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S Korean lawmakers voice opposition to Hormuz deployment

By Frank Smith | Press TV | August 14, 2019

South Korea’s National Assembly hosted a press briefing Wednesday outlining intense opposition to the potential deployment of naval forces to the Strait of Hormuz, off the coast of Iran. Civic leaders argue that participation of South Korea in the US venture violates the country’s constitution.

South Korea on Tuesday sent a destroyer carrying 300 troops to the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia, to continue the country’s anti-piracy mission there. Legal experts say the potential redeployment to the Strait of Hormuz requires parliamentary oversight. The Justice Party’s Kim Jong-dae believes in freedom of navigation but argues against joining the provocative US mission in the vital energy and shipping corridor.

The Strait of Hormuz has been a flashpoint in recent months following the increase of American naval forces in the region. The US is seeking to create a coalition there. Some voices in South Korea argue Seoul must participate due to its alliance with Washington.

South Korea and Iran have had warm relations for decades, establishing official diplomatic ties in 1962. Recently trade between the two states has been hampered by on again – off again US led sanctions. Tehran’s foreign ministry has said it hopes South Korea can remain neutral – and not participate in the US coalition.

August 14, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

The Chronicle of Yet Another North Korean Short Range Missile Launch

By Konstantin Asmolov – New Eastern Outlook – 13.08.2019

In late July – early August 2019, North Korea conducted a series of short range missile launches and large-caliber multiple rocket launcher firings. It caused a certain stir, but, before analyzing the international reaction, let us review the chronicle of the events.

Let us first note that all the launches took place against the backdrop of a decrease in the US-North Korean dialogue (the working groups agreed on at “the 2.5 summit” have not begun the work yet) and the coming military exercises of the US and South Korea. Certainly, their scale is significantly lower than earlier, but in terms of “violating the spirit of the agreement,” it is identical to the similar action of North Korea.

Besides, the US delivered two more fifth generation F-35A jet fighters to South Korea. These invisible planes are theoretically invincible for the present level of the North Korean missile defense.

On July 25, early in the morning, North Korea launched two short-range missiles in the direction of the Sea of Japan. The first missile covered a distance of 430 kilometers, the second one 690 km. Both missiles flew at an altitude of about 50 km and fell in the Sea of Japan.

What is important though is that the South Korean military regularly lost sight of the second North Korean missile and, judging by what was shown by the surveillance systems, it carried out complex maneuvers of evasion in the horizontal and vertical plane. It did not fall at a certain destination after flying along a parabola trajectory, but flew for much longer keeping at low altitudes in a rectilinear trajectory. Besides, a flight altitude of 50 km is in the blind zone of the South Korean military Patriot PAC-3 SAM systems and the THAAD missile defense systems. At this altitude, North Korean missiles had been already able to cover a distance of up to 500 km. But the mark of 600 km was reached this time: such a weapon can strike any point on the Korean peninsula and at the same time avoid the missile defense systems.

It means that North Korea has a short prestart cycle missile with a complicated trajectory capable of both striking facilities protected by the existing missile defense systems and destroying these very systems.

The military believe that the launches were made by means of a mobile launcher at a low angle and the missiles were of the same type as those launched in May – the North Korean version of the Russian Iskander missile which flies along a complicated trajectory as well, unlike usual ballistic missiles, and therefore has great ability to avoid interception.

However, it should be noted that when South Korean military equate KN-23 to Iskander, they are not being frank. With a comparable degree of verisimilitude, one could say that the North Korean missile is equivalent to the South Korean Hyunmoo-2B or the Ukrainian Hrim-2. In any case, Hyunmoo-2B was made with the assistance of Russian engineers and practically on the basis of Iskander, which, however, this did not prevent military PR staff from describing it as their own design. The US experts Melissa Hanham and Jeffrey Lewis also note that there are several types of short-range missiles which bear a strong similarity to new North Korean complexes and that, in fact, all missiles of this class are similar.

The media coverage of the launch was no less important: the Korean Central News Agency provided a detailed report about the way Kim Jong-un “organized and guided the fire of the new-type tactical guided weapon as part of the power demonstration to send a solemn warning to the south Korean military warmongers who are running high fever in their moves to introduce the ultra-modern offensive weapons into south Korea and hold military exercises in defiance of the repeated warnings from the DPRK.”

The North Korean leader openly explained the purpose of the launch, stating that “the ultra-modern weapons and equipment which the bellicose forces of the South Korean military are introducing with desperate efforts are definitely offensive weapons and their purpose is absolutely clear.” Thus, “the South Korean authorities are revealing such strange double-dealing behavior as producing a “handshake of peace” and fingering joint declaration and agreement and the like before the world people and, behind the scene, shipping ultra-modern offensive weapons and holding joint military exercises.” Therefore, “we cannot but dynamically develop super powerful weapons systems to remove the potential and direct threats to the security of our country that exist in the south.”

