The US has urged the world to cut diplomatic and trade ties with North Korea following its latest ballistic missile test.
Speaking at the UN Security Council, US envoy Nikki Haley said President Donald Trump had asked his Chinese counterpart to cut off oil supplies to Pyongyang.
Nikki Haley said the US did not seek conflict but that North Korea’s regime would be “utterly destroyed” if war broke out.
The warning came after North Korea tested its first missile in two months.
North Korea said the missile fired on November 29, which it said reached an altitude of about 2,780 miles – more than 10 times the height of the International Space Station – carried a warhead capable of re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
The claim was not proven and experts have cast doubt on North Korea’s ability to master such technology.
However, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called the launch “impeccable” and a “breakthrough”.
The test – one of several this year – has been condemned by the international community and the UN Security Council called an emergency meeting.
Nikki Haley warned that “continued acts of aggression” were only serving to further destabilize the region.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said sanctions were exhausted.
He told reporters: “The Americans should explain to all of us what they are trying to do – if they want to find a pretext for destroying North Korea they should come clean about it, and the American leadership should confirm it.”
Earlier the Russian UN ambassador said North Korea should stop its missile and nuclear tests but also called on Washington to cancel military exercises with South Korea planned for December as it would “inflame an already explosive situation”.
China also suggested North Korea should stop the tests in return for a halt to US military exercises – a proposal Washington has rejected in the past.
Nikki Haley said on November 29: “We need China to do more.
“President Trump called President Xi this morning and told him that we’ve come to the point where China must cut off the oil for North Korea.
“We know the main driver of its nuclear production is oil,” she said. “The major supplier of that oil is China.”
China is a historic ally and North Korea’s most important trading partner and Pyongyang is thought to be dependent on China for much of its oil supplies.
Also in the day, the White House said that President Trump spoke to his counterpart, Xi Jinping, by phone, urging him to “use all available levers to convince North Korea to end its provocations and return to the path of denuclearization”.
Donald Trump tweeted: “Just spoke to President XI JINPING of China concerning the provocative actions of North Korea. Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!”
Speaking in Missouri, President Trump derided Kim Jong-un, describing him as a “sick puppy” and “little rocket man”.
Xi Jinping responded by telling Donald Trump it was Beijing’s “unswerving goal to maintain peace and stability in north-east Asia and denuclearize the Korean peninsula”, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.
Experts say the height reached by the inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) indicates the US could be within range, although North Korea is yet to prove it has reached its aim of miniaturizing a nuclear warhead.
The vast majority of North Korea’s trade is conducted with China, Pyongyang’s biggest economic supporter.
The latest round of UN sanctions targeted several companies and individuals, including two businesses in Singapore.
In January 2016, a Singapore company was fined $125,700 for facilitating a shipment of arms from Cuba to North Korea. A court found the Chinpo Shipping Company was in breach of the UN sanctions on North Korea.
Tension in the Korean peninsula reached unprecedented levels earlier this year after North Korea’s repeated missile tests, including two long range missiles that flew over Japan, and its sixth and biggest nuclear test.
The US and the UN are hoping that sanctions will starve North Korea of the means to pursue its aggressive program of nuclear weapons development.
Singapore still retains diplomatic ties and North Korea maintains an embassy in its financial district.
China has traditionally been protective of North Korea, but has sharply criticized its nuclear tests and escalating rhetoric.
Earlier this year, China clamped down on its purchase of coal from North Korea and on seafood and iron trade across the border.
Coupled with the textile trade ban, Pyongyang has lost several of its scant sources of foreign currency income.
China has been under public pressure to take action from President Donald Trump, who has both applauded and denounced Chinese policy at different times.
President Trump has also been involved in a direct war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, labeling him a “rocket man” on “a suicide mission”. He warned that he would have no choice but to “totally destroy” North Korea if forced to defend the US or its allies.
Kim Jong-un, in turn, has called Donald Trump “deranged” and a “dotard”, and said the US president’s comments have convinced him he is right to seek a nuclear deterrent, and has even accused President Trump of declaring war.
