Archive for the ‘Kim Jong-un’ category

Report: Kim fears coup if he travels to Singapore for Trump summit

May 24, 2018

by Rick Moran May 23, 2018 American Thinker

Source Link: Report: Kim fears coup if he travels to Singapore for Trump summit

{Hotel North Korea, you can check out but you can never leave. – LS}

North Korea is far more than a run-of-the-mill dictatorship.  It is a paranoid gangster state, enormously corrupt, with various factions always at odds as they jostle for power.

This much is basically public knowledge.  But behind the scenes, even the supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, feels threatened.  And there is apparently a feeling among the top leadership in North Korea that if Kim attends the Singapore summit with Donald Trump, the military will take advantage of his absence to stage a coup.

Business Insider:

Citing sources familiar with the preparations, The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Kim was less concerned about meeting Trump than he was about what might happen at home in Pyongyang while he’s gone.

Kim is apparently concerned that the trip to Singapore may leave his government vulnerable to a military coup or that other hostile actors might try to depose him, sources told The Post.  The Kim dynasty has ruled North Korea since the country’s inception following the armistice in 1953.

Rumors of a simmering military revolt in North Korea are precisely the kind of thing that emboldened Kim to keep a tight grip on power over the years, according to some experts.

“The notion that Kim is secure in his power is fundamentally wrong,” Victor Cha, a director for Asian affairs for the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, wrote in a 2014 opinion column.

“Dictators may exercise extreme and draconian power like Kim, but they are also pathologically insecure about their grip on the throne,” Cha said.  “All of the public speculation about coups or interim leaders would feed the paranoid impulse of a dictator to correct that perception as quickly as possible, even if it were misplaced.”

As if to confirm those worries, Strategy Page is reporting that Kim shook up his military high command in just the last few days.

May 18, 2018: In North Korea Kim Jong Un again reorganized the senior military leadership.  This time there were not a lot of dismissals but instead, a lot of senior commanders were moved to other senior military posts.  Kim has been wary of the generals ever since he took power in 2012.  Ge was the youngest national leader ever in North Korea and many of the old timers doubted young Kim could handle it.  Kim soon executed a number of senior generals and retired many more.  …

Another sad fact is that few North Korean military personnel even remember the glory days (the 1980s) of the Cold War when Russia (as the Soviet Union) was supplying new weapons and support for older ones and the troops had fuel for training.  All that disappeared in 1991 and the North Korean military is still suffering massive deprivation.

The wild card is China.  Things are so bad in North Korea that a steady stream of refugees is crossing the border into China.  The Chinese government hardly knows what to do with these people.  There is a real fear on the part of Kim that if the refugee problem gets much worse, China will support a coup against him.  China is also tired of the brinkmanship between Kim and Trump and could support a coup to bring more stability to the peninsula.

No wonder Kim fears his own military.  At least this time, he apparently didn’t tie any of them to the barrel of an anti-aircraft gun and pull the trigger.

Washington is well aware of the situation, and the Trump administration’s public doubts about the summit taking place may have something to do with the whispers his people getting from North Korea about a fearful Kim.  But North Korea’s situation is beyond desperate, and Kim may be forced to take a risk he wouldn’t ordinarily take to save his regime from economic and social collapse.

 

North Korea official bought car for Kim Jong Nam’s killers: prosecutors

November 9, 2017

North Korea official bought car for Kim Jong Nam’s killers: prosecutors, New York Post, Reuters, November 8, 2017

(Please see also, Kim Jong-nam murder: North Korea suspects named in court. — DM)

Kim Jong Nam

“We made a request to the North Korean embassy to identify and question Chal Su, but did not receive any cooperation,” Wan Azirul told the court.

Airport video recordings screened in court earlier showed the embassy’s second secretary and a manager for North Korean airline Air Koryo helping the four fugitives flee immediately after the murder.

North Korea has vehemently denied accusations by South Korean and U.S. officials that Kim Jong Un’s regime was behind the killing.

Kim Jong Nam, who was living in exile in Macau, had criticized his family’s dynastic rule of North Korea and his brother had issued a standing order for his execution, some South Korean lawmakers have said.

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KUALA LUMPUR — Three men wanted for the killing of Kim Jong Nam were driven to the murder site in a car bought by a North Korean embassy official, a Malaysian court was told on Wednesday, bringing into focus the embassy’s role in the sensational murder.

Two women, Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese, are charged with conspiring with four North Korean fugitives to kill the North Korean leader’s half-brother using banned chemical weapon VX, at the Kuala Lumpur international airport on Feb. 13.

Defense lawyers say the women were duped into thinking they were playing a prank for a reality TV show.

Closed circuit television recordings played in court on Wednesday showed three of the fugitives at the airport in a car registered to a North Korean suspect named Ri Jong Chol.

Jong Chol, who was arrested and deported shortly after the murder, told investigators the car had been bought in his name by a North Korean embassy official named Chal Su in October 2016, lead investigator Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz said.

Ri Jong Chol

“We made a request to the North Korean embassy to identify and question Chal Su, but did not receive any cooperation,” Wan Azirul told the court.

Airport video recordings screened in court earlier showed the embassy’s second secretary and a manager for North Korean airline Air Koryo helping the four
fugitives flee immediately after the murder.

Wan Azirul on Wednesday named the two individuals as North Korean embassy second secretary Hyon Kwang Song and Air Koryo manager Kim Uk Il.

Both men had gone into hiding at the embassy in Kuala Lumpur, along with Ri Ji U, a 30-year-old North Korean also known as James, after warrants were issued for their arrest, Wan Azirul said.

Police took statements from the embassy’s second secretary and the Air Koryo official before releasing them, but did not pursue Ji U or Chal Su in the absence of instructions to do so, Wan Azirul said.

Siti Aisyah, left, and Doan Thi Huong, right, escorted by police as they leave a court hearing.

“During this probe, which involves international issues, I faced many constraints in investigating and needed to refer to my superior officers before taking any action,” he added.

North Korea has vehemently denied accusations by South Korean and U.S. officials that Kim Jong Un’s regime was behind the killing.

Kim Jong Nam, who was living in exile in Macau, had criticized his family’s dynastic rule of North Korea and his brother had issued a standing order for his execution, some South Korean lawmakers have said.

The murder unravelled once-close ties between Malaysia and North Korea.

Malaysia was forced to return Kim Jong Nam’s body and allow the suspects hiding in the embassy to return home, in exchange for the release of nine Malaysians barred from leaving Pyongyang.

