North Korea says a sweeping new round of U.N. sanctions aimed at choking its nuclear program by cutting off as much as a quarter of its foreign trade revenue is an "abuse of power" and will be met with tough countermeasures.
Vice Foreign Minister Han Song Ryol called a gathering of foreign diplomats in the capital Friday to lay out his country's opposition to the sanctions, which are the harshest to date and have the support of China, North Korea's primary trading partner.
"We categorically reject the U.N. Security Council resolution on sanctions against our country," Han said. "The adoption of the resolution is another open denial of our country's right to self-defense, which goes beyond the mandate of the U.N. Security Council — this is an abuse of power and an infringement upon the sovereignty of our country."
North Korea's Foreign Ministry, in a statement issued soon after the sanctions in response to the North's nuclear test in September were announced, warned of tough countermeasures, but didn't say what they might be.
"Sanctions will inevitably escalate tensions," the ministry said in the statement, which was quoted by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
Han said North Korea was being unfairly singled out by its political adversaries.
"If a nuclear test is such a serious issue, why has the U.N. Security Council never imposed sanctions on the major powers that have carried out so many nuclear tests? And how can anyone understand these sanctions," he said.
The Security Council voted on the sanctions Wednesday after months of diplomatic wrangling over how to respond to the September test, the North's fifth and biggest.
The new sanctions aim to slash about one-quarter of the North's total export income.
They target its hard currency revenues by placing a cap on coal exports, cutting them by at least 62 percent or by an estimated $800 million.
The measures ban North Korea's exports of non-ferrous metals, sanction 11 government officials as well as 10 entities linked to the nuclear program and crack down on Pyongyang's access to the international banking system.
They even prohibit its export of statues, a source of hard currency mostly through sales to African nations. And if the North fails to comply with U.N. efforts to stop its nuclear and long-range missile development programs, the resolution — for the first time — threatens to suspend some or all of its U.N. privileges.
South Korea and Japan on Friday announced unilateral sanctions — which are being renewed in Japan's case — in conjunction with the U.N. move.
South Korea said it blacklisted dozens of new high-profile North Korean officials and entities by banning South Koreans from engaging in financial dealing with them. Japan said it will more strictly block visits from North Korean officials and penalize related groups, including those in China.
More unilateral action is also expected from Washington.
Asked about the South Korean and Japanese unilateral sanctions, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters at a regular briefing Friday that China is opposed to such steps and that all sides should avoid taking more provocative actions.
"China has long been opposed to any unilateral sanctions against a certain country beyond the framework of the U.N. Security Council, and even more so when the unilateral sanction jeopardizes China's legitimate rights," Geng said.