North Korea Is A Land Of Unspeakable Executions And Horrors

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE DAILY CALLER)

 

RYAN PICKRELL
China/Asia Pacific Reporter

North Korea is a land of truly unspeakable horrors, according to the tales of defectors who escaped the oppressive grip of the Kim family.

One defector — Hee Yeon Lim (this name was changed for security reasons) — is the daughter of an army colonel who witnessed firsthand Kim Jong Un’s cruelty. She recently described the brutal executions that occur on a regular basis, revealing how anti-aircraft gun ammunition ripped men to shreds.

Hee Yeon, 26, and a member of the Pyongyang elite who fled the country two years ago, saw Kim execute around a dozen musicians for producing a video considered undesirable by the regime.

“We were ordered to leave our classes by security men and made to travel to the Military Academy in Pyongyang. There is a sports ground there, a kind of stadium,” Hee Yeon told the Mirror from a secure location in Seoul.

“The musicians were brought out, tied up, hooded and apparently gagged, so they could not make a noise, not beg for mercy or even scream,” Hee Yeon explained. “They were lashed to the end of anti-aircraft guns.”

“A gun was fired, the noise was deafening, absolutely terrifying and the guns were fired one after the other,” she said. “The musicians just disappeared each time the guns were fired into them. Their bodies were blown to bits, totally destroyed, blood and bits flying everywhere.”

“And then after that military tanks moved in and they ran over the bits,” Hee Yeon added, explaining that the tanks ran over the remains over and over again to “grind the remains, to smash them into the ground until there was nothing left.”

What she saw made her sick to her stomach.

“There were around 10,000 people ordered to watch that day and I was standing 200 feet from these victims,” she told reporters.

Such executions are believed to be common. Ri Jong Ho, a former senior civil servant, revealed that in the early days of Kim’s reign of terror, the young dictator murdered hundreds of people. “The regime killed hundreds of people, including officials, their friends, their families, and even children with heavy machine guns,” Ri told Voice of America in June.

Kim reportedly executed five senior officials by anti-aircraft gun for providing false information earlier this year, and he did the same to a senior official who dozed off during a meeting with the supreme leader last summer.

Hee Yeon revealed that Kim’s henchman plucked North Korean schoolgirls from their homes to work as sex slaves.

“Officials came to our schools and picked out teenage girls to work at one of his ‘hundreds’ of homes around Pyongyang,” Hee Yeon said. “They take the prettiest and ensure they have straight, good legs.”

“They have to sleep with him and they cannot make a mistake or object because they could very easily simply disappear,” she explained to reporters, citing reports from one of her friends.

In U.N. speech, Trump threatens to ‘totally destroy North Korea’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

In U.N. speech, Trump threatens to ‘totally destroy North Korea’ and calls Kim Jong Un ‘Rocket Man’

 September 19 at 12:36 PM
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Trump attacks ‘depraved’ North Korean regime
President Trump harshly criticized North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un at the U.N. on Sept. 19, calling him “Rocket Man” and threatening to “totally destroy North Korea” if need be. (The Washington Post)

NEW YORK — President Trump warned the United Nations in a speech Tuesday that the world faces “great peril” from rogue regimes with powerful weapons and terrorists with expanding reach across the globe, and called on fellow leaders to join the United States in the fight to defeat what he called failed or murderous ideologies and “loser terrorists.”

“We meet at a time of immense promise and great peril,” Trump said in his maiden addressto more than 150 international delegations at the annual U.N. General Assembly. “It is up to us whether we will lift the world to new heights or let it fall into a valley of disrepair.”

The president’s address was highly anticipated around the world for signs of how his administration would engage with the United Nations after he had criticized the organization during his campaign as being bloated and ineffective, and threatened to slash U.S. funding.

Trump offered a hand to fellow leaders but also called on them to embrace “national sovereignty” and to do more to ensure the prosperity and security of their own countries. Over and over, he stressed the rights and roles of “strong, sovereign nations” even as they band together at the United Nations.

“I will always put America first just like you, the leaders of your countries, should put your countries first,” Trump said, returning to a campaign theme and the “America First” phrase that has been criticized as isolationist and nationalistic.

The president warned of growing threats from North Korea and Iran, and he said, “The scourge of our planet is a group of rogue regimes.”

The North Korean delegation was seated, by chance, in the front row, mere feet from the U.N. podium.

Trump praised the United Nations for enacting economic sanctions on Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile tests. But he emphasized that if Kim Jong Un’s regime continued to threaten the United States and to destabilize East Asia, his administration would be prepared to defend the country and its allies.

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said, before calling Kim by a nickname he gave the dictator on Twitter over the weekend. “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself.”

Trump added, “If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph.”

Trump is scheduled to have a trilateral meeting Wednesday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss the situation. He spoke separately with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is not attending this year’s General Assembly.

Following the speech, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sought to temper the idea that Trump’s remarks about North Korea were a break from past U.S. policy.

Presidents have always been clear to deter threats: “We could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals” –@BarackObama last year

Trump also called the U.N.-backed Iran nuclear deal “one of the worst and most one-sided” agreements ever, and “an embarrassment” to the United States. His voice rising, Trump strongly hinted that his administration could soon declare Tehran out of compliance. That could potentially unravel the accord. Trump and his top aides have been critical of Iran for its support of terrorism in the Middle East.