Trump’s Biggest Challenge in Seoul

November 7, 2017

Trump’s Biggest Challenge in Seoul, American Thinker,  Daren Jonescu, November 7, 2017

There is no equivalency here. North Korea’s hostilities are their essence, not a product of outside provocation, real or imagined. Anything they do will be on their own heads, as will any destruction that gets unleashed upon them due to their actions. Theirs is a regime that has no moral legitimacy, and hence, while no one is obliged to do anything about that, neither does anyone owe their rule, their aspirations, or their tender feelings any respect.

The only moral considerations that have any weight in this issue are related to whether annihilating Kim’s national death camp — inherently justifiable — is worth the risk it may bring to the lives of other nations’ citizens.

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Donald Trump is in South Korea today.  All focus, of course, is on whether Trump and recently-elected Korean president Moon Jae-in will present a unified position against North Korean aggression. Or let me restate that in words that make sense within the current zeitgeist: “a unified position on how to avoid an escalation of tensions with North Korea.”

In our worldwide progressive paradigm, suggesting that the problem to be solved here is the threat posed by a tyrannical rogue state’s immoral behavior is considered inflammatory. Rather, we are all supposed to pretend that North Korea is “a sovereign state” with “legitimate concerns about being threatened by the U.S. military presence in Asia,” and that its outrageous provocations, unprovoked violence, and frequent promises to annihilate its democratic enemies are merely “understandable responses to its increased global isolation.”

Demonstrators reacting to Trump’s visit

(Even many conservatives of the libertarian bent are wont to ask, “How would you feel if your neighbors were all discussing how to end your regime?” — as though rationalizing a killing machine’s sensitivities were anything but a moral absurdity.)

As for President Moon, a progressive appeaser in the mold of his old ally and boss, Roh Moo-hyun (of North-South “Sunshine Policy” fame), he may be a tough sell on taking a stronger stand against North Korea. He would likely accept the inevitable if necessary, however, especially since Japan has already signed onto America’s “all options on the table” position, and since China has remained largely aloof from the situation so far.

But President Moon probably will have to be dragged to a harder stance by events — a bizarre thing to have to say about the president of a nation that is technically at war with a communist madhouse dictatorship that tore his own country in half, has starved and enslaved millions of his countrymen, and has carried out repeated acts of murderous aggression against the South in recent years, in addition to its constant threats of all-out attack. Talk about Stockholm Syndrome.

But the depth of the moral problem facing this world — in which most governments, media voices, and academics are progressive in their underlying principles and perspective — may be seen in the sheer silliness with which people speak of what might cause an “escalation of hostilities” with North Korea.  Here is a perfect example, from Professor Koo Kab-woo at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. (Imagine the political perspective likely to prevail at a university with such a name.)

Addressing the concern that Trump might say or do something careless or bombastic during his South Korean trip, Professor Koo says, “If Trump says anything that can provoke North Korea, it could send military tensions soaring again.”

Right. North Korea is calm and trying to restore a peaceful coexistence. But what if Trump goes and blows it with a stupid remark?

You see, the tensions, whatever might have caused them (who can say?), have settled recently, but if they rise again due to Trump’s rhetoric during his visit to Seoul, then the resulting danger will be on America’s head for having “provoked” it.

This is a classic moral equivalency argument (and an excellent preview of exactly how China will respond if an armed conflict begins on the Korean peninsula): “Both sides need to calm down. If Nation A (the world’s oldest republic and traditional leader of the free world) causes things to escalate again by speaking too harshly, then Nation B (a bloody tyranny starving its own broken people and threatening the world with nuclear war) cannot be held solely responsible for the resulting rise in tensions.”

This is the same argument used for decades to frame the Cold War as a battle between “two noble experiments,” rather than between good and evil. It is the same argument used to equate the pro-Palestinian efforts by much of the Middle East (along with the UN and Europe and most of academia and the North American left) to wipe Israel off the map, to Israeli efforts to push back in defense of a nation the size of New Jersey.

Moral equivalency in international relations — “both sides are to blame,” or “both sides have understandable concerns” — is the last refuge of the morally bankrupt. In this case, expressing peevishness that somehow Donald Trump’s words might provoke North Korean hostilities is a convenient way of implying that North Korea is not inherently, essentially hostile to begin with, but rather that any hostility they display is merely a response to outside instigation. Thus, a tyranny is falsely portrayed as an equal participant in difficult diplomacy, rather than a victim of its own obsession with power and destruction. This in turn creates an aura of legitimacy around one of the most illegitimate regimes of modern times.

I myself have been critical of Trump’s often careless rhetoric on North Korea, but my concern has always been that by speaking too cavalierly, Trump risks tipping his administration’s hand unnecessarily, or painting himself into a strategic corner with Obama-like “red lines.” My concerns, in other words, are related to American interests, not North Korea’s “feelings.” Under no circumstances would I ever suggest Trump’s words or actions were to blame for North Korea’s behavior.

Similarly, appeasers like Moon Jae-in, who has used moral equivalency arguments against his own nation and yet has somehow been elected president under the guise of a “champion of the people” — reminiscent of Barack Obama in that regard, both in policy and in manner — exacerbate a national tragedy by emboldening a dictatorship. But by no means would I suggest such appeasers are to blame for the murderous aspirations of Kim Jong-un’s illegitimate regime.

North Korea is a brutal dictatorship with fantasies of eventually uniting the Korean peninsula under their communist bloodlust regime. They, and they alone, are to blame for their aggression; their aggression is not a response to anything, but rather their regime’s raison d’être.

Progressives constantly use moral equivalency arguments and moral relativism to obscure the crimes committed in the name of their death cult ideology. They have thereby obliterated an extremely proper and reasonable category of political discourse: illegitimate power.

In this age, any tyranny that survives long enough to become stable in its authority, or that exists as a protectorate of a bigger tyranny, is regarded as “sovereign,” in the sense of unassailable. The UN exists largely to reinforce and defend the “right” of unjust regimes to exist unchallenged, or to set strict limits on the conditions in which such regimes may be confronted by the so-called “international community.”

North Korea, under its current and permanent government, is not a sovereign nation. It is an illegitimate tyrannical regime, a state governed by men without even a pretense of concern for the well-being of their trampled population, which exists not at all as citizens, but rather as slaves, without any modicum or memory of self-determination or self-ownership.

