Aletho News


US Presidential Elections and the Korean Peninsula

By Konstantin Asmolov – New Eastern Outlook – 13.09.2020

In the United States, participants in the presidential election that will be held on November 3, have been determined. The Republican nominee is the White House’s current head, Donald Trump, and the Democratic nominee is former Vice President Joe Biden. In this context, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea has launched a working group to forecast election results and analyze the promises and political positions of the two candidates as well as their possible impact on diplomacy, security, and the economy.

A reasonable step, since there are less than two months left until November 3, 2020, and, according to American experts, it is difficult to determine the clear winner. Still, this text will be about how the election results will affect the Korean Peninsula situation. To a lesser extent, the region as a whole.

Donald Trump intends to continue his current policy, the main principles of which are strengthening protectionism and creating new jobs. In his opinion, to be a global hegemon, the United States must first focus on internal problems and not waste forces and resources outside.

In this context, Trump intends to stop the endless and unprofitable from his point of view wars that the United States is waging: note that, despite the hostile rhetoric and aggressive Twitter, Trump so far, has turned out to be one of the few US presidents under whom the US military did not find another enemy.

On the other hand, Joe Biden intends to preserve the traditional model of US leadership in foreign policy, updating diplomatic ties and relations from which Trump pulled out as unprofitable. Biden wants to rejoin the world health organization and join the Paris Climate Agreement (UNFCCC), believing that Trump’s steps have led to a weakening of the US position in the world.

In terms of relationships, Trump is a more difficult partner for Seoul (South Korea) than Biden. If re-elected, he will further strengthen his “America first” policy, including the desire to “make allies pay their fair share.” According to experts of the Republic of Korea, having untied his hands for a second term, he will try to recall foreign military contingents to their homeland and force the allies to increase their share in joint defense spending with the United States.

While Washington and Seoul are still at an impasse over how much more burden South Korea should shoulder, Seoul offers a maximum of +13% of the previous amount. At the same time, Washington wants at least 50%. If re-elected, Trump will continue the pressure. Also, it is not known what Trump’s policy will be on maintaining the American contingent in the Republic of Korea in its current form. They may try to reduce it.

A similar situation applies to the Korea-US bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), which, according to Trump, created jobs only for South Korea: “We made a terrible deal with South Korea, remember? A particular case with Hillary Clinton. She said it would give 250,000 jobs, and she was right, except that, unfortunately, the jobs went to South Korea, not to us”.

Under Biden, such demands are likely to be curtailed, but one must remember that in general, Seoul’s economic and value dependence on Washington will not go anywhere.

The North Korean agenda of the two candidates differ more clearly. Donald Trump relies on friendly relations with Kim Jong-un (Supreme Leader of North Korea). He constantly gives reminders that another President would have brought the matter to war, which would have cost the United States “Very Dearly.” While the process “is paused,” each participant receives a minor victory: from Trump, the sanctions are working, and North Korean intercontinental Ballistic missiles (ICBMs) don’t fly; from the perspective of Kim, it is time to shift all their focus for a country’s economic development, overcoming the consequences of the pandemic and adjusting it to the next round of sanctions, that will allow him to continue to improve the standard of living of the population and to lead by carrot, not just by stick.

Nobody wants to make deals with a “lame duck”, but if Trump triumphs for a second term, we can expect a formal continuation of the dialogue, more precisely, a series of demonstration events designed to show that the discussion continues and there is no deadlock in it. Yes, significant counter steps will be expected from America. Still, for the sake of four years of calm in this direction, Trump may take a couple of steps towards it if his domestic political positions strengthen. So far, Trump has promised a “quick deal” if re-elected, but details remain in the shadows. The author expects a statement about ending the Korean war as a symbolic gesture, yet crucial for both sides.

From Biden & Co’s point of view, Trump is flirting with a tyrant without any result. The fact that North Korea does not launch intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) or conducts nuclear tests does not mean that the North’s nuclear missile program has stalled. No, it continues, which means that the problem is not solved. Also, if for the Republicans, the number 1 problem related to North Korea is the Nuclear Programm for the Korean Peninsula, for the Democrats – it is an oppressive regime that violates human rights. Let’s not forget that the US Democratic party’s agenda mainly revolves around protecting specific oppressed categories and from the standpoint of human rights violations, “digging up the North” is very convenient.

Biden himself was a scathing critic of Trump’s policies and his meetings with Kim Jong-un, which led North Korean media to call him a rabid dog that should be beaten to death for insulting the country’s “highest dignity.”

Therefore, in the event of his victory, everything that Trump and Kim have achieved will be reset to zero. Reuters openly say that if Biden wins, “there will be no more exchange of love letters or a spectacular summit”. There will be an attempt at “coordinated efforts” to build a coalition against North Korea, strengthen its diplomatic isolation, and “draw attention to human rights violations in the country in a way that has been lacking in current US policy.” In doing so, he will rely on hawks like Victor Cha or Evans Revere, and to a greater extent, take into account the requirements of Japan. For example, start making a big fuss over its citizens abducted by North Korea.

Revere admits that “the American arms control community is likely to have a strong voice in the Biden administration and will argue it is time to accept that North Korea is now a nuclear power“. But the conclusion from this will be made not “With the new nuclear power, we must conduct dialogue as an equal” but “Crush it at any cost.”

Of course, action will generate opposition, and experts suggest that a Biden victory could push North Korea into hostile action. At the very least, new demonstrations of North Korean military power “within acceptable limits,” such as Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile tests, and as a maximum, a break in the gentleman’s agreement on Intercontinental ballistic missiles or nuclear tests, which North Korea continues to observe, despite words that there is no longer a moratorium. However, according to Revere and his colleagues, such actions will only help to highlight the threat posed by the Kim regime, gaining more understanding from allies and justifying retaliatory measures.

Now about what will NOT change regardless of who takes the White House.

President Trump’s confrontation between Beijing and Washington continues, without prejudice of the President and his entourage, but with many complex reasons, both technical and ideological. China becomes a challenge in terms of having a successful alternative system of values, extremely dangerous for the US hegemony supported by a) the leading position it has held on the market of meanings and b) the idea that the liberal democracy the US embodies may have flaws, but by the sum of the factors it is still the best model.

Another thing is that if in the confrontation with China, Trump was more focused on direct pressure or methods of economic war, the Democrats will use more subtle ways. They are primarily attempting to brand Beijing as trampling on universal values. We may see increased support within Chinese dissidents and separatists, as well as a more effective fanning of hysteria around the fact that human rights are violated in China (up to the possible fabrication of witnesses or taking on faith outright fakes from the repertoire of the Falun Gong sect).

The sanctions loop will not weaken but strengthen. Although Trump criticized Obama’s policies, he continued Obama’s course of “strategic patience,” which consisted of refraining from risky and dangerous areas, gently rocking the boat, and waiting for North Korea to break in the ring of increasing sanctions. Moreover, he supplemented this with the concept of a secondary boycott, and most likely, Biden will continue this line.

But back to South Korea. Experts contacted by the Korea Times believe that the two candidates show both their good and bad sides for South Korean diplomacy and national security. On the one hand, the current problems with the Free Trade Agreement or the distribution of military spending, which make Trump the worse candidate. On the other hand, Moon Jae-In desires to promote the agenda of inter-Korean reconciliation, and here Biden is worse.

For North Korea, Trump is more acceptable: a bad peace is better than a good quarrel, and in the case of Biden, the probability of the latter increases. The author traditionally hopes for the best but is preparing to consider all options.

Konstantin Asmolov is a Candidate of Historical Sciences, leading science associate of the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of the Far East of the RAS.

September 13, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

US Ambassadors Trigger Anti-American Sentiments, Cui Prodest?

By Vladimir Platov – New Eastern Outlook – 04.07.2020

On more than one occasion recently, New Eastern Outlook has featured, as have other media outlet publications, what kind of “love” US ambassadors have merited in many countries owing to their behavior and genuinely aggressive countenance, which no diplomatic status can conceal.

The publications in media outlets are more frequently expressing the scandals linked to US ambassadors and all the new protests erupting against them in various countries.

Starting in December on a regular basis, protests against Ambassador Harry Harris – who is insulted by saying that he “resembles a Japanese colonial governor” – take place in front of the US embassy building in South Korea.

This is not the first month that authorities and society in Germany have openly expressed their dissatisfaction with the actions taken by Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to their country, right up until the time he recently left Germany.

