SEOUL—North Korea has issued a strongly worded statement warning of catastrophic consequences for the United States and other countries that supported the recent U.N. resolution condemning North Korea’s human rights record. North Korea’s threat to retaliate could signal that it intends to soon conduct a new nuclear test.
The rare official announcement released by North Korea’s National Defense Commission reads more like a tirade. It refers to U.S. allies like South Korea as “riffraffs” — a term that means worthless. It calls North Korean defectors “human rubbish.” And it says the United States and its “follower forces,” meaning South Korea and Japan, will be “unable to escape the heavy blow of merciless punishment.”
The threats come in response to a recent United Nations committee vote calling on the Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court for alleged human rights violations. The Kim Jong Un regime is accused of operating a network of political prisons holding more than 100,000 people and atrocities that include “murder, torture, rape, and forced abortions.”
Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean Studies at Dongguk University, said he is not surprised that Pyongyang is reacting with strong language but not – at least so far – military action.
He said he expected that North Korea would express resistance against the international community, including the United States and South Korea, by using rhetoric rather than military action.
The North Korean statement denies and rejects the human rights resolution. It describes the U.N. as the “height of shameless burlesque.” And it says the resolution is an attack on the country’s sovereignty and a “declaration of war.”
The statement’s refers to the possibility of nuclear conflict, leading some to believe that North Korea is planning another atomic test. In violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions, Pyongyang has staged a number of nuclear tests and short ballistic missile launches, and has launched a small satellite into space.
South Korean Unification Ministry Spokesman Lim Byung-chul cautioned Pyongyang against conducting new nuclear tests.
He said that as North Korea takes drastic measures, such as making a nuclear threat, the situation only worsens and the nation exacerbates its isolation. If North Korea makes provocations, Lim said, it will face firm responses from the international community.
Professor Kim said Pyongyang knows that conducting a nuclear test will kill any prospect for restarting international talks to end economic sanctions and increase aid in exchange for ending its nuclear program.
It remains unclear if the U.N. Security Council will refer the North to the International Criminal Court, since Pyongyang’s allies China and Russia could veto the move. But with the latest North Korean statement, it appears the likelihood of resuming the six-party nuclear talks is remote, some six years after the last round in 2008.
VOA News Producer in Seoul Youmi Kim contributed to this report.