North Korea

Written by  //  May 22, 2017  //  Asia, Geopolitics  //  3 Comments

The Guardian: North Korea

north korea mapNorth Korea profile
Politics: A family dynasty heads a secretive, communist regime which tolerates no dissent
Economy: North Korea’s command economy is dilapidated, hit by natural disasters, poor planning and a failure to modernise
International: The armistice of 1953 ended armed conflict on the Korean peninsular, but the two Koreas are technically still at war; tensions have been exacerbated in recent decades by North Korea’s nuclear ambitions (BBC)

Richard Haass: The Coming Confrontation with North Korea
Imagine it is 2020. The director of the CIA requests an urgent meeting with the US president. The reason: North Korea has succeeded in making a nuclear bomb small enough to fit inside the tip of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the continental United States. The news soon leaks to the public. High-level meetings to devise a response are held not just in Washington, but in Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing, and Moscow as well.
This scenario may seem unreal today, but it is more political science than science fiction. North Korea just carried out its fifth (and apparently successful) test of a nuclear explosive device, doing so just days after testing several ballistic missiles. Absent a major intervention, it is only a matter of time before North Korea increases its nuclear arsenal (now estimated at 8-12 devices) and figures out how to miniaturize its weapons for delivery by missiles of increasing range and accuracy.
It is difficult to overstate the risks were North Korea, the world’s most militarized and closed society, to cross this threshold. (Project Syndicate September 2016)

22 May
North Korea’s Whirlwind Progress on Missile Sharpens Threat
Polaris-2 missile goes from first public test to mass production in three months
(WSJ) While most U.S. policy makers remain concerned about North Korea’s ability to deliver a nuclear-tipped missile to the continental U.S., the speedy development of the Pukguksong-2, or the Polaris-2, highlights how quickly North Korea is mastering other critical missile technologies that are making Pyongyang a bigger threat to the U.S. military and its allies in East Asia.
The missile, while not designed to reach beyond most of the U.S. bases in South Korea and Japan, can be fired with almost no preparation time from the back of a mobile launcher, giving North Korea more stealth in its launches, as well as the ability to retaliate in the case of a strike against it, experts say.

15 May
North Korea’s latest missile test signals new design expertise (video)
(PBS Newshour) Interview with JEFFREY LEWIS, Middlebury Institute of International Studies:
“Well, it’s a brand-new type of missile.
“We’d seen a version of this in a parade just a month ago, but what’s really striking is, it seems to use a new engine that the North Koreans designed themselves. So, in the past, normally, they have copied engines from other places. This looks like the first engine that’s fully North Korean, so it’s a big step forward for them.”
(The Atlantic) Over the weekend, North Korea successfully tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile—the country’s best-performing weapons technology so far, according to experts. The White House is calling for increased UN sanctions in response.

13 May
North Korea fires missile days after new South Korea leader pledges dialogue
(Reuters) The missile was fired from the region of Kusong, northwest of Pyongyang, where the North in February successfully test-launched an intermediate-range missile that it is believed to be developing.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who took office on Wednesday, held his first National Security Council meeting as president in response to North Korea’s latest missile launch, which he called a “clear violation” of U.N. Security Council resolutions, the presidential office said.
“The president said while South Korea remains open to the possibility of dialogue with North Korea, it is only possible when the North shows a change in attitude,” Yoon Young-chan, Moon’s press secretary, said at a briefing.

11 May
North Korea demands that the U.S. hand over would-be assassins of Kim Jong Un
(WaPost) … it’s worth noting that North Korea has a long history of its own ripped-from-a-bad-movie assassination plots. Or, as the Associated Press put it, “In the paranoid universe of North Korea, the feverish accusations it makes against its sworn enemies bear a creepy resemblance to its own misdeeds.”

10 May
New South Korea president vows to address North Korea, broader tensions ‘urgently’
(Reuters) South Korea’s new liberal President Moon Jae-in was sworn in on Wednesday and vowed to immediately tackle the difficult tasks of addressing North Korea’s advancing nuclear ambitions and soothing tensions with the United States and China.
Moon said in his first speech as president he would immediately begin efforts to defuse security tensions on the Korean peninsula and negotiate with Washington and Beijing to ease the row over a U.S. missile defense system being deployed in the South.
He also planned to announce major cabinet and presidential staff appointments almost immediately to bring a swift end to a power vacuum left by the removal of his predecessor, Park Geun-hye, in March in a corruption scandal that rocked South Korea’s business and political elite.
South Korea’s election: Moon also rises Yesterday Moon Jae-in became the first liberal president of South Korea in almost a decade. He won 41% of the vote in an unusual snap election triggered two months ago by the impeachment of the former president, Park Geun-hye. Mr Moon appeals to South Korea’s disenchanted voters, especially the unemployed young. But he faces a fractured nation and mounting tensions with North Korea, writes our Korea correspondent

8 May
Russia Seizes an Opportunity in North Korea
– Moscow will continue to expand its economic and financial cooperation with North Korea, which in recent years has included transportation networks, fuel supplies and employment.
– Russia, which sees its growing ties with North Korea as another way to build leverage it can use in negotiations with the West, will not wield that influence just yet.
– While it cannot replace China as North Korea’s primary partner, Russia is developing the capacity to play spoiler to many U.S. plans to increase pressure on North Korea.
(Stratfor) As North Korea’s relationship with China grows more difficult, Russia has increased its focus on the Korean Peninsula, ready to forge stronger ties with its isolated neighbor. Beijing is considering increasing pressure on North Korea to dial back its nuclear weapons program, and Russia stands ready to take advantage of the conflict. But though deepening its involvement with North Korea could equip the Kremlin with additional tools to use in its wider confrontation with the West, Russia could not hope to match Chinese influence in North Korea. Yet, Russia could still limit the pressure China is able to exert on North Korea.

3 May
(WaPost) In an interview Monday, Trump called North Korean despot Kim Jong Un a “smart cookie” and said he would be willing to meet Kim under the right circumstances. This came after Trump claimed he wants Seoul to foot the bill for an expensive new missile-defense system the United States has set up in South Korea known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD. Trump also called into question a George W. Bush-era trade deal with South Korea that was implemented in 2012. Put this all on top of comments Trump made last month suggesting that the Korean Peninsula was historically part of China and it’s no surprise that many in South Korea are not so pleased. Some even told The Washington Post last month that they’re worried Trump may be a bigger threat to their lives than Kim.

2 May
How we’ll know when China really is working with the US on North Korea
(Quartz) This past weekend Donald Trump praised his Chinese counterpart for his efforts to address the increasingly tense situation on the Korean peninsula. The US president said Xi Jinping “is working to try and resolve a very big problem, for China also.”
That problem, of course, is the ongoing development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, despite UN sanctions. Kim seems hellbent on being able to hit North America with nuclear-tipped missiles, and some analysts think he’s only a few years away from it.
Fear of military force is unlikely to bring North Korea to the table, if the past half century or so is anything to go by. But the Trump administration is hoping that the threat of crushing sanctions against North Korea—with strong assistance from China—might do the trick.
There is an argument to be made that sanctions have never been properly used against North Korea, and evidence to suggest that the nation’s elite will feel the consequences if they are—perhaps enough to bring about change.
U.S., China talk firmer U.N. response to North Korea’s missiles: diplomats
(Reuters) The United States is negotiating with China on a possible stronger U.N. Security Council response – such as sanctions – to North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile launches, which the 15-member body normally condemns in a statement, diplomats said.
Trump: I’d be ‘honored’ to meet Kim Jong Un under ‘right circumstances’

30 April
North Korea warns of ‘catastrophic consequences’
USS Carl Vinson strike group carries out exercises with South Korean navy as North’s media warns ‘stop running wild’.
( The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group arrived in waters near the Korean peninsula and began exercises with the South Korean navy late on Saturday. The South Korean navy declined to say when the exercises would be completed.
North Korea has threatened to sink the American armada.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been running sky-high for weeks, with signs the North might be preparing a sixth nuclear weapon test – and with Washington refusing to rule out a military strike in response.
US President Donald Trump has warned of a possible “major conflict” after Pyongyang carried out a series of failed missile tests, including one on Saturday.
Philippines leader says N Korea ‘wants to end world’
Rodrigo Duterte says North Korean leader Kim wants to ‘finish everything’ and ‘drag us all down’ in a nuclear war.
The notoriously blunt Duterte said the Southeast Asia region was extremely worried about tensions between the United States and North Korea, and said one misstep would be a “catastrophe” and Asia would be the first victim of a nuclear war.