In December, the US government was forced to recall its ambassador to Zambia, Daniel Foote, after authorities in this African country had stopped expressing their desire to work with him.

The US ambassador in Warsaw, Georgette Mosbacher, uses Poland like a club by threatening other nations with it, the Polish Kresy even writes, trying to drive home the point to the Poles that she virtually treats Poland like her own possession, and demonstrating that her main priority is merely the income American business owners make in Poland.

In Moldovan society and media outlets, intense criticism is leveled at the actions by American ambassador Dereck Hogan for how he gives the center-right and liberal parties instructions on what to do, and how to do it, in current Moldovan day-to-day realities.

And even today, media outlets in Lebanon wrote that the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs will demand that Dorothy Shea, the head of the American diplomatic mission there, comply with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. We should recall that pursuant to the Vienna Convention the ambassador of any foreign nation does not have the right to interfere in the host country’s domestic affairs, or make speeches that goad some in the country to speak out against others in the country, or against the government.

Another scandal with the US ambassador to Lebanon flared up with particular force after Dorothy Shea, during an interview on June 25 broadcast on the Al Hadath TV channel in Dubai, rained down criticism on the Shiite Hezbollah party – which is represented in both the parliament and the government – accusing it of not allowing decisions to be made that would let Lebanon get out of its economic crisis, and of depriving the country of billions of dollars. The diplomat affirmed that Hezbollah has become “a state within a state and bled Lebanon dry”, hindering the cabinet of ministers from making decisions that would “help Lebanon get out of a deep-rooted economic and financial crisis”.

Previously, the US ambassador D. Shea publicly announced that Lebanese politicians from various regions and communities that support close ties with the pro-Iranian Hezbollah and Syria could be subject to impact from new American sanctions. On top of that, to back up her threats Shea reminded people that the “United States is the largest donor country for the Lebanese economy.”

In response to that proclamation, Judge Mohamed Mazeh in the city of Tyre delivered a ruling on June 27 that prohibited local journalists from interviewing the US ambassador to Lebanon for one year, and said that all people who violate that directive will face both losing their licenses and a pecuniary fine of 200,000 USD. When explaining his ruling, the judge underscored that the words spoken by the American diplomat were geared toward undermining stability in Lebanon. “The voice of any ambassador that inflicts damage on civil peace should not be heard in the media,” stated Mazeh.

Mario Aoun, a Lebanese deputy from the Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc, called it “absolutely unacceptable, unforgivable interference by American diplomats in Lebanese politics.”

On June 29, Nassif Hitti, the Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, called Ambassador Dorothy Shea to a meeting at the ministry to deliver an official protest from Lebanese authorities elicited due to her interference in the domestic affairs in her country of accreditation, and the impermissibility of stoking the country’s domestic political situation.

Lebanese media on June 29 reported that the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, where the American diplomat was summoned after several scandalous announcements made on local television channels, was where the Lebanese public held a campaign involving many thousands to protest against US ambassador Dorothy Shea for meddling in the country’s domestic affairs. Protestors proclaimed during the action that Lebanon does not need to take lessons in democracy from the American ambassador. “An economic boycott on Syria and Lebanon will not break the resistance to US and Israeli plans!” chanted activists.

On May 17, Michael Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, stated that Washington is imposing new sanctions on Damascus as part of the so-called “Caesar Act”, or the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, which not only Syrian citizens and companies can fall under, but organizations from other countries, including Lebanon. The “Caesar Act”, which was signed by President Donald Trump on December 20, 2018 was incorporated into the US military budget for the 2020 financial year. It gives the US administration the right to impose sanctions on organizations and individuals that provide direct and indirect assistance to the Syrian government, and to various armed groups that are active inside the country’s borders and that – according to the version of events put forth by the United States – receive support from the authorities of Syria, Russia, and Iran. According to a statement made by Gebran Bassil, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement and Lebanon’s parliamentary majority, the new round of American sanctions “specifically affects Lebanon’s interests and its ties with the Arab world”. He is convinced that sealing off the border with Syria will “squeeze the life out of” the Lebanese economy, and cause famine.

The reaction to the aggressive actions and behavior on the part of US ambassadors shows that instead of searching for ways to develop relations between the US and other countries, they only reinforce the anti-American sentiment in other countries.

Owing to this, the maxim by Lucius Cassius Longinus Ravilla, a Roman consul in 127 BC, involuntarily springs to mind: Cui prodest? (Latin for “Who benefits?”).

July 4, 2020 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

South Korea’s Moon appoints top aides, all advocates of inter-Korean rapprochement

Press TV – July 3, 2020

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has appointed officials, all known as supporters of inter-Korean détente, as his new top national security advisors in an effort to revive stalled negotiations with North Korea.

The officials were appointed on Friday to replace the chiefs of national security, intelligence and unification policy.

Lee In-young, a four-term lawmaker, who was nominated to oversee inter-Korean ties as unification minister said, “Reviving inter-Korean dialogue is a top priority.”

He said that he would “look at the issue of restarting humanitarian exchanges and cooperation which can be done immediately.”

The current minister resigned over worsening relations with the North.

Moon appointed Suh Hoon, as his national security adviser and Park Jie-won, to succeed Suh as NIS head.

The president has so far held three summits with North Korean Leader, Kim Jong-un, with whom he signed an agreement in 2018 to take a step closer to peace by turning the Korean Peninsula into a “land of peace without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats.”The two Koreas were on a path of rapprochement beginning in January 2018 before US intransigence to relieve any of the sanctions on the North effectively killed diplomacy.

Earlier this year, Moon said he was making efforts to arrange a visit by Kim to Seoul, saying that both sides are in “desperate need” to improve relations.

The South’s president, who has also been trying to mediate between the North and the United States, urged President Donald Trump and Kim to meet once again before the US presidential election in November.

Trump and Kim have already met three times, mainly on Moon’s auspices.

Citing the coronavirus pandemic, the US’s deputy secretary of state and lead negotiator with North Korea, Steve Biegun, said on Monday that another summit was “probably unlikely between now and the US election.”

Biegun, however, said Washington would “continue to leave the door open to diplomacy.”

He is due to visit South Korea next week for meetings with his South Korean counterparts.

July 3, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

Will South Korea’s Moon Defy Trump and Improve Relations with North Korea?

By Gregory Elich | June 29, 2020

North Korea is in the news again.  As always, that means that it is time for mainstream journalists and establishment figures to reach for the handy cliché and to recycle received opinion as a substitute for thought. Terms like “provocation,” “threat,” and “aggression” abound. Not surprisingly, powerful political and military actors in the United States are seizing the opportunity offered by strained inter-Korean relations to try and kill any prospect of reengagement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK – the official name for North Korea).

In the eyes of nearly all U.S. politicians, military contractors, think tank analysts, and mainstream journalists, the release of former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s memoir could not have arrived at a better time. Bolton played a key role in torpedoing the Hanoi Summit by demanding that North Korea relinquish its biological and chemical weapons, despite the lack of evidence that the DPRK even has such programs. That was coupled with his insistence that North Korea adopt the Libya model of denuclearization, in which the DPRK would give up everything and receive nothing in return other than vague assurances. For Bolton, sinking the Hanoi Summit was a job half-done. With his memoir, he hopes to complete the task and smother the very concept of reengagement, a message that is predictably finding a receptive ear among so many in Washington.

President Trump’s willingness to meet with Chairman Kim Jong Un had suggested the potential for progress on the Korean Peninsula. For a time, Trump was open to dialogue but he remained wedded to the standard establishment line that the sole purpose of talks should be to negotiate the terms of North Korea’s surrender. In essence, it now appears that there was more continuity than change in Trump’s policy. Both former President Obama and Trump waged economic warfare on the North Korean people through sanctions, and both sought unilateral concessions. Where they differed was in whether issuing demands in face-to-face meetings needed to be added to the mix.

At one point, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun responded to criticisms of American intransigence by suggesting that the United States might consider offering compensation to North Korea in exchange for denuclearization. The possibilities he mentioned included agreeing to the two nations opening liaison offices in each other’s capital, permitting a few people-to-people talks, and humanitarian aid. There was also the thought that the United States might be willing to sign a declaration acknowledging that the Korean War came to an end in 1953. What is notable about all of these proposals is that they would provide nothing that North Korea truly needs. Sanctions would remain in place. Nor would there be a security guarantee to the DPRK that would allow it to feel safe enough to dismantle its nuclear deterrent. Also missing was normalization of relations.

