The U.N. Security Council unanimously passed tougher sanctions against North Korea today, hours after Pyongyang threatened a possible “preemptive nuclear attack.”
China, North Korea’s key ally, could have used its veto power to block the sanctions. Instead, after weeks of negotiating, it signed on to the final draft.
Leading up to the vote, Pyongyang ratcheted up its bellicose rhetoric. A spokesman for the North Korean foreign ministry suggested the United States “is set to light a fuse for a nuclear war.” As a result, North Korea “will exercise the right to a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors and to defend the supreme interests of the country,” the country said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
Despite the strong language, analysts say North Korea is years away from having the technology necessary to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile and aim it accurately at a target. And, analysts say, North Korea is unlikely to seek a direct military conflict with the United States, preferring instead to try to gain traction through threats and the buildup of its military deterrent.
The rhetoric came not only in advance of the U.N. vote, but also as military drills take place on either side of the heavily armed border that divides the two Koreas.
“These sanctions will bite, and bite hard,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said after the vote.