The US Might Downgrade North Korea’s Status from a State Sponsor of Terrorism

[imText1]The U.S. might downgrade North Korea’s status from a state sponsor of terrorism to a country of concern.

According to the U.S. Congressional Research Service, the U.S. would likely draw up a plan to remove North Korea from its list of terrorism sponsoring countries and terminate the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWE) in accordance with progress on the disablement of Yongbyon nuclear facilities and declaration of nuclear facilities.

In its report “North Korea: Terrorism List Removal?” CRS explained about the conflict between the U.S. and North Korea over nuclear declaration and the resulting Six-Party Talks deadlock, and then introduced for the U.S. government three potential policy options devised to break the current standoff.

The report suggested a gradual solution according to which the U.S. has two options of either removing North Korea’s designations as a sate sponsor of terrorism or lifting the application of TWE upon North Korea’s completion of disabling its nuclear facilities. When North Korea provides a correct and complete list of its nuclear programs, the report suggested the U.S. carry out the rest of the options.

Instead of removing its name completely, the report said it is also possible to first downgrade North Korea to either the “nations not fully cooperating” category or “countries of concern” warning category and continue to negotiate with North Korea until the country completes its declaration obligations

That way, the report anticipated that the Bush Administration could enter upon a new phase in its negotiations with North Korea over the complete termination of North Korea’s nuclear programs, materials and facilities

Dell Dailey, Department of State’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism said on January 22 that North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese nationals, which mainly took place in 1970s and 1980s, would not pose an obstacle to the removal of North Korea from the U.S. terror list, thus implying the possibility of delisting.

However, the White House and the U.S. Department of State immediately denied the possibility saying that it is too early to delist North Korea when the country has not yet completed its declaration obligation.

The U.S. promised at the Six Party Talks to remove North Korea from Washington’s list of terrorism sponsoring countries and terminate the TWE application if North Korea successfully disables its Yongbon nuclear facilities and declares a correct and complete list of its nuclear programs by December 31 of last year as agreed on the October 3 Agreements.

The CRS report pointed out that the early removal of North Korea from the terrorism list would not only raise a controversy but also provoke criticism from opponents in the U.S. and Japan since the Japanese kidnapping issue has not been settled yet and North Korea is being accused of providing training to terrorist groups.

The report also concerned that opponents from the U.S. and Japan would criticize that the U.S. government would gain too little from North Korea if the government removes North Korea from the terrorism list in exchange for the disablement of Yongbyon nuclear facilities alone.

The report’s third policy option suggested that the U.S. government provide alternative benefits for North Korea as long as the country fulfills terrorism-related requirements rather than nuclear-related requirements specified in the February 13 Agreements.

If the U.S. government adopts the third policy option, however, the report argued that North Korea might refuge to take alternative benefits including energy aid, food aid and expansion of exchanges between the U.S. and North Korea but create another diplomatic impasse over the nuclear issue.