UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution imposing tough new sanctions on North Korea in response to last month’s forbidden nuclear test. The international move came just hours after the rogue state threatened a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States.
The full council, including North Korea’s main ally, China, approved the biting new sanctions. They aim at stopping Pyongyang from acquiring any new nuclear or ballistic-missile technology.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, who led the negotiations with her Chinese counterpart, said the resolution will raise the cost of North Korea's illicit nuclear program and limit its ability to finance and find materials and technology.
“Taken together these sanctions will bite and bite hard," said Rice. "They increase North Korea’s isolation and raise the cost to North Korea’s leaders of defying the international community. The entire world stands united in our commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and in our demand that North Korea comply with its international obligations.”
For the first time, the sanctions target North Korean diplomats. Pyongyang’s banking relationships and illicit transfers of bulk cash will also be scrutinized, making it harder to launder money for their ballistic-missile and nuclear programs.
There are also new travel restrictions and tighter constraints on North Korea’s importing of luxury goods such as yachts, jewelry and fancy cars, aimed at the impoverished country’s ruling elite.
Just hours before the sanctions vote, North Korea intensified its rhetoric, threatening a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States. Ambassador Rice said such threats would achieve nothing but further isolation for North Korea.
Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong said Beijing wants to see full implementation of this resolution. He stressed the goal is a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, the de-escalation of tension and a return to Six Party Talks.
“So the resolution itself is an important step, but one step cannot make [a] journey," said Li. "So we need more steps, we need [a] comprehensive strategy to bring the situation back to the right track of negotiations and dialogue.”
Earlier this week, Pyongyang also threatened to cancel the 1953 armistice agreement that ended three years of fighting in Korea. South Korean Ambassador Kim Sook said such provocations, “whether rhetorical or physical” are completely unacceptable.
“North Korea will pay [a] dear price for its illicit activities and wrongdoings," said Kim. "It is also deplorable that Pyongyang makes a series of inflammatory statements directed at the Republic of Korea and other U.N. member states.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a former South Korean foreign minister, welcomed the adoption of the sanctions resolution, saying in a statement the international community has sent “an unequivocal message” to North Korea that it will not tolerate its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
He also urged Pyongyang to refrain from “destabilizing steps or bellicose rhetoric” and to reverse course and build confidence with its neighbors.