UN orders new nuclear sanctions against N. Korea

The UN Security Council slammed a new round of sanctions against North Korea on Thursday, amid escalating tension as it 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 names to a UN sanctions blacklist and tightened restrictions on the North's financial dealings, notably on "bulk cash" transfers.

Ahead of the meeting, North Korea said a new war was "unavoidable" because of joint South Korean and US military exercises.

The North's foreign ministry said the military "will exercise the right to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors."

After carrying out three nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and the latest on February 12 -- and after a rocket launch in December -- North Korea now faces one of the toughest UN sanctions regimes ever imposed.

And the 15-member Security Council's resolution 2094 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" and that his country wants "full implementation."

But he stressed that efforts must also be made to bring North Korea back into negotiations.

Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin also called for "cool heads" to bring North Korea back to six nation talks on the North's nuclear weapons drive.

The resolution expresses "gravest concern" over the nuclear test and adds three new individuals, a government science academy and a trading company to the UN blacklist for a travel ban and assets freeze.

Among those named are the two top officials at the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation.

The resolution described this group as North Korea's "primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons."

The resolution calls for "enhanced vigilance" over North Korean diplomats. US officials suspect the diplomats have been carrying home suitcases full of cash to get around financial sanctions.

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 halted exports of luxury goods but this resolution for the first time specifies that certain jewelry, yachts and luxury and racing cars must be banned.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, a former South Korean foreign minister, said the resolution sent an "unequivocal message" to North Korea that "the international community will not tolerate its pursuit of nuclear weapons."

The North's foreign ministry said that adoption of the resolution would fast track North Korean plans to carry out what it has already promised will be "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 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".

tw/jm/dc