In response to North Korea's spy satellite launch last week, the US levied more sanctions on Thursday, designating foreign-based agents accused of assisting sanctions evasion, including income and technology for its weapons of mass destruction program. In a statement, the US Treasury Department said it also sanctioned the cyber espionage firm Kimsuky, accusing it of gathering intelligence to help North Korea's strategic and nuclear ambitions.
"Today's actions by the United States, Australia, Japan, and the Republic of Korea reflect our collective commitment to contesting Pyongyang's illicit and destabilising activities," said Treasury's Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson.
"We will remain focused on targeting these key nodes in the DPRK's illicit revenue generation and weapons proliferation," Nelson added.
The sanctions prevent Americans from doing business with the targeted parties and freeze their assets in the United States.
The Treasury said Kimsuky primarily uses spear-phishing to target people employed by the government, research centres, academic institutions and others, including in Europe, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States.
North Korea's mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday's sanctions.
Following the satellite's launch, North Korea claimed that Kim Jong Un, the country's leader, had reviewed spy satellite images of the Pentagon, the White House, and US military carriers at the Norfolk naval port. In addition to Washington, its official media has claimed that the satellite also captured images of South Korea, Guam, Italy, and military installations in those countries.
During a U.N. Security Council meeting earlier this week, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, called the North’s satellite launch a “reckless, unlawful” action that threatens its neighbours. But she reiterated the U.S. offer for dialogue without any preconditions, saying North Korea “can choose the timing and topic.”
Kim’s sister and senior official, Kim Yo Jong, rejected the U.S. overture and threatened more satellite and other weapons launches.
“The sovereignty of an independent state can never be an agenda item for negotiations, and therefore, (North Korea) will never sit face to face with the U.S. for that purpose,” Kim Yo Jong said in a statement carried by state media.
“(North Korea) will continue to make efforts to develop everything belonging to its sovereign rights and continue to exercise the sovereign rights, enjoyed by all the member states of the U.N., in a dignified manner without being restricted in the future, too,” she said.
Meanwhile, according to what state media KCNA reported on Friday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for the military to be prepared for any provocation by enemies, especially in the backdrop of the launch of the spy satellite.
Pyongyang, wary of its adversaries, has pledged to station a sizable military and arsenal along its southern border. Kim announced operational strategic guidelines the day before at Air Force headquarters to increase military readiness and combat capability.
"(Kim) highly evaluated the pilots' tight readiness to perform air combat missions without a glitch regardless of any unfavourable settings," KCNA said.
Image source: AP