Archive for the ‘North Korea’ Category

Would North Korea Attack the Olympics in 2018? (By the Way, They Will Be in South Korea)

November 18, 2017 Leave a comment

Editor’s Note: In our latest Facebook Live interview (please like our Facebook page to see more of these events) Harry Kazianis, Director of Defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, and Christopher Preble, vice president for defense and foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute, discuss the geopolitical outlook for East Asia.

Chris Preble recently wrote about the lack of a U.S. grand strategy. A portion of the article can be found below:

“The United States needs a new set of ideas and principles to justify its worthwhile international commitments, and curtail ineffective obligations where necessary,” argue Jeremi Suri and Benjamin Valentino, in the introduction to their edited volume Sustainable Security: Rethinking American National Security.

“Balancing our means and ends requires a deep reevaluation of U.S. strategy, as the choices made today will shape the direction of U.S. security policy for decades to come.”

Though rarely spelled out in such stark terms, this question would appear to be at the core of America’s grand strategy debate—if such a debate were actually occurring. We should ponder why it isn’t, and therefore why an arguably “unsustainable” strategy persists. (As the economist Herb Stein famously said, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”)

I foresaw this problem not quite two years ago. “U.S. foreign policy is crippled,” I warned in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee:

by a dramatic disconnect between what Americans expect of it and what the nation’s leaders are giving them. If U.S. policymakers don’t address this gap, they risk pursuing a policy whose ends don’t match with the means the American people are willing to provide.

And I concluded as follows:

the military’s roles and missions are not handed down from heaven. They are not carved on stone tablets. They are a function of the nation’s grand strategy…

That strategy must take account of the resources that can be made available to execute it. Under primacy, in the current domestic political context, increasing the means entails telling the American people to accept cuts in popular domestic programs, higher taxes, or both, so that our allies can maintain their bloated domestic spending and neglect their defenses.

It seems unlikely that Americans will embrace such an approach. The best recourse, therefore, is to reconsider our global role, and bring the object of our foreign policy in line with the public’s wishes.

That hasn’t happened. Although public officials and thought leaders should frame strategy as a choice among competing ends (what we seek to achieve), and means (i.e. the resources that we are willing to apply to achieve them), they have stubbornly refused to do so. They have clung to the same strategic goals, and simply hoped that the obvious fiscal constraints would magically disappear.

Given his willingness to challenge the foreign policy establishment, Trump’s upset victory last year might have changed all that. But, so far, it hasn’t. Arguably, it’s gotten worse.

Image: Reuters

How North Korea Could Become Nuclear Weapons Powerhouse

November 16, 2017 Leave a comment

My colleague Andrew Davies has written convincingly about the challenges of securing a diplomatic resolution to the North Korean nuclear crisis. He speculated about a solution in which the US accepts North Korea’s nuclear status at the current level of development while maintaining the status quo posture for American and allied forces and diplomacy. The idea is to avoid the worst possible short-term outcome of a major war that could escalate rapidly past the nuclear threshold. However, he recognises that a lack of trust makes such a solution very tenuous, and it may not be possible to achieve.

Recommended: Who Swallows North Korea after it Collapses

So, what happens if, in the absence of a diplomatic solution that leads to verifiable North Korean denuclearisation, we’re left with a fait accompli because we’re unwilling to consider preventive war as an alternative? Accepting North Korea as a nuclear weapons state doesn’t end the crisis. Pyongyang would continue the rapid modernisation of its nuclear weapons technology and missile capabilities. Furthermore, if the US and its allies weren’t prepared to wage war, Kim Jong-un would have little incentive to submit to limitations on his nuclear forces, or accept verification and monitoring through an intrusive inspections regime that would clip his nuclear wings.

Recommended: Russia Had a Plan to Build the Ultimate Battlecruiser.

Instead, the next likely step for North Korea beyond a demonstrated nuclear-capable ICBM would be submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) based on further development of the Sinpo-class experimental ballistic missile submarine (SSBA). Acquiring a nuclear second-strike capability makes sense for North Korea.

Recommended: EMP Detonation, Nuclear Blast or ICBM Test? What is North Korea’s Next Move?

One of the steps that the US and South Korea would take in the face of accepting North Korea as a nuclear weapons state would be deploying the means to undertake non-nuclear pre-emptive attacks against North Korean land-based nuclear forces, command and control, and leadership. North Korea’s Sinpo-C SSBA could carry a small number of SLBMs based on the Pukguksong KN-11 missile, and these would be able to threaten South Korean or Japanese cities and preclude such strikes. Over time, that would also make it more difficult to deter North Korean provocations below the nuclear threshold, particularly if North Korea became skilled in operating such submarines in ‘bastions’ in the Yellow Sea or the Sea of Japan.

