President Obama on Friday signed an executive order imposing broad new economic sanctions against North Korea and its leaders, casting the step as American retaliation for the hacking of Sony Pictures last year.
The president issued the order while vacationing in Hawaii. In a letter to House Speaker John A. Boehner, Mr. Obama said the sanctions are not meant to hurt the people of North Korea.
Rather, he said, they are aimed at the financial interests of government leaders and officials in the country’s powerful Workers’ Party.
“I have now determined that the provocative, destabilizing and repressive actions and policies of the government of North Korea, including its destructive, coercive cyber-related actions during November and Decemer 2014 … constitute a continuing threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States,” Mr. Obama said in the letter.
The order freezes North Korean assets held in the U.S. or under the control of U.S. persons or businesses. It also applies to anyone who provided material or technological support to the North Korean government.
Before leaving for Hawaii Dec. 19, Mr. Obama promised a proportional American response against North Korea, which the U.S. government has blamed for the hacking of Sony Pictures.
North Korea’s actions came in response to Sony film “The Interview,” a comedy that depicted the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jung Un. North Korea also made terrorist threats against movie theaters planning to show the movie, and the film’s planned Dec. 25 release was temporarily scrapped.
Ultimately, independent movie theaters showed the film, and Sony also made it available for purchase on sites such as YouTube.
White House officials indicated Friday’s actions were just the first steps in a larger response.
“Our response to North Korea’s attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment will be proportional and will take place at a time in a manner of our choosing. Today’s actions are the first aspect of our response,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement.