North Korea said yesterday that UN sanctions would only make its nuclear and missile programs stronger, with the foreign ministry hinting at further nuclear tests to come.
In a statement carried by state media, the ministry said the latest sanctions, which Pyongyang “totally rejects,” would only lead the country to reinforce its status “as a nuclear weapons state and satellite launcher.”
Even before Thursday’s UN Security Council vote imposing tougher sanctions on Pyongyang over its nuclear test last month, the North Korean leadership had said it would conduct more atomic and long-range missile tests in the future.
The North’s nuclear test last month was its largest yet in terms of apparent yield, but outside monitors have been unable to confirm the North’s claim that it had successfully detonated a miniaturized device.
Experts are split on whether North Korea has the ability to fit a warhead on a rocket, although there is general agreement that it is years from developing a genuine intercontinental ballistic missile.
The foreign ministry statement said that the latest UN sanctions, instead of weakening North Korea’s nuclear deterrent, would only increase its capability “a thousand times,” according to the Korean Central News Agency.
Pointing to a series of sanctions “cooked up” by the UN over the past eight years, the ministry said they had only resulted in North Korea “bolstering its nuclear deterrent qualitatively and quantitatively.”
However, there were no signs that such actions were imminent, analysts say.
“The North will wait and see how the United States implements the sanctions, which will take a while,” University of North Korean Studies professor Yang Moo-jin said.
“In the meantime, China [the North’s sole major ally] is likely to move to have diplomacy back to work,” he said.
China, which backed the UN resolution, has urged “relevant parties to exercise calm and restraint, and avoid actions that might further escalate tensions,” describing the situation on the Korean Peninsula as “highly complex and sensitive.”
Even though China endorsed the punishment at the UN Security Council, its foreign minister said yesterday that sanctions against the isolated state were not “the fundamental way” to resolve the crisis.
“We always believe that sanctions are not the end of Security Council actions, nor are sanctions the fundamental way to resolve the relevant issues,” Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) told reporters in Beijing.
Korea University political science professor Yoo Ho-yeol said the tone of the latest North Korea statement was relatively moderate, especially compared with the one issued by the same ministry on Thursday.
In an outpouring of warlike rhetoric prior to the UN Security Council meeting, the ministry threatened a “pre-emptive” nuclear strike against the US and and all other “aggressors.”
At that time, it also warned a second Korean war was “unavoidable,” with both the US and South Korea refusing Pyongyang’s demands to cancel a large-scale joint military exercise next week.