28 April
Trump on North Korea: Tactic? ‘Madman Theory’? Or Just Mixed Messages?
(NYT) It was only a few hours after his secretary of state cracked open the door on Thursday to negotiating with the North Koreans that President Trump stepped in with exactly the kind of martial-sounding threats against the country that the White House, until now, had carefully avoided.
“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea,” he said to Reuters during a round of his 100-days-in-office commemorations. “Absolutely.”
Viewed in the most charitable light, Mr. Trump was, in his own nondiplomatic way, building pressure to force the North to halt its nuclear and missile tests, the first step toward resuming the kind of negotiations that Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has begun to talk about.
If so, the North Koreans did not pick up on the hint: A few hours after Mr. Tillerson told the United Nations Security Council it must vigorously enforce sanctions against the North, Pyongyang launched another missile.

18 April
(Quartz) The US, Japan, and South Korea discuss North Korea. The Defense Trilateral Talks take place annually, but this year’s event in Tokyo is particularly timely amid growing tensions on the Korean peninsula. Pyongyang may test another missile or nuclear weapon to mark a key military anniversary on April 25.

Aircraft Carrier Wasn’t Sailing to Deter North Korea, as U.S. Suggested
(NYT) Just over a week ago, the White House declared that ordering an American aircraft carrier into the Sea of Japan would send a powerful deterrent signal to North Korea and give President Trump more options in responding to the North’s provocative behavior. “We’re sending an armada,” Mr. Trump said to Fox News last Tuesday afternoon.
The problem was that the carrier, the Carl Vinson, and the three other warships in its strike force were that very moment sailing in the opposite direction, to take part in joint exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean, 3,500 miles southwest of the Korean Peninsula.
Donald Trump said he was sending an ‘armada’ to North Korea – but it was heading the other way
“We are sending an armada – very powerful,” said Donald Trump, as the USS Carl Vinson sailed the other way
(Sky News) The US military’s Pacific Command has now explained that it had to complete the training with Australia, and that the strike group was now “proceeding to the Western Pacific as ordered” and should arrive near the Korean Peninsula early next week.

15-16 April
North Korean missile ‘blows up’ on test launch as US Vice-President Mike Pence heads for South
(REUTERS, AFP via Straits Times) – A North Korean missile “blew up almost immediately” on its test launch on Sunday (April 16), the United States Pacific Command said, hours before US Vice President Mike Pence was due in South Korea for talks on the North’s increasingly defiant arms programme.
The failed launch from North Korea’s east coast, ignoring admonitions from major ally China, came a day after North Korea held a military parade in its capital, marking the birth anniversary of the state founder, in which what appeared to be new long-range ballistic missiles were on display.
The timing of the test, coinciding with Pence’s trip and a day after the military parade, would suggest deliberate defiance.
North Korea parade missiles
Everything we know about the new missiles North Korea paraded in front of the world
(Quartz) North Korea didn’t launch a missile or conduct a nuclear test, as feared, but it used an important national holiday to show off new firepower that could be capable of striking far-off enemies.
A massive military parade in Pyongyang celebrated the Day of the Sun, April 15, which is the birthday of North Korea’s late founder Kim Il Sung. His grandson, Kim Jong Un, leads the country today.
The parade was broadcast on state television and made widely available on the internet. North Korea, typically closed off to foreign journalists, even allowed a live broadcast by the BBC while tanks and missiles rolled by its camera.
Military analysts said the parade featured three types of intercontinental ballistic missiles, one of which appeared to be new. North Korea has never tested a missile that could cross the Pacific Ocean, and many experts are skeptical of whether it is capable of doing so. But Kim Jong Un recently said his military was preparing for such a test, which could provoke a response from the nation’s adversaries.
China says North Korea tension has to be stopped from reaching ‘irreversible’ stage
(Reuters) China said on Friday tension over North Korea had to be stopped from reaching an “irreversible and unmanageable stage” as a U.S. aircraft carrier group steamed toward the region amid fears the North may conduct a sixth nuclear weapons test.
Concern has grown since the U.S. Navy fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airfield last week in response to a deadly gas attack, raising questions about U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans for North Korea, which has conducted missile and nuclear tests in defiance of U.N. and unilateral sanctions.
China, North Korea’s sole major ally and neighbor which nevertheless opposes its weapons program, has called for talks leading to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
(Quartz) As tensions mount on the Korean peninsula, the world learned that US president Donald Trump realized the situation there was complicated only after a 10 minute history lecture from Chinese premier Xi Jinping. So, …  Xi—leader of the US’s biggest regional rival—grabbed him by the arm and explained the epic faceplant he was about to inflict upon America.
The rumblings are North Korea may test a nuclear device today—possibly as you’re reading this email. US Navy vessels are in position nearby, but thanks to Trump’s doctrine of unpredictability, no one knows if their rules of engagement are preemptive, defensive, or retaliatory. Perhaps even the troops themselves are in the dark.

12 April
Trump Says He Offered China Better Trade Terms in Exchange for Help on North Korea
President doesn’t demand departure of Syria’s Assad but says it is likely
(WSJ) Mr. Trump, in a wide-ranging interview with The Wall Street Journal, said he told Mr. Xi when they met for the first time last week that his administration wouldn’t accept a continued large trade deficit with China. He added that he told Mr. Xi: “‘But you want to make a great deal? Solve the problem in North Korea.’ That’s worth having deficits. And that’s worth having not as good a trade deal as I would normally be able to make.”
Trump on North Korea: “After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy”
(Vox) President Donald Trump recounted an absolutely astounding detail about one of his conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping in comments published by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday afternoon. Apparently, Trump came into his first meeting with the Chinese leader, in early April, convinced that China could simply eliminate the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program. Xi then patiently explained Chinese-Korean history to Trump — who then promptly changed his mind.
Crisis in North Korea: behind the escalating standoff in Northeast Asia
Nathan VanderKlippe explores the current relationship between Pyongyang, China and the West – and what history tells us about what might happen next
The warning could hardly have been more clear. If the U.S. and South Korea don’t halt massive annual military exercises now under way, the result will be “a major cause of escalation of tension that might turn into actual war,” a North Korean representative said this week.
Days earlier, North Korea simultaneously launched four missiles in the direction of Japan. In response, a U.S. military aircraft landed at an airbase just south of Seoul to deliver the first components of an anti-missile defence system that is now being rushed into place – prompting a furious rebuke from China.
In the background lies the giddy ambition of North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un, who appears to be nearing success in his pursuit of a nuclear bomb that can be affixed to a missile and delivered to the continental United States.
Pyongyang’s looming moment of technological triumph, an achievement it has sought for decades, has suddenly thrust northeast Asia into a new period of tensions and recriminations. Both sides have darkly discussed the dangers of a catastrophic pre-emptive nuclear strike. (Globe & Mail 10 March)

The Australian: Caution vital over North Korea
In recent months Pyongyang has warned repeatedly that it is planning another nuclear test (or test of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead) to mark the 105th anniversary on Saturday of the birth of the rogue nation’s founder, Kim Il-sung, grandfather of incumbent ruler Kim Jong-un. Another day mentioned by Pyongyang for possible nuclear or missile activity is April 25, the 85th anniversary of the founding of the 950,000-strong Korean People’s Army.
China, on which Pyongyang relies for its survival, must heed the US warning. Beijing’s interests lie in using its influence to ensure Pyongyang backs off, a point emphasised during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s US visit.

