President Donald Trump, in the latest demonstration of increased tensions on the Korean Peninsula, placed North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Trump announced the move Monday during a public meeting with his Cabinet at the White House and said the Treasury Department will announce new sanctions against North Korea on Tuesday.
“Today the United States is designating North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. Should have happened a long time ago. Should have happened years ago,” Trump said.
North Korea was removed from the list by President George W. Bush in 2008.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed the move.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo early Tuesday, Abe said, “Our country welcomes and supports the US decision to relist North Korea on the state sponsor of terrorism list” as the US increases pressure on Pyongyang.
Trump said that North Korea has “repeatedly” sponsored acts of terrorism, including “assassinations on foreign soil.”
“This designation will impose further sanctions and penalties on North Korea … and supports our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime,” Trump said.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also determined that the North Korean regime has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism, according to a State Department official — noting the government has been implicated in assassinations on foreign soil.
“As part of the administration’s maximum pressure strategy, we have asked all countries around the world to put diplomatic and economic pressure on the DPRK, whose regime threatens international peace and security with its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile development, dangerous support for international terrorism and other malicious activities,” the official told CNN.
“‘Kim Jong Un must realize that the only path to a secure, economically prosperous future is to abandon his unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile development and support for international terrorism and rejoin the international community,” the official said.
Tillerson acknowledged that the designation will bring few new sanctions beyond those already imposed, noting during the White House briefing on Monday that “we already have many of these actions in place.”
But he also said the decision sends a message to the North Korean regime about the US’ resolve and hopes it will “disrupt and dissuade” certain actors from doing business with North Korea.
Trump said new sanctions to be announced over the coming weeks, including Tuesday by the Treasury Department, will bring US sanctions against Pyongyang to their highest level ever.
The question of whether Trump would reinstall North Korea on the list hung over the President’s recent Asia trip.
Trump told reporters early in his visit that his administration would make an announcement on North Korea “very soon” and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that the announcement would come “at the end of the trip.”
United Nations spokesman Farhan Haq said the UN has “nothing to say” about the US designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.
“It’s not our list,” the deputy spokesman said.