Undoubtedly, there is ample reason to question Bolton’s veracity in his self-justifying memoir. But there is at least one passage that has the ring of plausibility. Bolton claims that he began to suspect that the end-of-war declaration was Moon’s idea. That impression was confirmed in talks with the North Koreans, who “had told us they didn’t care about it, seeing it as something Moon wanted,” and they also “worried about Moon’s pitching Trump on these bad ideas.” [1]

Kim Myong Gil, North Korea’s chief negotiator in denuclearization talks, firmly rejected Biegun’s offer of purely symbolic measures. “If the U.S. believes that it can lure us to the table with secondary issues, such as an end-of-war declaration – which can instantly end up as garbage depending on the political situation – and the establishment of a liaison office, instead of presenting fundamental solutions to withdraw its hostile policy against North Korea, which interferes with our right to survival and development, there will never be any hope for a solution.” [2]

However, reciprocity is not a word in the Washington lexicon, so talks remained stymied. Trump is currently distracted as the electoral campaign ramps up and in his criminal mismanagement of the COVID-19 virus. The mood on Capitol Hill and in the media is unremittingly hostile to the resumption of talks, and it is difficult to envision a reelected Trump being open to reengagement in a more even-handed manner. Nor can hope for an improved U.S.-DPRK relationship be placed in a Joe Biden presidency. In a campaign video, Biden declared, “The first thing we have to do is start to demonstrate to the American public that we’re no longer embracing the Kim Jong Uns and the thugs of the world…We are the United States of America. We lead by our example. We’re back. That’s the most critical thing that is going to have to be done.” [3]

The writing, then, is clearly on the wall. North Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Son Gwon issued a statement on June 12, in which he pointed out that “the hope for improved DPRK-U.S. relations…has now been shifted into despair,” and “even a slim ray of optimism for peace and prosperity… has faded away.” [4]

Trump’s inability or unwillingness to think beyond the ossified constraints of the Washington Establishment’s mindset ensured that talks could only end in failure. The North Koreans have taken due note of the Trump administration’s rigidity and have essentially given up hope for better relations.

Instead, the North Koreans focused their attention where there seemed more potential for improvement, and that was with inter-Korean relations. They hoped for measures such as establishing economic projects of mutual benefit and the cessation of military exercises aimed at each other. But here, too, the DPRK met with disappointment, as progress with South Korea remained stalled.

Mainstream media tell us that by severing communication links with the south and setting off an explosion at the Joint Liaison Office in Kaesong, North Korea is ‘lashing out’ and ‘raising tensions,’ due to economic problems or as a message to encourage Trump to resume negotiations.

In reality, these gestures are intended as a wake-up call to the Moon administration to prod him into returning to the commitments he signed in the Panmunjom Declaration. North-south relations have been in the doldrums for quite some time now, and the DPRK’s repeated requests for cooperation in advancing inter-Korean relations have invariably failed to move Moon into action.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in recognizes the need for warmer relations between the two Koreas, and some of Moon’s ideas for bringing the two Koreas closer together, such as his proposal for a Northeast Asian Railway Initiative, [5] have considerable merit. Yet, all of his plans remain undisturbed on the shelf, collecting dust.

The problem is that, as much as Moon may care about inter-Korean relations, the U.S.-South Korean alliance is more important to him. Moon insists that the UN economic sanctions on North Korea, which the U.S. devised, prevent him from implementing many of his plans. On every matter concerning cooperation with North Korea, whether large or small, Moon feels compelled to first ask for permission from the United States, and the answer is always no. It is due to Moon’s timidity that inter-Korean relations have failed to progress beyond initial steps.

Moon’s pronouncements are indicative of his frame of mind. In a meeting with senior secretaries on April 27, he said, “The fact that the Panmunjom Declaration’s implementation could not be sped up was never for lack of determination. It was because we could not step beyond the international restrictions that are part of reality.” There it is again, that inability to be an independent actor, and the compulsion to seek permission. Moon went on to say that “we should continue to find what is doable,” [6] by which he meant any small thing that the United States would permit him to do.

In the same meeting, Moon stated that “in regard to connecting inter-Korean railroads, we will start with what is possible first.” He added that he looks forward to working with the DPRK to “attain a vision for reconnecting the Donghae and Gyeongui lines, as agreed upon by the two leaders” [of North and South Korea]. Since U.S. opposition had already dissuaded Moon from moving ahead on reconnecting the rail lines, all that’s left is for the two Koreas to work on agreeing on what that “vision” would look like without ever actually attempting to translate that vision into reality.

The United States and South Korea established a working group to coordinate the latter’s policy towards the DPRK. For the Trump administration, the group’s mission is to put the brakes on all attempts at cooperation with the north. It is widely thought in South Korea that it was the working group that prevented business representatives from checking on their factories at the closed Kaesong Industrial Complex. It was also the working group that refused to allow South Korea to ship 200,000 doses of Tamiflu last year to the DPRK. [7] No cracks can be permitted in the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign against North Korea, not even when it comes to the provision of humanitarian aid.

With their only remaining hopes focused on closer cooperation with South Korea, the North Koreans have reached the point of total exasperation with Moon for his prioritizing the demands of U.S. imperialism over the needs of the Korean people.

From the North Korean perspective, Moon’s follow through on implementing the terms of the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula has been lacking. The clause that “affirmed the principle of determining the destiny of the Korean nation on their own accord” should have been the overarching philosophy.

The Panmunjom Declaration’s call to “actively implement” economic projects agreed to in 2007 at the summit between Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong Il had no chance, given punishing UN sanctions. Yet, there could have been some progress on implementing “practical steps towards the connection and modernization of the railways and roads on the eastern transportation corridor as well as between Seoul and Sinuiju for their utilization.” [8]

The immediate trigger for North Korea’s recent actions is the ongoing psychological warfare campaign waged by South Korean right-wing evangelical groups against the DPRK through the launch of propaganda balloons. The Panmunjom Declaration obligated both sides to cease all hostile acts against each other, including “distribution of leaflets” across the border. Given the frequency of right-wing balloon launches, the DPRK felt that South Korea was lackadaisical at best in restraining such efforts. An unnamed former South Korean official comments: “What the North Koreans are saying is that if the South can’t even keep its promise to ban the propaganda balloons, a matter that’s unrelated to sanctions and that the leaders of South and North Korea already reached an agreement about, there isn’t anything the two sides can work on together.” [9]

In a study published in 2014, based partly on interviews with defector groups, Jin-Heon Jung estimated the cost of a single balloon at around $100. Given the volume of balloons sent aloft, it is clear that, as Jung puts it, “fundraising matters the most.” In addition to individual donations, Jung reports: “Some of my interlocutors told me that financial support from international organizations such as the Defense Forum Foundation and overseas churches account for a significant portion of the sponsorship.” [10]

Responding to North Korea’s complaints about South Korean inaction on inter-Korean relations, on June 15, Moon delivered a speech in which he expressed “frustration and regret” for not being able to talk about progress made since the South-North Joint Declaration of twenty years before. Demonstrating a gift for understatement, Moon went on to say: “We’ve always been using cautious approaches to take just one step forward – as if walking on ice – but now it seems that was insufficient.” [11]

A bit later in the speech, Moon explained: “The Korean Peninsula is not yet in a situation where both Koreas can charge ahead as much as we desire at our own discretion. We must move forward, though slowly, with the international community’s consent.” [12] Here, Moon used the term ‘international community’ in its standard usage, as referring solely to the few thousand people in the Washington Establishment, and excluding the rest of the world’s nearly eight billion people.

Moon followed with the suggestion “that there are projects where both Koreas can pursue independently,” and “we have to start with small, achievable tasks.” The problem is that the United States is never going to give its consent for any task, no matter how minor and unrelated to sanctions, and it is not in Moon’s character to even inch along without Washington’s approval.