Thus, a very clear message (or piece of advice) was conveyed to Seoul, namely that “the South Korean chief executive [must] understand in time the danger the developments will possibly bring, stop such suicidal act as the introduction of ultra-modern weapons and military exercises and come back to the proper stand as in April and September last year […] The South Korean chief executive should not make a mistake of ignoring the warning from Pyongyang, however offending it may be.”

The South Korean press immediately noted that the term “power demonstration” had not been used for a long time. On the other hand, the word “missile” was replaced with the expression “new-type tactical guided weapon,” and all the warnings were addressed to Seoul, rather than Washington, which Pyongyang intends to continue the dialogue with.

The second act took place on July 31, early in the morning. Two more ballistic missiles were launched in the direction of the Sea of Japan from mobile launchers in the district of Wonsan again. Both missiles covered a distance of about 250 km, reaching the altitude of 30 km. The South Korean military believe that, since the missiles flew at lower altitudes and covered a short distance, a near target strike with bypassing the enemy antimissile systems was rehearsed.

The Korean Central News Agency again, though in less detail this time, reported how highly Kim had appreciated the launch performance. After that, South Korean media started using the term “short range projectiles” instead of the word “missile,” emphasizing that, judging by the modification and flying range, the launch of July 31 was aimed at South Korea regardless of whether it is a multiple rocket launcher or a ballistic missile unit.

The third launch of two unidentified short range projectiles in the direction of the Sea of Japan took place on the night of August 2, 2019. The projectiles covered a distance of about 220 km with the maximum speed of 6.9 Mach at an altitude of 25 km.

This time, the Korean Central News Agency even showed a photo of the device more similar to a large caliber multiple rocket launcher than to a missile unit, though many important details were blurred. The weapon was dubbed a “newly-developed large-caliber multiple launch guided rocket system,” and the launch was carried out for the purpose of checking the flight characteristics of mastering altitude, orbit control and target hit accuracy.

Kim Jong-un again “guided the test launch from an observation post.”

However, let us proceed with the conclusions:

  • Despite the sanctions, North Korean military production is continuing and provides quite modern weapons.
  • The launches are, certainly, a way to whip up Washington and to warn Seoul, as they represent an explicit real threat for South Korea due to the helplessness of its missile defense against this type of weapon.
  • However, the launches must be considered in the general context: against the backdrop of the development of the South Korean missile defense, it is no wonder that the opposite party reacted by designing missiles capable of bypassing this missile defense.
  • As the missiles operate within short range, the recent tests cannot be considered a violation of the Pyongyang’s self-proclaimed moratorium on ICBM launches and nuclear tests which North Korea first introduced at the end of 2017 and then confirmed officially in early 2018.
  • Certainly, the launches do not help reduce the tension, but North Korea is responding to the US and South Korean exercises and the import of new weapons to South Korea to the best of its ability.

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

August 13, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

Japan is a barrier to Korean Peninsula peace process, Blue House says

Tokyo has continually sought to widen the rift between Seoul and Pyongyang

Kim Hyun-chong, second deputy director of the Blue House National Security Office, during a briefing at the Blue House on Aug. 2. (Yonhap News )
By Lee Wan | HANKYOREH | August 3, 2019

The Blue House recounted in detail how Japan has become an obstacle to setting the stage for peace on the Korean Peninsula and how it has rebuffed the US’ attempts to mediate in its dispute with South Korea. “Considering that our two countries have shared the values of liberal democracy and market economy for decades, Japan’s removal of South Korea from its white list on the pretext of security can be regarded as a public slap in the face,” said Kim Hyun-chong, second deputy director of the Blue House National Security Office.

“Rather than assisting South Korea in its efforts to get the peace process underway, Japan has thrown up roadblocks to that process. Japan opposed delaying the South Korea-US joint military exercises around the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and maintained that sanctions and pressure were the only solution even while dialogue and cooperation with South Korea was underway. It also tried to raise tensions by calling for Japanese citizens residing in South Korea to rehearse a wartime evacuation,” Kim said during a briefing on the afternoon of Aug. 2.

It’s unusual for a figure at the Blue House to openly state that Japan presents an obstacle to the creation of peace on the Korean Peninsula. Such remarks indicate that Blue House officials are fuming over Japan’s removal of South Korea from its white list of countries who enjoy expedited export procedures. “We ought to give some serious thought to the meaning of the peace and prosperity of the ‘normal country’ that Japan seeks to become,” Kim added.

A senior official from the Blue House also went into the details of Japan’s rejection of the US’ attempted mediation. “On July 29, the US expressed its concerns [to us] about the ongoing dispute and suggested that we and Japan put a temporary freeze on the status quo while holding negotiations in an attempt to reach a diplomatic agreement. My understanding is that the same proposal was communicated to the Japanese on the same day. Based on the American proposal, therefore, we proposed high-level bilateral deliberations on the afternoon of July 30, but Japan rejected our proposal a few hours later,” the official said.

This official went on to speak of the need to seriously question the effectiveness of American mediation. “We need to carefully consider Japan’s rationale and motivations behind its removal of South Korea from the white list — are they economic, political, or both at the same time?”

