As all eyes in Washington, D.C. are on the Senate health care bill, another major issue has been pushed to the sidelines. But U.S. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Humble) isn’t content to let it sit there. He’s pushing to have the U.S. label North Korea as a terrorist state in the wake of the death of American student Otto Warmbier.
Warmbier died June 19, days after being medically evacuated from North Korea, where he had been held prisoner since March 2016. He was detained for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster.
“He’s put in jail, he’s tortured, he’s drugged, he’s beaten. He was put in a coma by the North Koreans and then died when he was in the United States,” Poe says. “To me, as a former judge, that is murder, and that’s exactly the way we should understand it.”
Poe says that Warmbier, who was visiting North Korea as a tourist, was a victim of Kim Jong-un’s “terrorist regime.”
In April, the House approved legislation Poe authored that would order the State Department to reconsider designating North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The country was taken off the list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2008 when the regime agreed to scale back its nuclear weapons program, a promise Poe says it has failed to keep.
“I think members of Congress realize now that North Korea is a country that wants to harm the United States, and we need to do everything we can to prevent that from happening,” Poe says.
He believes the terrorism designation is needed to enact sanctions on North Korea.
Poe says that sanctions are one way of crippling the regime and forcing it to stop developing nuclear and conventional weapons. He also says that South Korea, Japan, Guam and Hawaii must be “militarily defensible” to North Korean actions.
“We’re using the new THAAD anti-missile system and installing that in the region in case North Korea starts shooting missiles at our allies or at the United States,” Poe says.
Poe’s bill is being considered by the Senate and he hopes the Senate will vote on it before Congress’ August recess so sanctions can be imposed by the end of the summer.
Written by Molly Smith.