontinental ballistic missiles and various other missiles, which have already set their striking targets, are now armed with lighter, smaller diversified nuclear warheads and are placed on a standby status,” Kang said. “When we shell [the missiles], Washington, which is the stronghold of evils, . . . will be engulfed in a sea of fire.”
Experts do not believe that North Korea has the capability to strike the United States. Nor do they believe that it has miniaturized a nuclear device capable of attaching to a long-range ballistic missile, which would require years of development and multiple rounds of testing. Nevertheless, the statement marks the first time North Korea has threatened to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States and South Korea.
“North Korea will achieve nothing by continued threats and provocations. These will only further isolate the country and its people and undermine international efforts to promote peace and stability in northeast Asia,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a former South Korean former minister, said the resolution “sent an unequivocal message to [North Korea] that the international community will not tolerate its pursuit of nuclear weapons.”