“Given such considerations, we need to give some serious thought to the potential effectiveness of the US attempting to bring Japan around.”

In effect, this official said, South Korea still needs to figure out whether Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s sudden export controls represent an attempt to contain South Korea’s growing economy, a request to give Japan a seat at the table in peace talks on the Korean Peninsula, or a call for a fundamental realignment of the cooperative relationship between South Korea, Japan, and the US that has been in place since South Korea and Japan settled their outstanding claims in 1965.

August 5, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

What if North Korea and Iran move in tandem

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | August 3, 2019

The sensational  New Yorker story on August 2 by Robin Wright on the unpublicised meeting between Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and the American senator Rand Paul (who is a member of the senate’s Foreign Relations Committee) in New York a few days ago details for the first time what transpired  between the two leaders. Robin Wright is highly reliable, having good contacts with Iranian officials, and this account can be trusted as authentic.

What emerges is that Zarif and Paul had a substantive conversation, exchanging opinions on a confidential basis the broad contours of a negotiated end to the US-Iran standoff. Some of these details are already known — especially, Iran’s willingness to provide legal guarantee that it will not have a nuclear weapon programme, which comes as no surprise.

Paul is known to be close to President Trump and they both subscribe to the school of thought that the US should not get into any new Middle Eastern war. Paul is also supportive of Trump’s campaign against America’s ‘endless wars’. Evidently, his meeting with Zarif (at the Iranian ambassador’s residence in New York) took place with the prior knowledge and consent of Trump. Reports had appeared previously that Trump gave the go-ahead to Paul to negotiate with Iran.

Therefore, the surprising part in the New Yorker report is the invitation to Zarif, transmitted by Paul, to make a visit to the White House to meet Trump. Of course, Zarif parried, not rejecting the invite offhand but explaining that he needed instructions from Tehran.

The events since then — US imposing sanctions on Zarif — assume an added dimension now. Can it be that Trump felt insulted — and hit out? Or, more plausibly, he pulled back under pressure from within his camp, fearing media leaks and ensuing embarrassment? Either way,  the US policy on Iran looks bizarre, lacking coherence, swinging wildly from one end to the other, completely unpredictable.

Tehran will think twice before engaging with Trump.

Meanwhile, Trump’s overture to Zarif and the ensuing snub comes at an awkward time for POTUS, who is lately facing taunts from North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. North Korea’s multiple ballistic missile tests (with range up to 450 kms and altitude of 50 kms) are highly damaging for Trump’s reputation who has been claiming that his personal diplomacy with Kim has persuaded the latter to end all missile (and nuclear) tests. (By the way, in the South Korean assessment, the newly-developed North Korean ballistic missiles are a “version” of Russia’s famous Iskander-M missile, which is a formidable road-mobile, surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missile capable of carrying both nuclear and conventional warheads and reputed to be highly manoeuvrable at the final stretch of their trajectory, thus allowing them to bypass the enemy’s air defences.)

Without doubt, Kim has signalled to Trump that Pyongyang’s patience has limits and Washington had better get back to the negotiating table and also get used to the reality that Pyongyang is not going to agree to full disarmament.

Trump, of course, has no choice but to downplay the latest series of North Korean missile launches, although he knows his claim of success with Kim  as a singular foreign policy trophy of his presidency is in tatters. In a 3-part tweet, Trump said,

“There may be a United Nations violation, but Chairman Kim does not want to disappoint me with a violation of trust. There is far too much for North Korea to gain – the potential as a Country, under Kim Jong Un’s leadership, is unlimited.”

Trump then went on to praise Kim, saying he has a “great and beautiful vision for his country” and that, importantly, that vision can be realised only if Trump remains president. Trump concluded, “He (Kim) will do the right thing because he is far too smart not to, and he does not want to disappoint his friend, President Trump!”

Clearly, Trump’s reaction reflects that his approach to North Korea still emphasises personal diplomacy. Trump thinks Kim will fall for his flattery and for his offer to help out the North Korean economy.

The Trump administration’s approach to North Korea and Iran respectively has nothing in common. Trump is far more cautious about Pyongyang and shows much greater latitude. Of course, the critical difference is that North Korea is a nuclear weapon state which is capable of staging an attack on the US west coast and endangering the US bases in the Pacific and the Far East where over hundred thousand American military personnel are deployed. Besides, what makes the North Korea problem explosive is that the country is in reality having a stockpile of nuclear weapons whereas, in comparison, the US-Iran standoff is not really about nuclear non-proliferation but about the rise of Iran as a regional power.

To be sure, the US diplomacy will have a hard time coping with the North Korean front becoming kinetic at a juncture when the US’s standoff with Iran is also entering a dangerous phase. North Korea’s missile launch today was reportedly supervised by Kim in person. It implies that Trumps flattery had no effect on Kim, who has his own game plan worked out.

What happens if North Korea piles up pressure in the coming months even as Trump’s campaign for re-election shifts gear? The crunch time comes later this month. Pyongyang maintains that if the US goes ahead with its planned military exercise with South Korea in August, Washington will be violating an agreement between Kim and Trump. Indeed, if the exercises go ahead, all bets are off. Pyongyang may retaliate by ending its suspension of nuclear and ICBM tests.

