North Korea: Terrorism List Removal?
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
The issue of North Korea’s inclusion on the U.S. list of terrorism-supporting countries has been a
major issue in U.S.-North Korean diplomacy since 2000, particularly in connection with
negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program. North Korea has demanded that the Clinton
and Bush Administration remove North Korea from the terrorism support list.
On June 26, 2008, President Bush announced that he was officially notifying Congress of his
intent to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism after the 45 calender-day
notification period to Congress as required by U.S. law. The White House stated an intention to
remove North Korea on August 11, 2008. This announcement was part of the measures the Bush
Administration took on June 26 to implement a nuclear agreement that it negotiated with North
Korea in September 2007 and finalized details of in April 2008 at a U.S.-North Korean meeting in
Singapore. The President also announced that he was immediately lifting sanctions on North
Korea under the U.S. Trading with the Enemy Act. North Korea’s obligations under this nuclear
agreement are to allow the disabling of its plutonium facility at Yongbyon and present to the
United States and other government in the six party talks a declaration of its nuclear programs.
North Korea submitted its declaration on June 26, 2008.
However, in July 2008, the Bush Administration proposed a system of intrusive international
inspections of North Korean nuclear facilities or suspected nuclear facilities. North Korea
rejected the proposal, suspended the disablement of Yongbyon, and threatened to resume
operations of its nuclear facilities. In October 2008, the Administration negotiated a more limited
verification-inspection system with North Korea. On October 11, 2008, the Administration
removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The Bush Administration increasingly took the position that the issue of North Korea’s
kidnapping of Japanese citizens was not linked to removing North Korea from the terrorism list,
from the standpoint of U.S. law or policy. The Japanese government objected to the removal of
North Korea. The State Department continued to declare that North Korea had not committed a
terrorist act since 1987. However, reports from French, Japanese, South Korean and Israeli
sources described recent North Korean programs to provide arms and training to Hezbollah in
Lebanon and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, two groups on the U.S. list of international terrorist
organizations. Moreover, a large body of reports describe a long-standing, collaborative
relationship between North Korea and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The Bush Administration’s Removal of North Korea from the Terrorism List...............................1
Backgr ound ..................................................................................................................................... 2
U.S.-North Korean Negotiations...............................................................................................2
Three Diplomatic Stages over the Terrorism List...............................................................2
U.S. Responses: The Clinton Administration in 2000........................................................3
U.S. Responses: The Bush Administration in 2002-2004...................................................4
U.S. Responses: The Bush Administration Moves Toward Removal, October
Terrorist State Activity Designations.............................................................................................10
State Sponsors/Supporters List................................................................................................10
Nations Not Fully Cooperating Category.................................................................................11
Adding and Removing Countries on the List................................................................................12
Rationale and Background for DPRK Retention on the Two Lists...............................................13
North Korea Previously Cited for Possible Removal....................................................................14
Prospects for Removal Are Set Back.............................................................................................15
Process for Removal Moves Forward...........................................................................................16
New Reports of Support of Terrorist Groups................................................................................17
Hezbollah ................................................................................................................................ 17
Iranian Revolutionary Guards.................................................................................................21
Policy Implications of Removing North Korea from the List of State Sponsors of
Te rr orism .................................................................................................................................... 26
Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................28
On October 11, 2008, the Bush Administration formally removed North Korea from the U.S. list
of state sponsors of terrorism. The removal came as part of a U.S.-North Korean agreement on
establishing mechanisms for verifying North Korea’s declaration of elements of its plutonium
nuclear program. North Korea had issued the declaration on June 26, 2008. President Bush
announced that he had sent to Congress notification of his intent to remove North Korea from the
list of state sponsors of terrorism after 45 calendar days. Under U.S. law, the President is required
to notify Congress 45 days before removing a country from the list. If Congress did not approve
legislation to block North Korea’s removal during the 45-day period, the President would have
been free to remove North Korea. Any congressional legislation to block removal would have had
to be signed by the President and could have been subjected to a presidential veto. The White
House said that the President’s intention was to remove North Korea on August 11, 2008, at the 1
end of the 45-day notification period.
The U.S.-North Korean nuclear agreement, embodied in the measures of June 26, 2008, consists
of two obligations each that North Korea and the Bush Administration have agreed to fulfill.
North Korea is to allow a process of disablement of its plutonium nuclear facilities at Yongbyon.
The disablement process began in October 2007. The Bush Administration claimed that eight of
eleven components of the disablement process had been completed and that close to 50% of 2
nuclear fuel rods in the Yongbyon nuclear reactor had been removed. North Korea’s second
obligation is to provide the United States and other members of the six party talks on North
Korea’s nuclear program with a “complete and correct” declaration of nuclear programs.
The United States’ two obligations under the agreement are to terminate economic sanctions on
North Korea under the U.S. Trading with the Enemy Act and remove North Korea from U.S. list
of state sponsors of terrorism. However, in the White House statement of June 26, President Bush
stated that removal of North Korea from the terrorism support list was dependent on North Korea
agreeing to a verification system to verify the contents of its declaration. The Administration
reportedly submitted to North Korea in July 2008 a plan for a verification system that would have
allowed inspectors to visit nearly any site throughout North Korea. North Korea rejected the U.S.
proposal, and the Bush Administration did not remove North Korea on August 11, 2008, when the
45-day congressional notification period ended. North Korea then announced a cessation of the
disablement program at Yongbyon and an intention to resume operation of its plutonium 3
reprocessing plant at Yongbyon. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill went to Pyongyang
in early October 2008 and negotiated a verification deal reportedly of a more limited scope, 4
concentrating inspections on only Yongbyon. North Korea agreed and announced a resumption
of disablement. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced on October 11, 2008, that North
Korea was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
1 White House Press Spokesman, Fact Sheet: Presidential Action on State Sponsor of Terrorism (SST) and the Trading
with the Enemy Act (TWEA), June 26, 2008.
3 Glenn Kessler, Far-reaching U.S. plan impaired N. Korea deal; demands began to undo nuclear accord, Washington
Post, September 26, 2008, p. A20.
4 Special briefing by State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, M2 Presswire, October 11, 2008.
The most critical reaction to the U.S. delisting of North Korea came from Japan. Japan had
opposed delisting until North Korea had taken steps toward resolving cased of its kidnapping of 5
The issue of North Korea’s inclusion on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism has been in
U.S.-North Korean diplomacy since 2000, but three stages are of particular importance: the first
in 2000 in Clinton Administration-North Korean negotiations; the second during the 2003-2004
Six Party negotiations over the North Korean nuclear issue; and the third in the diplomacy around
the Six Party nuclear agreement of February 2007. Until 2000, the core element of U.S.-North
Korean diplomacy was the Agreed Framework, which Washington and Pyongyang signed in
October 1994. It dealt primarily with North Korea’s nuclear program, but U.S. obligations
specified in the Agreed Framework included economic and diplomatic measures. However, the
issue of removal of North Korea from the U.S. terrorism list was omitted from the Agreement.
The issue appears not to have been a major object of the negotiations in 1994.
In October 1999, the Clinton Administration unveiled the Perry Initiative toward North Korea.
Formulated under the direction of William Perry, former Secretary of Defense, the Perry initiative
primarily sought a new round of U.S.-North Korean negotiations over North Korea’s missile
program. The Perry Initiative report of October 1999 stated that if North Korea agreed to a
“verifiable cessation” of its missile program, the United States would provide a series of
economic and diplomatic benefits to North Korea leading to normalization of U.S.-North Korean 6
The Clinton Administration sought an early visit of a high level North Korean official to 7
Washington to obtain substantive negotiations. North Korea, however, began to demand several
pre-conditions for a high level visit. Beginning in February 2000, one of these was removal of
North Korea from the U.S. list of terrorism-supporting countries. North Korea reportedly
persisted in this demand well into the summer of 2000 before finally relenting. The high level
envoy visited Washington in October 2000.
The terrorism list issue receded until 2003 when a new round of U.S.-North Korean diplomacy
ensued. This round was precipitated by the Bush Administration’s assertion that North Korea
admitted in October 2002 to U.S. diplomats that it was operating a secret uranium enrichment
program. The Administration declared the secret program a violation of the Agreed Framework
and began to end U.S. obligations under the Agreed Framework. North Korea retaliated by
reopening nuclear facilities that had been frozen under the Agreed Framework, expelling
5 Aso expresses ‘dissatisfaction’ over U.S. delisting of N. Korea, October 14, 2008.
6 Review of United States Policy Toward North Korea. Report by Dr. William J. Perry, Special Advisor to the President
and the Secretary of State. October 12, 1999.
7 Pomfret, John. North Korea Threatens To Skip Talks. Washington Post. March 29, 2000. p. A20.
monitors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-
Proliferation Treaty. Multilateral negotiations began in April 2003 hosted by China and ultimately
involving six governments (the United States, North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, and
Japan). At six party talks in August 2003, North Korea demanded that in return for North Korean
concessions on the nuclear issue, the United States agree to a number of U.S. concessions,
including removing North Korea from the U.S. list of terrorism-supporting countries. North
Korea made its demand more specific in December 2003 when it issued a revised proposal
centered on a “freeze” of North Korea’s plutonium nuclear programs (but not the uranium
enrichment program). This proposal restated North Korean demands for multiple concessions in 8
return for a freeze. Removal from the terrorism support list was near the top of the list. North
Korea reiterated its demand at the six party meetings in February and June 2004 in the context of
its freeze proposal.
The third stage began after North Korea’s test of an atomic bomb in October 2006. Bilateral
meetings between Assistant Secretary of State Christopher and North Korean Vice Foreign
Minister Kim Gye-gwan in November 2006 and January 2007 contained discussions of the
terrorism list issue as the two diplomats laid the groundwork for the nuclear agreement that the
six parties announced on February 13, 2007. That agreement created a “working group” on North
Korea-U.S. normalization of relations. The agreement stated
The DPRK and the U.S. will start bilateral talks aimed at resolving bilateral issues and
moving toward full diplomatic relations. The U.S. will begin the process of removing the
designation of the DPRK as a state sponsor of terrorism, and advance the process of
terminating the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act with respect to the DPRK.
The Clinton Administration reportedly presented to North Korea in February 2000 four steps that
North Korea would have to take to be removed from the terrorism list: (1) issue a written
guarantee that it no longer is engaged in terrorism; (2) provide evidence that it has not engaged in
any terrorist act in the past six months; (3) join international anti-terrorism agreements; and (4) 9
address issues of past support of terrorism. In consulting U.S. allies, South Korea stated that the
United States need not consider North Korean terrorism against South Korea in responding to
North Korea’s demand and that the Kim Dae-jung administration in Seoul favored removal of 10
North Korea from the U.S. list of terrorism-supporting countries. Japan, however, strongly
urged the Clinton Administration to make a redress of North Korean terrorist acts against Japan
conditions for removing North Korea from the list. Japan specifically cited North Korea’s
kidnapping of at least ten Japanese citizens and North Korea’s harboring of Japanese Red Army 11
terrorists since the 1970s. The U.S. State Department had cited North Korea’s harboring of
Japanese Red Army terrorists as a reason for North Korea’s inclusion on the U.S. list of terrorism-
supporting states. A State Department official stated on April 25, 2000, that the United States
considers “resolving this issue as an important step in addressing [U.S.] concerns about North
8 North Korean Foreign Ministry statement on talks. Reuters News Agency, December 9, 2003.
9 Agence France-Presse (Hong Kong) report, February 8, 2000. Yonhap News Agency (Seoul) report, February 8,
10 ROK to press US to remove DPRK from terrorism list. Korea Herald, internet version, June 21, 2000.
11 U.S. to question DPRK on kidnappings of Japanese nationals. JIJI News Agency (Tokyo) report, February 16, 2000.
Korean support of terrorism.”12 Moreover, according to informed sources, U.S. officials began to
raise the kidnapping issue with the North Korea in negotiations over the terrorism list.
