WASHINGTON (Yonhap News) ― The Obama administration said Tuesday it has not yet found enough evidence to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.
“There’s a very specific procedure, though, to designating someone as a state sponsor of terror, with specific criteria that need to be met,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
“There’s a legal process to doing that. And I’m not aware that that’s been undertaken.”
Toner was responding to a bipartisan group of congressmen who last week submitted legislation to re-designate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism for a series of provocations, including its torpedoing of a South Korean warship and shelling of a South Korean border island that killed 50 people last year.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and eight other congressmen Friday submitted the bill that calls for the North’s relisting and prohibits Washington from delisting the North unless Pyongyang apologizes for the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong incidents, pledges not to proliferate nuclear weapons and missile technologies and severs ties with the Hamas and Hezbollah militant groups.
Ros-Lehtinen introduced similar legislation in May last year but it didn’t pass.
In November, she urged the Obama administration to relist the North when Pyongyang revealed a uranium enrichment program that could serve as a way of making nuclear weapons aside from its plutonium program.
U.S. officials have dismissed calls by hardliners for relisting North Korea for the Cheonan’s sinking, saying the incident is a violation of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, but does not qualify as terrorism.
The Bush administration removed Pyongyang from the list in October 2008 to facilitate the six-party talks on the North’s nuclear dismantlement.
Shortly after the delisting, the North demolished a cooling tower at its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, north of its capital, Pyongyang, as part of a deal involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.
The nuclear talks have been stalled since then as the U.N.-imposed sanctions on the North for its nuclear and missile tests in early 2009 and the Cheonan’s sinking and the attack on Yeonpyeong Island last year.
The U.S. has called on North Korea to mend ties with South Korea before moving on to the denuclearization-for-aid nuclear talks.
Pyongyang in February refused to apologize for last year’s provocations and walked out of a rare inter-Korean dialogue, thwarting hopes for an early resumption of the six-party talks.
In August, the U.S. announced a new list of state sponsors of terrorism that does not include North Korea despite concerns over Pyongyang’s suspected delivery of weapons to militant groups in the Middle East.
Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba are still listed under the annual congressionally mandated Country Reports on Terrorism.
North Korea was first put on the list after the downing of the Korean Air flight over Myanmar in 1987, which killed all 115 people aboard.