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The Dangerous Myth of Health Service ‘Collapse’

By Will Jones | The Daily Sceptic | September 30, 2021

In the U.K. we are facing threats once again of restrictions and vaccine passports being imposed over winter should the prospect of an ‘overwhelmed’ NHS be sounded by the Government’s medical advisers in the coming weeks.

But how realistic is this threat of health service ‘collapse’? South Korea is currently providing an object lesson in how the concept appears to be very much in the eye of the beholder.

The South East Asian country has been experiencing a spike in reported infections in recent weeks as the Delta variant has become dominant, hitting over 3,000 in one day for the first time on September 24th.

Three thousand ‘cases’ is very low, of course, compared to our 30,000 or so since early July, and the country is similar in size to the U.K., with a population of 52 million to our 67 million.

While the country does do less testing, deaths are also very low, with daily confirmed deaths currently between just five and 10 a day.

Excess mortality has also remained low throughout the pandemic, currently sitting at around 6% having been negative over the winter.

Despite these enviable Covid stats, though, the country is currently living under various Covid restrictions and the Government has said that while it plans to reopen, it will reverse course should ‘cases’ go above 4,000 per day. Why? According to the Government’s Minister of Health, Kwon Deok-cheol, the South Korean “healthcare system would not be able to cope with 4,000 or 10,000 new confirmed cases per day”.

At a Korea Broadcasting Journalists Club roundtable on Tuesday, Minister of Health and Welfare Kwon Deok-cheol said that South Korea’s medical response system would be “sufficiently capable” of handling a daily caseload of 3,000 or more confirmed cases and that the country would be able to proceed with a gradual return to everyday life, provided that the Government’s late-October targets of fully vaccinating 80% of adults and 90% of senior citizens are met.

He also said that the shift toward a “living with Covid” approach was not hasty, noting that while the U.K. began its gradual return to normal life while its full vaccination rate was just 1.6%, whereas South Korea had a full vaccination rate of 46.6% as of Tuesday.

But he also noted that observation of basic disease prevention guidelines such as wearing masks indoors and regularly ventilating indoor spaces would remain necessary, saying that “our healthcare system would not be able to cope with 4,000 or 10,000 new confirmed cases per day.”

“For that reason, we are considering a phased easing [of restrictions] – based on business types, for example – rather than a full-scale elimination [of said restrictions],” he added.

Vaccine passports are also being considered, apparently in order to protect the unvaccinated.

The South Korean government similarly explained that with the 976 critical care beds and 10,212 beds for patients with moderate symptoms that it had secured as of Tuesday, the South Korean healthcare system would be able to cope with as many as 3,500 new confirmed cases per day.

In addition to relaxing restrictions on private gatherings for fully vaccinated people and gradually removing restrictions on the use of multipurpose facilities, Kwon also said consideration was being given to the adoption of “vaccine passes,” where only fully vaccinated people or other restricted categories of people would be allowed to use certain establishments during the initial stages of the gradual return to everyday life.

He went on, saying that Germany grants permission for indoor events or use multipurpose facilities such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, nightlife establishments, and cinemas only to people who present a pass that certifies they have been either fully vaccinated, have tested negative for Covid, or have fully recovered from a previous Covid infection.

“With confirmed cases currently being observed among unvaccinated people – many of them leading to critical symptoms and even death – we are considering applying such an approach, if only to protect these people,” he said.

I have to say it is bizarre to read the same worries about ‘cases’ getting too high and putting unsustainable pressure on the health service in a country which is experiencing a fraction of our reported infections and an even smaller fraction of our deaths. How can we take this seriously when South Korea has more than three times the number of hospital beds that the U.K. has, 10 per 1,000 population compared to three per 1,000?

Nations whether in the East or West are now being held hostage by their health services and their supposed capacity to cope with coronavirus surges. But it’s clear from the very different scales of these supposed capacity threats in different countries that this spectre of an overwhelmed and collapsing health service is largely a figment of the political imagination.

No doubt a winter Covid wave can stretch a health service considerably. But if even England in January had thousands of empty hospital beds on January 18th, when the number of Covid hospital patients hit 39,254, and did not ‘collapse’ (and the Nightingale hospitals remained empty), then it’s difficult to see how the threat is in any way a realistic one. At that winter peak, Covid patients occupied less than a third of the total hospital beds (31%), while 8,696 beds remained unoccupied. Besides which, if winter hospital capacity is the crucial issue for lockdowns and other measures, would it not be a whole lot cheaper and more effective just to boost it more?

Lockdown proponents will claim that the U.K. winter wave was mitigated by restrictions. But the truth is the U.K. suffered one of the biggest winter surges in the world, regardless of what measures were in place in other countries. States in America with few or no restrictions such as Florida and South Dakota, and light-touch Sweden, did not suffer worse winters. There is thus nowhere that lockdown proponents can point to and say, look, that’s what would have happened here if we hadn’t locked down. There is no reason to think that without restrictions the U.K.’s winter surge would have ended up much worse.

While governments around the world continue to hold the threat of an overwhelmed health service over their populations as a kind of political blackmail (albeit often sincerely believed), the experience of South Korea shows that the threat is ill-defined, largely illusory, and not a sound basis for imposing illiberal measures and ruinous restrictions.

October 1, 2021 Posted by | Deception | , , | Leave a comment

North Korea’s Right of Self-Defense

By Stephen Lendman | September 13, 2021

Throughout its post-WW II history, North Korea never preemptively attacked another country.

Its peaceful foreign policy is in stark contrast to US, Western, apartheid Israeli forever wars on invented enemies.

The right to self-defense is inviolable under international law, including under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

It prohibits one nation from attacking another except in self-defense, stating:

“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”

North Korea’s military and weapons development are all about protecting the nation from possible US/Western aggression, including its nuclear and missiles technology.

On Monday, its Yonhap News Agency headlined “N. Korea test-fires new long-range cruise missiles,” saying:

“North Korea has successfully test-fired a new type of long-range cruise missiles over the weekend,” adding:

“The test-firings took place on Saturday and Sunday after two years of research, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).”

“The development of the long-range cruise missile, a strategic weapon of great significance…. has been pushed forward according to the scientific and reliable weapon system development process for the past two years.”

“Detailed tests of missile parts, scores of engine ground thrust tests, various flight tests, control and guidance tests, warhead power tests, etc. were conducted with success.”

Voice of Korea (VOK) called the tested missiles nuclear-capable, adding:

They’ll serve as an “effective deterrent ensuring the security of our state more firmly and overpowering powerfully the anti-DPRK military moves of the hostile forces.”

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace senior fellow Ankit Panda said the following about the reported tests:

“A long-range, nuclear-capable cruise missile complicates how its adversaries need to think about positioning radars and investing in cruise missile defense capabilities more generally.”

MIT Professor Vipin Narang said “a nuclear cruise missile makes a lot of sense to evade missile defenses.”

They’re “air-breathing so they can fly low and maneuver.”

VOK reported that tested missiles were fired from a five-canister wheeled transporter erector launcher.

North Korean state media said “(d)ozens of static firing tests” of a “newly-developed turbofan engine” were conducted.

“(D)ifferent flight tests, controlling… guiding… and warhead destructive tests were successfully made.”

