House votes to move toward designating North Korea as state sponsor of terror


The House approved legislation on Monday that would order the State Department to determine whether North Korea is a state sponsor of terrorism.

The 394-1 vote comes after North Korea test fired a new ballistic missile in February, along with multiple other nuclear and ballistic missile tests last year alone.

Lawmakers also adopted, 398-3, a resolution on Monday condemning North Korea’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles in violation of United Nations Security council measures. 

{mosads}Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), the author of the bill directing the State Department to reconsider the state sponsor of terrorism designation, argued North Korea’s escalation of weapons tests merited at least consideration for being reinstated as a state sponsor of terrorism.

“It’s high time we call out Lil’ Kim, the loose cannon of east Asia, for what he is: a terrorist in a terrorist state,” Poe said, using his preferred nickname for North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

North Korea was delisted as a state sponsor of terrorism in 2008 as part of an agreement with President George W. Bush’s administration to scale back its nuclear weapons program. But North Korea has since reversed course with its repeated nuclear tests. 

There are currently only three countries on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism: Iran, Sudan and Syria. 

The designation results in financial sanctions, restrictions on foreign aid, and bans on defense exports and sales.

Lawmakers acknowledged North Korea presents a more serious threat than it did in the past.

“We used to have the luxury of saying North Korea just wants attention,” said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).  “But now, their goal is clear. It is to threaten hundreds of millions of Americans. It is clear that North Korea is testing missiles and bombs for the purpose of developing warheads that can do just that.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) warned that recent satellite imagery indicates North Korea is getting ready to detonate its sixth nuclear device. 

“With every test, North Korea gains valuable knowledge that has enabled it to make significant improvements to this developing arsenal,” Royce said.

The Trump administration has been emphasizing its concern about the rising threat from North Korea to the U.S. In an interview with the Financial Times published on Sunday, President Trump said his administration would act unilaterally if China doesn’t try to help de-escalate the tensions with North Korea. His comments came ahead of a visit this week from Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

“If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will,” Trump told the Financial Times. 

“China will either decide to help us with North Korea or they won’t,” Trump added. “If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone.”

And during a visit in South Korea last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicated that U.S. military action against North Korea would be “on the table” if warranted, adding that “the policy of strategic patience has ended.”

In addition to the weapons tests, Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, was assassinated with a deadly chemical weapon in Malaysia by operatives suspected to be under orders from the North Korean government. South Korean intelligence concluded that Kim Jong-un ordered the February killing, though North Korea has denied any involvement. 

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