Obama signs new North Korea sanctions into law

US President Obama signs new sanctions against North Korea after missile launch

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

US President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference at the close of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California February 16, 2016.

US President Barack Obama on Thursday signed off on new sanctions against North Korea to punish the reclusive Asian nation for its provocative recent nuclear test and rocket launch.

The White House said Obama had signed measures passed by Congress, tightening sanctions on anyone importing goods or technology related to weapons of mass destruction into North Korea, or anyone who knowingly engaged in human rights abuses.

"The administration is deeply concerned about North Korea's actions and their recent provocations," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest before Obama signed the legislation.

Earnest said the White House hoped the sanctions will "serve to increase pressure on North Korea. That is a goal that Congress stated and it's a goal that we share."

The measure also heaps additional financial pressure on the already-sanctioned regime of leader Kim Jong-Un, by aiming at cutting down on money laundering and narcotics trafficking, two major illicit activities believed to be funneling millions of dollars into Kim's inner circle.

Pyongyang shocked the world last month and earned a global rebuke when it announced it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb.

On Sunday, it defiantly launched a satellite-bearing rocket, a move the West sees as a cover for a ballistic missile test in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

This picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on February 7, 2016 shows North Korea's rocket launch of the earth observation satellite Kwangmyong 4 at an undisclosed location in North Korea.

Under the bill, penalties for the sanctionable activities would include the seizure of assets, visa bans and denial of government contracts.

And for the first time, it establishes a framework for sanctions in response to North Korean cyber threats, according to Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker.