NK News – North Korea News Breaking North Korea News, Opinion, Culture & Curiosities + Professional, Academic & Student resources on North Korea / DPRK 2017-06-23T09:41:59Z https://www.nknews.org/feed/atom/ WordPress Oliver Hotham http://nknews <![CDATA[North Korea says Otto Warmbier’s sudden death “a mystery to us as well”]]> https://www.nknews.org/?p=813377 2017-06-23T09:41:59Z 2017-06-23T09:37:52Z North Korea on Friday denied reports that it had mistreated the former U.S. detainee Otto Warmbier and described his sudden death as a “mystery”, in the country’s first public statement since the announcement of the 22-year-old’s death on Wednesday.

In a statement by a DPRK Foreign Ministry spokesman carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the North Korean representative claimed the country has been the victim of a “smear campaign” by the U.S.  as part of a “frantic effort” to impose “heinous sanctions”.

“The fact that Warmbier died suddenly in less than a week just after his return to the U.S. in his normal state of health indicators is a mystery to us as well,” the statement said.

Warmbier was suddenly released from North Korea last week, having spent 17 months in detention in the DPRK.

It was soon revealed, however, that he was in a coma and in very poor health – a situation the North Koreans reportedly told his family was due to botulism and having taken a sleeping pill.

But doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in the U.S. said on June 15 they could not find evidence he had contracted the rare disease, though they did find signs of a “severe neurological injury.”

Repeating claims made last week that Warmbier was released from imprisonment in North Korea on “humanitarian” grounds, the statement insisted that Warmbier had been a “criminal” and that his 15-year sentence to “reform through labor” had been appropriate.

“Although we had no reason at all to show mercy to such a criminal of the enemy state, we provided him with medical treatments and care with all sincerity on humanitarian basis until his return to the U.S., considering that his health got worse,” the statement read.

In response to claims in some U.S. outlets that Warmbier had been subject to torture during his detainment in North Korea, the statement said such accusations were “groundless”.

“The American doctors who came to the DPRK for repatriation of Warmbier will have something to say about it,” it said. “They recognized that his health indicators like pulse, temperature, respiration and the examination result of the heart and lung were all normal and that we provided him with medical treatment.”

The statement also appears to imply that Warmbier had suffered cardiac arrest at some point during his detention in North Korea, saying that DPRK doctors had “brought him back alive whose heart was nearly stopped.”

While the Doctors at University of Cincinnati Health Center said that while the cause of his condition was unknown – the severe brain injury he suffered found could have been caused by a cardiac arrest.

“This pattern of brain injury however, is usually seen as a result of cardiopulmonary arrest where the blood supply to the brain is inadequate for a period of time resulting in the death of brain tissue,” Doctor Daniel Kanter said at a press conference on June 15.

The DPRK statement also blamed the Obama administration for the student’s death.

“Warmbier is a victim of policy of ‘strategic patience’ of Obama who was engrossed in utmost hostility and negation against the DPRK and refused to have dialogue with the DPRK,” it adds.

“Why the U.S. government which claims to care about the welfare of its citizens had not even once made an official request for the release of Warmbier on humanitarian basis during the Obama administration? The answer should be given by the U.S. itself.”

A spokesperson for the former President on Wednesday responded to accusations that the former President did not do enough to secure Warmbier’s release.

“During the course of the Obama Administration, we had no higher priority than securing the release of Americans detained overseas,” Obama spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “Their tireless efforts resulted in the release of at least 10 Americans from North Korean custody during the course of the Obama administration.”

“It is painful that Mr. Warmbier was not among them, but our efforts on his behalf never ceased, even in the waning days of the administration,” added Price, who served as National Security Council spokesperson during Obama’s administration. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Warmbier’s family and all who had the blessing of knowing him.”

Warmbier’s family announced his death on Tuesday afternoon local time.

Edited by Hamish Macdonald

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Oliver Hotham http://nknews <![CDATA[President Moon’s decision to delay full THAAD deployment: a closer look]]> 2017-06-23T04:32:45Z 2017-06-23T04:32:45Z President Moon Jae-in’s team have asked the White House to exclude the THAAD deployment issue from the upcoming Moon-Trump summit, but recognize that President Trump might bring it up anyway.

For that reason, and also given THAAD’s ongoing prominence in regional affairs, it’s worth considering the broader context and possible significance of President Moon’s decision to postpone further THAAD deployment until an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been made, and his desire for National Assembly deliberations on THAAD deployment.