To legitimize that regime by worrying about whether Donald Trump might say something to “raise tensions” is to miss the point. Tensions are permanent and unavoidable when a tyranny feels its power threatened. But tyrannies deserve to feel their power threatened, and in fact they always will. As Plato taught us long ago, the tyrannical man is the most frightened man in the world, for he lives in the knowledge that his power is not deserved, and that everyone hates him for it. He cannot sleep at night, because he cannot even trust his own guards, or his own brother.

But today, we are told not to speak too loudly, lest we disturb the tyrant’s sleep and make him angry, as if we would be to blame if our would-be killer’s anger were roused. Thus, progressives defend one of their own — an extreme and ridiculous one to be sure, but one of them nonetheless — with moral equivalency arguments.

There is no equivalency here. North Korea’s hostilities are their essence, not a product of outside provocation, real or imagined. Anything they do will be on their own heads, as will any destruction that gets unleashed upon them due to their actions. Theirs is a regime that has no moral legitimacy, and hence, while no one is obliged to do anything about that, neither does anyone owe their rule, their aspirations, or their tender feelings any respect.

The only moral considerations that have any weight in this issue are related to whether annihilating Kim’s national death camp — inherently justifiable — is worth the risk it may bring to the lives of other nations’ citizens.

Daren Jonescu lives in South Korea where he writes about politics, philosophy, education, and the decline of civilization at http://darenjonescu.com/.

Kim Jong-nam murder: North Korea suspects named in court

November 6, 2017

Kim Jong-nam murder: North Korea suspects named in court, BBC News, November 6, 2017

(Please see also, Trial begins in assassination of DPRK leader’s half-brother. — DM)

An investigator named four North Korean men in court in connection with the murder. REUTERS/ROYAL MALAYSIA POLICE/AFP

A senior police officer has told a trial in Malaysia that four North Korean men were involved in killing the half-brother of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

Two women, from Indonesia and Vietnam, are standing trial for the murder of Kim Jong-nam.

He died in February at Kuala Lumpur airport after highly toxic VX nerve agent was rubbed on his face.

The women have pleaded not guilty and say they were tricked.

They say they thought they were taking part in a TV prank. They face death by hanging if convicted.

An investigating officer named four North Korean men in court on Monday, saying they had fled Malaysia after the murder. It is the first time they have been named in court, although their names had previously been known in connection with the investigation.

They were known to the two women on trial, he said, but only by pseudonyms:

  • Hong Song Hac, 34, was known as Mr Chang
  • Ri Ji Hyon, 33, was known as Mr Y
  • Ri Jae Nam, 57, was called Hanamori
  • O Jong Gil was known as James

CCTV footage of the men seen around the airport after the incident on the day of the murder was shown in court. They were seen changing their clothes before departing.

They had entered Malaysia between late January and early February and three of the men left Kuala Lumpur for Jakarta, according to the main investigating officer, Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz, but he added he could not recall the destination of the fourth.

More CCTV footage showed some of the North Korean suspects meeting a North Korean embassy official and an official from the national airline Air Koryo at the airport’s main terminal shortly after the attack.

Trial begins in assassination of DPRK leader’s half-brother

October 3, 2017

Trial begins in assassination of DPRK leader’s half-brother, en.people, October 2, 2017

(Were the North Korean suspects who were allowed to go home executed or given rewards? Kim Jong-un’s estranged half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, was seen as his rival for the position of Dear Leader. — DM) 

(Photo/CGTN)

The women claim they were duped into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden-camera reality TV show. The women will face the death penalty if convicted.

Aisyah and Huong were arrested just days after the murder. They are the only suspects in custody in a killing that ROK’s intelligence agency alleged was part of a five-year plot by DPRK leader Kim Jong Un to kill his estranged half-brother.

Malaysian police has gone on record saying several DPRK nationals suspected of involvement in the crime left the country on the day of the attack while others were allowed to leave later in a diplomatic deal with Pyongyang.

DPRK has vehemently denied the allegations.

The trial is expected to shed light on the many unanswered questions surrounding the murder. For instance, how two ordinary women struggling to make a living as migrant workers in Malaysia allegedly became involved in this high-profile assassination; or how a lethal nerve agent was used in the attack in a crowded airport that killed its target without harming anyone else. 

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Two women suspects pleaded not guilty of murdering Kim Jong Nam, half-brother of DPRK leader Kim Jong Un, on Monday as trial began in the sensational case that shocked the world with its Cold War-style modus operandi and triggered a diplomatic crisis between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea and Malaysia.

Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 29, entered their pleas through interpreters at Shah Alam High Court, outside the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, nearly eight months after the brazen airport assassination.

Indonesian Siti Aisyah is escorted by police as she arrives at the Shah Alam High Court on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this still image taken from a TV footage, October 2, 2017. /Reuters Photo

Prosecutor to use CCTV footage as evidence

The defendants are accused of smearing Kim Jong Nam’s face with the banned VX nerve agent on February 13 as he waited to board a plane to Macau at a crowded airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur, killing him within 20 minutes.

Prosecutor Muhamad Iskandar Ahmad read a statement giving details of the murder: “We will provide evidence that the dead victim was at (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) departure lounge when Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong approached the dead victim and swiped a poisoned liquid on the face and eyes of the victim. The evidence clearly showed that their action to swipe the poison known as VX caused the death of the victim.”

The chemical agent VX is so lethal that it is listed as a weapon of mass destruction.

The attack was caught on airport CCTV. The footage is likely to be used as evidence by the prosecutor.

The women claim they were duped into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden-camera reality TV show. The women will face the death penalty if convicted.

Judge denies request for other suspects’ identity

Aisyah and Huong were arrested just days after the murder. They are the only suspects in custody in a killing that ROK’s intelligence agency alleged was part of a five-year plot by DPRK leader Kim Jong Un to kill his estranged half-brother.

Malaysian police has gone on record saying several DPRK nationals suspected of involvement in the crime left the country on the day of the attack while others were allowed to leave later in a diplomatic deal with Pyongyang.

The defendants’ lawyers on Monday requested the court to provide them the identities of four people described in the charge sheet as having a common intention to kill Kim Jong Nam. Aisyah’s lawyer Gooi Soon Seng told the court: “A fair trial must include the right to know. The charge must be clear, not ambiguous.”

However, the judge denied the defense’s request after mulling over it for a while.

