North Korea 2017

Written by  //  August 15, 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)

Thoughtful, practical, policies to bring about reunification of Korea
How to Take Down Kim Jong Un
Stop saying there are no good options on North Korea. Here’s how we can end the threat once and for all—without firing a shot.
By Tom Malinowski. former assistant secretary of state for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (2014–2017)
(Politico) No one can predict when and how Kim’s hold will weaken, and it would be foolish to think we can force change from the outside. So if anyone reading this has fantasies about setting up governments in exile or fomenting coups or calling for uprisings, please put them aside—that kind of talk will only get people inside North Korea killed. There are, however, forces in play within North Korea that will probably lead to the end of its regime and its reason to exist as a country. Political change in Pyongyang and the reunification of Korea, as hard as it may be to imagine, is actually much more likely than the denuclearization of the present regime. The central aim of our strategy should be to foster conditions that enable this natural, internal process to move faster, while preparing ourselves, our allies and the North Korean people for the challenges we will face when change comes. (24 July 2017)

15 August
(NYT evening brief) President Moon Jae-in of South Korea issued a blunt rebuke to the United States, the latest sign that President Trump’s “fire-and-fury” approach to North Korea was putting new strain on the longstanding alliance.“No one should be allowed to decide on a military action on the Korean Peninsula without South Korean agreement,” Mr. Moon said in a nationally televised speech, seen above.
Here are the key questions about the North’s threat to Guam, where our correspondent found that many residents seem to be taking things in stride. North Korea said it will wait a bit before acting on its threat, at least for now.

(Quartz) China hits North Korea with sanctions. Responding to US pressure, Beijing will implement a ban from today on several key North Korean products including coal, iron ore, and seafood as it complies with UN sanctions announced earlier this month.

12 August
China’s president urges Trump to use restraint over North Korea
Chinese President Xi Jinping urged President Trump to exercise restraint over tensions with North Korea during a phone call Friday night, Chinese state media reported.
After a week of threats and counter-threats between Washington and Pyongyang, Xi urged both sides not to do anything that would aggravate tensions, China’s CGTN state television network reported.
But North Korea continued to fuel tension Saturday, with the Rodong Sinmun newspaper reporting that almost 3.5 million people, including students and retired soldiers, have asked to join or re-join the North Korean military to fight against the United States over the latest sanctions it encouraged through the U.N. Security Council.

11 August
(NYT evening brief) We updated our guide to the crisis, and compiled the best writing from the right and left on this week’s developments.
US, NKorea Diplomats Talk in Private as Trump Threatens in Public
People familiar with the contacts say the interactions have done nothing thus far to quell tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile advances, which are now fueling fears of military confrontation. But they say the behind-the-scenes discussions could still be a foundation for more serious negotiation, including on North Korea’s nuclear weapons, should President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un put aside the bellicose rhetoric of recent days and endorse a dialogue.

Newsweek Exclusive: North Korean Missile Claims Are ‘a Hoax’
As President Donald Trump escalates his war of words against North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un, a team of independent rocket experts has asserted that the two rockets the rogue regime launched in July and described as intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are incapable of delivering a nuclear payload to the continental United States, and probably not even to Anchorage, Alaska.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology rocket expert Ted Postol and two German experts, Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker of Schmucker Technologie, published their findings Friday in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in a paper they titled “North Korea’s ‘Not Quite’ ICBM Can’t Hit the Lower 48 States.” Newsweek saw an early version of the paper.

10 August
Escalating Tension:President Trump reiterated his threats against North Korea this afternoon, stating his promise of “fire and fury” may not have been “tough enough.” Earlier, North Korea had outlined a detailed plan for how it could strike Guam “to signal a crucial warning to the U.S.,” escalating the vaguer threat it made against the island territory earlier this week. In Guam, residents are trying to remain calm—though some are frustrated not only with North Korea, but also with the U.S. for putting them in the rogue nation’s crosshairs.

Ignore Our Crazy President, U.S. Government Tells North Korea
(New York Magazine) Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis have issued more normal-sounding statements intended to supersede the president’s improvised one. (Mattis’s statement redraws the red line, threatening reprisal in return for North Korean actions, rather than threats.) The message of this cleanup is that Trump’s statements do not necessarily represent the position of the U.S. government – a reality most American political elites in both parties already recognize, but which needs to be made clear to other countries that are unaccustomed to treating their head of state like a random Twitter troll.

9 August
(The Atlantic) Mixed Messages: North Korea said it was considering using intermediate-range missiles near the U.S. territory of Guam last night, shortly after President Trump promised to respond to threats from the country with “fire and fury.” It turns out those remarks were improvised, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denied there was “any imminent threat” of a North Korean conflict. But even offhand comments from the president can be dangerous when it comes to a volatile regime like Kim Jong Un’s. And one thing is certain, writes Eliot Cohen: The U.S. is not prepared to go to war with North Korea
Rex Tillerson just erased the reckless red line Trump drew on North Korea
(WaPost) Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday morning defended President Trump’s reckless threat to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea, but make no mistake: In the course of doing so, Tillerson quietly erased the red line that Trump laid down, and redrew it in a relatively more reasonable place.
Tillerson’s comments will in this sense have a calming effect. But they are also cause for a different sort of alarm: They raise additional questions as to why Trump made the comments in the first place; what process went into the creation and delivery of them, if any; and what will — or won’t — be done to ensure that there is a sane process in place to shape further comments from Trump as this crisis unfolds.