At a news briefing on September 28, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: “We are opposed to any war on the Korean peninsula.”
“Sanctions and the promoting of talks are both the requirements of the UN Security Council. We should not overemphasize one aspect while ignoring the other.”
North Korea has launched a fiery attack on the US, threatening with the “greatest pain” it has ever suffered, following new sanctions imposed by the UN.
Its ambassador to the UN accused Washington of opting for “political, economic and military confrontation”.
President Donald Trump said the move was nothing compared to what would have to happen to deal with North Korea.
The UN sanctions are an attempt to starve the country of fuel and income for its weapons programs.
The new measures restrict oil imports and ban textile exports, and were approved after North Korea’s sixth and largest nuclear test earlier this month.
North Korea’s ambassador to the UN Han Tae Song said he “categorically rejected” what he called an “illegal resolution”.
“The forthcoming measures by DPRK [the Democratic Republic of Korea] will make the US suffer the greatest pain it has ever experienced in its history,” he told a UN conference in Geneva.
“Instead of making [the] right choice with rational analysis… the Washington regime finally opted for political, economic and military confrontation, obsessed with the wild dream of reversing the DPRK’s development of nuclear force – which has already reached the completion phase.”
The UN resolution was only passed unanimously after North Korea’s allies Russia and China agreed to softer sanctions than those proposed by the US.
The initial text included a total ban on oil imports, a measure seen by some analysts as potentially destabilizing for the North Korean regime.
The new sanctions agreed by the UN include:
Limits on imports of crude oil and oil products. China, North Korea’s main economic ally, supplies most of the country’s crude oil.
A ban on exports of textiles, which is Pyongyang’s second-biggest export worth more than $700 million a year.
A ban on new visas for North Korean overseas workers, which the US estimates would eventually cut off $500 million of tax revenue per year.
A proposed asset freeze and a travel ban on Kim Jong-un were dropped.
Reacting on September 13, President Donald Trump said: “We think it’s just another very small step, not a big deal.”
“I don’t know if it has any impact, but certainly it was nice to get a 15 to nothing vote. But those sanctions are nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen,” the president added, without giving details.
The US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the Security Council after the vote: “We don’t take pleasure in further strengthening sanctions today. We are not looking for war.”
“The North Korean regime has not yet passed the point of no return,” she added.
“If North Korea continues its dangerous path, we will continue with further pressure. The choice is theirs.”
The September 11 resolution against North Korea was the ninth one unanimously adopted by the UN since 2006.
Pyongyang threatened to make the US “pay the price for its crime… thousands of times,” referring to America’s role in drafting the UN sanctions resolution.
Speaking to reporters at a regional forum in the Philippine capital, Manila, North Korean spokesman Bang Kwang Hyuk said: “The worsening situation on the Korean peninsula, as well as the nuclear issues, were caused by the United States.
“We affirm that we’ll never place our nuclear and ballistic missiles program on the negotiating table, and won’t budge an inch on strengthening nuclear armament.”
The remarks come after reports emerged that the North and South Korean foreign ministers had met briefly on August 6 on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Manila.
South Korean media reported that its Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha shook hands with her North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong Ho, in a brief and unarranged meeting at an official dinner event.
South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Kang Kyung-wha as saying that Ri Yong Ho’s rejection of the talks proposal appeared to be connected to the new sanctions.
“I told him that [the two offers for talks] are an urgent matter that should be carried out immediately with any political agenda put aside and asked him to proactively react,” she was quoted as saying.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi told journalists on August 7: “My feeling is that the North did not entirely reject the positive proposals raised by the South.”
Wang Yi added that China also supported South Korea’s initiatives, and was “100%” committed to enforcing the latest round of UN sanctions.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is also at the ASEAN forum, where he spoke about North Korea.
Noting Russia and China’s participation in the unanimous vote, Rex Tillerson told journalists it was clear there was now “no daylight among the international community” on their desire for North Korea to stop its tests.