“I don’t think you’ve heard the end of it,” Trump said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu beamed as he and his wife, Sara, listened to Trump speak. The Israeli leader, an opponent of the international nuclear deal with Iran, was also addressing the world body later Tuesday, a day earlier than usual because he is leaving the gathering in time to spend the Jewish holy days in Israel.

“In more than 30 years of my acquaintance with the U.N., I have not heard a more courageous and sharp speech,” Netanyahu, a former Israeli ambassador to the body, said after Trump’s remarks. “President Trump told the truth about the dangers lurking in the world, and called to face them forcefully to ensure the future of mankind.”

In a meeting with media executives Tuesday shortly before Trump’s address, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran has complied fully with its commitments under the nuclear deal and predicted the United States will be the loser if it “tramples upon” the 2015 agreement.

“Everyone will clearly see that Iran has lived up to its agreements and that the United States is therefore a country that cannot be trusted,” Rouhani said.

“We will be the winners,” he added, while the United States “will certainly sustain losses.”

Rouhani also seemed to suggest a U.S. withdrawal would free Iran from its obligations under the deal, which lifted nuclear-related sanctions in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.

“It will mean that this agreement has seen a foundational problem, and under those conditions, Iran will be freed to choose another set of conditions,” he said.

In his speech, Trump pledged that his administration would support the United Nations in its goals of pursuing peace, but he was sharply critical of the organization, and its member nations, for not living up to the promise of its founding in 1945.

“We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, values or systems of government,” he said. “But we do expect all nations to uphold their core sovereignty and respect the interests of their own people and rights of every other sovereign nation. This is the beautiful vision of this institution and the foundation for cooperation and success.”

The president also focused on the growing threats of “radical Islamic terrorism,” a phrase he had left out of other recent speeches, including a prime time address to the nation on his Afghanistan strategy. He declared that his administration would not allow “loser terrorists” to “tear up our nation or tear up the entire world.”

But Trump also cautioned that areas of the world “are in conflict and some, in fact, are going to hell.” He spent a portion of the speech decrying the “disastrous rule” of Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, whose authoritarian regime has sent the country into political and economic crisis.

“It is completely unacceptable and we cannot stand by and watch,” Trump said, calling on the United Nations to help the Venezuelan people “regain their freedom and recover their country and restore their democracy.”

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He did not address some aspects of his foreign policy that have alarmed foreign leaders, including the proposed temporary ban on immigration for several Muslim-majority nations, a border wall with Mexico or the planned U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.

He appeared to answer international criticism of sweeping new restrictions on refugee resettlement by saying that the United States is helping refugees in other ways. Washington can help 10 people displaced in their home regions for the cost of moving one to the United States, Trump said.

Near the end of his remarks, Trump asked rhetorically: “Are we still patriots? Do we love our nations enough to protect their sovereignty and take ownership of their futures?”

Martin Baron contributed to this report. 

Read more:
U.S. warns that time is running out for peaceful solution with North Korea

For Trump and his team, a ‘time to be serious’ at United Nations debut

U.S. and Iran accuse each other of backsliding on nuclear deal

China blocks access to ‘sacred’ mountain near North Korea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF UPI AND FROM ANDY  TAI’S GOOGLE PLUS BLOG)

 

China blocks access to ‘sacred’ mountain near North Korea

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   Sept. 14, 2017 at 11:13 AM

China has blocked parts of a national park built around Changbaishan, or Mount Paektu, in Jilin Province, following North Korea’s sixth nuclear test. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI

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Sept. 14 (UPI) — Public access to the Changbaishan National Nature Reserve in China, also known as Mount Paektu in North Korea, has been partly blocked out of safety concerns, according to a South Korean newspaper.

Donga Ilbo reported Thursday that Chinese authorities have temporarily closed parts of the national park in northeastern Jilin Province amid rising fears in the region about radioactive contamination, following North Korea’s sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3.

The area that is no longer accessible to the public is located about 70 miles from Punggye-ri, the North Korean nuclear site where Pyongyang recently detonated a bomb that may have released as much as 250 kilotons of energy, according to U.S. experts.

The announcement on the shutdown was posted to Weibo — the Chinese social network that most closely resembles Twitter — on Thursday.

“For the safety and convenience of travelers, we have temporarily closed the southern tourist zone of Changbai Mountain,” authorities said. “Officials are thoroughly investigating the safety of the tourist area.”

Chinese authorities also said the area will remain closed until “the potential risks disappear.”

Falling rocks have been causing problems but the northern and western zones of the national park are to remain open, they added.

Chinese commenters said online they fear the worst, following the test.

China had been repairing facilities around Changbai Mountain for four years, and commenters said it is unfortunate the park must close because of North Korea’s provocation.

Speculation is rising in China whether falling rocks at the mountain are the result of the test, according to the Donga.

Commenters said the Chinese government was blocking reply messages to the announcement.

The Changbaishan National Nature Reserve is considered the official birthplace of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

The mountain sits on the border between North Korea and China and is accessible from both sides.

North Korea Fires Another Ballistic Missile Over Japan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

(CNN) North Korea has fired a ballistic missile over northern Japan for the second time in less than a month, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said Friday.

