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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

North Korea: Happy Populations Don't Defect . . .

Area involved is circled
The Current Kim-in-Charge (CKIC) is keeping his happy people in the North Korean worker's paradise through an "urban renewal program" of a sort, The Chosun Ilbo reports in "N.Korea Demolishes Border Villages to Stem Defections":
North Korea is demolishing villages near the border with China along the Duman River and forcing residents to move south in order to prevent defections.
The Duman narrows as it passes Onsong, making the area a popular spot for defectors to cross into China.

Activists in South Korea who help North Korean defectors said one Onsong resident was executed by firing squad recently after being captured in the attempt to defect. "The regime believes that stemming defections is an effective method of staying in power," the government source said

The North has stepped up border patrols and installed high-tech surveillance equipment, including devices that track the sources of cell phone signals.
Things slide from bad to worse.

But, the CKIC has a nuke or two. So he's got that going for him.

Friday, April 26, 2013

North Korea: They have an economy? Yep - mostly an illegal one.

"I am your fearless leader into oblivion"
From NPR's Planet Money, an interesting (and only a little dated) show on "North Korea's Illegal Economy" which is a podcast:
. . .  [W]e look at the ways North Korea's leaders have managed to keep foreign currency flowing into the country. Their strategies include manufacturing drugs, counterfeiting U.S. dollars, and selling gigantic statues to foreign leaders.
 Oh, and selling weapons around the world.

It's about 24 minutes long.

The biggest surprise to some people will be that I listen to some shows on NPR.

Midrats on 28 April 2013: Episode 173: "Back to the Littorals" with Milan Vego

U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jan Shultis/Released
Join us this Sunday, 28 April 2013 at 5pm Eastern U.S., for Midrats Episode 173: Back to the Littorals with Milan Vego :
If the requirement is to be able to operate, fight, and win in the Littorals - is the Littoral Combat Ship the answer?

Other nations have the same requirement - yet have come up with different answers.

Are we defining our requirements properly in face of larger Fleet needs and the threats we expect?

What platforms and systems need to be looked at closer if we are to have the best mix of capabilities to meet our requirements?

Using his article in Armed Forces Journal, Go smaller: Time for the Navy to get serious about the littorals, as a stepping off place, our guest for the full hour will be Milan Vego, PhD, Professor of Joint Military Operations at the US Naval War College.
Join us live (or, if you can't listen live, listen later) by clicking here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

North Korea: " China 'Won't Accept N.Korean Nuclear Armament'"

China 'Won't Accept N.Korean Nuclear Armament':
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday assured South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se that Beijing will not tolerate North Korea's nuclear arms, according to a diplomatic source.

In a meeting with Yun in Beijing, Li stressed it is China's consistent policy to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
The Big Dog growls.

And more:
China recently moved an Army corps close to the North Korean border and staged a live-fire exercise with tanks and self-propelled guns.

Experts believe Beijing is taking no chances in case a North Korean provocation leads to an emergency.

The official Global Times on Monday reported that an armored brigade from a Shenyang mechanized infantry unit carried out live-fire maneuvers near the border on April 1.

Nigeria: Another Reason to Speed U.S. Energy Independence

Radical Islamist forces in Nigeria make it another one of those places on the list "places most likely to need intervention in the future" because of Al Qaeda influences, as set out in this NYTimes piece by Adam Nossiter "In Nigeria, Ansaru Militant Group Poses New Threat". The article features a charming interview with a leader of the AQ-inspired movement "Ansaru" who has a "special" agenda:
Having split off from Boko Haram — the dominant Nigerian extremist group responsible for weekly shootings and bombings — this new group, Ansaru, says it eschews the killing of fellow Nigerians.

“Too reckless,” said a young member of Ansaru. His group evidently prefers a more calculated approach: kidnapping and killing foreigners.

Just days before, his group had methodically killed seven foreign construction workers deep in Nigeria’s semidesert north. The seven had been helping to build a road; their bodies were shown in a grainy video, lying on the ground.

The West, which has often regarded the Islamist uprising here as a Nigerian domestic issue, has been explicitly put on notice by Ansaru, adding an international dynamic to a conflict that has already cost more than 3,000 lives.
For three hours, with chilling precision, Abu Nasir, in a neatly pressed shirt and polished shoes, laid out Ansaru’s philosophy, after reciting a verse from the Koran promising “hellfire” for nonbelievers: opponents would be killed; Qaeda sympathizers were everywhere in Nigeria; and Westerners would be kidnapped.

He said Ansaru had been motivated by Al Qaeda itself, trained by its affiliate in the region — Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb — and was now following in both their footsteps.
Of course, as Max Boot discusses here, Ansaru is moving on the "public opinion" part of any insurgent force - getting publicity that far exceed its numbers and potential to do harm to the West/non-Muslim world.

What next? Drones over Nigeria?

Nigeria provides the U.S. with about 5 to 11% of U.S. oil imports.

I don't care what the alleged motivation of Ansaru is, I suspect oil money (and damaging the West's economy) is a factor in why AQ is pushing this.

Energy independence is vital for the future of the U.S.

Monday, April 22, 2013

North Korea: Begging For Food? - But, hey, they've got nukes!

Yonhap reports on a report: "N. Korea requests food aid from Mongolia":
North Korea has recently requested food aid from Mongolia, citing a food shortage the country may face, according to a Mongolian Internet news outlet on Monday.

