North Korea vowed Monday to bolster its nuclear arsenal and launch "thousands-fold" revenge against the United States in response to tough U.N. sanctions imposed after its recent intercontinental ballistic missile launches.
In a transcript of a statement by Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, which was distributed to media in Manila, Pyongyang called new U.N. sanctions "fabricated" and warned there would be "strong follow-up measures" and acts of justice. It said the resolution showed the United Nations had abused its authority. It said its intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July proved that the entire United States was in its firing range, and those missiles were a legitimate means of self-defense.
The warning came two days after the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved new sanctions to punish North Korea, including a ban on coal and other exports worth over $1 billion. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, called the U.S.-drafted resolution "the single largest economic sanctions package ever leveled against" North Korea.
The North's statement "rhetorically expresses its anger" against the U.N. sanctions, but the country is not likely to launch a direct provocation against the United States, said Lim Eul Chul, a North Korea expert at South Korea's Kyungnam University. He said the North could still carry out new missile tests or a sixth atomic bomb test in the coming months under its broader weapons development timetable.
North Korea test-launched two ICBMs last month as part of its efforts to possess a long-range missile capable of striking anywhere in the mainland U.S. Both missiles were fired at highly lofted angles and analysts say the weapons could reach parts of the United States including Alaska, Los Angeles and Chicago if fired at a normal, flattened trajectory.
The centerpiece of the U.N. sanctions is a ban on North Korean exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood products — and a ban on all countries importing those products, estimated to be worth over $1 billion a year in hard currency. The resolution also bans countries from giving any additional permits to North Korean laborers, another source of foreign currency for the North, and prohibits all new joint ventures with North Korean companies.
According to a Security Council diplomat, coal has been North Korea's largest export, earning $1.2 billion last year. It was then restricted by the Security Council in November to a maximum of $400 million. This year, Pyongyang is estimated to have earned $251 million from iron and iron ore exports, $113 million from lead and lead ore exports, and $295 million from fish and seafood exports, the diplomat said. The diplomat was not authorized to speak publicly and insisted on anonymity.