President Obama imposed new sanctions against North Korea on Friday in the wake of the recent cyberattack on Sony Pictures that the FBI blamed on the communist regime.
The new sanctions, according to a letter sent by the president to congressional leaders, block the transfer, sale, or purchase of any property in the United States by any person or agency affiliated with the North Korean government or the Workers' Party of Korea. The ban also applies to any person found to have "materially assisted" the North Korean government.
The sanctions also suspend "entry into the United States of any alien determined to meet" the aforementioned criteria, the president wrote.
The new sanctions specifically designate three organizations, including North Korea's main intelligence service and the country's primary arms dealer, and ten individuals, including several top of the country's top political leaders, as affiliates or controlled entities of the North Korean government.
Among the ten individuals are several top executives with the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID), the country's top arms dealer, which facilitates weapons sales and procurement for the regime. The KOMID representatives designated on Friday under the new sanctions "are not remarkable for who they are but for what they represent," explained CBS News Senior National Security Analyst Juan Zarate.
"With this executive order, the U.S. government is exposing North Korean agents working on proliferation, cyber, or other North Korean government activity in Russia, China, Sudan, and Syria," he said. "This exposes their network and nodes internationally and will put pressure on those networks and the host governments."
The executive order signed by the president on Friday leaves in place all of the sanctions previously imposed on North Korea, including measures targeting nuclear proliferation, trade, and other points of concern.
A senior administration official said during a conference call on Friday that the full range of sanctions constitute "a powerful suite of tools" to empower the U.S. response to North Korean provocations.
The new order marks the first strengthening of U.S. sanctions against North Korea since the uproar over the cyberattack on Sony Pictures, which exposed a raft of embarrassing emails between producers and Sony executives and was blamed for scuttling a movie premiere.
The movie - "The Interview" - is a satirical comedy about a pair of American journalists sent to North Korea to assassinate Kim Jong Un, the country's dictator. Though the national theater debut was canceled, the movie was ultimately released digitally and in select theaters on Christmas Day.
On Friday's conference call, a senior administration official said that the attack on Sony "crossed a threshold" for the U.S., compelling a stiff response.
The president, in his letter to congressional leaders, said he'd "determined that the provocative, destabilizing, and repressive" behavior of the North Koreans, including "coercive cyber-related actions during November and December 2014...constitute a continuing threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States."
He clarified that the new sanctions are "not targeted at the people of North Korea, but rather aimed at the government of North Korea and its activities that threaten the United States and others."