North Korea warns South over UN sanctions

People in Seoul watch TV news showing file footage of a North Korean rocket carried during a military parade. Photo: 24 January 2013 North Korea referred to the government in Seoul as "the puppet group of traitors"

North Korea has issued another warning, a day after announcing plans for a third nuclear test.

In a statement, Pyongyang pledged "physical counter-measures" against South Korea if it participated in the UN sanctions regime.

The threat came 24 hours after North Korea said it would proceed with a "high-level" nuclear test in a move aimed at "arch-enemy" the US.

The White House condemned the move, labelling it "needlessly provocative".

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests in the past, in 2006 and 2009. It gave no time-frame for its third test.

Regional media coverage

North Korea's tirade against the UN Security Council resolution has not been received kindly by media commentators among its key neighbours.

The editorial in China's Global Times took a stern tone warning that if nuclear tests took place, "China will not hesitate to reduce its assistance to North Korea". And the People's Daily urged calm and sobriety.

South Korea's JoongAng Daily labels the posture as "Pyongyang's over-the-top hawkishness", arguing that it shows Kim Jong-un is having trouble settling in. The Chosun Ilbo predicts that those "doves" who support dialogue will lose ground.

Japan's Asahi Shimbun reserves its fire for China in the event of a "lenient attitude" by the regional power to nuclear tests, saying such an approach will only serve to destabilise the region.

Its announcement followed the adoption by the UN Security Council of a resolution condemning North Korea's recent rocket launch and extending sanctions.

North Korea says its rocket launch was for the sole purpose of putting a satellite into orbit; the US and North Korea's neighbours say it was a test of long-range missile technology banned under UN resolutions.

'Declaration of war'

The second warning in two days came in a statement from the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, carried by KCNA news agency.

"If the puppet group of traitors takes a direct part in the UN 'sanctions', the DPRK (North Korea) will take strong physical counter-measures against it," it said, referring to the South Korean leadership.

"'Sanctions' mean a war and a declaration of war against us."

The UN resolution, passed on Tuesday, expanded existing sanctions against Pyongyang that were imposed after its previous nuclear tests and rocket launches.

Washington has also expanded its own sanctions against North Korea, with targets including a Hong Kong-based trading company and two North Korean bank officials based in Beijing.

On Thursday, it spoke out against a third nuclear test.

North Korean nuclear tests

  • Two underground nuclear tests have been carried out by North Korea, in 2006 and 2009
  • They were believed to have used plutonium, but experts believe the planned test could use highly-enriched uranium as the fissile material
  • Analysts say a new test tunnel has been prepared in Punggye-ri, the site of the previous tests
  • North Korea is thought to have enough nuclear material for a small number of bombs, but not the technology to make a nuclear warhead
  • Multiple rounds of multi-national talks have failed to convince Pyongyang give up nuclear ambitions

"Further provocations would only increase Pyongyang's isolation, and its continued focus on its nuclear and missile programme is doing nothing to help the North Korean people," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

Beijing has called for dialogue, urging all parties to act with restraint and "look at the long-term interest".

But an editorial in China's state-run Global Times appeared to hint at exasperation.

"If North Korea engages in further nuclear tests, China will not hesitate to reduce its assistance," the editorial said.

Both North Korea's previous nuclear tests followed long-range rocket launches.

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