8 August
(The Atlantic)  President Trump said that threats to the U.S. from North Korea would “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” after The Washington Post reported that the country had produced a miniature nuclear warhead to fit inside its missiles. The news comes just days after the United Nations imposed strict new sanctions on North Korea, but even these measures—like several sets of sanctions before them—could be evaded by the rogue state. So, what’s to be done about the increasingly volatile situation? The U.S. has a few options—but navigating them demands careful and decisive leadership.
North Korea: What happens when the ‘fire and fury’ starts?
(LATimes) “The most unpredictable part of this story is Trump, not North Korea. North Korea is doing what it always does,” said Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst who specializes in North Korea. She believes that Kim Jong Un, like his father, is essentially a rational player who will not launch a suicidal attack that would bring about the end of his government. “There is a lot of brinksmanship going on, but people can miscalculate,” she warned. “And things could go very, very wrong.”
7 August

China vows to enforce U.N. curbs on North Korea

(Reuters) – China will pay the biggest price from the new U.N. sanctions against North Korea because of its close economic relationship with the country, but will always enforce the resolutions, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.
Speaking at a regional security forum in Manila on Monday, Wang said the new resolution showed China and the international community’s opposition to North Korea’s continued missile tests, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Owing to China’s traditional economic ties with North Korea, it will mainly be China paying the price for implementing the resolution,” the statement cited Wang as saying.
“But in order to protect the international non-proliferation system and regional peace and stability, China will, as before, fully and strictly properly implement the entire contents of the relevant resolution.”
North Korea vows to ‘make the US pay dearly’ as sanctions tighten
(CNN) North Korean state media has slammed the latest round of sanctions approved by the United Nations, calling them a “flagrant violation of our sovereignty.” It vowed retaliation against Washington.
The UN Security Council unanimously adopted new sanctions Saturday in response to Pyongyang’s long-range ballistic missile tests on July 4 and July 28.
The measures aim to make it harder for North Korea to make money across the globe. They target North Korea’s primary exports — including coal, iron and seafood — and attempt to cut off its additional revenue streams by targeting some of its banks and joint ventures with foreign companies.
Speaking at the ASEAN Regional Forum on Monday, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho blamed the US for the current situation on the Korean Peninsula and said Pyongyang’s “possession of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles is a legitimate option for self-defence in the face of a clear and real nuclear threat posed by the US,” according to a statement released by North Korea.

6 August
North Korea must not provoke international community, China says
Foreign minister warns crisis on Korean peninsula is at ‘very critical phase’ after UN imposed fresh sanctions on Pyongyang
Speaking on Sunday, a day after the UN security council voted unanimously to impose new sanctions on Pyongyang, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said he hoped the move would help North Korea’s leaders make “the right and smart decision” about their weapons programme.
“Do not violate the UN decision or provoke the international community’s goodwill by conducting missile launches or nuclear tests,” Wang said he had told North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, when they met on the sidelines of a security forum in Manila.
Wang also told his North Korean counterpart that Pyongyang should remain calm in response to the UN sanctions.

29 July
AP Analysis: North Korea’s 2nd ICBM test augurs a new normal
More tests. More instability. More pressure to pursue indigenous nuclear programs among North Korea’s other presumed targets, Seoul and Tokyo, as they lose faith in the U.S. “nuclear umbrella.” And more possibility that a miscalculation in one of the world’s most heavily armed regions could lead to fighting. That’s the new normal
(via WaPost) The clear message after Friday’s late-night test, the second in a month of a missile that may be able to reach most of the U.S. mainland: Get used to this — it’s the new normal.
So what exactly does that mean?
From the West’s point of view, it portends more and scarier missile and nuclear tests, each one more powerful than the last; a dogged determination by the North to ignore, as it has for decades, financial sanctions and other outside pressure, including a slightly more forceful clampdown from its biggest enabler, China; and an increasing likelihood that a determined, unchecked North Korea will soon turn its rhetoric about being capable of nuking America’s heartland into a reality.
All this is meant to force the United States to accept terms that Pyongyang favors: a formal end to the Korean War that would remove U.S. forces from the Korean Peninsula, weaken ties between Seoul and Washington, and make it much more likely that the North’s ultimate dream of a Korea united under its rule comes true.