“The best signal that North Korea can give us [is] that they are prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches,” he added.
Russia and China have previously differed with others on how to handle Pyongyang, but in recent months have joined calls for North Korea to stop its missile tests – while also urging the US and South Korea to halt military drills, and withdraw an anti-missile system from the South.
The UN Security Council has agreed on fresh sanctions against North Korea over its missile program.
A resolution banning North Korean exports and limiting investments in the country was passed unanimously.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said it was “the most stringent set of sanctions on any country in a generation”.
North Korea tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July, claiming it now had the ability to hit the US.
However, experts doubt the capability of the missiles to hit their targets.
The tests were condemned by South Korea, Japan and the US, and prompted the drafting of the new UN sanctions.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is attending a regional forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Manila, in the Philippines, with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho also present.
According to US officials, North Korea’s nuclear program is expected to be a major issue but there are no plans for a bilateral meeting.
Speaking as he sat down for talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, Rex Tillerson said the sanctions were a “good outcome”.
President Donald Trump tweeted to say the sanctions would cost North Korea more than $1 billion.
The export of coal, ore and other raw materials to China is one of North Korea’s few sources of cash. Estimates say that North Korea exports about $3 billion worth of goods each year – and the sanctions could eliminate $1 billion of that trade.
Earlier this year, China suspended imports of coal to increase pressure on North Korea.
However, repeated sanctions have so far failed to deter Pyongyang from continuing with its missile development.
Ambassador Nikki Haley said the Security Council had increased the penalty for North Korea’s ballistic missile activity “to a whole new level”.
“Today the Security Council has come together to put the North Korean dictator on notice,” she told the council after the vote on August 5.
“North Korea’s irresponsible and careless acts have just proved to be costly for the regime.”
Meanwhile, North Korea’s ruling-party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said nuclear action or sanctions taken by Washington would lead to an “unimaginable sea of fire” engulfing the US.
The article, printed before the new UN sanctions were approved, added that if the US did not move away from its “hostile policy towards Pyongyang, the only choice for the US is self-destruction”.
China, North Korea’s only international ally and a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, voted in favor of the resolution this time. China has often protected North Korea from harmful resolutions in the past.
In Manila, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the sanctions were “necessary” but were “not the ultimate purpose”.
“Our purpose is to bring all parties involved in the nuclear issues back to negotiation table, finding the resolutions through talks to realize the denuclearization of Korean peninsula,” he told journalists.
North Korea’s repeated missile and nuclear weapon tests have been condemned by neighbors in the region.
However, South Korea says it may hold direct talks with the North during the ASEAN summit.
South Korea’s foreign minister said she was willing to talk to her counterpart from Pyongyang, if the chance “naturally occurs”.
Altogether, 27 nations are sending representatives to the ASEAN forum.
ASEAN’s 10 member states issued a joint statement saying they had “grave concerns” over North Korea’s actions, which “seriously threaten peace”.
In the statement on May 15, the UN Security Council stressed on the importance of North Korea “immediately showing sincere commitment to denuclearization through concrete action”.
North Korea should “conduct no further nuclear and ballistic missile tests”, it said.
The UN Security Council has imposed six sets of sanctions against North Korea since 2006.
North Korea’s KCNA state news agency said the test of a “newly developed mid/long-range strategic ballistic rocket, Hwasong-12” had gone to plan.
“The test-fire aimed at verifying the tactical and technological specifications of the newly developed ballistic rocket capable of carrying a large-size heavy nuclear warhead,” it said.
North Korea is known to be developing both nuclear weapons – it has conducted five nuclear tests – and the missiles capable of delivering those weapons to their target. Both are in defiance of UN sanctions.
However, it remains unclear whether it has the ability to make the weapons small enough to be mounted on a rocket, and it has never tested an ICBM which could reach, for example, the US.
