North Korea fired a volley of short-range projectiles into the Sea of Japan on Thursday, in an apparent response to the U.N. Security Council vote to impose strict sanctions to press Pyongyang to halt its nuclear weapons program.
South Korea, which put its military on heightened alert, was trying to determine if the projectiles were short-range missiles or artillery fire, the South’s Defense Ministry said.
On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously agreed to dramatically tighten sanctions on North Korea, taking aim at Pyongyang’s ability to build up its nuclear and rocket programs and its leaders’ ability to import luxury items like expensive watches and fancy snowmobiles.
The sanctions were passed after weeks of debate in New York, following North Korea fourth nuclear test on January 6, followed by the launch on February 7 of a satellite-bearing rocket that the world viewed as a disguised ballistic missile test.
Reuters news agency quoted Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin as saying that said North Korea's decision to fire projectiles on Thursday "means that they're not drawing the proper conclusions yet" from the latest and most stringent U.N. sanctions package.
"That's their way of reacting to what we have decided," said Japan's U.N. Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa. "They may do something more," Reuters quoted him as saying.
Elsewhere, North Korea’s isolation deepened, as South Korea’s parliament passed a security law and a separate measure intended to improve human rights in North Korea, while the U.S. government piled new unilateral financial curbs on officials and entities in Pyongyang.
In Washington, the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control announced it had frozen the dollar-based assets of five North Korean entities and ten individuals for proliferation-related activities.
The individuals included Hwang Pyong So, whose title as Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission makes him North Korea’s second most senior official, after leader Kim Jong Un. Kim was not designated.
The entities sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury are the Academy of National Defense Science, the Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry, the National Aerospace Development Administration, the National Defense Commission, and the Workers’ Party Central Military Commission, according to a statement from the Treasury Department.
“Our coordinated efforts send a clear message: the global community will not tolerate North Korea’s illicit nuclear and ballistic missile activities, and there will be serious consequences until it modifies its reckless behavior,” Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in remarks published with the announced asset freeze.