Posted tagged ‘North Korea sanctions’

Trump is Right, Tillerson is Wasting His Time on North Korea

October 2, 2017

Trump is Right, Tillerson is Wasting His Time on North Korea, Power LinePaul Mirengoff, October 2, 2017

(Please see also, China openly discussing collapse of North Korea. — DM)

If there is any hope of changing North Korea’s behavior, it rests not with Tillerson’s diplomacy or with the direct effect of threatening Kim Jong Un. Rather, it rests with China acting out of self-interest.

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A day after Secretary of State Tillerson said he was reaching out to North Korea in hopes of starting a new dialogue, President Trump belittled the idea. He tweeted:

I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man. Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!

Trump is right. North Korea isn’t going to negotiate away its nuclear arsenal and it’s not going to freeze its nuclear program until the program has the capacity to inflict the level of damage Kim Jong Un deems necessary to deter the U.S. — namely the capacity to hit major U.S. cities.

Michael Green, President George W. Bush’s chief Asia adviser, acknowledged that “the president is right on this one in the sense that Pyongyang is clear it will not put nuclear weapons on the negotiating table, nor will the current level of sanctions likely convince them to do so. . . .”

The incoherence of Tillerson’s approach is underscored by this incoherent statement by Sen. Bob Corker:

I think that there’s more going on than meets the eye. I think Tillerson understands that every intelligence agency we have says there’s no amount of economic pressure you can put on North Korea to get them to stop this program because they view this as their survival.

If no amount of economic pressure can induce North Korea to stop its nuclear program because of its centrality to the regime’s survival, then what are the likely outcomes of Tillerson negotiating with the regime? The likely outcomes are (1) no agreement or (2) acceptance of North Korea continuing its program, in effect on North Korean terms.

These have been the outcomes of past U.S. diplomacy with North Korea. As Trump tweeted: “Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now?”

The question remains, though, why did Trump publicly undercut his Secretary of State on Twitter. According to reports, the president was furious at Tillerson for contradicting his public position that now is not the time for talks. That seems like reason enough for the president’s tweeting. It may be reason enough to sack Tillerson.

Some have suggested that Trump is attempting a good cop, bad cop approach to Kim Jong Un. It seems to be true that the North Koreans are mightily confused by conflicting signals coming from Washington. According to a number of sources, they are frantically talking to American sources in an attempt to understand the true intentions of the Trump administration. And Trump has often touted the advantages of keeping our adversaries uncertain about his intentions.

It’s far from clear, however, that this is the right approach in the context of a fledgling nuclear power led by an inexperienced ruler about whom we don’t know much. My guess is that Trump’s rhetoric will unsettle North Korea, but is no more likely than Tillerson’s diplomacy to deter it from expanding its nuclear program.

At the same time, it will not prompt Kim Jong Un to start a war he otherwise doesn’t want, as Trump’s critics suggest might happen. Where’s the advantage to the regime in that?

If one is inclined to view Trump’s rhetoric as rationally calculated to achieve a positive purpose, I think that purpose would be to influence China. If China believes Trump might launch a preemptive attack on North Korea, it might apply a stranglehold on the regime, especially if it also sees South Korea and Japan possibly moving towards developing a nuclear arsenal.

If there is any hope of changing North Korea’s behavior, it rests not with Tillerson’s diplomacy or with the direct effect of threatening Kim Jong Un. Rather, it rests with China acting out of self-interest.

North Korea taps GOP analysts to better understand Trump and his messages

September 26, 2017

North Korea taps GOP analysts to better understand Trump and his messages, Washington PostAnna Fifield, September 26, 2017

Spectators listen to a television news broadcast of a statement by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on a public television screen in Pyongyang on Friday. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

 North Korean government officials have been quietly trying to arrange talks with Republican-linked analysts in Washington, in an apparent attempt to make sense of President Trump and his confusing messages to Kim Jong Un’s regime.

The outreach began before the current eruption of threats between the two leaders but will probably become only more urgent as Trump and Kim have descended into name-calling that, many analysts worry, sharply increases the chances of potentially catastrophic misunderstandings.

“Their number one concern is Trump. They can’t figure him out,” said one person with direct knowledge of North Korea’s approach to Asia experts with Republican connections.

There is no suggestion that the North Koreans are interested in negotiations about their nuclear program — they instead seem to want forums for insisting on being recognized as a nuclear state — and the Trump administration has made clear it is not interested in talking right now.