Its land-based ballistic missiles would become more effective, and more capable of delivering nuclear warheads accurately. The Center for Strategic and International Studies notes that North Korea is already working on a manoeuvring re-entry vehicle (MaRV) for its KN-18 short-range ballistic missile. MaRVs would give North Korea greater ability to penetrate South Korean, Japanese and US missile defences. This technology could then be retrofitted to other longer-range missile systems, so missile defence as a solution becomes more uncertain over time. Nor is there any reason why North Korea couldn’t develop higher-yield warheads, now an apparent trend following the sixth nuclear test on 3 September 2017. Future tests are likely, although North Korea is clearly facing a problem at its Punggye-Ri nuclear test site and the risk of collapse of underground tunnels may in part be driving its suggestions of future atmospheric nuclear tests.

In considering where these developments may lead, we need to remember why North Korea is seeking nuclear weapons. Ensuring regime survival and deterrence of external threats that could lead to regime change is a key justification for North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. It also wants to win acceptance as a nuclear weapons state and gain entry to the elite club of nations with such weapons. That would dramatically strengthen Kim’s power internally. He might be prepared to talk from behind an enhanced and survivable nuclear shield, with his power base secure, having forced the US to ‘blink first’ in the crisis, but his ultimate goal would be to see the US reduce its presence in and commitment to South Korea.

China and Russia have promoted a ‘freeze for freeze’ deal, in which North Korea supposedly halts its nuclear and missile development in return for the US ending joint military activities with South Korea. If that proposal were accepted, it would contribute to the goal of decoupling the US from its allies in Asia. But it would be difficult to verify North Korean compliance, especially if, as is likely, North Korea didn’t allow intrusive inspections. It would also be hard to prevent North Korea from using computer simulation to further develop warhead designs.

The risk is that if we accept the status quo now, then an assertive China, along with Russia, may see an opportune moment to double down on freeze for freeze, on the understanding that North Korea might then come to the table, but from a perceived position of strength, and potentially with a much larger and more capable nuclear arsenal likely to emerge in a few years.

In this scenario, there would likely be increasing pressure on South Korea, and Japan, to consider their own nuclear deterrent capabilities. That would have drastic consequences for the success of nuclear non-proliferation across much of Asia. In the face of such pressure, the US would have to choose between boosting its extended nuclear deterrence security guarantees and watching nuclear non-proliferation in Asia collapse.

This first appeared in ASPI’s The Strategist here.

Libya: The Forgotten Reason North Korea Desperately Wants Nuclear Weapons

November 15, 2017 Leave a comment

(Last American Vagabond) The United States and its allies continue to cajole and threaten North Korea to negotiate an agreement that would relinquish its growing nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.

The latest verbal prodding came from President Trump during his joint press conference with South Korean president Moon Jae-in. Trump urged Pyongyang to “come to the negotiating table,” and asserted that it “makes sense for North Korea to do the right thing.” The “right thing” Trump and his predecessors have always maintained, is for North Korea to become nonnuclear.

It is unlikely that the DPRK will ever return to nuclear virginity. Pyongyang has multiple reasons for retaining its nukes. For a country with an economy roughly the size of Paraguay’s, a bizarre political system that has no external appeal, and an increasingly antiquated conventional military force, a nuclear-weapons capability is the sole factor that provides prestige and a seat at the table of international affairs. There is one other crucial reason for the DPRK’s truculence, though. North Korean leaders simply do not trust the United States to honor any agreement that might be reached.

Unfortunately, there are ample reasons for such distrust.

North Korean leaders have witnessed how the United States treats nonnuclear adversaries such as Serbia and Iraq. But it was the U.S.-led intervention in Libya in 2011 that underscored to Pyongyang why achieving and retaining a nuclear-weapons capability might be the only reliable way to prevent a regime-change war directed against the DPRK.

Partially in response to Washington’s war that ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the spring of 2003, ostensibly because of a threat posed by Baghdad’s “weapons of mass destruction,” Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi seemed to capitulate regarding such matters. He signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in December of that year and agreed to abandon his country’s embryonic nuclear program. In exchange, the United States and its allies lifted economic sanctions and pledged that they no longer sought to isolate Libya.