Missiles fired “flew 1,500 kilometers for 7,580 seconds along the flight track of oval and figure-eight set in the territory and territorial air of our state before hitting the targets.”

According to International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) military analyst Joseph Dempsey:

Tests conducted are “significant development and direction of intent, but we should be wary of assuming or assigning similar capabilities that we associate with other contemporary land-attack cruise missiles at this stage.”

More information or independent confirmation is needed to know to what extent DPRK technology advanced.

In response to the tests, the Pentagon’s INDOPACOM said the following:

“We are aware of reports of DPRK cruise missile launches.”

“We will continue to monitor the situation and are consulting closely with our allies and partners.”

“This activity highlights DPRK’s continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that poses to its neighbors (sic) and the international community (sic).”

Nonbelligerent North Korea threatens no one.

US-dominated NATO threatens world peace.

A Final Comment

Last month, North Korean envoy to Russia Sin Hong-chol said the following:

“The US should pull out its aggressive troops and military hardware deployed in South Korea to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

“As long as US forces are based in South Korea, the main reason behind periodical exacerbation of the situation on the Korean Peninsula will never be eliminated.”

“The current situation proves that only real force and not words can ensure peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.”

Stressing the importance of strengthening his country’s military to deter foreign threats,” he added:

“We have already clearly said that we will treat the US on the principle of ‘force for force’ and ‘good for good.’ ”

Hostile US actions include “aggressive military exercises at such an extreme time when international attention is concentrating on Korean Peninsula developments show that they are the instigators who destroy peace and security of the region, while ‘commitment to diplomacy’ and ‘dialogue without preconditions’ that the current US (regime) is ranting about are nothing but hypocrisy.”

Calling US/S. Korea military actions “rehearsal(s)” for war against the North, he slammed their “military madness.”

Pyongyang believes that the Biden regime “will be more openly engaged in hostile actions (ahead) against Asia Pacific states, including Russia” and China.

September 13, 2021 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | 1 Comment

North Korea turns away 3mn doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine – UNICEF

RT | September 2, 2021

North Korea has rejected a shipment of three million doses of the Chinese-made Sinovac Covid vaccine from the international COVAX scheme, asking UNICEF to redirect them to worse-hit countries, the UN said on Thursday.

The Asian nation was among the first to introduce strict Covid restrictions as the pandemic began to spread in early 2020, locking down its border to prevent transmission from neighboring China. Pyongyang has claimed that it has not yet detected any cases of Covid within the country.

A spokesperson for UN agency UNICEF said that North Korea had rejected roughly around three million doses of a Covid vaccine, requesting that the COVAX scheme give them to poorer nations, which have reported greater case numbers during the pandemic.

The North Korean Public Health Ministry confirmed in a statement that it had rejected the doses, saying that the vaccines are being “relocated to severely affected countries in view of the limited global supply of Covid-19 vaccines and recurrent surge in some countries.” However, the country’s officials said they would “continue to communicate” with the COVAX scheme over receiving a shipment of doses “in the coming months.”

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) weekly report released on August 27 confirmed that “no case of Covid-19 has been reported” within North Korea, although 37,291 people have been tested with flu-like symptoms, returning negative coronavirus tests.

While North Korea claims it hasn’t had an outbreak of cases, it has suffered an economic and “food crisis” due to border restrictions, which have affected trade and travel with the reclusive country’s neighbors.

The decision to reject the Chinese Sinovac doses comes months after a South Korean think tank, the Institute for National Security Strategy, claimed that North Korea had refused a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines over fears about potential side effects.

September 2, 2021 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , | 3 Comments

Tensions escalating between US and North Korea

By Lucas Leiroz | June 25, 2021

Since March, the situation between the US and North Korea has been gradually worsening. That month, American Chancellor Antony Blinken took his first international trip, whose destinations were Japan and South Korea, where conversations with local leaders about North Korea were carried out. On the occasion, Blinken highlighted alleged human rights violations in the country and the “threat” posed by the North Korean nuclear program to international security in that Asian region.

He stated that Washington, Tokyo and Seoul will work together to achieve the denuclearization of Pyongyang, which was taken as a threat by the North Korean government, leading to immediate responses such as the launch of two ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan and a warning issued by the sister of the supreme leader, Kim Yo Jong, who said that “if it [the US ] wants to sleep in peace for the coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step”.

Reports issued by US military and intelligence agents in April stated that North Korea has more nuclear weapons than ever and is unwilling to give up its arsenal, prompting the US government to make constant pronouncements on the need of denuclearization, claiming that this is the only condition for dialogue between the two countries. In early June, Kim appeared in public commenting that the Biden government has a “hostile policy” towards North Korea. On June 12, during a meeting of the Central Military Commission of the Worker’s Party of Korea, Kim called for measures to boost military combat effectiveness, warning of new challenges on the Korean peninsula.

Despite continuing to respond to Biden’s impositions with severe displays of force, resuming military tests and claiming to be prepared for an eventual conflict, one factor has harmed Korea considerably: the food crisis. Kim Jong Un recently made remarks about the country’s current supply crisis, warning of a serious food insecurity situation – the worst in decades. The effects of the pandemic hit the country at the same time that several natural disasters damaged agriculture and generated serious instability in grain production. At the end of May, China announced that it would economically help Korea by increasing trade with the country, but the crisis is still far from being resolved.

In his most recent speech, last week, Kim said that Korea is prepared for both confrontation and dialogue, showing signs that, while not giving up on its interests, it is willing to talk with Biden and reach an agreement to ease tensions – which would help Korea at this time of crisis. But the US government was not sensitive to the situation in the Asian country. Blinken responded to the Korean leader’s speech by saying Washington is waiting for “a clearer signal from Pyongyang.” What would be a clearer signal than the country’s president saying he is prepared for dialogue? It would be precisely Kim claiming that he is willing to give up on his nuclear program.

North Korea reduced the bellicose speech it had been maintaining since March and received nothing in return from Washington. The most curious point is that Kim sought a more neutral stance precisely at a time of intensified tensions between the US and China. At the last NATO summit, China was considered a “global security challenge”, being treated in an anti-diplomatic way. Beijing is the biggest ally of the Korean government and all measures against China affect Pyongyang in some way.

Pyongyang will react to the American stance by canceling any willingness to dialogue and tightening military policies, at least as long as the country is able to maintain such measures. Still, it is possible that Biden will take advantage of Korea’s moment of vulnerability to act even more militarily. An open confrontation is unlikely to happen as no conflict between two nuclear-armed states is viable, but demonstrations of force such as tests, missile launches, and symbolic naval warfare are possible scenarios for the near future. Also, such measures would be a proxy confrontation with China, which is allied with North Korea.

In short, Biden is reversing a great positive legacy of the Trump era, which was the achievement of partial stability in US-North Korea relations. The former government has shown that coercion and force are not the most effective methods of pursuing the denuclearization of a country. But Biden’s policy seems to follow an old bellicose mentality that is absolutely unproductive today.