At a multilateral meeting here in Switzerland earlier this month, North Korea’s representatives were adamant about being recognized as a nuclear weapons state and showed no willingness to even talk about denuclearization.

(Video at the link. — DM)

But to get a better understanding of American intentions, in the absence of official diplomatic talks with the U.S. government, North Korea’s mission to the United Nations invited Bruce Klingner, a former CIA analyst who is now the Heritage Foundation’s top expert on North Korea, to visit Pyongyang for meetings.

Trump has close ties to Heritage, a conservative think tank that has influenced the president on everything from travel restrictions to defense spending, but no personal connection to Klingner.

“They’re on a new binge of reaching out to American scholars and ex-officials,” said Klingner, who declined the North Korean invitation. “While such meetings are useful, if the regime wants to send a clear message, it should reach out directly to the U.S. government.”

North Korean intermediaries have also approached Douglas Paal, who served as an Asia expert on the National Security Council under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and is now vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

They wanted Paal to arrange talks between North Korean officials and American experts with Republican ties in a neutral location such as Switzerland. He also declined the North Korean request.

“The North Koreans are clearly eager to deliver a message. But I think they’re only interested in getting some travel, in getting out of the country for a bit,” Paal said.

(Video at the link. — DM)

North Korea currently has about seven such invitations out to organizations that have hosted previous talks — a surprising number of requests for a country that is threatening to launch a nuclear strike on the United States.

Over the past two years in particular, Pyongyang has sent officials from its Foreign Ministry to hold meetings with Americans — usually former diplomats and think-tankers — in neutral places such as Geneva, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

They are referred to as “Track 1.5” talks because they are official (Track 1) on the North Korean side but unofficial (Track 2) on the American side, although the U.S. government is kept informed of the talks.

But since Trump’s election in November, the North Korean representatives have been predominantly interested in figuring out the unconventional president’s strategy, according to almost a dozen people involved in the discussions. All asked for anonymity to talk about the sensitive meetings.

Early in Trump’s term, the North Koreans asked broad questions: Is President Trump serious about closing American military bases in South Korea and Japan, as he said on the campaign trail? Might he really send American nuclear weapons back to the southern half of the Korean Peninsula?

But the questions have since become more specific. Why, for instance, are Trump’s top officials, notably Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, directly contradicting the president so often?

“The North Koreans are reaching out through various channels and through various counterparts,” said Evans Revere, a former State Department official who dealt with North Korea and is a frequent participant in such talks. There are a number of theories about why North Korea is doing this.

“My own guess is that they are somewhat puzzled as to the direction in which the U.S. is going, so they’re trying to open up channels to take the pulse in Washington,” Revere said. “They haven’t seen the U.S. act like this before.”

Revere attended a multilateral meeting with North Korean officials in the picturesque Swiss village of Glion earlier this month, together with Ralph Cossa, chairman of the Pacific Forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and another frequent interlocutor with Pyongyang’s representatives.

The meeting is an annual event organized by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, a government-linked think tank. But it took on extra significance this year due to the sudden rise in tensions between North Korea and the United States.

All the countries involved in the now-defunct six-party denuclearization talks — the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and the two Koreas — were represented, as were Mongolia, the Swiss government and the European Union. The Swiss invited the U.S. government to send an official, but it did not.

The North Koreans at the meeting displayed an “encyclopedic” knowledge of Trump’s tweets, to the extent that they were able to quote them back to the Americans present.

Pyongyang’s delegation was headed by Choe Kang Il, deputy director of the Americas division in the Foreign Ministry, and he was accompanied by three officials in their late 20s who wowed the other participants with their intellectual analysis and their perfect American-accented English. One even explained to the other delegates how the U.S. Congress works.

“They were as self-confident as I’ve ever seen them,” said Cossa. Revere added: “They may be puzzled about our intentions, but they have a very clear set of intentions of their own.”

The participants declined to divulge the contents of the discussions, as they were off the record.

But others familiar with the talks said the North Koreans completely ruled out the “freeze-for-freeze” idea being promoted by China and Russia, in which Pyongyang would freeze its nuclear and missile activities if the United States stopped conducting military exercises in South Korea. The United States, Japan and South Korea also outright reject the idea.

Participants left the day-and-a-half-long meeting with little hope for any improvement anytime soon.

“I’m very pessimistic,” said Shin Beom-chul, a North Korea expert at the South’s Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, after participating in the meeting in Glion. “They want to keep their nuclear weapons, and they will only return to dialogue after the United States nullifies its ‘hostile policy.’ They want the U.S. to stop all military exercises and lift all sanctions on them.”