11 April
North Korea warns of nuclear strike if provoked; Trump ‘armada’ steams on
(Reuters) North Korean state media warned on Tuesday of a nuclear attack on the United States at any sign of American aggression, as a U.S. Navy strike group steamed toward the western Pacific – a force U.S. President Donald Trump described as an “armada”.

9 April
Tillerson: China agrees on ‘action’ on North Korea as navy strike group sails
Secretary of state: ‘President Xi understands the situation has intensified’
(The Guardian) Tillerson told CBS’s Face the Nation, in an interview broadcast on Sunday, that when Donald Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping met at the Mar-a-Lago resort this week, they “had extensive discussions around the dangerous situation in North Korea”.
“President Xi clearly understands, and I think agrees, that the situation has intensified and has reached a certain level of threat that action has to be taken,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson described a “shared view and no disagreement as to how dangerous the situation has become”.
U.S. Carrier Diverts to North Asia Amid North Korea Tension
(Bloomberg) Reuters reported the carrier will move near the Korean peninsula, citing a U.S. official it did not identify. Pacific Command declined to provide the precise location the carrier strike force will be deployed. U.S. President Donald Trump sent a message to North Korea and its ally China during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida that he was willing to take action over Kim Jong Un’s nuclear program, said Lee Ho-ryung, chief of North Korean studies at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses.

6 April
Kim Jong-un launches missile before ahead of Xi-Trump talks
(The Australian) North Korea has launched a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan, sending a message that it is un­afraid and unabashed in its ­nuclear ambitions as the world’s two most powerful leaders prepare to meet tomorrow.
The KN-15 missile was fired yesterday from the port city of Sinpo on the country’s east, and reached about 60km. … such attention-grabbing moves have been a feature of North Korea’s Kim dynasty since its earliest days, and are continuing under the third dictator in the family, Kim Jong-un.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said yesterday’s missile was not launched from a submarine, as happened last August, nor was it an intercontinental missile — which Kim has boasted he will soon be able to deploy, putting the US west coast or the east coast of Australia within range.
A North Kor­ean attempt to launch a ballistic missile a fortnight ago — also from its east coast — failed.
This followed a more ambitious exercise earlier last month when it fired four missiles, three of which came down within the ­waters of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
The successful launch yesterday — albeit with a shorter range — may be seen in part as an ­attempt to recover prestige after the previous attempt failed, as well as sending a signal to Mr Trump and Mr Xi that North Korea is happy to be the focus of the historic Florida summit.
April 25 marks the 85th anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s military — an occasion celebrated in the past with large parades and speeches by the dictator.
South Korean authorities fear this anniversary will involve a further missile launch.

4 April
Storm Clouds Over Korea
By Joschka Fischer
(Project Syndicate) To date, all diplomatic and technological efforts to prevent North Korea’s nuclear armament have failed. It is only a matter of time until North Korea has nuclear-armed missiles that can reach South Korea and its capital of Seoul, Japan, and even large cities on the West Coast of North America.
A military confrontation on the Korean Peninsula could lead to a nightmare scenario in which nuclear weapons are used, or even to a larger clash between nuclear-armed global powers. Either scenario would have serious consequences beyond the immediate geographic vicinity. And yet North Korea’s concerted push to develop nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles means that a continued wait-and-see policy is no longer a serious option.
A diplomatic solution, however, can be achieved only if the US and China cooperate closely and do not repeat past mistakes. For example, the Trump administration would do well not to pursue an overly aggressive policy toward China in the South China Sea, in light of the burgeoning crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
At the same time, China’s leaders need to ask themselves how much longer they intend to provide unconditional support to the North Korean regime – which is completely dependent on Chinese supplies – rather than putting pressure on it to cease its provocations. To avoid a military conflict, China and the US will need to agree on a joint approach and move toward reviving the Six-Party Talks with North Korea.

3 April
The Guardian view on Trump and North Korea: the risks are growing
There are no good options for tackling Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme. But the military ones are by far the most alarming
(Editorial) North Korea’s nuclear programme has been a source of grave international concern for decades, with good reason. The issue is not, as popular portrayal might suggest, that the regime is unpredictable and irrational. On the contrary, it has proved itself committed to steadily advancing the development of weapons, and calculating in using that development to ensure its survival and extract benefits such as aid. Its extravagant threats, tests and other provocations have been reliable in their recurrence, if not always their timing or nature. After the failure of an aid-for-denuclearisation deal, and then of the six-party talks on the issue, the international community has been united in its opposition to the programme and its inability to address it meaningfully.
Meanwhile, North Korea is advancing towards its goal of mounting a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile that could reach the US.
How this White House might tackle Pyongyang’s nuclear programme is becoming a greater cause for immediate concern than the programme itself. Mr Trump’s announcement that the US will go it alone if China does not help address the problem is profoundly worrying, especially given secretary of state Rex Tillerson’s remark that military options are not off the table. Allies are deeply concerned.

30 March
North Korea condemns U.S. senators for ‘offending’ Kim Jong Un
(UPI) About a week after Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called Kim Jong Un a “crazy fat kid” on MSNBC’s For the Record with Greta, the statement was condemned by Pyongyang, a rare move for the relatively isolated country.
A North Korean foreign ministry spokesman told a KCNA reporter McCain’s comments were “blasphemy” and that the U.S. senator had offended the country’s “supreme dignity.”
The spokesman also said “hardline conservative figures like Ted Cruz” were likewise affronting the “supreme dignity” of Kim by proposing to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.

9 March
China warned the US not to provoke Pyongyang. Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said Wednesday that by holding military drills with South Korea, Washington is creating a “looming crisis” in the Korean peninsula. He fears a “head-on collision” between North Korea and the US. Beijing is furious that the US started delivering its THAAD missile system to South Korea this week.

6 March
(Reuters) North Korea fired four ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan’s northwest on Monday. The tests angered South Korea and Japan, and occurred just days after North Korea promised retaliation over U.S.-South Korea military drills it sees as a preparation for war. The Kremlin also said it was “seriously worried” about the drills. The United States has about 28,500 troops and equipment stationed in the South, and plans to roll out the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile defense system by the end of the year. All the aspects of the North’s nuclear weapons program, in this Reuters graphic.

4 March
Trump Inherits a Secret Cyberwar Against North Korean Missiles
(NYT) Three years ago, President Barack Obama ordered Pentagon officials to step up their cyber and electronic strikes against North Korea’s missile program in hopes of sabotaging test launches in their opening seconds.
Soon a large number of the North’s military rockets began to explode, veer off course, disintegrate in midair and plunge into the sea. Advocates of such efforts say they believe that targeted attacks have given American antimissile defenses a new edge and delayed by several years the day when North Korea will be able to threaten American cities with nuclear weapons launched atop intercontinental ballistic missiles.
But other experts have grown increasingly skeptical of the new approach. Over the past eight months, they note, the North has managed to successfully launch three medium-range rockets. And Kim Jong-un now claims his country is in “the final stage in preparations” for the inaugural test of his intercontinental missiles — perhaps a bluff, perhaps not.
An examination of the Pentagon’s disruption effort, based on interviews with officials of the Obama and Trump administrations as well as a review of extensive but obscure public records, found that the United States still does not have the ability to effectively counter the North Korean nuclear and missile programs. Those threats are far more resilient than many experts thought, The New York Times’s reporting found, and pose such a danger that Mr. Obama, as he left office, warned President Trump they were likely to be the most urgent problem he would confront.