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

June 25, 2021 Posted by | Militarism | , | 3 Comments

The United States Started the Korean War

Tales of the American Empire • June 10, 2021

The history taught Americans is that North Korean forces attacked South Korea in 1950 and almost overran that new nation until the US military came to the rescue. This is true but does not explain that the United States government wanted a war. Major American industries had suffered with the loss of military business after the end of World War II, while wealthy Americans sought an excuse to expel the communists from China to recover their businesses. These groups conspired with the administration of President Harry Truman to lure North Korea to attack.

“The Korean War: Barbarism Unleashed”; Jeremy Kuzmarov; United States Foreign Policy; 2016; https://peacehistory-usfp.org/korean-…

“South Korea and US Started the Korean War”; Bruce Cumings; Bleier’s Blog; November 9, 2007; https://bleiersblog.blogspot.com/2007…

“Korea: A Brief History Explains Everything”: Dana Visalli; Global Research; January 23, 2019; https://www.globalresearch.ca/korea-b…

“The Hidden History of the Korean War (1950-1953)” – Book Review; Jay Hauben; Global Research; July 14, 2013; https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-hid… 

Related Tale: “American Marines Reclaimed Northern China in 1945”; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDBUT…

June 14, 2021 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , | 3 Comments

World should not tolerate Israel’s reckless terrorism, North Korea says

Palestinian workers clear rubble and debris in al-Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City on June 8, 2021. (Photo by AFP)
Press TV | June 9, 2021

North Korea has denounced the latest Israeli military aggression on the besieged Gaza strip, stating that Tel Aviv is massacring children and that the international community should not tolerate Israel’s reckless sponsorship of terrorism.

“It is no exaggeration to say that the whole Gaza Strip has turned into a huge human slaughterhouse and a place of massacring children,” the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“Israel’s horrific crime of killing the … children is a severe challenge to the future of humankind and a crime against the humanity,” it added.

The international community should not tolerate “Israel’s reckless state-sponsored terrorism and act of obliterating other nations.”

At least 260 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in 11 days of the conflict that began on May 10. Israel’s airstrikes also brought widespread devastation to the already impoverished territory.

The Gaza-based resistance movements responded by launching over 4,000 rockets into the occupied territories, some reaching as far as Tel Aviv and even Haifa and Nazareth to the north.

The Israeli regime was eventually forced to announce a ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, which came into force in the early hours of May 21.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that Palestinians are facing “staggering health needs” in the occupied territories after the last month’s conflict in the Gaza Strip.

June 9, 2021 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , | 4 Comments

Continuing the Story of the Hijacked Tanker and Frozen Funds

By Konstantin Asmolov – New Eastern Outlook – 04.05.2021

In early 2021, we wrote about the Iranian seizure of a South Korean tanker and how this precedent actually demonstrates a number of unresolved problems, most notably the problem of Iranian assets in South Korean banks intended to pay for Iranian crude oil imports and frozen because of US sanctions.

Recall:  Iran has repeatedly urged Seoul to address the $7 billion frozen in two South Korean banks as part of US sanctions after the Donald Trump administration pulled out of the landmark nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 and tightened sanctions against the Islamic Republic. On January 4, 2021, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the South Korean-flagged tanker MT Hankuk Chemi under the pretext of environmental pollution.

On January 10, 2021, a government delegation led by First Deputy Foreign Minister Choi Jong-gon arrived in Tehran. However, the parties were unable to reach any agreements. In fact, Choi called for the release of the tanker and demanded evidence of oil pollution in the waters of the Persian Gulf, which formally caused the tanker to be seized. In response, his interlocutor Abbas Araghchi said that the tanker was in the hands of an Iranian court, and that the development of bilateral relations can make sense only when the issue of frozen funds is resolved.

Araghchi openly stated that “the freezing of Iran’s foreign currency resources in Korea is more due to a lack of political will on the part of the Korean government than to US sanctions,” and called on Choi to work out a mechanism to resolve the issue. However, the Iranian side noted that the crew members were safe and in good shape.

Choi’s talks with Iran’s Central Bank Governor Abdel Nasser Hemmati and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also proved fruitless. The minister reiterated the thesis that the executive branch does not interfere in matters that fall within the jurisdiction of the judiciary; and the bank recalled that the South Korean government had promised to resolve the issue a year and a half ago, but had done nothing.

Kamal Kharrazi, head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, was even more blunt: “The two countries had good relations, but now, unfortunately, because the Korean government yielded to US pressure, Iranian assets worth $7 billion have been frozen in Korean banks, and it cannot even withdraw money to buy medicine“.

On January 12, during a briefing, Saeed Khatibzadeh of the Iranian Foreign Ministry expressed dissatisfaction with the measures taken by the ROK to solve the problem: the solution is delayed and Tehran is not satisfied. The Iranian side has indicated its position that the problem of frozen funds should be solved first, and the issue of the arrested tanker will be resolved in accordance with legal procedures.

As a result of Choi’s visit, the parties agreed on nothing but further negotiations, and Choi went to Qatar, where he appealed for assistance in freeing the South Korean tanker and its crew.

In mid-January it emerged that in order to “create a positive mood before negotiations with Iran,” South Korea withdrew its anti-piracy naval unit Cheonghae from the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian Ambassador Saeed Badamchi Shabestari allegedly once expressed displeasure to Seoul over the presence of South Korean troops in the Straits because they were actually part of an international contingent assembled by the United States to contain Iran, even though formally the unit is meant to fight regional piracy. It is a typical trick of South Korean foreign policy when US orders are de facto carried out, but de jure these actions are anything but the direct order. However, the Foreign Ministry of the ROK refused to confirm this movement of troops.

At the same time, there was a rumor that the Iranian party offered to use part of the frozen funds to pay off its outstanding UN membership dues. Although the amount is only $16,200,000, experts decided that the only the first step would be particularly difficult, and on January 19, the head of the Central Bank of Iran, in an interview with Bloomberg agency again noted that this is not the first time the authorities of the Republic of Korea promise to do everything possible, but in fact they continue to follow the US policy and rules.

The Korean party, on the other hand, has made certain hints that a change of power in the US could unblock the problem.

On January 21, Hemmati reported that some of the funds belonging to Iran, which are in foreign banks, have been unfrozen and are being used by the government.

On February 2, 2021, Iran agreed to release the entire crew of the hijacked tanker except for the captain. Seoul welcomed this decision, and “the parties agreed to continue mutual communication”. By this time everyone finally remembered that at the time of the seizure the ship was carrying not petroleum products, but ethyl alcohol, so it is unclear how the fact of pollution that became the reason for the arrest of the ship occurred at that time.

The next day, the ROK media reported that South Korea was finalizing negotiations with the US to use some of the frozen money to pay Iran’s outstanding US dues. Otherwise, South Korean experts believed that the decision was still related to the change of power in the US, because, first, Biden was going to deal with the restoration of alliances in general, and second, the Iranian issue, according to Southerners, will be solved differently than under Trump. Iran has been called upon to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in order to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement.

In addition, it was reported that South Korea increased the export of medicine to Iran for two months, which also contributed to the release of detainees.

On February 11, the first Korean sailor returned home, but some of the crew remained on the ship to provide management.

