The White House has finally decided to re-designate North Korea as a “state sponsor of terror.”
This is something that “should have happened a long time ago,” said President Trump, who made the announcement upon returning home from his 13-day trip to Asia.
North Korea appeared on the ignominious list for 20 years until the Bush Administration removed it in 2008; the only other nations on the list are Sudan, Iran, and Syria.
Trump calls the move part of a “maximum-pressure campaign” against the Kim regime. “North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism including assassinations on foreign soil. This designation will impose further sanctions and penalties on North Korea and related persons.”
Anthony Ruggiero, former deputy director of the Treasury Department, points to Pyongyang’s assassination of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother as a “visible example” of the peninsula’s attacks on dissent overseas. “A few years ago, after North Korea’s cyberhack of Sony Pictures, it threatened a 9/11-style attack against US movie theaters. The Kim regime should not have been removed from the list in 2008 and the US government should have re-listed it sooner than today.”
Others worry North Korea will interpret the designation as a confirmation that the White House is not serious about negotiations.
“We need focused, unconditional negotiations that seek to freeze and roll back North Korea’s nuclear weapons program,” argues Jon Rainwater of Peace Action. “This designation makes getting to the negotiating table, let alone securing an agreement, all the more difficult.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been quick to point out that the change does not mean that the administration is abandoning the push for a peaceful solution. “We still hope for diplomacy,” said Tillerson. “This is all part of continuing to turn this pressure up and we’ve continued to turn the pressure up on North Korea by getting other countries to join and take actions on their own.”
Tillerson called the re-designation “symbolic,” adding that “practical effects may be limited.” But he also said the decision sends a powerful message to the rest of the world and hopes it will “disrupt and dissuade” others from doing business with North Korea.