The decision to involve the National Assembly: politics and the constitution

President Moon has long been openly ambivalent about the deployment of THAAD in South Korea. During his campaign he flip-flopped on whether he was for or against THAAD in the ROK (though many suspected he was personally against it), and focused on the importance of following “proper democratic procedures.”  He expanded on this point in an interview with the Washington Post on 2 May 2017:

“It is not desirable for the [caretaker] South Korean government to deploy THAAD hastily at this politically sensitive time, with the presidential election approaching, and without going through the democratic process, an environmental assessment or a public hearing.”

The Minjoo party, with its candidate now President, has repeated Moon’s campaign calls for the question of THAAD deployment to go before a vote in the National Assembly. The argument for doing so was strengthened by implications in a 2016 report from the National Assembly Research Institute which suggested that the Constitution required the National Assembly to consider the matter.

President Moon has long been openly ambivalent about the deployment of THAAD in South Korea

Specifically, Article 60 of the Republic of Korea Constitution grants the National Assembly “the right to consent to the conclusion and ratification of treaties pertaining to mutual assistance or mutual security [and] treaties which will burden the State or people with an important financial obligation.”

There is disagreement in the Assembly of whether the current Mutual Defence Treaty between the U.S. and the ROK covers the deployment of THAAD or not. If it does cover deployment, then Article 60 does not apply and National Assembly deliberation is unnecessary, and if the Treaty doesn’t cover deployment then the National Assembly has the right to decline consent.  

Given this uncertainty, and irrespective of party political motivations, there is at least a fair case to be made that it would be constitutionally prudent for the executive to run THAAD deployment past the National Assembly – particularly since the last President was impeached so recently.  

The issue of requiring a full EIA is a different question, however, because the law gives explicit authority for President Moon to waive it.

south korea national assembly photo

The question of whether the National Assembly must vote on the THAAD deployment is a contentious one | Photo by golbenge (골뱅이)

The decision to require an EIA: not strictly necessary

There are several relevant laws affecting the decision to subject further deployment of THAAD to an EIA, but the most relevant is the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (환경영향평가법). It was recently revised on President Park Geun-hye’s initiative on 29 May 2016, and brought into effect at the end of last month (30 May 2017): the full text is available here (in Korean – an official English version is not yet available). According to the law:

(i) Projects require either a ‘strategic EIA,’ an ordinary EIA, or a ‘small scale EIA,’ depending on the scope of the project (Article 2).

(ii) All government organizations, including the MND, are required to comply with these legal provisions (e.g. Article 22(1)(16)).

(iii) However, an EIA may be waived ‘for the urgent execution of military operations’ (e.g. Article 23(2)). And ultimately, the decision on the extent of an EIA lies with the President (e.g. Article 22(2)).

It is this last point which is the greatest conundrum in President Moon’s decision: why not choose to waive the EIA requirement on the grounds of the DPRK’s recent slew of missile tests? The answer is not as clear as some suggest, and there is a combination of domestic and international factors behind his decision.

Domestic factors influencing the EIA decision

The first domestic factor is President Moon’s evident lack of trust in certain officials at the Ministry of National Defence (MND). On 5 June 2017 President Moon suspended the Deputy Minister for Defence Policy (Wee Seung-ho) for instructing junior officials to exclude from a Presidential briefing that four additional launchers were about to be deployed.

Furthermore, the MND is alleged to have split the THAAD site into two parcels of land in order to duck the threshold of having to go through a full EIA for the initial deployment of THAAD.

By suspending Wee Seung-ho and insisting that a full EIA now go-ahead for the second site, the President has asserted Presidential dominance over the MND and gained control of THAAD deployment issue. The internal power dynamics within the ROK administration cannot, therefore, be entirely separated from the EIA decision.

It would be myopic to view his actions purely through the lens of international relations

The second factor is that President Moon seems anxious to be seen as a law-abiding President. By insisting that the law is followed even in cases of national security, he is presumably consciously drawing a line between the approach of his predecessor President Park, who was accused of being authoritarian and was ultimately impeached for improper behavior.

Additionally, by insisting on following all lawful measures he is portraying his administration as being more open, transparent, and respectful of the law, perhaps to avoid accusations of an ‘imperial Presidency’: a common constitutional complaint in South Korea.

A third domestic factor is a concern about environmental protection. During the 2017 Presidential campaign, one political issue was whether former President Lee Myeong-bak’s ‘Four Rivers Project’ was responsible for current environmental water issues (including algae blooms).

There has also been concern that the ROK government turned a blind eye to environmental damage caused by the U.S. military base at Yongsan, central Seoul: earlier this year, campaigners won a case at the Supreme Court that the Ministry of Environment must make public a report into the environmental impact of the base.

