The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously for a resolution that imposes tough new sanctions against North Korea to punish it for its latest nuclear weapons test.
The March 7 vote on the resolution, which was drafted by China and the United States, reflects international condemnation of North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear tests, and its continued violation of earlier UN Security Council resolutions.
The sanctions are aimed at making it more difficult for North Korea to finance and obtain material for its weapons programs.
The U.S. ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said the sanctions will “bite hard” -- increasing North Korea’s isolation and raising the cost to North Korea’s leadership of “defying the international community.”
"North Korea will achieve nothing by continued threats and provocations. These will only further isolate the country and its people and undermine international efforts to promote peace and stability in northeast Asia," Rice said.
In Washignton, White House spokesman Jay Carney responded to North Korea's vow to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States by saying that America is fully capable of defending itself from North Korea's ballistic missiles.
Earlier on March 7, state television in Pyongyang broadcast the threat of a nuclear attack: "Since the United States is about to ignite a nuclear war, we will be exercising our right to a preemptive nuclear attack against the headquarters of the aggressor in order to protect our supreme interest."
China -- North Korea’s staunchest ally -- says it wants “full implementation” of the new UN Security Council resolution. The UN envoy from Beijing also said China wants reduced tensions and a return to diplomacy.
Russia’s UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told journalists after the Security Council vote that North Korea must “reverse its course” in order to bring about a return to diplomacy.
"We hope that [North Korea] is going to reverse its course, that it's going to comply strictly with the terms of Security Council resolutions. And that, in our view, should open the way for dialogue and negotiations in order to achieve greater security for the region, greater security for [North Korea}, and a political resolution of the problem," Churkin said.
North Korea announced on February 12 that it had successfully conducted its third underground nuclear weapons test.
The state-controlled Korean Central News Agency said the test had used a miniaturized nuclear device with greater explosive power than the country’s previous two tests -- which were in 2006 and 2009.
Before February’s announcement by Pyongyang, the U.S. Geological Survey had detected seismic activity at the test site equivalent to that of a 5.1 Richter scale earthquake.
Meanwhile, Pyongyang’s reference to a “miniaturized” device has raised international concerns that North Korea’s ultimate goal is to build a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a long-range missile.
Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP