NKorea threatens US; world anticipates missile

NKorea threatens US; world anticipates missile

By HYUNG-JIN KIM, Associated Press Writer Hyung-jin Kim, Associated Press Writer Wed Jun 24, 8:51 am ET

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea threatened Wednesday to wipe the United States off the map as Washington and its allies watched for signs the regime will launch a series of missiles in the coming days.

Off China’s coast, a U.S. destroyer was tailing a North Korean ship suspected of transporting illicit weapons to Myanmar in what could be the first test of U.N. sanctions passed to punish the nation for an underground nuclear test last month.

The Kang Nam left the North Korean port of Nampo a week ago with the USS John S. McCain close behind. The ship, accused of transporting banned goods in the past, is believed bound for Myanmar, according to South Korean and U.S. officials.

The new U.N. Security Council resolution requires member states to seek permission to inspect suspicious cargo. North Korea has said it would consider interception a declaration of war and on Wednesday accused the U.S. of seeking to provoke another Korean War.

“If the U.S. imperialists start another war, the army and people of Korea will … wipe out the aggressors on the globe once and for all,” the official Korean Central News Agency said.

The warning came on the eve of the 59th anniversary of the start of the three-year Korean War, which ended in a truce in 1953, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula in state of war.

The U.S. has 28,500 troops in South Korea to protect against an outbreak of hostilities.

Tensions have been high since North Korea launched a long-range rocket in April and then conducted its second underground atomic test on May 25.

Reacting to U.N. condemnation of that test, North Korea walked away from nuclear disarmament talks and warned it would fire a long-range missile.

North Korea has banned ships from the waters off its east coast starting Thursday through July 10 for military exercises, Japan’s Coast Guard said.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported Wednesday that the North may fire a Scud missile with a range of up to 310 miles (500 kilometers) or a short-range ground-to-ship missile with a range of 100 miles (160 kilometers) during the no-sail period.

A senior South Korean government official said the no-sail ban is believed connected to North Korean plans to fire short- or mid-range missiles. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.

U.S. defense and counterproliferation officials in Washington said they also expected the North to launch short- to medium-range missiles. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

South Korea will expedite the introduction of high-tech unmanned aerial surveillance systems and “bunker-buster” bombs in response to North Korea’s provocations, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper said, citing unidentified ruling party members.

Meanwhile, a flurry of diplomatic efforts were under way to try getting North Korea to return to disarmament talks.

Russia‘s top nuclear envoy, Alexei Borodavkin, said after meeting with his South Korean counterpart that Moscow is open to other formats for discussion since Pyongyang has pulled out of formal six-nation negotiations.

In Beijing, top U.S. and Chinese defense officials also discussed North Korea. U.S. Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy was heading next to Tokyo and Seoul for talks.

South Korea has proposed high-level “consultations” to discuss North Korea with the U.S., Russia, China and Japan.

___

Associated Press writers Jae-soon Chang in Seoul; Pauline Jelinek, Pamela Hess and Lolita Baldor in Washington and Min Lee in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

By HYUNG-JIN KIM, Associated Press Writer Hyung-jin Kim, Associated Press Writer Wed Jun 24, 8:51 am ET

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea threatened Wednesday to wipe the United States off the map as Washington and its allies watched for signs the regime will launch a series of missiles in the coming days.

Off China’s coast, a U.S. destroyer was tailing a North Korean ship suspected of transporting illicit weapons to Myanmar in what could be the first test of U.N. sanctions passed to punish the nation for an underground nuclear test last month.

The Kang Nam left the North Korean port of Nampo a week ago with the USS John S. McCain close behind. The ship, accused of transporting banned goods in the past, is believed bound for Myanmar, according to South Korean and U.S. officials.

The new U.N. Security Council resolution requires member states to seek permission to inspect suspicious cargo. North Korea has said it would consider interception a declaration of war and on Wednesday accused the U.S. of seeking to provoke another Korean War.

“If the U.S. imperialists start another war, the army and people of Korea will … wipe out the aggressors on the globe once and for all,” the official Korean Central News Agency said.

