The President had promised that they will retaliate “at a time and place and manner we choose“, in a press conference last month. The sanctions are described as a “first response” to the cyberattack. If we are to go by that, the sanctions are just teasers of what the US has in mind for North Korea.
Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew, in a prepared statement, said:
This step reflects the ongoing commitment of the United States to hold North Korea accountable for its destabilizing, destructive and repressive actions, particularly its efforts to undermine US cyber-security and intimidate US businesses and artists exercising their right of freedom of speech
He further added,
Today’s actions are driven by our commitment to hold North Korea accountable for its destructive and destabilizing conduct. Even as the FBI continues its investigation into the cyber-attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, these steps underscore that we will employ a broad set of tools to defend US businesses and citizens, and to respond to attempts to undermine our values or threaten the national security of the United States.
The sanctions target three of North Korea’s three entities including the government’s primary intelligence agency and a local arms dealer. The people affiliated, will also be affected. Sanctioned businesses and individuals are barred from accessing the United States financial system, and American citizens are strictly forbidden from carrying out business with those named in today’s retaliatory measure.