China watches in frustration as North Korea crisis enters dangerous spiral

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST AND FROM THE GOOGLE+ BLOG OF ANDY TAI)

 

China watches in frustration as North Korea crisis enters dangerous spiral


An Air Force B-1B Lancer refuels near the East China Sea last week. U.S. bombers accompanied by fighter jets flew off the east coast of North Korea on Saturday in a show of force designed to project American military power in the face of Pyongyang’s weapons programs, the Pentagon said. (Peter Reft/AFP/Getty Images)
 September 24 at 8:08 AM
 The view from China could hardly be much worse: the leaders of North Korea and the United States threatening to rain down total destruction on each other, while U.S. bombers and fighters stage a show of military might close to China’s shores.In public, China’s foreign ministry has calmly advocated restraint and warned Pyongyang and Washington not add to fuel to the fire. But behind closed doors, experts said Sunday, it is as frustrated with North Korea, and with the situation, as it has ever been.

As North Korea’s dominant trading partner, China is widely seen as the key to solving the crisis, yet experts say its influence over Pyongyang has never been lower.

Unwilling to completely pull the plug, it has nevertheless agreed to a stiff package of sanctions at the United Nations and implemented them with unprecedented determination, experts say.

So far, all that has achieved is to alienate its neighbor and erstwhile friend.

 Play Video 1:13
Trump praises China for economic measures against North Korea
While meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sept. 21, President Trump thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping for ordering Chinese banks to stop doing business with North Korea. (The Washington Post)

“The North Koreans have figured out that the Chinese are genuinely in a bind,” said Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney. “Having cried wolf for so long about having limited influence, the Chinese genuinely do have limited influence in North Korea right now. It’s not just weasel words.”

The key step that China hesitates to take is to cut off crude oil exports to North Korea. On Saturday, it announced that it would limit exports of refined petroleum products and ban exports of condensates and liquefied natural gas to comply with the latest U.N. sanctions. It will also ban imports of textiles from North Korea.

But it is not prepared to do anything that might bring down the regime, potentially bringing refugees streaming across its border and unifying the peninsula under an American-friendly government.

North Korea’s leaders, experts in brinkmanship, know that full well, and this knowledge has allowed them to call China’s bluff repeatedly.

But just in case, they are also thought to have stockpiled between six and nine months of oil supplies — enough to keep the military and key industries going for some considerable time, Graham said.

On Saturday, North Korea’s foreign minister warned that a strike against the U.S. mainland is “inevitable” because President Trump mocked leader Kim Jong Un with the nickname “little rocket man.”

In response to Ri Yong Ho’s threats at the United Nations, Trump tweeted: “If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”

U.S. bombers, escorted by fighter jets, flew off the North Korean coast in a show of force on Saturday, while in Pyongyang, tens of thousands of people staged a mass rally to express support for “final victory” over the United States and call for the annihilation of the enemy, the state Korean Central News Agency reported.

“This is a disaster for all parties, and for China for sure,” said Lu Chao, a Korean Peninsula expert at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences in Shenyang. “Although there is no imminent sign of an outbreak of war, partial conflicts, especially between the South and North Korea on the sea where boundaries are not set, are very likely to occur.”

Next month, China’s Communist Party leadership meets for a key congress in which President Xi Jinping is due to be confirmed for another five-year term as Communist Party general secretary.

At home and abroad, there has been a big effort to project confidence and control, and to ensure calmness and stability, in the run-up to this meeting. That effort has been felt in every arm and at every level of government here. But Pyongyang simply isn’t listening.

Its sixth and most recent nuclear test was staged earlier this month at a time when Xi was hosting leaders from BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) nations at a key summit — an insult the face-conscious Chinese would have felt deeply.

Xi has never met Kim, and the two men are believed to hold each other in contempt. China’s attempts to send an envoy to Pyongyang to calm the situation have been rebuffed.

Some experts say Beijing has only itself to blame, for helping North Korea in the past and allegedly enabling the regime to develop its missile program. Yet there is no doubt it is now paying a price.

China has watched in alarm and anger this year as South Korea installed an American missile defense system that it fears could be used to spy on Chinese territory. It will also not have welcomed U.S. warplanes flying close to its shores this weekend.

