President Donald Trump announced Monday that the U.S. will designate North Korea as a state sponsor of terror amid heightened nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Trump said the designation will impose further penalties on the country. He called it a long overdue step and part of the U.S. “maximum pressure campaign” against the North. North Korea would join Iran, Sudan and Syria on the list of state sponsors of terror.
“In addition to threatening the world by nuclear devastation, North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism including assassinations on foreign soil,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting.
U.S. officials cited the killing of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s estranged half brother in a Malaysian airport earlier this year as an act of terrorism.
The designation had been debated for months inside the administration, with some officials at the State Department arguing that North Korea did not meet the legal standard to be relisted as a state sponsor of terrorism.
U.S. officials involved in the internal deliberations said there was no debate over whether the slaying of half-brother Kim Jong Nam was a terrorist act. However, lawyers said there had to be more than one incident, and there was disagreement over whether the treatment of American student Otto Warmbier, who died of injuries suffered in North Korean custody, constituted terrorism.