The warning came on the eve of the 59th anniversary of the start of the three-year Korean War, which ended in a truce in 1953, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula in state of war.

The U.S. has 28,500 troops in South Korea to protect against an outbreak of hostilities.

Tensions have been high since North Korea launched a long-range rocket in April and then conducted its second underground atomic test on May 25.

Reacting to U.N. condemnation of that test, North Korea walked away from nuclear disarmament talks and warned it would fire a long-range missile.

North Korea has banned ships from the waters off its east coast starting Thursday through July 10 for military exercises, Japan’s Coast Guard said.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported Wednesday that the North may fire a Scud missile with a range of up to 310 miles (500 kilometers) or a short-range ground-to-ship missile with a range of 100 miles (160 kilometers) during the no-sail period.

A senior South Korean government official said the no-sail ban is believed connected to North Korean plans to fire short- or mid-range missiles. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.

U.S. defense and counterproliferation officials in Washington said they also expected the North to launch short- to medium-range missiles. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

South Korea will expedite the introduction of high-tech unmanned aerial surveillance systems and “bunker-buster” bombs in response to North Korea’s provocations, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper said, citing unidentified ruling party members.

Meanwhile, a flurry of diplomatic efforts were under way to try getting North Korea to return to disarmament talks.

Russia‘s top nuclear envoy, Alexei Borodavkin, said after meeting with his South Korean counterpart that Moscow is open to other formats for discussion since Pyongyang has pulled out of formal six-nation negotiations.

In Beijing, top U.S. and Chinese defense officials also discussed North Korea. U.S. Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy was heading next to Tokyo and Seoul for talks.

South Korea has proposed high-level “consultations” to discuss North Korea with the U.S., Russia, China and Japan.

___

Associated Press writers Jae-soon Chang in Seoul; Pauline Jelinek, Pamela Hess and Lolita Baldor in Washington and Min Lee in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

Tested

Tested
By: Ben Johnson
Tuesday, May 26, 2009

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North Korea detonates Obama’s inviting promises of appeasement.
Early yesterday morning, North Korea detonated the inviting promises of appeasement with earth-shattering force.

On May 25, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea conducted an underground nuclear test, allegedly of a 10-to-20 kiloton warhead. The blast registered a 4.52 on the Richter scale, only slightly higher than the 4.1 registered by the test of a less-than-one-kiloton warhead in October 2006. South Korean forces expect the North to test fire ground-to-ship missiles today.

…And thus came to pass the prophecy of Joe Biden, who exhorted attendees of a Seattle fundraiser late last October, “Mark my words, it willnot be six months before the world tests Barack Obama…Remember I said it standing here, if you don’t remember anything else I said. Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.”

His mettle proved all-too malleable. It was Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso who called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, which pushed through a non-binding resolution and a pledge to meet again to draft a binding one. Obama’s first statement merely told the nation that still calls itself the “Hermit Kingdom” its “behavior…will only serve to deepen North Korea’s isolation. It will not find international acceptance.” Later that morning, he rushed out a second statement, claiming DPRK missiles “pose a grave threat to the peace and security of the world” and are “a blatant violation of international law.”

And then, according to the L.A. Times and the Drudge Report, he went golfing.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, on a tour of Shanghai at the time of the explosion, told her hosts they “must use their influence to help bring North Korea to the table for the six party talks” – the same talks whose failure allowed North Korea to cement its place as a nuclear power…and which broke down last year because the North rightly suspected it could get a better deal from the Obama administration.(Near the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Madam Speaker pressed China hard – for lower carbon emissions, on the grounds “protecting the environment is a human rights issue”)

Brinksmanship, Blackmail, Backtracking, and Betrayal

North Korea’s nuclear detonation was less a test of his mettle than an inevitable response to cultivated weakness. Over the course of three administrations, the DPRK has perfect the cycle of brinksmanship, blackmail, backtracking, and betrayal. Yet none of its negotiating partners, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, has been so eager to oblige its interests as Barack Obama.

