Portman, Brown back hard line on North Korea

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens as President Donald Trump speaks to the media during a cabinet meeting at the White House on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. President Trump officially designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Sipa USA/TNS)
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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens as President Donald Trump speaks to the media during a cabinet meeting at the White House on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. President Trump officially designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Sipa USA/TNS)

Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown hailed President Donald Trump’s decision Monday to designate North Korea a state of sponsor of terrorism, a move they both advocated last month.

In a statement after Trump's announcement, Portman, R-Ohio, said "this designation will serve as an important tool to exert peaceful pressure on the North Korean regime."

“North Korea was removed from the list nearly a decade ago with promises from the regime to limit their nuclear program,” Portman said. “That clearly hasn’t happened and they have continued their destabilizing actions in the region.”

Brown, D-Ohio, said the "decision is the direct result of bipartisan efforts this summer to require further sanctions on North Korea. We have recently offered another tough, new sanctions package that makes it clear we are serious about ramping up pressure on North Korea, to force its leaders to end its nuclear weapons program and halt its continuing human rights abuses."

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In addition, Portman and Brown, like Trump, cited the death this summer of Otto Warmbier, the Cincinnati-area student who died this summer in Cincinnati shortly after his release from a North Korean prison.

Speaking to reporters before a cabinet meeting at the White House, Trump said “as we take this action today, our thoughts turn to Otto Warmbier, a wonderful young man, and the countless others so brutally affected by the North Korean oppression.”

“This designation will impose further sanctions and penalties on North Korea and related persons, and supports our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime,” Trump said.

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“The North Korean regime must be lawful,” Trump said. “It must end its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile development, and cease all support for international terrorism — which it is not doing.”

In a letter last month to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Portman, Brown and 12 other senators wrote that since former President George W. Bush in 2008 dropped North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, the Pyongyang regime has continued to develop its nuclear weapons program along with the missiles to deliver a nuclear warhead.

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