by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Sept 18, 2017
North Korea bitterly denounced new sanctions on its economy as "vicious, unethical and inhumane" and warned the measures would only accelerate progress on its nuclear weapons programme, state media reported Monday.
The angry statement from Pyongyang's foreign ministry came as the crisis surrounding the reclusive state was set to dominate the annual UN gathering of world leaders.
The UN Security Council last week imposed a new raft of sanctions on North Korea, slapping an export ban on textiles, freezing work permits to North Korean guest workers and placing a cap on oil supplies.
The international community is scrambling to contain an increasingly belligerent Pyongyang, which has conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test and fired long-range missiles over Japan that it says could reach the US mainland.
Pyongyang says it needs nuclear weapons to protect itself from US forces. It says it is determined to build a weapons system capable of delivering a nuclear warhead capable of hitting the American mainland.
The state news agency KCNA, quoting the foreign ministry statement, said the economic restrictions -- which US officials estimate could deny the impoverished state more than $2 billion in revenue -- were an "act of hostility to physically exterminate the people of" North Korea.
"The increased moves of the US and its vassal forces to impose sanctions and pressure on the DPRK will only increase our pace towards the ultimate completion of the state nuclear force," it said, referring to the country by the initials of its official name.
The effectiveness of the sanctions depends largely on whether China, North Korea's ally and main economic partner, will fully implement them.
US President Donald Trump, who was was due to address the UN in New York Tuesday, spoke by phone to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping Monday, with the White House saying the two men were committed to "maximising pressure on North Korea."
The US flew four F-35B stealth fighter jets and two B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula on Monday in a blunt show of force.
Trump says he has not ruled out a military option in the crisis. War could leave millions of people in the South Korean capital of Seoul -- and 28,500 US soldiers stationed in the South -- exposed.
US flies bombers over Korean peninsula for drill: Seoul
The flight was to "demonstrate the deterrence capability of the US-South Korea alliance against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats", the ministry said in a statement.
They were the first flights since the North conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on September 3 and staged an intermediate-range missile test over Japan last Friday, sending regional tensions soaring.
The US jets flew alongside four South Korean F-15K jet fighters as part of "routine" training, the statement said, adding that the allies would continue such exercises to "improve their joint operation capabilities against contingencies".
The previous such flights were on August 31.
Separately, China and Russia began a joint naval exercise east of the Korean peninsula.
The drill will be held in waters between the Russian port of Vladivostok and the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk, further north, the Chinese defence ministry said.
Chinese independent military analyst Wei Dongxu said it was mainly a submarine hunting exercise and not directly related to the situation on the Korean peninsula.
"However, it demonstrates a common determination to maintain regional stability and deter forces or countries from trying to move into the northeast Asia area," he said.
- 'Strongest possible measures' -
The UN Security Council last week imposed a fresh set of sanctions on North Korea over its missile and atomic weapons programmes, though Washington toned down its original proposals to secure support from China and Russia.
Moscow backs Beijing's proposal for a freeze on North Korea's nuclear and missile tests in exchange for a suspension of US-South Korea military drills, which China blames for fanning regional tensions.
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has rejected the proposal as "insulting" and said that if Pyongyang should pose a serious threat to the US or its allies, "North Korea will be destroyed".
North Korea's weapons drive is set to dominate US President Donald Trump's address to the UN General Assembly later Monday and his meetings with South Korean and Japanese leaders this week.
Tensions flared when Kim Jong-Un's regime tested what it termed a hydrogen bomb many times more powerful than its previous device.
The North also fired a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific last Friday, responding to the new UN sanctions with what appeared to be its longest-ever missile flight.
Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-In spoke by phone Saturday and vowed to exert "stronger pressure" on the North, with Moon's office warning that further provocation would put it on a "path of collapse".
The US president has not ruled out a military option, which could leave millions of people in the South Korean capital -- and 28,500 US soldiers stationed in the South -- vulnerable to potential retaliatory attack.
Trump's National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster has said the US would "have to prepare all options" if sanctions prove insufficient to stop the North's weapons drive.
Beijing (AFP) Sept 15, 2017
China feeds North Korea's energy needs through the "Sino-DPRK Friendship Oil Pipeline", but Washington wants Beijing to turn off the tap to pressure its neighbour into abandoning its nuclear programme. After North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan on Friday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Beijing again to use "the very powerful tool of oil supply" as leverage on its nu ... read more
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