The U.S. has imposed a new sanction against North Korea, including the North’s Defense Minister Ri Yong Gil and the Central Public Prosecutors Workplace, citing their anti-human rights acts. The Joe Biden administration previously only extended sanctions against Pyongyang imposed by the Trump administration, but it is the first time the incumbent administration has levied a new sanction. Watchers say that the Biden administration’s North Korea policy might be shifting from “unconditional dialogue” to pressure.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Treasury Department said Friday that it has included 15 individuals and 10 organizations that are responsible for human rights violations in North Korea, China, Bangladesh and Myanmar on International Human Rights Day. Ri Yong Gil served Chief of General Staff of the North’s military and member of the Workers’ Party politburo, and minister of social safety before assuming the defense minister.
The Treasury Department said, “Foreigners have also been the victims of the DPRK’s fundamentally unfair justice system,” citing as an example American prisoner Otto Warmbier, who was arrested in 2016 while traveling in the North as college student. He was repatriated in a state of coma to the U.S. the next year but died only six days later.
The Biden administration has imposed new sanctions against the North on the Warmbier incident two years and 10 months after former President Donald Trump said, “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un only came to know (about the Warmbier case) late” to spark controversy during his summit talk with Kim in Hanoi in February 2019.