North Korea Snarls at Israel After Defense Chief Calls Pyongyang ‘Crazy’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ISRAELI NEWS AGENCY HAARETZ)

North Korea Snarls at Israel After Defense Chief Calls Pyongyang ‘Crazy’
After Israel’s defense minister Lieberman says U.S.-North Korea tensions have implications for Israel, hermit kingdom lashes out at ‘only illegal possessor of nukes in the Middle East’

Haaretz Apr 29, 2017 6:07 PM
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Top IDF officer: U.S.-North Korea tensions could have effect on Israel’s security
Trump asserts major conflict with North Korea possible, but seeks diplomacy
North Korea unsuccessfully test-fires ballistic missile
North Korea lashed out at Israel on Saturday after Israel’s defense minister called the hermit kingdom’s regime a “crazy and radical group,” blamed it of being an ally of Syria’s Assad and the Lebanese group Hezbollah and said growing tensions between the U.S. and Pyongyang have “direct implications” for Israel.
A statement released by the North Korean Foreign Ministry called Avigdor Lieberman’s statement “reckless” and a form of “sordid and wicked behavior” that posed a “grave challenge to the DPRK.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at a political event in 2016.
In the statement, North Korea blasted Israel as the “only illegal possessor of nukes in the Middle East under the patronage of the U.S.” It said Lieberman’s comments were part of a “cynical ploy” to escape criticism of the occupation “of the Arab territories” and “crimes against humanity.”
North Korea said it is “fully supporting the struggle of the Palestinian people… [of] establishing of an independent state with Kuds as its capital,” using the Arab name for Jerusalem.
In a warning to Israel, Pyongyang said “Israel would be well advised to think twice about the consequences [of] its smear campaign against the DPRK.”
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In an interview last week to the news site Walla, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that tensions between the U.S. and North Korea “have direct implications for Israel.”
“Kim Jong-un is an ally of Assad. From North Korea, through Iran, to Syria and Hezbollah,” Lieberman said, adding that country’s sole goal was “undermining global stability,” and calling the country’s leadership “a crazy and radical group.”
According to foreign reports, North Korea was involved in helping Syria build a nuclear reactor, which was destroyed in an attack attributed to Israel in 2007.

Undated image of a covert nuclear reactor built in Syria’s eastern desert after its Sept. 6, 2007 destruction.AP
Tensions in the peninsula
North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile on Saturday shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that failure to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes could lead to “catastrophic consequences”.
U.S. and South Korean officials said the test appeared to have failed, in what would be the North’s fourth straight unsuccessful missile test since March.
U.S. President Donald Trump, in an interview with Reuters on Thursday, praised Chinese leader Xi Jinping for “trying very hard” on North Korea but warned a “major, major conflict” was possible.
The North has been conducting missile and nuclear weapons related activities at an unprecedented rate and is believed to have made progress in developing intermediate-range and submarine-launched missiles.

Haaretz
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.786353

US Moves THAAD Anti-missile to S.Korean Site as North Shows Power

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

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US Moves THAAD Anti-missile to S.Korean Site as North Shows Power

Protesters stage a rally to oppose a plan to deploy an advanced US missile defense system called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, in front of the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korea announced Wednesday the installation of key parts of a contentious US missile defense system meant to counter the North hours after Pyongyang displayed its military power.

South Korea said in a statement Wednesday that unspecified parts of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, were installed.

It said that Seoul and Washington have been pushing to get THAAD quickly working to cope with North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threats. According to the Yonhap news agency, the parts include two or three launchers, intercept missiles and a radar.

The South Korean move triggered protests from villagers and criticism from China.

Television footage showed military trailers carrying equipment, including what appeared to be launch canisters, to
the battery site. Protesters shouted and hurled water bottles at the vehicles over lines of police holding them back.

More than 10 protesters were injured, some of them with fractures, in clashes with police, Kim Jong-kyung, a leader of villagers opposing the deployment, told Reuters.

Kim said about 200 protesters rallied overnight and they would keep up their opposition.