Japan intensified diplomacy on the terrorism issue in September and October 2000 as the United
States prepared to receive the high ranking North Korean official and as Japan prepared for
bilateral normalization talks with North Korea. Japan urged the Clinton Administration to raise
Japan’s concerns over terrorism in the high level U.S.-North Korean exchanges of October 2000 13
and not to remove North Korea from the terrorism list. The visit to Washington of North Korean
military leader, Jo Myong-rok on October 9-12, 2000, produced two general U.S.-North Korean
statements opposing terrorism. However, the State Department’s North Korea policy coordinator,
Wendy Sherman, said on October 12 that Secretary Albright’s planned visit to Pyongyang did not
mean that the Clinton Administration would remove North Korea from the terrorism list. North 14
Korea, she said, “knows what it needs to do.”
The impact of Japan’s entreaties were demonstrated during Albright’s visit to North Korea. In the
first ever meeting between an American official and North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, Albright
raised the issue of the kidnapped Japanese. She reported to Japanese Foreign Minister Kono
Yohei that in her meetings with Kim Jong-il, “I brought up the [abduction] issue time and again. I
told him that this issue was important not only to Japan but also to the United States as well.” 15
Kono reportedly expressed satisfaction, saying “She seems to have thought about Japan.”
The Clinton Administration thus decided in late 2000 to give Japan’s concerns over terrorism a
higher priority in U.S. negotiations with North Korea over the U.S. terrorism list. This, in effect,
lowered the priority of South Korea’s position in U.S. policy.
There were at least three components to the Bush Administration’s policy regarding North
Korea’s inclusion on the terrorism-supporting list after the Agreed Framework collapsed and the
six party talks began in 2003. The first was the U.S. response to North Korea’s demand at the six
party talks for removal from the list. A second was the raising by U.S. officials of the danger that
North Korea would provide nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons to terrorist groups like Al
Qaeda. The third was the emphasis given to the Japanese kidnapping in State Department
statements on North Korea’s inclusion on the list of terrorism-supporting countries.
Until June 2004, the Bush Administration took the position that it would not discuss issues in
U.S.-North Korean relations, including the terrorism-support list, until North Korea agreed to and
took concrete steps to dismantle it nuclear programs. In line with this stance, the Administration
refused to submit any comprehensive U.S. proposal at the six party talks. The Administration’s
position changed in June 2004, apparently because of pressure from U.S. allies, Japan and South
Korea, and heightened criticism of the Administration’s position from China. At the six party
meeting in June 2004, the Administration proposed a detailed plan in which North Korea would
freeze its nuclear programs and submit to international verification during a three-month
12 U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing [by James P. Rubin], April 25, 2000. p. 8.
13 Varied Aspects of Japan-North Korean Relations. Mainichi Shimbun (Nikkei Telecom Database version), October
28, 2000. Jiji Kokkoku Column. Asahi Shimbun (internet version), October 8, 2000.
14 Carter, Tom. Clinton Plans First-ever Presidential Trip to North Korea. Washington Times, October 13, 2000. p. A1.
15 Varied Aspects of Japan-North Korean Relations, Mainichi Shimbun, October 28, 2000.
preparatory period followed by a full dismantlement of all nuclear programs. Once North Korea
had met the requirements of the preparatory period, the United States would begin negotiations 16
with North Korea on other issues, including the terrorism-support list.
The Bush Administration has linked North Korea’s kidnapping of Japanese citizens to the six
party talks and to the terrorism-support list. When the Bush Administration took office in 2001, it
reportedly assured Japan, including the families of suspected kidnapping victims, that the United
States would continue to raise the kidnapping issue with North Korea and would not remove 17
North Korea from the U.S. list of terrorism-supporting countries. In the six party talks, U.S.
Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly stated several times to the North Korean delegates that
North Korea should settle the kidnapping issue with Japan.
In April 2004, the State Department emphasized the kidnapping of Japanese in its justification for
North Korean’s inclusion on the U.S. list of terrorism-supporting countries, as part of the 18
Department’s annual report on international terrorism. The State Department’s Patterns of
Global Terrorism 2003 described Kim Jong-il’s admission of North Korean kidnapping during his
meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi in September 2002 and that Japan-North Korea
negotiations over the issue were continuing. Coffer Black, the State Department’s top
counterterrorism official, stated upon the release of the report that the kidnapping issue was a key 19
factor in the report’s designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. During this
period, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice
made public statements pledging to support Japan. At his summit meeting with Prime Minister
Koizumi in May 2003, President Bush stated: “Abduction is an abominable act. The United States
supports Japan completely until we find out the whereabouts of each and every Japanese citizen 20
who has been abducted by North Korea.” Condoleezza Rice described the kidnapping issue as 21
“a priority also for the United States, that we abhor what the North Koreans have done.” In
April 2004, Vice President Cheney said in Tokyo that Americans shared Japan’s “outrage” over
North Korea’s kidnappings and that the Bush Administration supported Japan’s demand for a
“resolution of all the issues surrounding the criminal abduction of your citizens by the regime in 22
In mid-2002, Japan and North Korea went into secret negotiations regarding the kidnapping issue.
In September 2002, Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro flew to Pyongyang where North Korean
leader Kim Jong-il admitted that North Korea had abducted 13 Japanese citizens; of these, he
claimed that 8 had died and that 5 were alive. The five subsequently went to Japan. In May 2004,
Koizumi again traveled to Pyongyang and secured the release of 6 children of the 5 Japanese.
However, the issue quickly reached an impasse. Japan harbored doubts about the truthfulness of
North Korea’s claim that 8 of the 13 kidnapped Japanese were dead and that the remains of all 8
16 Philip P. Pan and Glenn Kessler, U.S. revises proposal at North Korea nuclear talks, Washington Post, June 24, 2004,
p. A17. See CRS Report RL33590, North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Development and Diplomacy, by Larry A. Niksch.
17 National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnaped by North Korea. Report of Mission to the U.S. from
February 25 to March 3, 2001.
18 U.S. Department of State. Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003. p. 92.
19 Washington links N. Korea abductions of Japanese with terrorism, Yonhap News Agency, April 30, 2004.
20 Growing US distrust of South Korea, Tokyo Sentaku, June 2003, p. 6-9.
21 Bush’s National Security Adviser Rice says DPRK abduction issue priority topic, Mainichi Shimbun (internet
version), May 31, 2003.
22 Bill Gertz, Cheney backs Koizumi on Iraq stance, Washington Times, April 13, 2004, p. A3.
had been washed away by floods and were not available for identification. In 2006, the Japanese
government added 3 other missing Japanese citizens to its list of Japanese kidnapped by North
Korea. In Japan, publicized claims also emerged that North Korea had kidnapped up to several
The Bush Administration supported Koizumi’s efforts but reportedly pressed the Japanese
government not to reciprocate with financial aid to North Korea before the nuclear and missile
issues with North Korea were resolved. The Administration urged Koizumi prior to each visit to
press North Korea for policy changes on the nuclear issue. Japan reportedly complied with the 23
These urgings pointed up the overall importance of Japan to U.S. policy toward North Korea and
thus the broader influence of the kidnapping issue. As a participant in the six party talks, Japan
was viewed as crucial in any settlement of the nuclear or missile issues that involved reciprocal
economic or financial benefits to North Korea. As far back as the Perry initiative in 1999-2000,
U.S. officials acted on the assumption that any settlement of the nuclear and missile issues with 24
North Korea would require a major Japanese financial contribution. Japan promised North
Korea billions of dollars in aid as part of a normalization of relations, but Japan specified that 25
normalization depends on a settlement of the nuclear, missile, and kidnapping issues. The Bush
Administration pressed Japan to condition aid first to the nuclear issue.
At the six party talks in June 2004, the Bush Administration put forth a detailed settlement
proposal under which North Korea would receive heavy oil in the initial stage of a settlement
process, financed by Japan and South Korea. The United States also offered North Korea
negotiations on resolving North Korea’s broader energy and electricity needs, which also
undoubtedly would require a substantial Japanese financial input. On the other hand, the Bush
Administration discussed with Japan the imposition of economic sanctions on North Korea. Japan
joined the Proliferation Security Initiative in 2003, which President Bush proposed to stifle the
proliferation activities of states like North Korea. In 2006, Japan imposed strong economic
sanctions on North Korea when the United Nations Security Council approved sanctions in
response to North Korea’s missile tests of July 2006 and atomic bomb test of October 2006.
Although the Bush Administration sought and obtained U.N. Security Council sanctions after
North Korea’s atomic bomb test in October 2006, it changed its policy on the North Korean
nuclear issue in more fundamental ways—one of which was to bring the terrorism list issue more
directly into negotiations. The change was directed by Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice and
Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill. There have been three fundamental changes in Bush
23 Japan, U.S. agree to put pressure on Pyongyang. Yonhap News Agency, May 1, 2004. Japan PM says Bush
supportive on North Korea trip. Reuters News Agency, September 12, 2002. Howard W. French, Japan-North Korea
talks conclude with deep splits, New York Times, October 31, 2002, p. A13. James Brooke, North Korea’s A-arms
project jeopardizes aid, Japan says, New York Times, October 22, 2002, p. A6.
24 Niksch, Larry A., North Korea and Terrorism: The Yokita Megumi Factor. The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis.
Spring 2002. pp. 14-16.
25 For ex-Prime Minister Koizumi’s statement of these conditions, see Kim, Jack and Kitano, Masayuki. Japan, S.
Korea urge N. Korea to move on crisis. Reuters News Agency, July 22, 2004.
