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.


  1. I would assume its not worth the trouble because KJI would come back and consider it as a declaration of war or whatever he wants to consider it as. War needs to be avoided at all costs. Usually, the US would try to bribe KJI, and they may have already, but now that he’s acting crazy we’d go take him down like we did Saddam. The problem is we had a man in office with his money tied into defense so much, he made sure the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan lasted as long as they could so that he could keep collecting money from his investments and further put the US in debt. Bush screwed us in many ways people. Thanks to the military-industrial complex. Sad. Without this, we could do the right thing and take KJI down. But we can’t due to the fact that we flat out can’t afford it anymore. Whats even more sad that if the US people knew what was happening to the people in NK, they would be much more in favor of going to war to liberate the North Koreans than we ever were for getting involved in the two wars that we’re dealing with right now.


  2. Don’t sell State short yet. Putting the DPRK back on The List is of course the right thing to do — unless you are China, whose banks are heavily invested in the DPRK. So a threat from Ms Clinton to do so will bring China to the Asian Summit in a mind to agree with South Korea and to abandon the North, while State is itself denying the very threats that it is making. I think we are that devious. It equally continues to exist during the Security Council debate. It is a powerful weapon that hurts China even more than it hurts the DPRK, and so will only be used when China displays actual intransigence.


  3. I would have thought, Elvis, that if you were of a mind to lash out at the military-industrial complex and your government’s lack of thrift, then there might be better places to do it than OFK.

    Meanwhile, for the rest of us. It seems to me that the USA might want China to keep investing in areas of North Korea beyond the Pyongyang region, and doesn’t want to put too much in the way of that (yes, I know that there has been no evidence of much being put in the way of it to date, regardless of the rhetoric, but we are talking “officially” here).

    I don’t want to vouch for the success of this as a policy outright, Lord no, but I am not sure that empowering people outside the power centers of the country (indeed, in areas which have been hitherto downright neglected) is necessarily a bad thing, on either a human rights basis or an undermining-the-regime basis.

    I know this idea doesn’t fit the narrative that well, but it is worth considering. North Korea is not entirely monolithic, at least not geographically. I would imagine that paring off weaker, regional Party elements might also contribute to the fall of the regime in the fullness of time.

    I haven’t analyzed this in depth, but my instinct tells me it has some value.