North Korea conducted live-fire artillery drills on Tuesday, the 85th anniversary of the founding of its million-person Korean People’s Army.

North Korea’s official media reported Wednesday that leader Kim Jong Un personally observed the exercises, which involved the firing of more than 300 large-caliber artillery pieces and included submarine torpedo-attacks on mock enemy warships.

On the same day, the USS Michigan, a nuclear-powered submarine, arrived at the South Korean port of Busan for what was described as a routine visit to rest crew and load supplies. The US 7th Fleet said two American destroyers were conducting simultaneous maritime exercises with naval ships from South Korea and Japan.

And the USS Carl Vinson aircraft supercarrier is also headed toward the peninsula for a joint exercise with South Korea.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Wednesday that the system’s deployment would “disrupt the regional strategic balance and further aggravate the tension on the peninsula.”

Geng said “China will firmly be taking necessary measures to defend our own interests” but offered no details. China’s defense ministry has also repeatedly criticized THAAD’s deployment and said the military will take unspecified actions in response.

In Washington, top Trump administration officials are due to brief the entire US Senate on Wednesday. A rapid tempo of North Korean weapons testing in the past year has pushed Kim Jong Un’s authoritarian nation closer to developing a nuclear-armed missile that could reach the US mainland.

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Asharq Al-Awsat English

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South Korea and Japan Feel Betrayed By “The Clown” (Trump)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SOUTH KOREAN NEWS AGENCY TPM)

Let’s stop for a moment and note that President Trump and his skeletal foreign policy team have accomplished the fairly difficult feat of deeply alienating South Koreans (and seemingly many Japanese as well) while notionally protecting them from the threat of a militaristic and aggressive North Korea.

As the AP noted here yesterday, countries in the region are looking at Trump as, to quote the AP, “Unpredictable. Unhinged. Dangerous.” Consider that this is in a confrontation with Kim Jong-un. North Korea under the Kim dynasty has specialized in extremely provocative, high risk gambits. Thirty four years ago, they blew up several members of the South Korean cabinet in a bomb attack in Rangoon. Kim Jong-un apparently just had his half brother killed in a poison attack in Kuala Lumpur. Trump has strong competition in the unpredictable and unhinged and dangerous department.

But what’s really driving anxiety and anger is this issue with the confusion over the whereabouts of the Carl Vinson and its carrier strike group. As I argued yesterday (and as I think is consensus opinion), the false impression seems to have been more a matter of internal confusion than intentional deception. But the South Korean press and public seems to see it very differently. Headlines in South Korea are saying that Trump lied and as this article in the Times put it, “South Koreans feel cheated after U.S. Carrier Miscue.”

Of all Trump goofs and scandals, this seems to be one of the more innocent ones in terms of intent. Maybe we’ll learn otherwise but I don’t think this was intentional. But when you’re talking tough and getting into stand offs over nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and a major global city vulnerable to overwhelming artillery fire, you’ve got to have your shit together. You need clarity about what you’re doing and you need to be know what you’re doing and appear to know what you’re doing. Deception is an inherent part of military affairs. Strategic ambiguity is too. But if you’re going to be bluff or deceive, you need to make sure people think you were doing it on purpose. Small errors and confusions can have very, very big consequences. We can parse different quotes from the White House and Pentagon and see how the confusion arose. But step back. When you find out that the global hegemon ‘said’ its ships were in one place when they were actually thousands of miles away, that seems either weirdly duplicitous or stupid in a way that invites mockery or fear.

Here’s text from the Times about one South Korean paper’s coverage …

On Wednesday, after it was revealed that the carrier strike group was actually thousands of miles away and had been heading in the opposite direction, toward the Indian Ocean, South Koreans felt bewildered, cheated and manipulated by the United States, their country’s most important ally.

“Trump’s lie over the Carl Vinson,” read a headline on the website of the newspaper JoongAng Ilbo on Wednesday. “Xi Jinping and Putin must have had a good jeer over this one.”

