North Korea threatens to respond to U.S. sanctions

North Korea warns it plans a tough response after the United States blacklisted its leader, Kim Jong Un, over human rights abuses.

Ben Ariel ,

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

North Korea warned on Thursday it is planning its toughest response to what it deemed a "declaration of war" by the United States after Washington blacklisted the armed country's leader, Kim Jong Un, over human rights abuses.

Pyongyang described the sanctioning of Kim as a "hideous crime," Reuters reported, citing North Korea's official KCNA news agency.

"The U.S. dared challenge the dignity of (North Korea) supreme leadership, an act reminiscent of a new-born puppy knowing no fear of a tiger," the statement said.

"This is the worst hostility and an open declaration of war against (North Korea) as it has gone far beyond the confrontation over the human rights issue," it added.

The United States was unfazed, urging Pyongyang in response to refrain from statements and actions that raise tensions in the region.

The United States imposed its first sanctions targeting any North Koreans for rights abuses on Wednesday, blacklisting Kim along with 10 other people and five government ministries and departments.

In addition to the human rights abuses, North Korea has continued its provocations of the West in recent months, having carried out a series of tests of its medium-range ballistic Musudan missile.

As well, Kim several weeks ago boasted that his country possesses "the sure capability to attack" U.S. interests in the Pacific.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a former South Korean foreign minister, said in response to the human rights sanctions he hopes China will urge its ally North Korea to cooperate internationally on human rights.

Ban's spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said the UN chief "believes that discussion of human rights concerns allows for a more comprehensive assessment and action when addressing security and stability concerns on the Korean Peninsula", according to Reuters.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, said he had spoken to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and hoped that Beijing would continue to cooperate with UN sanctions aimed at rolling back North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

North Korea has been under UN sanctions since 2006. In March, the Security Council imposed harsh new sanctions on the country in response to North Korea's fourth nuclear test in January and the launch of a long-range rocket in February.

President Barack Obama in March imposed sanctions on broad sectors of the North Korean economy in response to its ongoing missile tests.