ICBM’s are considered to have a range of about 3,750 miles, but analysts believe the missile tested on Sunday would have travelled about 2,500 miles if it had been fired at a standard trajectory rather than upwards.
The KCNA report said that, as ever, the test had been overseen by North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un.
It said Kim Jong-un had told the scientists and technicians involved “not to be complacent” but to build further “nuclear weapons and methods of delivery” until the US made “the right choice”.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said his country will not use nuclear weapons unless its sovereignty is threatened, state media report.
North Korea first tested nuclear weapons in 2006, after withdrawing from an international treaty.
The secretive country has made repeated threats of nuclear strikes against South Korea and the US.
However, Kim Jong-un reportedly told the Workers’ Party Congress in Pyongyang that he is willing to normalize ties with previously hostile countries.
It appears Kim Jong-un tends to send mixed messages and movement observed at North Korea’s nuclear site is consistent with preparations for another nuclear test.
State media also quoted Kim Jong-un as saying there should be more talks with South Korea to build trust and understanding.
Kim Jong-un said North Korea would “faithfully fulfill its obligation for non-proliferation and strive for global denuclearization”.
The meeting is the first congress of North Korea’s ruling party since 1980.
The KCNA news agency reported Kim Jong-un as saying: “As a responsible nuclear weapons state, our Republic will not use a nuclear weapon unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by any aggressive hostile forces with nukes.”
Kim Jong-un said the government would “improve and normalize the relations with those countries which respect the sovereignty of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] and are friendly towards it, though they had been hostile toward it in the past”.
North Korea withdrew from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in 2003 and started testing nuclear weapons three years later.
International sanctions on North Korea were tightened in March this year after it claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb and launched a missile into space.
The sanctions include export bans on materials used in nuclear and military production as well as restrictions on luxury goods and banking.
A group of three Nobel laureates have said that sanctions imposed on North Korea are hampering health and science and should be eased.
They were speaking in Beijing after visiting Pyongyang in what was billed as an attempt to promote dialogue.
International sanctions on North Korea were further tightened in 2016 after the secretive country claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb and launched a missile into space.
The laureates’ visit came as a rare Workers’ Party congress opened in North Korea, with Kim Jong-un hailing his country’s “great success” in its nuclear advancements.
The congress is widely seen as a chance for Kim Jong-un to cement his power within the ruling party.
South Korea urged the foreign delegation not to visit North Korea, fearing it would become a propaganda coup for the North.
“We didn’t come to criticize them,” said Aaron Ciechanover, who won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2004.
“We really came to converse and to exchange dialogue with students.”
On sanctions, Aaron Ciechanover said “you cannot turn penicillin into a nuclear bomb… You don’t pressurize via making people sicker”.
Foreign visits to North Korea are carefully monitored and public access to information such as the internet strictly limited.
Nobel laureate for medicine Richard Roberts said he was “quite impressed” with what North Korean scientists had achieved despite sanctions.
“This embargo is really hurting the scientists and that’s a great shame,” he said.
The visit was organized by the Vienna-based International Peace Foundation (IPF) and also included Nobel laureate for economics Prof. Finn Kydland, Prince Alfred of Liechtenstein and IPF chairman Uwe Morawetz.
The latest sanctions on North Korea, approved by the UN in March, included export bans on materials used in nuclear and military production as well as restrictions on luxury goods and banking.
A UN resolution stressed the new sanctions were not intended to have “adverse humanitarian consequences” for civilians, many of whom face financial hardships and shortages of food.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong has said his country will suspend its nuclear tests if the US stops its annual military exercises with South Korea.
Ri Su-yong also told the Associated Press that his country would not be cowed by international sanctions.
A US official has defended the drills as a sign of commitment to South Korea.
Meanwhile, Pyongyang said April 23 submarine-launched ballistic missile test was a “great success”.
“It fully confirmed and reinforced the reliability of the Korean-style underwater launching system and perfectly met all technical requirements for carrying out… underwater attack operation,” the North Korean news agency KCNA said.