When North Korea first announced its nuclear intentions in 1994, President Clinton signed the Agreed Framework negotiated, in freelance fashion, by Jimmy Carter. Clinton would 500,000 metric tons of oil, more than $100 million in food aid (which the government seized to feed its million-man army), and spent billions building two light-water nuclear reactors. Analysts warned Kim Jong-il could produce enough nuclear material for a handful of weapons within ten years by simply busting the caps on the U.S.-funded reactors, and evidence mounted Pyongyang used these reactors for military as well as civilian purposes. As Clinton stalled, Kim pressed on, lobbing a Taepodong-1 missile over Japan in 1998, then denying U.S. inspectors access to a nuclear facility producing illicit material. Clinton rewarded this defiance with an additional 1.1 million tons of food worth nearly $200 million. Even on his way out of office in December 2000, Clinton sought a new round of appeasement for the DPRK.

President Bush fared little better. Reviled for “going it alone,” he outsourced negotiations concerning the nuclear concern to the multilateral, six-party talks. Condoleeza Rice and others convinced Bush to jettison his original firm stance following the last underground detonation in 2006. After Pyongyang filed a late, fictitious report of its activities, Bush simply agreed to accept the lie as fact; he rewarded deception by granting generous aid, helping transfer funds formerly held up in overseas banks, and removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and producers of narcotics – all despite the fact that the new agreement lacked verification.

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Carrot

However bad the situation had been, President Obama made matters materially worse. Republican criticism of offering talks without preconditions was not merely election rhetoric: preconditions are a two-way affair, and when one drops his own, gravity shifts toward fulfilling those of his enemy.

North Korea has already rejected two pre-emptive offers of direct, bilateral talks with the Obama administration, opting to school the appeaser-in-chief in the fine art of nuclear blackmail.

The Obama administration attempted to unveil the proverbial “reset button” with Pyongyang, as Hillary Clinton tried to coax Kim back to the six-party talks with the promise of a treaty and (more) aid. On the eve of her February visit to Seoul, the worker’s paradise threatened to test a Taepodong-2 missile and declared itself “fully ready for an all-out confrontation” with South Korea, yet Madam Secretary told the Asia Society:

If North Korea is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons program, the Obama administration will be willing to normalize bilateral relations, replace the peninsula’s long-standing armistice agreements with a permanent peace treaty, and assist in meeting the energy and other economic needs of the North Korean people.

She helpfully suggested Kim Jong-il “avoid any provocative action or unhelpful rhetoric toward South Korea.” (Like Nancy Pelosi, she too wanted to renew military contacts with China but had tough rhetoric for Beijing on carbon emissions.)

The DPRK responded with harassment and missile fire. It arrested two American journalists, who face “trial” next month. More troubling to international security, the regime tested its long-range Taepodong-2 missile, again over Japanese airspace. That month in Prague, Obama asserted, “All nations must come together to build a stronger, global regime” to confront Pyongyang. However, the UN Security Council responded by passing a non-binding resolution calling on members to begin following the measures set out in Resolution 1718, passed nearly three years earlier, which members had ignored. (Eventually three companies faced sanctions.) Obama deemed this a “clear and united message.”

That it was.

According to the South Korean media, North Korea immediately began building or rebuilding nuclear sites. The North openly vowed it “will never again take part in such talks and will not be bound by any agreement reached at the talks.” Speaking before the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this month, Hillary called the North’s return to the negotiating table “implausible.”

Obama hoped to make the implausible come to pass by offering bilateral talks in early May, which North Korea again rejected. Obama’s Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen W. Bosworth has made several entreaties for a tête-à-tête in Pyongyang, only to be refused. Earlier this month a bewildered Bosworth pleaded, “President Obama has stressed on numerous occasions that the door to dialogue remains open [and] that we are committed to resolving the problems that we face through negotiation and dialogue. So I don’t think that we can be interpreted as having a hostile policy.” Indeed, he does not have a hostile policy to nuclear blackmail, betrayal, and brinksmanship. That is the problem.