28 July
North Korea Tests a Ballistic Missile That Experts Say Could Hit California
(NYT) North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile on Friday that, for the first time, appeared capable of reaching the West Coast of the United States, according to experts — a milestone that American presidents have long declared the United States could not tolerate.
The launch, the second of an intercontinental missile in 24 days, did not answer the question of whether the North has mastered all the technologies necessary to deliver a nuclear weapon to targets in the lower 48 states. But just a few days ago, the Defense Intelligence Agency warned the Trump administration that the North would probably be able to do so within a year, and Friday’s test left little doubt that Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, is speeding toward that goal.
Give Up on Denuclearizing North Korea
The question now is how to convince it not to use its weapons.
(The Atlantic) Strategic milestones don’t come along everyday. Today was one of those days.
On Friday, North Korea tested a missile than can deliver a nuclear weapon to almost any target in the continental United States, marking a major accomplishment for a state than many thought was on its last legs in the early 1990s. But far from dead, North Korea has managed to evade every political, military, and economic barrier that five successive U.S. presidents put in its way.
Deterrence is by no means a perfect solution, but for it to have a chance of success, the Trump administration must communicate directly with its North Korean counterparts to ensure they have a clear understanding of what actions would provoke a direct U.S. response. There are lots of ways to ensure North Korea gets the message, but none are as reliable or convincing as direct U.S. discussions with North Korean officials. These could take the form of military-to-military contacts, but whatever the choice, it will need to be well above the traditional channel U.S. diplomats have used in New York at the UN.

6 July
How to Deal With North Korea No good options
(The Atlantic Magazine July/August) Donald Trump will “collide with the same harsh truth that has stymied all his recent predecessors: There are no good options for dealing with North Korea,” writes Mark Bowden for The Atlantic. For the Kim dynasty, nukes are understood to be the only option to repel a looming U.S. menace. This leaves a dangerous dilemma: a nuclear armed North Korea is extremely worrisome, but so are the “decapitation strikes” Trump’s administration has openly discussed.

Noah Feldman: Here’s Why China Tolerates a Nuclear North Korea
It’s not in Beijing’s interest to let the U.S. overthrow the Pyongyang regime. So much for Trump’s threats.
(Bloomberg) China values regional stability, which is good for trade. It doesn’t want a nuclear war in its backyard. But it couldn’t possibly benefit from the collapse of Kim’s regime, which would almost certainly leave a U.S. ally, South Korea, in charge of a unified Korea across the border. China also knows that the U.S. can’t realistically attack North Korea because of the loss of South Korean and American lives that would follow.

5 July
(Quartz) The UN Security Council holds an emergency meeting. At the request of the US, the 15-member body will hold a closed-door session to discuss options regarding North Korea. The US military has confirmed that North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic yesterday, and experts believe Alaska is now within range

4 July
The scenario put forward by Richard Haass above is coming frighteningly close to reality and well before 2020.
U.S. Confirms North Korea Fired Intercontinental Ballistic Missile
(NYT) The Trump administration on Tuesday confirmed North Korea’s claim that it had launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, and it told Pyongyang that the United States would use “the full range of capabilities at our disposal against the growing threat.”
The administration followed up that warning on Wednesday morning with a joint military exercise in which United States and South Korean forces fired ballistic missiles in the waters along the Korean Peninsula’s east coast.
But North Korea reaffirmed Wednesday that it would never deviate from its determination to bolster its nuclear and missile abilities as long as the United States’ “hostile policy” and “nuclear threat” persisted.
The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said its new intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-14, was capable of hitting the “heart of the United States” with “large heavy nuclear warheads.” The launch, according to the agency, successfully tested the functions of the missile’s two propulsive stages and the warhead’s ability to endure the intense heat and vibrations as it entered the earth’s atmosphere.
The missile test adds a volatile new element to the Trump administration’s efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, which have included naval drills off the Korean Peninsula and pressure on China, Pyongyang’s longtime ally. In a blunt phone call on Sunday, President Trump warned President Xi Jinping of China that the United States was prepared to act alone against North Korea.

China-Russia diplomatic double act exposes Trump’s crudeness
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin vow to work together on peaceful solution to North Korea crisis – in sharp contrast to US president’s sabre-rattling
(The Guardian) The leaders of China and Russia have vowed to work together to peacefully defuse the deepening crisis over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes – a diplomatic double act that contrasts sharply with Donald Trump’s crude threats and pressure tactics.
The joint declaration reflected a broader, ongoing strategic Sino-Russian alignment that has passed largely unremarked in the west. It has been encouraged by Trump’s often erratic, unfocused behaviour, and the resulting opportunities and dangers arising from weakened American global leadership.

29 May
North Korea fired its third missile in three weeks. The launch of the short-range ballistic Scud missile—which flew about 280 miles before landing in Japanese waters—came one day after reports the country was debuting a new anti-aircraft system. US defense secretary Jim Mattis warned on Sunday that a military conflict with North Korea would be “probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetime” as the country is close to so many densely populated nations

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’.
(Aljazeera.com) 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.

3 Comments on "North Korea 2017"

  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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