Administration policy since the North Korean nuclear test that have implications for the terrorism
list issue. Tactically, the Administration abandoned its opposition to bilateral talks with North
Korea and actively sought bilateral meetings with Pyongyang. Moreover, Assistant Secretary of
State Christopher Hill used these meetings, in late November 2006 and mid-January 2007, to
negotiate actively the details of the six party agreement that was announced on February 13,
The second change under the Rice-Hill strategy has been in the U.S. policy objective toward
North Korea’s nuclear programs and weapons. Dismantlement of Pyongyang’s nuclear programs
and weapons remains as the official Bush Administration policy goal, but the February 2007 Six
Party Agreement says little about dismantlement. The two phases outlined in the agreement focus
on freezing North Korean nuclear facilities in the first phase, to be completed in 60 days, then
“disablement of all existing nuclear facilities” and disclosure by North Korea of “all nuclear
programs” in the second phase that has no time deadline.” The February 2007 agreement thus
signals an apparent policy objective of containment of North Korea’s nuclear programs and
nuclear weapons development, limiting their size and scope. The Bush Administration continues
to cite full nuclear dismantlement as its goal for 2008. However, in the limited number of months
left of an actively functioning Bush Administration (prior to the U.S. presidential election
campaign starting in September 2008), the most realistic prospect of success is negotiating and
implementing the two phases of this Six Party Agreement or at least a partial implementation. The
dismantlement issue likely will be left for the U.S. Administration that comes into office in
January 2009. Consequently, this scenario appears to have influenced the Bush Administration to
delink total dismantlement as a primary condition for removal of North Korea from the terrorism
list and to link removal with lesser North Korean steps in the February 2007 agreement,
particularly “disablement” of the Yongbyon plutonium nuclear facilities and a declaration of its
Thus, the third change under the Rice-Hill strategy has been to link removal from the terrorism
exclusively to a successful North Korean implementation of its obligations under Phase Two of
the February 2007 nuclear agreement. Beginning with the Hill-Kim Kye-gwan meeting of
November 28-29, 2006, and especially in their meeting in Berlin in January 2007, Hill reportedly
said that the Bush Administration would remove North Korea from the U.S. list of state sponsors 26
of terrorism if North Korea dismantled its nuclear programs. In the February 2007 agreement, 27
the Administration agreed to begin the process of removing the DPRK from the list.
North Korea also may have increased the incentive for the Bush Administration to strengthen this
linkage. The South Korean newspaper, JongAng Ilbo, quoted “a diplomatic source knowledgeable
on the New York talks” between Hill and Kim Kye-gwan on March 5-6, 2007, that Kim asserted
that if the United States took steps to normalize relations, North Korea could disable the
Yongbyon nuclear installations within a year (i.e., March 2008). Kim specifically mentioned as a 28
key step the removal of North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Kim repeated
this during the six party meeting in July 2007.
26 What ‘new ideas’ did Washington offer Pyongyang? Chosun Ilbo (Seoul, internet version), December 4, 2006. U.S.
offered to remove N. Korea from terror list—South Korea. Dow Jones International News, December 26, 2006.
Arimoto Takashi, Six-party talks: Japan, PRC concerned about US-DPRK pre-talk coordination becoming regularized,
suspect ‘secret deal’, Sankei Shimbun (internet version), August 14, 2007.
27 See http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2006/82736.htm at p. 147.
28 Yi Sang-il and Chin Se-ku. Yongbyon nuclear facility can be disabled within a year. JongAng Ilbo (internet version),
As the Bush Administration moved toward this exclusive linkage, it began to separate the
Japanese kidnapping issue from the terrorism-support list. During Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s
visit to the White House in May 2007, Secretary of State Rice told him that the Bush 29
Administration had no legal obligation to link the kidnapping and terrorism list issues. State
Department officials subsequently emphasized this “no legal obligation” position but also that 30
Hill had urged North Korea to negotiate progress on the kidnapping issue with Japan. In a press
conference with foreign correspondents on August 30, 2007, President Bush evaded a direct
answer to a reporter’s question whether progress on the kidnapping issue was a condition for
North Korea’s removal; Bush instead repeated his concern over the kidnappings and his feelings 31
when he received the families of kidnapped Japanese at the White House.
In September 2007 meetings between Assistant Secretary of State Hill and North Korean
negotiator Kim Gye-gwan, they agreed to complete the implementation of Phase Two of the
February 2007 nuclear agreement by December 31, 2007, including North Korea’s obligations to
disable the Yongbyon installations and declare its nuclear programs. Kim Gye-gwan and North
Korea’s Foreign Ministry asserted that Hill had stated that part of this implementation would be 32
the removal of North Korea from the terrorism list. Hill did not confirm this, but it has been
reported widely and believed by many observers that he made a specific commitment to Kim 33
Gye-gwan regarding the terrorism list.
On October 3, 2007, the six parties issued a statement on the implementation of Phase Two,
which included a target deadline of December 31, 2007. The statement implied a U.S.
commitment to remove North Korea as part of the implementation process. Referencing the U.S.
commitments in the February 2007 nuclear agreement to begin the process of removing North
Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and the Trading with the Enemy Act, the
statement read that “the United States will fulfill its commitments to the DPRK in parallel with
the DPRK’s actions based on consensus reached at the meetings on the working group on
normalization of DPRK-U.S. relations.” Christopher Hill stated at an October 25 congressional
hearing that fulfilling these commitments “will depend on the DPRK’s fulfillment of its Second-
Phase commitments on providing a complete and correct declaration and disabling its nuclear 34
facilities, as well as on satisfaction of legal requirements ... set forth in U.S. law.”
The October 3, 2007, six party statement represented what might be termed a “two for two deal”
between the Bush Administration and North Korea. The United States and North Korea undertook
two reciprocal obligations toward each other. North Korea agreed to allow disablement of its
March 13, 2007.
29 Abductions by N. Korea not related to US terrorist list, Chosun Ilbo (internet version), May 14, 2007.
30 Pyongyang fallout, The Wall Street Journal Asia, November 16, 2007, p. 12. Statement by Tom Casey, State
31 The White House, Roundtable Interview of the President by Foreign Print Media, August 30, 3007.
32 Choe Sang-hun and David E. Sanger, North Korea claims U.S. will remove sanctions, International Herald Tribune,
September 4, 2007, p. 5.
33 Japanese abductions unlikely to stop U.S. from removing N. Korea, Yonhap News Agency, September 6, 2007. Ser
Myo-ja, Kang Chan-ho, Cheong Yong-whan, North: US ready to lift sanctions, adjust terror list, JoongAng Ilbo
(internet version), September 3, 2007.
34 Statement of Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary of State, before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs,
Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, and Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation,
and Trade, October 25, 2007.
Yongbyon nuclear installations and provide the other six parties with a “complete and correct”
declaration of its nuclear programs. The Bush Administration agreed to reciprocate by removing
North Korea from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and from the sanctions provisions of
the U.S. Trading with the Enemy Act that have been applied to North Korea since the Korean
The two sides then negotiated the implementation of this deal; they reached an important
agreement in Singapore in April 2008. The Bush Administration has expressed satisfaction that
North Korea has allowed a significant disabling of the Yongbyon installations. However,
implementation of the “complete and correct” declaration of nuclear programs has been held up
by North Korea’s unwillingness to disclose elements of its plutonium program, its uranium
enrichment program, and its proliferation activities with Syria. The Syria issue arose when Israel
bombed a facility in Syria that the Bush Administration and most informed experts concluded was 35
a nuclear reactor under construction with North Korean assistance. The Bush Administration has
dealt with the declaration issue by lowering the requirements for the information that North Korea
must supply in the declaration, limiting the requirements to certain elements of North Korea’s 36
The Bush Administration reaffirmed its intension to proceed with its two obligations, including
removal of North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, once its reaches an agreement 37
on a declaration with North Korea and the six parties approve the declaration. The State
Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism, issued in April 2008, stated: “As part of the
six-party talks process, the United States reaffirmed its intent to fulfill its commitments regarding
the removal of the designation of the DPRK as a state sponsor of terrorism in parallel with the
DPRK’s actions on denuclearization and in accordance with criteria set forth in U.S. law.” On
January 22, 2008, the State Department’s coordinator for counter-terrorism stated that “it appears
that North Korea has complied with those criteria” for removal from the terrorism support list
because North Korea had not committed an act of terrorism for the past six months. He added that
despite the unresolved Japanese kidnapping issue, “we think that even with that on the table that 38
they still comply with the ... delisting criteria.” President Bush’s announcement of June 26,
2008, seemed to fulfill this intention, but the emergence of the verification issue delayed the
actual removal of North Korea until October 11, 2008.
A potential obstacle to the Administration’s plan is a provision of H.R. 5916, the Security
Assistance and Arms Export Control Reform Act of 2008, passed by the House of
Representatives in May 2008. It provided that North Korea shall not be removed from the list
until the President certifies to Congress that North Korea is no longer engaged in the transfer of
nuclear technology to Iran, Syria, or any country that is a state sponsor of terrorism. However, the
Senate did not approve this provision.
35 David E. Sanger, Video links North Koreans to Syria reactor, U.S. says, New York Times, April 24, 2008, p. A16.
Arshad Mohammed and Tabassum Zakaria, White House: North Korea gave Syria nuclear help, Reuters News, April
36 Demetri Sevastopulo, US softens demands on North Korea, Financial Times, April 14, 2008, p. 6. Nicholas Kralev
and Jon Ward, N. Korea’s nuclear past stays sealed, Washington Times, April 18, 2008, p. A1.
37 Abduction not an issue for terror list removal: Vershbow, Yonhap News Agency, May 14, 2008. Statement by U.S.
Ambassador to South Korea, Alexander Vershbow. Nicholas Kralev, N. Korea told not to delay deal, Washington
Times, March 19, 2008, p. A1.
38Arshad Mohammed, N. Korea seems to meet US criteria on terror listing, Reuters News, January 22, 2008.
In April 2007, the Department of State released its annual global terrorism report to Congress, 39
Country Reports on Terrorism, 2006 [Country Reports, 2006]. North Korea is prominently
mentioned in the yearly report, which include data on terrorist trends and activity worldwide and
serves as the basis for the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism that are subject to U.S. sanctions.
Emerging, or ongoing, problem areas “areas of concern” are identified as well.
In addition to data on terrorist trends, groups, and activities worldwide, Country Reports provide
a description as to why countries are on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism that are subject
to U.S. sanctions. Thus, included in Country Reports are detailed data on the five countries 40
currently on the “terrorism list”: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. U.S.
Administration officials maintain that the practice of designating and reporting on the activities of
the state sponsors of terrorism list and concomitant sanctions policy has contributed significantly
to a reduction in the overt—and apparently overall—activity level of states supporting terrorism
in the past decade. Libya and Sudan are frequently cited as examples of such success, but to date,
not North Korea. North Korea is also included on a concomitant list of states “not fully
cooperating” with U.S. anti-terrorism efforts. This list includes the five state sponsors of terrorism
currently on the Department of State’s list and Afghanistan.
North Korea remains one of five countries currently on the list that the Secretary of State 41
maintains have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” Data
supporting this list are drawn from the intelligence community. Listed countries are subject to
severe U.S. export controls—particularly of dual-use technology and selling them military 42
equipment is prohibited. Providing foreign aid under the Foreign Assistance Act is also
39 Country Reports (formerly Patterns of Global Terrorism; hereinafter, “Patterns”) is an annual report to Congress
required by Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(a). See http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2006/.
40 The degree of support for, or involvement in, terrorist activities typically varies dramatically from nation to nation.
