North Korea defiant over UN sanctions

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The United Nations Security Council has unanimously agreed to enforce tighter sanctions against North Korea. AFP

SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea showed trademark defiance yesterday over new UN sanctions imposed after its sixth and largest nuclear test, vowing to redouble efforts to fight off what it said was the threat of a US invasion.

US President Donald Trump said Monday’s sanctions, unanimously agreed on Monday by the 15-member UN Security Council, were just a small step towards what is ultimately needed to rein in Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programmes.

The North’s foreign ministry said the resolutions were an infringement on its legitimate right to self-defence and aimed at “completely suffocating its state and people through full-scale economic blockade”.

“The DPRK will redouble the efforts to increase its strength to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and right to existence and to preserve peace and security of the region by establishing the practical equilibrium with the US,” it said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

The statement echoed comments on Tuesday by the North’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva,
Han Tae-song, who said Pyongyang was “ready to use a form of ultimate means”.

“The forthcoming measures … will make the US suffer the greatest pain it ever experienced in its history,” Mr Han said.

The North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper also accused South Korea of being Washington’s “puppet”, criticising Seoul’s agreement with the US to amend an existing bilateral guideline
that will now allow the South to use unlimited warhead payloads on its missiles.

The UNSC agreed to boost sanctions on North Korea, banning its textile exports and capping fuel supplies, and making it illegal for foreign firms to form commercial joint ventures with North Korean entities.

The UN resolution was triggered by North Korea’s test of what it said was a hydrogen bomb.

Damage to mountainous terrain at the North’s nuclear test site in Punggye-ri seen in satellite imagery taken after the latest test was more extensive than anything seen after the five previous tests, the Washington-based 38 North project said.

There was also activity at another location in the Mt Mantap site involving large vehicles and mining equipment that suggests “onsite work could now be changing focus to further prepare those other portals for future underground nuclear testing”, said 38 North, which monitors North Korea.

The North accuses the US, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean war, of continual plans for invasion.

Yesterday, South Korea said traces of radioactive xenon gas were confirmed to be from a North Korean nuclear test earlier this month, but it was unable to conclude whether the test had
been a hydrogen bomb as Pyongyang claimed.

The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) said its land-based xenon detector in the northeastern part of the country found traces of xenon-133 isotope on nine occasions, while its mobile equipment off the country’s east coast detected traces of the isotope four times.

“It was difficult to find out how powerful the nuclear test was with the amount of xenon detected, but we can say the xenon was from North Korea,” Choi Jongbae, executive commissioner, told a news conference in Seoul.

The commission could not confirm what kind of nuclear test the North conducted, he added.

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