The request was made by Hong Gyu, the North Korean ambassador to Mongolia, during his meeting on April 16 with the country's President Ts. Elbegdorj to present a letter of credence, according to an article by
"At the conclusion, North Korean Ambassador to Ulan Bator Hong Gyu said North Korea may face a severe food shortage. Therefore, we ask Mongolia to seek possibilities of delivering food aid to North Korea," the article said.

Food assistance and other aid to the impoverished country from the outside world ground to a halt after the North conducted its third nuclear test on Feb. 12 in defiance of the international community's warnings.
UPDATE: The report on here.
The Wall Street Journal carries forward with this report here:
At a courtesy call on the Mongolian president last week, Pyongyang’s new ambassador made a request for food aid, according to the official website for the head of state.

“North Korea may face (a) severe food shortage,” Ambassador Hong Gyu told President Elbegdorj, according to the account. Mr. Hong then asked for Mongolia to consider the possibility of delivering food aid to North Korea, the account said.

North Korea’s toughest part of the year for food begins in April and runs through September, when the annual corn harvest begins. Kwon Tae-jin, a scholar on North Korean agriculture in Seoul said that last year’s yield was moderate, but not sufficient to tide the country over.

“We’ve learned that while rations are being delivered, it varies region by region,” said Dr. Kwon, a director at the Korea Rural Economic Institute in Seoul. “But it isn’t sufficient to go around for everyone.”

There are other signs of food shortages. Daily NK, a news website staffed by North Korean defectors, reported last week that Pyongyang did not distribute food to the northernmost province for the biggest holiday of the year; the April 15 anniversary of the birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung.

Mongolia, the "bread basket of third world dictatorships?"

UK's Mirror has video and photographs of the DPRK mess here. If you missed it, there was an "undercover" visit by a BBC journalist into North Korea on the show "Panorama" - you can see a part of it here. You should note that there are people unhappy with the means used to insert the reporter, as set out here.

Nice discussion from opinion people at The Wall Street Opinion Journal of the current U.S. approach to the NORKs:

UPDATE: 23 April 13: U.S.does not eliminate possibility of giving food aid to the North Koreans. So that the expression "biting the hands that feeds you" can be used in the future, I suppose. Humanitarian aid to this regime?
A U.S. special envoy on North Korea said Monday that North Korea's food plight is "fairly difficult" and that Washington is keeping the door open for food aid.

Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, affirmed that the U.S. draws a line between food assistance and politics.

"If there were a request for assistance, it's something I'm sure that we would look at," he said during a roundtable meeting with reporters at the State Department. "We try to keep our humanitarian assistance separate from political considerations."
I think that is a bad approach. It just rewards bad behavior and misgovernment by the dictatorship.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

On Midrats 21 April 13: Episode 173 - The War Returns to CONUS

Join us at 5 pm (Eastern U.S.) on 21 April 2013 for our Episode 173: The War Returns to CONUS:
The events of the last week in Boston has brought back to the front of the national consciousness what, for the lack of a better description, is known as The Long War.

The threats we face are both domestic, foreign, and increasingly a mixture of both. Communication and transportation has created a breed of transnational threats that are not new, and whose causes, resources, and threat vectors are not as opaque as some may try to make them.

Starting out and working in, what are the lessons we should emphasize to mitigate the ongoing threat? As we continue in the second decade after 9/11/2013, what are we doing correctly, what still needs to be done - and what things are we wasting time and money on for little gain?

To discuss, our guest for the full hour will be Steven Bucci, Director, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
Listen live (or listen later) by clicking here.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Surprise Surprise Surprise: North Korea "says no to denuclearisation"

The Hindu reports Pyongyang says no to denuclearisation
North Korea said on Saturday that it would never agree to talks on denuclearisation, but would be open to negotiations for arms reduction.

Pyongyang said it will not give up its nuclear programme until the entire world is denuclearised, according to the North’s main newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

“There may be talks between us and the United States for the sake of arms reduction, but there will never be talks for denuclearisation,” it said.

“Our position is clear. Never dream of denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula before denuclearisation of the world is realised.”
Right, their motives are so pure you can see right through them.

As I asked here, why would the laughably named Democratic People's Republic of Korea give up the one thing that makes them "special" instead of another failed state dictatorship sinking into mass starvation?

Now we know.

They'll give up nukes for "whirled peas." Really.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

North Korea: "Stop Bullying Us Poor Little NORKs - Then We Can Talk"

"And I want an NBA team, too"
Poor little old North Korea.

Stuck in the middle between its more successful cousin and its more successful Chinese neighbor and, well, according to the North Korean propaganda machine, the peaceful DPRK is vilified at every turn by the U.S. and South Korea, who it appears have little else to do but to "provoke" the NORKs.

Exactly what the U.S. and South Koreans gain by provoking the North Koreans is not explained. Perhaps it is one of those "just because" things.

You see, the DPRK says that if only outside forces would stop the "provocation" then they would be happy to be a peaceable dictatorship spreading love and joy among its people and turning swords into plowshares, etc. You can read about it at Yonhap News's "N. Korea says S. Korea, U.S. must stop provocations for talks". What provocations?

Here's a start:
The North's powerful National Defense Commission and the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) said sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council against the DPRK must be rescinded and on-going nuclear war exercises should be stopped. DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

"Fabrications of truth, like blaming the North for the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010 and recent Internet hacking of financial institutions and media has to be discontinued," the commission's policy department said in a statement.

