North Korea has been declared a “state sponsor of terrorism” and put back on the US’s black list a move certain to inflame tensions on the Korean peninsula.
The move comes just a week after President Donald Trump returned from a 12-day, five-nation trip to Asia in which he made containing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions the centre of discussions.
“This designation will impose further sanctions and
penalties on North Korea and related persons and supports our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime,” said President Trump.
North Korea joins Iran, Sudan and Syria on the list. Experts say it is a symbolic gesture as North Korea is already heavily sanctioned by the United States although it might help dissuade third parties from supporting Pyongyang.
Bruce Klingner, Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation, former CIA deputy division chief for Korea:
“Well it certainly will anger North Korea but that’s like saying we shouldn’t arrest Al Capone because Mr. Capone would get angry. You need to enforce US law regardless of the reaction of the perpetrators. So it will increase pressure on North Korea.”
North Korea is pursuing nuclear weapons and missile programmes in defiance of UN sanctions. In was once before on the list for the 1987 airplane bombing in which 115 people died but was removed by President George W Bush in return for denuclearisation talks.
Some experts don’t think North Korea fits the criteria as a “state sponsor of terror” which requires evidence that a state has “ repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.
Washington has cited the killing of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s estranged half brother in a Malaysian airport in February as an act of terrorism.