“Like North Korea, which is often accused of displaying fake missiles during military parades, is the United States, too, now employing ‘bluffing’ as its North Korea policy?” the article asked.

Then there’s this from the political front …

“The 50 million South Koreans, as well as many common-sensical people around the world, cannot help but feel embarrassed and shocked,” said Youn Kwan-suk, spokesman of the main opposition Democratic Party, which is leading in voter surveys before the May 9 presidential election.

The quote from the Democratic Party spokesman centers not just on the Carl Vinson goof but a statement from President Trump claiming that Korea “used to be part of China.” The quote actually comes from the full quote version of his description of that ‘nobody could have known how complicated Korea could be’ exchange he had with President Xi of China at Mar a Lago. Quoting the President from his interview with the Wall Street Journal …

He then went into the history of China and Korea. Not North Korea, Korea. And you know, you’re talking about thousands of years …and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China. And after listening for 10 minutes I realized that not — it’s not so easy. You know I felt pretty strongly that they have — that they had a tremendous power over China. I actually do think they do have an economic power, and they have certainly a border power to an extent, but they also — a lot of goods come in. But it’s not what you would think. It’s not what you would think.

To the extent we can collapse thousands of years of history into simple yeses and nos, Korea was never part of China. It’s a complicated question if you want to dig into it because the two countries’ histories are deeply intertwined. But again, short version: Korea was never part of China. And Koreans, with a strong sense of national identity, certainly don’t think that Korea was ever part of China. It must be even more bewildering and jarring to see that the President thinks this on the basis of a ten minute conversation with the President of China.

To get the full picture of what happened here, it’s important to understand that the reports of the carrier group returning to Korean waters stirred pretty intense anxiety in the first place. That doesn’t mean it was a good or bad idea. Stand-offs provoke tension even when they’re necessary and well-thought-out. But people in the region seemed to be more afraid of precipitous action from President Trump than North Korea – already a bad sign. Finding out that the US either lied or miscommunicated internally about where its ships even were just adds more fuel to the fire.

At the moment, there seems to be an active debate in the region about whether the deception was intentional and whether the US’s two key regional allies were in on it.

As one Japanese expert quoted in the Times puts it, “When it comes to matters that concern Japan, the two militaries communicate essentially in real time.” Given the depth of the US-Japan security relationship, it would be hard to believe this isn’t the case. (Hard for me to believe it’s not the same in the US-ROK (South Korea) military to military relationship.) This same expert argued that by letting the misconception persist, the Japanese were in essence cooperating with the US deception aimed at overawing the North Koreans – one that in a narrow sense may actually have worked. But this means or seems to mean that the Japanese and South Koreans were tacitly furthering a US deception or misdirection – not realizing that it wasn’t so much a deception on the US part as simply a confusion within the US government. As another Japan expert, Narushige Michishita at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo puts it with some understatement: “Whatever the case, whether it was deliberate misinformation or a miscommunication between the Pentagon and the White House, it’s quite serious. It undermines the credibility of U.S. leadership.”

Just as a point of perspective, here’s the online front page of The Korea Times, an English language Korean news publication, that I just grabbed as I was writing.

International misunderstandings happen. It is always surprising to see, even in the gravest historical crises, how much of a role chance and accident play in outcomes, sometimes tragic outcomes. That said, this is the kind of stuff that happens when you have a clown serving as President, large numbers of top position at the key departments unfilled and a climate of back-stabbing and organizational chaos.

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North Korean Official Threatens ‘Weekly’ Missile Tests as White House Condemns Launches

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

North Korean Official Threatens ‘Weekly’ Missile Tests as White House Condemns Launches

2:20 PM ET

A North Korean official said the country will continue to test missiles regularly, as both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence warned the country against such launches.

“We’ll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis,” North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-Ryol told the BBC, warning that an “all-out war” will result if the United States takes military action.

A North Korean test missile failed on Sunday. Last week, Trump dispatched a strike fleet toward the Korean peninsula.