The report added that the test gave North Korea “one more means for powerful nuclear attack”.
North Korea is banned from nuclear tests and activities that use ballistic missile technology under UN sanctions dating back to 2006.
Earlier, Ri Su-yong defended North Korea’s right to have a nuclear deterrent and said the US drove North Korea to develop such weapons as an act of self-defense.
The minister said that the suspension of the military drills could open the door to talks and reduced tensions.
“If we continue on this path of confrontation, this will lead to very catastrophic results, not only for the two countries but for the whole entire world as well,” he told AP.
“Stop the nuclear war exercises in the Korean Peninsula, then we should also cease our nuclear tests.”
It was a rare interview by a top North Korean official with a foreign media outlet. The conversation took place in North Korea’s diplomatic mission at the UN, AP said.
An unnamed US official quoted by AP defended the drills in South Korea as demonstrating Washington’s commitment to its alliance with Seoul.
The US has insisted North Korea give up its nuclear weapons program first before any negotiations and has ignored similar proposals in the past, according to the agency.
Ri Su-yong also said sanctions would not sway his country: “If they believe they can actually frustrate us with sanctions, they are totally mistaken.
“The more pressure you put on to something, the more emotionally you react to stand up against it. And this is important for the American policymakers to be aware of.”
The interview came hours after North Korea said it launched a ballistic missile from a submarine, a type of missile hard to detect.
President Barack Obama has signed an executive order imposing new sanctions on North Korea, after its “illicit” nuclear test and satellite launch.
The executive order freezes North Korean government property in America and bans US exports to, or investment in, North Korea.
It also greatly expands powers to blacklist anyone, including non-Americans, dealing with North Korea.
The January 6 nuclear test and February 7 satellite launch were violations of existing UN sanctions.
Barack Obama’s order includes measures from the recently agreed UN Security Council sanctions – the toughest sanctions in decades against North Korea.
It also contains separate sanctions passed by Congress and enacted by the president in February.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: “The US and the global community will not tolerate North Korea’s illicit nuclear and ballistic missile activities, and we will continue to impose costs on North Korea until it comes into compliance with its international obligations.”
Barack Obama said the sanctions “did not target the people of North Korea” but suggested that the country’s leadership only had itself to blame.
How much property North Korea has in the US is unknown, and trade between the two is tiny, but the expanded blacklist power is a significant stepping up of the punitive measures available to Washington.
It is also the first time the US has had a blanket ban on trade, as it once had with Iran and Myanmar.
Amid the heightened tensions, North Kroea sentenced American student Otto Warmbier to 15 years hard labor on March 16 for “severe crimes” against the state.
The US demanded North Korea immediately release Otto Warmbier, 21, who was arrested for trying to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel while on a visit in January.
According to South Korea’s military, North Korea has fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea.
South Korea said the missiles, launched off the east coast, flew some 300 miles and fell into the water.
Shortly after the launch, Pyongyang announced it “nullifies” all inter-Korean cooperative projects and will liquidate South Korean assets in the country.
Most South Korean assets in North Korea are in the jointly-operated Kaesong industrial zone.
South Korea pulled out of the Kaesong complex in February, after North Korea’s latest long-range missile launch of a satellite. At the time, the North called the shutdown “a declaration of war” and designated Kaesong as a military zone.
On March 9, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un also claimed scientists have developed nuclear warheads small enough to fit on ballistic missiles.
However, South Korea’s defense ministry said it thought North Korea had “not yet secured miniaturized nuclear warheads”.
The claim is critical, as without miniaturization Pyongyang cannot put its nuclear weapons on missiles – an ability many analysts think could still be several years away.
In response to the miniaturization claims, State Department spokesman John Kirby said of Kim Jong-un that “the young man needs to pay more attention to the North Korean people and taking care of them, than in pursuing these sorts of reckless capabilities”.
The two missiles launched on March 10 were fired from Hwanghae Province, the South Korean military said. It added that the missiles later fell into the sea off North Korea’s east coast, without providing further details.
