- (Photo: AP/Kevin Wolf)
The United States removed North Korea from its terrorism blacklist on Saturday, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.
In exchange, North Korea has agreed to cooperate with all U.S. nuclear inspection demands – a key and long-time U.S. requirement for North Korea to be removed from the blacklist.
"Based upon the cooperation agreement North Korea has recently provided ... the secretary of state this morning rescinded the designation of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] as a state sponsor of terrorism, and that was effective as of her signature," McCormack said, according to CNN.
The two parties agreed about the participation by all members of the Six Party Talks, the role of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, access to all of North Korea’s nuclear facilities, and the kind of procedures that would be used in the verification process.
"Every element of verification that we sought is included in this package," McCormack said.
The removal of North Korea from the terror list is widely understood as a U.S. move to salvage a faltering denuclearization plan of the Korean peninsula. Weeks ago, Pyongyang announced that it was restarting its reactor and reprocessing facilities to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons out of anger that Washington had refused to remove it from the terror list despite some denuclearization progress.
Officials say that with the new agreement, North Korea will immediately reverse its recent nuclear building actions.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain issued a statement Friday voicing his opposition to dropping North Korea from the terrorism list.
"I have previously said that I would not support the easing of sanctions [against] North Korea unless the United States is able to fully verify the nuclear declaration Pyongyang submitted on June 26," McCain said. "It is not clear that the latest verification arrangement will enable us to do so."
On the other hand, Democratic opponent Sen. Barack Obama called taking North Korea off the blacklist “an appropriate response” given its agreement to verification measures.
But Obama said if Pyongyang fails to deliver on its side of the bargain, there should be “immediate consequences,” including suspension of energy assistance, re-imposing sanctions, and consideration of new restrictions.
Besides its nuclear-building problem, North Korea has angered the international community by having arguably the worst human rights record in the world with the rogue government arresting and torturing political dissenters, those that attempt to flee the country, and Christians.
Christian persecution watchdog agency Open Doors ranks North Korea as number one in its annual watch list of countries with the worst Christian persecution, noting that there is absolutely no religious freedom in the country as all citizens are forced to worship current leader Kim Jong-il and his deceased father, Kim Il-sung. Being a Christian is reportedly the worst crime in North Korea.
On Wednesday, President Bush signed into law the North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act that allocates $26 million per year through 2012 for North Korean human rights purposes. The law also elevates the Special Envoy under this act to the rank of Ambassador.
“On behalf of the estimated 3,000 Korean American pastors that make up the Korean Church Coalition of North Korea Freedom, I would like to thank Senators Joseph Biden and Frank Lugar and their staff for their extraordinary diligence in getting this act passed this session,” said Peter I. Sohn, president of Korean Church Coalition, in a statement Friday.
“I would also like to thank President George Bush for signing the bill. And our special thanks to Senator Sam Brownback, the sponsor of the original North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004.”
With the removal of North Korea from the terrorism blacklist, which the rogue nation has been on since 1988, only Cuba, Syria, Sudan and Iran remain listed.