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Last week, I led a group of Republican senators that wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to immediately relist North Korea as a State Sponsor of Terrorism and we also introduced an amendment to force the Obama Administration into action.
Yesterday on ABC’s This Week, I was pleased to hear Secretary Clinton’s response that they are now considering relisting North Korea. This is a very important step that I hope President Obama will agree to.
However, just days before Secretary Clinton’s statement, her spokesman bluntly claimed the State Department doesn’t believe there are any recent acts by North Korea that can be defined as supporting terrorism:
REPORTER: A group of Republican senators has written a letter to the Secretary urging her to relist North Korea on the terror list. They specify certain unnamed ongoing terrorist activities. Do you share that assessment, and where do you want to go with that?
STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN PHILIP CROWLEY: …As for North Korea, I think we’re aware of that letter. But as far as I know, firing off missiles and over-heated rhetoric is unwise and unhelpful, but does not meet the legal definition of terrorism.
REPORTER: They seem to say – but they don’t refer to those tests as a terrorist activity – to say that other ones are ongoing, that those are — Is there anything else that you’re aware of?
MR. CROWLEY: To list a country on the terrorism list, there’s a legal requirement there. And what we’ve seen so far, I don’t think meets that legal test.
Based on this statement, I eagerly await the State Department to certify:
Last year, in a move many of us strongly disagreed with, President Bush removed North Korea from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List, not because they had stopped supporting terrorists but in hopes it would be a carrot to encourage them to join negotiations and halt development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.
They exploited Bush’s actions by accessing previously frozen funds and loans to speed along their weapons programs. In recent weeks, North Korea once again tested a nuclear weapon and proved to the world their program is alive and well and successfully launched a number of ballistic missiles. Right now, they are preparing to test another missile that has the capability of striking the United States.
The carrot didn’t work. It’s time for the stick.
Even Secretary Clinton agreed in her interview that North Korea wasn’t de-listed because they suddenly renounced terrorism. The truth is that United States decided to look the other way in order to get North Korea to cease its nuclear activities, but North Korea has neither renounced terror nor given up its nuclear program.
In recent days, it was also reported that the U.S. may finally impose some economic sanctions on North Korea. This is a step in the right direction, but we must go further. The sanctions that come with being listed on the State Sponsor of Terrorism list are tougher and urgently needed. It will send a strong message to North Korea and the rest of the world that the time for rhetoric is over. It’s time for action in defending the United States and our allies from North Korean aggression.