Trump declares North Korea state sponsor of terror
WASHINGTON – Agence France-Presse
U.S. President Donald Trump on Nov. 20 declared North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism even as his top diplomat said Washington has not given up hope of a negotiated end to the nuclear standoff with Kim Jong-Un's regime.
Trump promised a rapid escalation of U.S. Treasury sanctions against the North after adding its name to a terror blacklist previously led by Iran and Syria.
"Should have happened a long time ago. Should have happened years ago," Trump said.
He cited the death of a U.S. student who had been held in a North Korean jail and the assassination by nerve agent of Kim's elder half-brother on foreign soil as reasons for the move.
However, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said sanctions and diplomacy could still pressure Kim into talks on nuclear disarmament.
"We still hope for diplomacy," he said, adding that punitive measures were already having a significant impact on Pyongyang's economy.
There was no immediate reaction from North Korea, but an editorial in the ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun ahead of the announcement described Trump as a "mentally deranged money-grabber" who was leading the U.S. down an "irretrievable road to hell."
The White House has said it will not tolerate the North's testing or deployment of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to U.S. cities.
Experts believe Pyongyang is within months of such a threshold, having carried out six nuclear tests since 2006 and test-fired several types of missiles, including multi-stage rockets.
Japan said it "welcomes and supports" Trump's announcement. But there was a more restrained response from South Korea.
Seoul's foreign ministry said the U.S. measure was "part of the international community's common efforts to bring North Korea to the path of denuclearization through strong sanctions and pressure."
Some analysts warned of a possible backlash.
"North Korea will consider it as a thing next to a declaration of war," Professor Yang Moo-Jin of the University for North Korean Studies in Seoul told AFP.
"There is a possibility that it may retaliate by test-launching an ICBM in the near future."
Meanwhile, China's Foreign Ministry said on Nov. 21 it hoped all parties could contribute to resolving the issue on the Korean peninsula peacefully.
Ministry spokesman Lu Kang made the comment at a daily news briefing.