The North Koreans find Moon’s inaction and penchant for expressing beautiful but empty words annoying. In a scathing reaction to Moon’s speech, Kim Yo Jong, First Vice Department Director of the Workers Party of Korea Central Committee, issued a statement that was filled with language that was undiplomatic, even quite harsh – but which was not inaccurate in its assessment of Moon. “As acknowledged by everyone, the reason that the north-south agreements which were so wonderful did not see any light of even a single step of implementation was due to the noose of the pro-U.S. flunkeyism into which he put his neck.” Kim added that Moon accepted the U.S.-South Korea working group “under the coercion of his master and presented all issues related to the north-south ties to [the] White House. This has all boomeranged.” [13]

It is not only what Kim terms Moon’s “servile” attitude that perturbs the North Koreans. Even though joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises, which practice the bombing and invasion of the DPRK, have been downscaled, the North Koreans still regard these smaller exercises as a violation of the spirit of the Comprehensive Military Agreement signed between the two Koreas. [14]

The same can be said of South Korea’s military buildup. Spending on the military rose 7.4% this year, and Moon’s plans call for an average increase of 7.5% each year through 2023. Already, South Korea ranks tenth worldwide in defense spending [15], and the nation is the fourth-largest buyer of U.S. weaponry. [16] In what strikes the DPRK as a provocative move, South Korea is allocating $3.3 billion to purchase twenty additional F-35 stealth fighter jets over the next five years. [17]

The direction that inter-Korean relations take in the future depends primarily on whether Moon, master of the empty phrase, decides to add action to his repertoire and behave as if he regards South Korea as a sovereign nation. As a recent report in the North Korean press put it, the only option for improvement is “by joining hands with the fellow countrymen, not with foreign forces.” [18] The time has come for Moon to choose between serving the Korean people and serving Washington.

Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at South Korea’s Sejong Institute, observes, “It has been just words. For the North, the South Korean government’s words and actions are different… There is a need for actions to match words, and it is also necessary for actions to move ahead of words. At the least, the two need to move at the same pace.” [19]

[1] Sarah Kim, “Trump Didn’t Want Moon in DMZ, Writes Bolton,” JoongAng Ilbo, June 22, 2020.

[2] Jeong Je-hyug, “NK Kim Myong-gil, ‘Biegun Conveyed Wish to Meet for Talks in December. Willing to Sit with the U.S.,” November 15, 2019.


[4] “Our Message to U.S. is Clear: Ri Son Gwon, Minister of Foreign Affairs of DPRK,” KCNA, June 12, 2020.

[5] Kim Ji-eun and Seong Yeon-cheol, “President Moon Proposes Northeast Asian Railway Community Initiative,” Hankyoreh, August 16, 2018.


[7] Kang Seung-woo, “South Korea-US Working Group’s Role in Question Amid Growing Inter-Korean Tensions, Korea Times, June 18, 2020.

[8] “Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” Reuters, April 27, 2018.

[9] Lee Je-hun, “Kim Yo Jong Becomes the Face of N. Korea Regarding Propaganda Balloons,” Hankyoreh, June 8, 2020.

[10] Jin-Heon Jung, “Ballooning Evangelism: Psychological Warfare and Christianity in the Divided Korea,” Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity,” 2014.



[13] “Honeyed Words of Impudent Man are Disgusting: First Vice Department Director Kim Yo Jong of WPK Central Committee,” KCNA, June 17, 2020.

[14] “U.S. and S. Korean Authorities Condemned for Exacerbating Situation on Korean Peninsula,” KCNA, June 18, 2020.

Noh Ji-won, “N. Korea’s Grievances with S. Korea as Expressed by Kim Yo-jong,” Hankyoreh, June 18, 2020.

[15] Koharo Ito, “What to Make of South Korea’s Growing Defense Spending,” The Sasakawa Peace Foundation, March 12, 2020.

[16] Elizabeth Shim, “South Korea a Top Buyer of U.S. Weapons, Annual Report Says,” UPI, December 16, 2019.

[17] Jeff Jeong, “South Korea to Buy 20 More F-35 Jets,” Defense News, October 10, 2019.

Franz-Stefan Gady, “F-35A Stealth Fighter Formally Enters Service in South Korea,” The Diplomat, December 19, 2019.

[18] “S. Korean Authorities’ Inveterate Sycophancy Brings North-South Relations to Catastrophe: Rodong Sinmun,” KCNA, June 22, 2020.

[19] Choi He-suk, “Moon’s Progress on NK at Risk of Being Undone,” Korea Herald, June 10, 2020.

June 30, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

‘Shameless’: Seoul denounces Japan’s objection to Trump’s plan to include South Korea in G7

RT | June 29, 2020

Seoul has accused Japan of brazen behavior after Tokyo objected to Trump’s idea of inviting South Korea into the G7 as a standing member. The proposal may weaken Japan’s political clout within the group, Japanese media claims.

A South Korean parliament official has accused Japan of constantly “harming” its neighboring country, in reaction to a news report published by Japanese news agency Kyodo last week. The report claimed that Tokyo’s administration had opposed US President Donald Trump’s idea of inviting Seoul to participate in the envisioned Group Seven gathering.

“There’s nothing to be surprised anymore by Japan’s consistent attitude not to admit or atone for its wrongdoings,” the official said. “The level of Japan’s shameless (position) is something of the world’s top.”

Kyodo reported that Japan has conveyed its objection to the US with claims that Seoul is not in “lockstep” with G7 – in particular, it does not share the group’s views on Chinese and North Korean issues.

The outlet suggested that Japan’s objection was expected to aggravate its already tense relationship with South Korea, amid ongoing historical and diplomatic disagreements. The two countries have long been locked in a dispute over World War 2 reparations aimed at resolving wartime labor issues. But the bill had heavily influenced controversies within the economic and defense areas in both countries.

The news agency pointed out that South Korea’s participation would mean ending Japan’s status as the lone Asian member within the group, which also includes the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, and Italy. Earlier this month, Japan expressed its hope to take the lead among G7 nations on issuing a statement about the situation in Hong Kong.

At the end of May, Trump suggested inviting Russia, South Korea, Australia, and India to participate at the G7 summit hosted by the US. The president has criticized the group as “very outdated” and pointed out that it no longer represents “what’s going on in the world.” The meeting was initially scheduled for June but had to be postponed until at least September, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At a media briefing on Monday, Japan’s government spokesman Yoshihide Suga refrained from publicly expressing its opposition to South Korea’s participation. Still, he stressed that it is crucial to maintain the current G7 framework for coordination in tackling global challenges.

June 29, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

North Korea: ‘Only option left to counter nuclear with nuclear’

Press TV | June 27, 2020

North Korea says Washington has left Pyongyang with no choice but to “counter nuclear with nuclear” in a bid to confront hostile US policies against the Asian country.

“In order to eliminate the nuclear threats from the US, the DPRK government made all possible efforts either through dialogue or in resort to the international law, but all ended in vain,” North Korean state news wrote in an essay, using an abbreviation for the country’s official name.

“The option left was only one, and that was to counter nuclear with nuclear,” it added.

The 5,000-word article documented the history of North Korea’s grievances with the US, South Korea and its allies and came a day after all of these countries marked the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War.

It also came just days after the North said it was suspending “military action plans” against the South after it had blown up a liaison office used for talks between the two countries in a North Korean border city.

The two Koreas were on a path of rapprochement beginning in January 2018 before US intransigence to relieve any of the sanctions on the North effectively killed diplomacy.

North Korea has been under harsh US sanctions for years over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

US President Donald Trump has attempted to court Pyongyang, and although he has met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un three times, he has refused to relieve any of the sanctions on the North. That has in turn hampered efforts to demilitarize the Korean Peninsula.

Kim outlined last month a plan to further boost his country’s nuclear deterrence capabilities.

The Washington-Pyongyang nuclear talks have made little progress since late last year, particularly after the global fight to curb the pandemic, which has so far infected nearly 10 million people and killed over 496,000 others around the world.

North Korea’s hardening of stance comes amid reports that the US is preparing to conduct its first full-fledged nuclear test since 1992.

Last December, Kim ended a moratorium on the country’s missile tests and said North Korea would soon develop a “new strategic weapon.”

June 27, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 2 Comments

Connecting the Dots

By Larry Romanoff • Unz Review • June 24, 2020

It often happens that events we view as isolated occurrences are connected as integral parts of a much larger picture, often as part of a wide-ranging plan, and frequently with important social, economic, and/or political implications which become evident only when seen in total. The several topics of this essay add a necessary context to all major social, commercial, and geo-political events of recent decades, which may help us in connecting dots. For this, it is extremely important to realise and understand that in these matters there are no accidents, that ‘crises’ (other than things like volcanic eruptions) do not just happen, and that the final result of any crisis, however it may appear, was the result intended.

