- - Wednesday, March 30, 2016

On March 16, President Barack Obama signed an order imposing U.N.-backed “robust new sanctions” on North Korea. The move comes amid a series of reprisals from Pyongyang, including the jailing of a 21-year-old American student.

The sanctions were passed at the United Nations in response to a nuclear test in January and ballistic missile launch in February. “These actions are consistent with our longstanding commitment to apply sustained pressure on the North Korean regime,” the White House said. “The U.S. and the global community will not tolerate North Korea’s illicit nuclear and ballistic missile activities, and we will continue to impose costs on North Korea until it comes into compliance with its international obligations.”

The White House announced that Mr. Obama’s executive order for the sanctions primarily targeted North Korea’s mining, financial and shipping assets, as well as the “Propaganda and Agitation Department” of the Workers’ Party of Korea. The U.S. Treasury Department estimates that mining alone generates more than $1 billion (890 million euros) a year for the government, providing the regime with much-needed revenue.

Previously, when South Korean President Park Geun-hye visited Washington in October, Mr. Obama spoke about the special relationship between the U.S. and South Korea:

In recent years, President Park and I have worked together to strengthen our alliance for the future, and today I want to reaffirm that the commitment of the United States to the defense and security of the Republic of Korea will never waver. Our alliance remains a linchpin of peace and security — not just on the Korean Peninsula, but across the region. And so South Korea plays a central role in America’s rebalance to the Asia Pacific. And we continued that work today.

As we agreed in Seoul last year, our militaries are investing in shared capabilities, including the technologies and missile defenses that allow our forces to operate together effectively. We want to ensure that our Korean allies have the capabilities that are needed to take on greater responsibility for the defense of the peninsula and the eventual transfer of operational control of the alliance. And we’re determined to maintain our readiness against any threat.

Madam President, I want to commend you and the people of South Korea for the resolve that you displayed this summer following North Korea’s reckless actions in the DMZ that wounded two of your soldiers. North Korea was reminded that any provocation or aggression will be met by a strong, united response by South Korea and the United States.

Likewise, Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs have achieved nothing except to deepen North Korea’s isolation. Today, President Park and I are reaffirming that our nations will never accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state. We will continue to insist that Pyongyang must abide by its obligations on the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the peninsula in a peaceful manner. And given the horrific treatment of the North Korean people by their government, our two nations will continue to expose abuses and call for accountability for human rights violations.

At the same time, we do support President Park’s efforts to improve relations between South and North Korea. As my administration has shown with Iran and with Cuba, we are also prepared to engage nations with which we’ve had troubled histories. But Pyongyang needs to understand that it will not achieve the economic development it seeks so long as it clings to nuclear weapons. In contrast, President Park has articulated a better vision — a unified Korea free from the fear of war and nuclear weapons — and that’s a vision that we very much support.

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