North Korea is still designated as a state “not fully cooperating” with U.S. counterterrorism efforts, but on Friday the State Department said it is not ready to return Pyongyang to a list of terrorism sponsors. Photo by Katherine Welles/Shutterstock
WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- The Obama Administration said it is not ready to return North Korea to a list of terrorism sponsors, but the country's human rights record continues to be a source of concern for the international community.
At a congressional hearing on Friday, Sung Kim, the State Department's special representative for North Korea policy, said Washington's review of intelligence on North Korea is ongoing, which includes "available information to determine whether the facts indicate [North Korea] should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism," Yonhap reported.
North Korea was placed on a U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism after a 1987 midair bombing of a Korean Air flight that resulted in 115 deaths onboard. In 2008, North Korea was removed from the list in exchange for its willingness to engage in denuclearization talks.
Washington reconsidered placing North Korea back on the list after the FBI said Pyongyang was responsible for the cyberattack on Sony Pictures.
Hillary Batjer Johnson, the deputy coordinator for Homeland Security in the Bureau of Counterterrorism, said North Korea is still designated as a state "not fully cooperating" with U.S. counterterrorism efforts, but added, "In order to designate a country as a state sponsor of terrorism, the secretary of state must determine that the government of such a country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism."
Sanctions are still in place, however, because of North Korea's nuclear activities and human rights violations, Johnson said.
Those violations have been at the center of international concern and the European Union has said it has prepared a draft resolution on North Korean human rights for the U.N. General Assembly.
North Korea had invited the EU's Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis to Pyongyang, but Voice of America reported on Friday Lambrinidis had postponed the visit until conditions are provided in order for a "constructive exchange" to take place.
On Oct. 17 North Korea said the EU representative canceled the visit, but the EU spokesman said the visit was delayed, not canceled.