On February 23, in a statement issued by South Korean Foreign Ministry in response to the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s statement on reaching an agreement with the South, it was stated that Iranian assets could be unblocked after consultations with the United States. According to a report posted on the Iranian government’s website, the agreement was reached during the February 22 meeting between Hemmati, Governor of the Central Bank of Iran, and Yoo Jong-hyun, the ROK ambassador to Iran. The parties agreed on directions for the transfer of money, and the Central Bank of Iran has informed Seoul of the amount it wants to receive.  Then, according to Bloomberg, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei told a news conference that South Korea would release $1 billion in frozen money as a first step toward resolving the issue, without giving further details on how it would be used.

However, on the same day, Feb. 23, State Department spokesman Ned Price noted that the US and the ROK could discuss the supposed release of Iranian funds, but the money had not yet been transferred. The ROK Foreign Ministry also stressed that American pressure was needed to unfreeze Iranian assets. Thus, Tehran’s claim of an agreement has been refuted.

On February 24, the foreign ministers of the ROK and Islamic Republic of Iran discussed the situation, and Jong Eui-young said that South Korea “is making sincere efforts to release frozen assets,” but recalled that the issue must be resolved in close cooperation with the United States. In response, the Governor of the Central Bank of Iran said that South Korea must pay Iran $1 billion, otherwise Tehran will initiate proceedings in international courts.

On February 25, a US Treasury Department official said that Washington agreed in principle to a partial transfer of Iranian assets to Switzerland, from where they can be sent to Iran under the so-called Swiss Agreement on Humanitarian Trade, the essence of which is that Swiss food, pharmaceutical and medical companies must have a reliable channel of payment to ensure payment for their exports to Iran. Actually, the aforementioned billion was going to be transferred to the purchase of drugs against coronavirus

The conservative media in the ROK accused Iran of diplomatic impoliteness and wishful thinking. However, the commonplace conclusion was that it was all Moon’s fault for failing everything: the government is only engaged in improving relations with the DPRK and cannot conduct skillful diplomacy with other countries.

On March 2, Ned Price said that the US would be willing to discuss with Iran the unblocking of its money in the ROK “to achieve the main goal of Iran’s denuclearization.” He was silent about where, when, and how this issue would be discussed.

On March 10, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken took an even tougher stance: until Iran meets its obligations under the nuclear deal, the US will not ease any sanctions, including the release of Iranian funds in South Korean banks. When asked whether it was true that some of the funds could be transferred, however, Blinken replied that “the report you referred to is simply wrong“. Korean conservative media and experts immediately noted that “Secretary Blinken’s principled approach to frozen Iranian funds is good news for Korean national interests. This allows Seoul to resist extortion, even while making every reasonable effort to cooperate with Tehran. It also sends a signal to North Korea that international sanctions will be strictly enforced, but may be eased if denuclearization agreements are respected.”

On March 16, the ROK and Iran held a video conference that formally focused on expanding bilateral humanitarian trade, and on March 17, Deputy Prime Minister and Treasury Secretary Hong Nam-gi spoke by phone with new US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, where the parties agreed to cooperate closely, including on the Iranian issue.

On April 2, 2021, a diplomatic source reported that the tanker would soon be released, and on April 5, Said Khatibzadeh of the Iranian Foreign Ministry added that the case was ending and the court decision would most likely be in favor of the South Korean side.

According to experts, this was related both to the upcoming visit to Iran of Prime Minister Jong Se-kyung and to the fact that 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine produced in Kazakhstan were delivered to Iran.

On the morning of April 9, Iran released the tanker and it left the port. On board were the captain and 12 crew members who had been released earlier but remained on the ship for maintenance purposes.

On April 11, Jeong Se-kyung left for Iran on a three-day visit. This visit was the first trip of a South Korean prime minister to Iran in 44 years, but it should be remembered that by this time it was already known that at the end of the visit Chong was resigning due to a set of domestic political problems. Therefore, despite the high status of the visit, its real significance was somewhat less than expected, and the visit did not end with anything serious. The sides agreed to expand humanitarian exchanges, including medical cooperation, and to create a special consultative body responsible for preparing economic cooperation projects after the possible resumption of the nuclear deal. The Iranian side again urged Seoul to unblock the money as soon as possible, which was responded to with further assurances that everything possible was being done and a call to prevent Iran from detaining foreign vessels in the future: “The freedom of navigation must be guaranteed.”

In general, during his stay in Iran, Jeong Se-kyung himself was particularly active trying to please Iran and even talked about the importance and profound spiritual significance of Ramadan. It turns out that he has said before that “this money is Iranian money and should be returned to the rightful owner. We have to find a way to return it quickly.” However, the author’s attempt to search for statements by the South Korean prime minister on this topic was unsuccessful. Jeong met with a number of dignitaries, including the speaker of parliament, but was unable to meet with President Rouhani “for various reasons, including the situation with Covid-19.”

And Iran’s First Vice President Jahangiri openly said, “We call on the Korean government to release Iran’s financial resources as soon as possible and solve the problems of recent years through practical compensatory measures.” The vice president regretted that the $1 billion transfer to Swiss banks for the purchase of a coronavirus vaccine did not materialize despite promises by Korean officials: the Korean banks’ actions severely damaged bilateral relations, as it deprived Iran of major foreign exchange resources to purchase medicines and medical equipment in a pandemic. As a result, the image of the ROK has been seriously damaged. There is hope that the situation will improve after Jeong Se-kyung’s visit.

Nevertheless, on April 12, a US State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, repeated in an interview with the Ryonhap news agency that the US position on sanctions against Iran remains unchanged. Until Iran goes back on the JCPOA, it won’t get its money back.

Thus, on the one hand, the story of the tanker hijack ended well enough, and the notion that the action had not an environmental but a political purpose was safely confirmed. On the other, Iran’s attempt to push for the return of the blocked funds in this way did not end with anything. Iran received some vaccines and other medical resources, but it was more of a handout than a victory. Finally, this situation shows well the level of independence of South Korean foreign policy on certain issues. Despite the fact that the South Korean leadership did not seem to mind solving the problem, at the first shout from the US in Seoul they stood at attention, not even trying to show displeasure about it. For the author, this is a rather important story that explains both why some countries periodically claim a “lack of sovereignty” in South Korea and the difference in South Korean foreign policy between the populist statements of Moon Jae-in and Co. and Seoul’s actual actions.

Konstantin Asmolov, PhD in History, is a leading research fellow at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of the Far East at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

May 4, 2021 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Gangster-like logic’: North Korea rejects Biden’s missile launch criticism, points to Washington’s own saber-rattling

RT | March 26, 2021

Responding to American criticism of its recent missile launch, North Korea has accused Washington of denying its right to self-defense, even as the US holds war games at the country’s doorstep and tests advanced weaponry.

“It’s a gangster-like logic that it is allowable for the US to ship the strategic nuclear assets into the Korean peninsula and launch ICBMs any time it wants but not allowable for the DPRK, its belligerent party, to conduct even a test of a tactical weapon,” senior North Korean official Ri Pyong-chol said in statement on Saturday.

The comments came after US President Joe Biden condemned a series of missile launches by Pyongyang, which test-fired several newly developed “tactical guided missiles” on Thursday, with the US leader vowing to “respond accordingly” if North Korea opted to “escalate.”

Defending the launches, Ri argued that the guided missile test was merely an “exercise of the full-fledged right of a sovereign state to self-defense,” given that the US and its allies routinely flex their military muscles in the region with “dangerous war exercises” and are happy to arm themselves with advanced weapons.