Both North Korea and Iran are astute observers of the vicissitudes of regional and world politics. Therefore, while it seems improbable that North Korea and Iran would move in tandem in tackling Trump, such a likelihood cannot be brushed off, either. To be sure, the US-Iran standoff has created more space for Pyongyang to manoeuvre — just as the US-China tensions already have. And Kim must be aware of that.

On the other hand, so long as all was quiet on the North Korean front, the Trump administration had a relatively free hand to focus on the Iran front. But if both fronts come alive simultaneously, it becomes a new ball game. By pure coincidence, in August, one such situation may arise with Iran planning to make its third move to distance itself from the JCPOA and North Korea challenging the holding of the annual US-ROK military exercises.

August 3, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Trump Downplays North Korea’s Recent Missile Launches: ‘We’ve Been Doing Very Well’

Sputnik – July 26, 2019

US President Donald Trump in an interview with Fox News has downplayed the recent missile launches by North Korea, saying Washington and Pyongyang have been “doing very well”.

The US president was asked if he would “devastate” Iran and North Korea if they “force him to”, in the wake of recently reported missile launches by the two countries.

“In the case of North Korea, I am actually getting along very well with [Kim]. But we’ll see what happens. The sanctions are on. The hostages are back. We’re getting the remains back. They haven’t done nuclear testing. They really haven’t tested missiles other than, you know, smaller ones, which is something that lots test. But I think with North Korea, we’ve been doing very well”, Trump stated.

On Thursday, North Korea fired two projectiles from an area close to the eastern coastal city of Wonsan. The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff subsequently said that the launches were two short-range missiles that flew around 267 miles at an altitude of 31 miles before falling into the Sea of Japan. On Friday, North Korean state-run media reported that the launches were tests of a new tactical guided weapon, observed by chief Kim Jong-un.

According to them, Pyongyang carried out the launches on Thursday as a warning to South Korea against boosting its military.

The incident took place less than a month after a meeting between Kim and Trump at the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas. During the meeting, the two heads of state agreed to energize their deadlocked denuclearisation talks by engaging in working-level contacts.

July 26, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | 6 Comments

North Korea tests ‘super-powerful’ missile in response to Seoul stockpiling US arms & holding drills

RT | July 26, 2019

Pyongyang says it has no other choice but to continue developing and testing new types of deterrence weapons as long as ‘warmongers’ in the South keep buying modern arms and holding joint military drills with the US.

The test launch of the “new-type tactical guided weapon” on Thursday morning was personally supervised by the country’s leader Kim Jong-un, KCNA reported, noting that the weapons test was carried out “as part of the power demonstration” to warn “South Korean military warmongers” against introducing “ultramodern offensive weapons” and holding joint military exercises with American forces.

“We cannot but develop nonstop super-powerful weapon systems to remove the potential and direct threats to the security of our country that exist in the south.”

Accusing Seoul of “double-dealing,” North Korea lashed out at its neighbor for talking peace while stockpiling American weapons. Besides opting to purchase Terminal High Altitude Area Defense systems (THAAD), Seoul has recently received two more F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation stealth fighters from the US. And despite North Korea’s relative rapprochement with both the US and the South, the allies plan to hold their annual military drills in August.

North Korea resumed its short range missile testing activity earlier this year after the Hanoi Summit between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un in Vietnam failed to produce any clear roadmap to peace. The latest tests were conducted despite the impromptu meeting Trump had with Kim at the Korean Demilitarized Zone last month, where they agreed to revive stalled denuclearization talks.

Pyongyang’s leadership has long maintained that the US should provide some credible guarantees, relieve its sanctions and stop military drills with the South for any viable peace to take hold on the Peninsula. Washington in its turn insists on full denuclearization before any concessions are made.

July 26, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

How Real is the Trump Administration’s New Flexibility with North Korea?

By Gregory Elich | CounterPunch | July 12, 2019

Although widely derided by the Washington Establishment as an empty photo opportunity, the recent meeting between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un at Panmunjom produced an agreement to resume working-level talks in the near future. According to the North Korean news agency KCNA, the two leaders discussed stumbling blocks in improving relations and easing tensions, and agreed to work towards a “breakthrough in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and in the bilateral relations.”

The resumption of working-level talks comes as welcome relief after months of stalled progress since Trump pulled the plug on the Hanoi Summit due to North Korea’s failure to accede to the demand that it unilaterally disarm. At Hanoi, U.S. negotiators presented a plan that called for North Korea to denuclearize, while promising nothing in exchange. Nothing, that is, other than punishment in the form of “maximum pressure” sanctions. All that was on offer to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, the official name for North Korea) was the vague mention of unspecified economic benefits after it had fully denuclearized.

