|N. Korea Threatens 'Nuclear Strike'|
|By JOOHEE CHO (@jooheecho)||Mar 7, 2013, 11:16 AM|
The U.N. Security Council today brushed off a threat by North Korea to launch a "pre-emptive nuclear strike" and voted to impose tough new sanctions on the country as punishment for its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile program.
China, North Korea's staunchest ally, joined the U.S. and other members of the Security Council to make the vote unanimous.
The vote came hours after Pyongyang, which has delivered a series of belligerent statements in recent weeks, said that it would "exercise its right for pre-emptive nuclear strike to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors."
The tough talk from North Korea also comes as the U.S. and South Korean begin joint military maneuvers.
The U.S. dismissed the North Korean threat.
"North Korean threats of provocations will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in Northeast Asia," Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Cathy Wilkinson said.
In recent days, North Korea has vowed to turn Seoul and Washington into a "sea of fire," have imposed no-sail/no-fly zones along its coasts, and warned that it might end the armistice that halted the Korean War in 1953 without a peace treaty.
The targets of the latest round of sanctions included in the latest round of sanctions include top officials at a company that is the country's primary arms dealer and main exporter of ballistic missile-related equipment, and a national organization responsible for research and development of missiles and probably nuclear weapons.
The success of a new round of sanctions could depend on enforcement by China, where most of the companies and banks that North Korea is believed to work with are based.
The resolution is intended to make it significantly harder for North Korea to move around the funds it needs to carry out its illicit programs and strengthen existing sanctions and the inspection of suspect cargo bound to and from the country. It would also ban countries from exporting specific luxury goods to the North, including yachts, luxury automobiles, racing cars, and jewelry with semi-precious and precious stones and precious metals.
According to the draft, all countries would now be required to freeze financial transactions or services that could contribute to North Korea's nuclear or missile programs.
To get around financial sanctions, North Koreans have been carrying around large suitcases filled with cash to move illicit funds. The draft resolution expresses concern that these bulk cash transfers may be used to evade sanctions. It clarifies that the freeze on financial transactions and services that could violate sanctions applies to all cash transfers as well as the cash couriers.
The proposed resolution also bans all countries from providing public financial support for trade deals, such as granting export credits, guarantees or insurance, if the assistance could contribute to the North's nuclear or missile programs.
It includes what a senior diplomat called unprecedented new travel sanctions that would require countries to expel agents working for sanctioned North Korean companies.
The draft also requires states to inspect suspect cargo on their territory and prevent any vessel that refuses an inspection from entering their ports. And a new aviation measure calls on states to deny aircraft permission to take off, land or fly over their territory if illicit cargo is suspected to be aboard.
ABC News' Luis Martinez and AP contributed to this report