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US slaps sanctions on North Korea after Sony hack

Obama says punitive measures come in response to regime’s ‘destructive, repressive’ actions; targets gov’t officials

File: Travelers walk past a television screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's New Year speech, at a railroad station in Seoul on January 1, 2015. (AFP/Jung Yeon-Je)
File: Travelers walk past a television screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's New Year speech, at a railroad station in Seoul on January 1, 2015. (AFP/Jung Yeon-Je)

WASHINGTON — The United States imposed financial sanctions Friday on North Korea and several senior government officials following a cyber attack on Hollywood studio Sony Pictures.

US President Barack Obama said he ordered the sanctions because of “the provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions and policies of the Government of North Korea, including its destructive, coercive cyber-related actions during November and December 2014.”

The activities “constitute a continuing threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” he added, in a letter to inform congressional leaders of his executive order.

“The order is not targeted at the people of North Korea, but rather is aimed at the Government of North Korea and its activities that threaten the United States and others,” Obama added.

“Today’s actions are driven by our commitment to hold North Korea accountable for its destructive and destabilizing conduct,” declared US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, announcing the sanctions.

The new measures allow the Treasury Department “to apply sanctions against officials of the Government of North Korea and the Workers’ Party of Korea, and persons determined to be owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of” these bodies.

The United States has blamed North Korea for a crippling cyber attack on Sony Pictures that saw the release of a trove of embarrassing emails, scripts and other internal communications, including information about salaries and employee health records.

Pyongyang has repeatedly denied involvement in the hack but has applauded the actions of a shadowy online group which claimed responsibility for the cyber attack, the self-styled “Guardians of Peace.”

Obama has said his government takes the hack “very seriously” and had warned the United States would “respond proportionately.”

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