In addition to denuclearization, the U.S. side widened the scope of talks at Hanoi by delivering a document to the North Koreans that demanded the dismantlement of chemical and biological warfare programs, as well as ballistic missiles and facilities. U.S. negotiators also wanted a detailed accounting of nuclear facilities, subject to intrusive U.S. inspections. For the North Koreans, to implement such a proposal would allow inspectors to map the bombing coordinates of its nuclear facilities, an obvious non-starter when the U.S. has yet to provide any semblance of a security guarantee.

In essence, what the U.S. offered at Hanoi was the Libya Model of denuclearization, in which obligations are loaded solely on its negotiating partner. That is not an approach that is going to work with North Korea, as among other reasons, its nuclear program is far more advanced than was the case with Libya’s. The DPRK has something substantial to trade, and it is not going to relinquish it for free.

The sanctions against the DPRK are designed to strangle its economy. The North Koreans regard sanctions relief as an essential element in the trade-off for denuclearization. The fate of small nations that the United States has attacked, such as Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya, did not go unnoticed in the DPRK. Those object lessons led the North Koreans to draw the logical conclusion that the only way for a small targeted nation to ensure its survival would be to develop a nuclear deterrent.

There has been much talk in the U.S. media about the Trump administration’s apparent intent to adopt a more flexible approach to negotiations. This has resulted in much hand-wringing among the Washington Establishment, panicked over a potential reduction in tensions, which it fears could have knock-on effects in sales of military hardware to Asian allies like South Korea and Japan. New pretexts would need to be developed to explain the military buildup in the Asia-Pacific that is aimed at China.

How real is this new flexibility? In a widely misread report in the New York Times, it is suggested that Trump may “settle” for a nuclear freeze, leaving the DPRK as a nuclear power. A careful reading of the article indicates, however, that the Trump administration does not envision a nuclear freeze as an end state, but rather as a “foundation for a new round of negotiations.” Talks “would begin with a significant – but limited – first step.” From there, U.S. negotiators would seek to persuade Kim to expand the range of nuclear facilities that would be dismantled.

On Trump’s return flight from South Korea, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun talked about U.S. plans for the next summit between Trump and Kim. Biegun said that the U.S. wanted a complete freeze on the DPRK’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs while negotiations are underway. This is not different than what was stated in the New York Times report, leaving aside the misleading use of the word “settle” and the fretful comments the Times quoted from Establishment analysts.

Biegun’s choice of words is significant: ‘WMD,’ rather than ‘nuclear.’ John Bolton’s insistence on including chemical and biological weapons programs in any negotiated settlement remains very much to the fore. North Korea denies having any such operations and U.S. belief in their existence is predicated primarily on supposition, backed by weak and inconclusive indications. If the DPRK does not have a chemical or biological weapons program, then it cannot freeze what it does not have, and it cannot provide details on programs that remain a fantasy in the minds of Washington. It requires little imagination to anticipate how hawks in the Trump administration would seize upon North Korean denials as a means of sabotaging negotiations.

Whether North Korea has chemical and biological programs or not, it is likely to have misgivings about the United States adding demands while at the same time offering no concessions. When Libya denuclearized, it too faced an ever-expanding array of conditions, including visits by John Bolton and other U.S. officials, telling it how to vote at the United Nations and ordering it to cut military ties with Syria, Iran, and North Korea.

It is notable that at no time has any U.S. official mentioned what kind of security guarantee it could offer to the DPRK. Given the record of U.S. militarism in recent decades, it is difficult to conceive of any assurance the U.S. would provide that could be trusted. Whatever the U.S. may offer will need to be supplemented, and protection will have to come from elsewhere. Chinese President Xi Jinping alluded to the same during his recent visit to Pyongyang, when he stated, “China will take an active role in resolving North Korea’s security concerns.” In May, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that security guarantees are an “absolutely mandatory” component of any negotiated agreement with the DPRK. “Russia and China are prepared to work on such guarantees,” he added.

In his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 14, Lavrov stressed the importance of providing security guarantees to the DPRK, but all Pompeo wanted to talk about was hitting North Korea as hard as possible with sanctions, without letup.

Much has been made of Stephen Biegun’s claim that the United States plans on a more flexible “simultaneous and parallel” approach to negotiations. When examined, there is less change than many suppose. Biegun is in line with the rest of the Trump administration, emphasizing that “in the abstract, we have no interest in sanctions relief before denuclearization.”

Since sanctions relief and security guarantees are off the negotiating table as far as U.S. officials are concerned, what are they ready to offer? According to Biegun, flexibility means the U.S. would consider agreeing to the two nations opening liaison offices in each other’s capitals, permitting some people-to-people talks, and humanitarian aid. That last point may mean that the United States would consider stopping its efforts to block humanitarian assistance. Or it could indicate a willingness by the U.S. to directly provide a token amount of aid while continuing to shut down independent aid operations in the DPRK.

To the North Koreans, this “flexibility” is a distinction without a difference. It remains the Libya Model. As such, it is a recipe for failure if the U.S. rigidly adheres to this strategy.

