The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved tough new sanctions on North Korea just hours after Pyongyang threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States and its allies.
The Security Council’s actions to clamp down on the North’s nuclear program follow the country’s third nuclear test, carried out last month in defiance of previous United Nations’ sanctions.
The 15-0 Security Council vote Thursday includes China, which has backed North Korea in the past and is one of the country’s few allies.
The U.S.-drafted resolution would tighten financial restrictions on North Korea and seek to prevent its efforts to trade in banned cargo that could be used in its nuclear and missile programs.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the vote, issuing a statement that it “sent an unequivocal message to (North Korea) that the international community will not tolerate its pursuit of nuclear weapons.”
The new sanctions come during a week in which Pyongyang threatened to scrap a 1953 armistice ending the Korean War if the U.S. and South Korea didn’t stand down from ongoing joint military exercises in the region.
An unidentified spokesman from North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Washington was pushing for a nuclear war against Pyongyang and that, in response, the country would act on its right for “a pre-emptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors.”
Update at 12:50 p.m. ET: U.S. Warns North Korea:
Glyn Davies, the top U.S. envoy for North Korea policy is Glyn Davies, warned Pyongyang on Thursday not to miscalculate and says the U.S. is working with South Korea to ensure it’s ready for any threats that arise.
The AP reports that Davies made the remarks during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee shortly after the U.N. Security Council vote.
The panel’s chairman, Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey, says the North’s “absurd” threat of a nuclear strike on the U.S. would be tantamount to suicide.
Although the North has successfully tested both nuclear bombs and long-range rockets, it is not thought to have successfully married the two into an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM.
As we reported on Wednesday, South Korea has matched Pyongyang’s rhetoric with its own promise to “carry out strong and resolute retaliations” if the North attacks.
According to The Washington Post, however, the North’s statement might not be quite as bellicose as its English-language translation suggests:
The Korean-language version suggested that the North would only carry out such a strike against “invaders,” meaning only if another nation breached its borders. But the English-language version of the statement says the strike will be carried out against “aggressors,” a more subjective term.
” ‘So there’s some nuance in there,’ said Dan Pinkston, a Seoul-based security expert for the International Crisis Group. ‘It’s not like a barge is going to float up the Potomac and a nuke will go off. Still, it’s problematic. … This says something about their doctrine with nuclear weapons. It says, ‘If we’re invaded with conventional weapons, we will respond with nuclear strikes.’ “