US threatens new sanctions on North Korea if Kim Jong-un conducts another nuclear test

·3-min read

The United States is mulling imposing fresh sanctions on North Korea if it conducts a new nuclear test.

The hermit country is reportedly on the brink of conducting its first nuclear test in five years in a bid to put pressure on its rivals to lift current sanctions, officials from the US, South Korea and Japan have said.

So far in 2022, the North has launched 17 rounds of missile tests, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), leading to a widespread backlash from its rivals.

When asked if the US would seek new sanctions in the face of a nuclear test from Pyongyang, American ambassador to United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield responded: “We absolutely will.”

Sanctions were imposed on the North by a united UN Security Council following its first nuclear test explosion in 2006. The sanctions were tightened over the years in a total of 10 resolutions seeking to rein in its nuclear capabilities by cutting its sources of revenue.

Last Thursday, China and Russia vetoed a UN resolution sponsored by the US that would have imposed tough new sanctions on the North, which is currently reeling under a severe Covid-19 outbreak, for a spate of ICBM launches. These missiles are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

The 13-2 vote marked the first serious division among the five veto-wielding permanent members over North Korea sanctions’ resolution.

In the last sanctions resolution adopted by the council in December 2017, members committed to tightening petroleum exports to Pyongyang if it conducted an ICBM launch.

File photo: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (centre) speaks in front of what the North says is an intercontinental ballistic missile displayed at an exhibition of weapons systems in Pyongyang on 11 October 2021 (KCNA /KNS via AP)
File photo: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (centre) speaks in front of what the North says is an intercontinental ballistic missile displayed at an exhibition of weapons systems in Pyongyang on 11 October 2021 (KCNA /KNS via AP)

Ms Thomas-Greenfield on Tuesday said the sanctions already in place need to be enforced, and if the North tests another nuclear weapon, “we certainly, as we attempted in this last resolution, will push for additional sanctions”.

Reports based on satellite imagery from March this year stated that the North has allegedly begun construction at a nuclear testing site for the first time since it was shuttered in 2018. Images showed traces of “preliminary” construction at the Punggye-ri site, which was closed and partly dismantled after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed to halt all nuclear tests.

The US draft resolutions had been discussed and considered for nine weeks amid North Korea’s continuing weapon tests, which were in violation of the security council resolutions, the ambassador said.

“So, they heard very loudly and clearly that 13 members of the council stand strong in condemning what they are doing and they’re being protected by the Russians and the Chinese veto,” she said.

“But now they know that the Russians and the Chinese have not been supported by the members of the council.”

The US last week targeted two Russian banks as part of new sanctions over their “support” for the North’s growing missile arsenal. The Russian banks are known to conduct business with US-sanctioned North Korean entities.

After the vote, France’s UN ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said that the Chinese and Russia vetoes amounted “to protecting the North Korean regime and giving it a blank check to proliferate even further”.

“France will continue its efforts to ensure that the council is able to act and that it regains the unity it has had on this issue,” he said.

The UN General Assembly will hold a meeting on the veto of the North Korea resolution on 8 June.

Additional reporting by agencies

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