Obama imposes new sanctions on Pyongyang

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Obama imposes new sanctions on Pyongyang

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama levied sanctions against North Korea on Wednesday in response to the nation’s recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

The sanctions will target North Korean property transactions, following the UN Security Council’s unanimous decision this month to adopt some of the toughest sanctions in decades against North Korea for the defiant continuance of its nuclear program. Obama enacted separate U.S. sanctions last month by an executive order, signed Wednesday, designed to merge both sets of sanctions and enable the U.S. government to implement them.

“These actions are consistent with our longstanding commitment to apply sustained pressure on the North Korean regime,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a written statement announcing Obama’s action.

“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.”

In a vote that reflected growing anger over North Korea’s repeated violations of a ban on all nuclear-related activity, the UN Security Council on March 2 unanimously approved the toughest set of sanctions against the country in two decades.

The punitive measures includes mandatory inspections of cargo leaving and entering North Korea by land, sea or air; a ban on all sales or transfers of small arms and light weapons to Pyongyang; and expulsion of diplomats from the North who engage in “illicit activities.”

The legislation Obama signed into law on Feb. 18 was designed to deny North Korea the money needed to develop miniaturized warheads and the long-range missiles that would deliver them.

It also authorizes $50 million over the next five years to transmit radio broadcasts into North Korea, purchase communications equipment and support humanitarian assistance programs.

North Korea opened the year with claims of having tested its first hydrogen bomb on Jan. 6. It followed this with its Feb. 7 satellite launch.

The White House announcement, delivered the same day, asserted that the country’s highest court sentenced American tourist Otto Warmbier, the latest U.S. citizen to be detained by North Korea, to 15 years in prison with hard labor for subversion.

The sentence came weeks after the 21-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate was presented to news media and tearfully confessed to trying to steal a propaganda banner that was hanging outside the hotel where he was staying.

Earnest said the stiff sentence made it “increasingly clear that the North Korean government seeks to use U.S. citizens as pawns to pursue a political agenda.”

He urged North Korea to pardon Warmbier and release him on humanitarian grounds. AP

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