Just two days after President Donald Trump returned from his 12-day tour of Asia with new assurances that China would do more to economically pressure North Korea, the White House abruptly revealed Thursday that President Trump is considering returning North Korea to the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism - a decision that would likely outrage North Korea’s leadership at a time when tensions between the US and North appear to be on the wane.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the decision will come “during the early part of next week,” Reuters reported.
Presently, Sudan, Iran and Syria are the only countries on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Earlier Thursday, a Trump administration diplomat said the administration would consider removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Sudan has been on the list since 1993. A month ago, the Trump administration formally lifted decades-old sanctions against Sudan, which is ruled by strongman Omar al-Bashir.
Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan said the United States was willing to consider removing Sudan from the its list of state sponsors of terrorism if Sudan continued to make progress on counterterrorism cooperation, human rights and other key issues. Syria, since 1974, and Iran, since 1984, are the other countries on the list, the New York Times reported.
The standard for inclusion, under the law, is a country that has “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” North Korea was removed from the list in 2008 not because it no longer fit the criteria, but because of a deal with the Bush administration that it did not uphold.
It’s widely believed that North Korea helps arm terror networks around the world as part of its illicit arms business. Then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates asserted in August 2010 that “the fact is that North Korea continues to smuggle missiles and weapons to other countries around the world - Burma, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas."
Aside from that, the North continues to terrorize the world with its missile and nuclear tests. During a speech in South Korea last week, Trump said he would like to pursue a diplomatic solution with the North, but warned that the US wouldn't hesitate to intervene militarily if it felt threatened. He also described North Korea as a hellscape where "no human being should have to live."