For 2005 and 2006, of the five on the U.S. terrorism list, Iran continued to be characterized on one extreme of the
spectrum of terrorist list states as an active supporter of terrorism: a nation that uses terrorism as an instrument of
policy or warfare beyond its borders. Closer to the middle of the spectrum is Syria. Although not formally detected in
an active role since 1986, Country Reports asserts that the Assad regime reportedly uses groups in Syria and Lebanon
to export terror into Israel and allows groups to train in territory under its control. On the less active end of the
spectrum, one might place countries such as Cuba or North Korea, which at the height of the Cold War were more
active, but in recent years have seemed to settle for a more passive role of granting ongoing safe haven to previously
admitted terrorists. Also at the less active end of the spectrum, and arguably falling off it, is Sudan, which reportedly
has stepped up counter-terrorism cooperation with the United States. An area of concern for some observers is the
impact DPRK removal from the state sponsors list may have on prospects for Cuba’s removal.
Note that Libya was certified by the Secretary of State as being eligible for removal from the list on May 12, 2006. See
Presidential Determination No. 2006-14, May 12, 2006, which went into effect June 28, 2006
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/05/20060515-5.html with the end result of Libya’s designation as a
state sponsor of terrorism being rescinded on June 30, 2006. Sanctions against Iraq pursuant to its inclusion on the
terrorism list were suspended on May 7, 2003, by Presidential Determination No. 2003-23 (Federal Register of May
16, 2003), Vol. 68, No. 95, p. 26459). Iraq was removed from the list by a recision of determination on October 7, 2004
(Federal Register, October 20, 2004, Vol. 69, No. 202, p. 61702).
41 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism, 2006.
42 See CRS Report RL31696, North Korea: Economic Sanctions, by Dianne E. Rennack.
prohibited. Section 6(j) of the 1979 Export Administration Act stipulates that a validated license
shall be required for export of controlled items and technology to any country on the list, and that
the Secretaries of Commerce and State must notify the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and
the Senate Committees on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and Foreign Relations at least
enhance a nation’s military capability or its ability to support terrorism as required by this act. In
addition, Section 509(a) of the 1986 Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act (P.L.
A restriction potentially related to North Korea is found in Section 1621 of the International
Financial Institutions Act (P.L. 95-118). Entitled “Opposition to Assistance by International
Financial Institutions to Terrorist States,” Section 1621 states: “The Secretary of the Treasury
shall instruct the United States executive director of each international financial institution to use
the voice and vote of the United States to oppose any loan or other use of the funds of the
respective institution to or for a country for which the Secretary of State has made a
determination under section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act of 1979 or section 620A of the
Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.” In short, the United States must oppose financial assistance
from institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to any state on the
U.S. terrorism list. Given the influence of the United States in these institutions, U.S. opposition
would constitute a huge obstacle to any proposals for financial aid to North Korea. Section 1621,
however, does not require the United States to oppose North Korean membership in the IMF and
World Bank. North Korean membership is the near term goal of the South Korean government,
which views this as an initial step toward financial aid.
P.L. 109-58, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 prohibits the export, re-export, transfer or retransfer
of U.S. nuclear materials and technologies to any country identified by the Secretary of State as a
sponsor of terrorism. This provision, in Section 632 of the act, was authored specifically to
foreclose the possibility of civilian nuclear cooperation between the United States and North 44
Korea, either directly or through third countries that have access to U.S. nuclear technology.
The DPRK also remains on a list (required by P.L. 104-132), which prohibits, absent a
presidential waiver, the sale of arms to nations not fully cooperating with U.S. anti-terrorism 45
43 The interpretation of these “significant dual use items,” especially when items such as aircraft parts are involved, is
often the subject of considerable discussion within the executive branch as well as the subject of informal consultations
44 Letter from Representative Edward J. Markey to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, October 3, 2007.
Representative Markey was a principle author of Section 632.
45 Periodically, discussions have been held under differing administrations to provide for graduated sanctions within
this category to make it a more effective tool, but no substantive action, to date, has been taken on this issue. Note that
P.L. 104-132 also requires the withholding of foreign assistance to nations providing lethal military aid to countries on
the list of state sponsors.
In late January each year, under the provisions of Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act of
provides Congress with a list of countries supporting terrorism. Compilation of the list is the
result of an ongoing process. Throughout the year the Department of State gathers data on
terrorist activity worldwide, and then beginning about November, the list is formally reviewed.
Each new determination under Section 6(j) of the act must also be published in the Federal
Congressional report language provides guidelines for designation. A House Foreign Affairs
Committee report approving the Anti-Terrorism and Arms Export Amendments Act of 1989
(H.Rept. 101-296) included as criteria (1) allowing territory to be used as a sanctuary; (2)
furnishing lethal substances to individuals/groups with the likelihood that they will be used for
terrorism; (3) providing logistical support to terrorists/groups; (4) providing safe haven or
headquarters for terrorists/organizations; (5) planning, directing, training or assisting in the
execution of terrorist activities; (6) providing direct or indirect financial support for terrorist
activities; and (7) providing diplomatic facilities such as support or documentation to aid or abet
terrorist activities. A Senate report had similar criteria (S.Rept. 101-173).
Paragraph 6(j)(4) of the Export Administration Act prohibits removing a country from the list
unless the President first submits a report to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the
Senate Committees on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and Foreign Relations. When a
government changes (i.e., a government is significantly different from that in power at the time of
the last determination), the President’s report, submitted before the proposed rescission would
take effect, must certify that (1) there has been a fundamental change in the leadership and
policies of the government of the country concerned (an actual change of government as a result
of an election, coup, or some other means); (2) the new government is not supporting acts of
international terrorism; and (3) the new government has provided assurances that it will not
support acts of international terrorism in the future.
When the same government is in power, the current situation with North Korea, the President’s
report—submitted at least 45 days before the proposed rescission would take effect—must justify
the rescission and certify that (1) the government concerned has not provided support for
international terrorism during the preceding six-month period; and (2) the government concerned
has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.
Congress can let the President’s action take effect, or pass legislation to block it, the latter most
likely over the President’s veto. Since enactment of this procedure in 1989, the Bush
Administration has removed two countries from the list of state sponsors of terrorism—Libya and
Iraq. The Administration has stated that in the case of North Korea, it will adhere to the legal
requirement of providing Congress with a 45-day notice before removal that would include the 46
Congress has passed several resolutions on North Korean support for terrorism since 2005. In
January 2005, the entire Illinois delegation in Congress sent a letter to North Korea’s United
46 Letter from Jeffrey T. Bergner, State Department, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs to Representative
Edward J. Markey, November 6, 2007.
Nations Ambassador demanding information on the Reverend Kim Dong-shik, who was
kidnapped by North Korean agents in China in 2000. The Illinois delegation stated that it would
oppose removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism until his fate is
resolved. H.R. 3650, a bill introduced in the House of Representatives in September 2007 with 27
sponsors as of December 10, 2007, would continue to designate North Korea as a state sponsor of
terrorism until North Korea met a number of conditions related to cessation of nuclear and missile
proliferation, arms and training to terrorist groups, the counterfeiting of U.S. currency; and the
release of kidnapped Japanese and Kim Dong-shik and South Korean prisoners of war from the
A complex challenge facing those charged with compiling and maintaining the list is the degree
to which diminution of hard evidence of a government’s active involvement indicates a real
change in behavior, particularly when a past history of active support or use of terrorism as an
instrument of foreign policy has been well established. For example, Iraq, which was removed in
1982, was again placed on the list in 1990, to be again removed in 2004. Some observers suggest
that one reason that countries have not been dropped from the list is the reluctance of the
executive branch to confront Congress on the issue.
North Korea was added to the “official” list of countries supporting terrorism because of its
implication in the bombing of a South Korean airliner on November 29, 1987, which killed 115
persons. According to the State Department, North Korea has not been conclusively linked to any
terrorist acts since 1987. A North Korean spokesman in 1993 condemned all forms of terrorism,
and said his country resolutely opposed the encouragement and support of terrorism. A similar
statement was made in November 1995 and again in 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Country Reports, 2006, continues to contain language that could be used to justify retention of the
DPRK on the list of state supporters of terror:
... The DPRK continued to harbor four Japanese Red Army members who participated in a
jet hijacking in 1970. The Japanese government continued to seek a full accounting of the
fate of the 12 Japanese nationals believed to have been abducted by DPRK state entities; five 47
such abductees have been repatriated to Japan since 2002.... ”
Using language similar to the 2006 Report, Country Reports, 2005, in a brief two-paragraph
section on North Korea states that
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is not known to have sponsored any
terrorist acts since the bombing of a Korean Airlines flight in 1987.
Pyongyang in 2003 allowed the return to Japan of five surviving abductees, and in 2004 of
eight family members, mostly children, of those abductees. Questions about the fate of other
abductees remain the subject of ongoing negotiations between Japan and the DPRK. In
November, the DPRK returned to Japan what it identified as the remains of two Japanese
47 See http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2006/82736.htm (p. 147 of the published version).
abductees, whom the North had reported as having died in North Korea. The issue remained
contentious at year’s end. There are also credible reports that other nationals were abducted
from locations abroad. The ROK government estimates that approximately 485 civilians
were abducted or detained since the 1950-53 Korean War. Four Japanese Red Army
members remain in the DPRK following their involvement in a jet hijacking in 1970; five of 48
their family members returned to Japan in 2004.
Perhaps most revealing of United States’ policy rationale for keeping nations such as North Korea
on the terrorism list is text contained in the “State Sponsors Of Terror Overview” section of
Country Reports, 2005, and partially reprinted in Country Reports, 2006. Prominently mentioned
are two factors: (1) maintaining ties to terrorist groups and (2) “the capability to manufacture
WMD and other destabilizing technologies that can get into the hands of terrorists.”
Libya and Sudan continued to take significant steps to cooperate in the global war on terror.
Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria, however, continued to maintain their ties to terrorist
groups. Iran and Syria routinely provide unique safe haven, substantial resources and
guidance to terrorist organizations.
State sponsors of terrorism provide critical support to non-state terrorist groups. Without
state sponsors, terrorist groups would have much more difficulty obtaining the funds,
weapons, materials, and secure areas they require to plan and conduct operations. Most
worrisome is that some of these countries also have the capability to manufacture WMD and
other destabilizing technologies that can get into the hands of terrorists. The United States
will continue to insist that these countries end the support they give to terrorist groups. 49
[Emphasis and italics added]
In its “Introduction,” the Patterns 1999 report cites North Korea as a possible candidate for
removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. The Patterns 1999 report states:
The designation of state sponsors is not permanent, however. In fact, a primary focus of U.S.
counterterrorist policy is to move state sponsors off the list by delineating clearly what steps
these countries must take to end their support for terrorism and by urging them to take these
steps ...There have been some encouraging signs recently suggesting that some countries are
considering taking steps to distance themselves from terrorism. North Korea has made some
positive statements condemning terrorism in all its forms. We have outlined clearly to the
Government of North Korea the steps it must take to be removed from the list, all of which
are consistent with its stated policies.
The report states that “if a state sponsor meets the criteria for being dropped from the terrorism
list, it will be removed—notwithstanding other differences we may have with a country’s other
policies and actions.”