Ri appeared to reject speculation that the rocket launches, all conducted within a span of a week in the run-up to Biden’s much-anticipated first solo press conference on Thursday, were meant to send a signal to the new administration.

“We are by no means developing weapons to draw someone’s attention or influence his policy,” the official said. Ri, who according to North Korea’s state media, oversaw the latest launch, went on to denounce Biden’s vow of retaliation as “an undisguised encroachment” on North Korea’s right to self-defense and “provocation,” warning that the US “may be faced with something that is not good” if it continued such rhetoric.

The missiles test-fired on Thursday were described by the Japanese and South Korean militaries as ballistic missiles. While North Korea is banned from testing ballistic missiles under UN Security Council resolutions, Washington is not bound by such constraints. Last month, the US military fired an unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from a California base, with the US Air Force saying that the launch showed that Washington’s “strategic deterrent is safe, secure and effective.”

“Our nation’s ICBM fleet stands ready 24/7,” Lieutenant General Anthony Cotton, deputy commander of the Air Force’s Global Strike Command, said at the time.

Earlier this month, the US and South Korea held a nine-day joint military exercise that was scaled back this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The scope of the annual computer-simulated drills has been limited since the previous US administration attempted to strike a denuclearization agreement with Pyongyang, though the effort ultimately failed after Washington refused to provide any sanctions relief until North Korea carried out “complete and irreversible” denuclearization.

March 27, 2021 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , | 1 Comment

US Anti-North Korea Propaganda

By Stephen Lendman | March 26, 2021

US hostility toward North Korea is all about its freedom from imperial control.

It’s unrelated to alleged threats from its ruling authorities that don’t exist.

Since the Korean peninsula was divided post-WW II, the DPRK never attacked another nation.

It threatens none now — except in self-defense against aggression, its legitimate UN Charter right.

North Korea is an invented US enemy, not a real one.

Its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile capabilities are solely for defense.

They’re deterrents against possible US aggression.

DPRK ruling authorities know that what happened in the early 1950s can repeat because of US imperial rage to dominate other countries, including by brute force.

On Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Pyongyang launched two ballistic missiles that landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

Claiming the test launches threaten regional security defy reality.

Yet the Kyodo news agency reported that Japan is holding an emergency National Security Council meeting in response to the tests.

They were the first North Korean ballistic missiles launched since March 2020.

An unnamed Biden regime official confirmed the launch, saying the Pentagon and US intelligence are analyzing the tests.

It’s unclear if short, intermediate or long-range missiles were launched.

According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, the country’s military confirmed “at least one unidentified projectile” launched by North Korea.

In response to provocative US/South Korean military exercises near its territory, Pyongyang condemned them and launched several short-range missiles last weekend.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong slammed ongoing US/South Korean military drills, saying:

If Seoul “resort(s) to more provocative acts, we may take a special measure of resolutely abrogating even the north-south military agreement,” adding:

“Perhaps they are expecting ‘flexible judgment’ and ‘understanding’ from us but it is, indeed, ridiculous, impudent and stupid.”

“War drills and hostility can never go with dialogue and cooperation.”

Weeks earlier in a joint Biden regime/South Korea press release, their foreign ministers agreed on pushing for denuclearization of North Korea, calling it a matter of urgency.

Ignored was nuclear armed and dangerous USA and its key imperial partners.

They pose an unprecedented threat to world peace — in sharp contrast to North Korea threatening no one.

Its KCNA news agency earlier slammed Biden, calling him a “rabid dog (in) the final stage of dementia.”

As part of its propaganda drumbeat against nations free from US control, the NYT called North Korea’s missile tests “a show of force, raising tensions to gain leverage as the Biden (regime) finalizes its review of Washington’s North Korea policy,” adding:

“It was a warning to Washington that North Korea will follow up with more provocative tests (sic), involving longer-range missiles, depending on whether Biden decides to adopt more sanctions, engage in dialogue or a mix of both in dealing with the country’s growing nuclear and missile threats (sic).”

Weeks earlier, North Korea’s leadership announced plans to upgrade its nuclear capabilities.

It’s developing miniaturized nuclear warheads, tactical nuclear weapons, multiple independently-targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), solid-fuel ballistic missiles of varying ranges, nuclear propulsion systems for submarines, and hypersonic weapons.

Kim Jong-un stressed the importance of strengthening the country’s ability to deter aggressors from launching attacks.

If the above capabilities are developed, they’ll be powerful deterrents against possible US aggression.

March 27, 2021 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

Just Leave the Commies Alone

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | March 25, 2021

I’m not sure what good it did for the Cold War to end, given that the U.S. government has done everything it could since then to gin up hostilities, tension, and conflict with the communist and former communist world.

When Russia expressed a desire to have friendly relations at the start of the Trump administration, the Pentagon and the CIA went ballistic over that “attack” on their financial well-being. That’s when the big brouhaha over Trump supposedly being a covert Russian agent got launched, which played a major role in derailing his presidency.

Don’t forget also how NATO, under U.S. orders, began gobbling up former Warsaw Pact countries with the ultimate aim of absorbing Ukraine, which would have put U.S. nuclear missiles on Russia’s border and also would have put Crimea under the control of the U.S. military-intelligence establishment.

When China expressed a desire to have friendly relations with the U.S., President Trump launched his vicious trade war against the country, with the aim of preventing China from becoming more prosperous and more powerful. That’s what empires have done throughout history — launch preemptive strikes against rising nations, which are viewed as “adversaries,” “rivals,” “opponents,” “enemies,”or some other such imperialist nonsense.

And then there is North Korea, where the U.S. government intervened in the 1950s as part of its much-vaunted Cold War racket, in which the Pentagon and the CIA convinced Americans that the Reds were coming to get us. If the U.S. didn’t sacrifice tens of thousands of American men in the Korean civil war, U.S. officials maintained, it wouldn’t be long before the commies were running America’s public schools and our Interstate Highway System.

Today, the mainstream media is announcing that North Korea is “challenging” the Biden administration with the firing of what appear to be ballistic missiles. Question: Why aren’t the military exercises that the Pentagon conducts with South Korea considered to be “challenging” North Korea? Isn’t it possible that North Korea is simply responding to the “challenge” that the U.S. is posing to North Korea with its provocative military exercises?

Moreover, what about those cruel and brutal sanctions that U.S. officials continue to enforce against North Korea? They continue to target the North Korean people with death and economic impoverishment. Why aren’t those economic sanctions considered to be “challenging” North Korea? After all, given that their aim is to bring death to innocent people in the hope of achieving a political goal, how are they different from acts of terrorism?

It is the U.S. government — and specifically the U.S. national-security establishment — that is at the heart of the never-ending crisis in Korea, just as it is at the heart of the crises with China and Russia. The U.S. national-security establishment has never wanted to let go of its Cold War communist enemies, which enabled the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA to wallow in ever-increasing budgets, powers, and influence.

Crisis is the name of the game in the national-security state racket. The more crises, the better. If the communists won’t fit the Bill, there is always the war on terrorism … or Muslims … or Syria … or Venezuela … or whatever.

