N Korea to boost weapons pro­grams af­ter sanc­tions

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

North Korea vowed yes­ter­day to ac­cel­er­ate its weapons pro­grams in re­sponse to “evil” sanc­tions im­posed by the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil fol­low­ing its lat­est and most pow­er­ful nu­clear test. The re­spected 38 North web­site in the US 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 kilo­tons-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 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 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 pro­grams but ex­perts are skep­ti­cal.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald 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,” 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 pro­gram has made rapid progress un­der leader Kim Jong-Un, with pre­vi­ous sanc­tions hav­ing done lit­tle to de­ter it. Govern­ment es­ti­mates of the yield from its sixth nu­clear test vary from South Korea’s 50 kilo­tons to Ja­pan’s 160, but 38 North, which is linked to Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity in the US, raised its es­ti­mate to “roughly 250 kilo­tons”, in line with up­ward re­vi­sions for the mag­ni­tude of the re­sult­ing tremor.

South Korea’s Nu­clear Safety and Se­cu­rity Com­mis­sion said yes­ter­day it had col­lected a small amount of xenon-133 — a ra­dioac­tive iso­tope of the in­ert gas that does not oc­cur nat­u­rally-that was “linked to the lat­est nu­clear test”. But the com­mis­sion said in a state­ment it was “un­able to con­firm what type of nu­clear test was con­ducted”. Wash­ing­ton had ini­tially sought a full oil em­bargo and a freeze on the for­eign as­sets of leader Kim Jong-Un 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 2 mil­lion bar­rels a year on de­liv­er­ies of re­fined oil prod­ucts and caps crude oil ship­ments at cur­rent lev­els. Re­tail petrol prices in the North jumped ear­lier this year, with some an­a­lysts sug­gest­ing the author­i­ties were stock­pil­ing in the ex­pec­ta­tion of a ban. Ac­cord­ing to the US mis­sion to the United Na­tions, the North im­ports around 8.5 mil­lion bar­rels a year of oil and oil prod­ucts, 4 mil­lion as crude and 4.5 mil­lion in re­fined form-which in­cludes sub­stances such as petrol and diesel.

It added that the North’s tex­tile ex­ports av­er­aged $760 mil­lion a year. The UN res­o­lu­tion also barred coun­tries from is­su­ing new au­tho­riza­tions to North Korean work­ers sent abroad. There are al­most 100,000 of them, ac­cord­ing to the US mis­sion, earn­ing more than $500 mil­lion a year for the regime. Un­der the mea­sure, joint ven­tures with North Korean en­ti­ties are pro­hib­ited, while gov­ern­ments are au­tho­rized to in­spect ships sus­pected of car­ry­ing banned cargo from the coun­try, but must first seek the con­sent of the ves­sels’ flag state.—AFP

SEOUL: Mem­bers of the Korean Vet­er­ans As­so­ci­a­tion hold up ban­ners dur­ing a rally de­mand­ing the re-de­ploy­ment of US tac­ti­cal nu­clear weapons in South Korea to cope with North Korea’s nu­clear threat in Seoul.—AFP

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