The unidentified ballistic missile was launched from the district of Sunan in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, home to the country’s main airport, the South Korean military said.
The missile flew about 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) and reached an altitude of 770 kilometers (480) miles. It landed in the Pacific Ocean, South Korea said.
The US Pacific Command said its initial assessment indicated that North Korea had fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile. There were conflicting reports from Japan on the type of missile fired, though the government stressed that analysis was ongoing.

The weapon that makes N. Korea more dangerous

The weapon that makes N. Korea more dangerous
A government warning, known as the J-Alert, said that “a missile” had passed over Hokkaido, northern Japan, before landing in the Pacific, NHK reported. “The government is advising people to stay away from anything that could be missile debris,” the broadcaster said.
Japan’s Coast Guard said no damage has been reported by the fallen object.
At a hastily convened press conference, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the launch an “excessive provocation.” The government was convening a National Security Council Meeting at the Prime Minister’s office, the country’s Defense Ministry said.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in also held a National Security meeting following the launch, according to an official at his office.
North Korea’s last missile test, on August 29, was also fired from near the Pyongyang airport and overflew northern Japan.
US President Donald Trump has been briefed on the launch. When asked by a pool reporter about the launch Thursday evening Washington time at a dinner reception, Trump did not comment.

First launch since nuclear test

The launch came just hours after the rogue nation responded to the United Nations Security Council’s unanimous approval of additional sanctions by threatening to “sink” Japan and reduce the US mainland into “ash and darkness.”
Those sanctions were prompted by North Korea’s sixth nuclear test that occurred on September 3, which Pyongyang said was a successful test of a hydrogen bomb.
That explosion created a magnitude-6.3 tremor, making it the most powerful weapon Pyongyang has ever tested.
The nuclear test prompted discussions inside South Korea about the the redeployment of US tactical nuclear weapons in the country, an idea that the majority of the country’s citizens approve of, according to recent polls.
But on Thursday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in dismissed the possibility, warning it could “lead to a nuclear arms race in northeast Asia.”
“We need to develop our military capabilities in the face of North Korea’s nuclear advancement,” he told CNN in his first televised interview since North Korea’s sixth nuclear test. “I do not agree that South Korea needs to develop our own nuclear weapons or relocate tactical nuclear weapons in the face of North Korea’s nuclear threat. To respond to North Korea by having our own nuclear weapons will not maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula and could lead to a nuclear arms race in northeast Asia.”
South Korea has been conducting its own military drills since the September 3 nuclear test. As the missile was launched Friday, the South Korean military was carrying out its own live-fire drill that involved launching a ballistic missile.
A rapid pace
2017 has been a year of rapid progress for North Korea’s missile program.
Less than six years into his reign, Kim Jong Un has tested more missiles than his father and grandfather combined. And this year has been no exception.
Prior to its most recent launch, the country has fired 21 missiles during 14 tests since February, further perfecting its technology with each launch.
There’s also a political aspect to the tests, analysts say.
“The North Koreans were especially defiant by firing this missile over Japan,” said Gordon Chang, the author of “Nuclear Showdown: North Korea takes on the World.”
“Basically, the North Koreans are saying we can’t be stopped, don’t even try to stop us,” he said.

Peaceful pressure

Moon’s strategy toward North Korea has drawn the wrath of US President Donald Trump, who accused the South Koreans of “appeasement” of their northern neighbors following the nuclear test.
WHY NORTH KOREA WANTS NUKES AND MISSILES

North Korea has long maintained it wants nuclear weapons and long-range missiles to deter the United States from attempting to overthrow the regime of Kim Jong Un.

Pyongyang looks at states such as Iraq — where Saddam Hussein was overthrown by the United States, and Libya — its late leader, Moammar Gadhafi, gave up his nuclear ambitions for sanctions relief and aid, only to be toppled and killed after the United States intervened in his country’s civil unrest — and believes that only being able to threaten the US mainland with a retaliatory nuclear strike can stop American military intervention.

Many experts say they believe North Korea would not use the weapons first. Kim values his regime’s survival above all else and knows the use of a nuclear weapon would start a war he could not win, analysts say.

The White House has been pursuing a strategy of what it calls “peaceful pressure” in dealing with North Korea — trying to build a global coalition to squeeze North Korea’s revenue and isolate it diplomatically so it will eventually put its missiles on the negotiating table.
China has been key to that strategy, as Beijing accounts for nearly 90% of all of North Korea’s imports, according to recent data from the United Nations.
Hours before the launch, Trump touted his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping and their collaboration in addressing North Korea’s rapidly escalating missile and nuclear programs.
“We have a very good relationship with China and with the President of China. We are working on different things,” Trump said. “I can’t tell you, obviously, what I’m working on. But believe me, the people of this country will be very, very safe.”
“I think that a lot of effort is being put into this,” he added.

North Korea Threatens to Use Nuclear Weapon to ‘Sink’ Japan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG NEWS)  (IS IT WAY PAST TIME FOR THE WORLD LEADERS TO EXECUTE KJU?)(trs)

 

North Korea Threatens to Use Nuclear Weapon to ‘Sink’ Japan

 
  • State media says ‘Japan is no longer needed to exist near us’
  • Japan government calls latest threat ‘extremely provocative’

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Jefferies’ Darby Sees Road to Negotiation on N. Korea

North Korea threatened to use a nuclear weapon against Japan, further escalating tensions in North Asia after being hit with fresh United Nations sanctions earlier this week.

