The European Union has ratcheted up its sanctions against North Korea in response to the rogue nation's recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
The European Union announced on Friday that it is adding 16 North Korean individuals and 12 commercial entities to its blacklist. The list already includes sanctions against some 60 people and organizations who have seen their assets frozen, while also being hit with international travel bans.
The North Korean tests were carried out in defiance of a United Nations resolution, which prompted the international body to increase its own sanctions against the government in Pyongyang on Wednesday.
The UN Security Council voted unanimously to adopt its toughest sanctions to date against the notoriously reclusive country. The new infringements include mandatory inspections of cargo leaving and entering North Korea by land, sea or air; a ban on all sales or transfers of small arms and light weapons to the North; and the expulsion of North Korean diplomats who engage in "illicit activities."
EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini vowed earlier in the week that the EU would follow-up quickly on the new UN sanctions, describing North Korea's actions as a "grave threat to international peace and security in the region and beyond."
EU's strained ties with North Korea
The EU established diplomatic ties with North Korea only in 2001, but contacts are limited; and the 28-member bloc imposed its first sanctions against the communist state in 2006.
"The only way for defending the sovereignty of our nation and its right to existence under the present extreme situation is to bolster up nuclear force both in quality and quantity," the official Korean Central News Agency said, paraphrasing Kim. The agency said Kim stressed "the need to get the nuclear warheads deployed for national defense always on standby so as to be fired any moment."
Kim took aim at his chief adversaries - South Korea and the United States. The Korean War never officially ended, with the North and South signing an armistice in 1953. Though the North has provoked occasional skirmishes there has never been a full resumption of hostilities
The Pyongyang government has threatened nuclear war in the past, but it remains unclear just what its nuclear capabilities are. Few think the beleaguered country's missiles could reach the United States, but some experts believe Pyongyang has the capability to strike South Korea and Japan with shorter range missiles.
bik/sms (AFP, Reuters, AP)