South Korea’s presidential office said Seoul and Washington had coordinated closely over the deployment of the U.S. bombers, calling it one of the most effective countermeasures against the advancement of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, South Korean media reported.

While Seoul co-operates with Washington, Pyongyang is freezing out Beijing.

On Saturday, KCNA issued a list of diplomatic missions that had held celebrations earlier this month to mark the 69th anniversary of the founding of the Republic. The list included 17 nations — but pointedly not China.

The deterioration in relations between Beijing and Pyongyang erupted much more forcefully into the open Friday when KCNA angrily rebuked its Chinese state media counterparts for threatening, insulting and undermining their country. In a piece entitled “Rude Deed of Shameless Media,” it took aim at the Chinese Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily, for arguing in favor of sanctions.

“The party organ of the socialist country bragging long history denounced socialist Korea so maliciously in collusion with the imperialists,” KCNA wrote.

In China, experts said North Korea has resolved to continue development of its nuclear and missile program — at least until it can put a nuclear warhead on a missile capable of reaching the United States — despite whatever external pressure is applied.

“Sanctions, in my view, will not reverse North Korea’s resolute determination,” said Shen Dingli, deputy dean of Fudan University’s Institute of International Studies in Shanghai.

But Lu at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences insisted sanctions would work — at least by encouraging North Korea to one day return to talks.

“The sanctions that have been imposed will have a significant impact on North Korea’s economy, making them reconsider benefits and losses, and choose between being an enemy of the international community or sitting back at the negotiating table,” he said.

“I believe that one day North Korea will be at the table. ”

Shirley Feng contributed to this report.

North Korea’s ‘No. 2’ official on 10-day visit to Iran that may signal wider military ties

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNBC NEWS)

 

North Korea’s ‘No. 2’ official on 10-day visit to Iran that may signal wider military ties

  • Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported Kim Yong Nam, head of North Korea’s parliament, arrived Thursday for the weekend inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
  • But given he is expected to stay 10 days, the trip is being seen as a front for Pyongyang to perhaps increase military cooperation with Tehran and to boost the hard currency for Kim Jong Un’s regime.
  • “There could be very problematic cooperation going on,” an Israeli-based national security expert said.

33 Mins Ago 

Iran's President Hassan Rowhani meets with North Korea's ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-Nam in 2013.

Atta Kenare | AFP | Getty Images
Iran’s President Hassan Rowhani meets with North Korea’s ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-Nam in 2013.

Amid new U.S. sanctions, North Korea‘s “No. 2” official began a 10-day visit to Iran on Thursday that could result in the two sides expanding their ties.

Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported Kim Yong Nam, chairman of the Supreme Assembly of North Korea, arrived Thursday for the weekend inauguration ceremony for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

But given the head of North Korea’s parliament is expected to stay for 10 days in Iran, the trip is being seen as a front for other purposes, including expanding military cooperation. At the same time, Pyongyang is looking for ways to counter sanctions and to boost the hard currency for Kim Jong Un’s regime.

“There could be very problematic cooperation going on because of the past history and because it makes strategic sense, especially for Iran now,” said Emily Landau, a senior research fellow at the Israeli-based Institute for National Security Studies and head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program. INSS is an independent think tank affiliated with Tel Aviv University.

The man whom Iran described as the North’s “No. 2” is believed to be traveling with a delegation of other officials from Pyongyang, including economic and military officials.

“For North Korea, it’s not a question of ideology,” Landau said. “It’s not a question of being close politically and maybe in terms of any of their religious orientation. It’s all about who can pay in hard cash. That’s what makes North Korea a very dangerous source of nuclear technology, components and know-how.”

Last month, Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo said in a speech at the Intelligence and National Security Alliance that he had “created two new mission centers aimed at focusing on putting a dagger in the heart of the Korean problem and the problem in Iran.”

“Both the North Koreans and Iranians feel a serious threat from the United States and the West and sort of see each other as very different countries but facing a somewhat similar situation,” said Matthew Bunn, a nuclear proliferation expert and professor of practice at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

In July, nuclear-armed North Korea conducted two tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Iran could have an ICBM capability similar to North Korea within a few years, as just last week it successfully launched a satellite-carrying rocket that some see as a precursor to long-range ballistic missile weapon capability.

