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North Korea: New UN sanctions an act of war

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Media captionNorth Korea says the latest missile is capable of reaching Washington DC

North Korea has described the latest UN sanctions imposed on the country as an “act of war”.

A foreign ministry statement said the measures were tantamount to a total economic blockade, the official KCNA news agency reported.

It added that strengthening North Korea’s deterrence was the only way to frustrate the US.

The UN Security Council imposed the new sanctions on Friday in response to Pyongyang’s ballistic missile tests.

The US-drafted resolution – unanimously backed by all 15 Security Council members – includes measures to slash North Korea’s petrol imports by up to 90%.

North Korea is already subject to a raft of sanctions from the US, the UN and the EU.

What did the North Korean statement say?

Characteristically bellicose, it described the latest UN sanctions “as a violent breach of our republic’s sovereignty and an act of war that destroys the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and a wide region.

“The United States, completely terrified at our accomplishment of the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, is getting more and more frenzied in the moves to impose the harshest-ever sanctions and pressure on our country.

“We will further consolidate our self-defensive nuclear deterrence aimed at fundamentally eradicating the US nuclear threats, blackmail and hostile moves by establishing the practical balance of force with the US.”

What exactly are the new sanctions?

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Media captionThe US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said the new sanctions cut oil and petrol imports

The US said it was seeking a diplomatic solution to the issue and drafted this new set of sanctions:

  • Deliveries of petrol products will be capped at 500,000 barrels a year, and crude oil at four million barrels a year
  • All North Korean nationals working abroad will have to return home within 24 months under the proposals, restricting a vital source of foreign currency
  • There will also be a ban on exports of North Korean goods, such as machinery and electrical equipment

The UN sanctions came in response to Pyongyang’s 28 November firing of a ballistic missile, which the US said was its highest yet.

US President Donald Trump has previously threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it launches a nuclear attack. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has described the US president as “mentally deranged”.

What about previous sanctions?

Last month, the US unveiled fresh sanctions against North Korea which it said were designed to limit the funding for its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

The measures targeted North Korean shipping operations and Chinese companies that trade with Pyongyang.

The UN also approved new sanctions following North Korea’s nuclear test on 3 September.

These measures restricted oil imports and banned textile exports – an attempt to starve the North of fuel and income for its weapons programmes.

What effect have previous sanctions had?

The US has been imposing sanctions on North Korea for more than a decade with little success.

In fact, North Korea has said fresh sanctions will only make it accelerate its nuclear programme. It has continued to test nuclear and ballistic missiles despite these recent examples of UN pressure:

  • 30 November 2016: UN targeted North Korea’s valuable coal trade with China, slashing exports by about 60% under a new sales cap. Exports of copper, nickel, silver, zinc and the sale of statues were also banned
  • What happened next? On 14 May 2017, North Korea tested what it said was a “newly developed ballistic rocket” capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead
  • 2 June 2017: UN imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on four entities and 14 officials, including the head of North Korea’s overseas spying operations
  • What happened next? On 4 July, North Korea claimed it had carried out its first successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)
  • 6 August 2017: UN banned North Korean exports of coal, ore and other raw materials and limited investments in the country, costing Pyongyang an estimated $1bn – about a third of its export economy
  • What happened next? On 3 September, North Korea said it had tested a hydrogen bomb that could be miniaturised and loaded on a long-range missile.

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