UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The world moved closer Tuesday to tightening sanctions on North Korea for its latest nuclear test after U.N. diplomats said the United States and China had reached agreement on a new draft resolution to punish the country. In response, Pyongyang threatened to cancel the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War.
The U.N. Security Council held closed consultations on North Korea and non-proliferation Tuesday morning as tensions on the Korean Peninsula soared again over the February test.
The U.N. diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because no official announcement had been made, said the United States circulated the draft resolution on sanctions to the full council. Council members are expected to send the draft to their capitals for review.
The diplomats did not immediately reveal what new sanctions would be included in the resolution.
Any fresh international sanctions are certain to infuriate North Korea, which has claimed the right to build nuclear weapons to deter alleged U.S. aggression. Citing the U.S.-led push for sanctions, the Korean People’s Army Supreme Command on Tuesday warned of “surgical strikes” meant to unify the divided Korean Peninsula and of an indigenous, “precision nuclear striking tool.”
China is North Korea’s closest ally, but it has indicated it is concerned about Pyongyang’s behavior.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Beijing refused to give any details about the deal with the U.S. at her daily media briefing. “We have said here many times that China supports the U.N. Security Council in reacting moderately and explicitly objects to North Korea’s nuclear test,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
Hours after North Korea carried out its third atomic blast on Feb. 12, all 15 council members approved a press statement condemning the nuclear test and pledging further action. The swift, unanimous response from the U.N.’s most powerful body set the stage for a fourth round of sanctions.
For the last three weeks, the United States, a close ally of South Korea and Japan, has been negotiating the text of a new resolution with China. Lawmakers in Washington this week are also pushing for tougher U.S. financial restrictions on North Korea, which have been tried before with significant impact but have upset China.
North Korea’s neighbors and the West condemn the North’s efforts to develop nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States as a serious threat to Northeast Asia’s delicate security and a drain on the precious resources that could go to North Korea’s largely destitute people.
North Korea says its nuclear program is a response to U.S. hostility that dates back to the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically in a state of war. The United States removed its atomic bombs from South Korea in 1991 and has repeatedly rejected North Korea’s claims of U.S. invasion plans.