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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens to U.S. President Donald Trump speak during a meeting with his Cabinet at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 20, 2017.   © Reuters
North Korea Crisis

North Korea back on US terrorism sponsors list after 9 years

With more sanctions in store, concerns about retaliation from Pyongyang grow

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday put North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism for the first time since October 2008. 

The move appears part of Trump's effort to exert what he calls "maximum pressure" on Pyongyang. The Treasury Department expects to announce additional sanctions on Tuesday in response to North Korea's addition to the list.

A reaction from the North seems inevitable, and could spur new provocations.

"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" of Kim Jong Un, Trump said at the start of a cabinet meeting on Monday, adding that it should have happened a long time ago.

The State Department adds a country to the list of state sponsors of terrorism when it determines that a country is providing funding or weapons to terrorist groups. Countries on the list typically face financial sanctions and limits on economic assistance other than humanitarian aid.

Because Washington already imposes a long list of sanctions on Pyongyang, the practical impact of the latest move "may be limited," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters on Monday.

Tillerson cited the murder of Kim Jong Nam, Kim Jong Un's half-brother, with nerve gas in Malaysia as a reason for renaming North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. Trump, meanwhile, mentioned Otto Warmbier, an American student who died soon after his release from North Korea following more than a year of detention in June. Warmbier was in a coma at the time of his release.

"In addition to threatening the world with nuclear devastation, North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism, including assassinations on foreign soil," Trump told reporters at the White House.

North Korea sees the terrorism designation as symbolic of Washington's hostile policy toward it. In 2008, President George W. Bush removed North Korea from the list in return for allowing international inspectors access to its nuclear facilities.

North Korea has not conducted  nuclear or missile tests since September, but putting Pyongyang back on the terrorism list may provoke such a response.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday his government supports the U.S. decision to put North Korea back on the state sponsor of terrorism list.

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