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Brownback to introduce measure to rename North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism

Kansas Senator Sam Brownback is preparing yet another maneuver in his fight to thwart any rapprochement between the United States and North Korea. Brownback, who carries the banner for those who believe confronting the North Korean regime is preferable to engaging it, is planning to offer a new piece of legislation aimed at pressuring the ...

580786_090917_brownback2.jpg
580786_090917_brownback2.jpg

Kansas Senator Sam Brownback is preparing yet another maneuver in his fight to thwart any rapprochement between the United States and North Korea.

Brownback, who carries the banner for those who believe confronting the North Korean regime is preferable to engaging it, is planning to offer a new piece of legislation aimed at pressuring the State Department to put the hermitic Stalinist state back on its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The legislation, which he will introduce this session, aims to kick the chair out from under the State Department's official explanation as to why the administration can't relist North Korea, even though North Korea didn't live up to the bargain it struck with the Bush administration, which delisted the country in 2008.

Kansas Senator Sam Brownback is preparing yet another maneuver in his fight to thwart any rapprochement between the United States and North Korea.

Brownback, who carries the banner for those who believe confronting the North Korean regime is preferable to engaging it, is planning to offer a new piece of legislation aimed at pressuring the State Department to put the hermitic Stalinist state back on its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The legislation, which he will introduce this session, aims to kick the chair out from under the State Department’s official explanation as to why the administration can’t relist North Korea, even though North Korea didn’t live up to the bargain it struck with the Bush administration, which delisted the country in 2008.

“The administration is saying that legally they do not have the authority to [relist North Korea], but we want to give them back the authority to do it so it will be clear that this is a choice they are making,” Brownback told The Cable in an interview. “This would be so they can’t hide behind the lawyers.”

In fact, that is State’s explanation, as laid out by spokesman Ian Kelly in a May press briefing.

“In order to be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, the secretary of state must determine that the government of North Korea has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. The United States will follow the provisions of the law as the facts warrant,” Kelly said.

Brownback discussed his upcoming bill with Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, who gave no response, Brownback said.

This is only the latest bill Brownback has offered in his mission to influence North Korea policy. He introduced a bill in July that would have reimposed sanctions and put North Korea back on the list, but this one is more “realistic,” he said.

He’ll try to attach his language to a bill that’s already moving, but actually passing the legislation is unlikely. In the end, it’s not all that important whether it passes or not.

Brownback is making a policy point and continuing his ongoing feud with the EAP Bureau at State, which included him holding up the Campbell nomination this summer.

But Brownback’s fight with EAP goes back much further than Campbell. He held up the nomination of Kathleen Stephens in 2008 to become ambassador to South Korea in order to get concessions from then Assistant Secretary Chris Hill, including getting Jay Leftkowitz, the oft-ignored human rights envoy on North Korea, a seat at the table.

The Kansas senator then held up Hill’s nomination to become ambassador to Iraq because Hill failed to deliver on any of the promises he made to Brownback during the Stephens affair.

Brownback makes no secret of his ultimate goal, to stop any new talks with North Korea before they start, in light of Pyongyang’s saber-rattling and nuclear brinksmanship.

“Now we’re going to engage with them?” he said, “Now’s the time to be much more strong against them.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in June that she wants to see “recent evidence of their support for international terrorism” before she would relist them. That’s not likely, because North Korea’s suspected nuclear and missile exports to dictatorial regimes don’t technically qualify as terrorism.

What did qualify was North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s, which has never been resolved, but that’s an entirely separate issue.

File Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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