The Chinese foreign ministry described the situation on the peninsula as “complex and sensitive” and called on all sides to “exercise restraint and make active efforts to ease tensions”.
The US said it was seeking a diplomatic solution to the issue and drafted this new set of sanctions, including: deliveries of petrol products will be capped at 500,000 barrels a year, and crude oil at four million barrels a year; all North Korean nationals working abroad will have to return home within 24 months under the proposals, restricting a vital source of foreign currency. There will also be a ban on exports of North Korean goods, such as machinery and electrical equipment.
Tensions have risen this year over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, which it has pursued despite pressure from world powers.
The UN sanctions came in response to North Korea’s November 28 firing of a ballistic missile, which the US said was its highest yet.
President Trump has previously threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it launches a nuclear attack. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has described President Trump as “mentally deranged”.
China has traditionally been protective of North Korea, but has sharply criticized its nuclear tests and escalating rhetoric.
Earlier this year, China clamped down on its purchase of coal from North Korea and on seafood and iron trade across the border.
Coupled with the textile trade ban, Pyongyang has lost several of its scant sources of foreign currency income.
China has been under public pressure to take action from President Donald Trump, who has both applauded and denounced Chinese policy at different times.
President Trump has also been involved in a direct war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, labeling him a “rocket man” on “a suicide mission”. He warned that he would have no choice but to “totally destroy” North Korea if forced to defend the US or its allies.
Kim Jong-un, in turn, has called Donald Trump “deranged” and a “dotard”, and said the US president’s comments have convinced him he is right to seek a nuclear deterrent, and has even accused President Trump of declaring war.
At a news briefing on September 28, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: “We are opposed to any war on the Korean peninsula.”
“Sanctions and the promoting of talks are both the requirements of the UN Security Council. We should not overemphasize one aspect while ignoring the other.”
The launch followed a fresh round of UN sanctions and was unanimously condemned by the UN Security Council as “highly provocative”.
The foreign ministry statement, carried by North Korea’s official news agency KCNA, said: “The increased moves of the US and its vassal forces to impose sanctions and pressure on the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] will only increase our pace towards the ultimate completion of the state nuclear force.”
North Korea also said that the goal of the new UN sanctions, approved on September 11, was to “physically exterminate” the country’s people, system and government.
The sanctions are an attempt to starve North Korea of fuel and income for its weapons programs, and restrict oil imports and ban textile exports.
The fresh measures followed the sixth and most powerful nuclear test conducted by North Korea earlier this month.
However, some critics have raised questions over the effectiveness of the restrictions, as North Korea is still able to trade internationally.
North Korea’s commerce with China, its main ally, was partially responsible for an estimated economic growth of 3.9% in 2016, Bloomberg news agency reports.
The issue of North Korea’s weapons program is expected to dominate President Donald Trump’s address at the UN General Assembly and his meetings with the leaders of South Korea and Japan.
President Trump previously warned that “all options” were on the table and that North Korea would face “fire and fury” if it continued to threaten the US.
In a phone call on September 18, President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping committed to “maximizing pressure on North Korea through vigorous enforcement” of UN Security Council resolutions, the White House said.
Russia has also criticized what it describes as “aggressive rhetoric” from the US.
China and Russia only agreed to the new UN sanctions after they were softened by Washington.
Outgoing Pentagon chief Leon Panetta has declared today that North Korean military ambitions are a “serious threat” to the US.
In a speech made after Pyongyang carried out its third nuclear test, Leon Panetta likened the North to Iran, describing them as “rogue states”.
In New York, the UN Security Council “strongly condemned” the nuclear test.
The council said it would begin work on measures against North Korea, after UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the test was a “clear and grave violation”.
Earlier, Pyongyang said “even stronger” action might follow, saying its test was a response to US “hostility”.
Nuclear test monitors in Vienna say the underground explosion had double the force of the last test, in 2009, despite the use of a device said by the North to be smaller.
If a smaller device was indeed tested, analysts said this could take Pyongyang closer to building a warhead small enough to arm a missile.
UN sanctions on North Korea were expanded after the secretive communist state launched a rocket in December, in a move condemned by the UN as a banned test of missile technology.
North Korea’s latest nuclear test comes as senators in Washington prepare for the first votes on whether to confirm Chuck Hagel as successor to current Defence Secretary Leon Panetta.
In a farewell speech at the Pentagon, Leon Panetta said the US would continue to be tested by unpredictable regimes in years to come.
“We’re going to have to deal with weapons of mass destruction and the proliferation. We’re going to have to continue with rogue states like Iran and North Korea.
“We just saw what North Korea’s done in these last few weeks – a missile test and now a nuclear test. They represent a serious threat to the United States of America. We’ve got to be prepared to deal with that.”
Outgoing Pentagon chief Leon Panetta has declared today that North Korean military ambitions are a “serious threat” to the US
President Barack Obama, who is to make his State of the Union speech later, called the test a “highly provocative act” and called for “swift” and “credible” international action in response.
China, North Korea’s main ally and a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, summoned North Korea’s ambassador to Beijing to express its concern over the test.
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi delivered a “stern representation”‘ to Ji Jae Ryong and expressed China’s “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition” to the test, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.
Earlier, it urged the North to honor its commitment to denuclearization and “not take any actions which might worsen the situation”.
The test was condemned by North Korea’s immediate neighbors, South Korea and Japan, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for a revival of talks on the North’s nuclear arms programme.
In a defiant message to the UN’s disarmament forum, the North said it would never bow to resolutions on its nuclear programme and blamed the failure of diplomacy on the US.
“The US and their followers are sadly mistaken if they miscalculate the DPRK [North Korea] would respect the entirely unreasonable resolutions against it,” the North’s envoy, Jon Yong Ryong, told the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.
North Korea confirmed the test after international monitors recorded seismic activity consistent with a powerful underground explosion at 11:57 on Tuesday.
Activity had been observed at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site for several months.
State-run KCNA news agency said the test was “carried out at a high level in a safe and perfect manner using a miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously”.
North Korea said the nuclear test was a response to the “reckless hostility of the United States”.
“The latest nuclear test was only the first action, with which we exercised as much self-restraint as possible,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“If the US further complicates the situation with continued hostility, we will be left with no choice but to take even stronger second or third rounds of action.”
The Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization said the “explosion-like event” was twice as big as the 2009 test, which was in turn bigger than that in 2006.
It is the first such test under new leader Kim Jong-un, who took over the leadership after his father Kim Jong-il died in December 2011.