N Korea slams ‘evil’ UN sanc­tions as Trump calls for tougher mea­sures

Ex­perts scep­ti­cal res­o­lu­tion will force the North to ne­go­ti­ate an end to its nu­clear build-up

Today - - WORLD -

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

Photo: AP

Seoul con­duct­ing a live-fire ex­er­cise of its new long-range Taurus mis­sile yes­ter­day. The weapon is ca­pa­ble of strik­ing key North Korean fa­cil­i­ties even if launched from the cen­tral part of the South.

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