There is one reason for North Korea possessing nuclear weapons — to deter U.S. attacks on North Korea or, in the event the Korean War resumes, to defend against U.S. attacks on North Korea. Why should anyone be surprised when a Third World country wants to acquire nuclear weapons to defend itself from the Pentagon and the CIA and their policy of violent regime change?

Just ask the Iraqi people about that. They never attacked the United States. Nonetheless, the Pentagon attacked them, viciously, killing, torturing, and destroying hundreds of thousands of innocent people. It was nothing less than a “war of aggression,” a type of war declared a war crime by the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal.

There is something important to note about the U.S. war on Iraq: That Third World country didn’t have nuclear weapons. U.S. officials had nothing to fear from Iraq defending itself against the U.S. war of aggression.

Or ask the Cubans, another Cold War boogieman that U.S. officials claimed for 45 years posed a grave threat to “national security.” That was how the CIA justified its state-sponsored murder schemes against Cuban officials. It’s also how they justified an economic embargo aimed at killing innocent Cuban people as a way to achieve regime change on the island. It’s also what the Pentagon used as a justification to present its fraudulent Operation Northwoods plan to President Kennedy in the hopes that he would use it as an excuse to invade Cuba.

When Cuba brought in Soviet nuclear missiles, Kennedy agreed that there would be no invasion of the island in return for a Soviet withdrawal of the missiles. How could North Korea and every other Third World nation not see that?

It’s probably worth mentioning that although the Cold War ended decades ago, the U.S. government continues to target the Cuban populace with its vicious and brutal economic embargo. Hey, don’t forget: those Cuban Reds are only 90 miles away from American shores!

There is something else to note about U.S. troops in Korea. The war they are fighting is illegal under our form of government, given that Congress has never declared war on North Korea, as our Constitution requires. Don’t the troops take an oath to support and defend the Constitution?

The only thing that surprises me in this entire national-security state racket is that the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA aren’t stirring up trouble in Vietnam. Hey, those dominoes could still start falling any day now!

March 26, 2021 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Reminding South Korea Who is Boss: Biden’s Enforcers Pay a Visit

BY GREGORY ELICH | CounterPunch | March 25, 2021

In a Washington Post opinion piece, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spelled out their objectives in visiting Japan, South Korea, and India. “The United States is now making a big push to revitalize our ties with friends and partners,” they wrote. The nature of those relationships, as perceived by Washington, is the subordination of Asian nations as junior partners in an anti-China coalition. “Our alliances are what our military calls ‘force multipliers,’ Blinken and Austin explain. “Our combined power makes us stronger when we must push back against China’s aggression and threats.” [1]

That approach found a receptive audience in meetings with Japanese officials, who recognize it as offering a path to remilitarization. Results in South Korea were more ambiguous. By a substantial margin, China is South Korea’s primary trading partner, and relations between the two nations are generally solid. South Korea has no rational reason to join Washington’s fanatical anti-China campaign, no matter how much pressure the United States applies. A difference of opinion between Washington’s envoys and South Korean officials can be inferred by comparing the joint U.S.-Japan statement with South Korea’s, as only the latter lacked China-bashing verbiage.

Blinken and Austin appear to have been more successful in reminding South Korean officials that no independent action should be taken to improve inter-Korean relations and in making it understood that Washington calls the shots. The two sides agreed to establish a “working-level diplomatic dialogue” process to align policy regarding North Korea and other matters. [2]In their joint statement, Korean and American officials affirmed that their two nations “are closely coordinating on all issues related to the Korean Peninsula” and that “these issues should be addressed through a fully-coordinated strategy toward North Korea.” [3]

Not that Blinken and Austin found their position on North Korea a hard sell. Although peace and improved inter-Korean relations matter deeply to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, he attaches more importance to the military alliance with the United States. In an article published at the end of 2019, Moon argued, “No matter how desperately peace is desired, Korea cannot afford to race ahead on its own. It has counterparts and must move within the international order.” Support from the “international community” is needed, Moon claims, while using the standard term signifying the several thousand people at the top rungs of power in the United States and excluding the nearly eight billion people in the rest of the world’s population. [4] Moon’s statement is consistent with other comments he has made, such as in his New Year’s address, where he stated, “If we can draw support from the international community in the process,” then the door to peace will “open wide.” [5] No role there for South Korea, other than as supplicant.

Joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises were well underway during Bliken’s and Austin’s time in Seoul. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, war games were conducted via computer simulation. Concurrently, the U.S. deployed F-22 Raptor stealth fighters to participate in joint exercises with the Japanese military. [6] According to a South Korean military official, “The deployment is significant as an alert to North Korea as well as deterrence to China, given F-22s’ operational radius and performance.” [7]

None of this went unnoticed in Pyongyang. Kim Yo Jong, Vice Department Director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, dismissed South Korean claims that the military exercises are defensive. While no details of the drilled scenarios have been publicly released, past war games customarily practiced the bombing and invasion of North Korea as well as sending commando teams into the north to assassinate government officials. There is no reason to suppose that the latest exercises pose a unique exception. Kim called the “launching of a war game against” her nation “a serious challenge” and pointed out that the “essence and nature of the drills” never changes, regardless of what form they take. [8]

It was not the first time that Pyongyang has expressed frustration over the discrepancy between Moon’s rhetoric on inter-Korean relations and his actions. Similar complaints were raised last June. By hitching its wagon to the U.S. military, the Moon administration is seriously straining ties with the north. “War drill and hostility can never go with dialogue and cooperation,” Kim stated. If South Korean authorities “persist in hostile acts” that deny dialogue and “destroy the foundation of trust through ceaseless war games,” then Pyongyang may abrogate some of the inter-Korean agreements it had signed. [9]

Some aspects of the Panmunjom Declaration, signed on April 27, 2018 by Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un, are already a dead letter. Certainly, the affirmation of “the principle of determining the destiny of the Korean nation on their own accord” has never been put into practice, as the Moon administration is unwilling to act without U.S. permission. Nor have any “practical steps” been adopted to connect and modernize rail and road connections or steps been taken to “actively implement” inter-Korean economic agreements signed in 2004. [10] After all, Washington would not approve.

“Pyongyang is pressing Seoul not to talk nonsense in the upcoming meeting with Blinken and Austin,” observed Kim Il-gi, a senior researcher at South Korea’s Institute for National Security Strategy. “And the message goes to the U.S., as well.” [11] A message, one cannot help noting, that inevitably fell on deaf ears.

The United States, too, is hoping for a change in South Korea’s approach, albeit in a decidedly different direction than that sought by North Korea. A recent report by the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security is typical of the recommendations being churned out by Washington think tanks. “The Republic of Korea and the United States should broaden their military alliance into a national security alliance in order to more effectively deal with the challenges and opportunities of this new era,” it states. Predictably, the Center lists China as the top challenge and argues that the U.S.-South Korea alliance “must be prepared to continue to deter and dissuade” China from “considering any further aggression.” South Korea ought to “prioritize security cooperation” with Southeast Asian nations “on behalf of the alliance,” the Center argues. Furthermore, “as NATO goes global in its approach in response to the challenges posed by China…NATO’s partnership with the Republic of Korea will increase in importance.” [12]

The Scowcroft Center recognizes that reliance on Chinese trade presents a roadblock in persuading South Korea to join Washington’s anti-China campaign. What South Koreans may happen to want is not a question the Center ever troubles itself with, other than to bemoan that it is necessary to “avoid forcing the Republic of Korea to make explicit, public choices in disputes between the United States and China.”