Defense lawyers say the real culprits have left Malaysia and that the women’s innocence will be proven in court. “We are fairly confident that at the end of trial, they will probably be acquitted,” Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, a lawyer for Huong, was quoted as saying by AFP.

Prosecutors insisted the women will get a fair trial as they began laying out their case, which is expected to take over two months as they examine 30 to 40 witnesses. The defense is then likely to be called.

Earlier, Aisyah and Huong arrived at the heavily guarded Shah Alam High Court, handcuffed and wearing bulletproof vests. About 200 police officers were deployed to guard the court premises.

The defendants arrived in a convoy of police cars with their sirens blaring. The diminutive pair bowed their heads as they were led into court past waiting journalists.

Suspects were ‘tricked’ and ‘used’ 

Meanwhile, Aisyah’s father said his daughter “would not have done such a thing, if she was not used by someone,” according to a CNN report.

“We didn’t see this coming at all. I don’t think she would have been in all this at all, if it wasn’t because of other people using her, getting her wrapped up in all this,” Asria Nur Hasan said.

Huong’s step-mother had also expressed similar apprehensions earlier, speaking to BBC’s Vietnamese service.

“Huong is not educated. We feel she was tricked into being in the situation she’s in,” Vy Thi Nguyen, 54, was quoted by BBC Vietnamese as saying. “We hope the court will be fair to her,” she added.

As the trial continued, Indonesia’s Ambassador to Malaysia, Rusdi Kirana, told reporters that his country is standing by its citizen Aisyah. “We can’t comment on the suspect, but what we can do is… to support our citizen. Regarding the law in Malaysia, we have to respect and let the court process how it should be,” he said.

Kirana said Indonesian officials will be monitoring the trial, including specialists in the field of poison.

Diplomatic row amid unanswered questions

The murder sparked a heated row between DPRK and Malaysia, which had been one of Pyongyang’s few allies, amid global concerns over the country’s nuclear weapons program, with both countries firing each other’s ambassadors.

Tensions later eased after Malaysia agreed to return Kim’s body, in March, and the DPRK let go some Malaysians stranded in the country.

However, an Asian Cup football qualifier between Malaysia and DPRK was postponed amid the crisis, and delayed this week for the third time after Kuala Lumpur imposed a ban on travel to DPRK citing heightened global concerns over Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

Also, ROK has accused the DPRK of plotting the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, who was known to be a critic of his government and was living in exile overseas.

DPRK has vehemently denied the allegations.

The trial is expected to shed light on the many unanswered questions surrounding the murder. For instance, how two ordinary women struggling to make a living as migrant workers in Malaysia allegedly became involved in this high-profile assassination; or how a lethal nerve agent was used in the attack in a crowded airport that killed its target without harming anyone else.

Korea: Escalation Is A Two-Way Street

September 19, 2017

Korea: Escalation Is A Two-Way Street, Strategy Page, September 15, 2017

(This is a lengthy article but provides very useful insights. — DM)

The latest North Korean nuclear and missile tests have caused Chinese public opinion towards North Korea to become even more hostile. According to opinion polls North Korea has, over the last few years, turned into a larger military threat to China than the U.S. or anyone else. To deal with this China has increased the number of troops and border police stationed near the North Korean border and conducted more military exercises in the area. This also addresses another Chinese fear (that gets less publicity in China) that a government collapse in North Korea would send millions of desperate, and opportunistic, North Koreans into China. There is no way China or the Chinese living along the North Korean border would tolerate that. Meanwhile China is becoming more hostile to North Koreans no matter what their legal or economic status is. Part of that is because North Korea has become a very unpleasant place for Chinese to visit or do business in.

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Every nation has its priorities and for North Korea it is all about image. Most people see that in terms of North Korean nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. But there are other equally important (to the North Korean leaders) issues that get little publicity, and that is intentional. In mid-2017 North Korea ordered its secret police to expand its operations in northeast China (the area just across the northern border) so as to suppress news about the growing number of senior and mid-level officials who are, often with their families, illegally leaving North Korea. The single incident that prompted this new secret police effort was the suicide of one of these families (all five of them). The five took poison after being arrested by Chinese police and facing repatriation to North Korea, where the entire family would probably die anyway but more slowly and painfully. The secret police were ordered to increase efforts to prevent such defections in the first place. That will be difficult because the mood among many North Korean officials can best be described as suppressed (so the secret police don’t take note) panic and increased efforts to escape from the country and get to South Korea.

Senior North Korean officials who have gotten out in the last few years all agree that Kim Jong Un is considered a failure by more and more North Koreans and that his days are numbered, even if China does not step in and take over beforehand. Yet these senior officials report that Kim Jong Un could keep his police state going into the late 2020s. But time is not on his side and the signs backing that up are increasingly obvious. Kim Jong Un has triggered a trend that will destroy him and nothing he does seems to fix the problem. He believes having workable nukes and a reliable delivery system (ballistic missiles) will enable him to extort the neighbors for enough goodies to bail him out. That is a high-risk strategy. Kim Jong Un is betting everything on this and none of the potential victims seems ready to give in and are instead planning to meet nuclear threats with force not surrender. Escalation and intimidation work both ways.

Coming Up Short

North Korea has reduced its physical standards for military service. Previously conscripts had to be 150 cm (59 inches) tall and weigh at least 48 kg (106 pounds). But that standard has been reduced over the last decade to 137 cm (54 inches) and 43 kg (95 pounds). Now the government is urging teenage boys to volunteer for service when they are 15 years old. Actually, local officials have been given quotas and are coercing families of 15 year old boys to go along with this. With all the food shortages and unemployment the government sees that as an incentive. But most teenagers prefer to try their luck with the market economy and eventually make enough money to get out of North Korea.

The government needs more soldiers because of a lower birthrate and the inability to reverse the problem. South Korea also has this problem but for different reasons. By 2010 South Korea had the lowest birth rate (1.15 children per woman, on average) in the world and held that dubious achievement for two years in a row. This is because of growing affluence over the last half century. South Korea is now one of the wealthiest nations on the planet. At the current birth rate, the South Korean population is expected to stop growing in the 2020s, after reaching about 52 million (about twice the population of the north). If the birth rate stays under 2.1, the population will then begin to shrink. In North Korea, the birth rate is 1.9, and is also declining, because of increasing poverty and famine. For example, life expectancy in the north has declined from 72.7 years in the early 1990s, to 69.3 now. That’s ten years less than in South Korea. Northerners are not only living shorter lives, they are also shorter. A study of teenagers in the north and south revealed that the northerners are 8 percent shorter, and weigh nearly 20 percent less. It’s not as bad with older adults, because they were not born during the famine (which began after Cold War Russian subsidies ended in the early 1990s).