48 See http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/c17689.htm, p. 175.
49 Country Reports, 2005, p. 171, at http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/c17689.htm and Country Reports, 2006, p. 145, at
http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2006/82736.htm. The italicized text appears identically in Country Reports for both
2005 and 2006.
In June 15, 2000, testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Michael Sheehan,
the State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism, testified that
We need to take into account all relevant considerations in connection with moving states
onto or off of the list, and we also need to explore whether it would be appropriate in any
cases to identify states as “not fully cooperating” rather than as state sponsors of terrorism if
doing so was warranted by the facts and would advance U.S. counterterrorism objectives ... I
have been considering what intermediate steps could be taken to give state sponsors a clearer
look at how they might “graduate” off the list. It may be possible that in appropriate cases
state sponsors could step off the state sponsor list and be left only on the “not fully
cooperating” list, with an eye towards stepping off of that list when they fully cooperate with
U.S. antiterrorism efforts.
Similarly, in July 12 testimony before the House International Relations Committee, Ambassador
Sheehan confirmed that his earlier statements were intended as a clear signal to terrorist
supporting countries that the United States would consider taking them off the list if they take the
necessary steps to cease their support for terrorism.
Patterns 2000, issued in 2001 under the new Bush Administration, changed the tone. It does state
that “the Department of State is engaged in ongoing discussion with North Korea and Sudan with
the object of getting those governments completely out of the terrorism business and off the
terrorism list.” It cites the North Korean statement in the U.S.-North Korean joint statement of
October 12, 2000, in which “the DPRK reiterated its opposition to terrorism and agreed to
support international actions against such activity.” However, as stated previously, Patterns 2000
was more specific in citing evidence of North Korean support of other terrorist groups,
particularly in the Philippines. The report also asserts that “the US has a long memory and will
not simply expunge a terrorist’s record because time has passed.”
Patterns 2001 and Patterns 2002, arguably, softened language to designed to provide a rationale
for retaining the DPRK on the terror list. For example, Patterns 2002, although noting that
“Pyongyang continued to sell ballistic missile technology to countries designated by the United
States as state sponsors of terrorism, including Syria and Libya,” concluded with the statement
that “North Korea is a party to six of the twelve international conventions and protocols relating 50
to terrorism.” Contrast such language to Patterns 2003: “Although it is a party to six
international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, Pyongyang has not taken any 51
substantial steps to cooperate in efforts to combat international terrorism. [italics provided]”
Patterns 2003, which covers the year North Korea was designated a member of the “axis of evil”
by President Bush in his 2003 State of the Union Address, appears to take a somewhat more 52
confrontational position. The 2003 report begins with text to the effect that the DPRK is not
50 Patterns 2002, p. 81. On the other hand, the section covering North Korea begins with text characterizing the
DPRK’s response to international efforts to combat terrorism as “disappointing throughout 2002.”
51 Patterns 2003, p. 92.
52 See text in preceding paragraph regarding lack of international cooperation. Note that arguably, a factor that may
affect whether the DPRK is removed from the terrorism list is whether any other nations—notably Libya and possibly
Sudan—are removed first. In the wake of one or two successful cases of removal, a political climate may well be
known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since 1987. The report notes, however, that North
Korea continued to give sanctuary to hijackers affiliated with the Japanese Red Army. Although
Patterns 2003 arguably indicates that North Korea’s support for international terrorism appears
limited at present, it offers no promising language to suggest that DPRK removal from the
terrorism list may occur anytime soon.
Country Reports, 2004, again offers no promising language to suggest that DPRK removal from
the terrorism list may occur anytime soon, but notes what can be interpreted as progress in
resolving the issue of kidnapped Japanese citizens. Again restated is language to the effect that
the DPRK is “not known” to have sponsored any acts of terrorism since 1987. Pyongyang,
however, is cited for lack of “substantial steps” in co-operating in efforts to combat international
terrorism, although it has signed six international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is not known to have sponsored any
terrorist acts since the bombing of a Korean Airlines flight in 1987.
At a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi in Pyongyang in September 2002,
National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong Il acknowledged the involvement of
DPRK “special institutions” in the kidnapping of Japanese citizens and said that those
responsible had already been punished. Pyongyang in 2003 allowed the return to Japan of
five surviving abductees, and in 2004 of eight family members, mostly children, of those
abductees. Questions about the fate of other abductees remain the subject of ongoing
negotiations between Japan and the DPRK. In November, the DPRK returned to Japan what
it identified as the remains of two Japanese abductees whom the North had reported as
having died in North Korea. Subsequent DNA testing in Japan indicated that the remains
were not those of Megumi Yokota or Kaoru Matsuki, as Pyongyang had claimed, and the
issue remained contentious at year’s end. Four Japanese Red Army members remain in the
DPRK following their involvement in a jet hijacking in 1970; five of their family members
returned to Japan in 2004.
Although it is a party to six international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism,
Pyongyang has not taken substantial steps to cooperate in efforts to combat international 53
In a dramatic shift in U.S. position regarding DPRK removal from the terrorist list, Country
Reports, 2006, clearly states that the United States has agreed to begin the process of removing
the DPRK from the list of state supporters of terror:
created that is less risk adverse to chancing removal of a third state. Conversely, removing the DPRK from the list prior
to removing other nations would arguably create a climate more favorably disposed to removal of additional states as
well. In the past, the list has been subject to criticism that it is governed by political criteria not necessarily connected
to a nation’s level of support for terrorism. See CRS Report RL32417, The Department of State’s Patterns of Global
Terrorism Report: Trends, State Sponsors, and Related Issues, by Raphael F. Perl.
53 See http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/c14813.htm, p. 90 of the full pdf file, or the “North Korea” section at the end of
Chapter 5—Country Reports B.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was not known to have sponsored any
terrorist acts since the bombing of a Korean Airlines flight in 1987. The DPRK continued to
harbor four Japanese Red Army members who participated in a jet hijacking in 1970. The
Japanese government continued to seek a full accounting of the fate of the 12 Japanese
nationals believed to have been abducted by DPRK state entities; five such abductees have
been repatriated to Japan since 2002. In the February 13, 2007 Initial Actions Agreement,
the United States agreed to “begin the process of removing the designation of the DPRK as a 54
state-sponsor of terrorism.” [Emphasis added]
The Country Reports, 2006, reflected the new Rice-Hill strategy of linking removal of North
Korea to fulfillment of the February 2007 nuclear agreement. While it mentions the Japanese
kidnapping issue, there is less discussion of it than in prior reports. Moreover, it did not describe
progress or a settlement of the kidnapping issue as a condition for North Korea’s removal.
The State Department’s long-standing claim that North Korea “was not known to have sponsored
any terrorist acts since 1987” was particularly important in 2007 in view of the clear goal of the
Rice-Hill strategy to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. However,
questions about the accuracy of the claim are relevant in view of two types of reported
information. One is from the State Department, itself. In the Department’s Country Reports, 2005,
the section on North Korea discusses the Japanese kidnapping issue and then states that there is
“credible reports that other nationals were abducted from locations abroad.” The State
Department does not appear to have provided clarification or details regarding these “credible
reports.” This assertion in Country Reports, 2005 could be seen as contradicting the assertion that
North Korea has not sponsored any terrorist acts since 1987.
The second type of reports, coming from several diverse sources, asserts that North Korea has
provided arms and possibly training to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka
and that it maintains an intimate relationship with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Hezbollah
and the Tamil Tigers are two of the most active terrorist groups on the U.S. list of international
terrorist groups. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has been designated by the State Department as
a supporter of terrorism.
There have been several reports of North Korean support for Hezbollah from Europe-based
sources that report regularly on the Middle East. U.S. media publications have not reported on it.
In September 2006 and April 2007, Intelligence Online, a French internet publication specializing
in political and economic intelligence in the Middle East, published two reports detailing an 55
extensive program by North Korea to provide arms and training to Hezbollah. The reports
described Iran as the facilitator of the North Korea-Hezbollah relationship. According to
Intelligence Online, the program began in the late 1980s and early 1990s with visits by Hezbollah
54 See http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2006/82736.htm (p. 147 of the published version).
55 Hezbollah a North Korea-Type Guerrilla Force, Intelligence Online, September 7, 2006. Hezbollah training in North
Korea, Intelligence Online, April 20, 2007. Intelligence Online is put out by the Indigo Publications of Paris, France. It
is one of several reports on Middle East security and political affairs put out by Indigo Publications.
cadre to North Korea. These visits were reported to involve training courses of several months
run by the North Koreans. The September 2006 Intelligence Online report cited three current top
Hezbollah officials who, it says, received training in North Korea during this earlier period:
Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary-general and head of Hezbollah’s military organization;
Ibrahim Akil, the head of Hezbollah’s security and intelligence service; and Mustapha
Badreddine, Hezbollah’s counter-espionage chief.
Intelligence Online reported that after 2000, the program expanded with the dispatch of North
Korean trainers to southern Lebanon where they instructed Hezbollah cadre in the development
of extensive underground military facilities, including tunnels and bunkers. Takashi Arimoto,
Washington correspondent for the Japanese newspaper, Sankei Shimbun, has reported “a
document of an international organ” that in 2004, Syrian President Bashar Al-Asad met with
North Korean officials in Damascus and requested North Korean assistance in helping Hezbollah 56
to design and construct underground military installations. (North Korea is believed to have
extensive underground military installations inside North Korea.) Another report, from the
London-based newspaper, Al-Sharq al-Awsat, cited “a high-ranking officer in the [Iranian]
Revolutionary Guard” that one such North Korean-assisted facility in southern Lebanon was a
sophisticated, 25-kilometer, underground tunnel with numerous assembly points that Hezbollah 57
used to move and concentrate troops. These underground tunnels and bunkers, according to
numerous reports, significantly improved Hezbollah’s ability to fight the Israelis during the 2006
Israel-Hezbollah war. These reports asserted that Hezbollah was able to hide many of its 1,000-
1,500 rocket launchers underground; and thus, Israeli aerial surveillance had only limited
effectiveness in locating the rocket launchers before Hezbollah fired rockets into Israel. When
Israeli ground troops entered southern Lebanon, Hezbollah troops used networks of underground
tunnels and bunkers to move from location to location and often to attack the Israelis from the 58
rear. Deep underground bunkers also were found to have large storage rooms.
Additional information on North Korean assistance to Hezbollah in constructing underground
tunnels and bunkers has come from Lenny Ben-David, a former Israeli diplomat who served as
Israel’s deputy ambassador to the United States. Ben-David specified that North Korean experts
and equipment were brought into southern Lebanon by the Korea Mining Development Trading
Corporation. He asserted “The description of North Korean tunnels and cooperation with Iran are 59
based on fact.”
An Israeli report from Jerusalem Update asserted that North Korean also had sent trainers into
Lebanon to engage in the psychological training of Hezbollah cadre who are to be suicide 60
56 Takashi Arimoto, International document points concretely to close cooperation between North Korea, Syria; Syria
also asked for assistance to Hizballah, Sankei Shimbun (internet version), January 7, 2008.