The inevitable response to American weakness came yesterday, and possibly today. The North is in its brinksmanship mode. It will likely return to blackmail, once succession issues are settled over Kim Jong-il’s dead or incapacitated body. However, all candidates to become the next Beloved Leader know the louder the saber-rattling, the more desperate the cries for silence – and the richer the benefits offered. If Obama will offer direct, bilateral talks without any prodding whatever, more plunder can be exacted in due time. The nuclear test also leaves the hermit kingdom more capable of selling its publicly tested wares on the black market to Syria, Iran, or other anti-American states.

As Obama struggles to cobble together a response – beyond “Fore!” – a dangerous world grows more deadly on his watch. Iran has sent six warships into international waters, and last week it completed a test of the Sejil-2 missile, which Defense Secretary Robert Gates verified as “successful.” The new generation missile, an improvement over its Shahab predecessors, has a range of 1,200-1,500 miles, putting Israel and U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf in range. Rather than take harsh measures against Tehran’s genocidal theocrats, Obama has given them one year to continue their nuclear program before any hint of a reckoning; coincidentally, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen told ABC’s This Week program on Sunday Iran could have a nuclear warhead within “one to three years.” Following North Korea’s nuclear test yesterday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejiad rejected a “freeze-for-freeze” offer, halting its nuclear program in return for an assurance the West will pursue no further sanctions. He responded, “The nuclear issue is finished for us,” adding, “countries like America are not able to manage the political atmosphere.”

In nuclear brinksmanship, North Korea has finally found an export industry. In the Obama administration, the two rogue states have found either a willing subsidizer or an oblivious enabler.

——————————————————————————–
Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry’s Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry’s Charitable Giving (2004).

Kim Disappoints Hill; More Missiles Could Fly

Kim Disappoints Hill; More Missiles Could Fly

American envoy Christopher Hill has urged North Korea–or the DPRK, as he delights in calling the Communnist hell-hole–to begin dismantling its nuclear weapons program in accord with the promise Pyongyang made in February. But North Korea, which is more than a month and a half overdue on an April deadline to begin the denuclearizing process, says it will not move ahead until it takes possession of $25 million of its (ill-gotten) funds from a bank in Macau. There have been technical delays in transferring the money.

Our forecast: China’s secretive vassal state will continue to disappoint Hill and the other dumbbell diplomats who seem incapable of seeing North Korea (and China, too, for that matter) plain. The Stalinist/Kimist regime is essentially a criminal enterprise in totalitarian garb. Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il is committed to totalitarian ideology and ways as a means of control and crime as a means of wealth creation.

Like Iranian monster-in-chief Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim does not fear the United States. Unlike Ahmadinejad, however, who actually believes in his insane Islamist creed, Kim believes in nothing but raw power and material gain.

The Macau money is more important to Kim than Hill ever imagined.

We expect Kim to green-light new provocations, such as more missile launches–maybe another July 4 salvo, like last year.

North Korea’s Real Target Was Washington

Friday, May 25, 2007

 

North Korea’s Real Target Was Washington

The missiles that North Korea test-fired Friday–modified, longer-range versions of Chinese-built, Silkworm anti-ship missiles– were physically aimed at Japan but politically directed at the United States.

When all is said and done, the Stalinist/Kimist regime–which is protected and sustained by China–is still fighting the Korean War. The North will not rest until it succeeds in driving the US military from the Korean Peninsula.

But America’s accommodating, dumbbell diplomats are likely to downplay the importance of Pyongyang’s fresh provocation.

The party line by the US State Department will probably be that while the incident is “not helpful,” we should take comfort in the fact that the missiles launched towards the Sea of Japan Friday were of the shorter-range variety and not Rodong or Taepodong 1 ballistic missiles. Merely routine exercises, the diplomats and their friendly media mouthpieces will assure us. Besides, they will remind us, the North has signed onto nuclear disarmament; excessive criticism of the test-firings could kill the deal, or at least complicate matters needlessly.

And so on and so forth.

