President Obama Responds To Warmbier Sentencing: North Korea Hit With New Sanctions

President Obama issued new sanctions against North Korea today, in an executive order signed just today, barely a day after U.S. student Otto Warmbier was sentenced by North Korean courts to serve 15 years of hard labor. Speaking for the White House, Josh Earnest addressed the sanctions, stating that the “robust new sanctions” against North Korea are a response to recent nuclear tests.

“The US 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,” reads a statement from the White House, according to the Jerusalem Post.

As the Inquisitr reported earlier, student Otto Warmbier was detained by North Korea after allegedly attempting to steal a propaganda poster, and yesterday was sentenced to 15 years in a North Korean hard labor camp. But the White House maintains the new sanctions against North Korea are just about nuclear tests – it’s a coincidence that North Korea is slapped with new sanctions right after condemning a U.S. citizen to a decade and a half in a labor camp.

“Today the President issued an executive order imposing robust new sanctions on North Korea. This [Executive Order] is part of our response to North Korea’s January 6 nuclear test and February 7 launch using ballistic missile technology,” reads the White House statement.

The new sanctions against North Korea put new restrictions on the property of the North Korean government, and in particular the Workers’ Party of Korea, as well as prohibiting “certain transactions” with North Korea by the U.S. and other international entities. It’s not the first time in the past few weeks that North Korea has been hit with new sanctions in response to its provocative actions in the Korean peninsula.

In February, President Obama hit North Korea with a round of congressionally approved sanctions that severely limits the growth of the North Korean economy, a move that China criticized, stating that the sanctions could cripple North Korea’s economy.

“This is an authoritarian regime. It’s provocative, it has repeatedly violated UN resolutions, tested and produced nuclear weapons, and now they are trying to perfect their missile launch system,” President Obama said in February.

The provocation by North Korea is said to be the result of Kim Jong-un attempting to flex his muscle ahead of the “Seventh Party Congress” which comes in May of this year, a meeting of top North Korean Workers’ Party leaders – the real power in the authoritarian nation, reports the BBC.

The upcoming North Korean party conference is also likely to blame for the harsh sentence handed down in the Otto Warmbier case, when the American student was sentenced yesterday to serve a hard labor sentence that many international agencies are calling “inhumane” and “cruel.”

Warmbier’s trial in North Korea lasted only an hour, further proof that the rogue nation’s decision was already made well ahead of the actual trial. The U.S. State Department responded harshly, alleging that North Korea sentenced Warmbier in order to make a political point, rather than any attempt to hand down a fair or just sentence.

“Despite official claims that US citizens arrested in [North Korea] are not used for political purposes, it’s increasingly clear from its very public treatment of these cases that [North Korea] does exactly that,” said a U.S. State Department spokesman hours after Warmbier was sentenced.

Warmbier allegedly attempted to steal a propaganda banner as a souvenir, and for that crime, he was tried and found guilty of “subversion” by a North Korean judge. In response to the sentencing, Warmbier broke down in tears.

[Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]