UN approves sanctions after North Korean nuke threat

The decision came hours after Pyongyang ramped up its rhetoric to dizzying new heights

Published March 7, 2013 5:18PM (EST)

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un                            (Reuters/Kyodo)
North Korea leader Kim Jong Un (Reuters/Kyodo)

SEOUL, South Korea — The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to approve new, tighter sanctions against North Korea on Thursday.

The vote on whether to increase sanctions against Pyongyang was prompted by the hermit kingdom's nuclear test last month. The UN decision came hours after North Korea had ramped up its rhetoric yet again, threatening a "preemptive" nuclear strike against the United States.

The Associated Press quoted a spokesman for North Korea's foreign ministry as saying that Pyonyang would "exercise the right to a pre-emptive nuclear strikes on the headquarters of the aggressors." According to the AP, the spokesman also alleged that Washington is gearing up to start a nuclear war against North Korea.

The country's foreign ministry warned earlier this week that a second Korean war is "unavoidable" now that both the United States and South Korea are refusing Pyongyang's demands to cancel large-scale joint military exercises.

Today's threat is a significant step up from the rhetoric over the past month. Observers are debating the significance of its origin from the foreign ministry as opposed to the military, a major power in North Korean politics that typically launches such threats.

Experts dismiss the idea that North Korea could carry out a "preemptive nuclear strike" as ridiculous. The government launched a single wobbling, defunct satellite in December whose archaic rocket couldn't deliver a nuclear warhead to the United States, says Brian Harvey, Dublin-based author of "Emerging Space Powers."

Analysts speaking to the BBC said North Korea's rhetoric was likely aimed at the upcoming UN vote.

The AP also wrote that North Korea may not yet have "mastered the ability to produce a warhead small enough to put on a missile capable of reaching the US," though it does have enough fuel for "crude nuclear devices."

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