WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Donald Trump will announce next week whether he is putting North Korea on a list of state sponsors of terrorism, the White House said, opening the door to possible blacklisting.
"I believe the President will be making an announcement, a decision, on that in the first part of next week," said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
Earlier this month, a senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said North Korea "clearly fit the criteria" for being on the list, suggesting the decision will likely be bad news for Pyongyang.
Supporters of the move point to North Korea's treatment of American student Otto Warmbier - who died this year after being released from custody in North Korea - as well as ties to Iranian and Syrian weapons programs.
The move is largely symbolic, doubling up on existing sanctions and restrictions on aid and exports.
But it could dent efforts to reach a diplomatic solution to the standoff over Pyongyang's development of nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the continental United States.
The designation was lifted by then-President George W. Bush in 2008 in an effort to encourage North Korea to dismantle parts of its nuclear programme.
Trump has vowed to embark on a policy of "maximum pressure" on the regime, hoping it will blink and stop pursuing nuclear capable ICBMs.