Qaddafi was welcomed back into the international community once he relinquished his nuclear ambitions.

That reconciliation lasted less than a decade. When one of the periodic domestic revolts against Qaddafi’s rule erupted again in 2011, Washington and its NATO partners argued that a humanitarian catastrophe was imminent (despite meager evidence of that scenario), and initiated a military intervention. It soon became apparent that the official justification to protect innocent civilians was a cynical pretext, and that another regime-change war was underway. The Western powers launched devastating air strikes and cruise-missile attacks against Libyan government forces. NATO also armed rebel units and assisted the insurgency in other ways.

Although all previous revolts had fizzled, extensive Western military involvement produced a very different result this time. The insurgents not only overthrew Qaddafi, they captured, tortured and executed him in an especially grisly fashion. Washington’s response was astonishingly flippant. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quipped: “We came, we saw, he died.”

The behavior of Washington and its allies in Libya certainly did not give any incentive to North Korea or other would-be nuclear powers to abandon such ambitions in exchange for U.S. paper promises for normal relations. Indeed, North Korea promptly cited the Libya episode as a reason why it needed a deterrent capability—a point that Pyongyang has reiterated several times in the years since Muammar el-Qaddafi ouster (despite the media’s unwillingness to report this). There is little doubt that the West’s betrayal of Qaddafi has made an agreement with the DPRK to denuclearize even less attainable than it might have been otherwise. Even some U.S. officials concede that the Libya episode convinced North Korean leaders that nuclear weapons were necessary for regime survival.

The foundation for successful diplomacy is a country’s reputation for credibility and reliability. U.S. leaders fret that autocratic regimes—such as those in Iran and North Korea—might well violate agreements they sign. There are legitimate reasons for wariness, although in Iran’s case, the government appears to be complying with its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that Tehran signed with the United States and other major powers in 2015—despite allegations from U.S. hawks about violations.

When it comes to problems with credibility, though, U.S. leaders also need to look in the mirror. Washington’s conduct in Libya was a case of brazen duplicity. It is hardly a surprise if North Korea (or other countries) now regard the United States as an untrustworthy negotiating partner. Because of Pyongyang’s other reasons for wanting a nuclear capability, a denuclearization accord was always a long shot. But U.S. actions in Libya reduced prospects to the vanishing point. American leaders have only themselves to blame for that situation.

North Korea in 2018

November 13, 2017 Leave a comment

Prophecy states Kim Jong-un will be taken down without any war starting

North Korea Raising Eyebrows As Country Strikingly Quiet, Something Big Coming?

November 13, 2017 Leave a comment

Sources: AOL NewsABC News – The Conservative Daily Post


Every parent knows the feeling.

It may be troublesome when the child is making noise, throwing a ball in the house, or acting like a spoiled brat, but that is not what is the most worrisome. What is infinitely more troubling is when the child is too quiet, for that is when he or she is playing with the lighter, drawing on the wall with Magic Markers, or sipping the bathroom bleach.

ABC News is reporting that this is exactly how some experts feel as North Korea isn’t showing much activity or lobbing WMD into the skies. It has been 57 days since the last illegal test from the Hermit Kingdom, which is “the longest stretch of time since [President] Trump took office that the regime has not conducted a test,” AOL News also confirms.

Is this due to the fact that the DPRK has managed to destabilize a mountain testing site so much that 200 souls were buried alive within it? Is is because Donald Trump is in Asia and three of the largest aircraft carriers that the world has ever seen rests at the doorstep of N.K., as the Conservative Daily Post has revealed?

Is so, that makes sense, but no one knows. This stall could be because Kim Jong-un is preparing or plotting things far worse.

When Trump boldly proclaimed how Kim Jong-un has not created the dream nation that his founding grandfather attempted and that he is only making his nation weaker by pursuing nuclear weapons, the N.K. leadership called the U.S. leader a “lunatic old man.”

North Korea feels that “ballistic rockets are for deterring the U.S. nuclear war hysterics and ensuring peace and security on the Korean peninsula and the region. They are not for threatening Europe and the world.”

The trouble is, even though after what the U.S. did in Libya an Iraq appears to support this stance, the DPRK has never been in a worse situation due to how they have conducted the whole procedure.

If the wine gulping and cheese devouring leader is laying low due to issues within the program or because Trump is literally at his door with a loaded U.S arsenal, then perhaps all things are starting to fall into place for those who crave peace.

If, however, this is being done in order to further more testing, to attack the U.S., or to threaten any American allies, then it could soon be a very dark day in North Korea, and not just because they can’t keep the lights on.


