North Korea, which held a mass military rally in Pyongyang on Thursday in support of its recent threats, has protested against the U.N. censures of its rocket launches. It says they are part of a peaceful space program and that the criticism is an exercise of double standards by the United States. The North’s shrill rhetoric, however, rarely goes beyond just that. Its last armed aggression against the South in 2010 came unannounced, bombing a South Korean island and killing two civilians. It was also accused of sinking a South Korean navy ship earlier in the year, killing 46 sailors.
North Korea was conducting a series of military drills and getting ready for state-wide war practice of an unusual scale, South Korea’s defense ministry said earlier.
South Korea and the United States, which are conducting annual military drills until the end of April, are watching the North’s activities for signs that they might turn from an exercise to an actual attack, said South Korea’s defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok. Kim declined to confirm news reports that the North has imposed no-fly zones off its coasts in a possible move to fire missiles, but he said any flight ban limited to near the coast would not be for weapons with meaningful ranges.
“Since the United States is about to ignite a nuclear war, we will be exercising our right to preemptive nuclear attack against the headquarters of the aggressor in order to protect our supreme interest,” the North’s foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
With tensions high on the Korean peninsula, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to expand its sanctions on North Korea. The new sanctions were agreed after three weeks of negotiations between the United States and China, which has a history of resisting tough measures against its ally and neighbor. The resolution specifies some luxury items North Korea’s elite is not allowed to import, such as yachts, racing cars, luxury automobiles and certain types of jewelry. This is intended to close a loophole that had allowed countries to decide for themselves what constitutes a luxury good.