Last month, North Korea used a massive military parade to display a newly developed ballistic missile capable of reaching the US territory of Guam.

In July of last year, North Korea–or the DPRK, as US Assistant Secretary of State delights in calling the giant concentration camp–test-fired a salvo of short and longer reange missiles, including the Taepodong-2, which can reach parts of the US.

Pyongyang provoked the US again in October with its first-ever explosion of a nuclear device. (China Confidential predicted the nuclear test–to the day.)

The State Department and its friends in the US foreign policy establishment responded true to form–by making the case that the nuclear detonation actually showed that North Korea has yet to develop a deliverable nuclear weapon.

In Frebruary, North Korea agreed to begin dismantling its nuclear program. But the regime blew off a key deadline and remains in clear violation of the flawed accord.

In addition to its nuclear and missile programs, North Korea has a robust biological weapons program that the US and the international community have decided to ignore.

 

North Korea Stages Fresh Provocation

Iran’s nuclear tag-team partner is back in the ring.

North Korea fired a salvo of short-range missiles towards the Sea of Japan on Friday morning, Kyodo news agency said, quoting Japanese and American officials.

Pyongyang’s provocation comes nearly a year after its July 2006 test-firing of ballistic and short-range missiles.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Another Failed North Korea Agreement

Another Failed North Korea Agreement
By Gordon Cucullu and Joshua Stanton
FrontPageMagazine.com | May 25, 2007

“We cannot have a situation where (North Korea) pretends to abandon their nuclear program and we pretend to believe them.”

Deputy Secretary of State Christopher Hill

Sounds good and tough, doesn’t it? But does Christopher Hill defend his actions when he does exactly what he decries: promoting an agreement based on a naïve pretense? Here’s another question for discussion:  can anyone name the last – or first – time North Korea abided by any agreement to stop any aggressive actions, including WMD research, killing, counterfeiting, kidnapping, abducting, or threatening someone? 

 

In the 1953 Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean War, Kim Il Sung agreed to release all prisoners of war, American and South Korean alike. Yet nearly 60 years later South Korean POW’s are still escaping from North Korean captivity. The South Korean government thinks the North Koreans kept several thousand of its soldiers behind, 500 of whom may still live. It was known that more than 300 Americans were held captive when Operation Little Switch marked the end of POW exchanges. Their fate is unknown today.

 

In 1992, under growing international pressure over its 5-Megawatt plutonium reactor at Yongbyon, Kim Il Sung signed the International Atomic Energy Agency Safeguards Agreement. That same year, he signed an agreement with the South Koreans under which both Koreas and the United States pledged to keep the peninsula free of nuclear weapons.

 

The United States promptly and visibly removed its nuclear arsenal from South Korea, even as defectors reported that North Korea had disassembled a nuclear reactor and hid it in tunnels. U.S. satellites detected more suspicious tunnels near Yongbyon. And the CIA uncovered evidence that North Korea had bought electron beam furnaces from Germany for its nuclear weapons program. We’ve since found evidence that North Korea transferred nuclear technology and materials to Iran, Pakistan, Libya, and perhaps Syria.

 

In 1993, North Korea signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and committed itself to “the peaceful use of nuclear energy,” although its reactor has never been connected to the national electrical grid. In 1994, Jimmy Carter brokered the first ill-fated Agreed Framework, in which the North reaffirmed its agreement to “a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.”  That same year, reports began to emerge that North Korea also had an undisclosed uranium enrichment program.

 

In 1998, according to the New York Times, North Korea may actually have conducted its first nuclear test in the Pakistani desert. By 1999, a leaked Energy Department report concluded that North Korea was enriching uranium to build nuclear weapons. The Clinton Administration chose to ignore the uranium evidence during its final years in power, but in 2002, the North Koreans admitted their guilt to two U.S. diplomats and three State Department translators. Now they’re back to denying it again.

 

We should not be surprised that North Korea historically does not keep its word. We should be surprised that so many intelligent people expected anything else. If the definition of repeating the same activity and expecting a different result is “insanity,” then the Bush Administration and all the pundits who support this new agreement are candidates for psychotherapy.

