North rejects UN sanctions, promises ‘righteous action’

North Korea has come out fighting following fresh UN Security Council sanctions on Pyongyang and after the US and South Korea celebrated the punishing measures.

The North on Monday condemned the sanctions imposed in response to its weapons programmes, saying it would not negotiate over nuclear arms while threatened by the United States.

The sanctions passed at the weekend were a “violent violation of our sovereignty”, Pyongyang said in a statement carried by its official Korean Central News Agency, adding it would take “righteous action” in return.

“We will not put our self-defensive nuclear deterrent on the negotiating table” while it faced threats from Washington, it said, “and will never take a single step back from strengthening our nuclear might”.

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted on Saturday a US-led resolution, which bans mineral and seafood exports from North Korea worth more than $1bn.

The triggering event late July, the North’s latest test of ballistic missiles, had the international community and experts concerned. Along with the the North Korean government, they say the missiles can reach different parts of the US.

Meanwhile, several Asian foreign ministers, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, are currently gathered in the Philippine capital, Manila, for an ASEAN regional summit.

There, the North on Sunday dismissed offers of talks from the South during a rare exchange between the two rivals’ foreign ministers, according to Seoul’s state-funded Yonhap news agency.

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The South’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-Wha shook hands with her Northern counterpart, Ri Yong-Ho, ahead of a forum dinner.

In the brief encounter, Kang urged Ri to accept Seoul’s offers of military talks to lower tensions on the divided peninsula, and for discussions on a new round of reunions for divided families.

“Given the current situation in which the South collaborates with the US to heap pressure on the North, such proposals lacked sincerity,” an unnamed South Korean foreign ministry official was quoted Ri as saying in response.

Kang reiterated again “the South’s sincerity” and repeated a call for Pyongyang to come forward for talks, the official told Yonhap.

Al Jazeera’s Kathy Novak said: “South Korea wants to say with the recent moves that the dialogue offer is on the table, but they won’t be bullied and will impose more sanctions on North Korea in case of ballistic missile tests.”

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi supported South Korea’s initiative, calling it a step in the right direction.

Al Jazeera’s Jamela Alindogan said that the cooperation of China to put pressure on North Korea may signal a shift on approach and policy of Pyongyang.

“However, it remains to be seen whether the latest developments will produce concrete results or not,” she said.

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Moon and Trump discuss crisis

News of the brief encounter between the Koreas came as Moon Jae-In, the South’s president, and his US counterpart Donald Trump, agreed to apply maximum pressure on North Korea.

Moon told Trump the South “cannot let another war to break out” on the peninsula after the 1950-53 Korean War that sealed the division of two Koreas, the presidential Blue House said in a statement.

Even a conventional conflict on the peninsula could cost a million dead or wounded within months, estimates say.

The encounter of the foreign ministers was the first time cabinet-level officials from the two Koreas had met since Moon, who urges engagement with the North as well as sanctions to bring it to the negotiating table, took power in May.

Moon’s policy that is open to engagement with the North is different from his two conservative predecessors, who tended to reject anything less than strict enforcement of sanctions and punishment of Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, the US, Japan and South Korea have welcomed the tough new UN sanctions, as China cautiously approved of them but reiterated a call for dialogue.

North Korea has been conducting nuclear and ballistic missile tests despite warnings issued and sanctions imposed by the international community.

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