Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the outgoing chairman and new ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the sanctions levied against North Korea by President Obama on Friday don’t lessen the need to put the communist nation back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
In accordance with the executive order, the Treasury Department designated three entities and 10 individuals as being agencies or officials of the North Korean government.
The entities are the Reconnaissance General Bureau, the regime’s primary intelligence organization; the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, the country’s primary arms dealer and exporter of equipment for ballistic missiles and conventional weapons; and the Korea Tangun Trading Corporation, which is “primarily responsible for the procurement of commodities and technologies to support North Korea’s defense research and development programs.”
The sanctioned officials including two government representatives stationed in Iran, Kim Yong Chol and Jang Yong Son; one stationed in Russia, Jang Song Chol, who is working weapons deals with Sudan; and Ryu Jin and Kang Ryong, North Korean government officials stationed in Syria.
“I really do believe that we need to look at putting North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, which would have far more pervasive consequences,” Menendez said, noting that he told as much to Secretary of State John Kerry in a letter.
“You know, the one thing I disagree with — with the president on is when he characterized the action here against Sony by North Korea as an act of vandalism. Vandalism is when you break a window. Terrorism is when you destroy a building. And what happened here is that North Korea landed a virtual bomb on Sony’s parking lot, and ultimately had real consequences to it as a company and to many individuals who work there,” the senator continued.
“So I think there has to be a real consequence to this. Otherwise, you will see it happen again and again.”
In December, Obama told CNN that the Sony hack “was an act of cybervandalism,” not an “act of war.”
Menendez told CNN on Sunday that he hasn’t heard back from Kerry, but looks “forward to engaging him when he appears before the committee in the new year.”
Speaking of engagement, the senator reaffirmed that he knew nothing about the administration’s Cuba deal before it was announced as final.
“And this is a problem not only as it relates to Cuba, but Iran, this secret diplomacy in which witnesses come before the committee and you ask them questions about what’s happening, whether it be about Iran or Cuba, and you don’t get a straight answer. And now you find out that there was in one case a year-and-a-half, in another case over a year of engagement,” Menendez said. “That’s going to be problematic for the administration as it appears before the committee again and again.”
“It’s less about me and whatever lack of information I was given, as someone who is both the chairman of the committee and one of a few Cuban-Americans in the Senate and on the Democratic side. What it really is, is about the 10 million people in Cuba who got a bad deal, because what we did here is, we exchanged one innocent American for three convicted Cuban spies, including one that was convicted for conspiracy to commit murder against U.S. citizens, who were murdered by the Castro regime, and, secondly, we got nothing in terms of democracy and human rights. We got nothing about political freedoms.”