Washington International Law Journal


The United States designated North Korea as a state supporter of terrorism under the Export Administration Act of 1979, after the North Korean bombing of a Korean Airlines flight in 1987. As a result, the United States imposed tough economic sanctions against North Korea. Today, North Korea retains the designation of a state supporter of terrorism as a result of its weapons trade, even though it is not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since 1987. The United States' designation of a state as a supporter of terrorism is arbitrary as no standard is set out in the U.S. Code. The test of a terrorist state is not whether the state has supported terrorism or traded in weapons of mass destruction, but is based on a state's willingness to participate in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. This criterion is improper, and therefore North Korea should not be designated as a state supporter of terrorism and be subject to economic sanctions imposed under the Export Administration Act. In addition, economic sanctions against North Korea do not fulfill U.S. foreign policy goals. Due to its internal characteristics, North Korea is not an ideal target for the imposition of economic sanctions, and the United States' economic sanctions have been of limited effectiveness in influencing North Korea's behavior in recent crisis situations. Just as the Nixon administration indicated its interest in improving relations with China through diplomatic steps in the 1970s, the United States could similarly signal its intention to improve relations with North Korea by ending unjustified economic sanctions.

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