Dialogue and war cannot exist side-by-side and that Seoul and Washington need to proclaim to the rest of the world that they will never engage in making threats and carry out nuclear war exercises that target the North, it said.

"It is time to withdraw all nuclear war making capabilities from the region and officially proclaim such devices will not be reintroduced (back into South Korea) down the line," said the defense commission.

The CPRK, in charge of conducting dialogue with the South, echoed these views, saying enforcing of sanctions, taking part in measures to compromise the regime and challenging the country's space and nuclear development efforts, all constituted hostile moves and cannot be tolerated.

Introducing sophisticated military hardware into the region will be viewed as provocations, the CPRK said, adding that Seoul in recent days made remarks about the North making right choices that it claimed were impudent.

"If they had a true will to have dialogue, they should have halted all acts of hurting the dignity of the DPRK, and stopped the north-targeted war exercises and smear campaign and given assurance to the nation that they would not resort to such hostile acts in the days ahead," the CPRK's announcement said.
Ah. It is so simple. Disarm, quit telling the truth and let the DPRK do whatever it wants.

Yes, that is one way to peace.

Probably not the most rationale way, though.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Shocker: North Korea threatens South . . . Well, Not So Much A "Shocker" Exactly

Pretty thin-skinned those NORKs. Especially after weeks, months and years of threats to pretty much the whole world, except perhaps China, Russia, Iran and Cuba.

North Korea threatens South after protesters burn effigies of revered leaders :
North Korea’s military Tuesday threatened archrival South Korea with imminent “sledge-hammer” retaliation unless Seoul apologizes for anti-Pyongyang protestors burning effigies of its revered leaders.

South Korea called the North’s ultimatum “regrettable” and vowed a tough response to any military provocation.
"Sledge-hammer" retaliation - let's see, is that better or worse than a "nuclear sea of fire?"

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Monday, April 15, 2013

North Korea and its "Missiles of Doom"

That the NORKs may have nuclear capable missiles comes as little surprise - since that's what they've been telling everyone with their fear-mongering bullying. How that might have been confirmed comes to us via Eli Lake's Yahoo! News piece, the poorly titled "How North Korea Tipped Its Hand":
After the North Korean launch, U.S. Navy ships managed to recover the front section of the rocket used in it, according to three U.S. officials who work closely on North Korean proliferation. That part of the rocket in turn provided useful clues about North Korean warhead design, should the next payload be a warhead rather than a satellite.
First off, "managed to" is a poor way to describe what must have been an impressive salvage operation.

Secondly, doesn't it give you pause about the level of intelligence we have on the NORKs? More from the article:
The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) released a classified assessment last month saying that it now has “moderate confidence” that the “North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles however the reliability will be low,” South Korea has provided additional intelligence bolstering this conclusion, according to U.S. officials.
Intelligence suggesting North Korea could design a nuclear warhead has been building for many years. A.Q. Khan, the man considered to be the father of the Pakistani nuclear program, for example has said in interviews and correspondence that in 1999 on a visit to North Korea he was shown boxes of components for three finished nuclear warheads that could be assembled within an hour.
You'd think the intel we did have would have prompted a little quicker movement of Ballistic Missile Defense systems to the areas that could, in theory be reached by the DPRK.

On the other hand, perhaps there was the usual desire not to tip our hand on exactly how much we really know about what the NORKs are up to.

Okay, now we know of the threat. We now know that various sanctions regimes of the past have not stopped the DPRK from going nuclear. What should we do?

Do we continue to chat with the Current Kim-in-Charge? Secretary of State John Kerry has indicated a willingness to meet with the NORKs under certain conditions, as set out in the NY Times here:
Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that the United States was prepared to reach out to Kim Jong-un of North Korea if he made the first move to abandon his nuclear weapons program.
“What we really ought to be talking about is the possibility of peace,” he said in a joint news conference on Sunday with Fumio Kishida, Japan’s foreign minister. “And I think there are those possibilities.”

Sketching out his approach in his meeting later in the day with reporters, Mr. Kerry said that before talks could begin, North Korea needed to take tangible steps to demonstrate that it was serious about denuclearization.

But it seemed unlikely that that precondition for talks would be met by North Korea, given the country’s announcements that it considers itself to be a nuclear state and its dedication to a “military-first” stance that channels resources to its armed forces.
You can read Mr. Kerry's remarks in context here:
So – *** – hopefully North Korea will hear our words and recognize that for the future of its people and for the future stability in the region as well as on the peninsula itself, there is a clear course of action that they are invited to take, and they will find in us ready partners to negotiate in good faith to resolve this issue.
Okay. Talk with the NORKs some more.

What is the end goal for such talks?

For the NORKs to give up on nuclear weapons? Why in the hell would they do that?

Right now the North Koreans are a "one-trick pony" in a position to blackmail their neighbors because the cost of taking the current DPRK regime out is projected to be awfully high. Take away their nuke threat and they are a conventional land power with no place to go that doesn't place them on a path to a buzz saw.

