North Korea: a sponsor of terror?

The president of the United States affirmed that this decision should have been made long ago

North Korea: a sponsor of terror?

Leer en Español: Corea del Norte: su regreso a la lista de patrocinadores del terrorismo

President Donald Trump put North Korea back on a list of State sponsors of terrorism, a designation that allows the United States to impose more sanctions and risks inflaming tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. This move that could undermine diplomatic efforts to halt the rogue State’s nuclear aggression. The international community, including South Korea, Japan and Australia, support Trump’s decision.

North Korea will join Sudan, Syria, and Iran as countries that the State Department identifies as those that have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism”. North Korea was previously on the list of terrorist States but it was removed in 2008 by the administration of George W. Bush, when China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the US held various conversations about disarming its nuclear facilities. The talks eventually halted, but Asian country stayed off the list; in 2017, the situation changed.

Daniel Sneider, visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, explains that these kind of actions send mixed messages about Washington’s intentions, “Pressure is presumably intended to lead to some type of diplomacy, but the designation will only confuse North Korea and make it difficult for its leadership to respond to future diplomatic signals.”

Since the arrival of Donald Trump to the White House, he has vowed to seek a complete denuclearization in the Korean peninsula and has threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” if it endangers the United States. President Trump ordered an end to the policy of “strategic patience” that was pursued by President Barack Obama, in the hopes that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, would eventually agree to negotiate.

“This just continues to tighten the pressure on the Kim regime”, said Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson minutes later, “all with an intention to have him understand that this is only going to get worse until they are ready to come and talk”. Tillerson affirmed that the Treasury Department will be announcing further sanctions as part of the designation soon.

John Bolton, a former State Department official and United Nations ambassador under Bush administration, praised Trump’s decision for finally taking an aggressive stance against North Korea’s government. “It’s exactly the right thing to do,” he said. Bolton, who argued against removing North Korea from the terrorism list in 2008, said he does not believe restoring the designation will bring Kim the negotiating table, but it is the only way to make him understand that we are seeing the reality about its program and about the regime.

North Korea has not conducted any missile tests since September 15th, raising cautious optimism for a possible de-escalation in the region. However, expert Robert Galluci, the chief US negotiator during the 1994 North Korean nuclear crisis, noted that the country has conducted few or no significant missile tests in the past and it is unclear whether the current hiatus is political or technical. “Right now, it is hard to say what the options for North Korea are, but something sure is that it has been calmed for two months and this can imply that the situation was under control, but with the last move of the White House, we cannot guess the response. I do not think they will come to negotiate, probably it means nothing to them”.


Latin American Post | Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

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