US pushes tough new sanctions on NKorea as Pyongyang threatens to nix cease-fire

The United States, dealing with an increasingly belligerent North Korea under the leadership of the impetuous Kim Jong-un, moved Tuesday through the U.N. framework to tighten sanctions on the regime -- with the goal of reining in Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The move came as Pyongyang threatened, in retaliation, to cancel the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War. The Korean People's Army Supreme Command warned of "surgical strikes" meant to unify the divided Korean Peninsula.

Pyongyang was evidently agitated with the resolution, which was backed by its ally China and described by U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice as "some of the toughest sanctions" ever imposed by the U.N.

"The sanctions contained in this draft resolution will significantly impede North Korea's ability to develop further its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs," Rice said, adding that they would "demonstrate clearly to North Korea the continued costs of its provocations."

She said the international community is "united and very firm in its opposition to North Korea's illicit nuclear and missile programs."

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    The proposed resolution, worked out by Rice and China's U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong over the last three weeks, reflects the growing anger of the U.N.'s most powerful body at North Korea's defiance of three previous sanctions resolutions that demanded a halt to all nuclear and missile tests.

    This one pledges additional measures if Pyongyang keeps ignoring the council with new tests, Rice said. North Korea's latest test was in February.

    With the support of China, the North's closest ally, the proposed resolution is not expected to face serious opposition, though council members will send it to their capitals for review.

    "We hope for unanimous adoption later this week," Rice said.

    The draft resolution targets for the first time the illicit activities of North Korean diplomats, the country's illicit banking relationships and its illegal transfers of bulk, Rice said. It also adds new travel restrictions.

    Before the U.N. meeting, and as word emerged of the U.S.-China proposal, Pyongyang threatened to cancel the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War.

    Hours after North Korea carried out its third atomic blast on Feb. 12, all 15 council members approved a press statement condemning the nuclear test and pledging further action.

    The sanctions have been aimed at trying to derail the country's rogue nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. In addition to barring North Korea from testing or using nuclear or ballistic missile technology, they also ban it from importing or exporting material for these programs.

    North Korea's neighbors and the West condemn the North's efforts to develop long-range nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States as a serious threat to Northeast Asia's delicate security and a drain on the precious resources that could go to North Korea's largely destitute people.

    North Korea says its nuclear program is a response to U.S. hostility that dates back to the Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically in a state of war.

    North Korea says Washington and others are going beyond mere economic sanctions and expanding into blunt aggression and military acts.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said President Obama and the American people would like to see North Korea's leader promote peace and engage in talks.

    "Rather than threaten to abrogate and threaten to move in some new direction, the world would be better served ... if he would engage in a legitimate dialogue, legitimate negotiations, in order to resolve not just American concerns, but the concerns of the Japanese and the South Koreans and the Russians and the Chinese, everybody in the region," Kerry said in Doha, Qatar. "That's our hope."

    The North's latest nuclear test was seen as a crucial step toward its goal of building a bomb small enough to be fitted on a missile capable of striking the United States. Many outside analysts still believe the North hasn't achieved such a miniaturization technology.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.