There are several important domestic political factors to be aware of when assessing President Moon’s decision to require an EIA of further deployment of THAAD launchers in his Presidency. Accordingly, it would be myopic to view his actions purely through the lens of international relations.

Moon was accused of flip-flopping on THAAD while a Presidential candidate | Photo: Chong Wa Dae

International factors influencing the decision to delay

Nonetheless, international factors loom large behind President Moon’s EIA decision to require an EIA. These factors straddle regional politics, economics, security, and ultimately the very strategic positioning of South Korea itself within the region.

It is too soon to be sure of President Moon’s calculations, but there are several possibilities at play – none of which are mutually exclusive.

Moon the nationalist?

The first possibility is that President Moon is taking a narrow view of South Korea’s military security. According to this view – not uncommon in Korea – THAAD is ineffective at protecting ROK positions from a DPRK military attack and its real military value lies in the component radar, which will help provide missile launch data in the event of an attack upon the U.S. mainland. If so, then there is no heightened urgency for THAAD from ROK’s perspective, and no reason to waive a full EIA.

If this is the reason for President Moon’s decision, it suggests a new shift in terms of prioritizing ROK security concerns over U.S. security concerns, and even also over ROK-U.S. alliance concerns. To see if this is the case, we need to look closely at President Moon’s responses to any further overtures from President Trump that South Korea ought to pay for THAAD.

Moon the balancing act?

A second possibility is that President Moon wishes to steer the ROK into a more balanced path between the U.S. and China, and thereby avoid the Korean fear of becoming the proverbial “shrimp whose back got crushed in a whale fight.” It might be that President Moon calculates that accepting the first two launchers of the THAAD battery might keep the U.S. a little happy, whilst simultaneously pushing back on the remaining four THAAD launchers might keep China a little happy.

It seems President Moon’s approach to regional dynamics is the most important factor of all

Moon the negotiator?

The third possibility is that, true to TIME magazine’s May coverage, President Moon prides himself as a negotiator and wants to reserve the issue of deploying the remaining THAAD launchers for summit diplomacy. In which case, we can expect some form of classic diplomatic bartering, perhaps involving movement on the second deployment of THAAD launchers as part of a transaction for Trump’s acquiescence on Moon’s DPRK policy.

Conclusion

Given that President Moon could have lawfully waived the full EIA requirement on grounds of national security, the question arises: why didn’t he?

In answering the question we should bear in mind the domestic context for the decision: power dynamics between the Ministry of National Defense (MND) and the Blue House; the political importance of being seen as a President committed to following laws; and recent high-profile domestic concerns about environmental pollution, including from military sites.

However, it seems President Moon’s approach to regional dynamics is the most important factor of all, though it’s too soon to make a final interpretation of the Blue House’s thinking on this.

This article has suggested three possible interpretations: that President Moon takes a particularly narrow and exclusive view of ROK national security than previous administrations; that he wants the ROK to pursue a more balanced strategic line between China and the U.S.; and/or that he recognizes Trump as a transactionalist and is getting ready for some bargaining.

None of these possibilities are exclusive of the others, and it is too early to say which of these three possibilities is most prominent: the answer might become clear as the dust settles on his first summit meetings with President Trump and President Xi.  Until then, it is perhaps wisest to remain aware of the domestic political context, and to reserve judgment about what it says of President Moon’s international outlook.

Edited by Oliver Hotham

Featured image: Wikimedia Commons

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Oliver Hotham http://nknews <![CDATA[Miniso Japan office denies involvement in new Pyongyang shop]]> https://www.nknews.org/?p=813372 2017-06-23T09:05:02Z 2017-06-23T08:48:22Z The Japanese headquarters of Miniso, a Uniqlo-style Japanese-Chinese low-cost retail brand, is not involved in the recent opening of the company’s first shop in North Korea, a spokesperson told NK News on Thursday.

Ma Jian, a spokesperson for Miniso in Tokyo, said its Japanese headquarters was not linked to a deal to open a store in Pyongyang.

“After consultation with a lawyer and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), we reached an early conclusion that the Japanese arm of Miniso was not engaged in it,” Ma told NK News over the phone. “The Japanese side did not get involved in this matter. The Japanese office only does Japan-related business.”

“We’ll have a final conclusion on this matter in early July.”

His comments distance Miniso’s Japanese operations from its operations in China, as Japanese law places strict sanctions against companies that do business in North Korea.

Until now Miniso, a four-year-old retail company, has frequently claimed to be headquartered in Japan – claims that have been contested in the past.

But Miniso’s headquarters are located in Ginza of Tokyo, a copy of corporate registration obtained by NK News showed.

Representatives of the brand signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the North Korea Economic and Trade Department on January 18 this year, according to a press release from the company.

