The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 7, 2013

U.N. votes tough new sanctions on North Korea

— The U.N. Security Council responded swiftly to North Korea's latest nuclear test by punishing the reclusive regime Thursday with tough, new sanctions targeting its economy and leadership, despite Pyongyang's threat of a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the United States.

The penalties came in a unanimous resolution drafted by the U.S. along with China, which is North Korea's main benefactor. Beijing said the focus now should be to "defuse the tensions" by restarting negotiations.

The resolution sent a powerful message to North Korea's new young leader, Kim Jong Un, that the international community condemns his defiance of Security Council bans on nuclear and ballistic tests and is prepared to take even tougher action if he continues flouting international obligations.

"Taken together, these sanctions will bite, and bite hard," U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said. "They increase North Korea's isolation and raise the cost to North Korea's leaders of defying the international community."

The new sanctions came in response to North Korea's underground nuclear test on Feb. 12 and were the fourth set imposed by the U.N. since the country's first test in 2006. They are aimed at reining in Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development by requiring all countries to freeze financial transactions or services that could contribute to the programs.

North Korea kept up its warlike rhetoric Friday after the U.N. vote, issuing a statement saying it was canceling a hotline and a nonaggression pact with rival South Korea.

North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, the country's arm for dealing with cross-border affairs with Seoul, said it will retaliate with "crushing strikes" if enemies intrude into its territory "even an inch and fire even a single shell." It also said it was voiding past nuclear disarmament agreements between North and South Korea.

South and North Korea agreed in a 1992 joint declaration not to produce, test or use nuclear weapons. North Korea has since conducted three nuclear tests.

The resolution also targets North Korea's ruling elite by banning all nations from exporting expensive jewelry, yachts, luxury automobiles and race cars to the North. It also imposes new travel sanctions that would require countries to expel agents working for sanctioned North Korean companies.

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