If you stick with me for a modest amount of law, I promise you that this post will end with a nice little adventure in participatory democracy. But to get there, we must begin with how the United States Code defines “international terrorism,” at section 2331 of Title 18:
As used in this chapter –
(1) the term “international terrorism” means activities that –
(A) involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended –
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum;
I placed that quotation at the top of this post to give you some context for a new report, via South Korea’s Joongang Ilbo, that our State Department will formally propose removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism in early December, perhaps two weeks from now. President Bush’s appeasement-minded North Korea negotiator, Christopher “Kim Jong” Hill, has already gone to Tom Lantos, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to lobby for the deal.
Lantos’s Republican counterpart, Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, is likely to oppose the move, particularly if there’s a strong public reaction — more on that later — thus setting the stage for a bizarre partisan role-reversal (wake me up when Clinton isn’t still president).
Why North Korea Deserves to Stay on the List
North Korea was originally listed after Kim Jong Il ordered North Korean agents to plant a bomb on a South Korean airliner, killing all 115 on board. Other suspected terrorist incidents are listed in this GAO report. These do not include North Korea’s frequent threats to transform either South Korea or Japan into a “sea of fire,” or its missile or nuclear tests which are patently designed to reinforce extortionate demands for political, diplomatic, or financial concessions.
You’d think that any nation campaigning to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism would be on its best behavior, but North Korea knows that its friends in the State Department want it off the list no matter how closely its behavior matches the definition of international terrorism. South Korea will hold a presidential election next month. Conservative opposition candidate Lee Hoi-Chang, who supports putting conditions on South Korean aid to North Korea, recently entered the race. North Korea desperately fears Lee Hoi Chang’s policies, so North Korea’s Korea Central News Agency is publishing a series of statements like these, issued via various pro-Pyongyang front groups abroad:
The General Association of Koreans in China Wednesday issued a statement titled “Let’s decisively eliminate Ri Hoe Chang, a heinous sycophantic traitor and anti-reunification element, in the name of nation. [KCNA, via The Marmot’s Hole, Andy Jackson]
The Solidarity for Implementing the South-North Joint Declaration reportedly issued a statement on November 20 calling for an all-out struggle against Ri Hoe Chang. . . . The key to frustrating Ri Hoe Chang’s attempt to seize power is to form the all-people front of the struggle. . . . [KCNA, via TMH]
It isn’t possible to honestly interpret those remarks as anything other than — at best — a threat to Lee, or — at worst — a call for his assassination. North Korea nearly killed one South Korea head of state, and recently, North Korean-directed thugs may have taken part in the attack on the semi-retired “honorary chairman” of a conservative South Korean newspaper, and planned other attacks against conservative politicians and opinion leaders. Indeed, a recently exposed North Korean cell operating in the South apparently had a hand in organizing multiple violent protests, including some that were directed against U.S. military installations. Has North Korea renounced any of that behavior, given its recency?
Another issue that North Korea will apparently not have to resolve before being de-listed is its kidnapping of dozens of foreign nationals from numerous foreign countries to train its spies (if you count South Koreans, the figures run into the thousands). The failure to resolve that issue before de-listing North Korea could severely damage our relationship with Japan. Instead, removal of North Korea from the list appears to have much less to do with terrorism than with nuclear diplomacy, or more specifically, headines creating the illusion of progress on that issue.
At a meeting in Beijing between the chief US and North Korean nuclear negotiators on October 31, Washington gave Pyongyang “concrete terms” for its removal, Yonhap news agency said.
“The measures for North Korea to take include not only implementing 11 concrete measures aimed at disabling the nuclear facilities by year-end but also clarifying the UEP (uranium enrichment programme) based on more convincing evidence,” a government official told the agency in Boston. [AFP]
What’s missing from these conditions? If you guessed, “anything having to do with terrorism,” you’re absolutely right. Granted, State will probably murmur a few other conditions that do relate to terrorism, but the fact that this question is under serious consideration already suggests that State is prepared to pitch them as softballs.
How You Can Help Keep North Korea on the List
The Federation of American Scientists provides some useful explanation about the process of being listed, or de-listed, as a state sponsor of terrorism in this paper. Here’s a money quote:
Paragraph 6(j)(4) of the Export Administration Act prohibits removing a countryfrom the list unless the President first submits a report to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Senate Committees on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and Foreign Relations. When a government changes (i.e., a government is significantly different from that in power at the time of the last determination), the President’s report, submitted before the proposed rescission would take effect, must certify that (1) there has been a fundamental change in the leadership and policies of the government of the country concerned (an actual change of government as a result of an election, coup, or some other means); (2) the new government is not supporting acts of international terrorism; and (3) the new government has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future. [FAS]
Here, I will posit that any abduction not fully resolved is a continuing offense as it affects the victim, and his or her family.
Now for the really interesting part. The de-listing process requires publication in the Federal Register, followed by a 45-day public comment period. That means you, I, or anyone else could file a petition to request that North Korea remain on the list, documenting specific examples of North Korea’s terrorist behavior. Several examples come to mind, such as the kidnapping and reported death during interrogation of Rev. Kim Dong Shik, a U.S. lawful permanent resident. Although the South Koreans caught one of the North Korean kidnappers, North Korea has never accounted for him.
Not only am I tempted to write a petition, I’m inviting you to help me write it. I know plenty of smart people, including a number of congressional staffers, read this site regularly. So how can you help? By (1) reading the definition of “international terrorism” I’ve published above, (2) suggesting specific North Korean activities that meet this definition, and (3) — this part is very important — inserting hyperlinks to reliable sources to back up your assertions. You may remain anonymous if you choose to do so, but I need to cite published sources, because this petition will need footnotes and a bibliography.
Now, I said yesterday that the State Department is absolutely determined to take North Korea off the list, no matter how many atrocities North Korea commits. Do I think President Bush has made up his mind to do this? If Condi Rice says so, yes — and she will say so. But Congress has a say, too, and this may be a way to give Congress and opinion leaders some pause and some backbone to start asking some important and still-unanswered questions about, say, just what the hell the Israelis bombed in Syria last September, North Korea’s role in inspiring violent attacks against U.S. soldiers in South Korea, or whether it’s sheer coincidence that when Japan asks for its kidnapped citizens back, North Korea immediately demands “reparations” to resolve the issue.
Does this behavior sound like that of a nation that has decided to change its ways? At worst, we’ll have helped record the stupidity of this decision for history, thus making the decision easier to reverse the next time North Korea gets caught proliferating, infiltrating, or intimidating.
Or, you can write your own petition. The more, the better.
Update: Related thoughts on how North Korea’s bellicose threats of war are used to intimidate South Korean voters, here. It’s characteristic of the North Koreans to pull crap like this, but what’s more regrettable is that one of those echoing the North Korean threats is South Korean ex-president and Nobel laureate Kim Dae Jung.