2 March
Relations between Malaysia and North Korea turned even more sour. Malaysia suddenly scrapped visa-free travel for North Koreans as the rift between the two countries widens over the assassination of Kim Jong-nam—the half-brother of Kim Yong-un—in Kuala Lumpur airport. Kim was killed using a deadly banned nerve agent, which experts suspect was made in a sophisticated state weapons lab.
28 February
How To Stop North Korea: A Geoeconomic Approach
By Dr. Shepherd Iverson, foreign professor in the Institute for Korean Studies at Inha University in South Korea
(Forbes) Popular consensus is that North Korea distains Chinese interference in its domestic and foreign affairs and that Beijing has distanced itself from Pyongyang. It is frequently cited that Xi has not met with Kim. Although there is circumstantial evidence for estrangement, this does not discredit the alternative hypothesis that China privately approves of North Korea’s behavior and feigns displeasure to disguise its real intent. Analysts who presume acrimony fail to identify the surrogate role Pyongyang plays in promoting the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) traditional “anti-imperialist” foreign policy. And dependent leaders of fragile surrogate states need not like their overseers to do as expected when money—or its equivalent—is on the table.
intelligence discoveries plus Beijing’s lackluster response to Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests and its failure to enforce UN sanctions suggest that China’s support for North Korea may not be a benign legacy of the Cold War, but is part of a larger geopolitical strategy. After establishing Pakistan as a nuclear power on one flank, China may prefer a surrogate ally with nuclear muscle on its other flank. The bottom line is that this client-proxy relationship would dissolve if North Korea’s nuclear missile program, and missile exports and nuclear technology transfers to the Middle East were unacceptable to China’s larger strategic objectives. Indeed, Beijing would surely prohibit transshipments and withhold support if Pyongyang started selling weapons to Xinjiang rebels or to the Dali Lama.
However, as decades of globalization have changed the geostrategic landscape, and growing economic integration and prosperity discourages the use of raw military power to settle disputes, the atavistic policies of old-school Chinese (and U.S.) hardliners may be overruled by a new generation of geopolitical pragmatists who see an opportunity for cooperative positive-sum geoeconomic diplomacy.
Malaysia said it would charge two women with Kim Jong-nam’s murder. The suspects (one Vietnamese, the other from Indonesia) will face the death penalty if convicted of the assassination of the North Korean leader’s half-brother. Kim is believed to have been killed with a dose of deadly VX nerve agent. A North Korean delegation arrived in Malaysia today to take Kim’s body home.
27 February
North Korea spy agency runs arms operation out of Malaysia, U.N. says
(Reuters) It is in Kuala Lumpur’s “Little India” neighborhood, behind an unmarked door on the second floor of a rundown building, where a military equipment company called Glocom says it has its office.
Glocom is a front company run by North Korean intelligence agents that sells battlefield radio equipment in violation of United Nations sanctions, according to a United Nations report submitted to the Security Council seen by Reuters. Glocom is controlled by the Reconnaissance General Bureau, the North Korean intelligence agency tasked with overseas operations and weapons procurement, the report says, citing undisclosed information it obtained.
Malaysia is one of the few countries in the world which had strong ties with North Korea. Their citizens can travel to each other’s countries without visas. But those ties have begun to sour after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother was murdered at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport on Feb 13.
25 February
Trump Administration Cancels Back-Channel Talks With North Korea
(NYT) “I suspect it was a combination of the VX attack and the president’s personal pique that caused the reversal,” the person said. “Someone obviously looked at the fact that the United States was going to issue visas to representatives of a country that had just violated international law, carried out a murder and intentionally violated the sovereignty of another country, and decided, ‘Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.’”
While the talks were unofficial, they were seen as a test of the willingness of the Trump administration to begin serious negotiations at a later date, or to send a special American envoy to North Korea.
24 February
(The Atlantic) Kim Jong Nam’s Murder: Malaysian officials announced today that the poison used last week to kill the exiled half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was VX nerve agent, a chemical so lethal that it’s classified as a weapon of mass destruction. Since VX can only be produced in a sophisticated lab, it’s a strong indication that the assassination was state-sponsored—and many suspect North Korea. Yet if Kim Jong Un did order the fratricide, he may have sabotaged himself: The murder undermines the myth of the ruling family’s invincible bloodline, and that’s arguably the only thing ensuring that Kim stays in power.
17 February
Woman linked to Kim Jong-nam attack thought it was a prank: police
Investigators were still trying to piece together details of the case, and South Korea has not said how it concluded that North Korea was behind the killing.
Malaysian police were questioning three suspects and waiting for autopsy results that could shed light on why Kim Jong-nam suddenly fell ill at the airport on Monday as he waited for a flight home to Macau.
Dizzy and in pain, he told medical workers at the airport he had been sprayed with a chemical. Within two hours, Malaysian officials said, he was dead.
Kim Jong-nam, who was 45 or 46, had lived in exile for years and was estranged from his younger half brother, the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
14 February
UN Security Council condemns North Korea missile launch
Security Council urges members to enforce sanctions after Pyongyang’s latest ballistic missile test-firing.
U.N., Trump denounce North Korea, but no sign of any action
13 February
(Quartz) Turmoil after North Korea’s latest missile test. The US, Japan, and South Korea have requested a Monday meeting at the UN after North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan Sunday, violating UN restrictions. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe pronounced the test “intolerable,” while others see it as North Korea’s way of provoking Trump.
North Korea’s missile launch points to advances, US officials say
(CNN)The Pentagon has assessed that North Korea’s weekend missile launch showed new capabilities, US officials told CNN on Monday.
The launch involved the first land-based test of an intermediate-range missile that, in the past, has been fired from a submarine, two US officials said. And because it was launched from a west coast missile site, it flew farther than any previous North Korean tests, about 300 miles before dropping into the Sea of Japan.