During a visit to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea this weekend, Pence warned North Korea to stop its “reckless” development of nuclear weapons.

“The era of strategic patience is over,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “President Trump has made it clear that the patience of the United States and our allies in this region has run out and we want to see change. We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons, and also its continual use and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable.”

“Gotta behave,” Trump said Monday at the White House when asked if he had a message for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

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North Korea surprises with display of new missiles

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

North Korea surprises with display of new missiles

Story highlights

  • Intercontinental ballistic missile-sized canisters among bevy of new missiles
  • Display comes as tensions on the Korean Peninsula have spiked to alarming levels

(CNN) North Korea put its adversaries on notice Saturday, when it showed off a bevy of new missiles and launchers at its annual military parade.

Pyongyang showed off two new intercontinental ballistic missile-sized canisters as well as displaying its submarine-launched ballistic missile and a land-based version of the same for the first time, according to analysts.
If North Korea has ICBMs, it could give it the ability to strike targets in the mainland US and Europe. The shorter range ballistic missiles displayed Saturday, meanwhile, are a threat to countries in the Asian region.
North Korea’s display comes as tensions on the Korean Peninsula have spiked to alarming levels.

 

The US Navy dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson strike group to the region last weekend, and US President Donald Trump has been tweeting this week that if China can’t rein in North Korea’s nuclear program the US will.
“The Vinson was sent out to make a statement. North Korea responded by showing off the most new missile hardware we’ve ever seen in a parade before,” said Melissa Hanham, senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California.
One of the biggest surprises of Saturday’s military parade in Pyongyang was two mobile canisters that could contain ICBMs larger than anything North Korea has ever produced.
“They both probably design concepts. We’ve never seen them in the wild,” Hanham said.
“We don’t know what — if anything — was inside the canisters since North Korea hasn’t publicly shown off or tested any missile of that size before,” analyst Ankit Panda wrote on The Diplomat.
“We can infer given the size of the canister and the fact that it was paraded on Saturday that Pyongyang wants the world to know that it is actively working toward at least two types of solid-fuel, canisterized ICBMs,” Panda wrote.
The fact that any new ICBM would be in a canister is important because it means those missiles would likely be solid-fueled, analysts said.
Solid-fueled missiles can be deployed faster and hidden better from satellite detection than their liquid-fueled counterparts.
And the large size also means the missiles could have a longer range.

‘A message to the United States’

“It certainly appears to be a message to the United States that they’re capable of threatening the US homeland. That’s certainly their objective,” Adam Mount, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told CNN.
Hanham said other land and submarine-launched ballistic missiles were shown in public for the first time Saturday. The land-based version is known as the KN-15, while Pyongyang’s submarine-launched weapon is known as the KN-11 missile.
She took special note of the launcher the KN-15 was on.
“It uses caterpillar treads which means it can go off road more easily, which mean they can hide them more easily,” Hanham said.
North Korea has under 500 miles of paved roads, Panda wrote, and previous wheeled-launchers could risk damage to the missile operating off those.
Hanham said the tracked launch vehicles were made in North Korea, which means Pyongyang did not have to break sanctions imposed by China to obtain them.
Despite all the displays on Saturday, analysts cautioned against overreaction, noting that North Korea’s missile tests have had a checkered record of success, and adding that a missile in a parade does not necessarily mean it’s operational.

North Korea parades military might and warns US as nuclear test fears persist

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWS)

North Korea parades military might and warns US as nuclear test fears persist

As thousands of soldiers mass at Kim Il-sung square, Pyongyang tells US to end its dangerous ‘military hysteria’

Tanks prepare to parade in Pyongyang on Saturday as part of celebrations marking the birth of founder Kim Il-sung on Saturday.
Tanks prepare to parade in Pyongyang on Saturday as part of celebrations marking the birth of founder Kim Il-sung on Saturday. Photograph: AP

North Korea has begun a vast military parade to celebrate the birth of its founding father, Kim Il-sung, and warned that it was prepared to take the “toughest” action unless the US ended its “military hysteria”, as speculation grows that the regime is preparing to conduct a nuclear test.