“There’s been fairly extensive cooperation on missiles,” said Bunn. “And in fact, early generations of Iranian missiles were thought to be basically modestly adapted North Korean missiles.”

For example, Tehran’s Shahab-3 ballistic missile, capable of reaching Saudi Arabia from Iranian land, is based on technology from North Korea’s Nodong-1 rockets. Iran’s Ghadir small submarine, which in May conducted a cruise-missile test, is a vessel remarkably similar to those used by Pyongyang.

There’s still a bit of a mystery on the nuclear side, but some former CIA analysts have previously said Iranian scientists have attended nuclear tests in North Korea. There have been recent reports North Korea may be preparing for its sixth nuclear test.

Tehran’s hands are tied due to the international nuclear agreement, although there’s a possibility it could quietly be teaming up with North Korea on nuclear research and doing it from the Korean Peninsula.

“The fact they are cooperating so closely on the missile realm is cause to believe that there could be even more cooperation going on even directly in the nuclear realm,” said Landau, the Israeli-based national security expert.

Bunn, however, isn’t so sure there’s currently any collaboration on the nuclear side between the two regimes but said “there’s a real danger potential” of it happening.

A North Korean Refugee and Cartoonist Draws What Life Is Like for Those Who Escape

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES AND PUBLIC RADIO INTERNATIONAL)

 

A North Korean Refugee and Cartoonist Draws What Life Is Like for Those Who Escape

On the left, one refugee asks, “Are you sure we can really eat as much as we want?” On the right, the other female defector says, “All the food in this restaurant is rotten.” South Koreans use the English word “buffet,” which sounds like the Korean word for “rotten.” A challenge for many North Korean defectors is to learn all of these borrowed foreign words that have become part of the southern vernacular. Credit: Choi Seong-guk

This story by Jason Strother originally appeared on PRI.org on July 6, 2017. It is republished here as part of a partnership between PRI and Global Voices.

The escape of around 30,000 North Korean defectors to South Korea might not seem like a storyline rife with laughter. But an online comic strip series created by a North Korean refugee, who now lives in Seoul, attempts to bring some humor to what is an often-harrowing journey and difficult resettlement.

https://www.pri.org/node/169491/embedded

After his own defection to South Korea in 2010, Choi Seong-guk, 37, realized that the two Koreas were no longer the same country — many cultural and linguistic differences have arisen during more than 70 years of division.

For Choi, who had once worked for Pyongyang’s premier animation studio, SEK, one of the first differences that stood out was that cartoons in the south weren’t anything like the ones in the north.

“When I first saw South Korean cartoons, I just didn’t get them,” he says. “There were no stories about patriotism or catching spies or war. They just seemed useless to me.”

Choi has had a knack for drawing since he was a kid, when teachers praised him for his sketches of evil American soldiers that he says he made look “as ugly and violent as possible.”

This is a re-creation of a drawing Choi made as a young student. It depicts an American soldier kicking a South Korean soldier as they prepare to cross the border into North Korea. The caption reads, “Invasion from the South.” Credit: Choi Seong-guk

In 2016, Choi returned to drawing and began an online comic strip series called “Rodong Shimmun,” which means “labor interrogation” — it’s a play on the name of North Korea’s “Rodong Shinmun,” the labor newspaper.

The satirical series follows a group of newly arrived refugees as they spend their first months in South Korea at a government–run integration center. Choi pokes fun at their ‘newbie-ness,’ like their shock about all the food at a buffet restaurant.

He also tells the story of one lovelorn defector, which he says is based on his own embarrassing cultural misunderstanding.

The defector meets a South Korean woman, who says, “Interesting. I’ve never met a North Korean person before. Can I have your phone number?” Credit: Choi Seong-guk

“One time I met a South Korean woman who asked for my phone number and said she wanted to become my friend,” he recalls. “I somehow misinterpreted that as she wanted to marry me.”

The woman goes on to use a term of endearment that’s casually spoken in South Korea. In a subsequent text bubble, Choi explains to his readers how this caused mixed signals.

“In North Korea only romantic partners would say that to each other. Amongst friends, we just call each other ‘comrade.’”

