Congressional Research Service issues report on the implications of removing North Korea from the terror sponsor list

Yesterday, a reader and friend was kind enough to forward the entire report to me (thanks!), which I’ve uploaded onto this blog, and which you can access here:


Since then,  this has  generated some press attention in South Korea.  The report’s authors are the highly regarded Larry  Niksch and Raphael Perl.  There’s too much valuable information in there for me to graf and do it justice; this one is a must-read.  I’ll limit my comments to a few general bullet points.

  • I thought the background information on the de-listing process and the effects of listing a country were interesting, but  the implications of listing a nation are broader than the report states.  For example, a terror listing strips a nation of the protections of the  Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which theoretically allows lawsuits against North Korean state entities that injure plaintiffs who can establish jurisdiction in U.S. courts.  Mrs. Kim Dong Shik, call your lawyer.
  • The report describes the history of U.S. policy toward removing North Korea from the terror sponsor list in great detail, and it shows just how gobsmackingly inconsistent the Bush  Administration’s approach to the terror list has been.  When you contrast some of the stalwart statements of Bush and his cabinet — and the assurances they gave to Japan in particular — you can certainly see why the Japanese feel so betrayed by us.  State seems to think Japan can’t really do much about it  anyway, because it needs us to help fend off China.  If I were the leader of the world’s most technologically advanced nation, I might be thinking that this is a good time to reduce Japan’s dependency on the United States and rearm.  Indeed, the report concludes that removing North Korea from the list without resolving the Japanese abduction issue will do significant harm to U.S.-Japanese relations.
  • Bush’s policy is in fact much less demanding of the North Koreans to renounce their sponsorship of  terror than Clinton’s policy was.  Say what you will about the diplomacy of the Clinton Administration (I have);  at least their conditions for removing North Korea from the terror sponsor list actually set specific conditions that  had something to do with terror sponsorship.  This is an important point, as the report notes.  If the terror list is simply a diplomatic bargaining chip without any objective meaning, then it loses its  power to actually deter the sponsorship of terrorism.  So why  not remove Cuba, whose terror sponsorship today mainly consists of serving as a tropical retirement home for geriatric terrorists?   De-listing without a convincing North Korean  renunciation of terror would open the entire list up to the criticism that it’s a mere function of politics rather than a deterrent to terrorism. 
  • State likes to claim that North Korea hasn’t carried out a terrorist attack since the 1987 KAL bombing, which is both dishonest and misleading.   It’s dishonest because it’s flatly false, and it’s  misleading because it  intentionally confuses direct, retail terrorism with indirect sponsorship of terrorism — and after all, this is a list of terror sponsors, not designated terrorist entities (which should be listed and sanctioned under Executive Order 13,224).  This ignores the fact that sheltering terrorists and holding abductees are both continuing offenses as long as they are ongoing, and it’s not in serious dispute that North Korea is doing both of those things to this very day.  North Korea hasn’t even engaged in good-faith discussions with Japan about the return of its hostages, and I choose the word “hostages” because North Korea links their release to the payment of reparations.  That is terrorism.
  • Reports that North Korea recently  trained Hezbollah terrorists are interesting and merit further investigation, but I can’t say much about the reputation of the source for that report.  Another recent report that North Korea was caught red-handed arming the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ought to be pretty easy for our intelligence agencies to verify.  The CRS report might have followed State down the path of mixing retail and wholesale terrorism by citing North Korea’s recent use of semi-submersibles and submarines to penetrate South Korean waters and land (or try to land)  commandoes there, presumably for missions that could be defined as terrorism.  And of course, North Korea encourages, sponsors, and controls  groups in South Korea that violently attack American installations — probably personnel, too — but then again, so do our South Korean  “allies.
  • I wish the report had also cited the regular terrorist threats that come directly from North Korea’s state radio.
  • The report’s greatest weakness?  Its citation of Moon Chung-In (see CRS-18), a whooping wackadoodle, some-time Roh Moo Hyun advisor, and generally sloppy thinker  whose hobby is wetting  his bed every time he senses the presence of a Jew under it.   The report cites Moon as evidence for a North Korean-Hezbollah connection; in fact, Moon is really accusing the Mossad of accusing the North Koreans.  If the men in white coats ever receive Moon into their care, they should  jot the word “projection” on his bed chart.   Moon likes to manifest this by  challenging the temerity of Israel for influencing U.S. foreign policy in ways contrary to North Korean interests more effectively than South Korea influences U.S. policy in ways contrary to U.S. interests.  Say what you will about Israel; they get plenty of U.S. aid, but at least  they manage without the presence of tens of thousands of American troops.   Can anyone  really say that  South Korea’s own formidable coterie of lobbyists  has been  any less effective than Israel in persuading Americans to fork over billions in taxpayer dollars for a dubious return on their investment?  Moon may be a fool, but that’s no cause to mischaracterize one of his screeds,  much less rest an issue this weighty on such a slender reed.


  1. Joshua, I just noticed that you cited my ‘memo’ to Moon Chung-In.

    I had lunch on Friday with a Yonsei aquaintance of mine, and I asked about Prof. Moon. My friend tells me that Moon is Yonsei’s Poli-Sci ‘expert’ on Islam and Middle Eastern politics but that he doesn’t know Arabic well and became an ‘expert’ on the Middle East while in the States because he was a compromise choice for a poli-sci position that required one to teach Middle Eastern politics. The department there couldn’t decide between an Arab applicant and a Jewish applicant for the position and so chose Moon by default.

    (Of course, that’s hearsay, you understand.)

    Anyway, he’s now considered an ‘expert’ here in Korea, but I doubt that Martin Kramer would rank his expertise very high and would probably consider him to fall into the category of those ‘scholars’ that he critiques in Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *


  2. When you first wrote that post, I nearly cited it and fisked Moon’s screed, but I was vacationing with my family and ended up saying to myself, “Why bother?”

    Moon’s writing is such a vacuous assembly of cliches, it’s as though this subscription to The Guardian came with a bunch of refrigerator magnets with stock phrases printed on them. Each week, he shuffles them again, takes a polaroid, and mails it to his editor.