N. Korea reacts with threats
Hit at U.S. hinted over sanctions
Stung by onerous new sanctions from the United Nations Security Council, North Korea on Monday threatened retaliation “thousands of times” and hinted at a possible attack on the United States.
In its first major response to the sanctions drafted by the United States and adopted Saturday, North Korea said it would never relinquish its missile and nuclear arsenals and called the penalties a panicky American-led response to its growing military might.
The North Korean response, in statements from its official news agency, foreign minister and U.N. mission, suggested that the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, was doubling down on his goal of developing a nuclear-armed missile that could hit the continental United States.
The warnings began with a statement from
North Korea’s official news agency, threatening to make the United States “pay the price for its crime thousands of times,” referring to the new sanctions.
“There is no bigger mistake than the United States believing that its land is safe across the ocean,” the news agency said, calling the sanctions a “violent infringement of its sovereignty” that was caused by a “heinous U. S. plot to isolate and stifle” the country.
The North said it would take an unspecified “resolute action of justice” and would never place its nuclear program on the negotiating table or “flinch an inch” from its push to strengthen its nuclear deterrence as long as U.S. hostility against North Korea persists.
North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong ho, echoed the hostility later in a statement released at an annual meeting of foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Manila that also was attended by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Ri described North Korea’s missiles and nuclear weapons as defensive measures against what he called the threat of annihilation by the United States.
“We will, under no circumstances, put the nuclear and ballistic missiles on the negotiating table,” Ri said in the statement released to reporters at the conference.
“Neither shall we flinch even an inch from the road to bolstering up the nuclear forces chosen by ourselves unless the hostile policy and nuclear threat of the U. S. against the DPRK are fundamentally eliminated,” Ri said, using the initials for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea.
The country’s U.N. mission also issued a lengthy statement denouncing the sanctions, which were meant to dissuade North Korea from pressing ahead with its missile and nuclear weapons programs.
The statement called the sanctions, which include prohibitions on North Korean exports of coal, iron and seafood, “a flagrant infringement upon its sovereignty.”
North Korea’s U.N. mission said the sanctions revealed that the United States and its allies, instead of accepting North Korea and learning to coexist with it, had become “more frenzied and desperate” over the country’s growing military strength.
“Watching them go frantic only redoubles the DPRK’s pride in the country’s great might and reaffirms its faith that the path it had chosen is the only way to survive and prosper,” the mission’s statement said.
The statement also described the sanctions as “more heinous than ever, placing a total ban even on normal trade activities and economic exchange,” and blamed the United States directly, saying the measures showed “its evil intention to obliterate the ideology and system of the DPRK and exterminate its people.”
Ridiculing the Security Council’s assertion that North Korea is a threat to international security, the statement called this a “gangster-like logic indicating that the rest of the world should either become U.S. colonies serving its interests or fall victim to its aggression.”
The response came two days after the Security Council approved the measures in a 15-0 vote that left Kim bereft of any powerful supporter on the issue, including China, which helped the United States draft the new penalties.
Nations raced Monday to ensure that North Korea’s biggest trading partners actually carry them out, an elusive task that has undercut past attempts to strong-arm Pyongyang into abandoning its nuclear weapons.
If enforced, the measures could lop an estimated $1 billion annually off North Korea’s meager export revenue of $3 billion. The centerpiece of the U.N. sanctions is a ban on North Korean exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood products.
The resolution was a direct response to North Korea’s successful tests last month of two intercontinental ballistic missiles that for the first time demonstrated an ability to reach the U.S. mainland.
The sanctions are the toughest of the seven Security Council resolutions adopted since 2006 aimed at curbing North Korea’s nuclear militarization.
As President Donald Trump demanded full and speedy implementation of the new penalties, his top diplomat laid out a narrow path for the North to return to negotiations that could ultimately see sanctions lifted. Stop testing missiles for an “extended period,” Tillerson said, and the U.S. might deem North Korea ready to talk.
“This is not a ‘give me 30 days and we are ready to talk.’ It’s not quite that simple. So it is all about how we see their attitude towards approaching a dialogue with us.”
Even as they celebrate a diplomatic victory in persuading China and Russia to sign on to the new sanctions, the U.S. and other countries are deeply concerned that failure to rigorously enforce them could significantly blunt their impact. Since the vote, Washington has put Beijing in particular on notice that it’s watching closely to ensure China doesn’t repeat its pattern of carrying out sanctions for a while, then returning to business as usual with the pariah nation on its border.
Already, there are signs that nations with the strongest ties to North Korea may fall short of the stringent enforcement that Trump and others seek. Although Russia voted for the sanctions, its U.N. ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, told the Security Council that sanctions “cannot be a goal in itself” and “shall not be used for economic strangling” of North Korea, according to the Russian state news agency Tass.
Still, the key concern is over China, the North’s economic lifeline and biggest trade partner.
John Delury, a China and North Korea expert at Yonsei University in Seoul, noted that the Chinese population that lives along the 800-mile border with North Korea is already struggling financially. Triggering an economic meltdown in North Korea would inevitably produce a spillover effect in China, he said.
“They’re almost going from sanctions to embargo and really trying to slam the North Korean economy,” Delury said. “If you really start to go down that path, I’m not sure how far the Chinese will go down with you.”
The other concern: that by the time the sanctions really start cutting into the North’s economy, potentially changing the government’s thinking about the wisdom of pursuing nuclear weapons, it may be too late.
Two unprecedented tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles by North Korea last month were the latest signs that its weapons program is approaching the point of no return. While the North now boasts missiles it says can reach major U.S. cities, it is not believed to have mastered the ability to cap them with nuclear warheads, but that step may not be far off.
Tillerson conceded there would likely be a lag period before the sanctions “actually have a practical bite on their revenues.”
“I think perhaps the more important element to that is just the message that this sends to North Korea about the unacceptability the entire international community finds what they’re doing to be,” he said.
“We will, under no circumstances, put the nuclear and ballistic missiles on the negotiating table.”
— Ri Yong ho, North Korea’s foreign minister
South Korean soldiers patrol along the barbed-wire fence in Paju, South Korea, on Monday near the border with North Korea.