home Asia, Export Controls, national security, non-proliferation, North Korea, nuclear, terrorism, U.S. Politics While Off the U.S. Terrorist List, Key North Korea Sanctions Remain

While Off the U.S. Terrorist List, Key North Korea Sanctions Remain

The listing processes – be it for countries, entities, or individuals – should not be used a diplomatic political football.  North Korea has forever renounced terrorism just as much as the Cuban regime has renounced Communism or Iran interested in the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.  When you disregard the law and make these decisions for political purposes, it weakens the overall legal, regulatory, and policy regimes. 

If you are seeking to do business in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, not so fast.  Yesterday’s announcement by the Bush Administration that North Korea would finally be “de-listed” as a state sponsor of terror does not remove key sanctions on the communist country. 

On June 26, 2008, President Bush announced the lifting of Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA) restrictions on North Korea as part of ongoing nuclear talks with North Korea.  All other export and re-export controls remained in place including import and transfer restrictions.  Also on June 26, the President continued certain TWEA restrictions under the authority of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

There are plenty of property under the control of North Korean nationals that are still blocked.  Transactions involving North Korean vessels are still restricted. There are many other sanctions regimes also in place dealing with non-proliferation, human rights violations, and North Korea’s status as a communist state. And the purchasing goods from North Korea still requires a Department of Treasury license.  With regards to yesterday’s “de-listing” announcement, nothing has changed with regards to these and other key sanctions.

What assurances do we have from North Korea that it will refrain from acts of terrorism?  What events have transpired in recent weeks that has given North Korean leaders pause and make an about face on decades-worth of relations with terrorist groups and nations?  History teaches that these acquaintances are rarely, if ever, severed.  Be it North Korea, Iran, or Cuba, terrorists must be dealt a firm hand. 

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, commented in today’s Wall Street Journal that the de-listing North Korea is a “classic case of prizing the negotiation process over substance, where the benefits of “diplomatic progress.”  According to another source, the North Koreans only agreed to inspections of the facility destroyed a few weeks, not the others. 

The Bush Administration’s decision to formally remove North Korea from the state sponsors of terrorism list is based on the shibboleth that North Korea has not carried out an act of terrorism since the late 1980s.  Our ally Japan certainly does not agree.  Moreover, just because North Korea has refrained from assisting during the past six months groups such as the Tamil Tigers, Hezbollah, or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard,  what about the next six months or year?  On this latter point, the Export Administration Act of 1979 needs to be updated with, among other things, a longer verification period of one year, or more, required before a country can be “de-listed.”

Fortunately, the exports and re-exports of sensitive and dual-use technology remains under lock.  Unless otherwise noted by the Bush Administration in the days or weeks ahead, nothing has changed with regards to sensitive or dual-use exports to North Korea.  Licenses are still required.  And, just in case you are wondering who is left on the list, the State Sponsors of Terrorism List still includes Cuba, Iran, Syria, and Sudan.  It should be a little longer, but it is what it is.  

The listing processes – be it for countries, entities, or individuals – should not be used a diplomatic political football.  North Korea has forever renounced terrorism just as much as the Cuban regime has renounced Communism or Iran interested in the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. 

When you disregard the law and make these decisions for political purposes, it weakens the overall legal, regulatory, and policy regimes.  These countries earn their space on that short list for a reason.  It should be just as difficult to come off the list as it was to come on it.

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