The release included a picture which showed Ye Guofu, the Chinese co-founder of Miniso, and Miyake Jyunya, its Japanese co-founder and chief designer, in a group photo with Nam Chengyi, reportedly the chief delegate of the North Korea Economic Cooperation Council China Dandong Office.

“We cannot comment on individual issues,” an officer at Japan’s METI said in an interview with NK News on Friday, while contesting Ma’s assertion that the ministry had reached an “early conclusion”.

Katsuhisa Furukawa, a Japanese expert who served on the UN Security Council Panel of Experts on North Korean sanctions, has said that the opening of Miniso’s new branch in Pyongyang appears to be in non-compliance with measures imposed on the DPRK by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2321 on November 30 last year. 

Furukawa said article 31 of the resolution obliges all UN member states to close “representative offices, subsidiaries or banking accounts” inside North Korea.

An officer at the trade control policy division of the METI, speaking to NK News on Monday on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Japan imposes a total ban on imports and exports with North Korea.

“If the Japanese headquarters order its Chinese branch to export goods to North Korea, it will be judged as intermediate trade,” the officer said. “And this is  forbidden by the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law.”

Edited by Oliver Hotham

Featured Image: NK News

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Oliver Hotham http://nknews <![CDATA[Moon Jae-in oversees test launch of S. Korea’s Hyunmoo-2 ballistic missile]]> https://www.nknews.org/?p=813360 2017-06-23T07:15:20Z 2017-06-23T06:51:44Z South Korea’s President observed a live-fire test launch of the Hyunmoo-2 indigenously produced ballistic missile at 10.30 this morning, the Blue House said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

The launch took place approximately 130 kilometers southwest of Seoul at Anheung, near Taean in South Chungcheong Province.

The test was essential to ensuring that South Korea had the “readiness” to counter Pyongyang’s developing missile and nuclear programs, the Blue House said, and to “gravely warn” Pyongyang not to carry out further provocations.

“As the North Korean missile provocations have continued and advance, our national people and I as a president have been wondering about the missile capabilities of our military,” President Moon said. “But I feel assured after being briefed about the military capabilities of our military and check in person that the people can be relieved.”

Moon went on to say that while he supported dialogue with the DPRK, talks with Pyongyang were only possible if Seoul could be sure of its “strong national defense.”

“Engagement is possible when we have the security capabilities to overwhelm North Korea,” he added.


Hyunmoo-2 test last year

The missile is part of South Korea’s “Kill Chain” strike system, which is designed to neutralize attacks from the North.

Today’s missile launch is the fourth out of six which have to be done before the missile can be integrated into the Republic of Korea’s military forces, the Blue House said.

The distance the missile flew has not been confirmed, but a test of the same missile in April showed that the range could be up to 800 kilometers, covering almost all of North Korea even from the southern-most part of the peninsula.

A Seoul-based expert said the system is designed to strike North Korean missile launchers and prevent them being used against South Korea.

“But from airfields to the missile launch facilities and munitions factories, Hyunmoo-2 can successfully neutralize them, also they can strike the enemy TEL getting into the firing position,” Choi Hyun-ho, director of Milidom, a South Korean military-focused website, told NK News.

“The time it takes for the Hyunmoo-2 system to finish the launch preparation is very short, as it uses solid fuel. Its TEL system ensures high mobility as well.”

The test comes amid reports by unnamed U.S. officials to Reuters that North Korea has carried out another test of a rocket engine, reports which are yet to be confirmed by either South Korean, U.S., or North Korean authorities on the record.

If confirmed, it would be North Korea’s second such test this year. In March, Pyongyang announced that it had successfully tested a new high-thrust rocket engine, which state media described as  “another miracle” in the history of the country’s national defense industry.

Dagyum Ji, JH Ahn, and Oliver Hotham contributed reporting

Featured image: Blue House

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<![CDATA[North Korean tankers leave Russia empty handed]]> 2017-06-23T01:01:31Z 2017-06-23T01:01:31Z North Korea’s oil tankers left a Russian terminal seemingly empty handed after waiting near the facility for weeks following the U.S. designation of its owner, data from the NK Pro Ship Tracker shows.

At least three tankers left the area and headed southeast, without docking at the Russian terminal belonging to a subsidiary of the Independent Petroleum Company (IPC), while two other North Korean tankers continue to wait near the facility, where they have stayed for several weeks.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated IPC and its subsidiary in early June, when some of the vessels were still waiting in line near the terminal.

“OFAC designated the Independent Petroleum Company (IPC) pursuant to E.O. 13722. IPC is a Russian company that has signed a contract to provide oil to North Korea and reportedly has shipped over $1 million worth of petroleum products to North Korea,” the OFAC press release reads.

