President Trump on Monday designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, a move the U.S. hopes will increase its pressure on Kim Jong Un to drop his nuclear program.
“Today the United States is designating the North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. Should have happened a long time ago. Should have happened years ago,” Trump said to reporters before meeting with Cabinet members at the White House.
The decision to return North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism comes a week after the President returned back from his 12-day Asia tour where he met with leaders from China, Japan and South Korea discussing curbing North Korean leader nuclear and ballistic missile program and ambitions. During his trip to South Korea two weeks ago, Trump described North Korea as a “country ruled by a cult.”
— Department of State (@StateDept) November 20, 2017
President Trump pointed to the killing of Kim’s half brother at a Malaysian airport with a nerve agent last February played a heavy role in adding North Korea into the list. The President also referenced the treatment of an American student, Otto Warmbier, who died shortly of injuries suffered under custody in North Korea for more than a year.
“The North Korean regime must be lawful. It must end its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile development, and cease all support for international terrorism — which it is not doing,” Trump said. “In addition to threatening the world by nuclear devastation, North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism, including assassinations on foreign soil.”
In designating North Korea onto the list, it allows the U.S. to cut off foreign assistance, weapons sales, financial transactions and commercial exports with Pyongyang. It also allows the United States to punish countries or people who trade with North Korea.
North Korea was removed from the list in 2008 by President George W. Bush as a diplomatic gesture The regime was on the list for 20 years before being removed in 2008 in part of a bid to convince Pyongyang to stop its nuclear program. However, Pyongyang continued to conduct nuclear weapons tests, advancing its nuclear and missile programs especially within the last year.
“This designation will impose further sanctions and penalties on North Korea … and supports our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime,” Trump said, adding that the Treasury Department will announce on Tuesday “the highest level of sanctions” against North Korea.
North Korean officials repeatedly have rejected diplomatic talks and refused to enter negotiations until they felt they have developed a nuclear missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.
Members of Congress have also pressured President Trump and the State Department to re-list the designation on the regime, citing Pyongyang’s push to develop nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles threatens global security. Congressman Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, called the decision “an important step in our efforts to apply maximum diplomatic and financial pressure on Kim Jong Un.”
North Korea now joins Sudan, Iran, and Syria on the short list labeled by the State Department as state sponsors of terror.