57 Ali Nuri Zadah, Iranian officer: Hezbollah has commando naval unit, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 29, 2006.
Also cited in the American Enterprises Institute’s report, Iranian Influence in the Levant, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
February 2008, p. 7; and by BBC Monitoring Middle East, August 3, 2006.
58 Jonathan Finder, Israeli soldiers find a tenacious foe in Hezbollah, Washington Post, August 8, 2006, p. O1. Molly
Moore, Israelis confront ‘new kind of war’; high-tech tactics fail to halt rocket fire, Washington Post, August 9, 2006,
p. A11. Paul Moorcraft, Hezbollah rising; the surprising success of Iran’s client, Washington Times, August 15, 2006,
59 Lenny Ben-David, Mining for trouble in Lebanon, Jerusalem Post (internet version), October 29, 2007.
60 Roots of Hezbollah’s war against Israel and the Islamic revolution, Jerusalem Update, June 17, 2008.
Another report of the North Korea-Hezbollah relationship appeared in the South Korean
newspaper, JoongAng Ilbo, in November 2007. The author of this report was Professor Moon 61
Chung-in, a professor at South Korea’s Yonsei University. Professor Moon is a specialist on
Korean security issues and was a close adviser to the South Korean government of former
President Roh Moo-hyun. This advisory role has given him access to the U.S. government and
other foreign governments. He is well-known to American experts on Korean issues, and he has
advocated policies to improve relations with North Korea. It is noteworthy that Professor Moon
cited Mossad, the Israeli government’s main intelligence agency, as the source of an assessment
that “vital missile components” of Hezbollah missiles fired into Israel during the 2006 war came
from North Korea. Dr. Moon stated that Mossad believes that the missiles with North Korean
components were assembled in Iran and were transported to Hezbollah in Lebanon via Syria.
(North Korea also has sold Syria an assortment of missiles since the 1980s.) According to
Professor Moon, Mossad “partially blames North Korea” for the effectiveness of Hezbollah’s
missile strikes into Israel.
In 2008, the Israeli government reported that Hezbollah has received new missiles from Iran with
longer ranges than the missiles that Hezbollah used in the 2006 war. These include 10,000 long-
range missiles with a range up to 185 miles compared to a maximum range of 45 miles during the 62
including Hassan Nasrallah, visited Tehran in early April 2007, where Iran pledged to deliver new 64
medium-range missiles to Hezbollah. If the Israeli estimate is correct and if the reported Mossad
assessment of North Korea’s role in providing components to missiles supplied to Hezbollah prior
to the 2006 war is correct, it would appear highly possible the missiles that Iran is supplying to
Hezbollah continue to have North Korean components.
The Intelligence Online report of April 20, 2007, asserted that North Korea and Hezbollah were
strengthening their relationship in the aftermath of the Israel-Hezbollah war. Citing sources in
“the Pasadaran [Iranian Revolutionary Guard] leadership, the report stated that Iran and North
Korea had reached an agreement under which about 100 Hezbollah field commanders would
receive training in North Korea from North Korea’s elite commando infiltration units and also 65
training on intelligence-gathering and counter-espionage. This apparently was part of a broader
Iranian program after the Israel-Hezbollah war to bring Hezbollah cadre to Iran for advanced 66
military training. This report suggests the possibility that Hezbollah has sought training in
infiltration tactics from North Korean military units that U.S. commanders in South Korea have
described as trained to infiltrate deeply into South Korea in time of war through tunnels, by air,
and by sea, to attack bases, command centers, and transportation and communication facilities.
The object of such training could be to give Hezbollah the capability to infiltrate troops into Israel
in another war. Another possible element of continued North Korean support for Hezbollah came
in a statement from a Lebanese government official in early 2008 that Hezbollah was constructing
61 Moon Chung-in, The Syrian nuke connection, JoongAng Ilbo (internet version), November 26, 2007.
62 Matti Friedman, Israel: Hezbollah increases rocket range, Associated Press, March 27, 2007.
63 Nicholas Blanford, Hizbullah regroups amid war jitters, Christian Science Monitor, April 14, 2008, p. 7.
64 Hezbollah training in North Korea, Intelligence Online, April 20, 2007.
66 Barbara Slavin, Mullahs, Money and Militias: How Iran Exerts Its Influence in the Middle East. Washington, United
States Institute of Peace, 2008, p. 15.
new underground military facilities north of the Litani River in Lebanon67 (the Litani River was
the northernmost point of Israeli military penetration in the 2006 war).
Reports of North Korean arms shipments to the Tamil Tigers appeared in the Japanese newspaper, 68
Sankei Shimbun, in September 2007. Sankei Shimbun is Japan’s fifth largest national newspaper
with a circulation of two million daily. It is considered to be right of center politically and
generally is critical of North Korea. Two reports described several North Korean attempts in late
automatic rifles, and anti-tank rocket launchers, to the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan
navy intercepted and attacked three North Korean ships carrying arms in October 2006, February
2007, and March 2007. It sunk two of the vessels, seized some of the North Korean arms, and
may have captured several North Korean crewmen. Sankei Shimbun published photographs of the
North Korean weapons it says were seized by the Sri Lankan navy. According to Sankei Shimbun,
the Sri Lankan government filed an official protest with the North Korean government. U.S.
intelligence agencies, using spy satellites, may have conveyed information about the North
Korean ships to the Sri Lankan government, according to the reports.
Press reports in September 2006, February 2007, and March 2007 cited incidents of the Sri
Lankan navy intercepting and attacking large, unidentified cargo ships, which, according to the 69
Sri Lankan navy, were attempting to smuggle arms into Sri Lanka for the Tamil Tigers. The Sri
Lankan navy cited four such ships with no flags or other indentifying markers—two on March 18,
2007. In each incident, the Sri Lankan navy contacted the ships, which gave false identifications
and refused to allow a search. When the ships fired on Sri Lankan naval vessels, the navy
attacked. The Sri Lankan navy claimed to have seized weapons aboard the ship in the incident of
February 28, 2007. However, neither the Sri Lankan navy nor the Sri Lankan government made
public any subsequent information on the identity of the ships, the crewmen, or the origins of the
weapons aboard the ships.
Moreover, the reported arms supply link between North Korea and the Tamil Tigers appears to be
one of long duration. In 2000, the Far Eastern Economic Review reported that, according to
foreign intelligence sources in Bangkok, the Tamil Tigers had received a sizeable portion of its 70
weapons from North Korea. In its Patterns of Global Terrorism reports for 2001, 2002, and
Patterns of Global Terrorism, 2002 stated that North Korea “has sold weapons to several terrorist
groups.” An analysis done by Jane’s Intelligence Review of the video of a Tamil Tiger ship attack
on a Sri Lanka navy-operated passenger vessel in October 2000 revealed that the attackers used
68 Kubota Ruriko, DPRK plotted to export weapons to terrorist organ, Sankei Shimbun (internet version), September
26, 2007. Kubota, Ruriko, Busting of DPRK arms smuggling part of US psychological war aiming at weakening
dictatorial regime, economic damage, Sankei Shimbun (internet version), September 26, 2007.
69 See reports of Agence France Presse of September 19 and October 15, 2006, and February 28 and March 18, 2007.
See also Ranga Sirilal, Sri Lanka says sinks big rebel arms transport ship, Reuters News, February 27, 2007. Bharatha
Mallawarachi, Sri Lankan navy destroys ships smuggling arms, attacks rebel flotilla, Associated Press, February 28,
2007. Lanka navy destroys two Tiger ships, The Press Trust of India Limited, March 18, 2007.
70 Tigers buy North Korean arms, Far Eastern Economic Review, June 8, 2000, p. 12.
an exclusively North Korean-version of a 107 millimeter Katyusha rocket, using dual launch 71
tubes instead of the standard single launch tube.
The State Department’s Fact Sheet of October 25, 2007, on Iranian entities involved in
proliferation and terrorism support activities asserted that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG)
was providing “material support” for the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas, Iraqi Shia militants, and 72
other terrorist groups. In 2006, U.S. District Judge Royce Lambert issued a ruling that the IRG
recruited people who attacked the U.S. military facility in Saudi Arabia, Khobar Towers, in 1996
and manufactured the bombs used in the attack. General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to
Iraq Ryan Crocker testified to Congress in 2008 that the IRG was directing and supporting the 73
attacks of the Iraqi Shia “special groups” against U.S. and Iraqi military and government targets.
Many reports describe a close relationship between the IRG and Hezbollah. The State
Department’s Fact Sheet stated that the IRG has a “long history” of supporting Hezbollah with
guidance, funding, weapons, intelligence and logistical support. Other reports describe IRG
training of Hezbollah personnel in both Iran and Lebanon, the supply of missiles to Hezbollah by
the IRG, IRG cadre in southern Lebanon directing Hezbollah’s development of military facilities
(including missile sites), and IRG coordination of missile attacks against Israel during the 2006 74
Israel-Hezbollah war. The State Department’s Fact Sheet asserted that the IRG “has assisted
Hizballah [Hezbollah] in rearming” since the 2006 war, presumably including the supply of new
longer-range missiles described by the 2008 Israeli intelligence estimate.
The State Department’s October 2007 Fact Sheet also described the IRG as heavily involved in
Iran’s program to develop ballistic missiles. It said that the IRG is “one of the primary
organizations tied to developing and testing the Shahab 3” missile (the Iranian version of North
Korea’s Nodong missile) and that, as recently as 2006, the IRG was procuring “sophisticated and
costly equipment that could be used to support Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.” The
Iranian announcement of its tests of Shahab-class missiles, including the Shahab 3, on July 9-10,
North Korea’s relationship with the IRG appears to be in two areas: (1) coordination in support
for Hezbollah and (2) cooperation in ballistic missile development. Reports also suggest that
North Korea cooperates with the IRG and other Iranian entities in the development of nuclear
capabilities or nuclear weapons.
Given the close relationship between the IRG and Hezbollah, the IRG could have facilitated the
North Korean training of Hezbollah personnel by North Korea in the late 1980s and 1990s, as
71 Roger Davies, Sea tigers, stealth technology and the North Korean connection, Jane’s Intelligence Review, March
2001, p. 2-3.
72 U.S. Department of State, Fact Sheet: Designation of Iranian Entities and Individuals for Proliferation Activities and
Support for Terrorism, October 25, 2007.
73 Peter Spiegel, Another top threat emerges; Iranian-backed ‘special groups’ now roil Iraq, General Petraeus testifies,
Los Angeles Times, April 10, 2008, p. A1.
74 American Enterprise Institute, Iranian Influence in the Levant, Iraq, and Afghanistan. February 2008, p. 5-6.Gavin
Rabinowitz, Israel, Hezbollah fight to a draw, Associated Press, August 15, 2006. See also Kenneth Katzman, The
Warriors of Islam: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Bounder, Westview Press, 1993, pp. 96-98.
discussed above. The Paris Intelligence Online report of September 7, 2006, describing the role of
North Korean instructors in the construction of Hezbollah’s underground military installations in
southern Lebanon in the period before the 2006 war, asserts that IRG General Mir Faysal Baqer 75
Zadah supervised the construction of the underground facilities. Other reports describe IRG
cadre in southern Lebanon prior to the 2006 war, as assisting in the building of underground 76
military bases, including missile bases. The IRG reportedly has been the main supplier of 77
missiles to Hezbollah. Thus, the reported utilization of North Korean components on these
missiles prior to the 2006 war undoubtedly would have been coordinated between the IRG and
North Korea as well as any North Korean components in the large number of missiles the IRG
has supplied to Hezbollah since the war.
