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President Trump re-designates North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism

President Trump announced the United States’ re-designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism in a White House Cabinet meeting on Monday. The decision comes after the president’s 12-day trip to Asia, in which North Korea was a primary talking point.

“It should’ve happened a long time ago,” Trump said of the decision. “Should’ve happened years ago.”

North Korea was placed on the list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1988 after the bombing of a South Korean passenger jet. It was removed in 2008, in an effort by President George W. Bush to curb their nuclear development and work toward negotiation — an attempt that largely failed. The country now joins Sudan, Syria and Iran on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

At the start of his Asia trip, Trump made a speech at the National Assembly in South Korea, emphasizing that it is in North Korea’s best interest to move toward denuclearization. He also demanded more action from China and Russia, POLITICO reported.

   
  
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    Credit: Doug Mills/The New York Times

Credit: Doug Mills/The New York Times

The designation has received mixed reactions. While some have long supported re-listing North Korea, others consider it more of a formality that will actually limit the already slim chances of negotiation. Critics say that the move, which prohibits the country from receiving U.S. foreign assistance and military equipment, will not actually change the nature of North Korea’s relationship with the U.S.; some even think it could place even more strain on a what is an already tense situation.

Christopher R. Hill, who pushed for President Bush to drop the designation in 2008 said that he was “surprised it took this long” to re-designate North Korea, but said that the decision was “largely symbolic,” in an interview with the New York Times.

Speaker Paul Ryan, on the other hand, tweeted his support for the designation, writing, “I strongly support this decision, which is an important step in holding North Korea accountable for its wide range of destabilizing activities.”

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Other members of the Trump administration were also on board. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tweeted: “The era of strategic patience is OVER. As POTUS said, ‘Our thoughts turn to #OttoWarmbier & the countless others brutally affected by the North Korean oppression.’ North Korea's days of international lawlessness are numbered.”

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Trump’s decision has also garnered international support, from both Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, according to CNN. Turnbull said the decision “mirrors the determination of the international community on bringing North Korea back to its senses.”

But others, including Mintaro Oba, who was previously a Korea desk officer at the State Department, and Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the conservative Center for the National Interest, were more skeptical of the decision.

"Re-designating North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism doesn't add much to our efforts to pressure North Korea,” Oba told CNN, “but it is an action with symbolic value that will make it harder to get on a path toward denuclearization." Likewise, Kazianis described the decision as “a dangerous game of escalatory brinkmanship,” to Reuters.

The Trump administration cited the assassination of Kim Jong-Un’s brother, Kim Jong-Nam, and the imprisonment and resulting death of the American college student Otto Warmbier as examples of international terrorism propagated by North Korea that would qualify its placement on the list. North Korea also orchestrated a cyber-hacking scheme against Sony Pictures in response to a comedy film set to be released about an assassination plan against Kim Jong-Un in 2014.

“This designation will impose further sanctions and penalties on North Korea and related persons and supports our maximum-pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime,” Trump said at the Cabinet meeting. “The North Korean regime … must end its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile development and cease all support for international terrorism.”