The White House says today this is “the first aspect of our response” to “North Korea’s ongoing provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions and policies, particularly its destructive and coercive cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment.” It authorizes the Treasury Department to “impose sanctions on individuals and entities associated with the Government of North Korea. We take seriously North Korea’s attack that aimed to create destructive financial effects on a U.S. company and to threaten artists and other individuals with the goal of restricting their right to free expression.”
The latest news comes just more than a week after North Korea’s already shaky Internet went fully dark. The shutdown, if that’s what it was, came just days after Obama said the U.S. “will respond proportionally” to North Korea’s cyber attack on Sony. At the time, the White House and the State Department declined to say whether the U.S. government was responsible for the alleged shutdown.
The President’s Order today bars payments to and transactions with what U.S. officials determine to be “an agency, instrumentality, or controlled entity” of the North Korean government, including officials of the Workers’ Party of Korea. It also stops “unrestricted immigrant and nonimmigrant entry” into the U.S. of certain people affiliated with the North Korean government.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says that Obama’s order is “driven by our commitment to hold North Korea accountable for its destructive and destabilizing conduct. Even as the FBI continues its investigation into the cyber-attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, these steps underscore that we will employ a broad set of tools to defend U.S. businesses and citizens, and to respond to attempts to undermine our values or threaten the national security of the United States.” The actions will “further isolate key North Korean entities and disrupt the activities of close to a dozen critical North Korean operatives. We will continue to use this broad and powerful tool to expose the activities of North Korean government officials and entities.”
Treasury initially designated as “controlled entities” affected by the Order the Reconnaissance General Bureau (North Korea’s intelligence organization), the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (an arms dealer whose exports include ballistic missiles and conventional weapons), and Korea Tangun Trading Corporation (which acquires commodities and technologies used in defense R&D). The sanctions also apply to 10 named North Korean officials.
The FBI says that North Korea is largely to blame for the Sony hack, targeting the studio behind the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy The Interview that depicts an assassination attempt on Kim Jong-un. But others say that a former employee, or an anonymous hacking group, may have been responsible. Yesterday journalist Glenn Greenwald said in an article in that “North Korean involvement in the Sony hack is possible, but very, very far from established. But most U.S. media discussions treated the accusation as fact.”