U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Monday that his administration had redesignated North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, a mostly symbolic step that will allow Washington to slap more sanctions on Pyongyang.
Trump said North Korea, which was removed from the list in 2008 as a diplomatic inducement during nuclear disarmament talks, should have been on the list long ago.
“Today, the United States is designating North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “Should have happened a long time ago should have happened years ago.”
“In addition to threatening the world by nuclear devastation, North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism, including assassinations on foreign soil,” said the president, who had recently completed a 12-day, five nation trip to Asia during which he focused on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Following Monday’s decision – which places North Korea on a blacklist with Iran, Sudan and Syria – the Treasury Department will announce the additional sanctions against North Korea on Tuesday, Trump said.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the move to designate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism would further isolate the country by convincing more countries from supporting Pyongyang.
“The practical effect of it is … it may though disrupt, and dissuade some third parties from undertaking certain activities with North Korea, as it does impose prohibition on a number of other activities that may not be covered by existing sanctions,” Tillerson told a White House briefing.
Congress passed legislation in August requiring the State Department to make a determination on returning North Korea to the list, which it was placed on after the 1987 bombing of a South Korean airliner killed 115 people in waters off Myanmar.
U.S. President George W. Bush removed North Korea from the blacklist in late 2008, as an inducement for Pyongyang to follow through on a multilateral nuclear disarmament agreement that later collapsed.
Neither Trump nor Tillerson specified Monday which acts of terrorism and assassination were the reason the North belonged back on the blacklist.
In unveiling his decision, he mentioned the case of University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, who died earlier this year of injuries suffered in North Korean custody.
According to U.S. media reports, administration officials believe the killing of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, constituted a terrorist act.
Malaysian authorities have put on trial for murder two Southeast Asian women who allegedly smeared suspected VX nerve agent onto Kim Jong Nam’s face at Kuala Lumpur airport on Feb. 13.
He died shortly later, but North Korean officials believed to have masterminded the attack were able to evade capture and return to North Korea.
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