North Korea Threatens ‘Physical Action’ in Retaliation to U.N. Sanctions

North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, center, at a regional meeting of foreign ministers in Manila on Monday. Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China said he told Mr. Ri that the North should stop all nuclear and missile tests.
Noel Celis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

North Korea escalated its criticism of the United States, as well as its neighboring allies, on Tuesday by warning that it will mobilize all its resources to take “physical action” in retaliation against the latest round of United Nations sanctions.

The statement, carried by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, was the strongest indication yet that the country could conduct another nuclear or missile test, as it had often done in response to past United Nations sanctions. Until now, the North’s response to the latest sanctions had been limited to strident yet vague warnings, such as threatening retaliation “thousands of times over.”

“Packs of wolves are coming in attack to strangle a nation,” the North Korean statement said. “They should be mindful that the D.P.R.K.’s strategic steps accompanied by physical action will be taken mercilessly with the mobilization of all its national strength.”

D.P.R.K. stands for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

North Korea’s statement on Tuesday appeared to defy efforts by both Washington and Beijing to defuse the tense situation.

On Monday, while attending a regional security meeting of foreign ministers in Manila, the United States’ secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, kept the door open for talks with North Korea, suggesting that the country should stop its recent string of missile launches to set the stage for negotiations over its weapons programs. At the same venue, Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China said he told his North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong-ho, that the North should stop carrying out nuclear and missile tests.

Incensed by the North’s two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month, the United Nations Security Council adopted a new sanctions resolution over the weekend, the eighth since the country conducted its first nuclear test in 2006. Backers of the resolution said the new sanctions would cut North Korea’s meager annual export revenue by about a third, impeding its ability to raise cash for its weapons programs.

President Trump praised the sanctions in a tweet on Tuesday morning. “After many years of failure, countries are coming together to finally address the dangers posed by North Korea,” he said. “We must be tough & decisive!”

The sanctions ban member countries from importing coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood from North Korea. They also prohibit member nations from hosting any additional workers from the North above their current levels. Washington called the restrictions “the most stringent set of sanctions on any country in a generation.”

But strong doubts remain over how rigorously China and Russia, the North’s two neighboring allies, will enforce the sanctions.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Choe Sang-Hun