March 7, 2013

U.N. approves sanctions as N. Korea vows to nuke U.S.

Edith M. Lederer and Hyung-Jin Kim / The Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Thursday for tough new sanctions to punish North Korea for its latest nuclear test, a move that sparked a furious Pyongyang to threaten a nuclear strike against the United States.

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North Koreans attend a rally in Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Thursday. North Korea on Thursday amplified its threatening rhetoric hours ahead of a vote by U.N. diplomats on whether to level new sanctions against Pyongyang for its recent nuclear test.

AP

The vote by the U.N.'s most powerful body on a resolution drafted by North Korea's closest ally, China, and the United States sends a powerful message that the international community condemns the ballistic missile and nuclear tests — and repeated violation of Security Council resolutions.

Immediately before the vote, an unidentified spokesman for Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry said the North will exercise its right for "a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors" because Washington is pushing to start a nuclear war against the North.

It appeared to be the most specific open threat of a nuclear strike by any country against another.

Although North Korea boasts of nuclear bombs and pre-emptive strikes, it is not thought to have mastered the ability to produce a warhead small enough to put on a missile capable of reaching the U.S. It is believed to have enough nuclear fuel, however, for several crude nuclear devices.

The new sanctions are aimed at reining in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs by making it more difficult for Pyongyang to finance and obtain material for these programs, tracking illegal diplomatic activity and intensifying inspections of cargo to and from the country. In a measure targeted at the reclusive nation's ruling elite, the resolution bans all nations from exporting expensive jewelry, yachts, luxury automobiles and racing cars to the North.

After the 15-0 vote, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters that "taken together, these sanctions will bite and bite hard."

Responding to Pyongyang's nuclear strike threat, she said, "North Korea will achieve nothing by continued threats and provocation."

She urged North Korea's leaders to heed President Barack Obama's call to follow the path of peace. If it doesn't, she said, the Security Council is committed in the resolution to take further measures.

China's U.N. Ambassador Li Bao Dong said the top priority now is to "bring down the heat" and focus on diplomacy and restarting the six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

In North Korea, Army Gen. Kang Pyo Yong told a crowd of tens of thousands that North Korea is ready to fire long-range nuclear-armed missiles at Washington.

"Intercontinental ballistic missiles and various other missiles, which have already set their striking targets, are now armed with lighter, smaller and diversified nuclear warheads and are placed on a standby status," Kang said. "When we shell (the missiles), Washington, which is the stronghold of evils, .... will be engulfed in a sea of fire."

The statement by the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman was carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

It accused the U.S. of leading efforts to slap sanctions on North Korea. The statement said the new sanctions would only advance the timing for North Korea to fulfill previous vows to take "powerful second and third countermeasures" against its enemies. It hasn't elaborated on those measures.

The statement said North Korea "strongly warns the U.N. Security Council not to make another big blunder like the one in the past when it earned the inveterate grudge of the Korean nation by acting as a war servant for the U.S. in 1950."

North Korea demanded the Security Council immediately dismantle the American-led U.N. Command that's based in Seoul and move to end the state of war that exists on the Korean Peninsula, which continues six decades after fighting stopped because an armistice, not a peace treaty, ended the war.

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