9 September
Global condemnation for North Korea nuclear test, sanctions threatened
(Reuters) North Korea conducted its fifth and biggest nuclear test on Friday and said it had mastered the ability to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile, ratcheting up a threat that rivals and the United Nations have been powerless to contain.
The United Nations Security Council was set to discuss the latest test and whether the 15-member body should punish North Korea with more sanctions at a meeting on Friday, diplomats said. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged the 15-member group to remain united and take action that would “urgently break this accelerating spiral of escalation.”
U.S. President Barack Obama said after speaking by telephone with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, that they had agreed to work with the Security Council and other powers to vigorously enforce existing measures against North Korea and to take “additional significant steps, including new sanctions.”
India Can’t Ignore Rawalpindi-Pyongyang Nexus’ Nuclear Threat
(The Quint) There are many complex regional and global implications of the latest North Korean nuclear test (the first credible nuclear explosion was conducted in October 2006) that involve the major regional powers — the US, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea — and their bi-lateral and multilateral relations.
Some of these strands have a relevance for India, particularly in relation to how Japan and South Korea now perceive their own WMD (weapons of mass destruction) security and the degree to which they feel that the US nuclear umbrella is adequate to assuage the insecurity that a nuclear Pyongyang induces.
Timeline: North Korea’s nuclear weapons development
Pyongyang is suspected of having detonated a 5th nuclear device at a test site in the north east of the country. This is how it got to this stage
30 August
North Korea executes officials with anti-aircraft gun in new purge – report
Two senior regime officers reported to have been killed for posing a threat to leader Kim Jong-un
Hwang was reportedly killed for making policy proposals that were seen as a direct threat to Kim’s leadership. The report did not give details of the proposals. Ri was said to have been executed for falling asleep during a meeting chaired by Kim.
19 July
North Korea launches three more ballistic missiles
Latest launches come a week after South Korea and US revealed plans to deploy Thaad missile defence shield
North Korea launched three ballistic missiles into the sea on Tuesday, South Korean have said.
The missiles, presumed to be Scud-types, were launched from North Hwanghae province and travelled for up to 600km (370 miles), South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted the military as saying. The range is enough to reach all of South Korea, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said
6 July
Kim Jong-un placed on sanctions blacklist for the first time by US
Ten top North Korean officials also blacklisted for widespread human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, forced labor and torture, US said
According to officials in Washington, the ministry of state security holds 80,000 to 120,000 prisoners in political prison camps where torture, execution, sexual assault, starvation and slave labor are common.
Meanwhile, the ministry of people’s security overseen by Kim runs a network of police stations, detention centers and labor camps where suspects under interrogation “are systematically degraded, intimidated and tortured”, the United States said.
Kim is “rather plainly ultimately responsible for the actions of his regime including its repressive policies”, a senior US official said, speaking anonymously.
But authorities in Washington for the first time identified other top officials directly involved in rights abuses, including Choe Pu Il, the minister of people’s security, Ri Song Chol, a senior official in the minister of people’s security, and Kang Song Nam, a bureau director with the ministry of state security.
18 May
Donald Trump says he is open to talks with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he was willing to talk to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to try to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear program, proposing a major shift in US policy toward the isolated nation.
North Korea’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s remarks.
Trump also said he would press China, Pyongyang’s only major diplomatic and economic supporter, to help find a solution.
8 May
Kim Jong-un: the tyrant’s son who wants to be loved and feared
By Simon Tisdall
(The Observer) North Korea’s ruling party meets this weekend for the first time in 36 years. Will the congress show the young leader as the supreme head of a nuclear power, or merely reveal his insecurities?
… one of the most chilling tales about Kim is also largely unsubstantiated: how the young dictator, having inherited power and determined to be his own man, deliberately set about eliminating the senior apparatchiks who had grown rich and powerful under the tutelage of his late father, Kim Jong-il.
As if unwitting actors in a devious, internecine plot from a Godfather movie, the pall-bearers who carried the elder Kim’s coffin during an elaborate state funeral ceremony in the capital in December 2011 have disappeared, died of unknown causes, or been purposefully eliminated, one by one, in the past five years.
7 March
(Quartz) North Korea was as gentle as always with the rhetoric. The Hermit Kingdom said it would turn Washington and Seoul into “flames and ashes” with a “pre-emptive nuclear strike of justice.” The statement is a reaction to joint military drills by the US and South Korea, which started today and continue through April.
9 February
Security Council condemns N. Korea rocket launch
The United Nations Security Council held an emergency session following North Korea’s launch of a long-range rocket. The Security Council condemned the launch, saying it contravenes existing UN sanctions. It also pledged to issue fresh sanctions. BBC (2/8)
U.S. urges China to increase sanctions pressure on North Korea
(Reuters) China agrees any new U.N. resolution on North Korea will include additional sanctions and go beyond previous steps, but Washington is urging Beijing to put even more pressure on Pyongyang after its recent nuclear test and rocket launch, a senior U.S. official said on Monday.
China is in “unique position” as North Korea’s neighbor and ally to compel it to abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, the official told Reuters, as U.N. diplomats sought to craft a new sanctions resolution.
“It’s clear to me that our Chinese friends have indicated that the U.N. Security Council’s response will include sanctions and does need to go beyond previous resolutions,” he said.
North Korea fired a rocket. Pyongyang launched the rocket, which may have violated Japanese airspace, on Sunday morning, prompting the UN Security Council to threaten fresh sanctions. China tried to persuade North Korea not to provoke its neighbors, but it launched the rocket on a major Chinese holiday.
6 January
The most recent and worrisome development was Tuesday’s news from The Hermit Kingdom that it had detonated a hydrogen bomb, after conducting a fourth nuclear test. According to the BBC “Experts believed before the fourth test that North Korea was still some years from being able to hit a target with a nuclear bomb delivered by a missile. But it is crystal clear that it is absolutely determined to be able to do so. It is also clear that it is improving its abilities rapidly.” Not a happy prospect.


12 February
Understanding Kim Jong Un, The World’s Most Enigmatic and Unpredictable Dictator
Everyone knows that North Korea’s leader is a bloodthirsty madman and buffoon—or is he really? Mark Bowden digs into the hard facts for an unusual portrait.
(Vanity Fair) oes anyone make an easier target than Kim Jong Un? He’s Fatboy Kim the Third, the North Korean tyrant with a Fred Flintstone haircut—the grinning, chain-smoking owner of his own small nuclear arsenal, brutal warden to about 120,000 political prisoners, and effectively one of the last pure hereditary absolute monarchs on the planet. He is the Marshal of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Great Successor, and the Sun of the 21st Century. At age 32 the Supreme Leader owns the longest list of excessive honorifics anywhere, every one of them unearned. He is the youngest head of state in the world and probably the most spoiled. On the great grade-school playground of foreign affairs, he might as well be wearing across his broad bottom a big KICK ME sign. Kim is so easy to kick that the United Nations, which famously agrees on nothing, voted overwhelmingly in November to recommend that he and the rest of North Korea’s leadership be hauled before the International Criminal Court, in The Hague, and tried for crimes against humanity. He has been in power for a little more than three years. …
Whatever his true character, Kim faces a problem peculiar to dictators. His power in North Korea is so great that not only does no one dare criticize him, no one dares advise him. If you are too closely associated with the king, your head might someday share the same chopping block. Safer to adopt a “Yes, Marshal” approach. That way, if the king stumbles, you are simply among the countless legion who were obliged to obey his orders. One way to read the confusing signals from Pyongyang in recent years is that they show Kim, isolated and inexperienced, clumsily pulling at the levers of state.


