The UN Security Council on Thursday imposed new sanctions against North Korea amid escalating tensions as the North threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States.
The council unanimously passed a resolution, agreed by the United States and China, which added new names to the UN sanctions blacklist and tightened restrictions on the North's financial dealings, notably its "bulk cash" transfers.
North Korea said ahead of the meeting that a new war was "unavoidable" because of South Korean-US military exercises. The North's military "will exercise the right to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors," said the foreign ministry.
North Korea now faces one of the toughest UN sanctions regimes ever imposed after three nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and the latest on February 12.
And resolution 2094 agreed by the 15-member Security Council threatened "further significant measures" if the North stages a new nuclear test or rocket launch.
"Taken together, these sanctions will bite and bite hard," US ambassador Susan Rice told reporters. "They increase North Korea's isolation and raise the cost to North Korea's leaders of defying the international community."
Rice negotiated the sanctions with China's ambassador Li Baodong who said the resolution was an "important step forward" but stressed that efforts must be made to bring North Korea back to negotiations and to defuse tensions.
The resolution expresses "gravest concern" over the nuclear test and adds three new individuals, a government science academy and trading company to the UN blacklist for a travel ban and assets freeze.
Two of the individuals are Yon Chong-Nam and Ko Chol Chae, the head and deputy chief of Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID). The resolution described KOMID as North Korea's "primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons."
The government's Second Academy of Natural Sciences was also added to the list. It carries out research on North Korea's "advanced weapons systems, including missiles and probably nuclear weapons," said the resolution.
The resolution calls for "enhanced vigilance" over North Korean diplomats. US officials suspect the diplomats have been carrying suitcases of cash to get around financial sanctions.
The Security Council said it was concerned that North Korea "is abusing the privileges and immunities" given under diplomatic conventions.
It says that a ban on financial transactions linked to the North's weapons programs must include "bulk cash" transfers.
Earlier resolutions gave states the right to inspect suspect cargos. Those inspections will become mandatory. The new measures also call on states to turn away airplanes if there are reasons to believe that they carry prohibited items.
The Security Council had also banned exports of luxury goods but this resolution for the first time says that certain jewelry, yachts and luxury and racing cars must be banned.
The North's foreign ministry said that adoption of the resolution would fast track North Korean plans to carry out promised "powerful" countermeasures.
It blasted the United States and South Korea over military exercises which have just started in the South.
The North said earlier this week that it would withdraw on Monday from the armistice that halted the 1950-53 Korean War.
A foreign ministry spokesman warned that a second Korean war was "unavoidable", with the United States and South Korea refusing to cancel their joint military exercise.
"Now that the US is set to light a fuse for a nuclear war, (our) revolutionary armed forces... will exercise the right to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors," the spokesman said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
In the past, the North has threatened attacks on US forces in South Korea and also claims to possess long-range missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the continental United States.
North Korean state television showed a massive military and civilian rally held Thursday in Pyongyang's giant Kim Il-Sung square.
The rally was addressed by senior military and party officials who denounced the United States and warned that Washington would reap the consequences of its "aggression".