“Japan is no longer needed to exist near us,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said on Thursday, citing a statement by the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee. “The four islands of the archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche,” it said, a reference to the regime’s ideology of self-reliance.

QuickTakeNorth Korea’s Nukes

Yoshihide Suga

Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the comments, which sent the Korean won lower, “extremely provocative.”

“If North Korea stays the course that it is on, it will increasingly become isolated from the world,” Suga told reporters on Thursday in Tokyo. “Through implementing the new United Nations Security Council resolution and related agreements, the international community as a whole needs to maximize pressure on North Korea so that it will change its policy.”

The latest UN sanctions follow North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test earlier this month. In late August, the regime launched a ballistic missile over northern Japan in what it said was “muscle-flexing” to protest annual military drills between the U.S. and South Korea. Leader Kim Jong Un called it a “meaningful prelude” to containing Guam. North Korea previously threatened to launch rockets over Japan into the Pacific and toward the U.S. territory.

“A telling blow should be dealt to them who have not yet come to senses after the launch of our ICBM over the Japanese archipelago,” a spokesman for the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee said in Thursday’s KCNA statement. The committee is an affiliate of the ruling Workers’ Party.

KCNA had previously described the rocket as an intermediate-range strategic ballistic missile.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned the launch at the time, while U.S. President Donald Trump reiterated that “all options” were under consideration in responding to North Korea’s provocations.

Pyongyang Trip

The threat comes a day after a Japanese lawmaker said some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party were considering visiting Pyongyang for talks with North Korean leaders.

“In the LDP there are some people seeking dialogue,” independent lawmaker Antonio Inoki told reporters in Tokyo following a trip to the North Korean capital. “There’s a change in atmosphere at the moment” about the need for talks rather than pressure, he said.

The government in Tokyo had criticized Inoki’s visit, with Suga saying beforehand that all trips to North Korea by Japanese citizens are discouraged.

Abe has stressed the need for pressure on Kim via sanctions, as opposed to talks. He told the Nikkei newspaper this week that Japan was in agreement with the U.S. and South Korea that dialogue would only be possible when North Korea committed to complete and verifiable denuclearization.

Still, South Korea’s Unification Ministry is considering providing $8 million in humanitarian aid to North Korea through international organizations such as UNICEF, Yonhap News reported Thursday, citing the ministry.

If the aid is approved by the government it’d be the first time in two years that Seoul has provided such assistance to its northern neighbor. In 2015, the ministry sent 11.7 billion won ($10.3 million) through international bodies.

When South Korean President Moon Jae-in came into power in May he promised a new era of engagement with North Korea. But he’s turned more hawkish in recent weeks, seeking stronger warheads on ballistic missiles, stepping up military drills, and embracing a missile defense system he’d questioned.

North Korea also criticized Seoul for supporting the latest UN resolution.

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Kim Jong Un: Nuke-Wielding Madman or Astute Dictator?
Kim Jong Un: Nuke-Wielding Madman or Astute Dictator?

“The South Korean puppet forces are traitors and dogs of the U.S. as they call for harsher ‘sanctions’ on the fellow countrymen,” KCNA said. “The group of pro-American traitors should be severely punished and wiped out with fire attack so that they could no longer survive.”

— With assistance by Emi Nobuhiro, Kanga Kong, and Shin Shoji

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Pope Francis And Donald Trump: One Man Of Faith And One Without Any?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Aboard the papal plane (CNN) If US President Donald Trump considers himself “pro-life,” he should reconsider his decision to end a program that allows the children of undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States, Pope Francis said.

“The President of the United States presents himself as pro-life and if he is a good pro-lifer, he understands that family is the cradle of life and its unity must be protected,” Francis said.
The Pope’s comments came during a news conference Sunday aboard the papal plane, as he returned to the Vatican after a five-day trip to Colombia. In the wide-ranging Q&A with reporters, the Pope also said history will harshly judge deniers of climate change.
The Pope acknowledged that he was not familiar with the specifics of DACA. “I think this law comes not from parliament but from the executive,” the Pope said. “If that is so, I am hopeful that it will be re-thought.”
Trump and the Pope have tussled over immigration before, with the Pope saying last year that anyone who thinks only of building walls instead of bridges is “not Christian.”
Trump fired back, saying that no religious leader should question another man’s faith.
The US Catholic bishops have also battled a former Trump administration official on DACA in recent days.
Steve Bannon, who until recently was Trump’s chief strategist, accused the bishops of having an ulterior motive in advocating for families affected by the decision to revoke DACA. They have called the decision “heartless” and “reprehensible.”
Bannon said the bishops “need illegal aliens to fill the churches,” a charge the bishops called “preposterous” and “insulting.”

History will judge climate change deniers

As the papal plane prepared to cross over Hurricane Irma’s path on its way back to Rome from Cartagena, Francis issued a stern warning to climate change deniers.
“If we don’t go back, we will go down,” the Pope said, referring to a study which suggested the world must reverse course within the next few years or suffer dire consequences.
Francis said he was particularly struck by news last week of a Russian boat that managed to go through the North Pole without an icebreaker.
“Whoever denies it has to go to the scientists and ask them,” he said. “They speak very clearly, scientists are precise.”
“Then they decide and history will judge those decisions.”
When asked why some governments refused to see the importance of the issue, Francis quoted the book of Psalms in the Old Testament.
“Man is a stupid and hard-headed being,” he said.