“IPC also may have been involved in circumventing North Korean sanctions. OFAC also designated one of IPC’s subsidiaries, AO NNK-Primornefteproduct.”

One of the tankers leaving Vladivostok without visiting the terminal | Image: NK Pro Ship Tracker

A previous NK News report in 2015 identified the terminal as being owned by Alliance Oil, a subsidiary of the now sanctioned NNK Primornefteprodukt, itself owned by Independent Petroleum Company (IPC), both of which made OFAC’s designated entities list.

But the terminal has not be closed completely. Vessel tracking site Marine Traffic shows that a Russian-flagged tanker docked at the facility on Thursday.

Historical tracking information from the NK Pro Ship Tracker shows the last time any of the vessels were allowed to use IPC’s terminal was on May 19.

Two tankers apparently loaded up with oil products before heading away towards the DPRK’s northeastern coast, a standard route for North Korean tankers operating in the region.

The OFAC designation comes at a sensitive time for North Korea, with Beijing previously mulling restricting oil supplies to the DPRK and surging commercial prices for oil products in the North’s capital.

North Korea has no domestic oil and gas production of its own and has, traditionally, been reliant on China and Russia for its fuel needs. With no known pipelines between the two countries, Russian supplies are mainly sent to the DPRK by tanker.

While Russia’s trade figures appear to include relatively low amounts of exported oil products, prior to IPC’s designation North Korean tankers were a common site at Vladivostok facility.

The DPRK’s ships have visited other oil terminals in the region in the past, both in Nakhodka and Primorsky Kray, which are much closer to the North Korean border.

The tanker visiting other terminals around Russia since 2013. Image: NK Pro Ship Tracker

But with the threat of OFAC designations looming, it’s unclear if other businesses – in Russia or elsewhere – will be lining up take IPC’s place.

North Korea may attempt to shift the ownership of the vessels to front companies in other countries and change the flags of its tankers, both techniques the country has used in the past to hide its involvement with other ships linked to sanctions-breaking activity.

Edited by Oliver Hotham

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Oliver Hotham http://nknews <![CDATA[Is it time for South Korea to develop nukes?]]> https://www.nknews.org/?p=813154 2017-06-23T05:59:20Z 2017-06-23T05:59:20Z South Korea is one of the world’s top ten trading nations, with a GDP, by some estimates, close to $2 trillion, and a dynamic, rich economy. It is an open, liberal country with a thriving democracy. It hopes to be taken seriously on the world stage, and many at home feel proud at the mention of South Korean culture being consumed by ever more people worldwide.

Yet South Korea continues to maintain its status as a self-styled weakling in the international system, caught between China and the United States in a great power rivalry on the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia.

Unlike its far poorer rival in the North, South Korea is essentially reliant on security guarantees in the form of U.S. forces stationed in the South to ensure that North Korea cannot engage in a causal form of nuclear blackmail.

What’s more, Beijing, sensing the weakness, has done what it would never have dared to do to Tokyo and bully the South in the form of sanctions in response to the deployment of THAAD earlier this year. This situation is unsustainable. It cannot continue, and President Moon is the man to offer a radical, grand bargain for the future.

ASSERTING SELF-INTEREST

The United States, China, and South Korea are natural trade partners and allies in the cause of peace in Northeast Asia. At least they were, and will remain so for the next couple of years, so long as North Korea does not acquire the ability to hit the continental United States with a nuclear-tipped ICBM.

If and when it does, all bets are off. The current occupant of the White House is a threat to peace and security in the region and the world. His cabinet and team of advisors are a mix of solipsistic nativists and cold-minded, seasoned realists. The constant mixed signals from Washington on the North Korea situation and THAAD reflect these contradictions at the apex of power.

Unlike its far poorer rival in the North, South Korea is essentially reliant on U.S. security guarantees

But they are probably irrelevant longer term, for the simple reason that Washington will probably not tolerate a nuclear-ICBM armed North Korea, regardless of whether it is Trump, Pence or even Elizabeth Warren, Corey Booker or Joe Biden in the White House. My trip to Washington in February, and discussions I have had with many Americans inside and outside the world of policy lead me to the simple conclusion that America will not be blackmailed or threatened by Pyongyang.

Seoul needs its own deterrent: Moon Jae-in could be the man to do it | Photo: Korea.net

Seoul should not make decisions on the assumption that Washington will listen to a weak ally begging it for protection. It is time for Seoul to learn from Washington, Beijing, and Pyongyang what it should already know: when push comes to shove in the international system, you’re on your own.

