UNITED NATIONS - The UN Security Council unanimously approved more sanctions Thursday against North Korea, imposing penalties on the country’s banking, travel and trade.

The vote on the resolution drafted by the United States and China came hours after North Korea warned for the first time it would launch pre-emptive nuclear attacks on the United States and South Korea.

“The strength, breadth and severity of these sanctions will raise the cost to North Korea of its illicit nuclear program,” said Susan Rice, US ambassador to the United Nations. “Taken together, these sanctions will bite and bite hard.”

Li Baodong, the UN ambassador from China, said the resolution had a long-term goal of denuclearising the Korean Peninsula. “This resolution is a very important step,” he said after the vote.

Before the vote, North Korea issued statements describing Washington as a “criminal threatening global peace” and threatening preemptive nuclear action.

The sanctions resolution was drafted by the United States and China - long the chief ally and benefactor of the North. The resolution expands and tightens a range of financial and diplomatic sanctions intended to curtail Pyongyang’s ability to threaten the world with its nuclear programs and cut off the leadership’s ability to travel and acquire luxury goods such as yachts and racing cars.

The action builds on a raft of existing sanctions that have been imposed on North Korea since it launched the first of three nuclear tests in 2006. The new measures were crafted to further limit access to the international financial system by North Korean banks and firms, while imposing greater constraints on the North’s ability to transport potentially illicit cargo around the world. The council also warned that it would take “further significant measures” against Pyongyang if it carried out another nuclear or ballistic missile test.

AFP Adds: The council unanimously passed a resolution, agreed by the United States and China, which added new names to the UN sanctions blacklist and tightened restrictions on the North’s financial dealings, notably its “bulk cash” transfers.

North Korea said ahead of the meeting that a new war was “unavoidable” because of South Korean-US military exercises. The North’s military “will exercise the right to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors,” said the foreign ministry.

North Korea now faces one of the toughest UN sanctions regimes ever imposed after three nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and the latest on February 12. And resolution 2094 agreed by the 15-member Security Council threatened “further significant measures” if the North stages a new nuclear test or rocket launch. The resolution expresses “gravest concern” over the nuclear test and adds three new individuals, a government science academy and trading company to the UN blacklist for a travel ban and assets freeze.

Two of the individuals are Yon Chong-Nam and Ko Chol Chae, the head and deputy chief of Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID). The resolution described KOMID as North Korea’s “primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons.”

North Korean state TV showed a massive military and civilian rally held in Pyongyang’s giant Kim Il-Sung square.

Meanwhile, Australia has barred North Korea from reopening an embassy in Canberra because of the reclusive state’s recent nuclear test, the government said on Thursday.