North Korea

Francis said he did not fully understand the crisis in North Korea. “I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t really understand the world of geopolitics,” he said. “I think what I see there is a fight for political interests.”
Francis’ message throughout his five-day visit to Colombia had been one of forgiveness and reconciliation. It is a hard message for many Colombians, who still have the trauma of kidnappings and killings fresh in their minds, but one which seems to have already had an important effect.
The leader of the guerrilla group FARC, Rodrigo Londono, asked forgiveness on Friday for the suffering his group caused to the Colombian people, in an open letter to Pope Francis.
“Your repeated expressions about God’s infinite mercy move me to plead your forgiveness for any tears and pain that we have caused the people of Colombia,” Londono wrote.

Trump ‘Ignorance’ Turns Kim Jong Un’s Hopes into Achievable Goals

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE 38 NORTH.ORG) (SOUTH KOREA)

 

Trump Turns Kim Jong Un’s Hopes into Achievable Goals

Three generations of North Korea’s Kim family have dreamed of getting the United States off the Korean peninsula. Now, the Trump administration appears to be doing everything it can to undermine the US-South Korean alliance that has vexed Pyongyang since the armistice that ceased the Korean War was signed 64 years ago.

During his election campaign, Donald Trump’s “America First” rhetoric caused broad and general consternation amongst US allies. Then, more than once, he suggested that maybe South Korea and Japan would have to go nuclear, raising the prospect that those countries couldn’t count on the US nuclear umbrella and should be thinking about fending for themselves.

As soon as he took office, Trump decided to walk away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-country trade agreement that did not include China. The TPP was widely seen as a move by the United States to reassure its allies and friends of its enduring security commitment to the region and to bind together non-Chinese economies in order to balance Beijing’s growing political and economic clout in the region. Withdrawal from the TPP was interpreted by some of America’s Asian partners, including South Korea, as a sign that the US was abandoning the region to Chinese influence.

In the spring of 2017, Trump suggested—during South Korea’s snap elections after the impeachment of Park Geun-hye—that Seoul should pay for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile battery that was negotiated under Park’s rule. The cost of the system is about $1 billion and the United States was to cover 100 percent of the costs, in part, because South Korean politicians and voters were deeply ambivalent about it. In order to make it politically palatable in South Korea, it at least had to come at no cost to the Korean taxpayer.

In the past month, Trump has made statements on two fronts that continue to profoundly undermine the US-ROK alliance. The first was his August 8 off-the-cuff “fire and fury” remarks. The second was his more deliberate disdain for the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) that has been in effect for five years. Negotiations began during the Bush administration and the FTA was signed in 2012 during President Obama’s first term. Trump is now threatening to unilaterally pull out of the deal, and soon.

In the meantime, Kim Jong Un is marching along at his own pace in his quest for a credible nuclear deterrent against the United States, as last week’s missile and nuclear tests reemphasize. Pyongyang chooses more or less provocative ways of testing its nukes and missiles, but it has an end game and several overlapping goals in mind. That end game isn’t nuclear war, which would lead to the destruction of North Korea and the end of the Kim dynasty. But driving a wedge between the United States and its allies, especially South Korea, is among the likely aims (or at least hopes). For that to work, however, it would depend on some “cooperation” from politicians in Seoul or Washington.

Historically, multiple US and ROK presidencies made sure that no unmanageable cracks emerged in the alliance in the 11 years since North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon in 2006. Four other nuclear tests as well as numerous missile tests have challenged the various administrations to stay on the same page. The allies pretty much did, even when their perspectives and approaches on North Korea significantly differed.

But that unified voice is now wavering. President Trump’s apparent willingness to entertain the idea of war on the Korean peninsula unnerves South Koreans, especially if started by unilateral US actions. After Trump responded to news that North Korea had miniaturized a nuclear warhead with threats with “fire and fury,” Pyongyang announced it was considering a missile strike around Guam. Trump in turn reacted by stating that if Kim “does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody’s seen before, what will happen in North Korea.”

Later, on August 16, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in felt compelled to tell his citizens that he had “ruled out war” and that “Mr. Trump has already promised to consult with South Korea and get our approval for whatever option they will take against North Korea.” Still, ordinary South Koreans are starting to wonder if the United States is too keen on escalating this crisis towards a conflict for which they will pay the heaviest price.

Furthermore, the Moon government (and Abe’s in Tokyo) can’t help but have noticed that Washington has become much more animated over Pyongyang’s rapidly improving ICBM threat to the United States than the longer term ballistic missile and nuclear threat it has posed to US allies for at least a decade. The alliance structure is supposed to guarantee that both countries are absolutely committed to the defense of each other. US credibility in that regard is extremely strained if it appears Washington is willing to risk a regional war to prevent a theoretical attack on US soil.

US credibility as an economic partner is also at risk. In April, Trump called the Korea-US FTA “unacceptable” and “horrible.” The effects of the FTA are debatable and gently calling for a renegotiation of some parts of it may even be warranted. However, it was revealed this weekend that Trump was considering completely pulling the plug on the FTA as early as this month.

This takes place not only as the North Korea crisis grows, but also while China’s informal sanctions on South Korea for its deployment of the THAAD system in March continue to bite. Many Koreans already feel as if they deployed THAAD at the behest of the United States and have suffered economically for it. If Trump tears up the FTA now, it will seem that the US is turning its back to Seoul economically in a time of need. People are already frustrated at being buffeted between the strategic concerns of the region’s great powers.

