'Axis of Evil' redux? US mulls North Korea 'terrorist' listing

In a Sunday interview, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the administration is 'beginning to look at it.' The process would not be easy, though.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton confirmed that the Obama administration is beginning to consider whether it wants to put North Korea back on its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

“We're going to look at it. There's a process for it. Obviously, we would want to see recent evidence of their support for international terrorism,” she said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We're just beginning to look at it.”

That process, however, would not be easy. North Korea has not been directly linked to an act of terrorism since 1987, when evidence pointed to a North Korean role in the bombing of a South Korean airliner. The bombing was seen as a protest against Seoul winning the 1988 Olympic Summer Games.

Since then, North Korea’s links to terrorism have mostly been in the area of nuclear proliferation – selling nuclear technology to Syria and Iran, which are both on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The Bush administration took North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terror last year as a carrot to induce the country to open its nuclear program to international scrutiny. To re-list it now would involve finding new proof of links with terrorist outfits.

Yet that is precisely what eight Republican senators would like to do. On Tuesday, they sent a letter to Secretary Clinton asking that the US again deem North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism.

“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has neither ended its sponsorship of terror activities nor moved in the direction intended when President Bush de-listed the DPRK,” the senators wrote. “In fact, the DPRK has done just the opposite.”

Clinton’s comments Sunday came at the end of a weekend of strong words from South Korea, which marked is national Memorial Day Saturday. President Lee Myung-bak said that his country would not be cowed by North Korea’s threats or show of force. North Korea tested a nuclear device last month, in addition to firing test missiles.

Also on Saturday, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that the country’s military has outlined detailed plans for how it would respond to a missile strike. The plan involves coordinated strikes from South Korean forces on land, in the air, and from the sea against any North Korean launch facility, Yonhap reported.

In an attempt to strengthen the south's defenses, the Pentagon has sold certain key weapons systems to the country recently, including “bunker buster” bombs and a $250 million upgrade for South Korean F-16s.

On Saturday, both South Korea and the US agreed to further discuss deterrence and security at a June 16 summit in Washington.

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