‘Terrorist’ label could hurt South’s ties to North

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‘Terrorist’ label could hurt South’s ties to North

As American lawmakers push to place Pyongyang on its list of state sponsors of terrorism, a recent U.S. congressional report warned that such action might hamper Seoul’s efforts to improve relations with North Korea.

North Korea’s designation as a terrorism sponsor is unlikely to inflict significant economic punishment on the isolationist regime in the short term, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) report said, though it will have “significant impact” on international diplomacy efforts toward Pyongyang.

“Placing North Korea back on the list could forestall future diplomatic initiatives between Washington and Pyongyang, particularly if North Korean leaders - as well as Chinese leaders - interpret it as a sign that the United States is not interested in dialogue,” the document read. “China may be inclined to use re-designation as a pretext for opposing U.S. and South Korean efforts to increase pressure on North Korea through other means.”

The report, dated Jan. 21 and entitled, “North Korea: Back on the State Sponsors of Terrorism Lists?” said that the Kim Jong-un regime “could perceive re-designation as a threat to its two-track policy of nuclear and economic development.”

Pyongyang may respond to a re-designation by taking provocative action, which could mean more nuclear or long-range-missile tests, the report added.

Earlier this month, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a congresswoman from Florida, introduced to the House of Representatives the North Korea Sanctions and Diplomatic Nonrecognition Act of 2015, which urged Congress to again name Pyongyang as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria are currently on the list.

North Korea was initially added to the State Sponsor of Terrorism listed in 1988 after bombing a Korean Airlines flight the previous year. The incident killed more than 100 people.

The country was removed from the list in 2008 under the George W. Bush administration for meeting nuclear inspection criteria.

North Korea has not been “conclusively linked” to any terrorist acts since 1987, according to the U.S. State Department.

Sanctions resulting from this designation include restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance and a ban on defense exports and sales, as well as financial restrictions, among others.

After the U.S. government determined that North Korea was responsible for cyberattack on Sony Pictures in late November to block the release of the comedy “The Interview,” President Barack Obama promised a “proportional response.”

Following the incident, there had been further calls to put North Korea back on the state sponsor of terrorism list. Pyongyang maintains that it was not involved in the scandal.

The new report states that, to date, “a cyber-related incident directed at the United States has never been used as justification for inclusion on the state sponsors of terrorism lists.”

“Changing current legislation to include cyber-related incidents as acts of terrorism,” it added, “could lead to calls for designating other governments as state sponsors of terrorism.”

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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