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U.S. mulling terrorist label for N. Korea / Move reflects Washington’s tougher stance

By Seima Oki / Yomiuri Shimbun CorrespondentWASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that the United States is considering relisting North Korea, which has repeatedly launched ballistic missiles and taken other provocative actions, as a “state sponsor of terrorism.”

It was the first time that Tillerson has referred to the possibility of placing North Korea on the list again. Such a warning reflects Washington’s firm stance of responding to the country with increasing pressure.

“We’re reviewing all of the status of North Korea, both in terms of state sponsorship of terrorism as well as all the other ways in which we can bring pressure to bear on the regime in Pyongyang to reengage, but reengage with us on a different footing than the past talks have been held,” Tillerson said at a press conference at the U.S. State Department in Washington.

A designation as a state sponsor of terrorism comes after the U.S. secretary of state determines whether a country has “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” Currently, the U.S. government applies this status to three countries — Iran, Sudan and Syria. The United States can make the designated countries subject to economic sanctions, such as the suspension of U.S. assistance — excluding aid for humanitarian purposes — and a halt to financial provisions from international financial institutions.

Some observers say the designation gives Washington wider military options because a preemptive attack on the designated countries becomes possible within the limits of self-defense.

However, the U.S. government has already implemented U.N. sanctions and imposed its own financial sanctions against North Korea. Thus, some people view the relisting as simply symbolic to show a firm position.

In the United States, a call for North Korea to be relisted as a state sponsor of terrorism has grown in the wake of the murder of Kim Jong Nam in Malaysia in February, a crime in which Pyongyang’s organized involvement is strongly suspected. On April 3, the U.S. House of Representatives voted for legislation calling on the U.S. government to relist the country.

In 1988, the U.S. government designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. The move was in response to an attack targeting then South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan in Burma’s Rangoon, now Myanmar’s Yangon, in 1983 and the bombing of a Korean Air jet in 1987. However, the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush lifted the designation in October 2008 in an attempt to make Pyongyang resume efforts to disable its nuclear facility.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is visiting the Asia-Pacific region this week and was asked during an interview with CNN whether he envisioned direct talks between the United States and North Korea. Pence replied, “Not at this time.”Speech

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