North Korea said Thursday that the most recent U.S. sanctions imposed on its leader, Kim Jong Un, amounted to a "declaration of war" and vowed to take strong retaliatory measures against "the worst-ever hostile act."
On Wednesday, the U.S. blacklisted Kim, along with 10 other people and five government ministries and departments, for the first time over human rights abuses.
"Under Kim Jong Un, North Korea continues to inflict intolerable cruelty and hardship on millions of its own people, including extrajudicial killings, forced labor and torture," Adam Szubin, the U.S. Department of Treasury's acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.
In its first response to the U.S. action, Pyongyang urged Washington to withdraw the sanctions immediately, warning that the North would otherwise sever all diplomatic channels.
Ten other top officials were accused by the U.S. of being behind widespread abuses that have made North Korea "among the world's most repressive countries."
South Korea welcomed the U.S sanctions, saying it hoped the move would shine a light on human rights "violations" in the North.