Cooperation between North Korea and the IRG in the development of ballistic missiles appears to
be of long standing. North Korea supplied Iran with Scud B and Scud C missiles after 1987. In
General Hossein Mantiqi visited North Korea heading Iranian delegations.Another delegation,
headed by Iran’s Defense Minister and reportedly including IRG officials, visited Pyongyang in
December 1993. Press reports, citing statements by Central Intelligence Agency officials,
described the goal of these missions as arranging for Iran’s purchase of up to 150 newly-79
developed North Korean Nodong intermediate range missiles. North Korea first tested the
missile in 1993. Paul Beaver, military expert for the Janes publications, said in an interview that
the delegations negotiated an agreement with North Korea to establish a plant in Iran to produce 80
the Nodongs. At that time, there reportedly were North Korean missile experts in Iran helping 81
Iran to manufacture Scud missiles based on North Korean technology.
Beaver’s assessment appears to have been correct. By 1997, there reportedly were North Korean
missile experts in Iran working on the construction of Shahab 3 and Shahab 4 missiles, Iranian
versions of the Nodong. Like the State Department’s October 2007 Fact Sheet, a 1997 London 82
Daily Telegraph report stated that the IRG was directing the Shahab program. In November 83
A fully successful test flight of the Shahab 3 was conducted in 1998. North Korea reportedly 84
continued to supply components for the Shahab 3.
Recent reports indicate continuing North Korean-Iranian collaboration in trying to develop longer
range ballistic missiles. A detailed report in the Los Angeles Times in August 2003 stated that
75 Hezbollah a North Korea-type guerrilla force—Lebanon, Paris Intelligence Online, August 25, 2006.
76 American Enterprise Institute, Iranian Influence in the Levant, Iraq, and Afghanistan. February 2008, p. 5-6.
77 Ibid. Hezbollah firing Iranian missiles into Israel, Forecast International/Missile Forecast, July 17, 2006.
78 Iran, N. Korea army chiefs want closer military ties, Korea Herald, January 14, 1993, p. 4.
79 Douglas Jehl, Iran is reported acquiring missiles, New York Times, April 8, 1993, p. 7. N. Korea’s air force chief
visits Iran for closer ties, Washington Times, February 25, 1994, p. A15 Iran said to place order for 150 DPRK missiles,
Yonhap News Agency, July 14, 1993.
80 Interview with Paul Beavers, military commentator for Janes, Fuji Television Broadcast Network, April 11, 1994.
81 Martin Sieff, N. Korean missiles may be tested in Iran this year, Washington Times, June 16, 1994, p. 13.
82 Con Coughlin, China, N. Korea send experts to hone Iran’s long-range missiles, November 23, 1997, p. A5.
84 Buill Gertz, North Korea sends missile parts, technology to Iran, Washington Times, April 18, 2001, p. A3. Critical
N. Korea missile parts seen aiding Iran’s program, Washington Times, February 10, 2000. P. A3. Yi Chol-hui, North’s
air cargo: missiles, Chungang Ilbo (internet version), June 16, 2003.
“many North Koreans are working on nuclear and missile projects in Iran.”85 One report of March
2006 was issued by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an exile opposition group. In
2002, the National Council had revealed correctly the existence of secret Iranian nuclear facilities
at Natanz and Irak. Several subsequent claims of the National Council have not been verified, but
the Iranian government places severe obstacles on the International Atomic Energy Agency and
other international groups that could engage in verification work. The National Council’s March
2006 report asserted that North Korean experts were working at the Memot Missile Industries
Complex in Iran in the development of an intermediate range missile with a range of 1,900 miles 86
and in the continuing development of the Shahab 4 missile. Later in 2006, it was reported that
North Korea had made an initial shipment to Iran of its new Musudan intermediate range missile.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated in November 2007 that North Korea had supplied 87
Iran with missiles with a range of 1,562 miles (probably the Musudan). North Korea and Iran 88
reportedly carried out joint tests of the Musudan. In April 2008, several publications reported
the existence of a new Iranian missile research and development site that had the same 89
appearance as North Korea’s Taepodong missile assembly facility inside North Korea.
In short, these reports and the State Department’s characterization of the IRG as a major player in
Iran’s missile program point to a likely continuing relationship between North Korea and the IRG,
including a kind of joint venture partnership to develop missiles inside Iran.
The State Department’s 2007 Fact Sheet asserted that “the IRGC attempted, as recently as 2006,
to procure sophisticated and costly equipment that could be used to support Iran’s ballistic missile
and nuclear program.” The National Council of Resistance of Iran asserted in a 2006 report that
the IRG was directing the nuclear program. Other recent reports have alluded to IRG leadership 90
in at least some elements of Iran’s nuclear program. The IRG reportedly directs Iran’s Nuclear
Control Center, which supervises the nuclear program and reports directly to Iran’s Supreme 91
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khomeini. Thus North Korea’s apparent main interlocutor in missile
development was in a position to bring North Korea into the Iranian nuclear program.
Numerous public reports have appeared since 1993 describing elements of North Korean-Iranian
collaboration in the development of nuclear capabilities. Some cite the Central Intelligence
Agency or Western intelligence sources as sources of information. Other reports seem to be
based, at least in part, on Israeli intelligence sources. Specific events or factors in the alleged
North Korean-Iranian nuclear collaboration are described in multiple reports.
85 Douglas Frantz, Iran closes in on ability to build a nuclear bomb, Los Angeles Times, August 4, 2003, p. A1.
86 Resistance group claims Iran hiding long-range missiles, working with North Korea, Associated Press, March 6,
87 Jim Mannion, ROK, US express concerns over DPRK’s development of long-range missiles, Agence France Presse,
November 7, 2007.
88 Iran develops missile with 4,000-km range, Middle East Newsline, March 2, 2006. Charles P. Vick, Has the No-
DongB/Shahab-4 finally been tested in Iran for North Korea, Global Security (internet version), May 2, 2006. Takashi
Arimoto, North Korea may have tested engine combustion of a new type missile in Iran—the two countries may share
data, Sankei Shimbun (internet version), June 21, 2007.
89 Michael Evans, Spy photos reveal ‘secret launch site’ for Iran’s long-range missiles, The Times (London, internet
version), April 11, 2008. Masato Kimura, Iranian rocket test-firing space center resembles Taepo Dong 2 facility,
Sankei Shimbun (internet version), April 17, 2008.
90 Dafna Linzer, Strong leads and dead ends in nuclear case against Iran, Washington Post, February 8, 2006. P. AO1.
91 Robin Hughes, Tehran takes steps to protect nuclear facilities, Jane’s Defence Weekly, January 25, 2006. P. 4.
Nuclear cooperation reportedly began at the same time North Korea negotiated with the IRG for
cooperation in developing and manufacturing Nodong missiles in Iran. The first reports, in 1993
and 1994, said that North Korea and Iran had signed an initial agreement for nuclear cooperation.
An Economist Foreign Report cited “CIA sources” that Iran was helping to finance North Korea’s
nuclear program and that North Korea would supply Iran with nuclear technology and 92
equipment. A report of the U.S. House Republican Research Committee claimed that Iran would 93
provide $500 million to North Korea for the joint development of nuclear weapons. The “CIA
sources” cited by the Economist Foreign Report reportedly mentioned the development of
enriched uranium as a goal of the new North Korean-Iranian agreements. Recent information has
disclosed that North Korea had negotiated with Pakistan for Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to
turn over to North Korean officials detailed data on developing highly enriched uranium when 94
she visited North Korea in 1993. U.S. officials at the time reportedly concluded that Iran was
the most likely customer for North Korean nuclear weapons; the CIA reportedly was concerned 95
that nuclear cooperation, including the transfer of materials, would be difficult to detect.
The next reported stage in North Korean-Iranian nuclear cooperation, in 2003 and afterwards,
appears to have been influenced by the reported joint advancement of the Nodong (Shahab)
program in Iran, by North Korea’s development and reported sale to Iran of the more advanced
Musudan intermediate range ballistic missile (originally designed by the Soviets to launch nuclear 96
warheads), and by the reported initiation of joint development of the Taepodong long-range
missile after 2000. Stepped up visits to Iran by North Korean nuclear specialists in 2003
reportedly led to a North Korean-Iranian agreement for North Korea to either initiate or accelerate
work with the Iranians to develop nuclear warheads that could be fitted on the North Korean
Nodong missiles that North Korea and Iran were jointly developing. Iran was reported to have
offered shipments of oil and natural gas to North Korea to secure this joint development of 97
nuclear warheads. North Koreans reportedly were seen at Iranian nuclear facilities in 2003. By
this time, a large number of North Korean nuclear and missile specialists reportedly were in 98
Iran. The German news magazine, Der Spiegel, quoted “western intelligence service circles” as
describing Iran in 2005 as offering North Korea economic aid if Pyongyang “continues to 99
cooperative actively in developing nuclear missiles for Tehran.”
During this period, Israeli officials began to assert that Iran was trying to develop nuclear
warheads and that North Korea might be helping Tehran. Israeli President Shimon Peres was
quoted that “there is no doubt” that Iran is developing long-range missiles to outfit with nuclear
92 An Israeli lesson for North Korea? Economist Foreign Report, April 22, 1993, p. 2. See also: DPRK reportedly aids
Iranian nuclear project, Yonhap News Agency, January 26, 1993. DPRK military delegation’s Iran visit reported, Seoul
KBS-1 Radio Network, February 24, 1994.
93 U.S. report on DPRK-Iran missile deal cited, Yonhap News Agency, July 16, 1993. The $500 million figure also was
cited in: Iran funds North Korea’s drive to build nuclear bombs, U.S. News and World Report, March 29, 1993, p. 18.
94 Glenn Kessler, Bhutto dealt nuclear secrets to N. Korea, book says, Washington Post, June 1, 2008, p. A16.
95 Bill Gertz, N. Korea as nuclear exporter, Washington Times, June 8, 1994, p. 1.
96 Gordon Fairclough, Pyongyang’s Iran sales fan concerns about ties, Wall Street Journal Asia, July 6, 2006. P. 1
97 Douglas Frantz, Iran closes in on ability to build a nuclear bomb; Tehran’s reactor program masks strides toward
weapons capability, a Times investigation finds, Los Angeles Times, August 4, 2003, p. A1. Military source: DPRK,
Iran planning joint development of nuclear warheads, Sankei Shimbun (internet version), August 6, 2003.
98 Iranian nuke experts visited N. Korea this year, Kyodo World Service, June 10, 2003. Douglas Frantz, Iran closes in
on ability to build a nuclear bomb, Los Angeles Times, August 4, 2003, p. A1. Military source: DPRK, Iran planning
joint development of nuclear warheads, Sankei Shimbun (internet version), August 6, 2003.