There is a reason why some of America’s closest allies, some with U.S. assistance, including the United Kingdom, Israel, and France have nuclear weapons. There is also a reason why North Korea has developed nuclear weapons, and China did so too before them. If you do not have them, you will forever be open to blackmail.

NUCLEAR POTENTIAL

The deployment of THAAD represents a silly half-way house between accepting the potentially long-term future of a nuclear North Korea and pretending nothing has changed in the last decade. The time, however, may soon come, however, when South Korea will have to fully accept this reality.

South Korea already has some of the world’s leading weapons makers, it has the potential to manufacture fissile material, and arm missiles and tactical weapons with nuclear warheads. South Korea should tell the Americans that they are no longer needed, that South Korea will protect and arm itself. South Korea is not a weak state, it can take care of itself. Look at North Korea and tell me otherwise.

With both states on the Korean peninsula gone nuclear, they will at last once again be in a position to talk as military equals

Moon Jae-in should go to Beijing and tell them that THAAD will be withdrawn, the Americans will leave in due course, and that the U.S. nuclear umbrella will be replaced with one made by domestic weapons experts.

Beijing will be offered the dream of the United States leaving continental Northeast Asia, closer relations with Seoul, a closer trading and investment relationship, and the end of the THAAD deployment. In return, they will be asked to accept South Korea protecting and defending itself from the North Korean nuclear threat.

The next step will be in the direction of Pyongyang. Let us not kid ourselves, the North Koreans are not fools and will never give up their nuclear weapons. So with both states on the Korean peninsula gone nuclear, they will at last once again be in a position to talk as military equals.

There would be no need for more tensions, for more North Korean military provocations, or joint military exercises designed to prove to Pyongyang that the United States means business.

A nuclear South Korea will prove to Kim Jong Un that South Korea is worthy of his respect, and Moon is the President to deliver this. Going nuclear will allow him to do the unthinkable right now: credibly argue to the most ardently anti-North Korean rightists that cooperation, investment in the North and a peace treaty will be good for all.

This would fundamentally alter the balance of power in the region and on the peninsula, allowing Seoul, Beijing, and Pyongyang to work together to turn North Korea from a poor, closed, backward society, to a modern and more open one. Such changes will take time, money, compromise and tremendous effort, but with the confidence and self-respect that comes from taking care of one’s own defense, Seoul and Pyongyang can begin the work of creating a shared, prosperous future.

Edited by Oliver Hotham

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Oliver Hotham http://nknews <![CDATA[“Abysmal drought” hits North Korea: state media]]> https://www.nknews.org/?p=813349 2017-06-23T05:46:38Z 2017-06-23T05:46:38Z North Korea is engaging in “prevention battles” against what is being referred to as an “abysmal drought”, the Friday edition of the Korean Workers’ Party organ the Rodong Sinmun said.

“The whole of the party, the whole of the country, and the whole of people: unite to engage in the drought prevention battles,” said the title of the editorial, which appeared on the front page of the newspaper.

Extensive coverage is devoted prevention efforts throughout the Friday edition of the DPRK’s most widely read newspaper, with one article saying the country is in “desperate need” of overcoming the damage caused by the drought.

“The drought started since last month has ‘pushed away’ the supposed rainy season we needed for the barley production of that month,” it continued.

“…in addition to that, the hot weather has dried up the water level of reservoirs, rivers, and streams. The damage is most severe in South Hwanghae Province and along the farming villages of the West Sea (the Yellow Sea).”

Other coverage expands on local efforts to overcome the damage.

“According to the combined data from the relative departments of the cabinet, including South Hwanghae Province and other regions where the damage was severe in the last three days, hundreds of thousands of workers are engaging in the drought prevention battles,” one article reads.

“Just on June 21 alone, around 1,300 sprinklers and around thousand of small water pumps, around 2,100 portable motor water pumps were deployed in this region.”

Around 11,500 wells, 1600 basins, 1630 dammed pools and hundreds of lift pumping equipment have reportedly been repaired in South Hwanghae Province, Rodong said.

The DPRK’s Ministry of Electrical Industry is also extending electric wires along the west of the country to be connected to the water sources and water pumps, it added.

This year’s drought will almost certainly damage the DPRK’s overall farming output for the year, a Seoul-based researcher told NK News.

“It is possible that the North’s overall crop output of this year may falter, and that may affect the production of rice and corn, the two major crops from the country,” Kim Young-hoon of the Korea Rural Economic Institute told NK News.

“A spring to early-summer drought happens almost every year in North Korea, just like in South Korea. But it is believed that this drought will continue throughout this summer. The North is not as prepared as the South to effectively counter the challenge in time.”

