- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2015

Lawmakers said Sunday that sanctions against North Korea announced last week are a good first step, but don’t go far enough to deter further cyberattacks.

“Vandalism is when you break a window, terrorism is when you take down a building, and North Korea here landed a bomb on Sony’s parking lot,” Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, said Sunday on CNN about the country’s involvement in the hacking of Sony Pictures last year. “I think there has to be a real consequences to this, otherwise you’ll see it happen again and again.”

Mr. Menendez, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he asked Secretary of State John F. Kerry to add North Korea back to the list of state-sponsored terrorists but has yet to hear back about the administration’s willingness to impose restrictions beyond the sanctions announced last week, which are similar to legislation introduced by Mr. Menendez last Congress.

“That’s a good first step,” he said. “But I think we need to go beyond.”

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 incident. 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.

SEE ALSO: Obama: North Korea’s attack ‘cybervandalism,’ not an ‘act of war’

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.

North Korean officials criticized the U.S. for the sanctions and continued to deny any role in the hacking of Sony’s emails and business files, The Associated Press reported.

“The policy persistently pursued by the U.S. to stifle the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] groundlessly stirring up bad blood toward it, would only harden its will and resolution to defend the sovereignty of the country,” an unnamed spokesman said, according to The Associated Press.

Many experts have questioned how the FBI can conclusively link North Koreans to the cyberattack, saying it could have been hackers or even Sony insiders, the AP reported.

Mr. Obama’s order freezes North Korean assets held in the United States 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.

North Korea’s actions came in response to Sony film “The Interview,” a comedy that depicted the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The country was also tied to terrorist threats made against movie theaters planning to show the film, which had its planned Dec. 25 release temporarily scrapped.

Ultimately, independent movie theaters showed the movie, 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.

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