N. Korea vows harsh retaliation against U.N. sanctions
Seoul, South Korea — North Korea vowed Monday to bolster its nuclear arsenal and gain revenge of a “thousand-fold” against the United States in response to tough U.N. sanctions imposed following its recent intercontinental ballistic missile tests.
The warning came two days after the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved new sanctions to punish North Korea, including a ban on coal and other exports worth over $1 billion. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, called the U.S.-drafted resolution “the single largest economic sanctions package ever leveled against” North Korea.
In a statement carried by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s government said the sanctions were a “violent infringement of its sovereignty” that was caused by a “heinous U.S. plot to isolate and stifle” the country.
“We will make the U.S. pay by a thousand-fold for all the heinous crimes it commits against the state and people of this country,” the statement said.
The North said it would take an unspecified “resolute action of justice” and would never place its nuclear program on the negotiating table or “flinch an inch” from its push to strengthen its nuclear deterrence as long as U.S. hostility against North Korea persists.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho made similar comments during an annual regional security conference in Manila on Monday.
South Korea’s government said the North would face stronger sanctions if it doesn’t stop its nuclear and missile provocation.
As President Donald Trump demanded full and speedy implementation of the new penalties, his top diplomat laid out a narrow path for the North to return to negotiations that could ultimately see sanctions lifted. Stop testing missiles for an “extended period,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, and the U.S. might deem North Korea ready to talk.
“We’ll know it when we see it,” Tillerson said. “This is not a ‘give me 30 days and we are ready to talk.’ It’s not quite that simple. So it is all about how we see their attitude towards approaching a dialogue with us.”
Even as they celebrate a diplomatic victory in persuading China and Russia to sign on to cutting new sanctions, the U.S. and other countries are deeply concerned that failure to rigorously enforce them could significantly blunt their impact. Since Saturday’s U.N. Security Council vote, Washington has put Beijing in particular on notice that it’s watching closely to ensure China doesn’t repeat its pattern of carrying out sanctions for a while, then returning to business as usual with the pariah nation on its border.
Such concerns were on display Sunday in a dizzying display of fast-paced diplomacy spanning multiple continents.
South Korea’s foreign minister joined her counterparts from the U.S. and Japan for a meeting in the Philippines in which Tillerson touted efforts to persuade nations to stop using North Korean labor. The American and Japanese diplomats held another three-way session with Australia. The South Korean envoy held a rare but brief meeting in Manila with North Korea’s top diplomat, who also spoke by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who had discussed the sanctions with Tillerson a day before.
In a phone call requested by Seoul, Trump and newly installed South Korean President Moon Jae-in committed jointly to “fully implement all relevant resolutions and to urge the international community to do so as well,” the White House said. Moon’s office said that he and Trump had agreed to apply “the maximum pressure and sanction.”
Lim Eul Chul, a North Korea expert at South Korea’s Kyungnam University, said the comments by the North demonstrate how angry it is over the U.N. sanctions, but that the country is not likely to launch a pre-emptive strike against the United States. He said the North could still carry out further missile tests or a sixth atomic bomb test in the coming months under its broader weapons development timetable.
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