By 2012 there was a very visible shortage of recruits for the North Korean armed forces. A lower birth rate in the 1990s, because of the famine (that killed five percent of the population back then) has reduced the number of 18 year old recruits for the army and security forces. So fewer exemptions are being allowed, and more 17 years olds are being taken. That escalated to pressuring 16 year olds to volunteer. Now the government is after 15 year olds. North Korean men serve at least six years (and up to ten) in the military, keeping them out of trouble for that time in their lives (18-24), when they are most likely to act out revolutionary fantasies. The military is really a large prison system. While the troops are trained to use weapons, they get little ammunition for training, and the weapons are locked up most of the time. Young North Koreans increasingly know how poor they are, and in greater and greater detail. The soldiers born during the great famine of the 1990s are well-aware that they are physically much smaller than their South Korean counterparts. They also know that the average South Korean lives ten years longer and lives a much more pleasant life. All the more reason to limit the time North Korean troops can handle their weapons, especially when they have ammunition (which is actually very infrequently.)

By 2017 North Korean army officers were ordered to encourage their troops to steal food during the harvest and that failure to do so could result in punishment and would definitely result in hunger. Naturally this has caused more popular anger towards the military. This is nothing new. In 2016 hungry troops grew bolder because the government made it clear they would not punish soldiers unless people are killed or badly injured during these incidents. Police are often called to catch soldiers who have robbed someone. At first this was usually troops breaking into a house seeking food and valuables. The soldiers that are caught are often arrested but must be taken back to their base where the military takes over. The soldiers are “punished” with some verbal abuse for getting caught and that is all. The government was desperate because earlier efforts to address the problem had failed. In 2015 there was a new program to expand food production by the military. Troops were allowed to raise pigs as well as the usual vegetable and grain crops. Meat has been in particularly short supply for the troops in the past few years and hungry troops often steal small livestock (chickens, ducks and pigs), kill them on the spot and carry them off to be cooked and eaten before returning to base. As more reports came in it became apparent that most military units didn’t have enough to eat, either because the food was not to be had or, as is more often the case, corruption (someone in a position of power stole it.) This led to more soldiers stealing food from civilians or selling military clothing and equipment on the black market so they could buy food. Soldiers have opportunities to steal food and sell stolen goods when they are off their base doing construction or farm work. This is how troops spend a lot of their time and they receive no extra pay or food even when the outside work requires heavy (and calorie consuming) labor. All this is illegal, but commanders were not eager to punish hungry soldiers. For commanders their troops have become profitable slaves who can be rented out with the commanders getting part of the payment. Now the government insists that disobedient slaves be executed.

Visible Signs Of Decline

Declining discipline in the police is more evident in many obvious ways. For example a growing number of North Korean women are operating openly as prostitutes (usually near border areas where there are more foreigners). These women get $20 or more per customer but get to keep less than 20 percent of that because the rest goes to bribes (for police) and “fees” to various middlemen (or women) who supervise it all. Thus it is not surprising that these young (from late teens to 30s) women will also offer to sell drugs (usually meth) to customers as well. Many of these prostitutes are married and some have children but no money to keep the kids fed and healthy.

With the growth of free markets and police getting jealous, greedy and corrupted by demanding and getting bribes, there has also developed criminal gangs. These groups often have connections (usually financial) with the security forces and of course the gangsters are all veterans. The gangs act as middlemen between donju (free market entrepreneurs) and the government but as a matter of law, the gangs do not exist. As a matter of fact the gangs are very real and one of the fastest growing sectors of the market economy.

China Chooses Sides

The latest North Korean nuclear and missile tests have caused Chinese public opinion towards North Korea to become even more hostile. According to opinion polls North Korea has, over the last few years, turned into a larger military threat to China than the U.S. or anyone else. To deal with this China has increased the number of troops and border police stationed near the North Korean border and conducted more military exercises in the area. This also addresses another Chinese fear (that gets less publicity in China) that a government collapse in North Korea would send millions of desperate, and opportunistic, North Koreans into China. There is no way China or the Chinese living along the North Korean border would tolerate that. Meanwhile China is becoming more hostile to North Koreans no matter what their legal or economic status is. Part of that is because North Korea has become a very unpleasant place for Chinese to visit or do business in.

News of the bad treatment Chinese are suffering in North Korea gets around, even when the Chinese government tries to keep the worst examples out of the news. Chinese individuals and firms doing business in North Korea complain that the North Koreans have become even more unreliable when it comes to handling foreign investments from China. In the past China could impose some degree of discipline on North Korea for abuse of Chinese investors and investments. The North Koreans are increasingly ignoring this sort of pressure and as a result Chinese investors are backing away from current and planned investments. China could order state owned firms to do business in North Korea but does not because these firms are poorly run compared to the privately owned firms and would suffer even larger losses when dealing the increasingly treacherous and unreliable neighbor.

North Korea used to be a dependable place, at least for Chinese with the right connections in the Chinese government. While corruption in China has declined in the past few years it appears to have gotten worse in North Korea, to the point where long-term deals are avoided and transactions are made carefully, usually with payment before delivery. The smugglers and various other criminal gangs in China that do business with their North Korean counterparts have been forced to operate this way as well and for the same reasons. South Korea and Japan have already learned how unreliable North Korea can be when it comes to business deals and Russia has already adopted the wary approach to economic deals with North Korea.

China has visibly increased enforcement of economic sanctions on North Korea but this has not made North Korea any more willing to negotiate. The growing number of police and secret police night patrols in areas where North Korean smugglers long operated is hard to miss, as is the fact that when North Korean smugglers are encountered they get arrested and taken away. Even higher bribes (over $3,000 to make an arrest not happen) no longer work because the Chinese cops will still demand that amount of cash before they will turn the smugglers over to North Korean officials. China never came down so hard on North Korean smuggling before.

China is also cracking down on North Korean drug production and smuggling. This is a matter of self-defense for China and is effective because North Korea make the highest profits from methamphetamine (“meth”). But this drug requires a key ingredient (phenylacetic acid, in the form of white crystals) to be smuggled in from China. Now the Chinese are cracking down on that as well as the meth coming into China. North Korea is seeking another, probably more expensive, supplier in Russia.