So what do you end up with? Stuff like this from our SecState:
The North has to understand, and I believe must by now, that its threats and its provocations are only going to isolate it further and impoverish its people even further. And they have to understand also something that we have consistently made clear. President Obama has made it clear. I think I’ve tried to underscore the President’s policy as much as possible. And it is very simple: that the United States will do what is necessary to defend our allies – Japan, Republic of Korea – and the region against these provocations. But our choice is to negotiate. Our choice is to move to the table and find a way for the region to have peace. And we would hope that whatever considerations or fears the North has – of the United States or of others in the region that they would come to the table in a responsible way and negotiate that. We are confident that we can address the concerns with respect to their security and find ways together with China and the Republic of Korea and Japan and Russia and the members of the Six-Party Talks, we can find a way to resolve these differences at a negotiating table. I hope they will hear that and I hope they will respond to that, and any other choice by them will simply further isolate them in the world and make it clear to the rest of the world where the problem really lies here. That’s our hope.
Isolate NK further? Is that possible?

Good lord.

The NORKs must come to understand and truly know that any use of their nukes will end whatever life they currently enjoy.

Having a few nukes just means that any missiles the NORKs mount them on are "missiles of doom" - for the NORKs.
They have understand that it is not asymmetric warfare we are discussing here when we talk a nuclear exchange.The U.S. will not fight back with one hand tied behind its back.

The U.S. has the power to totally obliterate the DPRK.

THE DPRK does not have the power to destroy the U.S. or its response capabilities.

My suggested talking point to the SecState are along the lines of,
If you try to launch missiles that threaten the U.S. or its allies, we will shoot them down and then we will come after you and yours without mercy.

Do you understand what 'without mercy' means in this context? We have the most experienced combat force on the planet and you will get to meet them up close and personal if you do something stupid.

Perhaps you have seen the American movie, "Dirty Harry?" You might recall Harry's words to the killer creep who threatened some school children - let me modify them for you to make my point clear:
I know what you're thinking, punk. You're thinking "Will the Americans fight?" Now to tell you the truth sometimes we send mixed messages in all this excitement. But being this is the U.S. military, the most powerful military in the world and they would be itching to blow you head clean off if you attacked us, you've gotta ask yourself a question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

On Midrats 14 April 13 - Episode 171: "The State of Naval Supremacy with Seth Crospey"

Join us at 5pm (Eastern U.S.) Sunday, 14 April 2013 for Midrats Episode 171: The State of Naval Supremacy with Seth Cropsey
It is all around us - from poor program decisions to significant budgetary stresses that are only recently starting to bite - the large US Navy Fleet straddling the globe is contracting.

What are the initial, second and third order effects of the decreasing presence of the US Navy. Is it permanent, relative, or can fewer numbers be made up in other ways?

Join Sal from CDR Salamander and EagleOne of EagleSpeak in a wide ranging discussion along with their guest Seth Cropsey, Senior Fellow from The Hudson Institute and author of the new book, Mayday: The Decline of American Naval Supremacy.
You can listen live or listen later here.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

North Korea: Games the DPRK Plays

North Korea is shuffling the missiles of April, The Japan Times reports in "North Korea sows confusion over launch":
North Korea has been repeatedly moving multiple missiles around in an apparent bid to confuse outside intelligence gatherers ahead of an expected launch, Yonhap reported Thursday.
Musudan Missiles

According to intelligence analysis cited by the South Korean news agency, two midrange Musudan missiles have been repeatedly moved in and out of a warehouse facility in the eastern port city of Wonsan.

At the same time, at least five mobile launch vehicles have also been spotted swapping positions in South Hamgyeong Province. They are believed to be launch platforms for short-range Scud missiles, which have a range of 300 to 500 km, and medium-range Nodong missiles, which can travel 1,300 to 1,500
Polish Scud on launcher

“There are signs the North could fire off Musudan missiles any time soon,” an intelligence source said. “But the North has been repeatedly moving its missiles in and out of a shed, which needs close monitoring.”

Another source suggested Pyongyang was hoping to “fatigue” South Korean and U.S. intelligence gatherers who have been on a heightened state of surveillance alert since Wednesday.
In addition, the South Korean government has verified hacking done by the NORKs, as reported by Yonhap in "Gov't confirms Pyongyang link in March cyber attacks":
Amid escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula, the South Korean government on Wednesday announced that North Korea was behind the massive hacking attack that paralyzed networks of local financial firms and broadcasters last month.
The March 20 incident marks the latest attack in Pyongyang's growing pursuit of technological warfare. While the communist state has denied allegations, it has been blamed for a series of cyber attacks on the Web sites of South Korean government agencies and financial institutions in the past few years.

North Korea is known to operate a cyber warfare unit of 3,000 elite hackers who are trained to break into computer networks to steal information and distribute malware.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

More Threats: "North Korea Warns Foreigners in South of Nuclear War"

NYTimes headline: "North Korea Warns Foreigners in South of Nuclear War"
As North Korea warned foreigners on Tuesday that they might want to leave South Korea because the peninsula was on the brink of nuclear war — a statement that the United States Embassy in Seoul and analysts dismissed as hyperbole — the American commander in the Pacific expressed worries that the North’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, might not have left himself an easy exit to reduce tensions.
More from The Chosun Ilbo here:
Threatening a "merciless sacred retaliatory war," the spokesman said the North "does not want to see foreigners in South Korea hurt in the case of war."
Along with its threats,  North Korea appears to have at the ready the missiles that were discussed here, as set out here:
North Korea has finished preparations to launch one or two Musudan medium-range missiles that have been moved to an area on the east coast.

