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Mike Leavitt and Charles Krafft
The State Department issued last week its annual Country Reports on Terrorism for 2009. Originally scheduled for release on April 30th, the report was inexplicably delayed for more than three months. In the briefing on the report by Daniel Benjamin, Coordinator, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, a diplomatic non-explanation was offered to explain the delay:
The delay was to ensure that the report was accurate, comprehensible, and as readable as possible.
Translation: We were trying to resolve our position on matters that we can’t reveal to you at this time. And likely those matters may have involved North Korea.
The centerpiece of the country report is the list of state sponsors of terrors which this year was populated by the same familiar faces as last year: Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan. Appearance on the list has many consequences, which, the report notes, include:
1. A ban on arms-related exports and sales.
2. Controls over exports of dual-use items, requiring 30-day Congressional notification for goods or services that could significantly enhance the terrorist-list country’s military capability or ability to support terrorism.
Another consequence, not mentioned by the State Department in its list, is that under section 906 of the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (“TSRA”), permitted exports of agricultural products, medicine and medical devices to countries on the list require the issuance of one-year licenses.
President Bush had thrown the Norks a carrot in 2008 by removing them from the list, but the Norks haven’t really been model citizens since then. We have them torpedoing the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan in March of this year, although technically an attack on a military vessel would not be classified as a terrorist act. On May 21, Secretary Clinton condemned the attack and warned of possible, but unspecified, sanctions in response.
More troubling was the intelligence report, disclosed among the war logs leaked by Wikileaks, that the Norks were selling missiles to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Ambassador Benjamin, when asked in the briefing about these recent disclosures, suggested that the Norks might find themselves back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism:
Let me be clear about North Korea. We’ve seen those reports. We are looking into them. The Secretary and others in the Administration have been clear that if we find that Korea is indeed sponsoring terrorism, obviously, we will revisit the issue of the listing as a state sponsor. But Korea was delisted in accordance with U.S. law in 2008, and it was at that time certified that Korea had not – North Korea had not supported any terrorism in the previous six months.
But you raise interesting and important points, and we are looking at that.
The intelligence report at issue was uncorroborated, which explains why Benjamin indicated that the U.S. was still investigating the matter. But if the report can be corroborated, I think we can expect to see North Korea once again on the list.