D.C. declines to put North on terror list after Cheonan

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D.C. declines to put North on terror list after Cheonan

WASHINGTON - North Korea’s torpedoing of a South Korean warship is a violation of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, but does not merit relisting North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, the State Department said Monday.

“The sinking of the Cheonan is not an act of international terrorism and by itself would not trigger placing North Korea on the state sponsored terrorism list,” spokesman Philip Crowley said. “It was a provocative action, but one taken by the military of a state against the military of another state. We believe the Cheonan was in fact a violation of the armistice.”

Crowley was asked if Washington was considering putting North Korea back on the list, from which it was dropped in late 2008 under the Bush administration amid progress in six-party talks on ending the North’s nuclear weapons programs.

South Korea expressed understanding of the U.S. decision.

“It appears the U.S. government has conducted a legal review of related regulations so far,” a foreign ministry official said on customary condition of anonymity. “We had also thought about relisting, but basically, terrorism is against civilians while the Cheonan incident was an armed attack on the military. They are a little different in nature.”

The sinking is more serious than terrorism and poses threats to international peace, the official said, and that is why South Korea brought the case to the UN Security Council.

An international probe concluded last month that a North Korean submarine torpedoed the Cheonan in the Yellow Sea in March, killing 46 sailors. North Korea denies involvement and has threatened war if condemned by the UN Security Council, where South Korea, the U.S. and their allies hope for a rebuke although China and Russia are resistant.

Crowley, however, said that the administration will continue to keep a close eye on North Korea for terrorist activity.

“We continue to evaluate information that is consistently coming in to us regarding North Korean activities, and we will not hesitate to take action if we have information that North Korea has repeatedly provided support for acts of terrorism,” he said.

North Korea was first put on the list after the downing of a Korean Air flight over Myanmar in 1987, which killed all 115 people onboard.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is believed to have been behind the incident as he was trying to consolidate his status as heir apparent to his father, then-North Korean leader Kim Il Sung. Kim Jong-il took power in 1994 when Kim Il Sung died of a heart attack.

Kim Jong-il allegedly masterminded the attack to disrupt the presidential election in South Korea and the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

The Cheonan incident is reminiscent of the Korean Air attack.

There have been reports that Kim Jong-un was involved in the incident as he tries to win support from the military to succeed his father.

Neither Kim Jong-il nor Jong-un has any military background, unlike Kim Il Sung, the founding father of the North who served as a guerrilla leader against Japanese colonialists.

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