South Korean military authorities worry that the North could also launch other short- and medium-range missiles.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government instructed the Self-Defense Forces to get ready to intercept any North Korean missiles. The U.S. is also getting ready to intercept any missiles that head toward its base in Guam.

"We've discovered that the North finished preparations to launch two Musudan missiles after moving them to an area near Wonsan by train from Jamjin Missile Plant in Nampo last week," a government source in Seoul said Tuesday. "They seem to be ready for launch four to six hours after being injected with liquid fuel."
I wonder what would happen if something were to happen to missiles on the launcher?

Even Fidel Castro is urging caution on the NORKs part, as set out here.

I wonder if Professor Cumings is writing a piece on the "North Korean nuclear bullying?"

Finally, if anyone wonders why it would be a really bad idea for Iran to have a nuke - this Korean mess ought to be a eye-opener.

UPDATE: From The Wall Street Journal:

Monday, April 08, 2013

North Korea: Quote of the Day

Christine Kim, Reuters in "North Korea suspends last project with South, Putin cites Chernobyl" reports this gem:
Bruce Cumings, a historian and author of "North Korea: Another Country", said in a report Pyongyang was behaving to a pattern.

"Nothing is more characteristic of this regime than its preening, posturing, overweening desire for the world to pay it attention, while simultaneously threatening destruction in all directions and assuring through draconian repression that its people know next to nothing about that same world," he wrote.
Update: The Cumings' quote us from a piece in The Nation, "Korean War Games".

Update2: And, of course, there seem to be a fair number of people who feel the situation of the North Koreans is the nearly completely the fault of the U.S.

I do find it odd that Professor Cumings refers to a 1951 simulated atomic bomb attack (1951 was in the middle of the Korean War) as "nuclear bullying" - I tend to think of it as a careful example of restraint - a warning vice bully tactics during an active war.

If the DPRK cities were destroyed after they invaded South Korea, they should know it could have been worse. Not only could their cities have been destroyed, they could have been radioactive smoking holes in the ground that the NORKs would have had to deal with.

Further, as this Wikipedia article notes, the simulation may have helped prevent the use of atomic weapons because they were not suitable for the mission:
Hudson Harbor tested "actual functioning of all activities which would be involved in an atomic strike, including weapons assembly and testing, leading, ground control of bomb aiming". The bombing run data indicated that atomic bombs would be tactically ineffective against massed infantry, because the "timely identification of large masses of enemy troops was extremely rare.
Professor Cumings, however, is certainly entitled to his view - which he also has expressed in "Korea: Forgotten Nuclear Threats".

North Korea: China says "Sow No Chaos"

Reuters reports, "China rebukes North Korea, says no state should sow chaos":
No country "should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain", President Xi Jinping told a forum on the southern Chinese island of Hainan. He did not name North Korea but he appeared to refer to Pyongyang.

Former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman said Xi's comments were unprecedented.

"It suggests to me, as I've watched the ratcheting up of frustration among Chinese leaders over the last many years, that they've probably hit the 212-degree boiling point as it relates to North Korea," he told CNN on Sunday.
China's comments are sort of subtle.

Less subtle is the reporting of the massing of Chinese troops on China's North Korean border. For examples, here:
The Chinese Army has been on standby since March for an emergency by massing troops and fighter jets at the border with North Korea, the Washington Times quoted a U.S. government official.
But Chinese military activities were concentrated in Jilin Province, which shares the longest border with the North. Forces were reportedly ordered to raise the alert status to the highest level on March 19.

"Large groups of soldiers were seen on the streets in Ji'an, a city in Jilin, amid reports that the [Army] had been ordered to combat readiness status," the daily added. "Heavy armored vehicles, including tanks and armored personnel carriers, were reported moving near the Yalu [Apnok] River that separates China from North Korea."
If the current Kim-in-Charge believes those troops are there as backup and a show of support for him, he might want to rethink that theory.

Friday, April 05, 2013

North Korea: Threaten, Threaten and Threaten Some More

Well, there are reports of a couple of North Korean "medium range" missiles on the rails in North Korea as set out by CNN here:
The developments come as two medium-range missiles have been loaded onto mobile launchers on the East coast of North Korea, a U.S. official told CNN on Friday.

The account followed a report by South Korea's semi-official Yonhap news agency, citing military sources in Seoul, that the pair of missiles were ready to be launched. Yonhap said the missiles have been hidden in an unidentified facility.
Hmm. How seriously to take a two missile show of force?

If I were king, I'd tell my minions to keep an eye on these clowns while making sure nothing happens unless and until there is "something more" than showing the missiles. Don't want any "accidents" due to "misunderstandings" do we?

In the meantime, I'd go about business as usual, watching for any signs the gazillion artillery pieces on the NORK side of the DMZ aren't being unlimbered or whatever would look like a preparation for action.

After all, North Korea primarily seems to be in the business of issuing threats, or as the The Chosun Ilbo headlines, "N.Korea Keeps Up the Bellicose Rhetoric":
North Korea on Thursday threatened to "smash the U.S." with its own
"cutting-edge" nuclear devices that have been made "smaller, lighter and diversified."

The statement from the North Korean Army's General Staff described recent joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises as a "nuclear war exercise targeting us."

"The merciless operation of its revolutionary armed forces in this regard has been finally examined and ratified," it said. "We formally inform the White House and Pentagon" of this.

