North Korea has declared the latest United Nations sanctions against the country to be an act of war and tantamount to a complete economic blockade.
It singled out the United States for criticism, accusing Washington of having orchestrated the move. The foreign ministry in Pyongyang said the US was terrified by North Korea’s nuclear force and was getting “more and more frenzied in the moves to impose the harshest-ever sanctions and pressure on our country”.
“We define this ‘sanctions resolution’ rigged up by the US and its followers as a grave infringement upon the sovereignty of our Republic, as an act of war violating peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and the region and categorically reject the ‘resolution’,” the ministry said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
The new sanctions were passed unanimously by the UN Security Council in response to North Korea’s recent intercontinental ballistic missile test. They seek to limit the country’s access to refined petroleum products and crude oil and its earnings from workers abroad.
The resolution seeks to ban nearly 90 percent of refined petroleum exports to North Korea by capping them at 500,000 barrels a year. In a last-minute change, it demands the repatriation of North Koreans working abroad within 24 months, instead of 12 months as first proposed. This would restrict a vital source of foreign currency for the impoverished communist state.
A ban on exports of North Korean goods such as machinery and electrical equipment is also proposed.
North Korea is already subject to a range of sanctions from the US, the UN and the EU.
Washington described the missile test carried out by Pyongyang in late November as a worldwide threat. The Defence Secretary James Mattis said the launch went higher than any previous test and accused North Korea of building “ballistic missiles that threaten everywhere in the world”.
Pyongyang said it had successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile that put the US mainland within range of its nuclear weapons, which it described as a self-defensive deterrence.
President Trump, who has previously threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it launches a nuclear attack, has welcomed the new sanctions passed by the UN Security Council.
North Korea has now said those who voted for the sanctions would face Pyongyang’s anger. “We will make sure for ever and ever that they pay heavy price for what they have done,” the foreign ministry statement said, in characteristically bellicose language. It has previously described sanctions against the country as genocide.
US diplomats say they are seeking a diplomatic solution but proposed the new, tougher sanctions to increase the pressure on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Chinese state media have said the tougher resolution is aimed at preventing war, noting the US had compromised – adding that there was no sign the UN would grant the US permission for military action.
China, with which North Korea does some 90 percent of its trade, has repeatedly called for calm and restraint from all sides. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Saturday said the new resolution reiterated the need for a peaceful solution via talks and that all sides needed to take steps to reduce tensions.