Not all of Choi’s drawings are funny, though. Some depict scenes in North Korea of people starving in the streets.

Throughout Choi’s comic series are glimpses of life in North Korea. In this drawing, the person says, “Hey, you could die. We should eat this grass.” Credit: Choi Seong-guk

Others portray how some defectors made their escape under fire from border guards.

Choi says he hopes his comic series will help change the mindset of South Koreans, who are generally apathetic toward North Korean refugees.

The caption above the drawing reads: “Escaping North Korea is all about survival. Even if one of your family members get shot and falls down, you just have to keep running.” Credit: Choi Seong-guk

And it might be working.

“Rodong Shimmun” now receives tens of thousands of views and some readers leave comments saying it’s helped them better understand the cultural differences between North and South Korea. Others write that they feel more empathetic toward defectors.

North Korea launched a ballistic missile from the northwestern part of the country early Sunday, the South Korean Joints Chief of Staff said.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) North Korea launched a ballistic missile from the northwestern part of the country early Sunday, the South Korean Joints Chief of Staff said.

“Our military is closely monitoring for provocative movements by North Korea and is maintaining all readiness postures,” a statement from the military said.
The missile, launched near the city of Kusong, flew 700 kilometers (435 miles), the South Korean military said. A US defense official confirmed that it flew that far, but said the US is still assessing what type of missile it was.
This is the first provocative move from North Korea since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office. Moon has advocated dialogue with North Korea to denuclearize.
The firing of the missile could also be seen as an insult to Beijing. China remains one of North Korea’s only allies and is responsible for much of the heavily-sanctioned nation’s economy.
On Saturday, Chinese leader Xi Jinping launched a major trade and infrastructure project with multiple world leaders in Beijing. A North Korean delegation attended the conference.

Condemnation from Japan

The missile landed in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, according to a statement from the Japanese government.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned the launch in a quick doorstep interview with reporters.
“Despite strong warning from the international community, North Korea launched a ballistic missile again,” Abe said. “This is totally unacceptable and we strongly protest it. North Korea’s missile launch is a serious threat to Japan and clearly violate against the UN resolution.”
The projectile launch comes two weeks after a ballistic missile test that South Korean and US officials said failed.
That missile, launched April 29, blew up over land in North Korean territory, according to a spokesman for the US Pacific Command.

Prior launches

North Korea has previously attempted at least nine missile launches on six occasions since US President Donald Trump was inaugurated in January. Some of those missiles reached the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea. Sunday’s launch, however, was near the west coast.
Though tensions between the United States and North Korea have been higher than usual over the past few months, a senior North Korean diplomat told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency on Saturday that Pyongyang is open to talks with Washington “under the right conditions.”
Earlier this month Trump said he would be willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “under the right circumstances.”
No sitting US president has ever met with the leader of North Korea while in power, and the idea is extremely controversial.
Kim’s regime has sought to advance its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The Trump administration has made a show of force in the region to deter those programs’ development.

China gets rare rebuke from North Korea for ‘betrayal’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NORTH KOREAN NEWS AGENCY ‘KCNA’ AND ‘CNBC’)

China gets rare rebuke from North Korea for ‘betrayal’

  • Pyongyang charged China has regularly “infringed upon the strategic interests” of North Korea
  • North Korea reiterated Wednesday it has no plans to end its nuclear program

39 Mins Ago 

Statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Gavin Hellier | Getty Images
Statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, North Korea.

North Korea’s official news agency leapt into overdrive Wednesday, accusing Chinese politicians and journalists of fomenting trouble and outright “betrayal.”

“China should no longer recklessly try to test the limitations of our patience,” said the commentary released by the rogue state’s Korean Central News Agency.

The KCNA agency added, “We have so devotedly helped the Chinese revolution and suffered enormous damage.” It said China has regularly “infringed upon the strategic interests” in becoming closer to the U.S. and thus committed a “betrayal” in the process.

The rare rebuke from Pyongyang’s official mouthpiece follows President Donald Trump’s warming ties to Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Trump administration is hoping the Chinese can convince the North Koreans to abandon a nuclear weapons program and end development of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching North America.

Still, the North’s official news agency reiterated Wednesday it has no plans to end its nuclear program.

