UNITED NATIONS, March 7 (UPI) -- The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved more sanctions Thursday against North Korea, imposing penalties on the country's banking, travel and trade.
The vote on the resolution drafted by the United States and China came hours after the reclusive country warned for the first time it would launch pre-emptive nuclear attacks on the United States and South Korea, The New York Times reported.
"The strength, breadth and severity of these sanctions will raise the cost to North Korea of its illicit nuclear program," said Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "Taken together, these sanctions will bite and bite hard."
The Treasury Department Thursday moved to immediately freeze the U.S. assets of Mun Cho'-ng-Ch'o'l, a representative of commercial bank Tanchon in Beijing, and Yo'n Cho'ng-Nam and Ko Ch'o'l-Chae, based in Dalian, China, and representatives of Korea Mining Development Corp., under an executive order targeting proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters.
"These individuals are important actors within North Korea's proliferation network who have been working to gain access to international markets," said David Cohen, Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Li Baodong, the U.N. ambassador from China, said the resolution had a long-term goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. China is the last ally of North Korea, which expressed anger at the country's move.
"This resolution is a very important step," he said after the vote.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said a draft it received of the U.N. sanctions resolution included three North Korean weapons dealers and two entities, and called for mandatory inspections of North Korean ships and aircraft suspected of carrying banned items, including luxury goods.
It "calls upon states to deny permission to any aircraft to take off from, land in or overfly their territory, if they have information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that the aircraft contains items" that have been banned under previous U.N. resolutions, Yonhap reported.
The Security Council also called on countries to "exercise enhanced vigilance over DPRK diplomatic personnel so as to prevent such individuals from contributing to the DPRK's nuclear or ballistic missile programs," the draft said.
In Pyongyang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said the resolution "will compel the DPRK [the Democratic People's Republic of Korea] to take at an earlier date more powerful second and third countermeasures as it had declared."
North Korea has escalated its threats against the United States and its allies in the last few days, stating it nullified the 1953 agreement that ended the Korean conflict and threatening to turn Washington and Seoul into "a sea in flames" with "lighter and smaller nukes."