The Trump administration is considering putting North Korea back on the United States' list of state sponsors of terrorism, national security adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters Thursday.
“That is an option that is under consideration,” McMaster said at the White House briefing. “And so the president's cabinet is looking at this as part of the overall strategy on North Korea.”
McMaster made the comments as President Trump prepares to embark on a foreign trip to five Asian countries over the next week, including South Korea, amid esclating nuclear tensions with North Korea.
“A regime who murders someone in a public airport using nerve agents and a despotic leader who murders his brother in that matter, that’s clearly an act of terrorism that fits in with the range of other actions,” he said.
Speaking of the possibility of adding North Korea back to the list, McMaster said: “This is something that is under consideration. And you will hear more about that soon, I think.”
Meanwhile, a senior congressional official and an administration official told Fox News that the State Department will miss its deadline this week to make that determination.
If the State Department decides to add the country back on the list, additional sanctions would be applied against North Korea.
The administration official indicated a decision would likely come after Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson travel to the region and after the president has met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
North Korea was designated a state sponsor of terrorism by the United States in 1988, in response to the bombing of Korean Air Flight 858 the year before. The designation was rescinded in 2008 amid commitments to limit its nuclear program.
But a bipartisan group of 12 senators sent a letter to Tillerson last month urging the administration to consider “the totality of North Korea’s actions – including detainment, detention and treatment of American citizens and continued illicit relationships with unfriendly nations” when determining whether to add it back to the list.
The parents of Otto Warmbier, the American student who died after being imprisoned in North Korea, have encouraged lawmakers to advocate for the designation.
“They were removed from the list almost a decade ago with promises from the regime to limit their nuclear program,” one of the lawmakers, Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, said in a statement.
Added Portman: “That clearly didn’t happen, and their destabilizing actions around the world have only continued. This would be one more important step to exert peaceful pressure on the North Korean regime and has received broad, bipartisan support in Congress.”
Fox News’ Rich Edson contributed to this report.