WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump's re-designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism came after a Chinese envoy returned home from North Korea, apparently empty-handed.
North Korea has been aggressively pursuing ballistic missile and nuclear weapon technology.
The re-designation came on Monday, after China's special envoy apparently failed in a mission to win concessions from Pyongyang regarding North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
Once the envoy returned home, Trump concluded that North Korea will continue these programs.
The U.S. government is planning to announce additional sanctions against North Korea later today.
According to a senior U.S. government official who accompanied Trump to Asia earlier this month, the American president was to decide whether to re-designate North Korea as a state sponsor of terror by the end of his tour.
Trump left Asia on Nov. 14. A few hours later, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he would send Song Tao, head of the Chinese Communist Party's international liaison department, to North Korea as his special envoy.
Half a day later, the Trump administration released a summary of the president's Asian tour that skipped over the North Korea question. Trump, apparently, had been persuaded to wait and see how Song's mission would turn out.
Unlike past Chinese special envoys to North Korea, Song reportedly failed to meet Kim Jong Un, the reclusive nation's leader. This gave the impression that Beijing and Pyongyang are far apart regarding North Korea's nuclear development program.
Barack Obama, Trump's predecessor, thought of slapping the designation on North Korea in March 2010, after the country's military sunk a South Korea patrol vessel with a torpedo. He again considered doing so in late 2014, after North Korea launched a cyberattack on Sony Pictures of the U.S.
But each time Obama decided against taking the step, saying North Korea did not meet the criteria for a state sponsor of terror -- it wasn't supporting terror attacks.
Some officials in the Trump administration opposed the re-designation on the grounds that North Korea has refrained from testing missiles and nuclear devices for two months now.
Trump's decision has two goals -- to demonstrate resolve in tightening the international community's sanctions net around North Korea and to let China know that it has to repay Trump for delaying his decision and allowing Xi to save face.
The expected repayment? To use a heavier hand in dealing with North Korea.