North Korea says United Nations sanctions are an 'act of war'

The UN Security Council unanimously approved tough new sanctions against North Korea on Friday in response to its latest launch of a ballistic missile that Pyongyang says can reach anywhere on the US mainland.

North Korea has declared the latest round of UN sanctions against the rogue nation as an "act of war", according to state media.

China called for restraint Monday, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying saying that nations should "make positive and constructive efforts to de-escalate tensions" on the Korean Peninsula.

The UN resolution seeks to ban almost 90 per cent of refined petroleum exports to North Korea by capping them at 500,000 barrels a year and, in a last-minute change, demands the repatriation of North Koreans working overseas within 24 months, instead of 12 months as first proposed.

The North Korean statement described the latest sanctions "as a violent breach of our republic's sovereignty and an act of war that destroys the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and a wide region".

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The new resolution was tantamount to a complete economic blockade of North Korea, the ministry said.

In a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency, North Korea's foreign ministry said the United States was terrified by its nuclear force and was getting "more and more frenzied in the moves to impose the harshest-ever sanctions and pressure on our country".

The Chinese customs authorities reported Saturday that trade between China and North Korea, very limited due to the sanctions, reached $388 million in November, which is 15.9 percent more than in October but around 36 percent less year-on-year.

To try to reduce smuggling and ship-to-ship transfers of North Korean coal and other banned goods, the measure says countries can "seize, inspect, freeze (impound) any vessel in their ports" if there are grounds to believe the vessel was used to transport banned items.

But the resolution doesn't include even harsher measures sought by the Trump administration that would ban all oil imports and freeze worldwide assets of the government and its leader, Kim Jong Un. The new restrictions are meant to slash North Korea's imports of refined petroleum products, further restrict shipping and impose a 12-month deadline for expatriate North Korean workers to be sent home.

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