Complicating matters further is the rider the U.S. Senate attached to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. If the rider makes it into the House version, then once the defense budget is signed into law, it would mandate secondary sanctions on any financial institution that does business with the DPRK. Current sanctions leave it to the discretion of the Treasury Department as to which firms to sanction. The Senate bill aims to cut off the North Korean economy from what little international trade it still has after sanctions, so as to inflict further harm on the population. Certainly, this also signals the Senate’s opposition to any negotiated settlement.

The North Koreans need two things in exchange for denuclearization: the lifting of sanctions and a security guarantee. What that security guarantee would look like is difficult to discern. A piece of paper is not going to do it. The DPRK needs a reliable means of assuring its security if it is going to denuclearize.

Across the entire U.S. Establishment, both within and outside the Trump administration, there is an unwavering belief that every action the DPRK takes towards denuclearization should be rewarded with “maximum pressure” sanctions.

It is a curious notion, this expectation that nothing need be offered to North Korea in exchange for meeting U.S. demands. Odder still is the conviction that the DPRK ought to be satisfied with being tormented by crippling sanctions for each concession it makes. But then, imperialism and arrogance go hand-in-hand. There is no reason, however, to expect the North Koreans to be servile. “North Korea wants actions, not words,” observes Christopher Green of the International Crisis Group. “I’m not sure the U.S. is mentally ready for it, even now.”

Whether or not North Korea denuclearizes depends entirely on the United States. If the Trump administration believes it can bully the DPRK into unilateral disarmament, then it is sadly mistaken. If on the other hand, it eventually comes to recognize that the only way to achieve its objective is to offer some measure of reciprocity, then denuclearization becomes an achievable goal. At this point, there is little indication that the U.S. is prepared to move beyond the former position.


Gregory Elich is a Korea Policy Institute associate and on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute. He is a member of the Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea, a columnist for Voice of the People, and one of the co-authors of Killing Democracy: CIA and Pentagon Operations in the Post-Soviet Period, published in the Russian language. He is also a member of the Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and Militarism in Asia and the Pacific. His website is https://gregoryelich.org 

July 12, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

The DPRK’s News Report on The Recent Kim-Trump Meeting is Not Only Accurate But Highly Instructive

By Adam Garrie | Eurasia Future | 2019-07-04

After being conditioned to think of both South Korea and the United States as the “imperial savage aggressors”, it would clearly be a challenge for DPRK media directors to shift this narrative in order to prepare the people for the eventuality of peace and partnership with Seoul and Washington. Beyond this, if the DPRK leadership was apprehensive about the realistic chances of securing a comprehensive peace with the South and the United States, the news and propaganda output of the country would not have dramatically shifted in terms of how Americans and South Koreans are portrayed.

Last year, it was observed by frequent visitors to Pyongyang that old anti-American and anti-South posters and art displays had been replaced by public art emphasising a shared North-South Korean fraternity. This was a good indication that the DPRK was preparing its people for a shift in an otherwise semi-unilateral public mentality that has been carefully crafted since the days of Kim il-Sung.

Thus, in a country in which social developments tend to be stable and centrally managed, a change in official government narratives is vastly more indicative of actual policy than it would be in more open countries.

This trend was confirmed exponentially in the DPRK’s official television news report on the Kim-Trump summit on the DMZ. Contrary to what one might expect, the news broadcast is fully accurate in terms of its factual content and its failure to omit crucial details. The report speaks about the warm personal bonds between the DPRK’s Supreme Leader and the US President whilst also offering constructive realism about a would-be timeline for a final peace deal.

The DPRK report acknowledges that an extended peace process will be a gradual and time consuming phenomenon and that there are bound to be some reasonable disagreements along the way. However, the report remains optimistic that the sincere willingness of Kim and Trump to open up a new era of peace and enlightenment remains a goal that is both realistic and mutually advantageous.

In this sense, the tone of the DPRK’s report was more dignified and more accurate than what came out of western liberal media in the aftermath of the historic meeting during which time Donald Trump became the first sitting US president to enter the DPRK. Beyond this, the DPRK revealed previously unseen photos of Ivanka Trump shaking hands with Kim Jong-un. This contrasted sharply with liberal media’s mockery of Ivanka’s presence in Korea and in Japan for the G20 summit. Assuming that Donald Trump sees this footage, he will be all too aware that whilst American and European liberal media heaped scorn on his daughter, DPRK media portrayed her interaction with Kim in a stately and respectful manner.

The DPRK also showed footage of Kim shaking hands with US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. As Mnuchin is best known for announcing new sanctions on multiple countries, the fact that he was personally introduced to Kim could be an indication that the US might become more wiling to lessen sanctions during rather than after the de-nuclearisation process.

Whilst scepticism might get otherwise non-entities onto television, the genuine spirit of optimism shared by Moon Jae-in, Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump is palpable. The fact that this optimism is now being conveyed by the once stridently anti-American and anti-South DPRK media means that Pyongyang is conditioning its population for an irreversible shift in relations with the wider world.

