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North Korea May Be Removed from Terrorism List

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Maybe the axis of evil is down to just one member. Reports indicate that the U.S. will remove North Korea from the “state sponsors of terrorism” list. The move would come in exchange for North Korea agreeing to permit inspections of its nuclear facilities. No official deal has been announced as the State Department is apparently making sure all members of the six-party talks are on-board with the plan.

The “state sponsor of terrorism” label has been one of our few substantive bargaining chips during these talks and, originally, we were supposed to delist North Korea after they shut down their nuclear facility last June. But when North Korea refused inspections to verify its compliance, the U.S. refused to go through with the delisting. North Korea has responded by rattling sabers. This move is designed to decrease those tensions while also advancing the greater goal of nuclear disarmament.

The question now is: in what condition will the Bush administration leave the North Korean diplomatic situation? The removal of North Korea from the state sponsor of terrorism list is conditional on that nation following though on inspections. If that’s the deal and if North Korea reneges early within the next administration, will reinstating North Korea to that list be a punitively feasible response or will the next president need a new bag of tricks? I would imagine that John McCain and Barack Obama would handle the situation quite differently. Just one more thing to think about as we head towards the election.