On December 22, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to tighten economic sanctions on North Korea in response to its sixth nuclear test on November 29, which involved the launching of a missile that the regime warns could reach the United States. This is the Council’s third attempt this year to exert enough pressure on Kim Jong-Un to force him to halt his country’s nuclear weapons program and come to the table for negotiations. According to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in order for talks to begin North Korea must show “a sustained cessation” of its aggressive behavior, while Pyongyang vows that it will not consider joining the negotiations until the United States ends its practice of hostility towards the DPRK.
Until said negotiations take place, the Council has voted to drastically cut the number of crude oil and refined petroleum imports to North Korea by nearly 90 percent, which will likely be devastating to the North Korean military and nuclear programs. Furthermore, the Council called on its members to expel all North Korean guest workers within the next two years. Russia and China, both members of the Security Council and the closest nations North Korea has as allies, are two of the biggest employers of North Koreans working abroad and a major source of foreign income for the DPRK. On December 26, the United States put in place further sanctions against two North Korean individuals who are believed to be instrumental in the country’s development of ballistic missiles.
North Korea has not responded favorably to the tightened sanctions, referring to them as tantamount to an economic blockade and an “act of war”. In a statement from the North Korean foreign ministry, the government promised to “further consolidate [its] self-defensive nuclear deterrence”, in direct violation of the Council’s ostensible goal of eventual denuclearization. The foreign ministry in Pyongyang called on the United States to “wake up from its pipe dream of our country giving up nuclear weapons” if it “wishes to live safely”. North Korea also threatened retaliation against the member nations of the Security Council, saying that all those in favor of the resolution “will pay a heavy price for what they have done”.
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