July 4, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

North Korea Nuclear Freeze? Finally, a Realistic Proposal

By Thomas L. Knapp – Garrison Center – July 2, 2019

As President Donald Trump met with Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un for the third time at the end of June — becoming the first sitting US president to visit North Korea — the New York Times ran a piece suggesting the appearance of a new option on the proverbial table: A negotiated “nuclear freeze” rather than just another cycle of fruitless US demands for  “de-nuclearization.”

The response from National Security Advisor John Bolton came swiftly via Twitter: “Neither the NSC staff nor I have discussed or heard of any desire to ‘settle for a nuclear freeze by NK.’ This was a reprehensible attempt by someone to box in the President.”

If Bolton and the National Security Council HAVEN’T discussed the possibility,  they haven’t been doing their jobs. And if anyone’s being “boxed in” by having the idea called to public attention, it’s not Trump, it’s Bolton, who prefers saber-rattling theatrics for his hawkish friends on Capitol Hill to actually safeguarding the US.

There are really only two viable paths forward for improved US-North Korea relations.

One is for the US to start minding its own business: Withdraw US troops from and end all defense guarantees to South Korea, unilaterally lift sanctions on the North, and let the region work out its own problems without further American interference. Highly unlikely, at least for the moment.

The other is a “nuclear freeze” under which Kim keeps his existing nuclear arsenal but refrains from building more weapons, in return for sanctions relief and the US getting, and staying, out of the way of improving relations and closer ties between Pyongyang and Seoul.

That second option is eminently doable. It would cost the US  nothing of real value. In fact, rightly handled, it would immediately reduce US “defense” outlays — a peace dividend, if we can keep the Military-Industrial Complex’s grubby hands off it.

Any US policy toward North Korea must account for two facts:

First, nuclear powers don’t give up their nukes. Only one, South Africa, has ever done so, and that regime didn’t face external foes on any large scale. North Korea has effectively been at war since the late 19th century, first against Japanese occupation, then against the South and the US from 1950 until now. Expecting Kim Jong-un to give up the ultimate deterrent to future invasions — by the US, by the South, by Japan, or even by current allies like China and Russia — is simply unrealistic. It’s not negotiable. The US knows it’s not negotiable. The only reason to even make the demand is to intentionally keep relations hostile.

Secondly, in the case of the United States, Kim has historical evidence as to what giving up his nukes might portend. He saw Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi deposed and killed after they gave up their (never successful) nuclear weapons efforts. Kim would presumably prefer to remain alive and in charge.

A nuclear freeze agreement would not, in and of itself, produce peace. But it would be a giant step in that direction.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).

July 2, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Hope for a Breakthrough in Korea

By Ray McGovern – Consortium News – July 1, 2019

There is hope for some real progress in U.S.-North Korean relations after Sunday morning’s unscheduled meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, largely because Russia and China seem more determined than ever to facilitate forward movement.

Sitting down before the talks began, Kim underlined the importance of the meeting.“I hope it can be the foundation for better things that people will not be expecting,” he said. “Our great relationship will provide the magical power with which to overcome hardships and obstacles in the tasks that needs to be done from now on.”

Trump was equally positive speaking of Kim:

“We’ve developed a very good relationship and we understand each other very well. I do believe he understands me, and I think I maybe understand him, and sometimes that can lead to very good things.”

Trump said the two sides would designate teams, with the U.S. team headed by special envoy Stephen Biegun under the auspices of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to start work in the next two to three weeks. “They’ll start a process, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.

New Impetus

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who met individually with President Trump at the G20 in Osaka, have been singing from the same sheet of Korea music — particularly in the wake of Xi’s visit to North Korea on June 20-21. Putin’s remarks are the most illuminating.

Putin at FT interview. (Kremlin photo)

In an interview with The Financial Times, Putin pointed to “the tragedies of Libya and Iraq” — meaning, of course, what happened to each of them as they lacked a nuclear deterrent. Applying that lesson to North Korea, Putin said,

“What we should be talking about is not how to make North Korea disarm, but how to ensure the unconditional security of North Korea and how to make any country, including North Korea, feel safe and protected by international law. …”

“We should think about guarantees, which we should use as the basis for talks with North Korea. We must take into account the dangers arising from … the presence of nuclear weapons,” he said, adding that if a way can be found to satisfy North Korea’s understandable determination to protect its security, “the situation may take a turn nobody can imagine today.”

“Whether we recognize North Korea as a nuclear power or not, the number of nuclear charges it has will not decrease. We must proceed from modern realities …” And those realities include fundamental, immediate security concerns for both Russia and China. Putin put it this way:

”[W]e have a common border, even if a short one, with North Korea, therefore, this problem has a direct bearing on us. The United States is located across the ocean … while we are right here, in this region, and the North Korean nuclear range is not far away from our border. This is why this concerns us directly, and we never stop thinking about it.”

Xi’s ‘Reasonable Expectations’

Last week in Pyongyang, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China is waiting for a desired response in stalled nuclear talks with the United States.

“North Korea would like to remain patient, but it hopes the relevant party will meet halfway with North Korea to explore resolution plans that accommodate each other’s reasonable concerns,” he said.