The South Koreans I talk to increasingly wonder: If the economic relationship is not advantageous and the strategic one imperils their country, what is the value of this alliance anymore? It is a not a huge leap from there to the question: “Why do we keep the US presence here at all?” It appears Donald Trump is gifting the wedge that Pyongyang has long hoped for all along.

Andray Abrahamian is a Visiting Scholar at the Jeju Peace Institute and the Center for Korean Studies, UC Berkeley.

Here’s How North Korea Could Accidentally Trigger A Volcanic Super Eruption

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORBES SCIENCE)

 

Science #WhoaScience

Here’s How North Korea Could Accidentally Trigger A Volcanic Super Eruption

 Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Scientific hypotheses are normally quite fun to try and gather evidence for. Einstein’s ground-breaking theories of relativity, for example, have been continuously backed up by the most extraordinary discoveries ever since they were first published near the start of the 20th Century.

In science, proving bad ideas wrong is a marvel, but confirming that your ideas are correct is arguably even more thrilling. There are exceptions to this though, and since North Korea is in the news a lot at the moment – in-between mentions of the Nazis and the President’s inability to look at the eclipse properly, that is – it’s worth taking a look at the Hermit Kingdom’s sleeping dragon: a volcano named Mount Paektu.

This picture taken on August 14, 2017 and released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on August 15, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) at an undisclosed location. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Located on the border of China and North Korea, it’s got one hell of a reputation. The current leader of North Korea is supposed to have summited the 2,744-metre (9,003-foot) stratovolcanic beast all by himself on foot, which seems about as unlikely as the story of the late Kim Jong-il being born there.

Putting aside its mythology, it’s currently causing concern among volcanologists. Its storied geological history – which we’ll get into in just a tad – is so violent that even the notoriously secretive North Korean government has enlisted the help of British researchers to poke around a bit.

The rare international scientific collaboration revealed that the magma chamber plumbing system beneath this mountain is far from dead; seismic imaging suggests that it has a fiery soul that’s tens of kilometres across and several kilometres deep. Someday, all that magma is going to burst forth at the surface. The key question here, as always, is when?

Well, bizarrely, thanks to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, it might be any day now. According to a separate studyconducted over the last couple of years, the country’s underground weapons tests are sending powerful pressure waves towards Paektu’s massive magma chamber. This pressure is essentially being transferred to the magma, and at a certain point, it could cause the rock surrounding the partly liquid doom to crack, and thereby trigger an eruption.

Farm/Wikimedia Commons; CC BY-SA 3.0

Heaven’s Lake, at the top of Mount Paektu, seen here in winter.

Mathematics is a rather wonderful thing. It can predict with perfection when and where solar eclipses will happen, just as it can calculate how long it will take for Jupiter’s moon Io to be torn apart by the gas giant’s immense gravitational well. In this instance, it can also be used to work out how powerful an underground nuclear blast is required to push a magma chamber into a state of overpressure.

The most recent nuclear weapons tests, based on their seismic wave patterns, are around 5-5.6M on the moment magnitude scale, which – along with plenty of other evidence – suggests they are basic atomic weapons, with yields of around 10 kilotonnes of TNT. For comparison, the atomic weapon dropped on Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War had an explosive yield of just over twice that.

Although these pressure waves did indeed make their way towards Mount Paektu 116 kilometers away, they clearly weren’t enough to trigger an eruption. In order to send the magma chamber into overpressure, North Korea would need to detonate a hydrogen bomb at the same Punggye-ri subterranean test site. This more complex two-step device, one which uses a fission (splitting) reaction in a primary bomb component to compress a heavy hydrogen core (fusion) in a secondary component.

Even the most simplistic hydrogen bomb would create an earthquake registering as a 7.0M, and according to the study, this would be enough to trigger an eruption. If it did, then what would happen? Well, let’s take a look at the aforementioned history of Paektu.

All it could take is just one hydrogen bomb, and the world will hear the result. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Although there was a minor eruption back in 1903, back in the year 946, a true cataclysm occurred. Known as the Millennium Eruption, it unleashed 100 cubic kilometres of volcanic debris, smothered the surrounding landscape in pyroclastic flows, and unleashed 1,000 times more energy than the famous 1980 eruption at Mount St. Helens.

The eruption also flooded the regional skies with 45 million tonnes of sulphur aerosols, which plunged the area into darkness. Although it didn’t affect the climate as much as researchers expected, if it were to happen again today, many thousands of people would die, and millions more would see their agriculture collapse. In a country that is already vulnerable to food shortages, this could trigger an unprecedented famine – which, in turn, could trigger all kinds of chaos.

Who knows. Maybe the mathematical calculations are off, or maybe an eruption at Paektu would be more like the one at the turn of the 20th Century than the one that took place a thousand or so years ago.

The only way for this hypothesis to be proven is to see what happens when North Korea actually detonates a hydrogen bomb – a milestone that no other nation on Earth wants them to achieve.

China is angry, but what can it do about North Korea?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWS AND FROM ANDY TAI’S GOOGLE PLUS ACCOUNT)

 

China is angry, but what can it do about North Korea?

