North Korea's war of words over its missile program heated up once again in late January 2013. Responding to a December 2012, North Korean missile launch in violation of international mandate, the United Nations on January 22 levied another round of sanctions against the communist country. In turn, North Korea vowed retaliation against South Korea and the United States.
North Korea (officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK), fired the Unha-3 missile on December 12. It placed a small satellite in an irregular orbit of the earth. Just as the Soviet Union's successful launching of the Sputnik satellite in 1957 raised fears of its missile weaponry program, North Korean analysts suspect the satellite launch was just a cover to test the DPRK's own weapons.
North Korea countered that the satellite launch underscored its peaceful intentions for space.
The UN thinks otherwise. The UN Security Council once again condemned North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programs, and it placed new sanctions on the country. The council targeted officials of DPRK missile launch and satellite control centers, placing travel bans on them and freezing their assets. The council put similar bans on "companies and committees involved in the launch."
The sanctions were extensions of sanctions the UN placed on North Korea in 2006 and 2009. In both of those years, the DPRK conducted both missile and nuclear tests.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's office issued a statement which said, "Speaking with one voice, the Security Council reiterated its firm stance that the DPRK's pursuit of nuclear weapons, including means of delivery, is unacceptable.
"The Secretary-General urges the DPRK to fully abide by all relevant resolutions. In particular, he calls upon the DPRK to refrain from taking any measures that can exacerbate tensions on the peninsula, including any further launches that use ballistic missile technology or a nuclear test."
What Are Sanctions And How Do They Work?
Sanctions, simply, are ways to prevent nations from using resources they already have -- or acquiring new ones -- to enable programs that the international community does not want to see succeed. Sanctions may prevent countries from accessing bank accounts outside their borders, or they may strangle trade, revenues from which could funnel to the outlaw programs.
Sanctions may also target individuals, such as those named in the new UN mandates against North Korea, or companies with a history of dealing with sanctioned countries. In addition to North Korea, the UN and United States have high profile sanctions against Syria and Iran. The Syria sanctions aim to cut resources that the Bashar Al-Assad regime could use in its crackdown on rebel forces; the Iranian sanctions target resources that could fund nuclear weapons development.
For a more detailed look at how sanctions work, read here.
North Korea's Response
North Korea quickly responded with anger to the sanctions, targeting both the United States and South Korea in its rhetoric. In a rambling message it promised more nuclear and missile tests. The DPRK said, "We do not hide that a variety of satellites and long-range rockets, which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level which will be carried out by it in the upcoming all-out action, a new phase of the anti-U.S. struggle that has lasted century after century, will target against the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people." North Korea also warned against "strong physical counter-measures" against South Korea.
Such saber rattling is par for North Korea.
Glyn Davies, the U.S. State Department's special representative for North Korea Policy, said the new U.N. sanctions were exactly right.
"This tough resolution, these tightened sanctions are reasonable, necessary, and justified in the face of the DPRK's unacceptable violation of its obligations under previous United Nations Security Council actions," Davies said.
"We now call on all UN member states to do their part in implementing the provisions of the resolutions," Davies continued. "The sanctions will help to impede the growth of weapons of mass destruction programs in North Korea and reduce the threat of proliferation by targeting entities and individuals directly involved in these programs."