ICYMI: Sen. Cruz Op-Ed in The New York Times: A Pressure Point for North Korea

We Must Tell the Truth About the Dangerous Ambitions of North Korea and Once Again List it as a State Sponsor of Terror

Today I penned the following op-ed for the New York Times urging the State Department to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Read my op-ed in its entirety here. Excerpts are available below:

A Pressure Point for North Korea
The New York Times
By: Senator Ted Cruz

On Oct. 31, the State Department faces a critical decision in our relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Iran-Russia-North Korea sanctions bill enacted in August included legislation I introduced that requires the secretary of state to decide whether to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism within 90 days.

Look at the accusations against Pyongyang: the unspeakable treatment of Otto Warmbier; the assassination of a member of the Kim family with chemical weapons on foreign soil; collusion with Iran to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles; cyberattacks on American film companies; support for Syria’s chemical weapons program; arms sales to Hezbollah and Hamas; and attempts to assassinate dissidents in exile. Given this, the decision should be easy. In fact, Americans could be forgiven for wondering why North Korea is not already designated as a sponsor of terrorism.

On Feb. 13, 2007, the State Department signed a deal with North Korea in pursuit of a grand bargain: exchanging Pyongyang’s promise of eventual denuclearization for Washington’s guarantees for full diplomatic recognition. Standing in the way, however, was a decision President Ronald Reagan made nearly 20 years earlier, designating North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism largely in response to its complicity in a 1987 plane bombing that killed 115 people.

Aside from the many stringent limitations a terrorism-sponsor designation imposes on a state, the label serves as a formal indication from the United States that any positive development of diplomatic relations is contingent on abandoning the financing and support of terrorism.

When North Korea reneged on its promise to forgo nuclear weapons in the early 1990s, President Bill Clinton’s administration put together the “Agreed Framework” that paved Pyongyang’s path to nuclearization. When North Korea’s leader at the time, Kim Jong-il, withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2003, confirming that he intended to build a nuclear weapon, President George W. Bush pushed for the China-led six-party talks with North Korea. When the country tested its second nuclear weapon in 2009, President Barack Obama opted for “strategic patience.” Three subsequent tests showed just how misguided this was.

It is time to acknowledge that North Korea may never be interested in negotiating away its nuclear deterrent. Of course we should continue to leave the door open for serious discussions if the situation changes, but the United States government does our citizens — and the world — a disservice if it continually discounts the centrality of nuclear weapons to the Kim regime.

They are not a mere insurance policy for survival. They are a means to a more sweeping end: reunification of the Korean Peninsula on Pyongyang’s terms. We must seriously consider the possibility that the North’s current leader, Kim Jong-un, is preparing to use nuclear weapons to drive American forces out of South Korea and coerce Seoul — even at the risk of fighting a limited nuclear war.

Among North Korea’s many significant forms of illicit financing are foreign slave labor and money laundering. From Africa to Europe, North Korean diplomats exploit their consular posts to launder money at the expense of international comity. If North Korea is relisted, these nations would face a significant decision: Is continuing diplomatic and economic relations with a state that uses diplomacy and finance to export and foment terrorism in their interest?

We must tell the truth about the dangerous ambitions of North Korea and once again list it as a state sponsor of terrorism, a move that only strengthens our hand and weakens that of Kim Jong-un. I strongly urge the State Department to relist North Korea, and to meet this challenge with the resolve it has long demanded. 


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