President Donald Trump announced that he is putting North Korea back on the small list of nations identified by the U.S. as official “state sponsors of terrorism,” a move that in turn could lead to additional sanctions against the nuclear-armed government in Pyongyang. The designation, announced on Monday, allows the United States to impose more sanctions on North Korea, which is pursuing nuclear weapons and missile programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council sanctions. In his own words, President Trump called this “something that should have happened a long time ago,”… going on to calling North Korea “a murderous regime.” He is right.
The President said on Tuesday that the designation is part of a critical U.S. sanctions regime that would include “a very large” new sanction and that it would increase in intensity over the next two weeks. He further stated that “in addition to threatening the world with nuclear devastation,” the North Korean government had sponsored terror on foreign soil. Also reiterating that; “It must end its unlawful ballistic nuclear development.” He noted that as a result, the amount and extend of the sanctions would be at their highest level ever in history since the end of the Korean Conflict in the early 1950’s.
The terrorism charge is ostensibly linked to the assassination of Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother at the Kuala Lumpur airport this past February. North Korea probably was responsible – indeed, it’s hard to imagine who else would have done it. While Terrorism experts, including myself tend to nitpick about using this particular to charge to justify relisting North Korea: we usually define terrorism as involving non-state actors such as al-Qaeda, not state agents. But the U.S. government has long used the term “clandestine agents” in its definition of terrorism in order to include state actions that seem like terrorism. Thus the Qaddafi regime’s bombing of Pan Am 103, which involved Libyan intelligence operatives, counted as terrorism rather than an act of war.
North Korea has also been known to persistently abduct South Korean and Japanese citizens for decades, especially during the 1970s and ’80s. In 2002, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il openly acknowledged that his country kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens. Tokyo believes that as many as 800 missing Japanese could have been abducted by Pyongyang over the years. Japan and South Korea are not the only two countries affected by North Korea’s orchestrated kidnappings. A 2014 United Nations report on human rights estimates that North Korea has kidnapped as many as 100,000 people from other countries through decades.
Further, there is also evidence in intelligence reporting that North Korea continues to provide weapons, equipment and financial support to terrorist groups and organizations, through third countries, pass-throughs of its allies to terrorist and insurgent groups, and by way of private business consortiums and cut-out and front companies. Evidence of North Korean has shown up in Cuba, Venezuela, North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and South East Asia to include most radical Islamic jihadist groups to include; Hamas, Hezbollah, Boko Haram, al-Shabab, al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban, and the Abu Sayyaf Group in the Philippines.
There are serious, more than symbolic, implications for any country put on the official “state sponsors of terrorism” list, including:
– A ban on arms-related sales and exports.
– Requiring 30-day Congressional notification of exports of dual-use goods.
– The United States will oppose loans from international agencies such as the World Bank to designated country.
– Limiting diplomatic immunity to allow families of terrorist victims to file civil lawsuits in the United States.
– Prohibiting any U.S. person from engaging in financial transactions with the government of designated official “state sponsors of terrorism,” countries.
North Korea joins only three other countries on the state-sponsor list: Iran, Sudan, and Syria.
Most of the punishments that Washington could mete out under the state sponsor of terrorism legislation are already in place against North Korea, or are irrelevant since they would involve suspending aid programs that don’t exist.
North Korea was put on the U.S. terrorism sponsor list by President Ronald Reagan for the 1987 bombing of a Korean Air flight that killed all 115 people aboard. But the administration of former President George W. Bush, removed it in 2008 in exchange for progress in denuclearization talks. Bush removed North Korea from the list in 2008 in an unsuccessful and really ridiculous bid to entice and to halt its nuclear weapons program. Such an approach as has been seen with radical regimes like Iran makes no sense. Appeasement in return for such curtailment of such a program is never a realistic option and only enables further continuation.
Similarly, while not pertaining to nuclear weapons, President Barack Obama in another effort to appease a hardline totalitarian regime, in 2015 removed Communist Cuba when diplomatic relations were renewed after over 50 years. The effort did nothing to improve Havana’s human rights stance and in fact, the Havana regime, showed its indignation and cracked down even harder on various regime opposition groups.
South Korea and Japan welcomed President Trump’s move to put North Korea back on a list of state sponsors of terrorism, saying it will ramp up pressure on the reclusive regime to get rid of its nuclear weapons. “I welcome and support (the designation) as it raises the pressure on North Korea,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a press conference on Monday. South Korea said it expected the listing of North Korea on the list of state sponsors of terror would help to contribute to peaceful denuclearization, according to its foreign ministry said via a text message.
Likewise, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China had noted the reports on the U.S. decision. “Currently, the situation on the Korean peninsula is complicated and sensitive,” Lu stated at a daily news briefing on Monday, further noting; “We still hope all relevant parties can do more to alleviate the situation and do more that is conducive to all relevant parties returning to the correct path of negotiation, dialogue and consultation to resolve the peninsula nuclear issue.” It should be noted that China has been working closely with the U.S. conducting back channel negotiations with Pyongyang in in the on going dialogue. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also backed Trump’s decision saying; “Kim Jong-Un runs a global criminal operation from North Korea peddling arms, peddling drugs, engaged in cyber-crime, and of course threatening the stability of region with his nuclear weapons.”
Pyongyang has done more to terrorize people than its nuclear weapon program. However, such treatment demands that the world should have woke up by now and understand that North Korea’s human rights abuses are closely linked to its nuclear ambitions. A regime who cares so little for its own citizens’ welfare won’t give a rats ass about citizens from other countries, or hesitate to deploy weapons of mass destruction to induce maximum harm to humanity.
Specifically with regard to it nuclear weapons programs. North Korea has said it plans to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland. Pyongyang has made progress toward making a nuclear warhead small enough to attach an ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile), with the goal of reaching the U.S. There is also evidence that Pyongyang is working with other “State Sponsors of Terrorism” such as Iran in illegal weapon trades and nuclear weapon development. Thus, Pyongyang’s nuclear weapon program has presented a grave security threat not only to people in the U.S., South Korea, and Japan, but also to the rest of the world. To date, it has fired two missiles over Japan and in early September conducted its sixth and largest nuclear detonation test.
It was absolutely the right thing to do for President Trump to put North Korea back on the state sponsors of terrorism list. The day after he re-designated North Korea, the U.S. Treasury Department revealed a new round of sanctions. The President’s tweets may sound crazy and out of the norm sometimes, but his series of policy moves on North Korea has proved those who called him a “war monger” are absolutely wrong.
The President has shown a laser focus on dealing with North Korea, from increasing sanctions to pressuring China to do more, which is now apparent it has. Further, the Commander-in-Chief has systematically deployed non-military options while demonstrating U.S. military strength and resolve through military exercises with U.S. allies and implemented FDO’s (Flexible Deterrent Options) through show of force of U.S. military superiority. Just this month, the president deployed three aircraft carrier groups to the Pacific in an immense display of American strength. The message to North Korea should be clear. President Trump’s multi-faceted policy toward North Korea is a clear break with America’s feckless approach of the past, particularly Obama’s flawed policy of “strategic patience”… which was essentially a policy of do nothing, which set us back years in the Pacific theater. While it’s true that we don’t know if any of these policies will stop North Korea’s nuclear ambition. Nevertheless, history should have taught us that appeasement of evil only puts the world in extremely grave danger.