The official KCNA news agency published the statement at 2 a.m. It was later repeated in other state media. Pyongyang is apparently incensed by reports saying Seoul and Washington do not believe it presents a major threat.

Actually, even the DPRK Twitter feed is full of old (2009?) cheap and unrealistic threats:

 I mean, "rocket annihilation?" For a ship suspected of smuggling cigarettes?.


Threatening an island 4800 miles away? Good luck with that.

I guess the good news in 2009 was that goat production was way up. Unless, of course, you are a goat.

Oh, but they never let up at the fun bureau of the DPRK - always something new and -almost- threatening. For example, the quotes above are from this DPRK press release of 4 April 13, "U.S. Should Ponder over Grave Situation: Spokesman " :
A tough-and-go situation is prevailing on the Korean Peninsula.

U.S. formation of B-52s based on Guam flew into the sky above south Korea all of a sudden to stage a drill under the simulated conditions of a nuclear strike at the DPRK and formations of F-22s took off from Japan proper and Okinawa and were deployed in the Osan air force base in south Korea to watch for a chance to make a surprise strike.

B-2s flew into the air over waters of the West Sea of Korea from the U.S. mainland and nuclear-powered guided missile submarines and guided missile destroyers of the U.S. Navy which had been operating in waters of the Western Pacific are busy sailing in the West and East Seas of Korea.

It was reported that super-large nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and its group will enter the waters off the Korean Peninsula soon after leaving waters of the Indian Ocean or the western coast of the U.S. mainland.

South Korea and waters around it are turning into places for display of various types of nuclear strike means of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces and a dangerous hotbed of a nuclear war in the true sense of the word.

The U.S. high-handed hostile policy toward the DPRK aimed to encroach upon its sovereignty and the dignity of its supreme leadership and bring down its social system is being implemented through actual military actions without hesitation.

Days and months have passed on this land amid the constant danger of war but never had the whole Korean Peninsula been exposed to such danger of a nuclear war as today.

Under this situation the towering resentment of the DPRK's army and people has reached an irrepressible phase as they are all out in the all-out action to defend the sovereignty and prevent a nuclear war of the U.S.

In view of the prevailing situation the world people who love justice and value conscience are unanimously becoming critical of the U.S. and its followers for their disgraceful behavior of prodding the UN Security Council into adopting "resolutions on sanctions" against the DPRK and vocal expressing concern over the situation on the peninsula.

The moment of explosion is approaching fast. No one can say a war will break out in Korea or not and whether it will break out today or tomorrow.
Here come the brigands!

The responsibility for this grave situation entirely rests with the U.S. Administration and military warmongers keen to encroach upon the DPRK's sovereignty and bring down its dignified social system with brigandish logic.
We formally inform the White House and Pentagon that the ever-escalating U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK and its reckless nuclear threat will be smashed by the strong will of all the united service personnel and people and cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means of the DPRK and that the merciless operation of its revolutionary armed forces in this regard has been finally examined and ratified.

The U.S. had better ponder over the prevailing grave situation.
Grave. Very grave indeed.

I'll have to dig out my boots so I can shake in them.

Oh, I added the emphasis to the DPRK presser by the way. To point out they know that our "super-large nuclear-powered aircraft carrier" is also really, really fast.

Those two missiles on the rails better be really really good ones. I guess they might, with a tail wind, reach Alaska.

Yes, it's "tough and go."

On Midrats 7 Apr 13- Episode 170: "Stolen Seas: Tales of Somali Piracy"

They have been quiet recently - but you can't count them out, so Somali pirates are discussed this week on Midrats in Episode 170: "Stolen Seas: Tales of Somali Piracy":
We have heard from industry, military leaders, Marines, and private security providers, this Sunday we are going to look at piracy at a more personal level with director Thymaya Payne of the documentary, "Stolen Seas: Tales of Somali Piracy."

He will be our guest for the full hour.

From the show promo:
The filmmakers have spent the past three years traveling to some of the world's most violent locales in order to make this documentary on Somali piracy, Stolen Seas. Utilizing exclusive interviews and unparalleled access to real pirates, hostages, hostages' relatives, ship-owners, pirate negotiators and experts on piracy and international policy, Stolen Seas presents a chilling exploration of the Somali pirate phenomenon.

The film throws the viewer, through audio recordings and found video, right into the middle of the real-life hostage negotiation of a Danish shipping vessel, the CEC Future. As the haggling between the ship's stoic owner Per Gullestrup, and the pirate's loquacious negotiator, Ishmael Ali, drags on for 70 days, these two adversaries' relationship takes an unexpected turn and an unlikely friendship is born.
Stolen Seas is an eye opening refutation of preconceived ideas on how or why piracy has become the world's most frightening multi-million dollar growth industry.
Join us live (or download later) here at 5pm Sunday, 7 Apr 13.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

North Korea: Work at Yongbyon Nuclear Site

 The images in this post are to provide context for the North Korean "re-start" of a nuclear reactor at Yongbyon. - taken straight from Google Earth.