As one example, this many decades ago, we noticed that in our city in Canada one brand of American convenience store seemed to have a habit of opening new stores within a stone’s throw of the existing ‘mom and pop’ variety stores (as they were then called), these shiny and attractive new shops inevitably resulting in the closure of our traditional community stores with the resulting loss of livelihood of the owner-families. It was a surprise to learn later that this practice existed in all cities in Canada and it eventually became clear that each such apparently minor event reflected the gradual execution of an astonishingly predatory plan to not only become established in another country but to progressively eliminate all existing competition in doing so. The dawning of this realisation came too late for authorities to take preventive action, resulting in the destruction of what had been an important part of Canada’s community cultural landscape.

In a different category, and more recently, we learned that during a period of ten or more years ending around 2015, GlaxoSmithKline engaged in an enormous tax and marketing fraud in China[1][2], involving billions of RMB in massive and systemic bribery and falsified accounts, the discovery punctuated by the company’s China CEO Mark Reilly fleeing the country on the first plane to England “on a previously-planned business trip”, and intending to remain there “to help with the investigation from that end”.[3] Lacking additional information, we tend to view this revelation as a domestic issue involving the typical group of ‘a few bad apples’. But with a bit of investigation we discover that GSK carried on a series of virtually identical criminal adventures simultaneously in the US and other countries as well, having been fined billions of dollars in the US alone for repeated occurrences. This additional knowledge substantially amends our perception of the picture. When, with a bit of additional investigation, we discover that all the major pharma companies have repeatedly engaged in a wide range of criminal activities resulting in fines totaling tens of billions of dollars in the US alone, our appreciation of GSK’s activities in China, and of the entire landscape of big pharma, are much altered and more accurate. We now know something we didn’t know before, and we now understand we are not dealing with a few bad apples in an isolated if unfortunate event, but with an industry corrupt to its core, worldwide. [4][5]

Similarly, we learned that Apple, the darling of the US stock market and of iphone fans everywhere, was being hounded by the Chinese commercial authorities, this time over warranty periods, Chinese law categorising Apple’s ipad as a computer requiring a two-year warranty with Apple insisting the ipad was a phone and refusing to comply. Following stringent insistence and a huge public outcry, Apple was eventually forced to conform.[6][7] Reading this as an isolated occurrence, we might judge this as a technical domestic argument of little consequence but, with a bit of investigation, we discover that Apple’s warranties had been under fire for years throughout Europe (and other countries) for precisely the same reasons and with precisely the same outcome – Apple stubbornly flouting the consumer laws of dozens of countries.[8][9] With this additional information, our perception of Apple’s behavior in China assumes a different flavor. We no longer see a simple dispute between a retailer and a socialist government with perhaps sticky laws, but a multinational corporation suffused with sufficient arrogance to not only challenge but attempt to dictate consumer laws and warranty policies to all sovereign nations where it does business. To say nothing of some bold tax dodges.[10] Further investigation reveals that, of all computer and mobile phone companies, only Apple appears to take this position. We now have a more accurate picture of the international IT landscape and Apple’s position within it, our sympathy for Apple’s difficulties in China certainly moderating if not transforming into outright hostility.

In each case, our understanding has been substantially amended because we can see the whole picture and we now know something we did not know before. It is true for a great many occurrences in the world, of many different kinds, that these are not single disconnected events but are related in a set pattern and to a set purpose. Simply put, if one house burns down on a street, that’s unfortunate; if two houses burn down on that street, that’s a coincidence; if five houses burn down on that same street, that’s a plan.

Thus, for many of the world’s events, most especially those containing strong social, economic and/or geo-political effects, it behooves us to bypass the mass media who force-feed us with only carefully-selected sound bytes, and to engage ourselves in a bit of independent research to discover whether these apparently disconnected events are in fact related in a larger context. It is necessary to bypass the media because the absence of connection between these apparently disparate (but related) events is not accidental; the media coverage by design and intent renders it impossible for the general public to connect the dots.

The Official Narrative

In attempting to understand social, economic and geo-political events, there is a second matter demanding our attention, that of the initial mass media coverage, because this often betrays secrets of an event that might otherwise be unknown.

Consider: if there is an explosion in a shopping mall somewhere, at first neither we nor the relevant authorities know anything. It might have been caused a gas line leak, perhaps from faulty maintenance, or stored chemicals, or perhaps a disgruntled citizen set off a bomb. At first, we don’t even know what, much less having a clear idea of who or how, or why, and it takes time to ferret out these details and form a sensible working theory of that event. If it appears that persons were responsible, the authorities require additional time to determine why and who, then begin their search.

But, if we are paying attention, it often happens that immediately upon the occurrence of such an event, the mass media present us with a full-blown story lacking only small details, a more or less complete description of what, how, who and why, a story that could not possibly be known at that stage. Not only is the media description immediate, but it is universal and unanimous, with all apparently unrelated media presenting the same story line, often verbatim, with no disagreement on any significant elements, these uniform storylines sometimes flooding the news for days, weeks, and even months.

Such a unanimous flood can occur only with all participants reading from the same script, prepared beforehand and readied for simultaneous release. In the above case, there are only two possibilities:[1] The story, if true, could be known only by the perpetrators or, [2] the story is a fabricated falsehood, taking the microphone to pre-empt independent rational thought by the public and force the discussion into desired channels, resulting in the elimination of critical public analysis and preventing the truth from escaping confinement.

At one time, not so long ago, this was impossible. But today, with the intense concentration of media ownership across all continents, (and with the increasingly strong censorship of the social media) we have only five or six people, all colleagues, controlling perhaps 90% of all media content and with a powerful financial influence on the remainder.

As one ready example, we could review the unfortunate flight of Korean Airlines 007 in 1983, a Boeing 747 which was shot down by Russian aircraft when it ventured about 500 kilometers off-course and perilously close to some Russian military installations. The media response was immediate and universal that “the Russians” killed hundreds of innocent passengers, and a great deal else. I don’t want to dwell on this here but, if you would like some personal entertainment, you might enjoy doing some thorough research on this event. One of the more entertaining issues was that the water was shallow where the aircraft eventually went down, and the Russians searched thoroughly but located only a few bodies of the crew. No hundreds of innocent passengers. One other discovery was hundreds of pairs of new sneakers and a great deal of new clothing still folded in its original packaging. But no bodies. The official response was that when the aircraft was hit by the missiles, the decompression “sucked all the passengers out of their clothes”, then presumably folding and packaging their clothing. Mother Nature is nothing if not neat and tidy.

The events of 9-11 were certainly one of these, with the entire final version of the “official story” appearing the next day in all the Western media, all verbatim including the who, how and why. SARS and ZIKA fit this pattern in every respect, and COVID-19 also fit very well as do the seven biological pathogens unleashed on China during the past two years alone. With the 2019 swine flu, the entire Western media knew instantly that Chinese “criminal gangs” and “pork speculators” were for unknown reasons infecting all of China’s pigs, although no evidence ever surfaced to support any part of their story. If we review the media coverage for many notable events in our recent history, the pattern is the same. We are then facing the only sensible conclusion that those events were executed as part of a plan with the unanimous media coverage arranged well in advance – and with the knowing participation of the media owners.

Normally, subsequent contradictory theories arise over time as we learn details and assemble the pieces in what might be a more logical and sensible combination but, in these cases, all contradictions are first ignored by the mass media, then condemned as “conspiracy theories”, those presenting them unanimously mocked and derided. The more attention these contradictory theories generate, and the more that serious flaws are exposed in the official story, the louder the derision and more vicious the condemnation, again unanimous and universal. Moreover, as these theories gain traction, the underlying facts are increasingly ignored in exchange for attacking their proponents. If we don’t like the message, we kill the messenger. There is no shortage of examples of historians, authors, various experts, being hounded to bankruptcy, infamy, and even death, merely for publishing (or even attempting to publish) inconvenient truths. This process is now so well-established that whenever we see accusations of ‘conspiracy theories’ we can be certain that a government or a corporation has something to hide.

As time passes, the public become inundated with what we term “the official narrative”, most tending to believe a story repeated daily for weeks from dozens of apparently independent and reputable sources, to the point where the matter is no longer news and dissenting opinions are lost in the haze. It then becomes almost impossible for hidden truths to emerge and, even if they do emerge, it is too late to significantly alter the public conviction or to obtain the required critical mass of dissention for a re-examination of the facts. It is said that if we hear a lie five times, especially from five different sources, we will believe it as true and will later be astonishingly reluctant to alter our opinion even in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary. This is one of the fundamental tenets of all propaganda.

