By Donald Manzullo
Today U.S. President Donald Trump made an important and necessary step forward in dealing with North Korea by putting the country back on the U.S. State Department’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism (SST). North Korea now sits with Sudan, Syria and Iran as countries that the U.S. considers to have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.”
According to the State Department, “North Korea was designated as an SST in 1988 primarily on the basis of North Korea’s involvement in the bombing of a Korean Airlines passenger flight in 1987.”
In 2008, I was a member of the Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee in the House of Representatives. We were briefed by the Bush Administration, which wanted to delist North Korea to show good will on the part of the U.S. in trying to reach a denuclearization agreement. We were also advised that the designation could be reinstated at any time if North Korea resumed its provocative behavior. However, North Korea squandered that good faith almost immediately, reneging on their agreements and continuing to build their nuclear program to the dangerous point it has reached today.
North Korea should have been placed back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism the moment they broke that deal. But while the designation is a long time coming, it is heartening to see the Trump Administration doing everything possible to call out North Korean crimes for what they are, and to cut off every avenue of solace for the Kim regime in the international community.
This move puts the United States on the right side of history when it comes to standing up to the North Korean regime. Kim Jong-un and his father Kim Jong-il before him have committed countless crimes against humanity against their own people both domestically and abroad. They have held Americans on trumped-up charges for political gain, and shelled South Korean territories, killing innocent civilians. This year’s callous murder of Kim Jong-nam in a crowded Malaysian airport using a banned chemical weapon is clearly the last straw when it comes to tolerating North Korea’s criminal behavior.
Along with this announcement earlier today, President Trump also indicated that the Treasury Department would be rolling out additional sanctions on North Korea later this week.
President Trump’s strategy on North Korea includes a deeper appreciation for the deplorable human rights violations that ordinary citizens in the DPRK face on a daily basis. President Trump spent a significant portion of his speech at the South Korean National Assembly earlier this month describing the horrible human rights situation in North Korea and calling on China to do more to stop the regime from abusing its people. In that speech, he even went so far as to call the North “a hell that no person deserves.”
It is time to fully recognize North Korea for what it is – a prison state where each citizen lives in constant fear for their lives and where freedom is an unknown concept. With the re-listing of North Korea as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, the United States takes an important step forward by saying that the regime’s crimes will no longer be tolerated.
Donald Manzullo is President and CEO of Korea Economic Institute and former Member of U.S. Congress (1993-2013). The views expressed here are the author’s alone.
Photo from Tom Frohnhofer’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.