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(News Focus) N. Korea may carry out more provocations in defiance of new U.N. resolution: experts

2017/08/06 16:56

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By Park Boram

SEUL, Aug. 6 (Yonhap) -- In outright defiance of the fresh sanctions resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), North Korea is likely to go a step further to provoke the international community by carrying out more long-range ballistic missile launches and large artillery drills, experts here warned Sunday.

Condemning the two tests of what North Korea said were intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) last month, the U.N. council unanimously approved on Saturday (U.S. time) Resolution 2371 designed to squeeze the flow of foreign currency into North Korea.

The eighth UNSC resolution against the reclusive country imposed a blanket ban on North Korea's exports of coal, iron and iron ore, and placed restrictions on its foreign sales of lead, seafood and workforce. The measures are expected to cut the country's US$3 billion annual export revenue by $1 billion.

So far, North Korea has not come up with an official reaction to the U.N. decision, but has long threatened to react head-on to further UNSC sanctions.

"If the United States sticks to its military adventurism against us and super-intensive sanctions schemes, we will respond with a stern action of justice as we have already declared," North Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement on July 30 following its second ICBM test two days earlier.

The Sunday edition of the Rodong Sinmun, a mouthpiece newspaper for the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, warned in an article that "The day the U.S. dares tease our nation with a nuclear rod and sanctions, the mainland U.S. will be catapulted into an unimaginable sea of fire."

   The article was printed before the final adoption of the UNSC resolution, but it could still portend to North Korea's fierce reaction to the latest sanctions drafted by the U.S.

"Regardless of how intense the anti-North sanctions contained in the resolution are, the North will probably come up with a hard-line response as it has warned of a confrontation with the U.S.," Prof. Kim Yeon-chul of Inje University said.

"At this moment, a firm-action-to-firm-action stance seems to be unavoidable," the professor predicted.

The launch of additional ICBM-type projectiles could be one provocation North Korea can opt for in protest given the intense impact its latest two launches have drawn.

Even from inside the U.S., the latest missiles, called Hwasong-14 ICBMs by the North, are estimated to have a range capable of hitting the eastern part of the U.S. mainland. This caused the U.S. to move quickly to find ways to address the threat.

Another possibility could be a warhead re-entry test or an airborne explosion test, according to experts on North Korean issues.

"Sticking to its own timetable chronicling the ICBM (test) and fitting of a nuclear warhead, North Korea would immerse itself in increasing its bargaining power," Choi Kang, vice head of the Asan Institute of Policy Studies, said.

Throughout August, North Korea may also venture into low-intensity provocations as a pretext for deterrence against the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFG), a regular exercise between Seoul and Washington, that will kick off late this month in South Korea, according to Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies affiliated with Kyungnam University.

"North Korea would have a more diversified range of options from which it can choose from as the sanctions resolution came ahead of the joint South Korea-U.S. military exercise," he noted.

In reaction to past joint military exercises, North Korea carried out missile launches or live-fire artillery drills, claiming that they were responding to the allies' war rehearsals.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un himself has also warned of more provocations in the pipeline after personally inspecting the country's first Hwasong-14 launch on July 4. He said North Korea will send similar "gift packages" of different sizes to Washington going forward, although he did not provide specific plans.

This AP photo shows a meeting of the U.N. Security Council where the members unanimously adopted Resolution 2371 against North Korea. (Yonhap) This AP photo shows a meeting of the U.N. Security Council where the members unanimously adopted Resolution 2371 against North Korea. (Yonhap)

Local experts, meanwhile, pointed to the new resolution omitting a ban on oil exports to North Korea, predicting that it may fall short of dealing a fatal blow to the North Korean regime.

"The resolution was something of a face-saving arrangement between the U.S. and China and the exclusion of cutting off the crude oil supply is very regrettable," Choi of the Asan Institute of Policy Studies said. "I am not sure if North Korea would feel crushed."

   Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said that in the absence of an action on the crude oil front, The final success of the resolution may depend on implementation by China and Russia.

pbr@yna.co.kr

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