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UN Imposes Harsh Sanctions on North Korea After Nuclear Test

KimJongUnThe wrath of the world came crashing down on North Korea today when, as expected, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a new host of sanctions against the rogue state for conducting an underground nuclear test last month.

The vote came hours after North Korea, in a characteristic tantrum, threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States and South Korea — although almost every expert has concluded that North Korea isn’t close to the technical capability to mount such a strike.

The sanctions, which U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice declared will “bite hard,” are considered extremely harsh. They were prepared by the U.S. and China, working together, which is a crucial development since Beijing had been the closest ally of the increasingly isolated nation.

The move demonstrated Beijing’s growing annoyance with North Korea and its stubborn irrationality. The Chinese had asked North Korean president Kim Jong Un not to proceed with the Feb. 12 underground nuclear test, but  he was not interested in being reasonable.

The resolution, the Security Council’s fourth against North Korea, contains new restrictions that will block financial transactions, limit its reliance on bulk transfers of cash, further empower other countries to inspect suspicious North Korean cargo, and expand a list of items that the country is prohibited from importing.

In addition, the sanctions put new constraints on North Korean diplomats, raising the risk that they could be expelled from host countries.

At a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chairman Robert Menendez described the nuclear strike threat as “absurd and suicidal.”

“There should be no doubt about our determination, willingness and capability to neutralize and counter any threat that North Korea may present,” Menendez said. “I do not think the regime in Pyongyang wants to commit suicide, but that, as they must surely know, would be the result of any attack on the United States.”

Despite threats from international diplomats, North Korea last month followed through with its third nuclear test, inciting an outcry from U.S. officials and the United Nations Security Council overseeing the situation.
Though North Korea claims the tests are for developing nuclear energy technology, there is significant concern that the country is developing nuclear weapons. American military forces have been conducting naval exercises alongside South Korean troops in an apparent show of force in the Korean peninsula.
North Korean officials view the exercises as an act of aggression by the United States, and have said that the most recent test was a “first response” in case of future threats from the U.S.

“This nuclear test was our preliminary measure, for which we exercised our most restraint,” a statement from North Korea’s state news agency said. “If the United States continues to come out with hostility and complicates the situation, we will be forced to take stronger, second and third responses in consecutive steps.”

After the vote, Rice told reporters, “The strength, breadth and severity of these sanctions will raise the cost to North Korea of its illicit nuclear program and further constrain its ability to finance and source materials and technology for its ballistic missile, conventional and nuclear weapons programs.”

“Taken together, these sanctions will bite and bite hard,” she said. “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.”

Li Baodong, the ambassador from China, which angered the North Korean government by supporting the sanctions, told reporters that his country was “committed to safeguarding peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”  He noted that the resolution also stressed the need for resumed talks.

“This resolution is a very important step, but one step cannot make a journey,” he told reporters. “We need a comprehensive strategy to bring the situation back to dialogue. We need wisdom, persistence, perseverance.”

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