SEOUL – The North Korean government said on Wednesday that it will redouble its efforts to strengthen its nuclear and missile programs to be on par with the United States militarily, in response to new sanctions imposed by the United Nations.
The Kim Jong-un regime responded with strong words to the new sanctions passed on Monday in the UN Security Council and said it will increase its military capabilities.
In a statement published by the state news agency KCNA, the North Korean foreign ministry said that the sanctions were “aimed at depriving the DPRK of its legitimate right for self-defense and completely suffocating its state and people through full-scale economic blockade.”
The UN Security Council on Monday had unanimously approved a new round of sanctions aimed at stifling North Korea’s economy, which includes limitations on Pyongyang’s petroleum and by-product imports as well as a ban on its textile exports.
In the first official reaction from Pyongyang, which rejected the sanctions categorically, the regime said that it will continue developing its programs at a faster pace.
“The adoption of another illegal and evil ‘resolution on sanctions’ piloted by the US served as an occasion for the DPRK to verify that the road it chose to go down was absolutely right and to strengthen its resolve to follow this road at a faster pace without the slightest diversion until this fight to the finish is over,” the ministry said.
It also held Washington responsible for the situation, and said that it was necessary to establish a “practical equilibrium” with the US to maintain peace and security in the region.
The sanctions are less drastic than what was initially intended by the US, who also called for a ban on UN member countries selling gas, oil and refined petroleum products to North Korea.
Russia and China, who have veto powers, opposed certain conditions in the draft resolutions, opening a new round of negotiations which concluded with a decision to soften the measure to curtailing crude oil sales to the country rather than prohibiting them completely.
US President Donald Trump said “we think it’s just another very small step (...) but the sanctions are nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen.”
Trump has not ruled out an attack on North Korea and said he is considering suspension of US trade with all countries that do business with Pyongyang.
The new set of sanctions, the ninth such measure against the regime since 2006, imposes a cap of half a million barrels on the export of refined petroleum products to North Korea for the three months starting Oct. 1, apart from a 2-million barrel cap for the year starting Jan. 1, 2018.
Due to sanctions, including those imposed earlier banning exports of coal, iron and seafood, North Korea is set to lose $2.7 billion or 90 percent of its total exports, according to US estimates from last year.
The UN Security Council approved these sanctions following the North Korean army’s sixth and strongest nuclear test on Sept. 3, which Pyongyang said was a hydrogen bomb.