In a suspiciously soft response – particularly after its ally China accused the US of “long-arm jurisdiction – North Korea criticized Washington’s decision to impose sanctions on marine vessels supplying North Korea with banned goods that could help support its nuclear program, but said it would still be open to talks with its longtime geopolitical archnemesis.
Instead of threatening a nuclear attack of its own, Pyongyang accused Washington of bringing “clouds of war” to the region by imposing “the largest-ever” sanctions, as RT reports.
A statement published by state news agency KCNA hailed North Korea’s leadership for their “strong determination for peace, long-awaited inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation,” which began to surface during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. The statement went on to say that Washington is violating the Korean Olympics truce and “is running amok to bring another dark cloud of confrontation and war over the Korean peninsula” by announcing new wave of sanctions against the North.
We came to possess nuclear weapons, the treasured sword of justice, in order to defend ourselves from such threats from the United States,” the statement read, adding that “we will consider any type of blockade an act of war against us.”
On Friday, Washington announced “the largest-ever set of new sanctions on the North Korean regime”. The sanctions targeted the country’s industries and exports.
The sanctions were levied against 27 foreign companies, 28 ships and one individual on Friday, with President Trump unveiling them during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference – Trump’s second since taking office. Later in the day, Trump delivered an ominous threat, saying the North Koreans wouldn’t like “phase two” of the American response to their nuclear weapons program – possibly alluding to a preemptive nuclear strike.
In April, the US and South Korea will resume massive military drills called Foal Eagle and Key Resolve. Pyongyang views these exercises as a rehearsal for war, while the US and South Korea say they’re necessary to prepare for a North Korean invasion.
Russia and China have persistently urged the two sides to come to an agreement that they call a “double freeze” arguing that the US should cease military drills in exchange for the North suspending its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
* * *
China issued a stern rebuke on Friday after the sanctions overwhelmingly targeted Chinese entities.
“The Chinese side firmly opposes the US imposing unilateral sanctions and ‘long-arm jurisdiction’ on Chinese entities or individuals in accordance with its domestic laws,” said the Chinese Foreign Ministry in a statement. “We have lodged stern representations with the US side over this, urging it to immediately stop such wrongdoings so as not to undermine bilateral cooperation on the relevant area.”
US satellites have captured images of Chinese vessels engaged in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of energy products to North Korean-controlled ships.
China is North Korea’s largest trading partner, supplying 90 percent of North Korea’s total trading volume according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
“Today’s actions will significantly hinder North Korea’s ability to conduct evasive maritime activities that facilitate illicit coal and fuel transports,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters on Friday. “And limit the regime’s ability to ship goods through international waters.”
* * *
Later on Sunday, the White House released a statement reaffirming its commitment to a denuclearized Korean peninsula, adding that the White House “will see” if North Korea’s message “represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization.”
President Donald J. Trump’s Administration is committed to achieving the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The United States, our Olympic Host the Republic of Korea, and the international community broadly agree that denuclearization must be the result of any dialogue with North Korea.
The maximum pressure campaign must continue until North Korea denuclearizes. As President Trump has said, there is a brighter path available for North Korea if it chooses denuclearization.
We will see if Pyongyang’s message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization.
In the meantime, the United States and the world must continue to make clear that North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are a dead end.