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Bipartisan lawmakers push Tillerson to relist North Korea as state terror sponsor

Bipartisan lawmakers push Tillerson to relist North Korea as state terror sponsor
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A bipartisan group of House Foreign Affairs Committee members are urging the State Department to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.

“The world looks to the United States to lead in responding to the dangerous nuclear belligerence of Kim Jong-un,” the lawmakers wrote to Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonFormer WH adviser: Trump will want to rejoin Paris climate pact by 2020 Why the US should lead on protecting Rohingya Muslims 'Bolivarian Diaspora' can no longer be ignored MORE in a letter released Tuesday. “Duly relisting his regime as a State Sponsor of Terrorism is an important component of this leadership, as it will further the case for our diplomatic and economic isolation campaign, and underscore the importance of cutting ties with North Korea.”

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The letter was signed by 10 Republicans and six Democrats, including committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and ranking member Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelWhy the US should lead on protecting Rohingya Muslims HHS chief: No decision yet on lifetime limits for Medicaid Top Dems demand answers from State Department after employees cite career concerns MORE (D-N.Y.).

North Korea was taken off America’s list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2008 as the George W. Bush administration worked to salvage a nuclear deal, talks for which later broke down.

Several lawmakers this year have called for North Korea to be put back on the list as Pyongyang makes progress on its nuclear and missile programs. The death of Otto Warmbier, an American student held in North Korea for 17 months who died after being returned to the U.S. in a coma, has also galvanized support for relisting the country.

A sanctions bill passed in August included a provision requiring the State Department to tell Congress within 90 days whether North Korea meets the criteria for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

In their letter, the lawmakers said they looked forward to Tillerson’s “timely determination” on the issue.

“Since North Korea was removed from the state sponsors of terrorism list in 2008, the Kim regime has repeatedly perpetrated or supported heinous acts, the most recent example of which was the illegitimate detention, murderous mistreatment, and tragic death of Otto Warmbier,” the Foreign Affairs members wrote to Tillerson.

The lawmakers also highlighted the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean leader’s half brother, with VX nerve agent in Malaysia.

“As you know, the willful aiding or abetting of the use or acquisition of chemical weapons is an explicit component of international terrorism under the Arms Export Control Act, one of the authorities authorizing you to designate state sponsors of terrorism,” they wrote.

Warmbier’s death and Kim Jong Nam’s assassination are not isolated incidents, they added.

“For years, North Korea has regularly kidnapped foreign citizens in violation of international law,” they wrote. “Since 2008, North Korea has conducted cyber-attacks and cyber-blackmail against civilian targets, attempted assassinations across international borders, and sold arms to terrorist groups.”