Ken Jimbo, who teaches at Keio University in Japan and was also at the meeting, said that North Korea may still be interested in dialogue, but on terms that are unacceptable to the other side.

“North Korea wants to be recognized as a nuclear-weapons state,” Jimbo said. “But when is North Korea ready for talks? This is what I kept asking the North Koreans: How much is enough?”

 

President Trump JUST Drops Executive Order NOW Kim Jong Un Is Panicking(VIDEO)!!!

September 26, 2017

President Trump JUST Drops Executive Order NOW Kim Jong Un Is Panicking(VIDEO)!!!, Global News via YouTube, September 26, 2017

(The title seems excessively dramatic, but Dear Leader Kim will feel the new sanctions China claims to support.  The more interesting segments of the video deal with our military options. — DM)

The blurb beneath the video states,

President Trump drops executive order now Kim Jong Un is panicking. President Trump signed an executive order targeting North Korea’s trading partners, calling it a powerful new tool aimed at isolating the regime. Foreign banks will face a clear choice. Do business with the United States or facilitate trade with the lawless regime in North Korea.

Presidential Executive Order on Imposing Additional Sanctions with Respect to North Korea

September 21, 2017

Presidential Executive Order on Imposing Additional Sanctions with Respect to North Korea, The White House, September 21, 2017

(As noted at Conservative Tree House,

President Trump and Secretary Mnuchin have structured this executive order in such a way that the downstream consequences from any economic engagement with the DPRK effectively cuts off that entity from ever engaging in commerce or economic activity with the United States.

— DM)

EXECUTIVE ORDER

– – – – – – –

IMPOSING ADDITIONAL SANCTIONS WITH RESPECT TO NORTH KOREA

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.), the United Nations Participation Act of 1945 (22 U.S.C. 287c) (UNPA), section 1 of title II of Public Law 65-24, ch. 30, June 15, 1917, as amended (50 U.S.C. 191), sections 212(f) and 215(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (8 U.S.C. 1182(f) and 1185(a)), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code; and in view of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2321 of November 30, 2016, UNSCR 2356 of June 2, 2017, UNSCR 2371 of August 5, 2017, and UNSCR 2375 of September 11, 2017, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, find that:

The provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions and policies of the Government of North Korea, including its intercontinental ballistic missile launches of July 3 and July 28, 2017, and its nuclear test of September 2, 2017, each of which violated its obligations under numerous UNSCRs and contravened its commitments under the September 19, 2005, Joint Statement of the Six‑Party Talks; its commission of serious human rights abuses; and its use of funds generated through international trade to support its nuclear and missile programs and weapons proliferation, constitute a continuing threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States, and a disturbance of the international relations of the United States.

In order to take further steps with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13466 of June 26, 2008, as modified in scope by and relied upon for additional steps in subsequent Executive Orders, I hereby find, determine, and order:

Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in:

Any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State:

(i) to operate in the construction, energy, financial services, fishing, information technology, manufacturing, medical, mining, textiles, or transportation industries in North Korea;

(ii) to own, control, or operate any port in North Korea, including any seaport, airport, or land port of entry;

(iii) to have engaged in at least one significant importation from or exportation to North Korea of any goods, services, or technology;

(iv) to be a North Korean person, including a North Korean person that has engaged in commercial activity that generates revenue for the Government of North Korea or the Workers’ Party of Korea;

(v) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or

(vi) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.

(b) The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section apply except to the extent provided by statutes, or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted before the effective date of this order. The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section are in addition to export control authorities implemented by the Department of Commerce.

(c) I hereby determine that the making of donations of the types of articles specified in section 203(b)(2) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(2)) by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to subsection (a) of this section would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13466, and I hereby prohibit such donations as provided by subsection (a) of this section.

(d) The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section include:

(i) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to subsection (a) of this section; and

(ii) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

Sec. 2. (a) No aircraft in which a foreign person has an interest that has landed at a place in North Korea may land at a place in the United States within 180 days after departure from North Korea.

(b) No vessel in which a foreign person has an interest that has called at a port in North Korea within the previous 180 days, and no vessel in which a foreign person has an interest that has engaged in a ship‑to‑ship transfer with such a vessel within the previous 180 days, may call at a port in the United States.

(c) The prohibitions in subsections (a) and (b) of this section apply except to the extent provided by statutes, or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted before the effective date of this order.