DPRK media reported in May that the country was beginning to suffer from a drought, and the country’s food output is frequently hit by damage to agriculture caused by hot weather.

In June 2015 state media reported that the DPRK was undergoing its “worst drought in 100 years”, and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in April last year that food production had fallen for the first time since 2010 due to low rainfall.

Edited by Oliver Hotham

Featured Image: Pixabay

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Oliver Hotham http://nknews <![CDATA[North Korea’s Foreign Ministry launches new website]]> https://www.nknews.org/?p=813333 2017-06-23T02:13:21Z 2017-06-23T02:13:21Z The DPRK Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched a new website in both Korean and English, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Thursday.

“The website will help promote understanding of the DPRK’s foreign affairs and policy and contribute to boosting the relations of good-neighborliness, friendship and cooperation between the DPRK and other countries in the idea of independence, peace, and friendship,” said the article in the KCNA.

The website currently hosts official announcements and news from the ministry backdated to early April this year – including a short statement about Otto Frederick Warmbier’s release.

Previous to this website’s launch, the DPRK Foreign Ministry’s statements or news releases were mostly published on the state-run news agency KCNA, usually followed by the Rodong Sinmun a day later.

But mfa.gov.kp does not appear to be fully synchronized with the latest updates from its own ministry: as of Thursday night, two DPRK Foreign Ministry spokesperson announcements in KCNA attacking U.S. President Donald Trump’s new policies towards Cuba – a longtime North Korean ally – were nowhere to be found on the new website.

The “Highlights” section’s latest news, too, dates back to June 12, more than a week before the launch of the website was announced.

While the website appears to be largely focused on recent news, the “Archives” section does provide PDF versions of works by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il from the 80s and 90s.

A web-based IP address tracking tool showed that the website is operating from a server based in Pyongyang, and that the new website’s service provider is Star Joint Venture CO., LTD

Star Joint Venture launched the DPRK’s first fully-fledged Internet connection in 2010, according to the North Korea Tech blog, and is also the service provider for the websites of KCNA and the Rodong Sinmun.

Edited by Oliver Hotham

Featured Image: Screen grab from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, DPRK

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Oliver Hotham http://nknews <![CDATA[“Strong” sanctions should follow next N. Korean nuclear, ICBM test: Moon]]> https://www.nknews.org/?p=813327 2017-06-22T10:21:33Z 2017-06-22T10:15:39Z South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said that a sixth nuclear or Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) test by North Korea must be responded to with “strong” sanctions, speaking to Reuters on Thursday at the Blue House.

Saying that an ICBM test could happen “in the not too distant future,” Moon also called on China to do more to reign in Pyongyang’s rapidly progressing missile and nuclear programs.

“I believe China is making efforts to stop North Korea from making additional provocations, yet there are no tangible results as of yet,” he said.

“China is North Korea’s only ally and China is the country that provides most economic assistance to North Korea,” he continued.

In comments carried by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, the President also reportedly said that no efforts were yet underway to pursue talks with the North.

Moon’s election in May led many to believe his administration would pursue a softer line against North Korea, a theory seemingly confirmed by a June 15 speech in which he called for “dialogue” with the North, and comments by a leading advisor last week that the Blue House was considering scaling down joint U.S.-ROK military exercises in exchange for DPRK denuclearization.

This suggestion, which the Blue House has since distanced itself from, was raised in an interview on India’s WION TV with North Korean ambassador to India Kye Chun Yong on Wednesday.

When asked whether he agreed with the assessment that North Korea could freeze nuclear and missile tests in exchange for a scaling back of military exercises, Kye appeared to answer in the affirmative, while also saying “yes” to a question about whether the DPRK was open to a “moratorium” on tests.

Moon’s comments on China on Thursday echo those recently made on Twitter by U.S. President Trump.

“While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!” Trump said in a Tweet on Tuesday afternoon.

China quickly dismissed the President’s remarks, with a Foreign Ministry spokesperson telling press on Wednesday that Beijing’s efforts to curb Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear development were “indispensable.”

Moon and Trump will hold talks next week in Washington DC for the first major summit between the two, a meeting for which Moon told Reuters he had “high expectations.”

“I’m very glad that President Trump has made the resolution of North Korea’s nuclear issue as top of his priority list on his foreign affairs agenda,” he said.

Featured image: Korea.net

Edited by Kevin Search

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Oliver Hotham http://nknews <![CDATA[What a North Korean drone crash reveals about the country’s UAVs]]> https://www.nknews.org/?p=813303 2017-06-23T00:37:39Z 2017-06-22T09:12:46Z South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced on Wednesday that a drone found crashed earlier this month in South Korea had been sent by the North on May 2 for intelligence purposes, including observing the deployment site for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery.