On a sunny morning in the capital, Pyongyang, military vehicles and tens of thousands of soldiers filled Kim Il-sung square as a band played rousing military music, the instruments falling silent for oaths of loyalty to the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

Dressed in his trademark black suit and flanked by senior military and Workers’ party officials, Kim applauded and occasionally smiled as he watched the tributes to his grandfather, who was born 105 years ago today.

But the “Day of the Sun” was clouded in uncertainty as the world waited to see if Kim Jong-un, the country’s third-generation ruler, would provoke a potential regional crisis with what would be North Korea’s sixth nuclear test in just over a decade, or a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

As the USS aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and its strike group sailed towards the peninsula in a show of force, North Korea’s official KCNA news agency, citing a spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army, warned of “merciless” retaliation against any US provocation.

Donald Trump’s decision to send an “armada” of warships to waters off the tense peninsula, coupled with recent US strikes in Syria and Afghanistan, were proof that Washington had chosen the path of “open threat and blackmail”, KCNA said.

“Our toughest counteraction against the US and its vassal forces will be taken in such a merciless manner as not to allow the aggressors to survive,” it added.

It said the Trump administration’s “serious military hysteria” has reached a “dangerous phase that can no longer be overlooked”.

It added: “Under the prevailing grave situation, the United States has to come to its senses and make a proper option for the solution of the problem.”

Choe Ryong-hae, a high-ranking party official, earlier told crowds North Korea was ready for war. “We will respond [to a US attack] with an all-out war … and nuclear attacks with nuclear strikes,” Choe said in a speech, according to Yonhap.

As the parade unfolded in Pyongyang, China’s state-run media warned that the US president was mistaken if he believed that piling military pressure on North Korea would resolve the regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

The Global Times said Trump’s decision to drop the “mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan was clearly “a new gimmick in US military deterrence” designed to intimidate Kim Jong-un.

“North Korea must have felt the shock wave travelling all the way from Afghanistan,” the Communist party-controlled newspaper said in an editorial.

However, the Global Times, which sometimes reflects government views, said the use of such a “vicious weapon” was in fact likely to make Pyongyang even more determined to upgrade its own arsenal. “[Trump] has demonstrated a certain level of obsession and pride toward US military prowess,” it said, adding, that the US president “may go down in history as the ‘war president’”.

As North Korea’s only ally and biggest trading partner, China has come under unprecedented pressure in recent days to use its influence to persuade Kim not to risk conflict with a nuclear test or ballistic missile launch.

On Friday, China again called for talks to defuse the crisis. “We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, told reporters in Beijing.

Speaking to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, on Friday night, Wang said steps were needed to prevent “war and chaos” on the Korean peninsula.

US officials have said the policy of “strategic patience” pursued by the Obama administration has ended, after years of diplomatic pressure and international sanctions failed to slow North Korea’s progress towards developing nuclear missiles capable of striking the US mainland – a milestone some experts believe is only years away.

In echoes of the bellicose rhetoric that reverberated around the Korean peninsula during its last major crisis in the spring of 2013, KCNA said North Korea would respond in kind to any perceived US military provocation.

Referring to the country by its official title, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, it warned: “The army and people of the DPRK will as ever courageously counter those who encroach upon the dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK and will always mercilessly ravage all provocative options of the US with Korean-style toughest counteraction.”

China’s President Xi Jinping, U.S. President Trump Discuss N. Korea’s Dictator By Phone

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) China called for a “peaceful” resolution to tensions on the Korean Peninsula Wednesday, as a United States aircraft carrier strike group churned towards the contested region.

Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed the situation in North Korea and Syria with US President Donald Trump in a telephone call on Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry said, in what one analyst described as a “new phase” of China-US relations on North Korea.
“I think at this point the common interest between the US and China outweigh (North Korea saber-rattling),” Alexander Neill, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore, told CNN.