Images of work being done at the Yongbyon facility can be viewed at the Institute for Science and International Security "New Satellite Image of Construction at North Korea Nuclear Site":
ISIS has obtained commercial satellite imagery taken on March 8, 2011 of the Yongbyon nuclear center in North Korea showing progress in the construction of what North Korea has stated will be a light water reactor (see figure 1). A cylinder can be seen in the image and it measures approximately 21 meters across. At this diameter, the cylinder would be too large for a light water reactor containment vessel. It could, however, be part of the containment structure for a light water reactor. There is new excavation next to the cylinder as well (see figure 1).
You will note that ISIS reports that this work seems to have started over 2 years ago - so it is not a reaction to any current event.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

War Warning: North Korea Closes Access to Kaesong Industrial Park

Just the other day, the "safe sign" in the current North Korea flail was that they NORKs had not closed down the Kaesong Industrial Park, as was mentioned here.

Well, that "safe sign" has been turned off as BBC News reports North Korea blocks South workers from Kaesong industrial zone:
North Korea is blocking the entry of South Korean workers into a joint industrial zone, in a move seen as further escalating tensions.
And, then, of course, is the news that the DPRK has threatened to "restart" and old nuclear plant, or as The Chosun Ilbo puts it, "N.Korea Vows to Restart Nuclear Reactor":
North Korea on Tuesday threatened to restart a nuclear reactor it shut down under an international agreement in 2008, which would enable it to produce more nuclear weapons-grade plutonium.

"We are taking action to refurbish and reactivate the reactor together with all other nuclear facilities in Yongbyon including a uranium enrichment plant," the North's official KCNA news agency cited a spokesman for the General Department of Atomic Energy as saying.
You might remember Yongbyon from this:
In a highly publicized stunt, the North blew up the cooling tower at the 5MW Yongbyon nuclear reactor in June 2008 as part of its pledge to scrap the nuclear facility.
Sea-Based X Band Radar  Platform
Liars and cheats. And would-be bullies.

The U.S. has put a ballistic missile defense destroyer in the vicinity and is moving the x-Band radar thingie nearer (or something). UPDATE: Movement of the X-Band Radar Platform "not tied to North Korea threat."

It's why we have a Navy and a BMD program.

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Todd Frantom.

UPDATE2: WSJ editorial:
. . .Mr. Kim is manufacturing a crisis to secure high-level talks with the U.S., as his father and grandfather did.

Since American negotiators would be portrayed as supplicants at the court of the brilliant young general, talking about the North's nuclear and missile programs would shore up his legitimacy. And once the U.S. is drawn in, it will come under Chinese pressure to pay off the Kims in another deal the North has no intention of honoring.

Killer Pirates of the Bay of Bengal: 20 Bangladeshi fishermen Found Dead

Reported here:
The bodies were found in the Bay of Bengal, where pirates have created a reign of terror by routinely robbing, kidnapping and extorting money from fishermen working along the coastline.

"Today our boats have found 17 bodies floating about 12 kilometres west of the lighthouse of Kutubdia Island," Navy commander Mustafizur Rahman told AFP on Tuesday.

Three bodies were recovered by a fishing boat on Monday.

"All the bodies were in decomposed state. They had their hands tied up and were thrown in deep sea," Rahman added.

Deputy police chief in Cox's Bazaar town, Imran Bhuiyan, told AFP the pirates appeared to have thrown the men into the sea alive and stolen the engine, fishing nets and catch on the fishing boat.
This report puts the death count at 21 with more still missing:
BNS Meghna recovered 14 dead fishermen whereas BNS Barkat and a ‘Defender’ vessel found four dead bodies during their operation on Tuesday.

“There were reportedly 34 fishermen on board the three vessels, three of the attack’s survivors have claimed. According to the fishermen 10 more are still missing”, he said

“We are directing our search with that in mind. There is a special operation to catch those responsible as well. Every vessel is being searched”, said Suhail.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Energy: "New Gas Extraction Methods Alter Global Balance of Power"

Yes, this is another post on the importance of U.S. shale gas. For those of you unfamiliar with shale gas, a good source of information is at the U.S. Energy Information Administration's "What is shale gas and why is it important?":
Of the natural gas consumed in the United States in 2011, about 95% was produced domestically; thus, the supply of natural gas is not as dependent on foreign producers as is the supply of crude oil, and the delivery system is less subject to interruption. The availability of large quantities of shale gas should enable the United States to consume a predominantly domestic supply of gas for many years and produce more natural gas than it consumes.

So what, you might ask? Well, there are huge national and international security issues involved, as set out a couple of month's ago in Der Spiegel, "New Gas Extraction Methods Alter Global Balance of Power":
The gas revolution is changing the political balance of power all over the world. Americans and Russians have waged wars, and they have propped up or toppled regimes, over oil and gas. When the flows of energy change, the strategic and military calculations of the major powers do as well.

It is still unclear who the winners and losers will be. The Chinese and the Argentines also have enormous shale gas reserves. Experts believe that Poland, France and Germany have significant resources, although no one knows exactly how significant. Outside the United States, extraction is still in its infancy.

The outlines of a changed world order are already emerging in the simulations of geo-strategists. They show that the United States will benefit the most from the development of shale gas and oil resources. A study by Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, concludes that Washington's discretionary power in foreign and security policy will increase substantially as a result of the country's new energy riches.
According to the BND study, the political threat potential of oil producers like Iran will decline. Optimists assume that, in about 15 years, the United States will no longer have to send any aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf to guarantee that oil tankers can pass unhindered through the Strait of Hormuz, still the most important energy bottleneck in the world.

