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November 20, 2017

Summary

On November 20th, Trump returned North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Originally added in 1988 after the bombing of South Korean flight 858 the year before, President Bush chose to remove them in 2008 after a U.S. report recognized their avoidance of state terrorism since the attack two decades earlier. This doesn’t mean that the North Korean government has ever stopped toeing that line, between the continued support of terrorist groups such as Hamas, and the sinking of the South Korean ship ROKS Cheonan in 2010, the shelling of South Korean military forces on the island of Yeonpyeong that same year, and a cyber attack against Sony in 2015.

Despite these aggressions, the previous two administrations have maintained that keeping North Korea off of the list is the best path towards denuclearization and eventual peace. With the recent allegedly state-sponsored murder of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, nuclear provocations, and death of American tourist Otto Warmbier, the Trump administration has announced that North Korea will be returned to the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that this move would “tighten the pressure on the Kim regime,  with an intention to have him understand that this is only going to get worse until you are ready to come and talk”. North Korea has returned in kind early Wednesday morning, launching an ICBM missile finally capable of reaching the entirety of the continental United States.

Analysis

Returning North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism comes off as a largely futile attempt of the Trump administration to empty everything in their arsenal of aggression short of an actual military strike in a bid to force an end to their rapidly progressing nuclear program. The sanctions included in the listing, such as an end of military sales to the country, are largely redundant considering what has already been put into place, and according to Henri Féron with the Center for Korean Legal Studies at Columbia University School of Law, the pre-existing sanctions have had little effect on the North Korean economy thus far. The only presumable resulting effect of this declaration is just a further insult to the North Korean regime, which flies in the face of Trump’s requests for a diplomatic solution earlier this year.

Engagement Resources

  • Read a Letter From the Former Deputy Commander of US Forces in Korea On His Assessment Of War With North Korea: This letter, released on November 10th by Representative Ted Lieu of California, outlines the unique dangers involved in a war with North Korea. It can be read here.
  • Support the International Peace Bureau: The IPB is a peace federation founded in 1981 with the expressed priorities of disarmament and reallocation of military expenditure. Consisting of 300 member organizations across 70 countries, the IPB is building an international movement to reduce unnecessary conflict among states. You can support by donating or applying to become a member.

This brief was compiled by Vaibhav Kumar. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief please contact vaibhav@usresistnews.org.


 

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