By Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 8, 2009
The United States will consider reinstating North Korea to a list of state sponsors of terrorism, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in an interview broadcast yesterday as the Obama administration looks for ways to ratchet up pressure on Pyongyang after recent nuclear and missile tests.
"We're going to look at it," Clinton said on ABC's "This Week" when asked about a letter last week from Republican senators demanding that North Korea be put back on the list. "There's a process for it. Obviously we would want to see recent evidence of their support for international terrorism."
The administration is also pushing for a U.N. Security Council resolution that would punish the country financially and give the international community the power to interdict suspect North Korean cargo, but Clinton acknowledged that some countries have "legitimate concerns" about targeting international shipments.
"We will do everything we can to both interdict it and prevent it and shut off their flow of money," Clinton said. "If we do not take significant and effective action against the North Koreans now, we'll spark an arms race in Northeast Asia. I don't think anybody wants to see that."
The North conducted its second nuclear test last month, test-fired short-range missiles and announced that it was no longer bound by the 1953 armistice that ended hostilities on the Korean peninsula. President Obama on Saturday called North Korea's actions "extraordinarily provocative."
The Bush administration removed North Korea from the list of terrorist states last year as part of an unfulfilled commitment by the dictatorship to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. North Korea was placed on the list in 1988 after its agents were implicated in the bombing of a South Korean airliner that killed 115 people.
State Department officials have noted that the process for reinstating North Korea to the list is difficult. The United States would need to document that North Korea has engaged in terrorist acts since its removal from the list.
Newt Gingrich, appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation," welcomed Clinton's comments.
"In the long run, we're going to have to find a strategy that uses diplomatic and economic means to replace the current dictatorship," the former House speaker said. "I mean, this is an inevitably terrifying dictatorship that is desperately trying to get enough nuclear weapons."
Clinton also said the administration is trying to keep separate its efforts to secure the release of two American journalists facing trial in North Korea in connection with illegal entry into the country and "hostile acts."
"We've been very careful in what we've said, because clearly we don't want this pulled into the political issues that we have with North Korea, or the concerns that are being expressed in the United Nations Security Council," she said. "This is separate. It is a humanitarian issue, and the girls should be let go."