While Russia is still doing business with North Korea China and Russia are also cooperating with many of the new rules banning North Korean workers they long employed legally. This exported labor was outlawed by the latest round of sanctions. North Korea responded by quietly ordering overseas workers to stay where they are and work illegally (in deals arranged by their government minders). Yet in many instances the export ban on slave labor is being enforced by Russia and especially China and that is hurting North Korea economically.

The North Koreans see this as yet another challenge that can be worked around. While it is true that there are still a lot of corrupt Chinese and Russians willing to do business with North Korea if the bribe is large enough, that is not working as well as it used to in China. This is because North Korea is very unpopular with Chinese in general and a growing number of senior Chinese officials in particular. Russians are less upset with North Korea and, while having fewer economic resources than China, are more receptive to shady deals. The problem is that North Korea has become very dependent on the much larger and still expanding Chinese economy. Russia simply cannot supply a lot of what North Korea needs. It is possible to still buy the forbidden goods in China and have them shipped to a fictitious customer in Russia who will quietly send it to North Korea. That does not always work and when it does it costs a lot more than getting the goods directly from China. North Korea has less cash for the extra expenses. The Chinese know this and are quite willing to slowly squeeze until North Korean leaders are all dead or more receptive to Chinese needs (no nukes next door and fewer desperate illegal migrants). Yet there is the growing risk that North Korea will get (or thinks it has) reliable nukes and keep threatening China. That is not the desired outcome but the Chinese have quietly reminded leaders of both Koreas (and their foreign allies) that in the past China has occupied much of Korea when the Koreans become troublesome.

Meanwhile China is not happy with South Korea either, fearing the growing military power of South Korea and the recent installation of a THAAD anti-missile battery despite vigorous Chinese diplomatic and economic efforts to prevent that. The diplomatic and economic pressure continues but the South Koreans are in no mood to back off as long as the North Korean threat remains. South Korea believes China could do more to eliminate the North Korean threat. While many, if not most, Chinese and Russians agree with that the Russian and Chinese governments still see economic opportunities in North Korea and are unwilling to do anything drastic.

September 14, 2017: In coincidental, nearly simultaneous, events North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan while South Korea fired two Hyunmoo 2 ballistic missiles. One of these failed while the other accurately hit the target area (at sea) 250 kilometers away. The North Korean missile travelled about 2,200 kilometers and landed in the Pacific. Japan said it tracked the missile and did not try to intercept because it was obvious the missile was following a trajectory that would take it far from Japan. The identity of the North Korean missile was not known.

South Korea has developed a longer (500 kilometer) version; Hyunmoo 2C. South Korea developed a 180 kilometer range ballistic missile (Hyunmoo 1) and a 300 kilometer one (Hyunmoo 2) in the 1980s. Both are about 13 meters (40 feet) long and weigh 4-5 tons. Both of these were based on the design of the U.S. Nike-Hercules anti-aircraft missile, which South Korea used for many years.

September 13, 2017: Google and YouTube have banned videos from North Korean media, apparently because it is a source of income for North Korea and now in violation of sanctions. This reduces open source access to North Korean TV although intelligence agencies will still be able to get these.

China has restricted access to Mount Paektu, apparently for safety reasons related to the recent North Korean nuclear test, which was conducted 110 kilometers away. Mount Paektu is a dormant volcano on the Chinese border. In fact, half the volcano is in China, where it is a popular tourist destination for South Koreans. That’s because Koreans and Manchus (as in Manchuria, the native people of northeast China) both consider Mt Paektu as a sacred place where their tribes originated thousands of years ago. In 2013 North Korea put some silos for their long range (2,000-3,000 kilometers) ballistic missiles up there because that part of North Korea is a triangle, surrounded on two sides by China. This makes it difficult for the Americans to launch air attacks without entering Chinese territory and makes it easier for North Korean anti-aircraft forces to defend against cruise missile. On the down side, Paektu is a dormant volcano that is active (lava flows and the like) about once a century. The last time it erupted (throwing large quantities of rocks and dust into the atmosphere) was in 1703 and an eruption in the late 10th century blew the top off the mountain and created the current 4.5 kilometers wide crater lake. Volcanologists consider Paektu capable of another major eruption but North Korea considers that less likely than an American air attack. So the silos stay, despite the risk of destruction by lava flows and earthquakes. Before all these silos were built North Korea planned to keep its long range ballistic missiles mobile and launch them from any number of launch sites (a flat field where the missile could be fueled and the guidance system programmed before launch.) Bad weather could complicate the use of mobile launchers (washing out bridges or blocking roads with snow). The quality of North Korean roads has also declined sharply (from lack of maintenance) since the late 1990s. Then there is the increased American surveillance (from satellites, U-2s and high-altitude UAVs) that makes mobile missiles more vulnerable to air or missile attack. Silos can also be attacked from the air, but in a war the more numerous and shorter range ballistic missiles to the south would also be subject to air attack as these missiles would be aimed at the South Korean capital. North Korea apparently believes that silos protected by a sacred volcano are a worthwhile investment to ensure that some of long-range missiles will get launched during a crises. China is more concerned about nuclear radiation coming from North Korea.

September 12, 2017: Chinese radiation monitors on the North Korean border recorded levels were up seven percent since the September 3rd test and have appeared to have peaked. This data was released because the population along the border know that they face some health risks if radiation levels increase too much for too long.

September 11, 2017: The UN approved new economic sanctions against North Korea and China said it would enforce them all and repeated that it had been enforcing sanctions since March. The new sanctions limit the export of refined petroleum product to two million barrels a year and ban North Korea from importing liquefied natural gas. This followed China condemning North Korea nuclear tests openly in the UN for the first time.

Meanwhile the United States continues to call on China and Russia to do more to halt the North Korean evasion of sanctions via corrupt officials and businesses in China and Russia. China in particular does not want too much international attention focused on that corruption, which has long been quite active along the North Korean border and still is. The United States is not being diplomatic in pointing this out but it is correct in showing how Chinese enforcement of sanctions does not really work unless China effectively curbs the Chinese corruption that enables North Korea to continue doing whatever it wants. For the North Korea the increased sanctions pressure merely increases costs (larger bribes are required in China and Russia).

