North Korea threatens to retaliate against US for sanctions
SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea lashed out Monday against tough new U.N. economic sanctions, threatening to retaliate against the United States and insisting its nuclear weapons program is not up for negotiation.
The statement, published by the state-run news agency, came hours after President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in agreed on the need to exert “maximum pressure” against the North after it test-fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month.
The 15-member U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution with measures aimed at punishing North Korea for violating a ban on using ballistic-missile technology. It includes an export ban on coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood worth more than $1 billion, about a third of its total exports last year. The U.S.-drafted resolution also prohibits countries from increasing the number of North Korean laborers working abroad, bans new joint ventures with the North as well as any new investments in current joint ventures.
It came amid rising fears of military conflict as Washington and its allies scramble to deal with the growing threat from the communist state.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opened the window to a possible return to long-stalled negotiations if North Korea ceased its provocations.
"The best signal that North Korea could give us that they’re prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches," Tillerson said Sunday while in the Philippines for a regional security forum.
But North Korea rejected that idea, reiterating its insistence that it won’t put its nuclear weapons program on the negotiation table “as long as the U.S. nuclear threats and machinations continue.”
“We will never back off even an inch in the way we chose for strengthening our national nuclear power,” said a lengthy governmental statement carried on the Korean Central News Agency.
It also warned the U.S. that it would be a mistake to believe “that its land is safe across the ocean.”
“We will retaliate 1,100-fold to make the U.S. pay a price for its brutal crime against our country and people,” KCNA said.
Diplomatic efforts have intensified following the most recent missile test on July 28. North Korea also conducted two underground nuclear tests last year.
Experts say it has shown surprising progress toward its stated goal of developing a missile that could reach the U.S. mainland but has yet to master the necessary re-entry technology or to miniaturize a nuclear warhead to fit on the tip. In an hourlong telephone conversation, Trump and Moon “agreed that their countries must put maximum pressure and sanctions on North Korea in cooperation with the international community to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs and choose the right path,” presidential spokesman Park Soo-hyun said.
Moon also said he expects the new resolution will “give momentum to making North Korea change its attitude,” Park said. The South Korean leader also reiterated hopes that the North would accept his recent proposal for rare military talks and the resumption of reunions for families split by the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.
The latest U.N. resolution was notable because it won support from North Korean allies and major trading partners China and Russia. Those countries frequently oppose such strong sanctions due to fears they could lead to a regime collapse that could prompt a wave of refugees and eliminate a buffer zone for the some 28,500 U.S. servicemembers based in the South.
“Just completed call with President Moon of South Korea. Very happy and impressed with 15-0 United Nations vote on North Korea sanctions,” Trump tweeted.
Beijing has said it is fully committed to enforcing sanctions, but it is urging all sides to return to long-stalled negotiations.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged the North not to violate the sanctions decision and to “maintain calm,” during a meeting Sunday with his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho on the sidelines of a regional security forum in the Philippines.
“Do not violate the U.N.’s decision or provoke the international society’s goodwill by conducting missile launches or nuclear tests,” Wang was quoted as telling Ri.
Tensions also were likely to rise as the U.S. and South Korean militaries gear up for annual joint war games due to begin Aug. 21. North Korea considers the military exercises known as Ulchi Freedom Guardian to be a rehearsal for an invasion despite the allies’ insistence that they’re defensive in nature.
Stars and Stripes reporter Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.