North Korea’s Nuke Testing Dates Back 10 Years, But Kerry Blames Trump’s ‘Rhetoric’

November 8, 2017 Leave a comment

( – As President Trump continued an Asia trip dominated by concerns over North Korea, former secretary of state John Kerry told CNN Monday that Trump’s rhetoric has given the Kim Jong-un regime reason to say that it needs a nuclear bomb.

“What the president needs to do is to make sure he’s not feeding into North Korea’s fear of regime change, or of a unilateral attack or otherwise,” Kerry told interviewer Christiane Amanpour.

“And I think the rhetoric to date has, frankly, stepped over the line with respect to the messages that are being sent,” he continued. “It’s given North Korea a reason to say, ‘Hey, we need a bomb, because if we don’t have a bomb, we’re going to, you know, not be able to protect ourselves and they’ll come after us.’”

The regime in Pyongyang tested its first nuclear bomb in 2006, during the George W. Bush administration – ten years and one month before Trump won the presidential election a year ago.

It went on to carry out four more tests during the Obama administration – three of them while Kerry was at the helm at the State Department, with one taking place just 11 days after he was sworn in.  The seventh test – the last to date – was conducted last September.

In Tokyo on Monday, Trump acknowledged that some have criticized his rhetoric directed at North Korea.

“Some people said that my rhetoric is very strong, but look what’s happened with very weak rhetoric over the last 25 years,” he said during a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “Look where we are right now.”

As secretary of state, Kerry is arguably best remembered for his role in negotiating the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran – an agreement which he continues to defend forcefully as it comes under fire from Trump and others.

Amanpour asked him about the argument that the Obama administration, focused on the Iran talks, should have paid more attention to North Korea – and that Obama’s “strategic patience” approach had led to the current situation.

“That’s not accurate,” Kerry said. “We actually did a lot of things. We sent emissaries, we asked the Chinese to send emissaries.”

Kerry also touted the fact that China – North Korea’s biggest trading partner – had “ratcheted up its sanctions, twice, under our administration.”

(While in office, Kerry at times expressed frustration over Beijing’s evident reluctance to use its leverage with Pyongyang. After North Korea early last year carried out its fourth nuclear test, Kerry said he told his Chinese counterpart that “we cannot continue business as usual.”)

Kerry referred in his CNN interview to the North Koreans’ “fear of regime change,” concerns about U.S. aggression, and “the existential threat that they feel.”

The Trump administration has been assuring Pyongyang for months that it does not harbor such plans.

Even as tensions rose over the summer as the regime test-fired intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis reiterated that the U.S. was not pursuing regime change, a speedy reunification of the Korean peninsula, or any pretext to deploy troops north of the 38th parallel dividing the two Koreas.

Those assurances came in early August and again in an op-ed that month.

Kim Jong-un responded three weeks with the regime’s most powerful nuclear test yet.

Trump declared in Tokyo on Monday that “the era of strategic patience is over” – echoing statements made last spring by Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence, on separate visits to Northeast Asia.

Why North Korea Needs Relisting as a Terror-Sponsoring State

November 5, 2017 Leave a comment

Claudia Rosett

Officially the State Department is headquartered in Washington, but every so often — far too often — there come these moments when State seems so out of touch that it might as well be operating on Neptune. So it goes with the question of whether to put North Korea back on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism — to which the the instant answer from State ought to be yes, yes, YES.

Instead, like an ant circumnavigating an elephant, State is examining the proposition (yet again), having just missed a legal deadline for telling Congress whether Kim Jong Un’s North Korea meets the criteria to be listed as a state sponsor of terrorism. On Thursday National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told the press that listing North Korea is an “option” which President Trump’s cabinet is considering “as part of the overall strategy on North Korea.”

Just how much considering remains to be done? McMaster himself mentioned as “clearly an act of terrorism that fits in with a range of other actions” North Korea’s assassination with VX nerve agent of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, this past February in a Malaysian airport. But McMaster remained coy on whether, in the judgment of America’s diplomats, the lethal use of WMD in a commercial airport would suffice to land North Korea back on the U.S. list of terror-sponsoring states. He said only, “you will hear more about that soon, I think.”

This equivocation comes as President Trump embarks on a 12-day trip to Asia, in which North Korea strategy will loom large — and a complex mission it will be, requiring a mix of soft power and hardball, with stops in Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. After decades of disastrous U.S. policy toward North Korea, including failed nuclear deals under Presidents Clinton and Bush, and eight years of passivity dolled up as “strategic patience” under President Obama, the margin for error in North Korea policy has greatly dwindled, and the risks have soared.

