North Korea has lashed out against "illegal" sanctions imposed by the United Nations and vowed to retaliate by putting the United States through the "greatest pain".
North Korea's UN Ambassador Han Tae Song, at a conference in Geneva yesterday, accused the US of being "fired up for political, economic and military confrontation", and warned that his country will hit back with "ultimate means".
"The forthcoming measures by DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) will make the US suffer the greatest pain it ever experienced in its history," he said.
His comments came as the UN Security Council, which counts the US as a member, voted unanimously on Monday to impose a new round of sanctions against North Korea for its sixth nuclear test on Sept 3. The new measures include the first-ever cap on oil exports to the isolated state as well as a ban on its textile and labour exports.
UN members, including South Korea, Japan and China, have welcomed the new sanctions.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said it is crucial to put "an unprecedented level of pressure" on Pyongyang for it to change course.
South Korea's presidential spokesman Park Soo Hyun said: "The only way for Pyongyang to get out from diplomatic isolation and economic pressure is to join the table for talks for a complete, irreversible and verifiable dismantlement of its nuclear weapons programme."
NOT OUT FOR WAR
We don't take pleasure in further strengthening sanctions today. We are not looking for war.
MS NIKKI HALEY, US Ambassador to the United Nations, after the UN Security Council voted to impose a new round of sanctions against North Korea.
NEW APPROACH NEEDED
The US needs to switch from isolation to communication in order to end an endless loop on the Korean peninsula, where nuclear and missile tests trigger tougher sanctions and tougher sanctions invite further tests.
CHINA'S OFFICIAL XINHUA NEWS AGENCY, in a commentary.
China's UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi urged Pyongyang to take seriously the global community's will to end its nuclear and missile programme.
Yesterday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that if China does not follow the UN sanctions on North Korea, he will seek new sanctions on Beijing, Reuters reported.
He told CNBC: "If China doesn't follow these sanctions, we will put additional sanctions on them and prevent them from accessing the US and international dollar system, and that is quite meaningful."
Amid tensions over North Korea, US President Donald Trump is likely to make a stop in China in November on his first official trip to Asia, said wire reports.
The resolution marked the eighth round of UN sanctions on North Korea since 2006, when it held its first nuclear test. It was a watered-down version of the draft submitted by the US, due to objections from China and Russia. The US had sought a total ban on oil supplies, but China and Russia, both suppliers of oil to the North, did not want measures that could hurt the North Korean people and destabilise the country.
Still, America's UN envoy Nikki Haley told the Security Council after the vote that the new sanctions are the strongest imposed on North Korea and will "cut deep" as they target the regime's ability to fuel and fund its weapons programme.
"They give us a much better chance to halt the regime's ability to fuel and finance its nuclear and missile programmes. But we all know these steps work only if all nations implement them completely and aggressively," she said.
Key sanctions include a freeze on crude oil imports based on the current level of four million barrels a year and a two million barrel cap on the import of refined petroleum products, as well as a freeze on new work permits for North Koreans working abroad. There are about 93,000 North Koreans earning money overseas for the state, Ms Haley said. About 20 per cent are employed in China, another 20 per cent in Russia, and the rest in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South-east Asia.
The new resolution will also allow UN member states to inspect vessels on the high seas if there are "reasonable grounds" to believe they are carrying prohibited items.
South Korea's national security office predicted that the new sanctions, in conjunction with existing bans on coal, mineral and seafood exports, would cut North Korea's annual export revenue by over 90 per cent. Experts estimated that this can translate to export earnings of up to US$1.3 billion (S$1.75 billion).
But some analysts felt the resolution fell short of expectations.
Dr Cheong Seong Chang of the Sejong Institute think-tank said the move will not have a huge impact on the North's military as crude oil supply remains the same. "The move is significant in that it paves the way for the complete suspension of oil in the future... but there is a limit to how much it can do to make the North change its policy."