U.N. levies stronger sanctions on North Korea
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UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. Security Council approved tough new sanctions Thursday against North Korea over its latest nuclear test, brushing aside Pyongyang's threat of nuclear retaliation against the United States and other nations it labels aggressors.
Voting unanimously, the 15-member council condemned North Korea for its Feb. 12 test and imposed sanctions aimed at making it more difficult for the country to finance its arms programs and obtain materials for them. Before the vote, the North issued statements describing Washington as a "criminal threatening global peace" and threatening pre-emptive nuclear action.
Today, following the vote, North Korea said it is canceling a hotline and a nonaggression pact with South Korea and reiterating its past threats in anger over the Security Council vote.
The North's statement said it would retaliate with "crushing strikes" if enemies intrude into its territory. It also said it is voiding past nuclear disarmament statements between North and South Korea. It previously said it would cancel a hotline with the United States and the 1953 armistice that closed the Korean War.
The sanctions resolution was drafted by the United States and China, long the North's chief ally and benefactor. The resolution expands and tightens a range of financial and diplomatic sanctions meant to curtail Pyongyang's ability to threaten the world with its nuclear programs and halt the leadership's ability to travel and acquire luxury goods such as yachts and racing cars.
The action builds on a raft of existing sanctions imposed on North Korea since it launched the first of three nuclear tests in 2006. The new measures were crafted to further limit access to the international financial system by North Korean banks and firms, while imposing greater constraints on the North's ability to transport potentially illicit cargo around the world.
The council also warned that it would take "further significant measures" against Pyongyang if it carried out another nuclear or ballistic missile test.
"Taken together, these sanctions will bite, and bite hard," Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said after the vote. "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."
In Washington, Obama administration officials issued new warnings about North Korea's growing capacity to threaten other countries, including the United States.
Glyn Davies, the State Department's special representative for North Korean policy, said Pyongyang's recent nuclear test was the latest in a series of provocations that demanded a firm, global response. "North Korea's [weapons of mass destruction], ballistic missile, conventional arms and proliferation activities constitute a serious and unacceptable threat to U.S. national security," he said in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
While the administration remains open to dialogue with the communist regime, Mr. Davies said, "the United States will not engage in talks for the sake of talks," but would insist on demonstrations of "serious, meaningful change" in North Korea's behavior. "The ... leadership in Pyongyang faces sharp choices, and we are working to further sharpen those choices."
The resolution highlighted the growing isolation of North Korea, as China joined forces with Pyongyang's Western and regional enemies in imposing fresh sanctions. China's U.N. envoy, Li Baodong, said Thursday's vote was one step in a "hard, tedious" journey to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. He said his government hoped that the international community would now pursue talks with the North.
"The adoption of the resolution ... is not for the sake of sanctions," Mr. Li said after the vote. "The top priority now is to defuse the tension, bring down the heat, focus on [the] diplomatic track."
Despite the unanimous action, there were no guarantees that North Korea would stop ignoring the Security Council and comply with demands that it abandon its nuclear arms ambitions and halt development of its banned ballistic missile program. Instead, in hours before the vote, the North doubled down on its bluster.
Although Pyongyang routinely vows to demolish the United States in a sacred war, the threat issued Thursday marked a major escalation of rhetoric shortly before the Security Council convened.
Long East Asia's main menace, North Korea often becomes particularly combative in the run-up to and aftermath of U.N. sanctions.
First Published March 8, 2013 12:00 am