29 December
S Korea, Japan and US to share info on North
Seoul and Tokyo to share intelligence via Washington on N Korea’s missile and nuclear programmes as part of a new pact.
Meanwhile, South Korea proposed on Monday to resume stalled talks with North Korea, hoping to hold negotiations in January to cover issues including reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean war, and possible cooperation projects.
North Korea sent female agents to sleep with foreign dignitaries, then blackmailed them, former insider alleges
In a scheme called “the seed-bearing programme,” high-level foreign visitors to Pyongyang would be sent an attractive consort, only to find out several months later that they had conceived a child.
They would then be blackmailed. Journalists would be asked to write positive stories and businessmen urged to set up joint ventures with local companies. … the children were brought up fiercely loyal to the regime and, with looks that were a combination of cultures, could be infiltrated into other countries as agents.
24 December
It’s OK if you don’t watch The Interview on Christmas, or ever
In defense of our right as Americans to ignore a dumb movie
23 December
The ‘I’m so ronery’ jokes mask the real evil of North Korea
The horror of a recent UN report on North Korea punctures the quirky Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un representations of Team America and The Interview for good
(The Guardian) North Korea isn’t funny. Yes, it’s bizarre, fantastical, unlikely, outlandish. The state news agency, KCNA, carries a stream of absurd praise for the three Kims, all the way to reports of spontaneous natural miracles in their honour. But this is all underpinned by tragedy on an unimaginable scale.
The near religious personality cult surrounding the Kims is central to an all-encompassing system of indoctrination. It’s not amusing. It’s a manifestation of a truly horrible mindset that keeps 25 million people in virtual slavery. Deviate in any way from the official doctrine and you and your family, even your descendants, can end up inside North Korea’s vast, secretive and unimaginably horrible network of prison camps.
The UN report on the human rights situation in North Korea earlier this year contained almost unreadable details of life for the estimated 80,000-120,000 political prisoners. One former inmate told the panel his duties involved burning the bodies of those who had starved to death and using the remains as fertiliser. Another watched a female prisoner forced by guards to drown her newborn baby in a bucket because it was presumed to have a Chinese father.
22 December
A Lot of Smart People Think North Korea Didn’t Hack Sony
The evidence linking agents of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the recent digital implosion of Sony remains vague. And even though the feds are squarely blaming North Korea, many security experts aren’t buying it.
North Korea’s internet appears to be under mass cyber attack
Internet connectivity between North Korea and the outside world, though never robust to begin with, is currently suffering one of its worst outages in recent memory, suggesting that the country may be enduring a mass cyber attack a few days after President Obama warned the US would launch a “proportional response” to North Korea’s hack against Sony.
… While it’s entirely possible that this is due to run-of-the-mill maintenance or technical issues, it’s hard to miss that the outage comes just days after President Obama condemned North Korea as responsible for the massive cyberattack against Sony and pledged a “proportional” US response. Two other cybersecurity firms confirmed to the New York Times that North Korea’s is collapsing amid an apparent cyber attack.
The outage also comes as China is investigating the accusations against North Korea over the Sony hack. North Korea’s internet access is wired through China, which gives China more or less direct control over North Korea’s access to the outside world.
27 November
Kim Jong UnKim Jong-un: beyond the personality cult
From a lonely young boy to a third generation tyrant who went on to execute his own family members
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is coming under increased scrutiny amid claims of crimes against humanity in the country and as his regime pushes ahead with its nuclear programme. But the life of the ‘Great Successor’ remains shrouded in mystery.
Worshipped and feared in equal measure at home, criticised and ridiculed abroad – what do we know about one of the world’s most secretive leaders?
28 October
Mystery Of Kim Jong Un’s Disappearance May Be Solved
(AP) — South Korea’s spy agency believes it has solved the mystery of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s 6-week public absence that set off a frenzy of global speculation, a lawmaker who attended the agency’s closed-door briefing said Wednesday.
The National Intelligence Service told legislators Tuesday that a foreign doctor operated on Kim in September or October to remove a cyst from his left ankle, lawmaker Shin Kyung-min said. He said the spy agency also told lawmakers that the cyst could recur because of Kim’s obesity, smoking and heavy public schedule.
After last being seen in state media on Sept. 3, Kim reappeared on Oct. 14 hobbling with a cane, but smiling and looking thinner. The speculation during his absence was particularly intense because of the Kim family’s importance to the country locked in a long-running international standoff over its nuclear and missile programs. …
The agency also told the lawmakers that North Korea has expanded one of its five political prisoner camps in the country. The agency said it believes authorities are relocating inmates held in the Yodok camp, northeast of Pyongyang, to the expanded camp in the northeastern town of Kilju, according to Shin’s office.
Shin said the agency also believes that North Korea recently used a firing squad to execute several people who had been close to Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who was considered the country’s No. 2 power before his sudden purge and execution in December 2013.
13 July
North Korea fires missiles into sea in apparent anger over military drill
Two short-range ballistic missiles are fired into East Sea overnight as South Korea and US prepare for joint exercise
11 July
How South Korea and America wrecked chance for reconciliation with the North
As North Korea commemorates 20th anniversary of death of Kim Il-sung, Mark Barry reflects on a costly missed opportunity
(The Guardian) North Korea’s founding father Kim Il-sung died suddenly 20 years ago this week – 17 days before what would have been the first inter-Korean summit. The weeks leading up to his death – and even his funeral – were rare moments of opportunity for reconciliation, missed by South Korea and the US.
14 February
Crimes Against Humanity Committed In North Korea, UN Panel Finds
(AP) — A U.N. Commission of Inquiry has found that crimes against humanity have been committed in North Korea and recommends that its findings be referred to the International Criminal Court, two people familiar with the commission’s report have told The Associated Press.
The commission, which conducted a yearlong investigation, has found evidence of an array of such crimes, including “extermination,” crimes against humanity against starving populations and a widespread campaign of abductions of individuals in South Korea and Japan.
Its report, due for release Monday, does not examine in detail individual responsibility for the alleged crimes but recommends steps toward accountability.
13 February
Kerry Talks North Korean Denuclearization with Chinese Leaders
(Foreign Policy Morning Brief) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Chinese President Xi Jingping and other senior officials in Beijing today. The delegations discussed climate change, human rights, and the ongoing conflict in Syria, among other topics.
Following the talks, Secretary Kerry told reporters that Chinese officials had committed to taking further steps to achieve North Korean denuclearization, though he declined to elaborate on the specifics.