In so many past instances, generally involving malfeasance, the US government or some branch of it quickly took the initiative to promulgate an “official story” that it wanted the public to accept, always with widespread media and scientific or other support. It isn’t usually difficult to distinguish between these crafted tales and other situations where the truth of an event innocently emerges as facts are sequentially discovered. One sure sign that we are being told a story is when “the official narrative” appears much too soon – before any actual facts emerge that would support the hypothesis, a ploy necessary to pre-empt independent conclusions and prevent more realistic or more factual versions from gaining traction.

Directed Channels of Discourse

There is one other item that serves to actively prevent our connecting the dots and forming correct conclusions about events, this being an intense and coordinated media focus to direct public discourse into desirable channels and away from the key issues. As a simple example, some years ago there were intense debates about the future of the Euro, with growing public opinion that the group currency was a failed experiment and European nations should revert to their original national currencies. But the mass media spawned a flood of debate centered on a wide range of options more or less titled “What is the best way to save the Euro?”, forcing public debate into a context where continuation of the Euro was assumed as immutable and all discussion focused on methods of preservation. Of course, the real question was “Should the Euro be saved?”, but those raising this question were ignored, mocked, derided, and painted as traitors to Europe.

If we pay attention to the mass media on the occurrence of many events, it is easy to see that we are often being propagandised and programmed to see the world through the same pair of eyes – the pair our masters want us to look through. It is a most effective tool of public manipulation, with most of us unaware this thought control is taking place. As Noam Chomsky noted in discussing propaganda[11], “The smart way . . . is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.” In simple terms, if you can focus the public on asking the wrong questions, you needn’t worry about the answers.

A Brief Case Study in Connecting Dots

In 2001, an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease ravaged the British farming industry. Exports from the UK of live animals, meat and dairy products were banned by other nations, and the government ordered a mass slaughter of millions of animals. The losses to British farmers were nearly incalculable, with a great many farmers going bankrupt or otherwise put out of business, and some farmers committing suicide in anguish over their losses. Within six months, almost 4 million animals had been slaughtered and their carcasses burned. Oddly, in the face of this enormous disaster, the government refused to hold a public inquiry into the outbreak, announcing instead three small separate investigations, the results of which would not be made public. A similar event occurred again a few years later. It was later admitted that the pathogen for this disease had gone “missing” from Porton Down and Pirbright, the UK’s two primary L-4 bio-weapons labs, the government then claiming “animal rights activists” had entered these military-guarded labs, stolen huge amounts of pathogen and released it. No information as to why they might do such a thing. The outcome of the UK foot and mouth disease outbreaks was to eliminate small farmers and turn over the UK’s beef supply to a few billionaire owners of Big Agra.

I won’t provide more detail here, but I have written a brief article covering this, the details of which will shock you.[12] As one example, for months prior to the outbreak the UK government was scouring the country for all loose volumes of timber admittedly to be used to burn the carcasses of the millions of cattle soon to become infected and slaughtered.

But so far, even to a suspicious mind, no clear evidence of malfeasance and no conspiracy. But we have other layers of dots here. It seems that immediately prior to this disastrous outbreak of a deadly biological pathogen, there was a ‘simulation’ dealing with precisely this eventuality, exactly the same as that held prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 and including most of the same players, most notably Pirbright who were the admitted source of the bovine pathogen and also who had developed and held patents on five coronavirus varieties, I believe the same five that infected the US and then the world.

And yet another layer of dots. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho wrote a report in the Institute of Science in Society, dated September 24, 2001, entitled “Foot & Mouth Outbreak, GM Vaccine and Bio-warfare”. It was after her report that investigations by the Evening Chronicle discovered papers leaked from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that confirmed the simulation which had been secret to that point. Readers may recall this is the same Dr. Ho who called for a full investigation into the possible genetic engineering and dissemination of the SARS virus, the evidence eventually conclusive that SARS emerged from a lab.

Let’s turn to the swine flu outbreak in China in 2019 where the nation’s pork was raised by hundreds of thousands of small farmers much as the beef in the UK. With 50% of the livestock slaughtered, American firms had an open door to take control of China’s pork supply. In this case the effort failed because the Chinese government, not being a party to the pathogen, immediately provided financing and other assistance for the small farmers to rebuild their herds.

However, if we research the outbreaks of animal pathogens around the world – swine flu, bird flu, the evidence seems to indicate that the expansion of Big Agra follows closely on their heels. This is an apparently natural occurrence, given that small competitors have been eliminated while market demand remains constant – unless this occurs more than once or twice. When these outbreaks inexplicably appear repeatedly on all continents with Big Agra in the background, we have dots to connect. I do not possess details of every outbreak of an animal pathogen in all countries for the past ten or twenty years, but I have a powerful suspicion that if we correlate these with the growth in market share of the world’s few Big Agra companies, we would receive a surprise.

Larry Romanoff is a retired management consultant and businessman. He has held senior executive positions in international consulting firms, and owned an international import-export business. He has been a visiting professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, presenting case studies in international affairs to senior EMBA classes. Mr. Romanoff lives in Shanghai and is currently writing a series of ten books generally related to China and the West. He can be contacted at:












[11] Noam Chomsky [2013]. “How the World Works”, p.234, Soft Skull Press

[12] UK Foot and Mouth Disease

June 26, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , | 1 Comment

The Mythical North Korean Threat

Tales of the American Empire | June 25, 2020

American troops arrived in Korea in 1945 and never left. South Korea eventually prospered and became a major economic and military power, but American Generals plan to occupy Korea forever. They exaggerate the North Korean threat, ignoring that South Korea has twice its population, 53 times its economic power measured by GDP, and a modern military that is roughly five times stronger than the decrepit North Korean Army. American occupation troops should have left four decades ago, but President Jimmy Carter’s effort to withdraw was thwarted by Generals. The US military remains to deter peace and block unification in order to retain South Korea as a vassal state.


“South Korea to shrink armed forces by a fifth in next 8 years”; Ashley Rowland; Stars and Stripes; March 18, 2014;…

“Military Considerations for OPCON Transfer on the Korean Peninsula”; Jina Kim; Council on Foreign Relations; March 20, 2020;…

“Withdraw from DMZ Bases”; Carlton Meyer; G2mil; 2013;

“Pull Aircraft and Airmen out of Osan”; Carlton Meyer; G2mil; 2011;

The figure of 60,000 Americans in the Camp Humphreys community includes those at nearby Osan Airbase, the thousands of retirees and their families living nearby who shop at these bases, and American troops at these bases for temporary duty and training exercises.

June 25, 2020 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | 2 Comments

Bolton’s statements on Trump-Kim summit are ‘distorted,’ Seoul says

RT | June 22, 2020

South Korea said on Monday that accounts by former US National Security Advisor John Bolton of discussions between leaders of the United States and the two Koreas in his upcoming book are inaccurate and distorted.

Reports have cited Bolton as writing that South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is keen to improve relations with Pyongyang, had raised unrealistic expectations with both the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and US President Donald Trump, for his own “unification” agenda.

“It does not reflect accurate facts and substantially distorts facts,” South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, said in a statement referring to Bolton’s description of the consultations.

Chung did not elaborate on specific areas but said the publication set a “dangerous” precedent. “Unilaterally publishing consultations made based on mutual trust violates the basic principles of diplomacy and could severely damage future negotiations,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

June 22, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

Secret Nuclear Sites of DPRK? Or is Everything Visible from Above?

By Konstantin Asmolov – New Eastern Outlook – 28.05.2020

Since 2018, North Korea has continued to adhere to its moratorium on nuclear, and medium- and long-range missile tests. This has created an impression that DPRK’s missile and nuclear weapons program has been put on hold. Still, analysts have been asking whether this is actually the case and the answer tends to depend on their political bias.  Naturally, those who have come to perceive Pyongyang as an Evil Empire believe that North Korea has not stopped working on such projects and is continuing to develop weapons of mass destruction. Within US expert circles, aside from holding such opinions, analysts linked with the Democratic party typically seek ways to show how politically incompetent Donald Trump is. In fact, any of their statements about successes made on the North Korean front actually imply that Donald Trump is being deceived but does not realize this.

