The United Nations Security Council voted Tuesday to freeze assets and ban travel for officials of North Korea tied to its December rocket launch, tightening sanctions on the isolated nation.
The unanimous vote came more than a month after the successful launch. Though North Korean officials said the launch was lofting a satellite into space for peaceful purposes, South Korea and Western nations suspect that it was a way to test ballistic missile technology.
The decision piles more penalties on what is already the most heavily sanctioned nation on Earth, adding to restrictions approved in 2006 and 2009.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry fired back Tuesday in state media, swearing off nuclear talks and threatening to ramp up its “nuclear deterrence.” North Korea previously carried out nuclear tests after rocket launches, raising concern that the pattern will be repeated.
Besides targeting officials linked to the launch, the Tuesday resolution sanctions the North Korean space agency, along with entities involved in weapons sales. It also updates a list of banned nuclear and weapons technology and adds rules targeting smuggling, Bloomberg reported.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice called the resolution “a firm, united and appropriate response to North Korea’s reckless act.” However, unnamed diplomats told Reuters that even calling the measures “new sanctions” was an exaggeration.
Even if the added restrictions are not dramatic, the fact that China joined in penalizing its ally is striking: China reportedly clashed with the U.S. during closed negotiations after the rocket launch and previously opposed actions against North Korea.
After the Tuesday vote, Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong told the Associated Press that China had persuaded other countries to remove potential “measures that in our view would jeopardize normal trade and harm the economy and livelihood” of the North Korean people.