Posts Tagged Korea

Stay Cool. Call North Korea’s Bluff. – NYTimes.com


OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Stay Cool. Call North Korea’s Bluff.

By ANDREI LANKOV

Published: April 9, 2013

 

SEOUL, South Korea

NORTH KOREA is a tiny dictatorship with a bankrupt economy, but its leaders are remarkably adept at manipulating global public opinion. In recent weeks, we have been exposed to yet another brilliant example of their skill.

Scores of foreign journalists have been dispatched to Seoul to report on the growing tensions between the two Koreas and the possibility of war. Upon arrival, though, it is difficult for them to find any South Koreans who are panic-stricken. In fact, most people in Seoul don’t care about the North’s belligerent statements: the farther one is from the Korean Peninsula, the more one will find people worried about the recent developments here.

The average South Korean’s calm indifference is understandable: he or she has been through similar “crises” many times. By now South Koreans understand Pyongyang’s logic and know North Korea is highly unlikely to make good on its gothic threats.

People who talk about an imminent possibility of war seldom pose this question: What would North Korea’s leadership get from unleashing a war that they are likely to lose in weeks, if not days? Even if they managed to strike Japan, the United States or South Korea with nuclear weapons — a big if, given that they do not have a reliable delivery system — they could not save themselves from ultimate defeat. On the contrary, the use of nuclear or other terror weapons would be certain to invite overwhelming retaliation, delivering North Korea’s decision makers to a fiery oblivion.

Suggestions that those leaders are irrational and their decisions unfathomable are remarkably shallow. North Korea is not a theocracy led by zealots who preach the rewards of the afterlife.

In fact, there are no good reasons to think that Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s young dictator, would want to commit suicide; he is known for his love of basketball, pizza and other pleasures of being alive. The same logic applies to his advisers, old survivors in the byzantine world of North Korean politics who love expensive cars and good brandy.

Moreover, there is almost nothing particularly unusual in the recent developments. In the last two decades, North Korea has on various occasions conducted highly provocative missile and nuclear tests and promised to turn Seoul into a sea of fire. Now it has declared its withdrawal from the 1953 armistice agreement that ended fighting in the Korean War but not the war itself. It has denounced American and South Korean military exercises as an act of war. And on Tuesday, North Korea told foreigners in the South to look for shelter or consider evacuating because the Korean Peninsula could soon be engulfed in nuclear war. This time, the tune is being played louder, but that is the only real change.

A closer look at North Korean history reveals what Pyongyang’s leaders really want their near-farcical belligerence to achieve — a reminder to the world that North Korea exists, and an impression abroad that its leaders are irrational and unpredictable. The scary impressions are important to North Korea because for the last two decades its policy has been, above all, a brilliant exercise in diplomatic blackmail. And blackmail usually works better when the practitioners are seen as irrational and unpredictable.

Put bluntly, North Korea’s government hopes to squeeze more aid from the outside world. Of late, it has become very dependent on Chinese aid, and it wants other sponsors as well.

The leaders in Pyongyang read their history books. In 1994, after a year of tension over North Korea’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, the United States agreed to provide North Korea with oil shipments and light water reactors in exchange for the North’s promise to halt its weapons program. Then, in 2002, a clandestine North Korean uranium enrichment program was unmasked, and for the next four years North Korea could not get much American aid. But after it conducted a nuclear test in October 2006, the United States promised significant concessions, in hopes that new negotiations could halt the North’s weapons program after all. They did not.

If history is any guide, in a few weeks’ time things will calm down. North Korea’s media will tell its people that the might of the People’s Army and the strategic genius of their new young leader made the terrified American imperialists cancel their plans to invade the North. Meanwhile, North Korea’s diplomats will approach their international counterparts and start probing for aid and political concessions.

In other words, it is business as usual on the Korean Peninsula. Perhaps, when the atmosphere cools down, an argument can be made for giving North Korea’s leaders some of the assistance they want, if they are willing to make concessions of their own.

But it does not make sense to credulously take their fake belligerence at face value and give them the attention they want now. It would be better if people in Washington and New York took a lesson from the people of Seoul.

 Stay Cool. Call North Korea’s Bluff. – NYTimes.com.

 

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Borowitz Report – North Korea Expelled from Axis of Evil


North Korea Expelled from Axis of Evil

Ahmadinejad Cites ‘Lack of Evil’

 

PYONGYANG (The Borowitz Report ) – Just hours after an embarrassing launch of a rocket that crashed to the ground in a little over a minute, North Korea suffered another blow to its prestige as it was expelled from the Axis of Evil.