99 Mullahs helping Stalinists, Der Spiegel (internet version), November 28, 2005.
warheads. U.S. intelligence officials reportedly disclosed in early 2006 that Iran was trying to
expand the nose cone of the Shahab 3 (Nodong) missile so that it could carry a nuclear warhead.
They described an Iranian Project 111 as “a nuclear research effort that includes work on missile 100
development.” In March 2006, Reuters reported “an intelligence report given to Reuters by a
non-U.S. diplomat” that described Iran’s plans to develop nuclear warheads for the Shahab 3 101
missiles. Most recently, it has been reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency has
evidence that Iran had developed designs of what appeared to be a nuclear warhead and that the
nuclear smuggling ring linked to Pakistan’s nuclear czar, A.Q. Khan, had acquired blueprints for
an advanced warhead that could be mounted on a Nodong missile. Both North Korea and Iran had 102
received other types of missile and nuclear technology from Khan. Also, in 2008, the IAEA has
disclosed documents and photographs showing Iranian work in re-designing the cone of the 103
Shahab-3 missile in order for it to carry a nuclear warhead.
The February 2008 report of the National Council of Resistance of Iran also claimed North
Korean-Korean-Iranian collaboration in nuclear warhead development at secret sites inside 104
Iran. It alleges that the Iranian Defense Ministry has a secret facility at Khojir on the edge of
Tehran, code-named B1-Nori-8500, that is engaged in the development of nuclear warheads for
intermediate range ballistic missiles. North Korean specialists are at this facility, according to the
National Council. The National Council’s report so far has not been verified or refuted by
governments or other organizations.
European and Israeli defense officials stated in early 2007 that North Korea and Iran had
concluded a new agreement for North Korea to share data from its October 2006 nuclear test with 105
Iran. In February 2008, an Iranian delegation reportedly visited North Korea that included 106
officials from Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency.
Two other forms of North Korean-Iranian nuclear collaboration have been reported recently. At
least one involved direct North Korean-IRG collaboration. In 2005, the Iranian leadership is
reported to have initiated a huge project to develop underground bunkers and tunnels for Iran’s
nuclear infrastructure, estimated to cost hundreds of million of dollars. The project reportedly
includes the construction of 10,000 meters of underground halls for nuclear equipment connected
by tunnels measuring hundreds of meters branching off from each. Specifications reportedly
called for reinforced concrete tunnel ceilings, walls, and doors resistant to explosions and 107
100 Dafna Linzer, Strong leads and dead ends in nuclear case against Iran, Washington Post, February 8, 2006, p. AO1.
101 Louis Charbonneau, Iran said to step up plans for Shahab missiles, Reuters News, March 6, 2006.
102 David E. Sanger, Nuclear agency says Iran has used new technology, New York Times, February 23, 2008, p. A3.
Joby Warrick, Smugglers had design for advanced warhead, Washington Post, June 15, 2008, p. A1.
103 Mark Heinrich, IAEA shows photos alleging Iran nuclear missile work, Reuters News, September 16, 2008.
104 Iran still developing nuclear warheads: exiled opposition group, Agence France Presse, February 20, 2008. Marc
Champion, Iran arms claim is lodged—Tehran is developing nuclear warheads, exile group tells U.N., Wall Street
Journal Asia, February 21, 2008, p. 9. Koki Mirua, Anti-Iranian government organ points to ‘DPRK’s cooperation in
Iran’s nuclear development,’ Tokyo Shimbun (internet), September 24, 2008.
105 Jin Dae-woong, Concerns grow over missile links between N. Korea, Iran, Korea Herald (internet version), January
28, 2007. UK press: North Korea aids Iran in nuclear testing, Dow Jones International News, January 24, 2007. Israel
PM to charge NKorea link with Iran, Syria, Agence France Presse, February 26, 2008.
106 Takashi Arimoto, Iranian delegation makes top secret visit to North Korea in late February; for discussions on
nuclear issue? Sankei Shimbun (internet version), March 20, 2008.
107 Nukes too deep to hit, Newsweek, November 3, 2008, p. 8, 10.
The IRG implemented the project. North Korea is said to have participated in the design and
construction of the bunkers and tunnels. In early 2005, Myong Lyu-do, a leading North Korean
expert on underground facilities, traveled to Tehran to run the program of North Korean 108
assistance. Thus, as in the case of reported North Korean assistance to Hezbollah in the
construction of underground bunkers and tunnels, the IRG apparently made further use of North
Korea’s skills in developing underground military facilities.
The second reported form of collaboration involved joint assistance to Syria in developing the
Syrian nuclear reactor that Israel bombed in September 2007. The Bush Administration has said
nothing about Iranian involvement in the Syrian reactor. However, the online service of the
German news publication Der Spiegel has cited “intelligence reports seen by Der Spiegel” that
North Korean and Iranian scientists were working together at the reactor site at the time of the
Israeli bombing. Some of the plutonium production slated for the reactor was to have gone to
Iran, which viewed the reactor as a “reserve site” to produce weapons-grade plutonium as a 109
supplement to Iran’s own highly enriched uranium program. A similar description of North
Korean-Iranian Revolutionary Guard cooperation in the Syrian reactor came in two reports from
Washington in the Japanese newspaper, Sankei Shimbun. The newspaper reported in September
2008 information from “a source familiar with the Syrian nuclear issue” that “a secret Iranian
Revolutionary Guards base” in Iran housed a plutonium reprocessing facility designed to 110
reprocess nuclear fuel from the Syrian reactor. Sankei Shimbun reported from Washington in 111
July 2008 several specific visits of Iranian officials to the Syrian reactor in 2005 and 2006.
The Sankei Shinbun report of July 12, 2008, also described two visits of high level Iranian
officials to North Korea in February and May 2008. The Iranian delegation included officials of
Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization and National Security Council. The apparent purpose of these
visits, according to the report, was to ensure that North Korea would maintain secrecy about its
nuclear collaboration with Iran in its negotiations with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State
The Sankei Shimbun report of September 12, 2008, also described two forms of non-nuclear
military cooperation between Iran and North Korea inside Syria. One of these reportedly involves
North Korean scientists and military personnel working with Iranian and Syrian counterparts at a
chemical weapons plant in northern Syria. The second reportedly involves a plan by the Iranian
Revolutionary Guards to deploy small, North Korean-made submarines in a military port in Syria.
The Bush Administration’s priority objective in removing North Korea from the terrorism support
list is to achieve the completion of the disablement of North Korea’s plutonium nuclear
108 Robin Hughes, Tehran takes steps to protect nuclear facilities, Jane’s Defence Weekly, January 25, 2006. Pp. 4-5.
109 Asad’s risky nuclear game, Spiegel Online, June 23, 2008.
110 Takashi Arimoto, Reprocessing facility of bombed nuclear base in Iran; intimate ties between Syria and North
Korea, Sankei Shimbun (internet), September 12, 2008.
111 Takashi Arimoto, Iran involved in nuclear program: trilateral cooperation of Syria, Iran, North Korea, Sankei
Shimbun (internet), July 12, 2008.
installations at Yongbyon. The shutting down of Yongbyon would prevent North Korea from
producing more weapons grade plutonium for atomic bomb production. North Korea’s
resumption of disablement after the U.S. removal announcement of October 11, 2008, appears to
strengthen the prospect that disablement will be completed by the time President Bush leaves
office in January 2009. This would be the immediate achievement in removing North Korea.
Christopher Hill and others reportedly have argued within the Bush Administration that the
Administration should give the highest priority in its North Korea policy to limiting and
eliminating North Korea’s plutonium program because the plutonium is the known source of
North Korea’s production of atomic bombs; other issues, such as the alleged North Korean highly
enriched uranium program and North Korea’s proliferation activities, therefore should be given 112
less priority or deferred into the future.
Removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism also will open the way for
what Assistant Secretary of State Hill has described as a Phase Three of nuclear negotiations
beyond the February 2007 six party nuclear agreement. U.S. goals in a Phase Three negotiation
would be the full dismantlement of Yongbyon, securing control over North Korea’s plutonium
stockpile, and eliminating North Korea’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. This prospect, however, is
much more uncertain, since North Korea is certain to present new demands for U.S. concessions
as part of any deal for a further reduction of its plutonium program.
Given North Korea’s long track record of seeking financial subsidies from other governments in
nuclear and other negotiations, one of Pyongyang’s Phase Three demands could be for the United
States to follow the removal of North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism with an
“affirmative” act of proposing that the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank extend
financial aid to North Korea. Removal from the terrorism support list ends the legislative
requirement that the U.S. President oppose proposals of aid to North Korea from international
There are potential negative consequences for U.S. policy in removing North Korea from the list
of state sponsors of terrorism. Japanese officials have warned that there would be short-term
damage to U.S. relations with Japan if the Bush Administration removes North Korea without any 113
substantive progress on the Japanese kidnapping issue. U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer has
expressed such concerns since October 2007. Some U.S. experts also believe there may be 114
damage. However, a sizeable number of members of Japan’s Diet has voiced opposition to the
Bush Administration removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Japanese 115
press and majority public opinion also appears to oppose the U.S. action. There also could be
potential for longer-term damage to the U.S.-Japan alliance that could affect future Japanese
policies toward U.S. military bases in Japan and support for future U.S. military operations
against Muslim terrorist groups.
112 Glenn Kessler, Mid-level official steered U.S. shift on North Korea, Washington Post, May 26, 2008, p. A1. Helene
Cooper, Past deals by N. Korea may face less study, New York Times, April 18, 2008, p. A5. Siegfried S. Hecker and
William J. Perry, The right path with N. Korea, May 13, 2008, p. A15.
113 Ignore abductees at your peril, Japan warns the United States, JoongAng Ilbo (internet version), October 26, 2007.
114 James Morrison, Bad impact feared, Washington Times, July 3, 2008, p. A20. The Nelson Report, July 10, 2008.
115 League of Parliamentarians for Early Repatriation of Japanese Citizens Kidnapped by North Korea, Urgent
Resolution Urging Refrain from Unprincipled Concessions to North Korea on Nuclear and Abduction Issues, May 27,
2008. The League is made up of 203 members of the Diet. Akiko Yamamoto and Blaine harden, Japan await abduction
answers, Washington Post, December 23, 2007, p. 18.
Removing North Korea likely will encourage Pyongyang to continue and possibly expand its
support for terrorist groups and other state sponsors of terrorism in the Middle East. North
Korea’s expansion of these activities since 2000 appear to constitute a major threat to U.S.
national security policy interests in the Middle East. Relatedly, the United States will no longer
have the terrorism support list as a negotiating lever if it ever decided to address North Korean
activities in the Middle East in negotiations with Pyongyang. Indeed, a chief objective of North
Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, in prioritizing removal from the terrorism support list may be to
weaken the U.S. diplomatic hand if the United States should decide to place North Korea’s
activities in the Middle East on its policy agenda.
Larry A. Niksch
Specialist in Asian Affairs