N Korea slams ‘evil’ UN sanctions as Trump calls for tougher measures
SEOUL — North Korea vowed yesterday to accelerate its weapons programmes in response to “evil” sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council following its latest and most powerful nuclear test.
The respected 38 North website in the United States raised its estimate for the yield from the explosion, which Pyongyang says was a hydrogen bomb small enough to fit onto a missile, to around 250 kilotonnes — more than 16 times the size of the device that devastated Hiroshima in 1945.
The detonation, Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear blast, prompted global condemnation and came after it carried out two intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches in July that appeared to bring much of the US into range.
The UN Security Council unanimously imposed an eighth set of sanctions on the North on Monday, banning it from trading in textiles and restricting its oil imports, which US President Donald Trump said was a prelude to stronger measures.
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 ICBM launch.
The North’s Foreign Ministry condemned the new measures “in the strongest terms”, calling them a “full-scale economic blockade” driven by the US and aimed at “suffocating” its state and people.
It was “another illegal and evil ‘resolution on sanctions’ piloted by the US”, it said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
“The DPRK will redouble the efforts to increase its strength to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and right to existence,” the ministry said, using the abbreviation for the North’s official name.
But the South’s unification ministry described the statement as “the most low-key form of response from North Korea to UN Security Council resolutions”.
Seoul conducted its first live-fire exercise of its new long-range Taurus missile in response to the nuclear test, its air force said.
The German air-to-surface weapon was capable of precision strikes on key North Korean facilities even if launched from the central part of the South, it added.
The US and its allies argue that tougher sanctions will pile pressure on North Korea to negotiate an end to its weapons programmes, but experts are sceptical.
Mr Trump said the latest measures were a “very small step — not a big deal” that must lead to tougher measures. “Those sanctions are nothing compared to ultimately what will happen,” Mr Trump said, but added that it was “nice to get a 15-to-nothing vote”.
The North says it needs nuclear weapons to protect itself from “hostile” US forces and analysts believe Pyongyang’s weapons programme has made rapid progress under leader Kim Jong-un, with previous sanctions having done little to deter it.
Washington had initially sought a full oil embargo and a freeze on the foreign assets of Mr Kim in response to the blast, but dropped them following strong opposition from China and Russia.
The new resolution instead bans trade in textiles, cuts off natural gas shipments to North Korea, places a ceiling of two million barrels a year on deliveries of refined oil products and caps crude oil shipments at current levels.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned China, North Korea’s main ally and trading partner, that Washington would “put additional sanctions on them and prevent them from accessing the US and international dollar system” if it did not follow through on the new measures.
Another senior administration official said any such “secondary sanctions” on Chinese banks and other companies were on hold for now to give China time to show it was prepared to fully enforce the latest and previous rounds of sanctions.
Washington so far has mostly held off on new sanctions against Chinese banks and other companies doing business with North Korea, given fears of retaliation by Beijing and possibly far-reaching effects on the world economy.
Russia and China both say they respect UN sanctions and have called on the US to return to negotiations with North Korea. They have also said they could kick-start talks with North Korea if the US halts joint military drills with South Korea, which Washington has rejected.
Asked about the North Korean and US rhetoric, China’s Foreign Ministry reiterated a call for restraint and a return to dialogue.
“We hope all relevant parties can be rational and maintain restraint and not take actions that could further increase tensions on the peninsula,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular briefing. AGENCIES