11 September
Koreas Set Date for Reopening Shuttered Industrial Park
(VOA News) North and South Korea have agreed to reopen a jointly-run industrial park just inside the North Korean border on a trial basis starting next Monday.
The South’s Unification Ministry says negotiators reached the deal on the Kaesong industrial complex following lengthy negotiations that lasted through early Wednesday.
23 August
Koreas agree on talks to reunite families
North and South Korea are set to hold talks on reuniting families separated by the Korean War.
(Al Jazeera) The meetings were suspended three years ago.
Since then, ties between Seoul and Pyongyang have become worse.
But Friday’s talks are seen as a sign that tension is easing.
16 April
North Korea’s war threats may be aimed at stifling domestic discontent
North Koreans are becoming less afraid of their government and increasingly well-informed about the outside world
(The Guardian) North Korea is a remarkable country. How else would a small state with no economy to speak of manage to create a massive media panic and remain in the headlines for a couple of weeks in a row?
The question remains though: if Pyongyang is not about to launch a nuclear strike on the continental United States – and it clearly is not – what has it been up to for the past three weeks? One aim of this political theatrics is rather clear: the North Korean government wants to remind the world of its existence and demonstrate that it is cheaper to make a deal than sanction it. This time, however, there is good reason to believe that domestic considerations are also at work.
15 April
Jeffrey Sachs: A Better Approach Towards North Korea
If we act calmly and sensibly, we can easily defuse the current crisis. North Korea is looking for respect, not war. It’s time to talk, to lower the heat, and to avoid a confrontation or the imposition of impossible or humiliating demands. And we need to remember, if we are to induce good behavior among others, we will have to stop our bad habit of killing them afterward.
13 April
U.S., China agree to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons
(Globe & Mail) Bound by threats from North Korea, the U.S. and China agreed Saturday to rid the bellicose nation of nuclear weapons in a test of whether the world powers can shelve years of rivalry and discord, and unite in fostering global stability.
Beyond this latest attempt to restrain North Korea, the burgeoning nuclear crisis has so frustrated the U.S. and China that they are forming a new and tentative bond with the potential to carry over into areas that have vexed them for decades.
[US Secretary of State John] Kerry and the Chinese foreign policy chief, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, said the two nations would work together to create a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, effectively forcing North Korea to give up its arsenal.
Yang, through an interpreter, described China’s stance on North Korea as “clear cut” and called for resuming the six-nation talks that fell apart four years ago and are aimed at ending the nuclear threat. U.S. says agrees with China on peaceful North Korea solution
(Reuters) – The United States said on Saturday that China had agreed to help rid North Korea of its nuclear capability by peaceful means, but Beijing made no specific commitment in public to pressure its long-time ally to change its ways.
9 April
Ferocious, Weak and Crazy: The North Korean Strategy | Stratfor
North Korea has been using the threat of tests and the tests themselves as weapons against its neighbors and the United States for years. On the surface, threatening to test weapons does not appear particularly sensible. If the test fails, you look weak. If it succeeds, you look dangerous without actually having a deliverable weapon. And the closer you come to having a weapon, the more likely someone is to attack you so you don’t succeed in actually getting one. Developing a weapon in absolute secret would seem to make more sense. When the weapon is ready, you display it, and you have something solid to threaten enemies with.
North Korea, of course, has been doing this for years and doing it successfully, so what appears absurd on the surface quite obviously isn’t.
8 April
dprk_pyongyang_cinema_studio_kim_sculpture_05_595Venerating the Kims — Just one more religion?
(The Economist) WHAT is the tenth most widely followed religion in the world? According to, a site which gathers data on faith from many sources, that honour goes to juche, the national ideology of North Korea, which is credited with 19m followers. As the site’s editors explain, “from a sociological viewpoint, it is clearly a religion”. Juche is more obviously religious in character than either Soviet communism or Maoism. Thomas J Belke, an American Protestant theologian who has written a book about juche, agrees that it’s a religion. “It has a comprehensive belief system, holy places, distinctive customs…and it displaces other religions.”
It does not take a sociological genius to see that the cult of the North Korean state’s founder, Kim Il Sung, and of his son and successor Kim Jong Il, who ruled from 1994 to 2011, shares many features with established creeds. Images of the Kims, and their all-wise pronouncements, fill the sensory field of every North Korean, in a way that Christianity permeated daily life in medieval Europe or Byzantium. The founder is sometimes presented as a kind of god, and his successor as the “son of a god”—a formula that has echoes of Christian theology. If the latest member of the dynasty to take the helm, Kim Jong Un, has any legitimacy, it is as the grandson of one divine figure and son of another. The young scion is starting to accumulate laudatory titles of his own.
North Korea suspends last project with South, Putin cites Chernobyl
(Reuters) – North Korea suspended its sole remaining major project with the South on Monday, after weeks of threats against the United States and South Korea, as Russian President Vladimir Putin said any nuclear conflict could make Chernobyl look like a fairy tale.
North Korean nuclear test preparations suspected
South Korean government says there are signs the regime is getting ready for what would be its fourth nuclear weapon test
7 April
North Korea: experts call for dialogue – and say China must play a part
(The Guardian) Washington postpones planned missile test as Switzerland offers to act as mediator with Pyongyang
China wades into Korean peninsula tensions
President Xi speaks out over standoff as US delays intercontinental missile launch amid tension with North Korea.
(Al Jazeera) China has added its voice to the growing tensions in the Korean peninsula, saying no country should cause global chaos after the US postponed a missile test to ease war fears.
Xi Jinping, the president of China, North Korea’s financial and diplomatic backer, issued the veiled rebuke of its ally on Sunday after repeated threats from the North of a nuclear strike against the United States and South Korea and joint military training exercises between Pyongyang’s two enemies.
“No one should be allowed to throw a region, or even the whole world, into chaos for selfish gains,” Xi told a forum on the southern island of Hainan, without naming any specific country.
Xi’s comments came a day after North Korean authorities told diplomatic missions they could not guarantee their safety from next Wednesday, declaring that conflict was inevitable amid joint US-South Korean military exercises.
5 April
In North Korea, nine is the magic number
An analysis of the regime’s significant dates shows a dynasty of Kims obsessed with the number nine. Watch out on 10 April 13 (10-04-13) (The Guardian) – Nothing major happened
Wednesday Night’s Two Davids debate the importance of the North Korea threat:
David (Jones) North Korea: Military Maneuvers Indicate a Legitimate Threat
David (Kilgour)  North Korea’s posturing merely reflects the country’s crumbling status
4 April
U.S. to send missile defenses to Guam over North Korea threat
(Reuters) – The United States said it would soon send a missile defense system to Guam to defend it from North Korea, as the U.S. military adjusts to what Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called a “real and clear danger” from Pyongyang. … North Korea also repeated its threat to launch a nuclear attack on the United States. Pyongyang said it had ratified a potential strike because of U.S. military deployments around the Korean peninsula that it claimed were a prelude to a possible nuclear attack on the North.
North Korea Twitter Account Hacked Amid Tension; Anonymous Allegedly Grabs Data
(HuffPost) North Korea opened its Twitter account in 2010. It has more than 13,000 followers. The North uses the social media to praise its system and leaders and also to repeat commentaries sent out by North’s official Korean Central News Agency.
1 April
The Next Korean War
Conflict With North Korea Could Go Nuclear — But Washington Can Reduce the Risk
(Foreign Affairs) Ironically, the risk of North Korean nuclear war stems not from weakness on the part of the United States and South Korea but from their strength. If war erupted, the North Korean army, short on training and armed with decrepit equipment, would prove no match for the U.S.–South Korean Combined Forces Command. Make no mistake, Seoul would suffer some damage, but a conventional war would be a rout, and CFC forces would quickly cross the border and head north.
At that point, North Korea’s inner circle would face a grave decision: how to avoid the terrible fates of such defeated leaders as Saddam Hussein and Muammar al-Qaddafi. Kim, his family, and his cronies could try to escape to China and plead for a comfortable, lifelong sanctuary there — an increasingly dim prospect given Beijing’s growing frustration with Kim’s regime. Pyongyang’s only other option would be to try to force a cease-fire by playing its only trump card: nuclear escalation.
Expert Sees High Likelihood of North Korean Attack
In an exclusive interview with LIGNET, North Korea expert Dr. Sung-Yoon Lee says current tensions with North Korea are so high that they are likely to result in some kind of North Korean attack or bombing, possibly within a few days. Dr. Lee also discusses why the West has had such difficulty in dealing with the North Korean regime and the policies that America should employ to deal with it.  All Rights Reserved
30 March
Pyongyang Blusters, and U.S. Worries About Quieter Risks
(NYT) This week, North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jung-un, ordered his underlings to prepare for a missile attack on the United States. He appeared at a command center in front of a wall map with the bold, unlikely title, “Plans to Attack the Mainland U.S.” Earlier in the month, his generals boasted of developing a “Korean-style” nuclear warhead that could be fitted atop a long-range missile.
… it is the abilities that Mr. Kim is not showing off that have the Obama administration most worried. The cyberattacks on South Korea’s banking system and television broadcasters two weeks ago were surprisingly successful, as was the torpedo attack three years ago this week on the Cheonan, a naval corvette, that killed 46 South Korean sailors. …
To North Korea experts in Washington and Seoul, there is something familiar in the country’s threats to “keep the White House in the cross hairs of our long-range missiles.” Such threat of armed brinkmanship  … has in the past drawn its adversaries to the bargaining table with economic concessions. But at the same time, the tensions with the outside world provide the government with opportunities to elevate its leader’s status among his people.
21 March
A running list of North Korea’s near-daily threats

(Foreign Policy) If you’re having a hard time keeping track of the multitude of threats issued by North Korea in the last few weeks, you’re not alone: Kim Jong Un’s young regime is on a seemingly endless tear of warnings and provocations. From threats of a nuclear holocaust to artillery strikes near disputed borders, here are the latest shots across the bow from the Hermit Kingdom, beginning with those that followed international sanctions over Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February:
7 March
North Korea threatens nuclear strike, U.N. expands sanctions
(Reuters) – North Korea threatened the United States on Thursday with a preemptive nuclear strike, raising the level of rhetoric as the U.N. Security Council approved new sanctions against the reclusive country.
China’s U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong said Beijing wanted to see “full implementation” of the new Security Council resolution.
UN cracks down on North Korea, issues sanctions
The United Nations Security Council unanimously voted today to issue new sanctions against North Korea in retribution for that country’s third nuclear test. North Korea faces restrictions on financial instruments and shipments of certain cargo. The resolution “sent an unequivocal message to [North Korea] that the international community will not tolerate its pursuit of nuclear weapons,” says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Reuters (3/7)
5 March
New U.N. sanctions to take aim at North Korean diplomats: U.S
(Reuters) – A draft U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution that Washington and Beijing have agreed on targets illicit activities by North Korean diplomats and Pyongyang’s banking relationships, U.S. envoy to the United Nations Susan Rice said on Tuesday.
“For the first time ever, this resolution targets the illicit activities of North Korean diplomatic personnel, North Korean banking relationships, (and) illicit transfers of bulk cash,” Rice said after a closed-door meeting of the 15-nation council.
Did Kim Jong-un and his wife have a baby?
(CSM) Speculation over the possibility of North Korea’s first couple having a child hit a high point in January, when South Korean media closely analyzed photos of Ri.
27 February
North Korea blames U.S. for tension on peninsula
(Reuters) – North Korea accused the United States on Wednesday of contributing to an “unpredictable” situation on the divided Korean peninsula and abusing its power in the U.N. Security Council to impose its “hostile policy” against Pyongyang.
North Korea is facing further United Nations sanctions for its underground nuclear test explosion two weeks ago, its biggest and most powerful to date which drew warnings from Washington and international condemnation.
North Korea's rocket blasts off on 12 December 201225 February
South Korea’s new president demands North drop nuclear ambitions
29 January
Analysis: What is driving North Korea’s nuclear test plan?
By Dr John Swenson-Wright, Chatham House
(BBC) Official announcements from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), including a 24 January statement by the National Defence Committee (NDC), indicate that North Korea may be about to test a nuclear device – the third such instance, following two earlier tests in 2006 and 2009.
The author suggests that deterrence, prestige and legitimacy; and technical advancement are all factors.