Sec. 3. (a) All funds that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person and that originate from, are destined for, or pass through a foreign bank account that has been determined by the Secretary of the Treasury to be owned or controlled by a North Korean person, or to have been used to transfer funds in which any North Korean person has an interest, are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in.

(b) No United States person, wherever located, may approve, finance, facilitate, or guarantee a transaction by a foreign person where the transaction by that foreign person would be prohibited by subsection (a) of this section if performed by a United States person or within the United States.

(c) The prohibitions in subsections (a) and (b) of this section apply except to the extent provided by statutes, or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted before the effective date of this order.

Sec. 4. (a) The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to impose on a foreign financial institution the sanctions described in subsection (b) of this section upon determining that the foreign financial institution has, on or after the effective date of this order:

(i) knowingly conducted or facilitated any significant transaction on behalf of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to Executive Order 13551 of August 30, 2010, Executive Order 13687 of January 2, 2015, Executive Order 13722 of March 15, 2016, or this order, or of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to Executive Order 13382 in connection with North Korea‑related activities; or

(ii) knowingly conducted or facilitated any significant transaction in connection with trade with North Korea.

(b) With respect to any foreign financial institution determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, in accordance with this section to meet the criteria set forth in subsection (a)(i) or (a)(ii) of this section, the Secretary of the Treasury may:

(i) prohibit the opening and prohibit or impose strict conditions on the maintenance of correspondent accounts or payable-through accounts in the United States; or

(ii) block all property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person of such foreign financial institution, and provide that such property and interests in property may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in.

(c) The prohibitions in subsection (b) of this section apply except to the extent provided by statutes, or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted before the effective date of this order.

(d) I hereby determine that the making of donations of the types of articles specified in section 203(b)(2) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(2)) by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to subsection (b)(ii) of this section would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13466, and I hereby prohibit such donations as provided by subsection (b)(ii) of this section.

(e) The prohibitions in subsection (b)(ii) of this section include:

(i) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to subsection (b)(ii) of this section; and

(ii) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

Sec. 5. The unrestricted immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens determined to meet one or more of the criteria in section 1(a) of this order would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and the entry of such persons into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, is therefore hereby suspended. Such persons shall be treated as persons covered by section 1 of Proclamation 8693 of July 24, 2011 (Suspension of Entry of Aliens Subject to United Nations Security Council Travel Bans and International Emergency Economic Powers Act Sanctions).

Sec. 6. (a) Any transaction that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, causes a violation of, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

(b) Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

Sec. 7. Nothing in this order shall prohibit transactions for the conduct of the official business of the Federal Government or the United Nations (including its specialized agencies, programmes, funds, and related organizations) by employees, grantees, or contractors thereof.

Sec. 8. For the purposes of this order:

(a) the term “person” means an individual or entity;

(b) the term “entity” means a partnership, association, trust, joint venture, corporation, group, subgroup, or other organization;

(c) the term “United States person” means any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States;

(d) the term “North Korean person” means any North Korean citizen, North Korean permanent resident alien, or entity organized under the laws of North Korea or any jurisdiction within North Korea (including foreign branches). For the purposes of section 1 of this order, the term “North Korean person” shall not include any United States citizen, any permanent resident alien of the United States, any alien lawfully admitted to the United States, or any alien holding a valid United States visa;

(e) the term “foreign financial institution” means any foreign entity that is engaged in the business of accepting deposits, making, granting, transferring, holding, or brokering loans or credits, or purchasing or selling foreign exchange, securities, commodity futures or options, or procuring purchasers and sellers thereof, as principal or agent. The term includes, among other entities, depository institutions; banks; savings banks; money service businesses; trust companies; securities brokers and dealers; commodity futures and options brokers and dealers; forward contract and foreign exchange merchants; securities and commodities exchanges; clearing corporations; investment companies; employee benefit plans; dealers in precious metals, stones, or jewels; and holding companies, affiliates, or subsidiaries of any of the foregoing. The term does not include the international financial institutions identified in 22 U.S.C. 262r(c)(2), the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the North American Development Bank, or any other international financial institution so notified by the Secretary of the Treasury; and

(f) the term “knowingly,” with respect to conduct, a circumstance, or a result, means that a person has actual knowledge, or should have known, of the conduct, the circumstance, or the result.

Sec. 9. For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render those measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13466, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to this order.

Sec. 10. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to take such actions, including adopting rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to me by IEEPA and UNPA as may be necessary to implement this order. The Secretary of the Treasury may, consistent with applicable law, redelegate any of these functions to other officers and agencies of the United States. All agencies shall take all appropriate measures within their authority to implement this order.

