The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to hit North Korea with stronger sanctions.
The resolution requires all countries to freeze financial transactions or services, including financial support for trade deals, that could contribute to the North's nuclear or missile programs. It also bans countries from importing specific luxury goods, including yachts, luxury cars, racing cars, and jewelry.
The U.S.-drafted resolution that had the backing of China and Russia condemns North Korea's latest nuclear test "in the strongest terms" and demands that it return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the resolution "sent an unequivocal message to (North Korea) that the international community will not tolerate its pursuit of nuclear weapons."
"These sanctions will bite and bite hard," said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.
Hours before the vote, North Korea threatened to launch a "preemptive nuclear attack" against the United States and its ally South Korea.
The statement on Thursday reported by the North's Korean Central News Agency comes two days after Pyongyang said it planned to scrap the armistice that ended Korean War in 1953, citing looming UN sanctions and ongoing US-South Korean joint military drills.
North Koreans gathered at a mass rally Thursday to protest the joint military drills between South Korea and the U.S.
An identified spokesman for the North Korean foreign ministry said Thursday that the United States "is set to light a fuse for a nuclear war." In the statement, North Korea vowed to exercise its right "to a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors and to defend the supreme interests of the country."
Despite the strong rhetoric, analysts say that "North Korea is still years away from having the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile and aim it accurately at a target," according to a CNN report.
However, international concern has intensified over the North's drive to nuclear technology following its atomic blast on Feb.12.
The latest nuclear test launched the U.S. and China, North Korea's strongest ally, into negotiations over a draft resolution that would impose the strongest sanctions yet against Pyongyang .
"The sanctions will significantly impede North Korea's ability to develop further its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs," said Rice earlier this week. "These sanctions — as well as a commitment to take further significant measures in the event of another launch or nuclear test — will demonstrate clearly to North Korea the continued costs of its provocations."
In response to the North's threat to cancel the cease-fire, South Korea on Wednesday pledged to retaliate "strongly and sternly" against North Korea's military if the lives of its citizens came under threat.