North Korea on Wednesday vowed to build up its military defenses, including its nuclear weapons arsenal, following a resolution from the United Nations Security Council condemning the pariah nation for its rocket launch last month.
Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry issued the warning in a statement following the council’s unanimous decision on Tuesday declaring North Korea’s Dec. 12 rocket launch a violation of a U.N. ban against nuclear and missile activity, and expanding sanctions against the reclusive country.
The resolution was also notably approved by Pyongyang’s greatest ally, China, which acquiesced after a drawn-out discussion. China is the only country believed to have leverage over North Korea because of its economic influence over the pariah nation, but also fears a collapse of the North’s regime.
The Security Council resolution ordered North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program in a way that is both verifiable and irreversible, and demanded the regime to end its rocket launches. It also demanded a freeze of the North’s space program and imposed additional travel restrictions on North Korean officials.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the resolution as “run through with hostile steps aiming at banning the [North’s] satellite launch for peaceful purposes and tightening ‘sanctions’ against it to block its economic development and hamstring its effort for developing the economy and bolstering up defense capability.”
Pyongyang maintains that its rocket launch was part of a space exploration program and not a test of long-range missile capabilities and called the Security Council Washington’s “marionette” which had acted to protect U.S. interests in “seeking disarmament of the [North] and collapse of its social system.”
“The present situation clearly proves that the [North] should counter the U.S. hostile policy with strength, not with words,” the statement said, adding that the Security Council should “apologize … for encroaching upon the independence of a sovereign state” and repeal the resolution.
“[North Korea] will take steps for physical counteraction to bolster the military capabilities for self defense, including the nuclear deterrence, both qualitatively and quantitatively to cope with the evermore undisguised moves of the U.S. to apply sanctions and pressure against the [North].”
The North said it would continue to exercise its right to launch satellites “for peaceful purposes to conquer space and become a world-level space power.”
Pyongyang’s launch of its Unha-3 long-range rocket, which was condemned by other countries as a violation of bans against developing missile technology, carried the Kwangmyongsong-3 into orbit on Dec. 12, making impoverished North Korea one of only a handful of nations to put a satellite in space.
North Korea’s response to the U.N. resolution and increased sanctions may hint at plans to detonate a third nuclear device at its Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where Pyongyang conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
Last month, the U.S.-Korea Institute at Washington-based Johns Hopkins University said that satellite imagery indicates North Korea has repaired rain damage at Punggye-ri and is capable of detonating a nuclear weapon at the site with only two weeks of preparation.
Following the announcement of the Security Coucil resolution on Tuesday, China's U.N. ambassador Li Baodong said that Beijing was skeptical about the effectiveness of sanctions and called for a resumption of regional six-party talks in seeking to reduce North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.
But Pyongyang’s statement called denuclearization “impossible,” saying that “there may be talks for peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the region in the future, but no talks for the denuclearization of the peninsula.”
Six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear issue, which involved the North, South Korea, Japan, Russia, China and the United States, had been held intermittently since 2003, but Pyongyang walked out of the negotiations in April 2009, conducting its second nuclear test a month later.
Reported by Joshua Lipes.