By Michael Hernandez
The U.S. is again designating North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, President Donald Trump announced Monday as Washington continues to lead an international campaign to halt Pyongyang’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
The move "should have happened years ago", Trump said, adding that it "supports our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime.
"In addition to threatening the world by nuclear devastation, North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism, including assassinations on foreign soil," Trump told reporters, likely referring to the murder of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother in Malaysia in February.
Pyongyang is widely accused of carrying out the assassination Malaysian officials said was completed with the VX nerve agent.
"The North Korean regime must be lawful, it must end its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile development, and cease all support for international terrorism, which it is not doing," Trump added.
North Korea was removed from the list of countries the U.S. says support international terrorism by the State Department in 2008 amid a diplomatic push to reign in Pyongyang's nuclear program. Iran, Sudan, and Syria are the only other countries on the list.
Designated countries face "restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions," according to the State Department.
Pyongyang has been hit with a number of far-reaching sanctions by the Trump administration for its missile and nuclear weapons programs, but has defiantly stayed the course.
The Treasury Department will issue a new "very large" sanction against Pyongyang on Tuesday, Trump said.
"This will be going on over the next two weeks. It will be the highest level of sanctions by the time it's finished," he added.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he is hopeful the crisis can be resolved diplomatically and that a relative lull in weapons and nuclear tests by North Korea will continue.
The current sanctions regime "is having a significant effect", he said pointing to indications that past UN penalties are creating fuel shortages in the country.
North Korea "has an enormous capacity to withstand a lot so I don’t want to suggest that we think that one action is all it would take to get them to the table," he said during a rare appearance at the White House's daily press briefing.