Amid high tensions between North Korea and the international community, North Korean media has released photographs of leader Kim Jong-un visiting military units on the frontline with South Korea.
The United States has around 2,600 troops in the South.
The United Nations agreed to escalate sanctions on March 7, the same day that North Korea warned of a preemptive nuclear strike on the US. Military experts say it is an empty threat.
Asked about that threat, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters: “One has to take what any government says seriously. It is for that reason that I repeat here that we are fully capable of defending the United States, but I would also say that this kind of extreme rhetoric has not been unusual for this regime unfortunately.”
There was reaction from Europe with the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle saying that China should use its influence on North Korea to get it to halt its “provocations”.
The UN security council voted unanimously to step up sanctions – as North Korea has repeatedly gone ahead with nuclear tests and missile launches. The latest test was last month.
China key to sanctions effectiveness
China’s UN ambassador, Li Baodong, said Beijing wanted “full implementation” of the new resolution.
The success of the new measures, council diplomats said, would depend to a large extent on the willingness of China to enforce them more strictly than it has in the past.
The sanctions tighten financial restrictions on North Korea and crack down on its attempts to ship and receive banned cargo.
If carried out to the letter that would see China inspecting shipments from major ports such as Dalian, which could be a big blow to Kim, who appears to have risked distancing himself from his sole major ally and trading partner.
In a statement released late on Thursday, China’s Foreign Ministry called the sanctions a “necessary and moderate response” to North Korea’s Feb. 12 nuclear test.