All papers reported extensively in front- and inside-page articles on President Trump’s decision to put North Korea back on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, noting that the move represents Washington’s determination to ratchet up international pressure on the DPRK with the goal of thwarting Kim Jong Un’s relentless pursuit of nuclear and missile development. The assassination of Kim’s half-brother in Kuala Lumpur in February was reportedly a decisive factor in prompting the USG to conclude that North Korea has abetted international terrorism.
Speculating that the President decided to re-designate North Korea after confirming that Chinese President Xi’s special envoy failed to persuade the Kim regime to return to the negotiating table on his recent trip to Pyongyang, Yomiuri said it was also intended to press Beijing to make additional efforts to rein in its neighbor. The paper also asserted that the designation will provide the Trump administration with a legal justification to launch a preemptive strike against Pyongyang “in self-defense.”
However, the papers also explained that the designation is a largely symbolic move designed to showcase Washington’s resolve to isolate North Korea and derail its nuclear and missile ambitions, quoting Secretary of State Tillerson as saying: “The practical effects may be limited.” While noting that the Trump administration is expected to announce additional punitive measures shortly, including sanctions on Chinese individuals and companies doing business with the Kim regime, Asahi said some of the targets of the additional U.S. sanctions have already been penalized by UN sanctions. The paper added that the announcement may be used as a diplomatic card to persuade Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table.