The decision was announced by the presiding Chairman of the Axis of Evil, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who cited as the reason for the expulsion North Korea’s evident “lack of evil.”

“There are a lot of evil countries out there, Iran for one, who are trying to terrify the world by developing nuclear weapons,” he said.  “When North Korea launches a so-called ‘rocket’ and it goes about twenty feet before blowing up, that just makes it harder for the rest of us.”

A spokesman for the erstwhile evil nation objected strongly to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s statement, saying it was  “totally unfair to judge how evil a country is based on one crappy rocket.”

For a rogue nation that prides itself on threatening the world community, membership in the Axis of Evil is considered essential, which makes North Korea’s expulsion from the group a particularly damaging setback.

“The rocket thing is hurting our credibility, evil-wise, no question about it,” one aide to North Korean President Kim Jong-un said today.  “This afternoon we tried to threaten Japan and it went straight to voicemail.”

In a possible sign of newly reduced ambitions, North Korea today hurled a roll of toilet paper over the border at South Korea.

Mr. Ahmadinejad offered no comment about the latest incident on the Korean Peninsula, other than to say, “Really, the whole thing is kind of sad.”

 Borowitz Report.

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North Korean Rocket Said to Fail Moments After Liftoff – NYTimes.com


North Korean Rocket Said to Fail Moments After Liftoff

David Guttenfelder/Associated Press

A news conference on the rocket launching in Pyongyang, North Korea.

By CHOE SANG-HUN and RICK GLADSTONE

Published: April 12, 2012

 

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea defied international warnings of censure and further isolation on Friday, launching a rocket that the United States and its allies called a provocative pretext for developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that might one day carry a nuclear warhead.

Bobby Yip/Reuters

The Unha-3 rocket at the West Sea Satellite launch site in Pyongyang on April 8.

But in what was a major embarrassment to the North and its young new leader, the rocket disintegrated moments after the launching, and American and Japanese officials said its remnants fell harmlessly into the sea.

After hours of silence, North Korea’s state-run news media announced that the satellite the rocket had been carrying “failed to enter its preset orbit.” Scientists and technicians were “looking into the cause of the failure,” said the terse statement from the reclusive North Korea leadership, which had trumpeted the event as a showcase of patriotic pride meant to exalt the 100th anniversary of the birthday of the country’s founder, Kim Il-sung, grandfather of the new leader, Kim Jung-un. Only two days earlier, North Korea had elevated the grandson to the highest levels of state power.

It was the first time the North has publicly acknowledged a long-range missile or satellite failure.

Officials from Japan, South Korea and the United States, which had been monitoring for signs of the launching, condemned it as a belligerent act that endangered regional stability — even though it had failed. American officials said food aid that they had planned to send to North Korea to help feed its malnourished population would be suspended.

“North Korea is only further isolating itself by engaging in provocative acts, and is wasting its money on weapons and propaganda displays while the North Korean people go hungry,” the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said in a statement on Thursday evening, which was Friday morning in Asia. The United States, Mr. Carney said, “remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and is fully committed to the security of our allies in the region.”

The consequences of such a public relations fiasco were unclear for the young Mr. Kim or the elders who have surrounded and groomed him, and the conspicuous absence of a prompt explanation for what had gone awry deepened the mystery.

“Obviously, the rocket launch is pretty embarrassing for Kim Jung-un and North Korea,” said Tate Nurkin, a director at Jane’s Strategic Advisory Service, in an e-mailed reaction. “North Korea is all about ceremony and stature and grand, symbolic gestures.”

One Obama administration official suggested that the failure might speed the North’s determination to conduct a nuclear test — the country’s third — “simply to show that it can.” Test preparations are under way, satellite photographs suggest.

A remaining unknown is whether a test would be designed to show off a new weapon made from highly enriched uranium, the newest fuel the North is experimenting with, rather than the plutonium bombs that it tested, with mixed success, in 2006 and 2009.

In Japan, government officials said the three-stage rocket, which the North had said was carrying a communications satellite, appeared to fly for more than a minute after it was launched at 7:40 a.m. local time, then broke up at an altitude of 400,000 feet and tumbled into several pieces into international waters in the sea west of the Korean Peninsula. In Washington, the Pentagon said in a statement that the first stage of the rocket fell into the sea about 103 miles west of Seoul, and the remaining stages “were assessed to have failed and no debris fell on land.” It said the debris had never been a threat.

The launching has been politically problematic for the Obama administration, which only weeks ago completed an agreement with the North to provide food aid in return for Pyongyang’s agreement to suspend uranium enrichment and refrain from test launchings of long-range missiles. The administration had portrayed the deal as a promising if fragile advance that would allow nuclear monitors back into the country after years when the nuclear program continued unchecked.

