North Korea bitterly denounced new sanctions on its economy as “vicious, unethical and inhumane” and warned the measures would only accelerate progress on its nuclear weapons program, state media reported on Monday.
The angry statement from Pyongyang’s foreign ministry came as the crisis surrounding the reclusive state was set to dominate the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders. The U.N. Security Council last week imposed a new raft of sanctions on North Korea, slapping an export ban on textiles, freezing work permits to North Korean guest workers and placing a cap on oil supplies.
The international community is scrambling to contain an increasingly belligerent Pyongyang, which has conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test and fired long-range missiles over Japan that it says could reach the U.S. mainland.
Pyongyang says it needs nuclear weapons to protect itself from U.S. forces. It says it is determined to build a weapons system capable of delivering a nuclear warhead capable of hitting the American mainland.
The state news agency KCNA, quoting the foreign ministry statement, said the economic restrictions—which U.S. officials estimate could deny the impoverished state more than $2 billion in revenue—were an “act of hostility to physically exterminate the people of” North Korea. “The increased moves of the U.S. and its vassal forces to impose sanctions and pressure on the DPRK will only increase our pace towards the ultimate completion of the state nuclear force,” it said, referring to the country by the initials of its official name.
The effectiveness of the sanctions depends largely on whether China, North Korea’s ally and main economic partner, will fully implement them.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who was due to address the U.N. in New York on Tuesday, spoke by phone to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Monday, with the White House saying the two men were committed to “maximizing pressure on North Korea.”
The U.S. flew four F-35B stealth fighter jets and two B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula on Monday in a blunt show of force. Trump says he has not ruled out a military option in the crisis. War could leave millions of people in the South Korean capital of Seoul—and 28,500 U.S. soldiers stationed in the South—exposed.