WASHINGTON -- A senior Republican lawmaker has submitted legislation to have North Korea redesignated a state sponsor of terrorism as punishment for the nation's Tuesday nuclear test.
"The North Korea Sanctions and Diplomatic Nonrecognition Act of 2013" has eight co-sponsors, according to a press release from Representative Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.).
North Korea was officially removed from the State Department list in 2008 as part of the Bush administration's ultimately unsuccessful efforts to convince Pyongyang of the diplomatic advantages of shuttering its nuclear weapons program.
The Kim family "has repeatedly violated and ignored widespread international calls to cease its nuclear weapons ambitions, instead opting to antagonize U.S. interests, undermine our national security, and threaten our allies in the region," Ros-Lehtinen said in released remarks. "This is a critical moment for our allies in Asia, and the United States must reaffirm its unwavering support for South Korea and Japan as they continue to live under the increasing threat of a nuclear North Korea."
This is not the first time the former House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman has pushed legislation to redesignate the North as a terrorism sponsor. Similar initiatives in 2011 and 2010 both failed. The State Department looks at specific statutory criteria in determining whether it is appropriate to designate a country a terrorism supporter and has said as recently as 2011 that Pyongyang did not meet those benchmarks.
"In order to designate a country as a state sponsor of terrorism, the secretary of State must determine that the government of such country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism," according to department guidance
released last summer. The designation can be rescinded only in accordance with statutory criteria.
It is not apparent how being redesignated a state sponsor of terrorism would impose new punishments on the North, which is already subject to most of the same penalties as the nations that remain on the list -- Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria. Pyongyang was originally put on the State Department's list as a result of its 1980s bombing of a civilian South Korean airliner and an attack on South Korean lawmakers visiting Myanmar.
Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland in a Thursday press briefing did not address Ros-Lehtinen's latest legislation but said the Obama administration is focused on securing a strong U.N. Security Council response against Pyongyang.
A separate Senate bill
first reported by Foreign Policy
would require the State Department by mid-May to report to Congress on all ongoing U.S. government actions on North Korea as well as potential new actions that could be taken relevant to the North's development of weapons of mass destruction and its human rights crimes. "The report shall include recommendations for such legislative or administrative action as the secretary considers appropriate in light of the results of the review."