Pressure to deter North Korea from continuing its nuclear and missile development programs has been further raised. The latest move should be used as a diplomatic card after having Pyongyang sit for talks on the denuclearization of the country.
The United States has placed North Korea on a list of state sponsors of terrorism again.
U.S. President Donald Trump said, “North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism, including assassinations on foreign soil.” He also revealed the U.S. Treasury Department will impose large-scale additional sanctions against North Korea and said, with emphasis, that the designation “supports our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime.”
Kim Jong Nam, elder half brother by a different mother of Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, was murdered in Malaysia in February. There was a strong possibility Kim’s regime was systematically involved in the murder. There was also an incident in which a U.S. college student died shortly after he was returned — in a coma — from North Korea, where he had been detained. Placing North Korea on the list again is considered reasonable.
North Korea was put on the list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1988 for “its continued support of acts of international terrorism,” including the bombing of a Korean Air flight.
The administration of then U.S. President George W. Bush removed North Korea from the list in 2008, in exchange for strict verification of Pyongyang’s declared nuclear program. But the country breached the agreement and has been continuing its nuclear development program. Trump has a point in his remark that the designation “should have happened years ago.”
Remain on alert
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “We welcome and support the U.S. move, which is designed to strengthen pressure on North Korea.” The abduction of Japanese citizens is also among the terrorist acts perpetrated by North Korea. The latest development should offer an opportunity to find a way out of the stalemate on this issue.
In line with the redesignation, measures such as restrictions on financial transactions, an arms embargo and bans on economic assistance will be taken. Most of these measures have already been implemented through the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council and the sanctions taken individually by the United States.
Additional effects cannot be expected, but it is symbolically significant that the United States takes the lead in exerting “maximum pressure” on the regime.
A special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping recently visited North Korea. There were no visible results. The U.S. assessment of China’s pressure on North Korea as being insufficient seemed to be one of the factors that prompted Trump to go ahead with the redesignation.
The administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama removed Cuba from the U.S. terrorism list when it improved bilateral relations with Havana. With regard to North Korea, too, it can be expected the removal of the designation will be a bargaining chip during talks on denuclearization of the country.
A matter of concern is a situation in which the designation may trigger backlash from North Korea, prompting the country to take reckless action. There has been neither the test-firing of a ballistic missile nor a nuclear test by Pyongyang over the past two months. There is a possibility of the situation’s shifting from the current state of a lull.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said: “There is no denying [North Korea] may take new provocative action. We will remain on alert and ready to firmly respond.” It is necessary to strengthen preparedness while being vigilant against every possible development.