Trump declares North Korea state sponsor of terrorism

President Donald Trump has declared North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism. The designation will impose further penalties on Pyongyang, as part of the US pressure campaign against North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

“Today the United States is designating North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism,” Trump declared from the White House on Monday. “It should have happened a long time ago, should have happened years ago.”

“In addition to threatening the world with nuclear devastation, North Korea has supported international acts of terrorism including assassinations on foreign soil,” Trump added.

The US has accused Pyongyang of killing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's estranged half-brother in a Malaysian airport this year, declaring it an act of terrorism.

“The North Korean regime must be lawful, must end its nuclear ballistic missile development and cease all support for international terrorism, which it is not doing,” remarked Trump, sitting next to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The president also brought up the case of Otto Warmbier, an American student who was arrested and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment with hard labor while visiting North Korea as a tourist in January 2016. Warmbier was convicted of attempted theft. One month after his sentencing, he suffered a severe neurological injury and was in a comatose state for 17 months. Diplomatic efforts led to his release in June, but he died six days later. US officials blame North Korea for his death.

“This designation will impose further sanctions and penalties on North Korea and related persons, and supports our massive pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime you’ve all been reading about and in some cases, writing about,” Trump said.

The Treasury Department will announce additional sanctions against Pyongyang on Tuesday. North Korea already faces a barrage of UN sanctions, including restrictions on fuel imports and guest workers. Washington has pushed for diplomatic isolation of Pyongyang, citing North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile tests as a threat to the entire world.

The US has also asked China to cut off the pipeline that delivers oil to North Korea, Tillerson told reporters at a White House press briefing on Monday.

“I don’t know that cutting off all is the magic wand or silver bullet that will bring them to the table,” he said. “They’ll make their people pay, but they have an enormous capacity to withstand a lot.”

In September, the Trump administration sanctioned eight North Korean banks and 26 individuals said to act as their representatives in various countries, including China, Russia, Libya and the United Arab Emirates. A week prior, Trump signed an executive order targeting North Korea’s access to the international banking system.

In addition to North Korea, Iran, Sudan and Syria are on Washington's list of countries considered to be state sponsors of terrorism.

This is North Korea’s second turn on the list. It was first added in 1988, after North Korean agents were accused of blowing up a South Korean passenger jet, killing all 115 on board. President George W. Bush removed North Korea from the list in 2008, after Pyongyang agreed to disable a plutonium plant and allow limited inspections to verify that it upheld its promise.