September 10, 2017: Chinese banks have been warning its customers to stay away from bitcoin because of the threat from North Korean hackers, who are believed to be responsible for several recent multi-million dollar thefts from bitcoin exchanges. North Korea is believed to be targeting bitcoin and other Internet based cryptocurrencies even though North Korea has used bitcoin exchanges as a substitute for sanctions that ban it from accessing the international banking system. The Chinese government fears that North Korean hackers are now going after Chinese firms, something they are not supposed to do because China is still the main source of foreign trade. This sort of irrational behavior leads China to fear that North Korea would even be foolish to become a real military threat to China.

September 9, 2017: China orders all Chinese banks (including foreign banks licensed to operate in China) to not only stop opening accounts for North Koreans but also to close any such accounts immediately. This is a very harmful economic sanction and the North Koreans respond by ignoring the new rules any way they can.

September 8, 2017: North Korea has quietly freed a Russian yacht it had seized in mid-June. A North Korean warship seized the Russian yacht when both were 80 kilometers off the coast. The yacht and the vessel towing it to Vladivostok were definitely in international waters and the Russian ambassador demanded the release of the yacht and three man crew. North Korea was not responsive until now. This was similar to a May 2016 incident where North Korean warship seized a Russian sailing yacht some 160 kilometers from the east coast of North Korea (very much in international waters). The yacht and crew of five were taken to a North Korean port. The yacht was released two days later and continued on its way to its original destination (Vladivostok) for a sailboat race. In both cases North Korea would not say why they took the yacht and then released it.

September 7, 2017: South Korea has completed deploying an entire THAAD battery to a site some 300 kilometers south of the North Korean border. The United States will share radar data generated by the high-powered radar installed as part of a THAAD anti-missile battery that began arriving in early 2017. The THAAD battery is operated by American personnel and costs $3.5 million a year to operate. The battery consists of six truck-mounted missile launchers (eight missiles per launcher), a fire control and communications unit and an AN/TPY-2 radar. Villagers living near the site of the THAAD base oppose the presence of the anti-missile battery because it will be a target for North Korean (or even Chinese) attack. Locals also fear (without any evidence) that the powerful THAAD radar will cause health problems.

September 6, 2017: A recent online opinion survey in China showed that 66 percent believed North Korea was a larger military threat to China than the United States. Only 10 percent felt the Americans were a larger threat and 15 percent believed the U.S. was no threat at all. This is consistent with earlier surveys only the degree of hostility towards North Korea keeps increasing. Chinese see North Korea has a poorly managed nation that is ungrateful towards China and unpredictable.

September 4, 2017: North Korean living near the site of the recent underground nuclear weapons test are demanding compensation for the damage done to their home by the earthquake (estimated to be 5.6 on the Richter scale) the test produced. Across the Yalu River some Chinese buildings also suffered damage from the quake and several aftershocks.

South Korea announced that its policy towards North Korea will now on “punishment” rather than negotiation.

September 3, 2017: North Korea carried out its sixth nuclear test. This one appeared to be the largest one yet indicating a yield of 100-200 tons and described as a hydrogen bomb. The first nuclear test was in 2006 (less than one kiloton) but the first one that was truly successful occurred in 2013 (6 kilotons) and despite the fact that the test was not a complete success, the nuclear bomb program continued with two tests in 2016. In late 2015 Kim Jong Un claimed that North Korea had developed a hydrogen (fusion) bomb. Foreign experts openly expressed skepticism given that North Korea didn’t really have a reliable fission type nuclear bomb yet. You need an efficient fission bomb to trigger the fusion reaction that makes the “H-Bomb” so much more destructive than a fission bomb of the same weight and size. Nuclear test number four in January 2016 was described by North Korea as a fusion (H-bomb) test when it clearly was not, or not a successful one. That would be in contrast to the 2013 test which appeared to be seven kilotons and a complete detonation. The second test was a two kiloton weapon in 2009. Western intelligence believed that the original North Korean nuclear weapon design was flawed, as the first two tests were only a fraction of what they should have been. The first one was less than a kiloton and called in the trade, a “fizzle.” The second test was less of a fizzle and apparently a modified version of the original design. Thus North Korea needed more tests to perfect their bomb design and was still years away from a useful nuclear weapon even though the second bomb appeared to be more effective. The third test in 2013 was considered overdue and that may have been because more time was spent designing and building a smaller device that could fit into a missile warhead. The second 2016 test is still something of a mystery. U.S. intelligence agencies have collected air samples (as have most other neighboring countries) from the test which can tell much about the design of the bomb. The January 2016 nuke appeared to be the same as the 2013 one. The second 2016 test in September appeared to be a better design and was about ten kilotons. North Korea insisted this was a fusion bomb. Air samples are still being collected on the test today but it will take weeks to analyze the samples and come to some useful conclusion. The sheer size of the most recent test indicated either a fusion bomb or an enhanced fission bomb. But for a yield of over 100 tons a fusion bomb is more likely. Such designs have been around and in use since the late 1940s. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 a lot of Russian nuclear weapons designers and technicians were out of a job and the pensions of the retired ones were suddenly worth a lot less. The security for nuclear weapons designs, especially much older ones, became a lot more lax. There were plenty of opportunities to obtain previously unavailable tech.

August 29, 2017: North Korea fired a Hwasong-12 ballistic missile over Japan. This was the 18th North Korean ballistic missile test of 2017 and this one appeared to break into pieces before it fell into the ocean after travelling 2,700 kilometers from North Korea. This was the second successful test of the Hwasong-12.

August 28, 2017: South Korea announced its largest increase (6.9 percent for 2018) in its defense budget since 2009. This is a direct result of the increasing threat from North Korea. Next year South Korea will spend $38 billion, which is more than a third larger than the annual GDP of North Korea (which spends about a third of GDP on defense compared to less than three percent in South Korea). South Korea is in the top ten of national economies, something which annoys North Korea but is admired by the other neighbors (including China). Meanwhile Japan is also increasing its defense spending by 2.5 percent in 2018 (to $48 billion). Japan, like China and the U.S., are among the top five economies on the planet. Japan, because of the post-World War II constitution the United States insisted on (and Japan did not much object to) has been largely demilitarized considering the size of its economy. That is changing and the U.S. has dropped nearly all restrictions on what weapons it will export to South Korea and Japan and is ignoring treaties it has with both nations that restrict what types of advanced weapons (like ballistic missiles and nukes) they can develop. The Americans would still prefer that South Korea and Japan not build nukes (which both these nations could easily and quickly do). China and Russia would also prefer that Japan and South Korea remain non-nuclear weapon nations. But if North Korean military ambitions and threats (especially against South Korea and Japan) are not curbed popular opinion in South Korea and Japan is becoming more comfortable with the having their own nukes.