Sec. 11. This order is effective at 12:01 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time, September 21, 2017.

Sec. 12. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

DONALD J. TRUMP

THE WHITE HOUSE,

September 20, 2017.

South Korean President: Trump’s ‘Very Strong Speech’ Will ‘Help Contain North Korea’

September 21, 2017

South Korean President: Trump’s ‘Very Strong Speech’ Will ‘Help Contain North Korea’, Washington Free Beacon , September 21, 2017

 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in expressed his support Thursday for President Donald Trump’s stance on North Korea’s nuclear program, indicating it will be effective to help contain its Northern neighbor.

At a meeting in New York City, Trump and Moon focused on responding to the North Korean regime’s development of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles. During the discussion, the South Korean president said, through an interpreter, that he is satisfied with Trump’s firm approach toward the North Korean regime and leader Kim Jong Un.

“North Korea has continued to make provocations and this is extremely deplorable and this has angered both me and our people,” Moon said. “But the United States has responded firmly and in a very good way and because of this I also believe that we have very close coordination between Korea and the United States and because of this I am very satisfied.”

Trump joked about the interpreter using “deplorable,” a word Hillary Clinton famously used during the election to describe Trump’s supporters.

Moon specifically praised Trump’s speech at the U.N., saying it will “help contain North Korea.”

“Mr. President, in the U.N. general assembly you made a very strong speech and I believe that the strength of your speech will also help contain North Korea,” Moon said. “Thank you very much.”

Trump’s initial words emphasized his cooperation with Moon and other allies in Asia.

“We are meeting on a constant basis,” Trump said. “We’ll be meeting in a little while also with Prime Minister Abe of Japan and that will be a tri-meeting, so we will see. But, I think we’re making a lot of progress in a lot of different ways. Stay tuned.”

Trump made a point to say North Korea was the more important issue, but also referred to ongoing negotiations regarding the United State’s trade deal with South Korea.

“We are on a very friendly basis working on trade and working on trade agreements and we’ll see how that all comes out,” Trump said. Later he remarked that the current deal has been “so bad for the United States and so good for South Korea.”

“We’re going to try to straighten out the trade deal and make it fair for everybody,” Trump said shortly before going into a meeting with Moon and Abe. “But our real focus will be on the military and our relationship with South Korea, which is excellent, really excellent.”

Moon also emphasized that he has spoken with Trump regularly about the Kim regime situation. He did not address trade deals.

“Mr. President, I have met with you several times and have also had many telephone conversations with you, and because of this I am becoming more and more familiar with you,” Moon said.

Trump also announced an executive order to bring new sanctions against countries who trade with North Korea.

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.

Haley: ‘North Korea Will Be Destroyed’ if the U.S. Has to Defend Itself

September 17, 2017

Haley: ‘North Korea Will Be Destroyed’ if the U.S. Has to Defend Itself, Washington Free Beacon, , September 17, 2017

(Please see also, Our Rhineland moment. — DM)

 

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Sunday “North Korea will be destroyed” if the U.S. is forced to defend itself against the belligerent country.

CNN host Dana Bash asked Haley on “State Of The Union” if President Donald Trump’s “fire and fury” remarks last month against dictator Kim Jong Un was an empty threat.

Haley said the threats were not empty and if the diplomatic process with North Korea doesn’t work she “would be perfectly happy to send this over to [Defense] Secretary Mattis” since he has “plenty of military options.”

“It was not an empty threat. What we were doing is being responsible. Where North Korea is being irresponsible and reckless, we were being responsible by trying to use every diplomatic possibility that we could possibly do. We’ve pretty much exhausted all the things that we could do at the security council at this point,” Haley said.

Bash followed up the original question by asking if Trump’s “fire and fury” remark meant a military option.

“By saying General Mattis will take care of it, you’re are talking about the Pentagon and you’re talking about a military option. Is that what ‘fire and fury’ meant?” Bash asked.

Haley answered firmly saying if the United States has to defend itself “North Korea will be destroyed.”

“You have to ask the president what fire and fury meant. But I think we all know that basically if North Korea keeps on with this reckless behavior, if the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed,” Haley said. “We all know that, and none of us want that.”

“None of us want war, but we also have to look at the fact that you’re are dealing with someone who is being reckless and irresponsible and is continuing to give threats not only to the United States but to all of their allies, so something is going to have to be done,” she added.