A commentary in China’s official Xinhua news agency said China could play a unique role in breaking the cycle of mistrust between North Korea and the U.S, but that both sides “need to have reasonable expectations and refrain from imposing unilateral and unrealistic demands.”

There is little doubt that the Russians and Chinese have been comparing notes on what they see as a potentially explosive (literally) problem in their respective backyards, the more so inasmuch as the two countries have become allies in all but name.

On a three-day visit to Moscow earlier this month, President Xi spoke of his “deep personal friendship” with Putin, with whom he has “met nearly 30 times in the past six years.” For his part, Putin claimed “Russian-Chinese relations have reached an unprecedented level. It is a global partnership and strategic cooperation.”

A Fundamental Strategic Change

Whether they are “best friends” or not, the claim of unprecedented strategic cooperation happens to be true — and is the most fundamental change in the world strategic equation in decades. Given the fear they share that things could get out of hand in Korea with the mercurial Trump and his hawkish advisers calling the shots, it is a safe bet that Putin and Xi have been coordinating closely on North Korea.

The next step could be stepped-up efforts to persuade Trump that China and Russia can somehow guarantee continued nuclear restraint on Pyongyang’s part, in return for U.S. agreement to move step by step — rather than full bore — toward at least partial North Korean denuclearization — and perhaps some relaxation in U.S. economic sanctions. Xi and Putin may have broached that kind of deal to Trump in Osaka.

There is also a salutary sign that President Trump has learned more about the effects of a military conflict with North Korea, and that he has come to realize that Pyongyang already has not only a nuclear, but also a formidable conventional deterrent: massed artillery.

“There are 35 million people in Seoul, 25 miles away,” Trump said on Sunday. “All accessible by what they already have in the mountains. There’s nothing like that anywhere in terms of danger.”

Obstacles Still Formidable

Trump and Kim meet Sunday before Trump became first US president to step on North Korean territory. (White House photo)

Trump will have to remind his national security adviser, John Bolton, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, that he is the president and that he intends to take a firmer grip on reins regarding Korean policy. Given their maladroit performance on both Iran and Venezuela, it would, at first blush, seem easy to jettison the two super-hawks.

But this would mean running afoul of the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academe-Think-Tank (MICIMATT) complex, in which the corporate-controlled media play the sine-qua-non role today.

In a harbinger of things to come, The Washington Post’s initial report on the outcome of the Trump-Kim talks contained two distortions: “Trump … misrepresented what had been achieved, claiming that North Korea had ceased ballistic missile tests and was continuing to send back remains of U.S. servicemen killed in the Korean War.”

The Trump administration could reasonably call that “fake news.” True, North Korea tested short-range ballistic missiles last spring, but Kim’s promise to Trump was to stop testing strategic not tactical missiles, and North Korea has adhered to that promise. As for the return of the remains of U.S. servicemen: True, such remains that remain are no longer being sent back to the U.S., but it was the U.S. that put a stop to that after the summit in Hanoi failed.

We can surely expect more disingenuous “reporting” of that kind.

Whether Trump can stand up to the MICIMATT on Korea remains to be seen. There is a huge amount of arms-maker-arms-dealer profiteering going on in the Far East, as long as tensions there can be stoked and kept at a sufficiently high level.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. His first portfolio at CIA was referent-analyst for Soviet policy toward China, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. In retirement he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

July 1, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

The US Military Attack on Korea in 1871

Tales of the American Empire | March 14, 2019

Hundreds of Koreans were slaughtered as punishment because the Joseon Dynasty refused to sign a trade agreement with the United States.

May 31, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Bolton is ‘war fanatic’ working to destroy peace – Pyongyang

RT | May 27, 2019

US National Security Advisor John Bolton is a “war fanatic” and “defective human product” who works to destroy peace rather than maintain it, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry has said.

The tough assessment, cited by state news agency KCNA, comes after Donald Trump’s adviser lambasted Pyongyang for recently carrying out short-range missile tests. Bolton described the drills as “no doubt” violating UN resolutions.

Hitting back, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry argued that scrapping missile tests completely would hamper the country’s national security.

“Banning launches using ballistic technology is equal to telling us to give up our right to self defence.”

The ministry official added that even in the US Bolton is well-known as a “war fanatic” and that such a “human defect must go away as soon as possible.”

Earlier in May, the North Korean military test-fired a number of rockets and missiles. Washington’s war hawks were quick to cite it as another reason to mount pressure on Pyongyang.

Trump for his part wrote on his favorite social media platform, Twitter, that the tests of “small weapons” did bother some of his people, but not him.

The tests have been viewed as a way to put pressure on Washington to roll back sanctions imposed on North Korea, while Bolton is a staunch opponent of easing the restrictions.

Calling the hawkish American’s comment “more than ignorant,” the North Korean official added that Bolton was working to “destroy peace and security.”

John Bolton has been lambasted before for his “warmongering” position not only in relation to North Korea, but also for “looking for a fight” with Iran. Former congressman Ron Paul recently told RT that such a position is “very dangerous,” lamenting Trump for appointing neocons to his team.

May 27, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 4 Comments