Toronto Star

N. Korea sanctions draw vow of revenge

‘There is no bigger mistake than the United States believing that its land is safe across the ocean’


NEW YORK— Stung by onerous new sanctions from the UN Security Council, North Korea has 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 Monday it would never relinquish its missile and nuclear arsenals, and called the penalties a panicky U.S.-led response to its growing military might.

The North Korean response, in statements from its official news agency, foreign minister and UN 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.

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 was attended by U.S. 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.

Lim Eul Chul, a North Korea expert at South Korea’s Kyungnam University, said the comments by the North demonstrat­e how angry it is over the UN sanctions, but that the country is not likely to launch a pre-emptive strike against the United States. He said the North could still carry out further missile tests or a sixth atomic bomb test in the coming months under its broader weapons developmen­t timetable.

Pyongyang’s UN 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.”

The response came two days after the Security Council approved the measures in a15-0 vote that basically left Kim bereft of any powerful supporter on the issue, including China, which helped the United States draft the new penalties.

If enforced, the measures could lop an estimated $1 billion (U.S.) annually off North Korea’s meagre export revenue of $3 billion. The resolution also bars countries from giving any additional permits to North Korean labourers, another source of foreign currency for the North, and prohibits all new joint ventures with North Korean companies.

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.

North Korea’s UN 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.

Lim, the North Korea expert, said the North will probably squeeze its ordinary citizens to help finance its nuclear and missile programs. Shin Beomchul of the Seoul-based Korea National Diplomatic Academy said sanctions that can force a change from North Korea would include a ban on China’s annual, mostly free shipment of 500,000 tons of crude oil to North Korea and the deporting by UN member states of the tens of thousands of North Korean workers currently dispatched abroad.

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