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March 24, 2023

NKorea threatens the United States with a ‘preemptive’ nuclear strike

With the U.N. Security Council set to vote on a resolution to strengthen sanctions on North Korea, Pyongyang unleashed its latest bout of fiery rhetoric, this time threatening its enemies with the possibility of a “preemptive nuclear attack”, CNN reported Thursday.The bellicose statement, carried by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, comes during a week of high tension on the Korean Peninsula as military drills are taking place on either side of the heavily armed border that divides the two Koreas. The combination of looming sanctions and joint military exercises by the United States and South Korea has worked the isolated regime in Pyongyang into a frenzy of bombastic threats. On Tuesday, the North said it planned to scrap the armistice that stopped the Korean War in 1953 and warned it could carry out strikes against the United States and South Korea. In the statement Thursday, 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 statement said. 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 build up of its military deterrent. South Korea had responded to Pyongyang’s earlier saber-rattling with an unusually tough statement Wednesday, warning it would retaliate “strongly and sternly” against North’s military command and forces if the “lives and safety of South Koreans” came under threat. The menacing language from North Korea fits in with the array of bellicose statements it has made previously – it has declared the cease-fire to be irrelevant before. But it comes amid increased concern over Pyongyang’s dogged efforts to advance its nuclear and missile technology after a recent long-range rocket launch and underground atomic blast.Doubts on effect of sanctions The sanctions proposed by the draft resolution are the latest attempt by the United States and its allies to hinder North Korea’s weapons programs and pressure its young leader, Kim Jong Un, into taking a less confrontational approach. But doubts remain over what difference the new measures will make. Sanctions imposed after previous nuclear tests and rocket launches have failed to deter the North from its pursuit of a strong military deterrent that underpins its approach to foreign relations. With China, North Korea’s key ally, having reached an apparent deal with the United States on the wording of the draft resolution, the text appears likely to secure approval at the U.N. Security Council yesterday.The proposed text of the resolution aims to stymie the activities of North Korean banks and cash couriers who might be funneling money to the secretive regime’s nuclear and missile programs. It also outlines measures to step up scrutiny of suspicious sea shipments and air cargo. And it expands restrictions to encompass several institutions and senior officials in the North’s weapons industry, as well as a range of materials and technology known to be used in uranium enrichment.China and and the United States, two of the permanent member of the Security Council with veto power, had been negotiating for weeks on the wording of the proposed resolution. Beijing’s willingness to support additional sanctions was seen as an indication of its frustration with Pyongyang’s decision to go ahead with the nuclear test last month despite Chinese urging not to do so. Analysts say Beijing wants to maintain the North as a buffer between its border and South Korea, a U.S. ally.

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