“For us, nuclear is an absolute symbol of dignity and power, and it is the highest interest,” said KCNA. “If we give up nuclear weapons, we will not only intensify economic sanctions, but also military intervention.”

Beijing indicated Wednesday that Pyongyang was taking a dangerous course and should reconsider.

“It is reasonable for the DPRK to pursue its own security, but its nuclear and missile ambitions have put itself and the whole region into dire peril,” People’s Daily, China’s communist party’s official newspaper said in a commentary. “The DPRK must not be obsessed in a wrong path of repeated nuclear tests and missile launches that resulted in rounds of sanctions.”

DPRK is a reference to North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Repubic of Korea.

Meantime, the U.S. early Wednesday announced it launched an unarmed ICBM missile from Vandenberg AFB in California. It was the second such test in a week and comes as the Air Force works to improve the Minuteman III missile’s reliability and demonstrate to North Korea the U.S. nuclear deterrent capability.

At the same time, the U.S. is beefing up its military resources in the Asian region as a show of force with tensions still remaining high over the North Korean threat.

The U.S. Pacific Command said Tuesday it sent the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Cheyenne to the U.S. Navy base at Sasebo, Japan. The U.S. also activated its THAAD anti-missile defense system in South Korea this week at a former golf course.

Last week, a carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson held drills off the Korean Peninsula and there’s also been recent training in the Asia-Pacific region involving F-35 stealth fighters and bomber aircraft. The U.S. military confirmed Wednesday two B-1B bombers left Guam’s Andersen AFB on May 1 to hold training missions with forces from Japan and South Korea.

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

Malaysia agrees to send body of Kim Jong-nam to N. Korea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE KCNA AND YONHAP NORTH KOREAN NEWS AGENCIES)

(3rd LD) Malaysia agrees to send body of Kim Jong-nam to N. Korea

2017/03/31

(ATTN: UPDATES with body arriving in Beijing)

SEOUL/BEIJING, March 31 (Yonhap) — Malaysia released the body of the slain half brother of North Korea’s leader to the North, ending a diplomatic row between the two countries over Kim Jong-nam’s death.

“Malaysia agreed to facilitate the transfer of the body to the family of the deceased in North Korea,” according to a joint statement between North Korea and Malaysia carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The deceased refers to Kim Jong-nam, who was killed last month in Malaysia after two Asian women smeared the banned chemical weapon VX nerve agent on his face.

The agreement also called for lifting a travel ban imposed on citizens staying in each other’s countries, the KCNA said.

Under the deal, Kim’s body as well as those of two North Korean diplomats suspected of involvement in the killing left Kuala Lumpur on a Malaysia Airlines Flight 360 Thursday afternoon and arrived in Beijing around 2 a.m. Friday. The North Korean diplomats were seen leaving the airport in a black limousine.

The officials and Kim’s body are expected to leave for Pyongyang on an Air Koryo flight as early as on Saturday.

Malaysian police earlier said that eight North Koreans are suspected of being involved in the killing. North Korea claimed that Malaysia colluded with South Korea to manipulate the probe.

North Korea imposed a temporary exit ban on Malaysians staying in the North, saying that the move will be effective until the row over his death is resolved. In a tit-for-tat action, Malaysia banned North Korean diplomats from leaving the country.

“This would allow the nine Malaysians presently in Pyongyang to return to Malaysia and (North Korean) citizens in Kuala Lumpur to depart Malaysia,” the KCNA said.

Both countries decided to patch up their frayed ties as they reaffirmed the importance of their relations which were established in 1973, it added.

“In this connection, both countries agreed to positively discuss the re-introduction of the visa-free system and work towards bringing the relations to a higher level,” it said.

Malaysia canceled its visa-waiver program with North Korea and kicked out North Korean Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol in retaliation for North Korea’s “diplomatically rude” remarks.

Pyongyang claimed that the dead man is Kim Chol, the name on a passport held by Kim Jong-nam. It said that a North Korean citizen carrying a diplomatic passport fell into a state of “shock,” without making any references to his identity.

Seoul has claimed that North Korea is behind the killing, saying that the North’s leader has issued a standing order to kill his brother since he assumed power in 2011.

Out of the eight North Korean suspects, four fled Malaysia on the day of Kim’s death. Kim Jong-chol, who was earlier taken into custody, was released.

