North Korea warned of retaliation if the United Nations Security Council approves a U.S. proposal for harsher sanctions after Pyongyang conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test.
Kim Jong Un’s regime “is closely following the moves of the U.S. with vigilance,” its state-run Korean Central News Agency said Monday, citing a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “In case the U.S. eventually does rig up the illegal and unlawful ‘resolution’ on harsher sanctions, the DPRK shall make absolutely sure that the U.S. pays a due price,” it said, using its formal country name.
“The forthcoming measures to be taken by the DPRK will cause the U.S. the greatest pain and suffering it had ever gone through in its entire history,” KCNA reported.
The warning came as the U.S. called for a vote on Monday on a draft resolution to tighten sanctions on North Korea, which has repeatedly tested bombs and missiles as it seeks the ability to target the U.S. with a nuclear weapon. Kim threw a banquet over the weekend to reward the scientists and engineers behind the Sept. 3 test, which North Korea said was a hydrogen bomb.
In response, the U.S., South Korea and Japan want the Security Council to implement stronger measures against North Korea, including bans on oil imports, exports of textiles and employment of its guest workers by other countries. They also want to freeze Kim’s assets.
Photographer: KCNA/AFP via Getty Images
The U.S.-drafted resolution is said to drop a proposed oil embargo and instead cap shipments of refined petroleum products at 2 million barrels a year and limit crude oil exports to North Korea to current levels, Reuters reported Monday, citing unidentified diplomats. The draft won’t propose blacklisting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, nor will it seek an asset freeze on the military-controlled national airline Air Koryo, Reuters said.
It’s unclear whether the proposal will pass. China and Russia, which can veto any UN measures, have expressed skepticism that tough sanctions will stop North Korea’s nuclear push and have pushed for peace talks.
China, meanwhile, has strengthened its smuggling checks in areas bordering North Korea, Yonhap News reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has said more sanctions wouldn’t work, while China is wary about cutting off Kim’s economic lifeline to the point it risks collapsing his regime. China is North Korea’s main ally and by far its biggest trading partner, including for oil shipments.
China would support further UN action if it helped restart dialogue with North Korea, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last week. Observers have said Beijing might agree to just a partial, or temporary, oil exports ban.
Chinese state banks have started suspending transactions through accounts held by North Koreans, Kyodo News reported Sunday, citing unidentified people. Branches near North Korea of at least three state banks have also banned North Koreans from opening accounts, according to the Japanese news agency.
Heightened tension over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program could have a substantial impact on South Korea’s economy and cause broader effects if it disrupts trade relations, most notably between China and the U.S., Fitch Ratings said in a statement Monday.
The U.S. and its allies in Asia are bolstering their missile interception capabilities. South Korea last week installed the full battery for its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or Thaad, while Japan is planning to introduce the Aegis Ashore shield.
Opposition lawmakers in South Korea have called for discussion over the introduction of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, but the government has reiterated in recent weeks its stance against bringing them into the country. A senior lawmaker in Japan’s ruling party last week called for debate on allowing American atomic devices on Japanese soil.
On the diplomatic front, North Korean foreign ministry officials are likely to hold informal talks with former U.S. officials in Switzerland on Monday, Japan’s Nippon Television reported, without saying where it got the information.