But less overtly, South Korea can be slowly moved into that position. The Center expects South Korea to join U.S. “efforts to reform international rules and institutions,” a euphemism for American plans to cut China off from much of its international trade.  Several measures are recommended that South Korea “should” adopt to align its economy with U.S. regional goals. In addition, to chip away at Chinese-Korean trade, “The Republic of Korea should join the US efforts to diversify its supply chains” and avoid “over-reliance on a single country.” [13] The essential task for South Korea, the Center insists, is that “much more must be done to reduce dependence on Chinese supply chains and protect key industries from” what it laughably calls “predatory Chinese practices.” Washington expects nations it regards as subordinates, such as South Korea, to act as pawns in maintaining American hegemony against challengers such as China.

Despite North Korea’s concerns, it appears that a resumption of full-scale military exercises on the Korean Peninsula may be on the horizon. Currently, the United States holds operational control (OPCON) over South Korean military forces in wartime. The Moon administration hopes to regain OPCON before the expiration of its term in office. Still, the key condition for doing so is completing full-scale live-action military drills to evaluate the concept. [14] According to a South Korean military source, Seoul wants to test Full Operational Capability (FOC) with a full-scale exercise in the second half of this year. [15] A successful assessment would leave only one official step, Full Mission Capability (FMC), to be completed before OPCON transfer could proceed.

Transfer of OPCON is long overdue, but predicating progress toward that decision on a resumption of live-action drills can be counted on to place a further strain on inter-Korean relations, which no doubt Washington regards as a bonus. Indeed, roiling inter-Korean waters may be the only result produced by full-scale military exercises. Robert Abrams, U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) commander, maintains that it is not enough for Seoul to pass the three official assessment stages; it would have to meet an additional 26 requirements. [16] It is a formula perfectly calculated to compel South Korea to resume live military drills while imposing endless conditions that will continually postpone OPCON transfer so that it may never take place.

Currently, relations between South Korea and Japan are at a low point over the unresolved issue of Imperial Japan’s “comfort women” system of sexual slavery, as well as Japanese trade restrictions on South Korea. The rift in relations is problematic for Washington, as it wishes to assign both nations the key role among junior partners in confronting China. As a U.S. State Department fact sheet explains, in “working to strengthen America’s relationships with our allies…[n]o relationship is more important than that between Japan and the Republic of Korea.” [17] Moon promised Blinken he would continue to reach out and try to resolve disputes with Japan. [18] However, previous conciliatory messages sent from South Korea to Japan since the Yoshihide Suga administration’s inauguration have gone unanswered. [19]

The Biden administration is currently undertaking a review to determine details of its North Korea policy, and it has attempted to contact North Korean officials through various channels. The content of the messages is not publicly known, but the Biden administration has indicated in general an intention to add other demands along with that of denuclearization. Piling on demands is not a promising approach for initiating dialogue.

North Korea chose not to respond to the Biden administration’s attempts at contact. In a statement issued during Blinken’s and Austin’s stay in Seoul, North Korean Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son Hui explained that no communication or dialogue “of any kind can be possible unless the U.S. rolls back its hostile policy.” She took due note of the Biden administration’s harsh rhetoric and military activities aimed against North Korea. What North Korea is asking for is a change of tone, one that would be conducive for establishing dialogue “on an equal basis.” [20]

A more diplomatic attitude would seem not to be a tall order, but it is constitutionally foreign to the Washington establishment’s nature. It can be anticipated that President Moon may urge Biden to soften the administration’s public comments to encourage a resumption of dialogue. Whether anyone in Washington will be listening is another matter. When U.S. policymakers talk about South Korea and the United States needing to closely coordinate North Korea policy, what they have in mind is a one-way process in which the U.S. decides, and South Korea follows. On China, Seoul can expect to be subjected to mounting pressure to reduce trade, thereby providing Washington with more leverage in attempting to bully it into joining the belligerent U.S.-led anti-China alliance. The one certainty is that respect for South Korean sovereignty is not in the cards.

Notes.

[1] Antony J. Blinken and Lloyd J. Austin III, “America’s Partnerships Are ‘Force Multipliers’ in the World,” Washington Post, March 14, 2021.

[2] “S. Korea, U.S. to Launch New Working-level Policy Dialogue Aimed at Cementing Alliance,” Yonhap, March 18, 2021.

[3] “Full Text of Joint Statement of 2021 S. Korea-U.S. foreign and Defense Ministerial Meeting,” Yonhap, March 18, 2021.

[4] https://english1.president.go.kr/Media/Interviews/541

[5] https://english1.president.go.kr/BriefingSpeeches/Speeches/931

[6] Nick Wilson, “Hawaii-based F-22s Land at MCAS Iwakuni to Support DFE Concept,” Pacific Air Forces, March 16, 2021.

[7] Sang-ho Yun, “U.S. Deploys F-21 [sic] Raptors in Japan,” Dong-A Ilbo, March 18, 2021.

[8] “It Will be Hard to See Again Spring Days Three Years Ago,” KCNA, March 16, 2021.

[9] “It Will be Hard to See Again Spring Days Three Years Ago,” KCNA, March 16, 2021.

[10] Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula, April 27, 2018.

[11] Won-gi Jung, “South Korea Defends Military Exercises After Kim Yo Jong Threatens Retaliation,” NK News, March 16, 2021.

[12] https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/in-depth-research-reports/report/the-future-of-the-us-rok-security-alliance/

[13] https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/in-depth-research-reports/report/the-future-of-the-us-rok-security-alliance/

[14] Mitch Shin, “South Korea, US to Prepare to Conduct Joint Military Exercise,” The Diplomat, March 2, 2021.

[15] Elizabeth Shim, “Reports: U.S., South Korea to Commence Scaled-down Military Exercises,” UPI, March 4, 2021.

[16] Lee Chul-jae, Kim Sang-jin, Shim Kyu-seok, “Opcon Timing Dashes Moon’s Hope for Transfer,” JoongAng Ilbo, January 24, 2021.

[17] https://www.state.gov/reaffirming-the-unbreakable-u-s-japan-alliance/

[18] Lee4 Chi-dong, “Moon Vows Efforts to Improve Japan Ties in Talks with Biden Aides,” Yonhap, March 18, 2021.

[19] Sarah Kim, “U.S. Working as Middleman to Help Korea-Japan Relations,” JoongAng Ilbo, March 15, 2021.

[20] “Statement of First Vice Foreign Minister of DPRK,” KCNA, March 18, 2021.

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 

March 25, 2021 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , | 1 Comment

To What Extent does the Testimony given by DPRK Defectors Represent a Credible Source?

By Konstantin Asmolov – New Eastern Outlook – 10.03.2021

On February 21, 2021, South Korean media outlets reported that four North Korean defectors plan to sue Unification Minister Lee In-young for defamation over his recent remarks casting doubt over what defectors say about the North’s human rights situation. The matter is that on February 3, Lee said during a press conference with foreign media reporters that human rights-related testimonies of North Korean defectors “lack a process of checking and verifying” their validity.