But if there’s a simple, low-cost no-brainer policy move waiting to be made, it is to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. The sooner, the better.

It’s true that relisting North Korea would be largely symbolic; it’s unlikely that the related penalties would inflict any more pain than that imposed by the current sanctions. But it would be an important piece of symbolism, for reasons even deeper than the obvious value of reconnecting the State Department with the realities on Planet Earth.

It’s important for the basic reason that North Korea should never have been taken off the list of terror-sponsoring states in the first place. The U.S. designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1988, after North Korean agents in 1987 blew up a South Korean airliner over the Andaman Sea, killing all 115 people on board. For a host of solid reasons, including the abduction of Japanese citizens, ties to terrorist groups, the harboring of terrorists and the development of WMD that could be acquired by terrorists, North Korea stayed on the list for 20 years.

Then, in June, 2008, in a desperate bid to save an intrinsically rotten and disintegrating 2007 Six-Party nuclear deal with North Korea, President Bush notified Congress that he was rescinding North Korea’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, and lifting the application to North Korea of the Trading with the Enemy Act. This was not because North Korea’s regime had abjured terror. Rather, it was a sop wanted by Pyongyang, and it was provided by the U.S. in hope that favors would in good faith be returned. The announcement from the Bush White House made that quite clear, in a fact sheet that listed as the next item: “These actions were taken following North Korea’s submission of a declaration of its nuclear programs, which will now be subject to verification.”

As we now know, Pyongyang made a complete mockery of verification. North Korea pocketed various concessions gained at the bargaining table, including its escape from the U.S. list of terror-sponsoring states, and carried on with an accelerating nuclear program. The 2007 nuclear deal collapsed as Bush was on his way out of office in 2008. North Korea welcomed the Obama administration with a second nuclear test in May, 2009, (the first was in 2006) and in 2010 unveiled facilities for uranium enrichment — a program which it had previously denied. There followed three more North Korean nuclear tests on Obama’s watch, one in 2013 and two in 2016, along with a plethora of missile tests. Now the Trump administration faces the problem of how to deal with a North Korean regime that is honing ICBMs and nuclear warheads, and in September tested what it plausibly claimed was a hydrogen bomb.

The Bush favors to North Korea were folly; far from cajoling good behavior from North Korea, they underscored the message that the U.S. could be bullied; that nuclear extortion will work. That message needs to be erased.

Obama should have retracted whatever he could. At the very least, his State Department should have immediately put North Korea back on the list of terror-sponsoring states, where it belongs. He did not. Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry gave North Korea a pass, for eight years — turning out statements exonerating North Korea of terrorist-sponsoring activities. Chalk up a victory on that score for North Korea.

It’s time for Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to end this particular run of folly. Redesignating North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism is something the U.S. could do easily, swiftly and with no need to wheedle the consent of the erstwhile international community, or a United Nations Security Council on which Beijing and Moscow run interference for Pyongyang.

If the State Department, in its meticulous pondering of legal statutes, is concerned that North Korea hasn’t engaged in quite enough terror-sponsoring activity in recent times to qualify for the the list, administration officials could usefully consult Joshua Stanton’s 100-page report, titled “Arsenal of Terror,” subtitled “North Korea: State Sponsor of Terrorism,” published in 2015 by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Stanton goes into painstaking and persuasive detail on the law, the facts and the reasons for relisting North Korea.

If that still does not satisfy, then it’s time to ask whether, to give North Korea its due, the State Department needs a category more useful than “State Sponsors of Terrorism” — which, in this era of global terrorism, has somehow dwindled, according to the State Department, to a list of only three countries: Iran, Sudan and Syria. Perhaps there should be a listing for States Based Entirely on Terror. North Korea’s totalitarian regime would surely qualify, both at home and abroad — with its record of terrorizing its own people, its assassinations, its weapons traffic with terrorists and rogue states, its refusal to this day to account for its spree of kidnappings, its cyberthreats, its pioneering role in the 21st century as a practitioner of nuclear extortion, and its free-wheeling threats of nuclear strikes against the U.S., South Korea and Japan.

In trying to craft a strategy for coping with North Korea, there may well be complex matters that take time to weave together. This should not be one of them. Here’s a clarifying way to look at it: There’s no North Korea “strategy” worth beans that would preclude relisting North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. So get on with it.

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