21 December
North Korea Photos Give Rare Look Inside Hermit Kingdom (PHOTOS)
This has been a historic year for North Korea, with large-scale dramatic displays to mark important milestones, struggles with food shortages, crippling floods, drought and typhoons, as well as growing evidence that people’s lives are changing in small but significant ways. But in a country that carefully choreographs what it shows to the outside world, separating what is real from what is part of the show is often very difficult.
North Korea’s secretive ‘first family’
(BBC) North Korean leader Kim Jong-il died at the age of 69 in December 2011, and Pyongyang named his son Kim Jong-un as successor. Explore the family tree to find out about the country’s enigmatic and powerful first family.


30 December
Kim-Jong-un-salutes-durin-007North Korea warns the world: no change in policy under Kim Jong-un
Defence commission sends uncompromising message to ‘foolish politicians including the puppet forces in South Korea’
(The Guardian) Hopes for a new era of engagement with North Korea have faded after the country’s powerful defence commission warned the world not to expect a change in policy under its new leader, Kim Jong-un.
The announcement broadcast by the state-run Korean Central News Agency on Friday, effectively dashed hopes that Kim might be ready to engage with South Korea and the wider international community.
20 December
Kim Jong-il dead: the official titles of North Korea’s Unique Leader
Kim Jong-il had one thing in common with Barack Obama – the title of Commander-in-Chief – but there the titular and any other similarities end.
(The Telegraph)The titles were developed by the Workers Party of Korea central committee and many were applied to his father Kim Il-sung, who ruled from 1948 to 1994.
The breadth of nomenclature reflects the omnipotent, all-action role in which North Korean’s dynastic leaders have been cast and the aura of reverence which the propaganda machine created around them
19 December
Kim Jong-il obituary
Kim Jong-il, who has died aged 69 after a heart attack, was the general secretary of the Workers’ party of Korea and head of the military in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). He was one of the most reclusive and widely condemned national leaders of the late 20th and early 21st century, and left his country diplomatically isolated, economically broken and divided from South Korea.
Unsurprisingly for a man who went into mourning for three years after the death in 1994 of his own father, the legendary leader Kim Il-sung, and who in the first 30 years of his political career made no public statements, even to his own people, Kim’s career is riddled with claims, counter-claims, speculation and contradiction.


10 October
North Korea’s heir apparent Kim Jong-un appears with father Kim Jong-il at military parade
Despite backing of key Workers’ Party officials, Kim Jong-un seems to be unpopular among North Korean citizens.
The public appearances of the Kims and the rare access granted to foreign media underscore Friday’s confirmation of Kim Jong-un as the future leader of North Korea. The Christian Science Monitor reports that Yang Hyong-sop, a member of the political bureau of the Workers’ Party, gave the first formal confirmation of Kim Jong Un’s succession, telling Associated Press Television that “Our people are honored to be led by the great president Kim Il-sung and the great general Kim Jong-il. Now we also have the honor of being led by General Kim Jong-un.
5 October
North Korea’s new dawn with Kim Jong-un
An heir to the North Korean dictatorship is anointed, and begins his rise. Where will Kim Jong-un lead his nation?
(CSM) … The new leader was a young man named Kim Jong-un, the choice of his father, ‘Dear Leader’ Kim Jong-il, who has survived longer than most people thought likely after a serious illness.
It was those intimations of mortality that added urgency to selecting an heir and to seeing that he gets the proper training to take over the government and country in a time of severe food shortages, seasonal flooding, and nonstop confrontation with North Korea’s historic foes, South Korea and the United States.
The easy part was the anointment of Kim Jong-un – Swiss-educated, reportedly a fan of US pro basketball, the youngest of Kim Jong-il’s three sons – first as a general and then as vice chairman of the military commission of the Workers’ Party at its annual conference on Sept. 28. Now he’s got to learn the job – and chart his course.

3 Comments on "North Korea"

  1. Antal (Tony) Deutsch April 6, 2013 at 10:24 pm · Reply

    As the article The Next Korean War points out, the evidence is that Mr. Kim can produce a nuclear explosion , presumably like in the tower at Yucca Flats in 1945, but lacking means of delivery of an actual warhead, not much else. If this is right, he can , following suitable preparation, destroy part of his own real estate, if the USAF allows the preparations on the ground to progress to their conclusion. The scenario in the article becomes applicable if Mr. Kim comes to possess a small number of warheads, with a halfway reliable means of delivery. When this is/will be the case, is a question for allied intelligence to discover. A strong case can be made to pre-empt before that happens.
    The optimal policy would be for the Chinese to arrange for a coup in North Korea to replace Kim with a Chinese-style communist leader who will proceed to reform the economy, without creating millions of refugees overnight both in South Korea and in China.
    The golden parachute for dictators is not a new idea. Even I wrote something about it some years ago, and like many such things, it vanished without a trace. Idi Amin , the Emperor Bokassa , and the former strongman of Tunesia resorted to such arrangements. Saddam Hussein was offered that by the US a few days before the war started in 2003. Mubarak and Khadaffi had those options, as Assad has it now. Maybe Hitler could not really go to Argentina in 1945, because he would be extradited, but the option was there for the others. Would Kim take it? it would clearly be the cheapest solution for all.

  2. David Jones April 7, 2013 at 3:20 pm · Reply

    It is difficult to know at what stage Kim’s “weaponization” of his nuclear capability has reached. We know that there have been three tests. One seems to have been a “fizzle” but the other two, apparently successful explosions that are regarded as being Hiroshima level blasts.
    But nuclear delivery can come in multiple ways. It could be at such a level now that one of the medium range rockets, stored in very protected sites, could be armed with a nuclear weapon–and fired at Seoul. The consequences would be highly damaging, but Seoul is a huge city–it wouldn’t lay waste to the entire city, but certainly would do a lot of economic/social damage–if it reached Seoul when ROK antimissile defenses are at high alert.
    A nuclear device, however, could also be concealed in a ship or submarine and exploded in Inchon, with radioactive fallout affecting Seoul.
    So there are a lot of possibilities–and perhaps some that we couldn’t stop.
    So far as the reports of Chinese frustration with Kim is concerned; I suspect it is wishful thinking on our part. We’ve begged, pleaded, argued, etc with Beijing for at least a generation to control Kim and the NK nuclear program. They’ve declined at points where it would have been much easier.
    Nor do I expect a coup; the NK military had its chance when Kim’s father died; they’ve accepted KJU. But nobody knows the mechanics w/i the NK hierarchy, political, military, social, economic, etc. It is a black hole for scholars and analysts.
    Essentially, we still conclude that the leadership is not insane or apocalyptic.
    So for me it is a “gut it out” and stay calm (while making all necessary defensive preparations).

  3. Diana Thebaud Nicholson April 16, 2017 at 11:18 pm · Reply

    An off-shore Wednesday Nighter, who is a keen observer of geopolitical issues, comments:
    “Contacts in Taiwan signal that Xi had called Kim to read him the Riot Act.
    Xi is adamant on keeping the trade relations with US intact and does not tolerate any disturbances to this. Taiwan is fully concurring as they have important interests in Chinese export companies through arrangements via Hong Kong and Singapore. Xi does not seek confrontation with US, but more lucrative trade which improves the support for his regime.
    This according to Taipei”

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