Trump & Xi's North Korea problem

Trump & Xi’s North Korea problem
“China may be prepared to do some sort of trade off… They want to rein in (leader) Kim Jong Un.”
Trump has repeatedly called on China to do more to rein in its unruly neighbor, which has stepped up its missile development and nuclear program since 2016.
The US dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson after the latest missile test by North Korea last week, drawing a forceful warning from Pyongyang.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang said Trump and Xi had pledged to stay in close contact after their first meeting earlier this month and the phone call didn’t indicate any change in China’s position.

North Korea ‘looking for trouble’: Trump

The unexpected phone call between the two came after Trump turned to Twitter to vent his frustrations over North Korea.
“I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem,” he tweeted.
“North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.,” he wrote in a second tweet.

The Sad Life And Death Of Kim Jong Nam: Ostracized By His Father And Murdered By His Brother

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Kim Jong Nam led a life of loneliness and fear and seclusion, rejected by his father, orphaned by his mother, stuck in a shadowy exile where he constantly had to worry about spies and secret agents and reporters.And it all came to a pitiful end, with Kim slumped in a chair in a Malaysian airport clinic, his belly protruding from his navy-blue polo shirt, then dying in an ambulance en route to the hospital. He had been smeared with VX, a lethal nerve agent that is used as a chemical weapon.

“He’s like a country-and-western song — it’s sad, sad stuff,” said Michael Madden, editor of the North Korea Leadership Watch website.

Kim’s painful demise is a blow for the United States and South Korea, which have lost a potential source of intelligence on the world’s most secretive regime. They also have lost a potential replacement for his half brother Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader who again has thrown down the gauntlet to the outside world.

“Kim Jong Un is testing nukes and missiles like crazy,” said Alexandre Mansourov, a North Korea leadership expert who once studied at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang. “Now he feels confident enough to send his goons around the world to assassinate people he doesn’t like.”

CCTV footage allegedly shows attack on Kim Jong Nam

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CCTV footage released on Feb. 20 purportedly shows the attack on Kim Jong Nam, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother, at Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia a week earlier. The footage has been edited for clarity. (CCTV via Fuji TV)

Kim Jong Un feels this emboldened because he keeps challenging the outside world, especially the United States, and it does nothing to stop him, Mansourov said. “It’s a sign of supreme confidence that he can get away with anything, that he can literally get away with murder.”

The blame for the well-planned attack on Kim Jong Nam in a Kuala Lumpur airport terminal on Feb. 13 is, however, being directed squarely at the leader of North Korea.

Malaysia says that Kim died because of exposure to VX, and it has implicated eight North Koreans in the attack, including a diplomat and a scientist.

South Korean intelligence officials have said that Kim Jong Un put out a “standing order” for his older half brother’s assassination years ago, but even so, analysts agree that he would have had to give the green light for this attack.

“The fact that so many North Korean agents were involved shows that the operation was planned well in advance and was done with Kim Jong Un’s blessing,” said Sue Mi Terry, a former North Korea analyst at the CIA.

It would not be the first time Kim Jong Un has acted in such a ruthless way. The 33-year-old has ordered the purge or execution of several hundred officials during his five years at the helm. These included his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who had been a mentor to Kim Jong Nam and was accused of amassing too much power.

“This fits into the larger narrative of what Kim Jong Un wants to do,” said Ken Gause, a North Korea leadership expert at CNA, a Virginia-based consulting firm. “He’s getting rid of potential contenders to the throne.”

‘Without even one friend’

Kim Jong Nam was the result of a secret relationship between North Korea’s second-generation leader, Kim Jong Il, and his consort, an actress named Sung Hye Rim.

He led a lonely childhood in Pyongyang, “without even one friend,” Sung’s sister wrote in her memoir.

When he was 8, Kim moved to Moscow with his aunt and grandmother, but he hated it. He then moved on to Geneva. There he seemed to fit in better, although he still lived in a cloud of half-truths.

