North Korea spits defiance at US after UN sanctions imposed
No one expected North Korea to meekly accept sanctions against it and dismantle its nuclear and ICBM programs. But in common parlance, "this means war."
North Korean state media has slammed the latest round of sanctions approved by the United Nations calling them a "flagrant violation of our sovereignty," and vowed retaliation against Washington.
The UN Security Council unanimously adopted new sanctions Saturday in response to Pyongyang's long-range ballistic missile tests on July 4 and July 28.
The measures aim to make it harder for North Korea to make money across the globe. They target North Korea's primary exports – including coal, iron and seafood – and attempt to cut off its additional revenue streams by targeting some of its banks and joint ventures with foreign companies.
Speaking at the ASEAN Regional Forum Monday, North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho blamed the US for the current situation on the Korean Peninsula and said Pyongyang's "possession of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles is a legitimate option for self-defence in the face of a clear and real nuclear threat posed by the US," according to a statement released by North Korea.
"We will, under no circumstances, put the nukes and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table," Ri said, adding Pyongyang would "teach the US a severe lesson" if it used military force against North Korea.
Also on Monday, North Korea's state-run KCNA news agency said the country's missile launches were a "stern warning to the US," and warned Washington against "believing that its land is safe across the ocean."
KCNA accused the US of "trying to drive the situation of the Korean Peninsula to the brink of nuclear war" and pushing the UN to pass new sanctions.
"(North Korea) will make the US pay dearly for all the heinous crimes it commits against the state and people of this country," KCNA said.
It's extremely difficult to gauge what's going on in the minds of North Korean leaders. The defiant words were expected.
But do they mean it?
I think Kim is well and truly trapped. He can't be seen as giving in to the U.S. and the West, so dismantling his WMD programs is off the table. There are almost certainly factions in the Politburo and perhaps even in his inner circle that want to see him gone and would use his caving in to the U.S. as a pretext to overthrow him. On the other hand, a war with the U.S. may mean the same thing.
Perhaps Kim's best bet is to play for time while trying to drive a wedge between the U.S. and South Korea. An announced pause in missile tests and a call for negotiations may accomplish that. President Trump may insist that Kim dismantle his missile program before talks begin, but the pressure on President Moon Jae-in to initiate negotiations with the North would be intense. Moon has already shown a disposition for negotiations over military action.
On the other hand, President Trump will not take the chance that North Korea will be successful in marrying a nuclear warhead to one of its ICBMs. They aren't there yet, but they are close. You would think that regardless of what South Korea does, the president will take action if it seems that the North's military capability to strike the U.S. with a nuclear weapon is imminent.
With a U.S. attack on North Korea, there is always China to consider. But China's vote for sanctions at the U.N. may indicate that the Chinese would tolerate a limited U.S. strike on the North's missile infrastructure. That is sure to be one of the options given to president Trump as the decision for war gets closer.