Trump considers putting North Korea back on terror list

Trump considers putting North Korea back on terror list
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The Trump administration is considering relisting North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Thursday.

“That is an option that’s under consideration. The president’s Cabinet is looking at this as part of the overall strategy on North Korea,” McMaster said, adding that “you’ll hear more about that soon, I think.”

The Trump administration has been under pressure from a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill to return North Korea to the list as the reclusive nation continues to develop its nuclear and missile programs.

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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.

The deadline for that notification was on Wednesday.

The U.S. removed North Korea from the list in 2008 under the George W. Bush administration as part of an effort to salvage an agreement with Pyongyang to curb its nuclear weapons development. Those talks later broke down, but the designation was not reimposed.

The death of Otto Warmbier, an American university student held in North Korea for 17 months who died shortly after being returned to the U.S. in a coma, has galvanized support on Capitol Hill for relisting the country.

Lawmakers have also pointed to the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother, who had a nerve agent smeared on his face in a Malaysian airport — an incident McMaster cited on Thursday.  

“A regime who murders someone in a public airport using nerve agent — that’s clearly an act of terrorism,” he said.

Currently, only three countries carry the terrorism designation: Iran, Syria and Sudan. North Korea was included on the list from 1988 until its removal by the Bush administration.

In order for a country to be designated a state sponsor of terrorism, the secretary of State must determine that the country's government has repeatedly provided support for international terrorism.

The State Department has so far declined to tip its hand, even in the face of bipartisan pressure from both chambers and the parents of Warmbier.

"These designations are made after careful review of all available evidence to determine if a country meets the statutory standard," a State Department spokesperson said in October.

"The Department of State will take immediate action if credible evidence supports North Korea’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism under the statutory criteria.”