North Korea threatens US over UN sanctions
North Korea Tuesday condemned “vicious” new UN sanctions imposed over its sixth and largest nuclear test, warning it would make the US “suffer the greatest pain” it has ever experienced.
The new sanctions imposed unanimously by the UN Security Council Monday ban North Korean textile exports and restrict shipments of oil products.
The resolution, passed after Washington toned down its original proposals to secure backing from China and Russia, came just one month after the council banned exports of coal, lead and seafood in response to the North’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
North Korea Tuesday categorically rejected the new measures, with UN ambassador Han Tae-Song saying in Geneva that the US had “fabricated the most vicious sanction resolution” and warning of retaliation.
“The forthcoming measures by DPRK (North Korea) will make the US suffer the greatest pain it has ever experienced in its history,” he told a disarmament conference in the Swiss city.
US ambassador Nikki Haley said Monday at the UN the tough new measures were a message to Pyongyang that “the world will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea”. But she also held out the prospect of a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
“We are not looking for war. The North Korean regime has not yet passed the point of no return,” Haley told the Security Council, adding: “If North Korea continues its dangerous path, we will continue with further pressure. The choice is theirs.”
During tough negotiations, the United States dropped initial demands for a full oil embargo and a freeze on the foreign assets of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
The resolution instead bans trade in textiles, cuts off natural gas shipments to North Korea, places a ceiling on deliveries of refined oil products and caps crude oil shipments at current levels.
It bars countries from issuing new work permits to North Korean labourers sent abroad — there are some 93,000, providing Kim’s regime with a source of revenue to develop its missile and nuclear programmes, according to a US official familiar with the negotiations.
Under the measure, countries are authorised to inspect ships suspected of carrying banned North Korean cargo but must first seek the consent of the flag-state.
Joint ventures will be banned and the names of senior North Korean official and three entities were added to a UN sanctions blacklist that provides for an assets freeze and a global travel ban.
It was the eighth series of sanctions imposed on North Korea since it first tested a nuclear device in 2006.
– ‘Concrete action’ –
South Korea welcomed the resolution while Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the sanctions were much stronger than earlier measures. He urged Pyongyang to take “concrete action” toward denuclearization.
The United States and its allies argue that tougher sanctions will pile pressure on Kim’s regime to negotiate an end to its nuclear and missile tests.
Russia and China are pushing for talks with North Korea, but the US rejects their proposal for a freeze on Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear tests in exchange for a suspension of US-South Korean military drills.
Chinese UN ambassador Liu Jieyi again called for talks “sooner rather than later”.
China, North Korea’s sole ally and main trading partner, had strongly objected to an oil embargo initially sought by the United States out of fear it would bring the North’s economy to its knees.
Instead, annual crude oil supplies are capped at current levels — China is believed to supply around four million barrels a year through a pipeline, while deliveries of refined oil products such as gasoline and diesel are limited to two million barrels a year.
That would amount to a 10 percent cut in oil products, according to the US Energy Information Administration, which estimates annual exports to North Korea at nearly 2.2 million barrels.
The US official said the ban on textile exports would deprive North Korea of some $726 million in annual revenue.
– ‘Further provocations’ –
But analysts were sceptical about their impact.
North Korea has made rapid progress in its nuclear and missile programmes despite multiple sets of UN sanctions, and Go Myong-Hyun at the Asan Institute of Policy Studies said the latest measures were “not enough to cause pain”.
Kim Hyun-Wook of Seoul’s Korea National Diplomatic Academy, predicted: “The sanctions will only provide North Korea with an excuse for further provocations, such as an ICBM launch.”
Washington has said military action remains an option in dealing with Pyongyang and has threatened to cut economic ties with countries that continue to trade with it.
North Korea says its weapons development is vital to stave off the threat of a US invasion.
Pyongyang has staged a series of missile tests in recent months that appeared to bring much of the US mainland into range.
It followed up with a sixth nuclear test on September 3, its largest to date, which it said was a miniaturised hydrogen bomb.