State Department Fights N. Korea Terror Re-Listing With Half-Truths

[T]he Obama team is clearly signaling that it does not intend to do what many lawmakers want: put North Korea back on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The calculation is that the listing, which administration officials see as having been overly politicized during the George W. Bush years, is more trouble than it’s worth. [WaPo, The Cable]

Not worth the trouble? Are you joshing me? This, from the same crowd that went all the way to Yongbyon to personally schlep home seven boxes of radioactive documents — taking the long way, across the DMZ, for a better photo op — all for the sake of a nuke deal that the North Koreans were already clearly not going to keep?

[T]he original reasons for listing North Korea, when it blew up half the South Korean cabinet in Rangoon in 1983 and then bombed Korean Air Flight 858 in 1987, do not appear to be enough to put Pyongyang on the list today. Nor do other reasons listed in State Department reports as recently as 2007, namely that North Korea hasn’t answered for 12 Japanese abductees and harbors members of the Japanese Red Army.

The sinking of the Cheonan, a military vessel, falls outside the definition of a terrorist act.

I’m all about making the list of state sponsors of terrorism a place where we impose consequences on states for sponsoring terrorism — you know, stuff like sending assassination teams to cut the throats of exiled dissidents and shipping man-portable surface-to-air missiles and other weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas. For good measure, you might even consider using state media to threaten foreign countries. And if you want to obfuscate by saying that direct state terrorism doesn’t count as sponsorship, we obviously need another list.

Leading Asia experts lament that the process was reduced to a political negotiation at the very end of the Bush administration, when then-North Korea negotiator Christopher R. Hill agreed to delist Pyongyang in exchange for North Korea’s promises to keep alive the six-nation nuclear talks. Those promises have gone unfulfilled.

What better way to undo the politicization of the list than by putting North Korea back on it? In that light, I actually happen to agree that the sinking of the Cheonan, an act of war, is probably not the best available reason to list North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, just like Chris Hill’s Not-Quite-Agreed Framework and the broken promises it was mean to induce were a lousy reason to de-list it. Let’s just not argue over half-truths here.