President Donald Trump said Monday that he intends to declare North Korea a state sponsor of terror.
Trump called the move a long overdue step and part of the U.S. "maximum pressure campaign" against the North.
North Korea was last on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terror in 2008, when the country was removed in a bid to salvage a deal to halt its nuclear development. Iran, Sudan and Syria are also designated by the U.S. as state sponsors of terror.
U.S. officials cited the killing of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's estranged half brother in a Malaysian airport earlier this year as an act of terrorism.
The designation had been debated for months inside the administration, with some officials at the State Department arguing that North Korea did not meet the legal standard to be relisted as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Officials said there was no debate over whether the slaying of half brother Kim Jong Nam was a terrorist act. However, lawyers said there had to be more than one incident and there was disagreement over whether the treatment of American student Otto Warmbier, who died of injuries suffered in North Korean custody, constituted terrorism.
The officials were not authorized to speak publicly about internal deliberations and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report from Washington.