Such ideological blinders further restrict the limited capabilities of these “Pyongyang experts”. Analyzing satellite images is essentially the only means they use to learn what is happening in the DPRK. But it is impossible to see everything from up above. Therefore, analysts end up basing their assumptions on a politicized interpretation of information, i.e. if a building can theoretically house a missile, it must be meant for that very purpose.

This, in turn, generates sensational stories about yet another secret site linked to the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program being located. Such reports are often published by Beyond Parallel, an analytic vehicle funded by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) or 38 North, currently a project of the Henry L. Stimson Center (formerly a program of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies).

On August 28, 2019, Beyond Parallel wrote that their latest satellite images provided “circumstantial evidence of the construction of a new ballistic missile submarine and preliminary evidence of possible preparations for a test” in the DPRK. Photographs of Sinpo South Shipyard showed “support vessels and a crane” suggesting “possible preparations, based on past practice, to tow the missile test stand barge out to sea for an SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic missile) test flight”. And although the authors of the article stated that there was “no conclusive evidence” that the preparation was nearing completion, media outlets reported that as an evidential fact.

On September 5, 2019, experts of the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea submitted a report stating that the Uranium enrichment facility and the Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR) continued their operations at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center.

On September 18, 2019, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that a nuclear reactor at Yongbyon was shut down for a sufficient period of time to be “de-fueled and subsequently re-fueled” in its report. The document also stated that there had been “signs of use at the centrifuge enrichment facility” there although “no indications of reprocessing activities” had been detected at the radiochemical lab in the plant.

In December 2019, the 38 North website reported that Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) had “observed activity at the Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR)” in Yongbyon indicating that it might be operational. According to the article, the “construction of the ELWR began in late 2010”, and although it appeared to be externally complete in early 2013, the North Korean government “has not spoken publicly about the reactor or its status” since November 2011.

Commercial satellite images made early in 2019 showed “a narrow but steady liquid effluent likely trailing from a pipeline stemming from the Turbine-Generator Building of the ELWR”. The report said that since 2017, photographs have shown “frequent movement of vehicles, cranes and equipment around the reactor’s entrance, the emplacement of a transmission tower and electrical transmission lines in 2017”. And in early 2018, the construction of a dam and spillway were observed. The authors of the article concluded that such activity indicated that the reactor was being prepared “for start-up operation”, and this “could have significant implications for North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and would complicate any denuclearization process”. According to the report, “the stated purpose for the ELWR is electricity generation”, but “the reactor could be operated to produce weapons-grade plutonium or tritium for boosted fission or hydrogen bombs”.

On January 30, 2019, South Korea’s leading conservative newspaper the Chosun Ilbo wrote that the DPRK had supposedly “built a large tunnel in Ryanggang Province near the border with China” that appeared “to be an underground missile base”. The conclusion was based on observations of the facility and imagery showing that the tunnel had only one entrance with “two cylindrical objects measuring around 10 m in length” near it, which appeared “to be missile-launching tubes”.

In March 2020, 38 North wrote about “a previously publicly unidentified underground facility (UGF) beneath a hill in Bungang” near the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center. The article provided a lot of details, based on satellite imagery, about its construction that had started in 2004. And, most importantly, the author made the following conclusion: “Underground structures in residential areas are not unusual and may be used for storage, civil defense or other innocuous purposes. While there is no evidence that it is related to the North Korean nuclear program, the site’s proximity may raise suspicions. Moreover, there is reason to believe there may be other underground sites in the area that may also provoke the same concerns. Therefore, any future denuclearization agreements covering the Yongbyon nuclear facility may need to take this site and any others discovered nearby into consideration when formulating verification provisions.” The report also mentioned that “no electrical lines feeding into” the UGF were observed, and “no external ventilation systems” were visible.

On March 27, 2020, the 38 North website issued a warning that “a new North Korean version of the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), test-fired” in March, could be capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

On April 8, citing 38 North, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that the DPRK had “recently conducted a dummy missile ejection test at its Sinpo shipyard”. According to the article, satellite imagery from April 5 showed that “the service tower on the ejection test pad pulled back from its static position”. In addition, the photographs also depicted a “glimpse of the bow of the SINPO-class experimental ballistic missile submarine”, however, “it was mostly obscured by the environmental awning”.

Another report published by Beyond Parallel on May 5, 2020 caused quite a stir. It said that a new facility was nearing completion in the village of Sil-li (not far from Pyongyang International Airport), and that it was “almost certainly related to North Korea’s expanding ballistic missile program”. According to the article, it “could be complete and ready for operations sometime during late-2020 or early-2021”.

The author of the story, Joseph Bermudez, based his conclusions on the following information:

  • “A high-bay building within the facility is large enough to accommodate an elevated Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile and, therefore, the entirety of North Korea’s known ballistic missile variants.” The building bay doors up to 8 m in height also indicate this.
  • The facility has been constructed next to a UGL “whose likely size is also large enough to easily accommodate all known North Korean ballistic missiles and their associated launchers and support vehicles”.
  • An “unusually large covered rail terminal” and a “new rail spur line” are probably meant “to support ballistic missile operations” at the facility. All the structures there are connected by “a 9- to 10-meter-wide surfaced road network with wide radius turns suitable for the movement of large trucks and ballistic missile launchers”.
  • The facility is “relatively close to ballistic missile component manufacturing plants in the Pyongyang area” (for example, Tae-sung Machine Factory, Mangyongdae Light Electric Factory) and can, therefore, be used for “the assembly of ballistic missiles from components delivered by rail”
  • “There are at least 17 air defense artillery bases and numerous military and paramilitary barracks within a 5-kilometer radius of the facility”.

Citing Joseph Bermudez’s article, ROK’s Yonhap News Agency elaborated that the Sil-li Ballistic Missile Support Facility, nearing completion, could be used to test-fire intercontinental ballistic missiles. And on May 9, it was reported that “multiple intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)” were “newly manufactured in Sain-ri, Pyongsong in North Korea”.

However, a Principal Researcher at Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) and the former Director General of Korea Institute of Nuclear Nonproliferation and Control (KINAC), Hwang Yong-soo was very critical of Joseph Bermudez’s conclusions comparing them to baseless rumors about the North Korean leader’s health.

Hwang Yong-soo pointed out that Bermudez leapt from “hypothesis to inferred conclusion” in his Beyond Parallel report, which was based solely on “interpreted open source satellite imagery”. He was also skeptical that “North Korea’s leaders would construct their most critical missile facility adjacent to Sunan Airport” (DPRK’s national airport). In addition, “transport of large missiles and components to and from Sil-li would be apparent via national technical means to the United States and its allies”.  Hwang Yong-soo also suggested that alternative explanations for large buildings being constructed “next to an airport seem entirely logical as the purpose attributed to these buildings by CSIS”.

It is no secret that North Korea often builds underground facilities to prepare for a possible military conflict during which Pyongyang’s enemies would dominate in the skies. Hence, many of DPRK’s manufacturing and strategic complexes are located underground, but this does not mean that all of them are linked to the missile and nuclear weapons program.

Still, North Korea has surprised the rest of the world on occasion, thus western analysts tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to the DPRK. After all, underestimating one’s enemies is far more dangerous than overestimating them. Nonetheless, it is worth treating reasonable concerns in a different manner to attempts to produce cheaply sensational reports based on biased interpretations or data that is low on quality and quantity.

Konstantin Asmolov, PhD in History is a Leading Research Fellow at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

May 28, 2020 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

North Korean leader pledges to increase ‘nuclear deterrence’ capabilities

Press TV – May 24, 2020

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has outlined his policies for further boosting his country’s nuclear “deterrence” capabilities amid stalled denuclearization talks with the United States.

After a three-week-long absence from public view, the 36-year-old leader made the comments at a meeting of his party’s powerful Central Military Commission, after a previous absence that gave rise to intense global speculation that he might have health issues or even been brain-dead.

According to a report by North Korea’s state news agency KCNA on Sunday, the meeting revolved round measures to bolster the peninsular country’s armed forces and “reliably contain the persistent big or small military threats from the hostile forces.”

It also discussed “increasing the nuclear war deterrence of the country and putting the strategic armed forces on a high alert operation,” through adopting “crucial measures for considerably increasing the firepower strike ability of the artillery pieces,” the report added.

Kim’s rare outings during the past two months, with his absence from a key national anniversary, have coincided with North Korea’s intense measures against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Pyongyang says it has recorded no confirmed cases so far, but South Korea’s intelligence agency claims that it cannot rule out that the North has had an outbreak.

