Pyongyang stays off terror sponsor list

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Pyongyang stays off terror sponsor list

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration said Tuesday it has not yet found enough evidence to re-list North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.

“There’s a very specific procedure, though, to designating someone as a state sponsor of terror, with specific criteria that need to be met,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. “There’s a legal process to doing that. And I’m not aware that that’s been undertaken.”

Toner was responding to a bipartisan group of congressmen who last week submitted legislation to get North Korea back on the list as a state sponsor of terrorism for a series of provocations, including its torpedoing of a South Korean warship, which the North denies, and shelling of a South Korean border island.

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican of Florida, who is chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and eight other congressmen on Friday submitted the bill that calls for the North’s re-listing and prohibits Washington from removing them from the list unless Pyongyang apologizes for the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong incidents. It also calls for the North to pledge not to proliferate nuclear weapons and missile technologies and sever ties with the Hamas and Hezbollah militant groups.

In November, Ros-Lehtinen urged the Obama administration to re-list the North when Pyongyang revealed a uranium enrichment program that can serve as a way of making nuclear weapons, aside from its plutonium program.

U.S. officials have dismissed calls by hardliners for re-listing North Korea for the Cheonan’s sinking, saying the incident is a violation of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, but does not qualify as terrorism.

The Bush administration removed Pyongyang from the list in October 2008 to facilitate the six-party talks on the North’s nuclear dismantlement.

Shortly after the de-listing, the North demolished a cooling tower at its Yongbyon nuclear facility as part of a deal involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia. The nuclear talks have been stalled since then as the UN imposed sanctions on the North for its nuclear and missile tests in early 2009.

In August, the United States announced a new list of state sponsors of terrorism that does not include North Korea.

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