‘US designation of N. Korea as terrorism sponsor is backdoor for military action’

By designating Pyongyang as a state sponsor of terrorism, US President Donald Trump has opened a backdoor for a potential military option to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, under the pretext of “not talking to terrorists,” experts have told RT.

Announcing the news Monday, Trump stressed that this designation “will impose further sanctions and penalties on North Korea and related persons and supports our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime.”

The expert community, however, disagrees that further punitive measures against Pyongyang will help foster dialogue between the US and North Korea, considering that the North was removed from the terrorist sponsor list in 2008 as part of the George W. Bush administration’s push for progress in denuclearization talks.

“This is going to make the diplomatic pathway that much further away... and I'm afraid it is not going to help the situation,” Sourabh Gupta, an Asia-Pacific strategic and economic policy specialist, told RT. “It is just a little further step more which is paving the way for military action. It just makes the path to diplomacy that much more harder to get to. Even talks about talks regarding talks to get to the negotiating table are stuck at this point in time. These sort of labels will provide no assistance whatsoever.”

“I believe the reason why we’re seeing this it at this point in time is more connected to the fact that the United States is frustrated that it can’t effectuate the change it wants to see in North Korea without the military action. Military action isn’t an option, and so it wants to appear like it is taking further action, but this idea of additional sanctions is probably a bit hollow because there are so many actions now in place that I don’t see it adding that much more to the depth to make a difference,” Eric Sirotkin, a human rights lawyer, told RT.

Experts also dispute Washington’s claim that North Korea sponsors international terrorism. The only case that could arguably back up this claim, Gupta believes, could be the assassination of Kim Jong-nam – the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un – who was killed on February 13.

“I assume he has done so primarily because of the attack Kim Jong-un coordinated on his half-brother, regarding killing him in Malaysia airport using a banned chemical agent,” Gupta said, at the same time stressing that this was “something that has been in the works for quite a long time... There has been the political desire in Washington to move down this route.”

READ MORE: N. Korean state media blames Malaysian govt for Kim Jong Nam’s death

Sirotkin meanwhile believes there’s no evidence which would justify the Trump administration placing Pyongyang on its blacklist.

“The banter about the term terrorism a lot because it gets people afraid. It is the buzz word since the Cold War to justify certain military actions and other actions. But frankly, the designation violates the very law that it said to be based upon, which requires there to be repeated support for state-sponsored international acts of terrorism,” Sirotkin told RT. “By doing that we’re faced with a situation where there is not that kind of evidence against North Korea. We can disagree with their human rights; we can believe in non-proliferation of nuclear weapons but in reality that does not meet the definition.”

While Pyongyang has not yet formally responded to Washington’s designation of it as a state sponsor of terrorism, experts believe that the tensions on the Korean Peninsula will only get worse.

“I feel in the next couple of months the situation is going to get very, very hard, simply because the current Trump administration believes that its leverage gets negated when North Korea has an ICBM with a deliverable nuclear warhead,” Gupta told RT. “So there is the belief, and I would say a wrongful belief, that there is still a military option left.”

READ MORE: US to ‘pay dearly’ if it re-includes N. Korea in terrorism sponsors blacklist – official

“It is a backdoor way to try to prevent dialogue and diplomacy... and to maintain the instability that is going on there,” Sirotkin said. “It is not constructive; it does not lead to dialogue. You don't do name calling and labeling and then say, 'hey, do you want to talk?' It is an effort to demean and isolate, and perhaps just not talking to them, because, 'We don't talk to terrorists.'”