WASHINGTON/SEOUL -- The United States is considering relisting North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, a top US official said Thursday, as the deadline for the decision nears.
H.R. McMaster, national security adviser to President Donald Trump, said the regime appeared to fit the criteria for designation following its alleged murder of leader Kim Jong-un's half-brother early this year.
"That is an option that's under consideration. And so the president's Cabinet is looking at this as part of the overall strategy on North Korea," he said during a White House press briefing that previewed Trump's upcoming trip to Asia.
National security adviser H.R. McMaster gestures as he answers questions from members of the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. (AP Photo)
"A regime who murders someone in a public airport using nerve agent, and a despotic leader who murders his brother in that manner, I mean, that's clearly an act of terrorism that fits in with a range of other actions," he added. "So this is something that's under consideration. And you'll hear more about that soon, I think."
Under a law enacted Aug. 2, the State Department had 90 days to determine whether North Korea should be relisted. That deadline fell around Thursday.
The communist regime was put on the list in 1988 for an airliner bombing that killed all 115 people aboard. In 2008, it was taken off in exchange for progress in denuclearization talks.
The US left North Korea off its latest list of state sponsors of terrorism in July.
State sponsors of terrorism face restrictions on US foreign assistance, a ban on defense exports and sales, and financial and other sanctions. But relisting North Korea is largely seen as symbolic because it is already under extensive sanctions for its nuclear and missile programs.
"Though North Korea is under a set of UN sanctions, Washington's possible redesignation is expected to have a symbolic impact as the move would mean tougher pressure," Lee Eugene, vice spokesperson at Seoul's unification ministry, told a press briefing Friday. (Yonhap)