Xi Jinping has few options to bring Kim Jong-un into line but he also has to contend with the unpredictable Donald Trump

South Korea holds live-fire drills and warns of more launches by North

Chinese President Xi Jinping has few easy choices when dealing with North Korea.
 Chinese President Xi Jinping has few easy choices when dealing with North Korea. Photograph: Tyrone Siu/AP

On Friday afternoon, the eve of North Korea’s most powerful ever nuclear test, China’s football-loving president received a gift from the world’s greatest ever player.

“Good luck,” read the handwritten message from Pelé on a canary yellow Brazil jersey handed to Xi Jinping by his South American counterpart, Michel Temer.

Xi needs it. Experts say Kim Jong-un’s latest provocation – which some believe was deliberately timed to upstage the start of the annual Brics summit in China – exposes not only the scale of the North Korean challenge now facing China’s president but also his dearth of options.

“The Chinese are pissed off, quite frankly,” says Steve Tsang, the head of the Soas China Institute.

“But there is nothing much they will actually do about it. Words? UN statements and all that? Yes. But what can the Chinese actually do?”

Zhao Tong, a North Korea expert from the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing, believes there are a number of possible answers.

Sanctions or turning off the taps

The first is to further tighten sanctions on Kim’s regime by targeting its exports of textiles and clothing.

“After the last round of UN resolution sanctions, textile products and clothing is now the most important source of foreign income for North Korea,” says Zhao.

Xi could also deprive Kim of another key source of revenue by agreeing to limit or completely prohibit up to 100,000 North Korean labourers from working overseas, including in China.

A third and far more drastic option also exists: cutting off North Korea’s crude oil supply. “This nuclear test is one of the few things that might trigger a cut-off of oil supplies, but we are still very reluctant to do so,” one person close to Chinese foreign policymakers told the Financial Times after Sunday’s detonation.

Zhao doubts Xi will choose that risk-strewn path. He believes turning off the taps could prove an irreversible decision since the pipeline delivering oil to North Korea is old and would corrode and break if left unused. Crucially, though, it would cripple North Korea’s economy, almost certainly bring down Kim’s regime and create a massive refugee and security crisis just a few hundred miles from Beijing.

“That is one of the most radical measures China could ever take and it could have strategic implications if the regime’s stability is affected,” says Zhao. “It is not going to be immediate but over time it could have an impact on the regime’s survival.”

Cheng Xiaohe, a North Korea expert from Renmin University in Beijing, also admits tightened sanctions are the only feasible response: “China has been pushed into a corner and has few options left.”

Growing frustration

That said, some believe appetite is growing in China for a more robust response to Kim Jong-un’s continued provocations.

“This is an insane country, and he is an insane leader,” says Zhu Feng, an international security expert from Nanjing University. “We are now at a historic turning point and – from my point of view – China needs to strengthen coordination and cooperation with the international community, particularly with the US, Japan and South Korea.”

“I think the domestic discussions about cutting crude oil supply are increasing,” says Zhao, who thinks the mood in China – North Korea’s key ally and trading partner – may be starting to shift.

Zhao believes Xi’s ability to take tougher action against Kim partly hinges partly on how much he can strengthen his political position ahead of next month’s 19th Communist party congress, a once-every-five-years conference marking the end of his first term in power. Recent weeks have seen tantalising glimpses of the internal power struggle that is raging at the top of China’s Communist party, with the purging of one senior official tipped as Xi’s possible successor and a major reshuffle in the leadership of the armed forces.

“If things settle down very quickly … that will give Xi Jinping some leeway to take more radical measures against North Korea,” Zhao predicts. “But if domestic politics continues to play out until the 19th party congress, then I don’t think China has any room to take radical measures.”

Smart cookie and the wildcard

Tsang believes the apparent lack of effective options to halt Kim Jong-un’s nuclear ambitions underlines what a shrewd strategtist he is and how successfully he was toying with both China and the US: “He is a smart cookie – a very, very smart cookie.”

As long as China was not a direct target of North Korean aggression, Xi would view Kim as an irritant rather than a threat that needed to be immediately crushed: “At the moment nobody seriously sees the North Korean missiles and nuclear weapons as a threat to China … The most likely target would be the Japanese. Now how unhappy would Xi be with the prospect of … the Abe administration being blasted to pieces? Neither outcome would actually make Xi lose any sleep.”

But for both Kim and Xi, there is one wild-card and he goes by the name of Donald J Trump. Tsang says conventional military advice suggests the US president would not risk a military strike against North Korea for fear of sparking a devastating counter-attack against South Korea and a broader regional conflagration that would inevitably suck in China.

“You’re talking about 10,000 different pieces of [North Korean] artillery … which could lob shells into the vicinity of Seoul and cause huge damage,” said Tsang. “So Kim’s reasonable calculation is that there is not actually a lot that Trump can do about it and there is almost certainly nothing the Chinese will do about it in concrete terms.”

Trump, however, was no conventional president. “The problem is somebody like Trump does not behave necessarily in line with your normal Obama and Clintons of this world and therefore the risk of him ignoring professional military advice is not negligible,” says Tsang.

“It would be negligible under Obama and extremely unlikely under Clinton or, for that matter, probably even George W Bush. But we can’t say the same of Trump. That’s one thing about Mr Trump, isn’t it?”

