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New U.N. sanctions trigger sharp warning from North Korea

August 7, 2017 at 6:50 PM EDT
North Korea reacted to a new round of U.N. sanctions with its own threat against the U.S., vowing to never abandon its nuclear program through negotiations. The new measures target North Korea’s already limited export market, and seeks to further isolate the nation after it tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July. Lisa Desjardins reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF: North Korea had tough talk today for the United States, following the weekend adoption of new sanctions by the United Nations. The new measures target North Korea’s already-limited export market, and seek to further isolate the nation after recent missile tests.

Lisa Desjardins reports.

LISA DESJARDINS: To new sanctions, North Korea today reacted with its own threat.

WOMAN (through interpreter): The U.S.’ villainous illegal actions against our country and people will be reciprocated by thousands-fold. If it thinks that it will be safe because it is across an ocean, there is no bigger misunderstanding than that.

LISA DESJARDINS: That sharp warning after North Korea test-launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month that some analysts believe could reach parts of the United States.

Today, at a summit of Southeast Asian nations in Manila, a North Korean spokesman defended its nuclear program.

BANG KWANG HYUK, Spokesman, North Korean Delegation (through interpreter): We affirmed that we will never place our nuclear and ballistic missiles program on the negotiating table and won’t budge an inch on strengthening nuclear armament.

LISA DESJARDINS: And again singled out the United States.

BANG KWANG HYUK (through interpreter): Is our nuclear possession a threat to the world or is it just a threat to the United States? We want to make it clear that the worsening situation on the Korean Peninsula, as well as the nuclear issues, were caused by the United States.

LISA DESJARDINS: From U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, also at the Manila forum, a very different tone, stressing possible dialogue, but only if Pyongyang stops missile tests.

REX TILLERSON, U.S. Secretary of State: This is really about the spirit of these talks, and they can demonstrate that they’re ready to sit with a spirit of finding a way forward in these talks by no longer conducting these missile tests.

LISA DESJARDINS: North Korea officials so far have rejected any talks that include the U.S., but did meet separately in Manila with representatives from a pivotal go-between, China.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi:

WANG YI, Foreign Minister, China (through interpreter): China urged North Korea to remain calm in the face of the new U.N. Security Council resolution and not to carry out missile tests or even nuclear tests in violation of the Security Council resolution and the will of the international community.

LISA DESJARDINS: The U.N. sanctions on North Korea are a victory for the U.S., whose Ambassador Nikki Haley led the effort at the United Nations. She spoke Saturday.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations: They have the option of stopping the reckless and irresponsible behavior. And the international community could not have made a stronger point to tell them that the time to stop is now.

ANTHONY RUGGIERO, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies: For the most part, they target North Korea’s export revenue.

LISA DESJARDINS: Anthony Ruggiero helped write North Korea sanctions under President George W. Bush. He says these new sanctions may affect up to a third of North Korean exports, a severe impact, but only if they are enforced.

ANTHONY RUGGIERO: Unfortunately over the last 11 years, that has been lacking, in particular by China, and the U.N. itself has called out China for its lack of implementation.

LISA DESJARDINS: For his part, President Trump spoke with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, later tweeting: “Very happy and impressed with 15-0 United Nations vote on North Korea sanctions.”

President Moon’s office said he stressed that the nuclear issue must be resolved in a peaceful diplomatic manner.

For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Lisa Desjardins.