The Russians could be on the losing end of the stick. The power of President Vladimir Putin is based primarily on oil and gas revenues. If energy prices decline in the long term, bringing down Russian revenues from the energy sector, Putin's grip on power could begin to falter. The Americans' sudden oil and gas riches are also not very good news for authoritarian regimes in the Middle East.

European industry is also likely to benefit from falling world market prices for oil and gas. But according to prognoses, without domestic extraction the Europeans' site-specific advantages deteriorate.(emphasis added)
See also Rice University's Baker Institute publication "Shale Gas and U.S. National Security" . Back in August 2011, we had a discussion on Midrats with Amy Myers Jaffe (my referring blog post was Sunday on Midrats: Gas Shale and National Security), the show is Episode 83) we finally got Ms. Jaffe online at about 31:24 into the show):

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio
Now, who benefits from open sea lanes on which the U.S. could export LNG? Why just about everyone! Except, of course, for the Russians and the Middle East maybe. Who keeps those sea lanes open? The U.S. Navy. Who should we lend a hand to in exploring their potential for shale gas? Poland, Germany, France? China? Argentina? Australia? What about Japan? It stands to benefit from an open sea lane to receive LNG (liquified natural gas) from the U.S. and other places. See Issues Facing U.S. Shale Gas Exports To Japan.
Hat tip for Der Spiegel article: NavalHistWarStudies

North Korea: War Signals?

As you are aware, there has been a lot of "war talk" from the North Korean leadership in past few days.
"The Current Kim-in-Charge"/photo from Kyodo News/AP

For some observers, one of the "this is really serious" trip wires on the Korean peninsula has been the industrial park jointly operated by the North and South Koreans at Kaesong. So long as it is kept operating, the argument goes, things are "not yet really serious."

As noted in the Korean The Chosun Ilbo, now Pyongyang Threatens to Shut Joint-Korean Industrial Park
North Korea on Saturday threatened to shut down an industrial park that is the last remaining showcase of inter-Korean cooperation.

The Kaesong Industrial Complex "will be mercilessly shut down" unless South Korea stops "damaging our dignity," the North Korean agency in charge warned according to the official KCNA news agency.

The threat came just a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed an order putting missile units on standby to attack U.S. military bases in South Korea and the Pacific.
An unnamed North Korean spokesman for the industrial complex accused South Korean media of "seriously insulting" the North with reports saying that Pyongyang will not shut down the complex since it needs the money and that it employs a two-faced strategy over Kaesong. He urged South Korean companies in the complex to protest against the "groundless" reports.
South Korea stands to lose money if the industrial park is closed, but the losses would be restricted to the companies operating there, whereas the North Korean regime would take a much bigger hit.

The regime would have to relinquish some $87 million a year it makes from the wages of 54,000 North Korean workers there. A worker makes an average of $134 a month, but most of it goes straight into the regime's coffers.

And the families of North Korean workers as well as some 250,000-300,000 residents in Kaesong and surrounding areas would be heavily affected. "If the water that is pumped into the city via the industrial complex is shut off, the locals will have to start digging wells," said a government official here.
Also reported in the LA Times:
"We've seen reports of a new and unconstructive statement from North Korea," said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden in a statement. "We take these threats seriously and remain in close contact with our South Korean allies. But we would also note that North Korea has a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats and today's announcement follows that familiar pattern.

"As [Defense] Secretary [Chuck] Hagel said on Thursday, we remain fully prepared and capable of defending and protecting the United States and our allies," she added. "We continue to take additional measures against the North Korean threat, including our plan to increase the U.S. ground-based interceptors and early warning and tracking radar, and the signing of the ROK-U.S. counter-provocation plan." ROK refers to formal name for South Korea.

Analysts say a full-scale conflict is extremely unlikely, noting that the Korean Peninsula has remained in a technical state of war for 60 years. But the North's continued threats toward Seoul and Washington, including a vow to launch a nuclear strike, have raised worries that a misjudgment between the sides could lead to a clash.
DPRK propaganda photo
You will note the NORKs have not actually shut down the industrial park but are merely threatening to do so.

Of course, waiting for the NORKs to close the facility as a war warning indicator may be waiting too long.

DPRK propaganda photo
 North Korean neighbor and sometime sponsor, China, is sending some sort of signals, I think, of some sort of support for the NORKs, but . . . see this NY Times piece, "Penalty for Chinese Editor Critical of Korea Stance":
DPRK propaganda photo
China backed a new round of sanctions imposed by the United Nations in the wake of the third nuclear test. But as is often the case with sanctions, the question became how seriously China would enforce them.
DPRK propaganda photo

Official Chinese statements routinely say that sanctions are not the solution to the North Korean problem.
“It is entirely possible that a nuclear-armed North Korea could try to twist China’s arm if Beijing were to fail to meet its demand or if the U.S. were to signal good will towards it,” Mr. Deng wrote.

North Korea, he argued, did not view its relationship with China through the same lens of “friendship sealed in blood” that came from Chinese soldiers’ fighting and dying in the Korean War against the United States. “North Korea does not feel like this at all towards its neighbor,” he wrote.
I think Mr. Deng has a clear view of the world view of the DPRK - once they are a "nuclear power" the whole neighborhood they live in will be under the cloud of nuclear blackmail from the failing state.

Interestingly, the photo links from the "Official" News Agency have gone to pictures of some war games - and removed those of the Current Kim-in-Charge which were there last week. I have placed four of these recent pictures above.