August 25, 2017: China banned North Korea from establishing any new businesses in China or expanding existing ones. Russia has done the same, but the Chinese are a much larger market and apparently intent on following through. Meanwhile the August 15 order for Chinese firms to halt imports of minerals and seafood cost some Chinese firms with physical operations (trucks, mines) and warehouses in North Korea to suffer losses because they were given only 24 hours to get this stuff back to China and that was not enough time. This was especially true when many North Korean officials demanded special payments before these goods could be moved.

August 24, 2017: A Russian Tu-95 bomber flew south from a base north of Korea until it got close enough to South Korea to cause South Korean F-16s to come up and investigate. Russia said it was a scheduled training flight.

Kim Jong Un’s Thermonuclear Joyride

September 4, 2017

Kim Jong Un’s Thermonuclear Joyride, PJ MediaClaudia Rosett, September 3, 2017

(According to CBS

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said on Monday that North Korea appeared to be planning another missile launch, possibly of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to show off its claimed ability to target the United States with nuclear weapons.

Will it be a sufficient “threat” to precipitate a military response? — DM)

People watch a TV news program showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017. North Korea said it set off a hydrogen bomb Sunday in its sixth nuclear test, which judging by the earthquake it set off appeared to be its most powerful explosion yet. The signs read “North Korea, important announcement.” (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

What ought to be clear by now is that North Korea’s Kim regime is not going to be stopped by any niceties at the diplomatic bargaining table — even if Kim agrees at some stage to parley. For North Korea, deals in the past have amounted to nothing more than pitstops, a chance to refresh and refuel. There is no reason to expect anything better of Kim Jong Un, who clearly has a liking for the nuclear accelerator. Nor is it wise to expect that China or Russia will stop this pioneering tyrant who in the 21st century is doing such a standout job of humiliating and threatening the mighty United States.

For Kim Jong Un, what a joyride.

For President Trump, for Mattis, for South Korea, for Japan, for the entire free world, what a horrifying conundrum to inherit.

And the longer it goes on, quite likely the worse, for all of us, the crash.

****************************

Following North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, advertised by Pyongyang as an ICBM-ready hydrogen bomb, it was good to hear Defense Secretary James Mattis talking tough. But that won’t stop North Korea from building nuclear missiles. It won’t stop North Korea’s threats against the U.S. and our allies. I’d wager it won’t even interfere with Kim Jong Un’s enjoyment of his apparently ample meals.

Mattis stressed Kim’s peril in his remarks on Sunday, when he said: “Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam or our allies will be met with a massive military response.” Mattis added the backhanded threat that “we are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely, North Korea, but as I said, we have many options to do so.”

But does Kim have any reason to think the U.S. would exercise those options?

North Korea has long been a geyser of threats, including its threat last month to use the U.S. territory of Guam for missile practice, its launch last month of a ballistic missile over Japan, and its threat accompanying Sunday’s nuclear test that it could use thermonuclear weapons for a “super-powerful EMP attack.”

The U.S., Japan and South Korea have responded with shows of force, but like a multitude of displays done before, the de facto message is one of great muscle but no will to fight. None of that force has been used to strike North Korea. Kim holds Seoul hostage, and America, while groping for a solution to North Korea’s rapidly compounding threats, has no appetite to risk a replay of the carnage of the 1950-1953 Korean War, potentially amplified by nuclear weapons in the hands of Pyongyang.

With the caveat that I have no inside information, it’s intriguing to imagine what’s going on right now in Kim Jong Un’s head. He’s a young tyrant, now in his mid-thirties, who inherited power upon the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in December 2011. Some young men inherit a family fortune. Kim inherited supremacy over a totalitarian ruling party, fully accessorized with a nation state, a gulag, a nuclear weapons program and one of the world’s largest standing armies — with artillery already dug in to threaten the fat prize of capitalist Seoul, with its population of 10 million South Koreans just the other side of the Demilitarized Zone.

Since inheriting the keys to this grotesque family estate, Kim has presided over four of North Korea’s six nuclear tests to date (one in 2013, two in 2016 and the latest this Sunday). Under his rule, North Korea has amassed a nuclear arsenal estimated by various experts to be in the double digits, perhaps now including thermonuclear weapons. On Kim Jong Un’s watch, North Korea has advertised its pursuit of the ability to launch nuclear missiles from submarines, and acquired the ability to miniaturize nuclear warheads and mount them on missiles. In July, North Korea succesfully tested two ICBMs. And, as mentioned, in August North Korea threatened the U.S. territory of Guam and launched a missile over Japan. And of course there was the test on Sunday of what North Korea celebrated as a hydrogen bomb.

From international obscurity half a dozen years ago, Kim has vaulted to erstwhile godhood on his totalitarian home turf, and become a celebrity tyrant who makes headlines around the globe. With tactics worthy of Stalin, or Caligula, he has consolidated power — recall the execution in 2013 of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, and the assassination earlier this year, with VX nerve agent, of his half-brother, Kim Jong Nam. Under his rule, North Korea has become a global player in cyber warfare. In the tradition of his enterprising forebears, he continues to cultivate strategic alliances and illicit weapons networks that funnel North Korea’s military wares to the likes of Syria, Iran and their terrorist mascots.

All this has provoked repeated rounds of sound and fury from U.S. superpower, and inspired multiple rounds of emergency meetings at the United Nations. Serious high-level officials of the world’s great powers have spent plenty of time debating and discussing and pronouncing on North Korea — evidently all of them either unable or unwilling to stop Kim’s trajectory.

What ought to be clear by now is that North Korea’s Kim regime is not going to be stopped by any niceties at the diplomatic bargaining table — even if Kim agrees at some stage to parley. For North Korea, deals in the past have amounted to nothing more than pitstops, a chance to refresh and refuel. There is no reason to expect anything better of Kim Jong Un, who clearly has a liking for the nuclear accelerator. Nor is it wise to expect that China or Russia will stop this pioneering tyrant who in the 21st century is doing such a standout job of humiliating and threatening the mighty United States.

For Kim Jong Un, what a joyride.

For President Trump, for Mattis, for South Korea, for Japan, for the entire free world, what a horrifying conundrum to inherit.

And the longer it goes on, quite likely the worse, for all of us, the crash.