 

Predictably, more than a month has passed since North Korea reneged on every promise it made in the February 13th denuclearization agreement:  to shut down the Yongbyon reactor; to invite U.N. inspectors back in; to “discuss” the full range of its nuclear programs; and to appear for another session of six-party talks. And yet wounded souls on the editorial pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times that for years advocated the same capitulation the Bush Administration inexplicably offered three months ago, now ask with breaking voices, why do they cheat us?

 

Why would they possibly be motivated to do otherwise? North Korea cheats us because it works! The North Koreans see negotiations with us as simply war by other means, and we always let them win. North Korea’s long record of success at gaining aid and other benefits from the United States in return for nothing could have ended in 2002, during the presidency of a nominal conservative, but it did not end because President Bush decided to preserve a living museum to the Clinton Administration within his State Department. Under two Secretaries of State who were neither conservative nor well-read on the North Koreans, men like Nicholas Burns, Richard Armitage, (initially) Jack Pritchard, and Christopher Hill set out to create a new Agreed Framework, based on the theory that it would turn out differently than the last one because Kim Jong Il would yield to their special powers of moral suasion.

 

Conservatives, like John Bolton who wanted to hasten the regime’s terminal disease by undermining it economically and politically firmly opposed this appeasement-oriented policy. For several years, the result was gridlock. No bold new policy initiative could survive the objections of the appeasement wing, on one hand, or the regime change wing, on the other. Instead, the United States rounded up three other nations in the region (China, South Korea, Russia) to work together to undermine our interests – and Japan , which was the lone exception – to construct the infamous Six Party Talks. But all the meeting and all the talking never inspired the North Koreans to do anything but stall, obfuscate, and make absurd demands at which the diplomats would cluck their tongues and cable Washington for the authority to agree.

 

For a brief moment, we seemed to have gotten wise. It began in August of 2005, with a news story about a garish Chinese mob wedding in America, with dozens of the dons and captains in attendance. This “wedding” ended with most of the guests in federal custody and $5 million in high-quality North Korean $100 “supernotes” seized, their origin later confirmed by the sworn testimony of a cooperating witness. In October, the feds indicted Sean Garland, the leader of a far-left IRA splinter faction, for conspiring to circulate large amounts of North Korean “supernotes” in England. News reports, fed by leaks from knowledgeable officials, began describing North Korea’s operation in extraordinary detail:  its procurement of special intaglio printing presses and color-shifting ink, and even the location of Printing House Number Six in the city of Pyongsong, where the notes are believed to be printed. These revelations embarrassed Kim Jong Il, but mere shame has never harmed him.

 

But on September 7th, the Treasury Department’s Web site published a notice of intent to designate the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia as an “entity of special concern” for money laundering under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act. For at least a decade, Banco Delta was the most important link between Kim Jong Il and his foreign income and assets, and this designation would essentially deny Banco Delta access to the international finance system. Treasury suspected that North Korea was using Banco Delta to launder money earned through criminal enterprises such as counterfeiting, and as a financial clearinghouse for monies received from its WMD proliferation operations.

 

That week, perhaps not coincidentally, the North Koreans finally decided – after a long absence – to return to Six-Party nuclear talks. On September 19, 2005, they even agreed in principle to dismantling their nuclear programs, although the deal contained few specifics and the North Koreans still denied having a uranium program. In any event, they renounced its terms within 24 hours. The following day, to save itself from financial ruin, Banco Delta Asia blocked $25 in North Korean funds, where they had been trapped ever since. This sum, by itself, was not large, but the action’s downstream effects were immense.

 

By December of 2005, North Korean front companies, with no means to recoup their often-illegal earnings, began fleeing Macau en masse. Many reportedly went to the Chinese mainland. The following February, Kim Jong Il reportedly told Chinese President Hu Jintao that he feared the collapse of his government. The Asian Wall Street Journal reported that Treasury’s action had “dealt a severe blow to the secretive country,” “dried up its financial system,” and “brought foreign trade virtually to an end.”