Malaysian police have been looking for three suspects including a diplomat believed to be hiding at the North Korean Embassy in Malaysia.

[email protected]

(END)

U.S. says time to act on North Korea, China says not up to Beijing alone

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

U.S. says time to act on North Korea, China says not up to Beijing alone

By Michelle Nichols and Lesley Wroughton | UNITED NATIONS

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned on Friday that failure to curb North Korea’s nuclear and missile development could lead to ‘catastrophic consequences,’ while China and Russia cautioned Washington against threatening military force.

Washington has recently lavished praise on Beijing for its efforts to rein in its ally Pyongyang, but Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made clear to the U.N. Security Council it was not only up to China to solve the North Korean problem.

“The key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side,” Wang told the 15-member council in remarks contradicting the White House belief that it does wield significant influence.

The ministerial meeting of the council, chaired by Tillerson, exposed old divisions between the United States and China on how to deal with North Korea. China wants talks first and action later, while the United States wants North Korea to curtail its nuclear program before such talks start.

“It is necessary to put aside the debate over who should take the first step and stop arguing who is right and who is wrong,” Wang told the council. “Now is the time to seriously consider resuming talks.”

Tillerson responded: “We will not negotiate our way back to the negotiating table with North Korea, we will not reward their violations of past resolutions, we will not reward their bad behavior with talks.”

North Korea did not take part in the meeting.

In Tillerson’s first visit to the United Nations he scolded the Security Council for not fully enforcing sanctions against North Korea, saying if the body had acted, tensions over its nuclear program might not have escalated.

“Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences,” he said.

The United States was not pushing for regime change and preferred a negotiated solution, but Pyongyang, for its own sake, should dismantle its nuclear and missile programs, he said.

“The threat of a nuclear attack on Seoul, or Tokyo, is real, and it’s only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the U.S. mainland,” Tillerson said.

Tillerson repeated the Trump administration’s position that all options are on the table if Pyongyang persists with its nuclear and missile development, but Wang said military threats would not help.

‘FRIGHTENING’ CONSEQUENCES

Wang said dialogue and negotiations were the “only way out.”

“The use of force does not solve differences and will only lead to bigger disasters,” he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov cautioned on Friday that the use of force would be “completely unacceptable.”

“The combative rhetoric coupled with reckless muscle-flexing has led to a situation where the whole world seriously is now wondering whether there’s going to be a war or not,” he told the council. “One ill thought out or misinterpreted step could lead to the most frightening and lamentable consequences.”

Gatilov said North Korea felt threatened by regular joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises and the deployment of a U.S. aircraft carrier group to waters off the Korean peninsula.

China and Russia both also repeated their opposition to the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea. Gatilov described it as a “destabilizing effort,” while Wang said it damaged trust among the parties on the North Korea issue.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told the council that to bring North Korea back to the table the international community “must send a strong message that provocation comes at a high price.”

“There is no doubt that dialogue is necessary … however under the current situation where North Korea continues to advance its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, meaningful dialogue is clearly not possible,” he said.

The Trump administration is focusing its North Korea strategy on tougher economic sanctions, possibly including an oil embargo, a global ban on its airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese banks doing business with Pyongyang, U.S. officials told Reuters earlier this month.

Since 2006, North Korea has been subject to U.N. sanctions aimed at impeding the development of its nuclear and missile programs. The council has strengthened sanctions following each of North Korea’s five nuclear tests.

(Editing by Frances Kerry and James Dalgleish)

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)

World

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.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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How to Defuse the Crisis with North Korea

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

Opinion

How to Defuse the Crisis with North Korea

WASHINGTON — I have been meeting with North Korean government officials for over two decades, first for almost 10 years as part of my job at the State Department, and then as a researcher working at universities and think tanks. This experience has made me familiar with the North Koreans’ views on safeguarding their country’s security. I believe that President Trump is making a big mistake if he thinks that the threat of a military strike and escalating sanctions will persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

Following a two-month review, the Trump administration has moved to implement a policy that emphasizes pressure — including the threat of military force and new sanctions against North Korea, as well as new restrictions intended to punish Chinese businesses with ties to Pyongyang. While the theory is that doing so will persuade North Korea to stop its provocative behavior, return to negotiations and give up its nuclear weapons, it won’t work that way. These threats will make the North Korean government only more likely to dig in its heels and move forward with its nuclear and missile programs, embroiling the United States in a festering crisis on the Korean Peninsula that could escalate out of control.