Japan promptly lodged a protest to North Korea via its embassy in Beijing, over the latest launches, reported Kyodo news agency.
The missile launches are seen as North Korea’s response to the UN imposing some of its strictest sanctions, after the North conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and last month launched a satellite, both in contravention of existing sanctions.
Tensions have been especially high this week as US and South Korean forces hold their annual joint military exercises known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle.
This year they are the largest ever, with about 17,000 US personnel and around 300,000 South Korean troops participating – both significant increases on 2015, in addition to increased naval and air force assets.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has announced that his country’s nuclear weapons should be ready for use “at any time”, state media report.
Kim Jong-un told military leaders North Korea would revise its military posture to be ready to launch pre-emptive strikes, the KCNA said.
However, despite its rhetoric it remains unclear how advanced North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is.
The UN has imposed some of its toughest ever sanctions on North Korea following its nuclear test and missile launch.
In response on March 3, North Korea fired six short-range projectiles into the sea.
According to the KCNA, Kim Jong-un was speaking at a military exercise on March 3, which is thought to be when the projectiles were fired.
Kim Jong-un said North Korea “must always be ready to fire our nuclear warheads at any time” because enemies were threatening the North’s survival.
“At an extreme time when the Americans… are urging war and disaster on other countries and people, the only way to defend our sovereignty and right to live is to bolster our nuclear capability,” he was quoted as saying.
Analysts still doubt whether North Korea has the ability to make a nuclear bomb small enough to put on a feasible missile, but Kim Jong-un’s announcement brought a swift response from the US.
“We urge North Korea to refrain from provocative actions that aggravate tensions and instead focus on fulfilling its international obligations and commitments,” Pentagon spokesman Commander Bill Urban said.
The US and South Korea began talks on March 4 on the possible deployment of a US missile defense shield in the South.
Initial talks will focus on the costs, effectiveness and environmental impact of installing the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, among other issues, the Yonhap news agency reported.
According to South Korea’s defense ministry, North Korea has fired several short-range projectiles into the sea hours after the UN Security Council unanimously voted to impose some of its strongest ever sanctions against the country.
The projectiles were fired at about 10:00 local time from Wonsan on the east coast, a South Korean spokesman told the Yonhap news agency.
He said they were still trying to determine exactly what was fired.
Yonhap quoted officials as saying all the objects fell into the sea.
The new UN measures are a response to North Korea’s recent nuclear test and satellite launch, both of which violated existing sanctions.
They will result in all cargo going to and from the country being inspected, while 16 new individuals and 12 organizations have been blacklisted.
The US and North Korea’s long-standing ally China spent seven weeks discussing the new sanctions.
President Barack Obama said the international community was “speaking with one voice” to tell the North it “must abandon these dangerous programs and choose a better path for its people”.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye welcomed the sanctions, saying she hoped North Korea “will now abandon its nuclear development program and embark on a path of change”.
North Korea insists its missile program is purely scientific in nature, but the United States, South Korea and even its ally China say such launches like the one which put a satellite in orbit last month are aimed at developing inter-continental ballistic missiles.
The US has submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council in response to North Korea’s recent nuclear test and missile launch.
The resolution, aimed at imposing tougher sanctions on North Korea, is backed by China.
The measures would for the first time require UN member states to inspect all cargo to or from North Korea.
US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said it would be the strongest set of sanctions imposed by the Security Council in more than 20 years.
A vote is expected at the weekend.
North Korea’s launch of a long-range rocket in February and a nuclear test in January were widely condemned as a flagrant violation of UN resolutions.
China also condemned North Korea’s actions but it has previously been reluctant to endorse sanctions that could threaten its neighbor’s stability.
“For the first time in history, all cargo going in and out of the DPRK (North Korea) would be subjected to mandatory inspection,” Samantha Power said after presenting the draft resolution measure to the Security Council.
