If members of the UN had hoped that fresh sanctions against North Korea would encourage Pyongyang to ratchet down its bellicose rhetoric, that hope was dashed on Saturday, with the country's foreign ministry releasing a statement claiming the restrictions would not only serve to strengthen its position "as a nuclear weapons state" but would increase its capability “a thousand times”.
The sanctions, voted on by the UN Security Council on Thursday, target North Korea's ruling class, placing bans on countries exporting luxury good to the communist state, including jewellery, yachts and luxury cars, as well as tightening financial restrictions.
On Saturday, Pyongyang officially rejected demands to end its nuclear weapons programme, adding that it would persevere with its aims to become a nuclear-armed state.
"The DPRK, as it did in the past, vehemently denounces and totally rejects the 'resolution on sanctions' against the DPRK, a product of the U.S. hostile policy toward it," a foreign office statement read.
“The world will clearly see what permanent position will reinforce as a nuclear weapons state and satellite launcher as a result of the US attitude of prodding the United Nations Security Council into cooking up the resolution”.
According to Reuters, China, the hermetic state's only ally, called for calm on Saturday, adding that UN sanction were unlikely to yield the desired result, despite voting in favour of the restrictions last week.
Speaking to AP, John Delury, a North Korea specialists at Yonsei University in Seoul, said that sanctions have "generally been counterproductive", adding that the latest tranche could "play into Pyongyang hardliners' argument that US hostility is the root cause of North Korea's predicament, providing an external enemy to blame for all woes and undercutting initiatives by more moderate forces in the North Korean elite who want to shift the focus more toward economic development".
Before the latest sanctions were unveiled, North Korea had threatened to carry out more atomic testing, following on from the latest and hitherto largest test blast in February.
Before the vote, Pyongyang had suggested it would launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the US, a capability experts are confident the North Korean military does not posses. More serious, perhaps, is Kim Jong Un's repudiation of the non-aggression pact with rival South Korea, who sees Seoul along with Washington as the “strongholds of the aggressors”.
The scrapping of the pact, along with a public negation of the 1953 armistice, both effective as of Monday, could quickly escalate with both the South and North scheduled to stage military exercises next week, heightening the possibility of a cross-border incident.