US sanctions 3 North Korean officials for human rights abuse

Otto Warmbier's death a factor, officials said
US sanctions 3 North Korean officials for human rights abuse
Posted at 8:14 AM, Dec 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-11 08:14:49-05

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration imposed sanctions Monday on three senior North Korean officials for human rights abuses in the isolated country.

U.S. officials said the sanctions are intended to call attention to "brutal" censorship and human rights abuses as well as the death last year of American captive Otto Warmbier.

The Treasury Department said the officials have important roles in government agencies previously placed under sanctions. It was not clear what role any had in the treatment of the 22-year-old student from Ohio who died in June 2017 shortly after he was released from 17 months of captivity in North Korea.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said North Korea was committing "flagrant and egregious abuses of human rights and fundamental freedoms."

Those designated include Jong Kyong Thaek, Minister of State Security; Choe Ryong Hae, head of the Organization and Guidance Department; and Pak Kwang Ho, Director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department.

The sanctions freeze any U.S. assets the officials may have and make it illegal for any U.S. entity to conduct financial transactions with them.

The State Department said in a report published Monday that Pyongyang "continues to censor the media and commit serious human rights violations and abuses."

"There is no independent domestic media in the country, and all media are strictly censored," the report said. "No content that deviates from the official government line is tolerated."

The two countries are seeking to negotiate an end to North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Trump and Kim Jong Un held a historic summit in June, but since then progress has seemed to stall. A second summit is expected next year.