North Korea is under crippling US sanctions for years over Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

US President Donald Trump has attempted to de-escalate tensions with Pyongyang, and although he has met with Kim three times, he has so far refused to relieve any of the harsh sanctions on the North over its military programs, and that has in turn hampered the so-called efforts to demilitarize the Korean Peninsula.

The Washington-Pyongyang nuclear talks have made little progress since late last year, particularly after the global fight to curb the pandemic, which has so far infected more than 5,434,600 people and killed over 344,500 others around the world.

Kim’s pledge to boost its nuclear capabilities comes at a time when Washington, according to some news reports, might conduct its first full-fledged nuclear test since 1992.

Last December, Kim ended a moratorium on the country’s missile tests and said North Korea would soon develop a “new strategic weapon.”

The ending of the moratorium came as the United States refused to relieve any of the sanctions on the North even though Pyongyang had taken goodwill steps in the course of the now-stalled diplomacy with Washington.

The North is also at loggerheads with South Korea over its “provocative” military drills with the US, stressing that Seoul’s war games demand an appropriate response from Pyongyang.

May 24, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Wild Boars Continue to Spread ASF, but How did it Reach the Korean Peninsula?

By Konstantin Asmolov – New Eastern Outlook – 24.05.2020

Earlier, the author believed that South Korea deserved to be commended for its efforts in combating African swine fever (ASF) within its borders, but the situation turned out to be more serious than previously thought.

The following paragraphs provide an incomplete record of the growing number of dead wild boars found not too far from ROK’s border with North Korea. On January 16, there were altogether 74 ASF cases among wild pigs. The aforementioned corpses had been found in South Korea’s Civilian Control Zone, stretching along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). By January 24, the number of infected wild boars rose to 106. And in subsequent months, the growth in the number of cases continued. On March 13, there were 366 infected animals in total, and according to the latest reports, the number of ASF cases was 612 on May 12.

Each of the corpses were buried and the places where they had been found disinfected. The authorities have been trying to solve this issue by building fences in the border zone in order to restrict the movement of wild boars and ensure they do not come in contact with domestic pigs.

In 2019 and this year, South Korea (the fourth largest consumer of pork in Asia) killed and buried more than 153,000 pigs, and also sent hundreds of soldiers and civilians to hunt wild boars near the border in order to prevent the disease from spreading and to keep pig farms safe. The last reported ASF case on a farm was on October 9.

During a meeting with reporters on February 13, Minister of Agriculture Kim Hyeon-soo said that “in order to allow the affected farms to resume operations, infections from wild boars” needed to at least slow down, and that at the given rates of increase, it was not the right time yet. Currently, there is no vaccine or cure against African swine fever and the disease is lethal for almost 100% of the animals. It is unclear from newspaper reports whether pig farms are still closed for business or not. As a rule, quarantine is lifted six months after the last known death, and a pig farm in an affected area is allowed to reopen a year after the restrictions have been eased.

In addition, in some aspects the cure turned out to be worse than the disease, as South Korean officials are facing criticism for allegedly causing damage “to the Imjin River ecosystem by spreading a toxic disinfectant along the North Korean border.” The “disinfectant solution that helicopters indiscriminately sprayed over parts of the Imjin River and the DMZ to stop the virus from traveling south” turned out to contain “quaternary ammonium compounds, also known as Quats”. They are “found in detergents and other household cleaning solutions”, and “some studies have shown that high concentrations” of such chemicals can be fatal to fish populations.

The problem came to light “after a group of local fishermen in Paju” had reported “a drastic drop in the Imjin River’s fish stocks”. According to The Korea Times article, “the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) ― which is in charge of the ASF quarantine ― immediately rebutted the fishermen’s claims that the drop in fishing stock could be related to the anti-ASF solution, saying it only used environmentally-friendly disinfectants” that decomposed easily after use and did not accumulate in living matter.

However, The Hankyoreh, a center-left daily newspaper, painted a different story in its follow-up report. According to the article, the disinfectant solutions sprayed over Paju and Yeongcheon starting at the end of September 2019 did contain Quats.  This continued for a month “without proper oversight”, until finally the ministry became aware of the problem at the end of October, and “demanded local governments to provide more eco-friendly disinfectant solutions” based on citric acid.

The Korea Times contacted MAFRA officials but they “declined to comment on the matter, saying they were not ready to confirm the reports.” South Korea’s Ministry of Environment, on the other hand, stated it would test the Imjin River water for contamination, and it did not try to deny claims that “Quats had been released into the ecosystem”. However, the truth is that the story ended then and there – there were no further reports in the media about the topic. The tests are most likely still being conducted, and the focus of the discussion on the epidemic was skillfully turned to the possibility of a link between North Korea and the outbreak, and the effect of the disease on the DPRK if any.

It is unclear what the situation in North Korea is really like when it comes to ASF. On February 28, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that the DPRK was “strengthening efforts to prevent the African swine fever and other animal-related diseases”. According to the agency, “in an article entitled ‘Preventive measures against veterinary virus infection,’ the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the country” was actively taking measures “to prevent the spread of African swine fever and avian flu”. KCNA also stated that Pyongyang’s veterinary quarantine center was “dispatching officials and experts to the provinces and strengthening the network so as not to miss out on the slightest symptoms and to respond right away”. It added that “observation posts to examine wild animals and birds” were being installed and “tests on domestic animals in farms” were being conducted.

On March 3, 2020, North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper also called “for greater efforts to tackle African swine fever and other animal diseases”.

Still, if there had indeed been an outbreak of ASF in the DPRK, it would have been possible to find out about it indirectly, for example, based on the price of pork or attempts to purchase it from China (where it is the most widely consumed type of meat). Hence, there is reason to believe that the outbreak originated in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a 4-km stretch of land that has essentially become a “nature reserve”. This region could also be where the disease spread as prearranging any activities, especially hunting, in the area is a very complex process. But questions that then arise are “How quickly are wild boars reproducing in that territory?” and “How many of them are there?”.

Since the answers remain unclear, some anti-Pyongyang propagandists have alleged that the DPRK has been waging a biological war against South Korea in such a manner. And according to them, even if infected wild boars happen to die on route to the south, this simply means that the authoritarian regime in the DPRK is incapable of coming up with a more rational military strategy.

There is an even more interesting theory. On May 7, a spokesperson for the National Institute of Environmental Research (NIER), affiliated with South Korea’s Ministry of Environment, made interim results of a study to investigate origins and spread of African swine flu public. The report, compiled by scientists from the institute, says that the virus genotype found in South Korea was the same as that prevalent in Russia and China. Although the genotype of North Korea’s ASF virus is not known internationally, the researchers speculated that the DPRK “may have played an intermediary role in spreading” it. Pyongyang’s veterinary authorities officially reported to the World Organization for Animal Health that ASF infections had been detected in May of last year.

However, this is not where the story started. The scientists from NIER stated that ASF “started to spread in Georgia” in 2007, and was then “transferred to central Russia” by wild boars. Outbreaks have started and ended every so often since then due to a large population of wild boars. In 2017, there was another outbreak of ASF in the Russian Federation, and then from 2018, the disease spread to Asia, including China, Mongolia and Vietnam.

If one were to view these facts in the same manner as was done earlier to allege involvement of the DPRK, it would be appropriate to mention a biolab in Georgia, which is supposedly developing bioweapons capable of not only targeting people but also economies. In addition, some enemies of the DPRK genuinely wish to see this nation “erased from the map of the world” by any means. After all, “ungentlemanly methods” can be used when it comes to countries viewed as pariahs. And the current expectation is that the Coronavirus, and not AFS, will finally lead to an economic collapse in the DPRK, which will, at first, result in famine and then a “democratic revolution”.

By misusing facts, it would be easy to postulate that certain interested parties are deliberately infecting wild boars so that they could spread the disease in North Korea. And, the negative impact on the ROK was all part of the cunning plan but then something went wrong, and the disease spread out of control. Such a theory can essentially be used as an explanation for any further developments.

From the point of view of the author, none of the above theories have been proven thus far. Nonetheless, he will continue monitoring the measures being taken to fight ASF, and perhaps, with time, there will be more clarity to the situation.

Konstantin Asmolov is a Leading Research Fellow at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

May 24, 2020 Posted by | Deception | | 2 Comments