Sanctions imposed by the United Nations last week are an “act of war,” Pyongyang said on Sunday as it specifically warned the United States that North Korea poses a “substantial nuclear threat to the U.S. mainland.” In a statement, North Korea’s foreign ministry said the sanctions amount to a full economic blockade and warned that all countries that supported the measure—presumably also its allies China and Russia—will suffer as a result.
“We define this ‘sanctions resolution’ rigged up by the U.S. 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 Foreign Ministry statement said. “There is no more fatal blunder than the miscalculation that the U.S. and its followers could check by already worn-out ‘sanctions’ the victorious advance of our people who have brilliantly accomplished the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”
The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved fresh sanctions on North Korea on Friday that ban almost all refined petroleum exports to North Korea and cap crude oil imports at four million barrels per year. The U.S.-drafted sanctions also say that North Koreans working abroad have 24 months to return home, which would cut back on much-needed hard currency coming into the country.
The sanctions resolution also commits the Council to impose further penalties if Pyongyang carries out another nuclear test or launches another intercontinental ballistic missile. But North Korea made clear Sunday that it won’t be swayed. “We will further consolidate our self-defensive nuclear deterrence aimed at fundamentally eradicating the U.S. nuclear threats, blackmail and hostile moves by establishing the practical balance of force with the U.S.,” the statement said.
Although the sanctions approved on Friday were the toughest yet against the totalitarian regime, that is hardly unique and options are running out. The New York Times explained:
The new sanctions are the toughest ever, but so were the last two rounds: In August, the Security Council blocked North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood, and in September, it blocked textile exports, curbed oil imports and called for inspections of ships that have visited the North’s ports.
Experts, and even the White House, agree that the United States is running out of sanctions options. The C.I.A. assessment is that no amount of economic sanctions will force the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, to give up his country’s nuclear program.
Still, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said after Friday’s vote that more could still be done to isolate Pyongyang. “Should the North Korean regime conduct another nuclear or ballistic missile test, this resolution commits the Security Council to take even further action,” Haley said. “It sends the unambiguous message to Pyongyang that further defiance will invite further punishment and isolation.”
President Donald Trump had celebrated the sanctions through Twitter, characterizing the Security Council vote as a demonstration that “the world wants peace, not death!”