“He introduced himself as the son of the North Korean ambassador,” said Anthony Sahakian, a Swiss businessman who went to school with Kim, whom he knew as “Lee.”

“North Korea, South Korea — we were 13 years old. We didn’t know the difference,” Sahakian said.

But some things did make Kim different — for instance, he had a driver’s license that said he was older than he was.

“That was strange because he showed up in a Mercedes 600, driving it himself,” Sahakian said, referring to the huge sedan that was a favorite among dictators. “At the time, all we wanted to do was drive, so we were very jealous. We’d skip class and go somewhere else during the day to drink coffee.”

Kim was multilingual as a result of his international childhood. He spoke fluent English and French, and Sahakian said they conversed in Russian.

In 1988, when he was almost 18, Kim went back to Pyongyang and to a life of cloistered misery, the polar opposite from his freewheeling youth in Europe. To boot, he found that the affection his father once had showered upon him now was directed at a new family, which included a young boy called Jong Un.

Kim Jong Nam had talked about “life in the palace” being oppressive. “He had everything he could possibly desire, but he was in a black depression there,” said a school friend who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive details.

So Kim Jong Il struck a deal with his son: If he got married and had a child, he could leave, the friend said.

Kim Jong Nam married and had a son in 1995, although it is not known exactly when he left North Korea.

Certainly a turning point came in 2001, when the family was caught entering Japan on false Dominican Republic passports. Kim, whose passport name was Chinese for “Fat Bear,” told the authorities that they had wanted to go to Tokyo Disneyland.

After that, the family moved to Macau, where they were under Chinese protection and could live relatively freely, with Kim indulging his passion for gambling. He traveled to Beijing, where he was thought to have another family, and around Southeast Asia, popping up in Indonesia and Singapore.

He also traveled regularly to Europe — sometimes to see his oldest son, who had been studying in France, and sometimes on business, apparently buying wine or property for wealthy Asian clients.

He always kept his wits about him, said Sahakian, who had seen his old friend several times in Geneva in recent years. “He wasn’t paranoid, but he was worried,” he said. “When he was out he was careful, and he avoided talking to Asians because he was worried they were spies. He was on his guard, but it wouldn’t stop him.”

Dynastic competition

Although he had been mentioned as a potential leader in dynastic North Korea, friends say he did not have any interest in the prospect.

But he appears to have antagonized his younger brother just enough. In 2010, the day before Kim Jong Un was to make his first appearance as heir apparent in North Korea, Kim Jong Nam gave an interview to Japan’s TV Asahi in which he said that the choice was his father’s and that there appeared to be internal reasons for hurrying the process along.

“Personally speaking, I am opposed to the third-generation succession,” he said, a statement that might be considered anodyne elsewhere but was tantamount to treason in North Korea.

Madden, of North Korea Leadership Watch, said that there was always a chance of Kim Jong Nam’s being thrust into leadership. “Jong Nam still had a power base, and there was always a remote possibility that he would take power,” he said.

Terry, the former CIA analyst, agreed. “However improbable, there are always rumors that Kim Jong Nam could replace Kim Jong Un as the head of the regime at the behest of China or the U.S.” she said.

There have been reports in South Korea that Kim Jong Nam had acted as a middleman between South Korean President Park Geun-hye and officials in North Korea. Just a few days before his death, a South Korean newspaper reported that Kim Jong Nam had tried to defect to South Korea several years ago.

This would have given the regime ample reason to get rid of him, said Cheong Seong-chang, senior fellow at the Sejong Institute, a South Korean think tank.

Indeed, Kim’s defection would have been much more catastrophic for the regime than that of Thae Yong-ho, the deputy North Korean ambassador in London who fled to South Korea last year, said one former official in the regime.

“Imagine how detrimental the impact would have been if Kim Jong Un’s half brother were to speak out against Kim Jong Un,” said the former official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern for his safety. “It would have a much bigger impact than Thae Yong-ho is having now in South Korea.”