For more than 60 years, North Korea has successfully resisted not only pressure from great powers, mainly the United States, but also attempts at manipulation by its patrons, the Soviet Union and China. This reflects a strong nationalism but also a principle dear to the North Koreans: that as a small country in a life-or-death confrontation with the world’s most powerful nation, any display of weakness would amount to national suicide.

A longstanding, deeply ingrained view in Pyongyang is that Washington’s real agenda is to get rid of the North Korean regime because of the military threat it poses to American allies like South Korea and Japan, its widespread human rights violations and now its nuclear arsenal.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to reassure the North during his visit to Tokyo last month, saying, “North Korea and its people need not fear the United States or their neighbors in the region who seek only to live in peace with North Korea.” But Vice President Mike Pence’s assertion in Seoul this week that the United States seeks to end repression in North Korea, when viewed from Pyongyang, clearly translates into a policy of regime change.

Threats like these reinforce a view in Pyongyang that North Korea needs nuclear weapons to shield it against a much larger, much more powerful country. That’s a message I have heard repeatedly from the North Koreans, most recently in a private meeting I attended with government officials who stated that their country would not have developed nuclear weapons if it did not see the United States as a threat or had not been subjected to American and South Korean provocations. American actions in other countries — whether backing regime change in Libya or launching airstrikes against Syria for its use of chemical weapons — strengthen that view.

The Trump administration may also be mistaken if it believes that China will rein in North Korea. President Trump’s effort to establish cooperation with China, combined with the threat of American military action against the North, seems to be yielding some results, as China recently threatened to impose new sanctions on North Korea. But how far will China go?

There are legitimate concerns in Beijing that too much economic pressure on North Korea will trigger dangerous instability there. Moreover, the North Koreans are just as likely to resist Chinese strong-arm tactics as they are American pressure. Attempts by China to send top-ranking diplomats to Pyongyang over the past week were reportedly rejected out of hand by North Korea. Most observers forget that North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is aimed at China as well as the United States and its allies.

In the weeks ahead, the combination of underestimating North Korean intransigence and overestimating China’s influence will expose the Trump administration’s inability to stop North Korea’s nuclear program and could escalate tensions. Pyongyang’s bellicose statements threatening thermonuclear war, the display of new missiles at a parade this past weekend and the failed test on Sunday of a missile able to reach targets in Northeast Asia could be North Korea’s opening moves.

If the Trump administration’s current course continues, it will lead to a dead end. Pyongyang will push forward with its nuclear and missile programs, American threats will ring increasingly hollow if force is not exercised because of the very real risks of triggering a North Korean military response against South Korea and Japan, and Beijing’s support will soften as it looks for a way out of the tensions. As a result, the administration will end up trapped in a policy no-man’s land, its only options to retreat back to the Obama administration’s failed policy of “strategic patience” (without, of course, saying so) or doubling down on sanctions aimed at China and deploying more missile defense and forces to the region.

Time is not on President Trump’s side. The administration should seriously consider pivoting away from pressure to soon resuming dialogue with North Korea. In fact, the United States government should already be quietly talking to the North Koreans, either through contacts with Pyongyang’s United Nations mission or elsewhere, emphasizing Washington’s resolve to defend American interests and making clear that the United States does not have hostile intentions toward North Korea. The Americans should also make clear that they want to explore peaceful paths forward.

The next step for the administration should be to initiate “talks about talks,” allowing both sides to raise their concerns — in the case of the United States, North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. If common ground is found — and if the North is willing to address the objective of eventually achieving a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula — the two would then move on to the resumption of formal negotiations.

There are no guarantees that this approach will work. But the Trump administration’s constant refrain that “all options are on the table” should mean just that — not only a military strike but also a diplomatic offensive. In doing so, President Trump would avoid the policy quagmire just over the horizon, strengthen cooperation with China and give Pyongyang a face-saving way out of the current confrontation before it’s too late.

(The New York Times)

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