WASHINGTON – President Trump said Monday he plans to declare Kim Jong Un’s government a state sponsor of terrorism, as he seeks to ratchet up the pressure on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.
“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 during a Cabinet meeting at the White House.
In decrying Kim’s “murderous regime,” Trump cited the recent death of American citizen Otto Warmbier after he was taken into custody in North Korea. He also appeared to reference North Korea’s support of an assassination of Kim’s half-brother Kim Jong Nam, a political rival who sustained a nerve agent attack at a Malaysia airport in February.
“In addition to threatening the world by nuclear devastation, North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism including assassinations on foreign soil,” Trump said.
Trump made the announcement one week after returning from a trip to Asia, where he asked China and other countries in the region to tighten the financial and diplomatic vise on North Korea.
Trump said the terror declaration “should have happened a long time ago.” Yet the United States has previously declared North Korea to be a state sponsor of terrorism – for two decades, in fact, from 1988 to 2008.
The George W. Bush administration took the country off the list in 2008 as part of an ultimately failed agreement with North Korea to curb its nuclear weapons program.
In the meantime, Tillerson said, the United States will continue to impose sanctions, and “continue to turn the pressure up on North Korea by getting other countries to join and take actions on their own.”
Last month, 12 senators — six Republicans and six Democrats — urged Tillerson to put North Korea back on the list of countries that the U.S. considers sponsors of terrorism. North Korea would join Iran, Sudan and Syria on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terror.
Designating the rogue nation as a sponsor of terror would give the U.S. another pressure point against North Korea. It would also be a “diplomatic setback” for the country, Marc Thiessen, a former Bush aide and foreign policy expert, wrote in a recent op-ed arguing in favor of the move.
“The additional sanctions that come with a re-designation may not make much of a difference in North Korean’s behavior, but they are one piece of a larger strategy for isolating and squeezing the North Korean regime,” Thiessen wrote.
Trump and other supporters of the new listing have said the case of Warmbier, an American student who died of injuries sustained while in custody in North Korea, was part of the impetus for the decision. Kim’s government had sentenced Warmbier to 15 years hard labor over claimed he tried to steal a poster from a staff-only section of a hotel in North Korea.
It’s no secret that President Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un have been feuding for months. But the Pyongyang’s state media evidently had enough of Trump’s insults to the dignity of their “supreme leader.” Buzz60
During ten minutes of remarks at the start of his Cabinet meeting, Trump also expressed optimism that Congress would pass a tax cut.
“Hopefully, that will be a great big, beautiful Christmas present,” Trump said.
He also said the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent demonstrates the need for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. “We’re going to have the wall as part of what we’re doing, we need it. It’s rough territory, that’s where the drugs are coming in, a lot of things are happening along the border,” he said.