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WASHINGTON (AP) : President Barack Obama hit North Korea with new sanctions Wednesday in response to the country's "illicit" nuclear and ballistic missile tests earlier this year.An executive ordered signed by the president implements two sets of sanctions: those that unanimously cleared the U.N. Security Council and a separate round of U.S. sanctions enacted by Obama after Congress overwhelmingly approved and sent him legislation.
"These actions are consistent with our longstanding commitment to apply sustained pressure on the North Korean regime," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. "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."
The executive order prohibits the exportation of goods, services and technology to North Korea and prohibits new investment in North Korea. It also establishes nine new criteria allowing the Treasury Department to target North Korea's human rights abuses, censorship, cybersecurity threats, trade in metals, graphite, coal, or software; revenue from overseas workers; and attempts to engage in those activities.
Individuals employed in North Korea's transportation, mining, energy or financial services industries may also be subject to sanctions.
In a vote that reflected growing anger over North Korea's repeated violations of a ban on nuclear-related activity, the U.N. Security Council on March 2 unanimously approved the toughest set of sanctions against the country in two decades. The punishment 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."
Obama signed legislation on Feb. 18 that was designed to deny North Korea the money needed to develop miniaturized warheads and the long-range missiles required to 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 by claiming to having tested its first hydrogen bomb on Jan. 6. It followed up by launching a satellite on a rocket on Feb. 7.
The White House announced the executive order the same day that North Korea's highest court sentenced American tourist Otto Warmbier — the latest U.S. citizen to be detained by the North Korean government — 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 the news media and tearfully confessed to trying to steal a propaganda banner.
Earnest said the sentence made it "increasingly clear" that North Korea is using U.S. citizens as pawns in a political agenda, and urged that Warmbier be pardoned and released on humanitarian grounds.
At U.N. headquarters in New York, the chair of the North Korea sanctions committee briefed the Security Council on the March 2 resolution.
Spain's U.N. Ambassador Roman Oyarzun Marchesi said afterward that within 90 days, the 192 other U.N. member states are required to report back on actions they are taking to implement the resolution. "It is crucial if we want a safer world, if we want a denuclearized Korean peninsula, it is crucial that all member states implement this resolution very, very seriously," he said,
Associated Press writer Edie Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.