U.S. President Barack Obama informed Congress yesterday that North Korea will not be returned to the U.S. list of nations that sponsor terrorism, the Yonhap News Agency reported (see GSN, Feb. 3).
Obama stated that a classified report produced by his administration that analyzed the actions of North Korea from June 2008 through November 2009 "concludes that the D.P.R.K. does not meet the statutory criteria to again be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism."
Washington placed Pyongyang on the list in the wake of North Korea's destruction in 1987 of a South Korean airliner carrying 115 people. The North was formally taken off the list in October 2008 as part of efforts by the Bush administration to re-engage the Stalinist state in nuclear disarmament talks, which have since stalled again (Hwang Doo-hyong, Yonhap News Agency I, Feb. 3).
The Obama administration said there has been no indication that Pyongyang in recent years has supported terrorists or carried out acts of terrorism, the New York Times reported (New York Times, Feb. 4).
Meanwhile, the United States' top intelligence official told the Senate intelligence committee Tuesday that "we will not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state" despite efforts by the Stalinist regime to be recognized as such with its nuclear and missile tests, Yonhap reported.
"We judge [leader] Kim Jong Il seeks recognition of North Korea as a nuclear weapons power by the U.S. and the international community," said National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair. "Pyongyang's intent in pursuing dialogue at [this] time is to take advantage of what it perceives as an enhanced negotiating position, having demonstrated its nuclear and missile capabilities."
A May 2008 nuclear test detonation by North Korea achieved greater technical success than the country's first blast in 2006, which was judged as a partial failure. Last year's explosion, "with a yield of roughly a few kilotons TNT equivalent, was apparently more successful than the 2006 test," Blair said.
"While we do not know whether the North has produced nuclear weapons, we assess it has the capability to do so," he said.
Blair added that U.S. intelligence officials were highly confident that Pyongyang "has pursued a uranium enrichment capability in the past, which we assess was for weapons" (Hwang Doo-hyong, Yonhap News Agency II, Feb. 2).