Underscoring the political delicacy of North Korea in an election year, Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said the launching illustrated President Obama’s strategy of appeasement. “This incompetence from the Obama administration has emboldened the North Korean regime and undermined the security of the United States and its allies,” he said in a statement.

The administration says it specifically told the North Korean negotiators that the deal was off if satellites were launched, since it considers such launchings a pretext for missile tests. But that requirement was not put in writing. Critics questioned the administration’s decision to go ahead without a written commitment, given the North Koreans’ history of breaking international agreements. But the administration insisted that it had not fallen into the same trap as past administrations — which made concessions only to have North Korea renege on deals — because the United States had not yet delivered the food aid.

A senior White House official said the failure of the rocket launching would hurt North Korea’s effort to sell weapons — somewhat easing the fears of Pyongyang as a nuclear proliferator. It also proved the effectiveness of the heavy sanctions in place on North Korea, this official said, since the measures have deprived the country of access to metals and other technical components for a viable ballistic-missile program.

The rocket, called the Unha-3, blasted off from the Soehae launching site near North Korea’s western border with China, at 7:39 a.m., the statement from North Korea said.

In Tokyo, Japan’s government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, said that after the object appeared to break apart soon after takeoff, the Japanese prime minister met with his national security advisers, but that nothing had been detected approaching Japanese territory. Mr. Fujimura called on the Japanese people “to go about your daily lives,” saying there was no reason to panic.

North Korea had said the rocket would fly southward, carrying its Kwangmyongsong-3 communications satellite, and had insisted that the launching was for peaceful purposes.

South Korea, Japan and the Philippines — the countries near the North Korean rocket’s projected trajectory — were on heightened alert in case the launching went awry, potentially endangering their citizens or property. Airlines and ships had been ordered to stay away from the rocket’s trajectory and the splashdown zones of its debris.

The North’s decision to proceed with the launching came despite a rising chorus of international warnings, including admonishments from China.

The United States and its allies had warned that they would take North Korea to the United Nations Security Council for a censure and probably further tighten sanctions already imposed after previous missile tests.

North Korea over the years has repeatedly launched rockets that blew up and failed to send satellite payloads into orbit.

In August 1998, it fired its first long-range rocket, the Taepodong-1. It scared Japan but its third stage fell harmlessly into the Pacific Ocean instead of delivering a satellite into space. The troubles continued in July 2006 when the second test of its long-range missile, the Taepodong-2, ended in an explosion just seconds after liftoff.

After the failed test, military experts and administration officials expressed relief, some calling the North Koreans inept.

Then, in April 2009, North Korea tried again, launching still another long-range rocket. The first two stages appeared to work, but the third stage never separated.

The North had said that its previous launchings of satellites, in 1998 and 2009, succeeded and that it put two satellites into orbit that broadcast patriotic songs.

But on Friday, the North’s Central TV interrupted its regular programs to report the failure, indicating that the government was not withholding the political embarrassment from its people, said the South Korean national news agency Yonhap, which monitored North Korean news media.

Setbacks are considered a normal part of rocket development, and are instructive to engineers if they can identify the problem and fix it in future models.

But after 14 years of failures, the North Koreans have a long way to go before perfecting a vehicle reliable enough to routinely put satellites into space or become the basis for missiles that could wage intercontinental war, rocketry experts say.

 North Korean Rocket Said to Fail Moments After Liftoff – NYTimes.com.

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Borowitz Report – Trump to Run for President of North Korea


Bottom of Form

POSTED DECEMBER 19, 2011

Trump to Run for President of North Korea

Promises Continuity of Leadership

 

 

PYONGYANG (The Borowitz Report) – Within hours of the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, real estate mogul Donald Trump roiled the political situation in that Stalinist country by announcing that he would run for its presidency.

“Kim Jong-Il ruled North Korea as the egomaniacal leader of a personality cult,” Mr. Trump told reporters en route to Pyongyang.   “I can offer continuity of leadership.”

But Mr. Trump’s bid may be complicated by reports that, despite his death, the mercurial Kim plans to remain in power until 2024.

“He intended to rule North Korea until 2028,” said one North Korean government source.  “His death moves up that timetable a bit.”

In Pyongyang, North Koreans officially marked the death of Kim by having their first meal in thirty years.

Officials said that in accordance with the dictator’s wishes, Kim will be strapped to a nuclear weapon and buried in South Korea.

 Borowitz Report.

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