U.S. Adds to Sanctions against North Korea ; Obama Administration Targets Top Officials for Human Rights Abuses

By Davis, Julie Hirschfeld | International New York Times, July 8, 2016 | Go to article overview

U.S. Adds to Sanctions against North Korea ; Obama Administration Targets Top Officials for Human Rights Abuses


Davis, Julie Hirschfeld, International New York Times


The action against the dictator Kim Jong-un and 14 others was taken for human rights abuses including extrajudicial slayings, forced labor and torture.

The Obama administration has announced that it is imposing sanctions on North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, personally, blacklisting the unpredictable ruler and top officials in his reclusive government for human rights abuses as he aggressively presses forward with his nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The State Department took the unusual step on Wednesday of naming Mr. Kim and 14 other senior officials it said were responsible for grave human rights abuses in a five-page report detailing repression in North Korea. The report singled out top figures inside its intelligence and security ministries, which the department said had engaged in practices including extrajudicial killings, forced labor and torture.

The Treasury Department, imposing its first human rights sanctions on any North Korean official, designated them on a list of people whose assets are frozen and who are barred from transactions with any American citizen.

The actions were mandated by Congress as part of a law enacted in February that required the administration to report on human rights abuses in North Korea and to impose sanctions on anyone found to be responsible. But senior administration officials said they had long planned to take more aggressive action that would move human rights violations -- until now on the periphery of the United States' efforts to isolate and punish North Korea for its bad behavior -- to a more central position in the administration's strategy. That involved a painstaking, monthslong process of identifying the officials inside North Korea's secretive system who were the worst offenders.

"The report represents the most comprehensive U.S. government effort to date to name those responsible for or associated with the worst aspects of the North Korean government's repression, including serious human rights abuses and censorship in the D.P.R.K., and we will continue to identify more individuals and entities in future reports," John Kirby, the State Department spokesman, said in a statement accompanying the report.

The new sanctions are the latest evidence that President Obama is determined to heighten the repercussions North Korea would face for its provocative actions, after the country conducted its fourth nuclear test in January. In March, the Obama administration pressed for and won stringent new economic sanctions at the United Nations. Last month it sought to further choke off North Korea's access to the world financial system by designating the country a "primary" money launderer.

The decision to target Mr. Kim comes a few weeks after Donald J. Trump, the Republican Party's presumptive presidential nominee, said he would meet with the North Korean dictator to discuss his nation's nuclear program. …

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