Ros-Lehtinen Criticizes U.S. Decision to Remove N. Korea from List of State Sponsors of Terrorism

WASHINGTON , June 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) today expressed "profound disappointment" over the Bush Administration's decision to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Last month, Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, successfully included an amendment in the Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Reform Act (H.R. 5916) requiring that North Korea take verifiable actions such as ceasing to provide nuclear assistance to Syria and Iran before being considered for removal from the list. Statement of Ros-Lehtinen:

The Administration's call for North Korea to be removed from the state sponsors of terrorism list is cause for profound concern. Serious verification questions linger, and I would have hoped that the Administration would have shown more caution, and less haste, on a matter of this gravity.

Even while negotiating the agreement announced today, Pyongyang continued to brazenly assist another state sponsor of terrorism, Syria , in the development of an illicit nuclear program until an Israeli air strike destroyed the facility in the Syrian desert last September.

While the regime in Pyongyang has declared its intention to disable its nuclear reactor, questions remain as to whether the North Koreans will be fulfilling their full denuclearization obligations. By the Administration's own admission, as articulated by Secretary Rice in an editorial published today: 'It may be the case that North Korea does not want to give up its nuclear weapons and programs. That is a real possibility.'

The Administration is rushing to reward North Korea by lifting the terrorism designation and removing a number of sanctions related to this designation. We have yet to determine if the declaration is complete and verifiable but are relinquishing one of the most valuable instruments of leverage available to the U.S. The forthcoming demolition of a nuclear cooling tower this weekend is little more than the destruction of an empty shell.

The ramifications of the Administration's request are far-reaching. In rewarding North Korea this way, we risk abandoning true and steadfast allies like Japan and we send a message to the regimes in Damascus and Tehran that the United States will endorse a reckless disregard of our own interests.

SOURCE House Committee on Foreign Affairs