The briefing, which revealed the findings of an extensive investigation by the South Korean military, went into significant detail about the North Korean drone’s overall capabilities.

North Korea is known to have a growing, but still largely rudimentary, domestic drone program. In December last year, state media released images of a UAV purportedly developed by Pyongyang’s Kim Chaek University of Technology, but which bore a striking resemblance to the Australian-made Mark 1 Aerosonde model.

But what did Wednesday’s briefing show about North Korea’s UAV capabilities?

“The drone found on Baengnyeong Island in 2014, was using a single-cylinder engine, which would be no better than the ones used in lawnmowers,” Jeong Jin-man, a researcher at the Department of Aviation Safety at ASEA Aviation College, told NK News.

“However, this new drone, according to the MND briefing, uses two twin-cylinder engines, which explains why its engine output and flight stability for such a long path have both increased considerably.”

While the North’s technology seems to have improved in some areas, this new drone is still incapable of doing more than reconnaissance work, Jeong said.

“The Sony A7R model camera that was loaded into this drone weighs roughly 400 grams (0.88 pounds). What this shows is that the maximum weight the drone may carry while still maintaining a stable flight path is approximately that, but not much more.”

North Korean media shows off a reportedly domestically manufactured drone in December last year | Photo: KCTV

During the briefing, the Agency for Defense Development (ADD), an MND-affiliated research center, said that an engine malfunction and a fuel shortage had caused the crash.

The recovered coordinated flight path from the drone showed that, if it had not crashed in South Korea, it was scheduled to return to these coordinates in Kumgang Country, North Korea, a chart released by the ADD showed.

“These coordinates, which might seem random, tells a lot about this drone’s characteristics,” Jeong said. “This shows that the drone possibly lacks an autonomous landing guidance system.”

Jeong added that the drone’s objective was likely to “successfully crash” in North Korea.

“The drone possibly lacks an autonomous landing guidance system”

“As long as the drone crashed inside North Korea, salvaging it could be done by later dispatching officials around the region,” he said. “Purposefully crashing the drone around the mountainside would be one of the easiest ways to help the recovery work, as the North Koreans would be able to wait nearby and spot it as it returned.”

The drone had landing gear for taking off and landing, and also a parachute at the rear of the body, the ADD said.

The drone’s planned flight path, as determined by the South Korean military | Photo: Agency for Defense Development (ADD)

“A drone of this size can take off from almost anywhere in Kumgang County as long as there is a road that can be used as a runway,” Jeong said. “North Koreans could have shot the drone from a platform if they wanted to save more fuel; they could have used manpower to catapult it or even drop it from a plane in flight.”

Even simple electronic parts used for computers often malfunction when they are non-compatible, Jeong said, and the engine malfunction and fuel shortage could have been caused by its manufacturers using parts from a range of companies that were non-compatible.

The MND said the drone used parts from companies based in Czech Republic, South Korea, Japan, and a few other countries,” he continued. “North Korea could have purposefully done this to cut any ties that might trace it back to the North, or the parts could have been the easiest ones available for them at that time.”

In its current state, Jeong said, the drone is particularly susceptible to weather-induced adversity.

“As it flies along the pre-coordinated flight path and is not controlled in real time, the drone would not be able to cope with emergency conditions effectively. So a simple change in weather may lead to a crash.”

The reportedly North Korean drone found in Inje County, South Korea I Credit: ROK JCS

Since 2014, when the North Korean drones were first found in South Korea on Baengnyeong Island, the South Korean military has been enhancing its counter-drone capabilities, an MND official said during a Q&A session held after yesterday’s briefing.

The MND said the drone used parts from companies based in Czech Republic, South Korea, and Japan”

Currently some important parts” of South Korea are fitted with technology to detect and bring down small-sized drones, the MND official said, not providing a detailed explanation of the system or providing any information on where they are installed.

But on June 13, the South Korean military confirmed that the drone had taken photos of the Seongju County area in North Gyeongsang Province, where the U.S.-made THAAD system is deployed, suggesting key military sites remain vulnerable to a surveillance operation by a North Korean UAV.

“We also wouldn’t be able to deploy [anti-UAV protection] along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ),” said Jeong. “With an ordinary radar, it is very hard to tell the difference between (a flock of) birds and a drone.”

“The current deficiencies detected in this new North Korean drone could be improved anytime in the foreseeable future. South Korea is in need of radars designed to detect the electric wave that comes from drones, or ones designed to detect small aerial vehicles.”

Edited by Oliver Hotham and Kevin Search

Featured Image: KCNA

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