Additional reporting by Wang Zhen

Seoul tries to ignore Trump’s criticism: ‘They worry he’s kind of nuts’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Seoul tries to ignore Trump’s criticism: ‘They worry he’s kind of nuts,’ one observer says

 Play Video 2:02
Trump responds to North Korea’s most powerful nuclear weapon test yet
North Korea detonated their most powerful nuclear weapon yet in a test on Sunday, Sept. 3. President Trump responded to the test, calling the actions “hostile” and saying “we’ll see” about a retaliatory attack on North Korea. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)
 September 3 at 7:22 PM
South Korea’s president tried late Sunday to dismiss talk of a dispute between Seoul and Washington over how to deal with North Korea following its sixth nuclear test, after President Trump criticized the South Korean approach as “appeasement.”Moon Jae-in’s office said that his government would continue to work towards peaceful denuclearization after tweets and actions from Trump that have left South Koreans scratching their heads at why the American president is attacking an ally at such a sensitive time.

As if to underline Seoul’s willingness to be tough, the South Korean military conducted bombing drills at dawn Monday, practicing ballistic missile strikes on the North Korean nuclear test site at Punggye-ri.

The South Korean military calculated the distance to the site and practiced having F-15 jet fighters accurately hit the target, the joint chiefs of staff said Monday morning.

“This drill was conducted to send a strong warning to North Korea for its sixth nuclear test,” it said.

After North Korea conducted its nuclear test Sunday, Trump tweeted: “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”

Trump did not talk to Moon on the phone Sunday — in stark contrast to the two calls he had with Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan and a leader who has proven much more willing to agree with his American counterpart. This will worsen anxieties in Seoul that Tokyo is seen as “the favorite ally,” analysts said.

Moon, who was elected in May, advocated engagement with North Korea but has also acknowledged the need for pressure to bring the Pyongyang regime back to talks. He has also come around to an agreement between his predecessor and the U.S. military to deploy an antimissile system in South Korea.

Trump’s tweet was widely reported across South Korean media, and Moon’s office responded to the tweet with a measured statement Sunday night.

“South Korea is a country that experienced a fratricidal war. The destruction of war should not be repeated in this land,” it said. “We will not give up and will continue to push for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through peaceful means working together with our allies.”

Trump’s twitter jab came amid news that the U.S. president has instructed advisers to prepare to withdraw from a free-trade agreement with South Korea — a move that is resolutely opposed by South Korea and one that would undermine the two countries’ economic alliance.

North Koreans watch a news report showing North Korea’s nuclear test on a screen in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kyodo/via REUTERS (Kyodo/Reuters)

Analysts said Trump’s actions were puzzling.

“It’s strange to see Trump going after South Korea more aggressively than he’s going after China, especially since China also thinks that dialogue is central to solving this problem,” said John Delury, a professor of international relations at Yonsei University in Seoul.

In an earlier tweet, Trump had said that China “was trying to help,” although he added it was “with little success.”

Delury said that the “passive aggressive” tone of Trump’s tweets suggested that Moon had been standing up to the American president during their previous phone calls. They spoke Friday after North Korea sent a missile over Japan.

“It sounds like Moon is saying, ‘We’re going to have to talk to these guys’ — which is true — and Trump is frustrated,” Delury said, noting that the latest tweet seemed to address Moon directly, with its “like I told you.”

Trump’s tweet was even more puzzling, analysts say, because Trump himself — both as a candidate and as president — had repeatedly suggested he would be willing to talk to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

On the campaign trail, Trump said that he would be happy to have a burger in a boardroom with Kim, and in recent months he has called Kim a “smart cookie” and has said he would be “honored” to meet him.

South Korea’s response overall to Trump’s recent pronouncements has been much more muted than its past explosions against its protector — a sign that they know Trump is a different kind of president.

“They think they’re dealing with an unreasonable partner and complaining about it isn’t going to help — in fact, it might make it worse,” said David Straub, a former State Department official who dealt with both Koreas and recently published a book about anti-Americanism in South Korea.

“Opinion polls show South Koreans have one of the lowest rates of regard for Trump in the world and they don’t consider him to be a reasonable person,” Straub said. “In fact, they worry he’s kind of nuts, but they still want the alliance.”

On the Sunday talk shows in the United States, there was plenty of criticism of Trump’s words.

“You gotta watch the tweets,” Michael Hayden, a retired Air Force general and former head of the National Security Agency and the CIA who has been critical of Trump, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“I think we had an unforced error over the weekend when we brought up the free trade agreement with our South Korea friends on whom we have to cooperate. . . . It’s wrong on the merits, and it’s certainly not integrated into a broader approach to northeast Asia,” Hayden said. He served as NSA director from 1999 to 2005 and led the CIA from 2006 until 2009.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, also questioned Trump’s decision to admonish South Korea when the nation appears to be facing a growing threat.

“We need to be working hand in hand with South Korea, and with Japan,” he said, also on CNN. “Why we would want to show divisions with South Korea makes no sense at all.”

Even before the nuclear test, Trump’s approach to South Korea, an ally since the end of World War II, had been under question. Analysts were asking why Trump would rip up the free-trade agreement with South Korea at all, rather than revising it, let alone at a time when a united front was needed in the region.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that “no decisions” had been made but that trade deals must be in the United States’ economic interest.

“The president has made clear that where we have trade deficits with countries, we’re going to renegotiate those deals,” Mnuchin said on Fox News.

Yoonjung Seo in Seoul and Hamza Shaban in Washington contributed to this report.

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