The four defectors affirmed that Lee deemed their testimonies as “untrustworthy lies”, while their stories represented just the tip of the iceberg of the horrible plight happening in North Korea. “Speaking to the foreign press as if their testimonies are lies is an act threatening the defectors who fled (to the South) for freedom”.

In addition, the complainants believe that Lee was unable, or is unwilling, to protect North Korean defectors and improve the human rights situation in North Korea, although this is a key responsibility borne by the Ministry of Unification. The fact is that South Korea  for two consecutive years opted out of co-sponsoring a North Korean human rights resolution at the UN. Seoul sponsored the bill from 2008 to 2018, but decided not to do so in 2019 or 2020, drawing heavy backlash from the country’s conservative lawmakers as well as professional “fighters against the North Korean regime”.

At a February 22 press conference, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Unification “sweetened the pill” just in case, declaring that the testimony given by North Korean refugees was “valuable material” to help shed light on the human rights situation in that closed country. He added that their words are constantly being heeded in Seoul to create an “accurate picture” of the situation occurring in the North. In addition, it was reported that while the complainants assert that Lee In-young considered their testimony to be “untrustworthy lies,” in fact the minister simply stated that their statements could not be verified. That is no wonder, because according to South Korean law, libel can be punishable by up to two years in prison, or a fine of up to 5 million won (4,520 USD). Moreover, the laws do not speak about libel, but about defamation of character, when a person can be incarcerated for the truth if that causes reputational or moral damage.

But for the author, the fuss over the lawsuit raises the issue about to what extent the testimony given by the DPRK defectors represents a valid source, especially when it comes to heartbreaking stories of human rights violations.

The problems with defectors’ testimony can be broken down into two groups. The first has to do with the testimony of witnesses in general, and these difficulties are well comprehended by specialists.

First, not a single witness can remember a situation with complete accuracy. When people remember an event after a long time has passed, they deliberately or unwittingly distort the details involved. Second, the witness may misunderstand what is perceived. The most striking example is the statement made by one Russian journalist that there is no central heating in the DPRK because he did not see any radiators anywhere. However, in both the North and South of Korea, the traditional heating system is a “warm floor”, where the space heating system runs underneath it. Third, knowing the consequences of their actions, witnesses often engage in self-justification, or position themselves as having guessed everything from the very beginning, which makes the events in their recitals look more predictable and “orderly” than they are in reality. Fourth, people who have experienced traumatic experiences have a need to speak out and try to purge themselves of certain experiences.

That is why reconstructing events according to testimony that is given is usually done by comparing the testimony from several people. If the story told by one person may be inaccurate or biased, then describing an event from the hearsay given by numerous witnesses makes that picture more complete.

However, in regard to defectors, the issue of counterchecking their testimony runs up against certain difficulties: these people fled during different periods of time, from different places, and therefore it could be difficult to find two opinions about the same event.

And this is important, because while stories that buck against a certain trend usually elicit a desire to cross-check them (with the hope of refuting them), when a person who is a personal witness to something says things that fit well into the procrustean bed of underlying expectations, nobody counterchecks something “that is common knowledge”. Everyone already knows the recipe for the main course, and a specific story will only differ in the proportion of spices used, or where the side dish is located on the plate.

Now let’s focus on the idiosyncrasies that directly have to do with defectors from the DPRK, for whom storytelling is often an important way to improve their social status and financial situation.

First, it is important who is interviewing the defector. Son Ji-young, who has interviewed refugees for over 20 years, notes how much everything depends on how well the researcher is acquainted with a person’s context: it is easier to “pull the wool over white foreigners’ eyes”, since they do not understand the context in the same way that a Korean does.

Second, people interviewing defectors often perceive them as victims rather than witnesses. Generally speaking, they arouse sympathy in the interviewers, by virtue of which interviewers are less critical of what they hear, and therefore they do not have the desire to expose the narrator stating lies, or look for inconsistencies in the testimony.

Third, defectors try to make sure that interviews are held with them regularly and constantly, since for most defectors the fees they charge are a major increase in their income. This means that the defector can adapt to their interlocutors, and tell them things that they would like to hear. And if a fairly inexperienced interviewer gives tips about desirable responses with questions, such as “have you witnessed mass rapes at the stadium?” then the other party in the conversation may take this question as a cue to talk about that, regardless of whether he or she even saw it, heard some rumors about it, or simply thought it all up.

Some defectors embellish, exaggerate or trade their stories for money, she and other defectors said. Finally, it must be understood that the life of defectors in the South is closely controlled by the National Intelligence Service, which closely monitors the activity of defectors, and if something like “singing the praises of North Korea” is observed then they could face penalties under the National Security Act, and then the reputation of being a North Korean spy. Someone that has escaped from a totalitarian hell must expose the regime, not defend it.

These factors lead to the fact that within a set of defectors a subset of those forms that can be called “career defectors”. The most typical example is Shin Dong-hyuk. Back in 2014, his testimony was considered valid, and the basis of that the well-known UN Report on Human Rights in North Korea was drafted, drawing a direct comparison between the DPRK and Nazi Germany. However, already by early 2015 even its official co-author Blaine Harden “was forced to make an announcement that Shin admitted to making up most of his heartbreaking stories, which he fabricated to heighten their dramatic quality, and he needs to be pronounced an unreliable storyteller.

Nonetheless, in this kind of environment lying about the DPRK is not only allowed, it is something that is desirable. Kim Seong-min, the founder of Free North Korea Radio, in one of his interviews directly responded to a question about his attitude toward the most fantastic rumors that sometimes spread about what is happening in the North: “Any stories – whether they are truthful or not – are good, as long as they do not put the DPRK in a favorable light”.

However, a slew of widespread errors can be encountered in the stories told by this kind of community. They can be used to identify an “unreliable storyteller” whose testimony should be counterchecked at a minimum. The most obvious one is when the stories begin to resemble a “soap opera”, and narrators drastically overdo it with “heartbreaking details” that are aimed at evoking emotions.

A typical example of this is one quote from the stories by the famous defector Lee Soon-ok:

“… they use a kiln to bake bricks. When the newly fired bricks are removed, they push a person into this furnace. In a matter of seconds, the victim suffocates and loses consciousness… I resisted the best that I could, and burned by palms… Then they put me barefoot in the snow. As a result, I lost my toes…”

All that is left for the author to add is that the temperature in that furnace at that particular time was about 800 degrees.

As a result, while the testimony by defectors on other topics could be credible (especially when it comes to the body of testimony or conversations with ordinary, rather than career, defectors), the topic of human rights really does require additional verification. Otherwise, we get “boiled babies”, and one important problem gets its ears chewed off by fictitious stories. The more heartbreaking a story is, the more caution a scientist or journalist needs to take.

But unfortunately, given the power anti-Pyongyang propaganda has, attempts to cast doubt on this testimony provokes a reaction: “Those who have gone through such horrors cannot lie, and if you dare to doubt their words, then you yourself are no better than their executioners”. And these kinds of lawsuits are one consequence of that.

Konstantin Asmolov, PhD in History, is a leading research fellow at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of the Far East at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

March 10, 2021 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment