- HAT-TIP: THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A key Republican on foreign policy is pushing the White House to add North Korea to Washington’s official state sponsors of terrorism list before President Trump arrives in East Asia over the weekend on an 11-day tour of the region.
“There is simply no reason for further delay of this decision,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce. “I urge the administration to take quick action.”
The California Republican made the comments hours after National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Thursday that the possibility of listing North Korea was “under consideration” and told reporters at the White House: “You’ll hear more about that soon.”
There were rumors this week in the back hallways of the State Department that the administration was weighing a state sponsor designation ahead of Mr. Trump’s Asia trip to send a message to North Korea and U.S. allies in the region.
The North Korean nuclear threat will top the agenda when the president meets Wednesday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom Mr. Trump plans to push for a stronger Chinese commitment to exert pressure on Pyongyang, according to the White House.
It’s unclear how the high-stakes diplomatic calculus around the China visit might change if the administration lists North Korea prior to Mr. Trump’s arrival.
Washington removed Pyongyang from the state sponsors list in 2008. The George W. Bush administration made the move as a concession to the North Koreans in the hope it might inspire them at the time to participate in agreement to curb their nuclear weapons program.
International talks toward such an agreement broke down a year later. The period since has seen Pyongyang dramatically advance its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile activities with repeated nuclear bomb tests and – U.S. intelligence officials say – the development of a nuclear bomb small enough to fit on an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Mr. Trump has faced pressure from Republicans and a handful of Democrats on Capitol Hill to put North Korea back on the state sponsors of terrorism list. Currently Iran, Sudan and Syria are the only nations on the list.
Some lawmakers argue that adding North Korea would expand Washington’s leverage, should nuclear talks with Pyongyang be restarted anytime soon.
A House resolution backed by Mr. Royce was signed into law on Aug. 2, requiring the Trump administration to determine within 90 days whether North Korea meets the criteria for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.
In his statement Thursday night, Mr. Royce claimed the North Korean regime’s “murderous torture” of American student Otto Warmbier, who died in June after more than a year of imprisonment in North Korea was an example of “a consistent pattern of recent terrorist activities” backed by Pyongyang.
The congressman also claimed the February assassination in Malaysia of Kim Jong-nam – North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s older, paternal half-brother – was a state-sponsored act of terrorism by Pyongyang.