Thae has become an outspoken critic of the regime, calling for a flood of information into North Korea to encourage people there to flee or rise up.

The downside for the United States and South Korea is that they have lost the opportunity to recruit someone in the family to provide information. They also have lost someone who could be installed as a slightly friendlier leader in North Korea while still maintaining the Kim family bloodline — an important factor in Korean culture.

“They wanted him alive, not dead,” said Mansourov. “The only party interested in his premature departure was Pyongyang.”

Malaysian Authorities Still Baffled Concerning The Murder Of Half Brother Of North Korea’s Leader

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

DETERMINING whether poison killed the half-brother of North Korea’s leader in a busy airport is proving difficult for Malaysian officials, who said yesterday that autopsy results are so far inconclusive.

More than a week has passed since Kim Jong Nam was approached by two women at a budget air terminal in Kuala Lumpur and apparently attacked in the face with an unknown substance. Kim did not suffer a heart attack and had no puncture wounds, such as those a needle would have left, Director General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah told reporters. He did not dismiss poison as a potential cause.

“We have to confirm with the lab report before we can make any conclusive remark,” he said.

He added that medical specimens had been sent to experts for analysis.

However, Rahmat Awang, director of Malaysia’s National Poison Center in Penang, said he had not yet received any samples despite expecting them to arrive two days ago. He said with such a high-profile case, specimens were likely being sent to his lab and to facilities abroad to seek the cause of death or confirm findings already reached in Kuala Lumpur.

Identifying a specific poison could be challenging, especially if a minute amount was used and it did not penetrate fat cells in the victim’s tissue. If the toxin only entered the bloodstream, it could leave the body very quickly. And even if a substance was found, it would need to match the symptoms Kim Jong Nam experienced before death.

The more unique the poison, the harder it was to find.

“Our lab, for example, traces the usual chemicals,” Awang said. “If the substance involved is not something we often see, the likelihood is that we might not be able to detect it.”

Highly sophisticated facilities, such as in Japan or at the FBI’s crime lab in the United States, are among those that have greater capabilities for discovering unusual toxic substances.

The case has perplexed leading forensic toxicologists who study murder by poison. They say the airport attack is a bizarre case, and question how the two women could walk away unscathed after deploying an agent potent enough to kill Kim Jong Nam before he could even make it to the hospital.

Some type of nerve gas or ricin, a deadly substance found in castor beans, have been suggested as possible toxins used. A strong opioid compound could also have been liquidized, though that would likely have incapacitated the victim immediately. Surveillance footage instead shows Kim walking calmly downstairs to the airport’s clinic.

Kim, the older half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, had spent most of the past 15 years living in China and Southeast Asia. The victim is believed to have had at least three children with two women. No family members have come forward to claim the body.

The attack spiraled into diplomatic fury when Malaysia refused to hand over Kim Jong Nam’s corpse to North Korean diplomats after his death, and proceeded with an autopsy over the ambassador’s objections.

The two nations have made a series of increasingly angry statements since then, with Malaysia insisting it is simply following its legal protocols, and North Korea accusing Malaysia of working in collusion with its enemy South Korea.

Seoul’s spy agency believes North Korea was behind the killing, but has produced no evidence.

Kim Jong Nam was not known to be seeking political power.

Malaysia summons North Korean ambassador, recalls envoy from Pyongyang

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Malaysia summons North Korean ambassador, recalls envoy from Pyongyang

Malaysia’s foreign ministry summoned North Korea’s ambassador on Monday over allegations he had made over the Southeast Asian country’s handling of the investigation into the murder in Kuala Lumpur of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother.

Malaysia also recalled its envoy from Pyongyang “for consultations”, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said the North Korean ambassador Kang Chol was summoned for “an explanation on the accusations he made against the Government of Malaysia in his press conference on 17 February 2017”.

“In his press conference, the Ambassador…insinuated that…the Malaysian Government had ‘something to conceal’. The Ambassador also alleged that Malaysia was ‘colluding and playing into the gallery of external forces’,” the statement said.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor)

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