“These sanctions, if adopted, would send an unambiguous and unyielding message to the DPRK regime. The world will not accept your proliferation. There will be consequences for your actions.”
February 25 announcement followed weeks of negotiations between the US and China that culminated in talks in Washington this week between Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
North Korea insists its missile program is purely scientific in nature, but the US, South Korea and even its ally China say such rocket launches are aimed at developing inter-continental ballistic missiles.
The US has imposed new expanded sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear program, weeks after it launched a long-range rocket.
North Korea has refused to stop its nuclear program and the bill was easily passed last week by Congress.
The sanctions attempt to cut off money North Korea needed to develop miniaturized nuclear warheads.
The US and China are negotiating over a UN Security Council resolution on new sanctions.
China has said some of the measures could cripple North Korea’s economy.
The sanctions freeze the assets of anyone doing business related to North Korea’s nuclear or weapons program or involved in human rights abuses.
The bill also allows for $50 million to support humanitarian programs and transmit radio broadcasts into North Korea.
North Korea recently fired a long-range rocket, which critics said was a test of banned missile technology. State television announced that North Korea had “successfully placed a satellite in orbit”.
The morning after that launch, Barack Obama said: “This is an authoritarian regime. It’s provocative. It has repeatedly violated UN resolutions, tested and produced nuclear weapons, and now they are trying to perfect their missile launch system.”
It came after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January. Analysts say Kim Jong-un is looking to appear powerful before his important Seventh Party Congress in May.
“The bill was the first one exclusively targeting North Korea, which was passed in an unusually expeditious fashion. We expect it to provide a platform for the US to take strong and effective measures [against North Korea],” said South Korea’s foreign ministry in a statement.
South Korea has said it will be discussing with the US the deployment of a missile defense system.
On January 2, 2015, the White House has announced new sanctions on North Korea in response to a cyber-attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment.
President Barack Obama signed an executive order allowing sanctions on three North Korean organizations and 10 individuals.
The White House said the move was a response to North Korea’s “provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions”.
US sanctions are already in place over North Korea’s nuclear program.
However, today’s actions are believed to be the first time the US has moved to punish any country for cyber-attacks on an American company.
Among those named in the sanctions were:
The Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s primary intelligence organization.
North Korea’s primary arms dealer, the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (Komid).
Korea Tangun Trading Corporation, which supports North Korea’s defense research.
Jang Song-chol: Named by the US Treasury as a Komid representative in Russia and a government official.
Kim Yong- chol: An official of the North Korean government, according to the US, and a Komid representative in Iran.
Ryu Jin and Kang Ryong: Komid officials and members of the North Korean government who are operating in Syria, according to the US.
White House officials told reporters the move was in response to the Sony hack, but the targets of the sanctions were not directly involved.
Instead, the sanctions are designed to further isolate North Korea’s defense industry as deterrent for future cyber-attacks.
The FBI and President Barack Obama have previously said they believe North Korea was behind the cyber-attack.
North Korea denies involvement in the hack, and some cyber-security experts have also cast doubt on its guilt.
However, a senior White House official said it was extremely rare for the US to attribute cyber-attacks, and it was only done so because of the destructive nature of the attack, and because the White House saw it as “crossing a threshold”.
Sony was embarrassed after a group calling itself Guardians of Peace leaked data from its computers, exposing emails and personal details.
The group later threatened cinema chains planning to screen Sony’s North Korea comedy, The Interview.
References to the 9/11 terror attacks prompted the cancellation of The Interview‘s nationwide release. A small number of independent cinemas did screen the film, and it was released online.
Announcing the new sanctions, the US said the apparent effort to stifle The Interview release was part of the justification for the new restrictions.
“We take seriously North Korea’s attack that aimed to create destructive financial effects on a US company and to threaten artists and other individuals with the goal of restricting their right to free expression,” the White House said in a statement.
“Today’s actions are the first aspect of our response.”
North Korea has blamed the US for lengthy internet outages in the country last week.
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