North Korea declares new UN sanctions are ‘act of war’

Pyongyang threatens countries will pay a ‘heavy price’ for backing resolution to ban 90% of petroleum exports.

The latest United Nations sanctions against North Korea are an act of war and tantamount to a complete economic blockade, the country’s foreign ministry said on Sunday, threatening to punish those who supported the measure.

The UN security council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Friday for its recent intercontinental ballistic missile test, seeking to limit its access to refined petroleum products and crude oil, and its earnings from workers abroad.

The UN resolution seeks to ban nearly 90% of refined petroleum exports to North Korea by capping them at 500,000 barrels a year and, in a last-minute change, demands the repatriation of North Koreans working abroad within 24 months, instead of 12 months as first proposed.

The United States-drafted resolution also caps crude oil supplies to North Korea at 4m barrels a year and commits the council to further reductions if it were to conduct another nuclear test or launch another ICBM.

In a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency, North Korea’s foreign ministry said the US was terrified by its nuclear force and was getting “more and more frenzied in the moves to impose the harshest-ever sanctions and pressure on our country”.

The new resolution is tantamount to a complete economic blockade of North Korea, the ministry said.

“We define this ‘sanctions resolution’ rigged up by the US 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 ministry said.

North Korea on 29 November said it successfully tested a new ICBM that put the US mainland within range of its nuclear weapons.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons are a self-defensive deterrence not in contradiction of international law, its foreign ministry added.

“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,” the ministry said.

“The US should not forget [for] even a second the entity of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], which rapidly emerged as a strategic state capable of posing a substantial nuclear threat to the US mainland,” it added.

North Korea said those who voted for the sanctions would face Pyongyang’s wrath.

“Those countries that raised their hands in favour of this ‘sanctions resolution’ shall be held completely responsible for all the consequences to be caused by the ‘resolution’ and we will make sure for ever and ever that they pay heavy price for what they have done.“

Tension has been rising over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, which it pursues in defiance of years of UN security council resolutions, with bellicose rhetoric coming from both Pyongyang and the White House.

In November, North Korea demanded a halt to what it called “brutal sanctions”, saying a round imposed after its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on 3 September constituted genocide.

US diplomats have made clear they are seeking a diplomatic solution, but proposed the new, tougher sanctions resolution to ratchet up pressure on the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

China, with which North Korea does some 90% of its trade, has repeatedly called for calm and restraint from all sides.

The Chinese foreign ministry on Saturday said the new resolution also reiterated the need for a peaceful resolution via talks and that all sides needed to take steps to reduce tensions.

Widely read Chinese state-run tabloid the Global Times said on Saturday the tougher resolution was aimed at preventing war and noted the US had compromised, with no indication the UN could grant the US permission for military action.

“The difference between the new resolution and the original US proposal reflects the will of China and Russia to prevent war and chaos on the Korean peninsula. If the US proposals were accepted, only war is foreseeable,” the Global Times said in an editorial.

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