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Seoul welcomes relisting North as state terrorist

If U.S. bill changes status, it will be first time in eight years
Apr 05,2017
Seoul on Tuesday welcomed the U.S. House of Representatives’ swift passing of bipartisan legislation calling to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism and condemning its development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).

The House on Monday passed the North Korea State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Act of 2017, introduced by Rep. Ted Poe of Texas in January, almost unanimously with 394 votes for and just one against.

It also advanced another bill, introduced by Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina in February, condemning North Korea’s development of multiple intercontinental ballistic missiles and urging Washington to apply all available economic sanctions to the regime, with 398 votes for and three against.

The House in this legislation further urges for the prompt deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system to South Korea to counter Pyongyang’s nuclear missile threat, which it says “supports an alliance security decision.”

It calls upon China “to pressure North Korean leaders to cease their provocative behavior, abandon and dismantle their nuclear and missile programs through the curtailing of vital economic support and trade that support” Pyongyang.

China has taken a series of retaliatory measures against South Korea to protest its decision to deploy the U.S.-led Thaad antimissile system, which Seoul and Washington say is to counter Pyongyang’s threat.

The legislation reflects Washington’s resolve to hold Pyongyang accountable, particularly ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping later this week. In line with this, his administration has been taking a hardline stance on Pyongyang.

Last Friday, the U.S. Treasury issued fresh sanctions against 11 North Koreans and one company, which it said were tied to Pyongyang’s development of its weapons of mass destruction program, including financial support.

North Korea was designated a state sponsor of terrorism on Jan. 20, 1988, “for repeatedly providing support of acts of international terrorism” and later de-listed in October 2008.

The new legislation urged the U.S. State Department to designate Pyongyang as a state sponsor of terrorism for a number of reasons, including a U.S. district court ruling that found North Korea materially supported terrorist attacks by Hezbollah, which it describes as “a designated foreign terrorist organization,” against Israel in 2006.

It also cited the seizure by the government of Thailand of North Korean arms shipment including 35 tons of rockets and surface-to-air missiles aboard a cargo plane in December 2009 and its alleged 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The consequences of the designation could include a ban on arms-related sales, restrictions on exports of dual-use items, restrictions on foreign assistance, financial sanctions against transactions with the designated government and potential liability in U.S. courts for certain act. It also prohibits financial transactions by U.S. citizens with any government designated as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs praised the House for passing the legislation “swiftly with overwhelming support,” adding that it “reflects the wide support within the U.S. Congress on the need for a joint response on the level of the South Korea-U.S. alliance on the gravity of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat and also the retaliatory measures by China over the Thaad issue.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]