Restoring North Korea to Terrorism Blacklist Dims Hopes for Talks
“It’s hard to see any real impact on North Korea, which has lived through all manners of sanctions for seven decades,” said Paik Hak-soon, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute, a South Korean research organization. “What it does instead is to send a clear message to North Korea that Trump is not interested in talks, another sign and reconfirmation that the Americans remain a hostile force.”
North Korea has yet to respond to Mr. Trump’s move.
But its leader, Kim Jong-un, has been notoriously sensitive to outside attacks on his regime. He called Mr. Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” in September after the president threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it endangered the United States. His government has also said it would launch more ballistic missiles in the Pacific, and could conduct an atmospheric hydrogen bomb test there, depending on Washington’s behavior.
“As long as it is technically ready, North Korea will test missiles again anytime,” said Yun Duk-min, a former chancellor of South Korea’s Korea National Diplomatic Academy who now teaches at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul. “It is following its own schedule in weapons development, regardless of whether it is re-designated as a terrorism-sponsoring country.”
But Mr. Trump’s announcement gives the country an excuse to justify a new weapons test and “deflect blame onto the U.S.,” said Lee Sung-yoon, a Korea expert at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in the Boston area.
Such prospects do not bode well for the policy of South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, who has sought to ease tensions as the country prepares to host the Winter Olympics in February.
Many of Mr. Moon’s progressive supporters believe Mr. Trump’s provocative style and focus on military options have heightened the risk of war on the Korean Peninsula.
On Tuesday, Mr. Moon’s government stressed cooperation with Washington, deflecting any suggestion that there is a disconnect between the allies on policy.