Following allegations that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or more commonly, North Korea) was involved in certain cyber-terrorist activities involving Sony Pictures, President Obama moved on Friday, January 2 to add to the North Korean sanctions regime by issuing a new Executive Order (EO). The controversy surrounds Sony’s production of the movie The Interview, which tells a fictional tale of a plot against DPRK Premier Kim Jong Un.
The yet-unnumbered EO orders the blocking of certain assets coming into the possession of U.S. persons if it is deemed that certain North Korean entities (such as entities owned or controlled by the DPRK government and the Worker’s Party). Notably a number of DPRK nationals have been added to the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list and the EO includes a general visa ban on North Korean officials (generally, this does not preclude North Korean diplomats from serving at the country’s UN Mission, due to certain public international law protocol).
Interestingly, we are seeing increasing use by the Administration of the punishment of entities helping designated entities. This EO also subjects to blocking those parties deemed “to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, the Government of North Korea or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.” Clearly this language is aimed at reducing the DPRK’s ability to use proxies.
With the recent historical decision by the President to reestablish relations with Cuba, the prospect of a nuclear agreement with Iran, and the tightening of the vise on Russia and now North Korea, it appears that a partial realignment of the balances in the U.S. sanctions regime is underway. 2014 was a momentous years for sanctions, and 2015 could be equally significant.