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US Designates North Korea As State Sponsor Of Terrorism

WASHINGTON/SEOUL: The United States on Monday designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism in a symbolic move aimed at increasing pressure on the regime over its nuclear weapons program, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported, told Bernama.

US President Donald Trump made the announcement at the White House, returning North Korea to a list of nations it was removed from nine years ago.

“It should have happened years ago,” Trump said at the start of a Cabinet meeting. “In addition to threatening the world by nuclear devastation, North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism, including assassinations on foreign soil.”

The designation is the latest in a series of steps Washington has taken to isolate the North and force it to come to the negotiation table over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Tensions spiked after the North tested two long-range missiles capable of reaching the US mainland in July, and followed up with its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September.

Trump earlier threatened to “totally destroy” the North if necessary.

On Monday he called Pyongyang “a murderous regime” that “must end its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile development” and support for international terrorism.

He said the Treasury will announce additional sanctions Tuesday in line with the designation. Once all the new sanctions are announced over a two-week period, North Korea will be under “the highest level” of sanctions.

North Korea will face restrictions on US foreign assistance, a ban on defense exports and sales, and financial and other sanctions. But experts say the re-designation is largely symbolic because the regime is already under extensive UN and other sanctions for its nuclear and missile programs.

South Korea said in response that it takes the measure ‘as part of the international community’s common efforts to bring North Korea to the path of denuclearisation through strong sanctions and pressure.”

“As indicated by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s remarks, despite the relisting, the common stance of South Korea and the US to continue with efforts to bring North Korea to the negotiating table for a peaceful resolution of its nuclear issue remains unchanged,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

It added that the two countries will continue their close collaboration and consultations at all levels.

North Korea was put on the US State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1988 for its bombing of a South Korean airliner that killed all 115 people aboard. In 2008, it was taken off in exchange for progress in denuclearisation talks.

Under a law enacted Aug 2, the department was required to determine within 90 days whether North Korea should be relisted.

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