U.S. President Barack Obama issued an administrative order for sanctions on North Korea in response to the recent hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment on Jan. 2 (local time). Experts point out that the order has political and diplomatic significance beyond simple sanctions, in that the president signed it in a hurry before returning from his vacation in Hawaii.
According to the administrative order, the North Korean Reconnaissance General Bureau, Mining Development Trading Corporation, and Tangun Trading Corporation are subject to the sanctions along with 10 individuals. The president declared that he would get even with the North on Dec. 19 last year. He said, based on an FBI announcement, that the hacking had significantly affected his country and that he would respond proportionally to the attack. His hard-line stance implies that Washington is considering the cyber attack seriously and as a direct provocation against itself.
In the meantime, North Korea has denied the accusation while pegging the U.S. as the culprit of the recent Internet disconnection in the North. “President Obama and his aides committed a crime by screening the movie on Christmas day,” a statement from North Korea said. It also compared Obama to a monkey. At the same time, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un showed a gesture of appeasement in his New Year’s speech, mentioning the possibility of inter-Korean talks, as its relations with Washington were more and more exacerbated.
However, President Obama is expected to keep stepping up pressure on the North. “The administrative order is the U.S. government’s first action against North Korea,” said White House spokesperson Josh Earnest, implying that there will be follow-ups. Possible examples of the measures to come include the re-designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism for the first time since November 2008.
“The United States recently declared the normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba in 53 years and is seeking to mend fences with Iran,” said a political expert, adding, “Its tough stance seems to have to do with taming the last remaining hostile country rather than simply retaliating against the North for the Sony Pictures hack.”