SEOUL – North Korea responded to new U.N. sanctions Friday with fresh threats of nuclear war, the abolition of peace pacts with South Korea and the severing of a hot- line with Seoul.
Pyongyang is known for its bellicose rhetoric, but the tone has reached a frenzied pitch in recent days, fueling concerns that it might trigger a border incident, with both the North and South Korea planning major military exercises next week.
On Thursday, the country threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States and South Korea.
North Korea “abrogates all agreements on nonaggression reached between the North and the South,” the state-run Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) said in a statement Friday.
A nonaggression pact signed in 1991 endorsed the peaceful settlement of disputes and the prevention of accidental military clashes. The CPRK said the pact will be voided as of Monday, the same day that Pyongyang has vowed to rip up the 1953 armistice agreement that ended hostilities in the Korean War.
“It also notifies the South that it will immediately cut off the North-South hotline,” the committee said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
The hotline was installed in 1971 and Pyongyang has severed it on five occasions in the past — most recently in 2010.
North Korea’s latest announcement came just hours after the U.N. Security Council beefed up existing sanctions against the communist state in response to its globally condemned nuclear test Feb. 12.
The resolution adopted by the 15-member council added new names to the U.N. sanctions blacklist and tightened restrictions on the North’s financial dealings, notably its suspected “bulk cash” transfers.
The new sanctions will “bite hard,” said Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. “They increase North Korea’s isolation and raise the cost to North Korea’s leaders of defying the international community.”
China wants “full implementation” of the resolution, said Li Baodong, Beijing’s U.N. envoy, while stressing that efforts must be made to bring Pyongyang back to negotiations and defuse tensions.
In a statement issued immediately after the vote, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “We strongly call on North Korea never to engage in acts of provocation.”
He said the resolution was partially a result of efforts by Japan to get China on board, telling the same session that Tokyo worked for its passage by “exchanging views and opinions with China in Beijing and New York.”
Other officials also pointed out the importance of winning the backing of China — a permanent member of the Security Council with veto power and North Korea’s long-time benefactor — for the new Security Council resolution.
However, one Japanese government source cautioned that Thursday’s sanctions resolution “will have a limited impact,” a view shared by many others in Tokyo.