At a recent Cabinet meeting, President Donald Trump announced his intention to designate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.
By William Tucker
Contributor, In Homeland Security
At a recent Cabinet meeting, President Donald Trump announced his intention to designate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. The announcement came following the President’s recently completed 13-day trip to Asia. North Korea had been on the list, but was removed by the George W. Bush administration in 2008.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested adding North Korea to the list in April, but Trump decided to take action only recently. Diplomacy with North Korea has been an ongoing endeavor since Trump entered the White House, but the President’s recent Asian trip may have played a role in his decision.
US and Regional Disunity May Have Prompted Trump’s Decision
Trump’s comments that North Korea should have been added to the list “years ago” notwithstanding, the disunity of U.S. allies and other interested parties in the region likely prompted Washington to pursue means to further isolate Pyongyang.
Numerous sanctions have been levied against North Korea to force the regime to abandon its current nuclear weapons program. Nevertheless, the North Korean economy functions without much international trade.
This does not mean that the sanctions are useless. No matter how constricting sanctions are, Pyongyang weathers the storm and continues to pursue its nuclear program.
By adding North Korea to the state sponsors of terrorism list, Washington is looking beyond international-backed sanctions. Nations on the state sponsor of terrorism list are subject to further unilateral U.S. sanctions. Any business or nation that wants continued access to the U.S. market – the largest in the world – will have to abide by Washington’s restrictions, even if they opposed such measures in the UN.
Losing Access to the US Market Creates Problems for Countries under Sanctions
Losing access to the U.S. market can have devastating effects, as certain businesses and banks in China have discovered. Washington sanctioned several Chinese organizations for continuing to do business with North Korea. The addition of new provisions under the state sponsor of terrorism list will only add to Pyongyang’s isolation.
However, the continued use of sanctions can have unintended consequences. North Korea might choose to close the remaining diplomatic channels or China could take retaliatory measures in response to U.S. sanctions on certain Chinese banks.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Seoul expressed concern over Washington’s unilateral move, because South Korea is in the most immediate danger from its northern neighbor’s military actions. The U.S. does have some wiggle room when it comes to enforcing sanctions relating to the state sponsor of terrorism list. There is room for further diplomacy if played skillfully, but North Korea gets a vote on how this situation plays out.
North Korea’s Development of Solid Fuel Missile Engine Could Be a Negotiating Advantage
Pyongyang has been working on a solid fuel missile engine that would greatly enhance the North’s ability to launch a weapon on short notice. Unlike liquid fuel, which must be loaded just before launch, solid fuel allows for launching a weapon at a moment’s notice.
North Korea would certainly use the development of a solid fuel missile engine to its advantage in negotiations if the U.S. is dedicated to ending Pyongyang’s nuclear program. Naming North Korea to the state sponsor of terrorism list is a new development that will bear close scrutiny from now on.