On the heels of a unanimous vote by the United Nations Security Council to impose new sanctions on North Korea following a series of ballistic missile tests, Pyongyang charged on Monday that the punitive measures are a "violent infringement" of the nation's sovereignty and vowed "thousands-fold" revenge.
"My hope is that the Trump administration recognizes that, okay, tighter economic sanctions is one possibility, but frankly, we've tried that, and it hasn't really worked."
—John Feffer, Foreign Policy In FocusThe retaliatory threats were issued by the Kim Jong-un regime and broadcast by the North's official Korean Central News Agency. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley hailed the sanctions as "the single largest economic sanctions package ever leveled against the North Korean regime," a message echoed by President Donald Trump.
"It's a wild idea to think the [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] will be shaken and change its position due to this kind of new sanctions formulated by hostile forces," Pyongyang said in response. The regime also warned that there is "no bigger mistake than the United States believing that its land is safe across the ocean."
In a speech at the ASEAN Regional Forum on Monday, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho painted the United States as the aggressor and said "possession of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles is a legitimate option for self-defense in the face of a clear and real nuclear threat posed by the U.S."
Though experts told the Associated Press that the North is "not likely to launch a direct provocation against the United States," the North's comments alarmed analysts and commentators who fear that the prospects for de-escalation are dwindling by the day.
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As Common Dreams reported last week, some of the world's most powerful nations have intensified military activities in recent weeks, and activists have warned that the threat of a "nuclear nightmare" looms if diplomatic efforts are not undertaken with urgency.
Adding to the growing concerns is Trump's erratic and unpredictable behavior, which includes what The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill recently called "a disturbing pattern of reckless spontaneity, usually expressed publicly through his Twitter feed."
In an interview with Scahill last week, John Feffer, Korea expert and co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, warned of the "shadow nuts" that have Trump's ear and concluded that negotiations—not sanctions or pre-emptive military actions, as have been floated by some influential voices—are the only plausible way forward.
"My hope is that the Trump administration recognizes that, okay, tighter economic sanctions is one possibility, but frankly, we've tried that, and it hasn't really worked," Feffer said. "But negotiations, well, they have worked, and [they] worked in 1994, even worked during the George W. Bush administration with the six-party talks. Both of those agreements led to effective freezes and even some dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear capability. So that's the no-brainer as far as I’m concerned, it's just a question of whether the Trump administration comes to that realization as well."