 

In April, Treasury claimed that the designation of Banco Delta was having a “snowballing … avalanche effect” on North Korea as other banks sought to cut their ties, creating “huge pressure” on the regime. Treasury pursued North Korea’s assets to banks in Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea, and elsewhere. Banks in all of these countries also closed or blocked North Korean accounts. Pressure mounted. Kim Jong Il even began selling off his nation’s gold reserves, much of it mined in his slave labor camps, particularly Camp 15 (Yodok) and Camp 77 (Dancheon). Still, North Korea had effectively lost most of its access to international finance.

 

Kim Jong Il’s regime might not have survived 2006 without massive aid from China and from America’s nominal ally South Korea, currently led by the leftist President Roh Moo Hyun. South Korean opposition lawmakers recently leaked figures showing that the South has given the North nearly $7 billion in aid since 1994. By its own admission, South Korea has little idea where or for what North Korea spent that money. Noting that monies are fungible, during that same period, Kim Jong Il bought 18 new submarines, 1,000 artillery pieces, dozens of MiGs, and, of course, expended his nuclear capability.

 

Concomitant with this economic bail-out from South Korea and huge arms buy by the North, between 1 million and 2.5 million North Koreans died from famine. Among survivors the percentage who are chronically malnourished doubled, to about 35%. Since Roh’s 2002 inauguration, South Korea has increased its aid to the North at a geometric rate. One report claims that the South is now providing a staggering 46% of the North’s foreign exchange. This year, South Korea will funnel approximately $1 billion to Kim Jong Il; in contrast, it will contribute just $780 million, or 38%, of the cost U.S. taxpayers will pay to keep 29,500 troops in South Korea. This means that U.S. taxpayers may indirectly be paying for the same North Korean weapons they’re also paying to deter. Kafka could not have written such an absurdity. Yet the United States could have dealt with this problem if it had the will to do so.

 

The same financial measures that destroyed Banco Delta, combined with tools like Executive Orders 13,224 and 13,382, could also have been employed against the Kaesong Industrial Park and the Kumgang Tourist Project, South Korea’s two main vehicles for funneling cash directly to Kim Jong Il’s regime. America could also have made the South’s support for North Korea a condition of keeping US troops on South Korean soil. (That presence, though economically beneficial to South Korea, is a strategic anachronism, as well as a great risk and a massive political liability for the United States. Roh used South Korean hostility against our soldiers to win election, and members of his cabinet and party frequently and quite deliberately use heated anti-American rhetoric to bolster their own popularity among their extreme left constituents and to harden South Korea’s position in its negotiations with the United States. For more on that, start at page 58 of this document.) 

 

Still, the growing effect of Treasury’s effort must have caused Kim Jong Il considerable desperation, if one judges by his reaction. Provocations like his July 2006 missile tests and his technically unsuccessful October 2006 nuclear test brought down U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1695 and 1718. These remarkably strong resolutions outlawed several more important sources of foreign exchange for North Korea, including arms sales. Japan and Australia soon imposed their own sanctions. Oddly, however, the United States never imposed significant sanctions of its own. It did not even re-impose the sanctions President Clinton eased in exchange for North Korea’s moratorium on missile launches. This marked a failure or abandonment of the vaunted Six Party approach – or was it merely a diplomatic convenience for capitulation?

 

North Korea’s belligerence and the impact of our financial pressure on the regime ought to have broken the factional gridlock within the Bush Administration, but it was the elections of November 2006 that appear to have broken it instead. This is a strange development, given the near-absence of North Korea as an election issue and the fact that North Korea was emerging as an ideal example of effective pressure on a genocidal tyrant through multilateral “soft power,” with even the U.N. playing a constructive role for once (thanks to pressure from then- UN Ambassador John Bolton). It was almost as if the election loss so shocked the Bush administration  that it caved on every initiative across the board, including Korea.

 

You may ask what, if not denuclearization, we have gained from this extraordinary surrender of effective leverage. The good news is that Kim Jong Il will stop laundering the proceeds of counterfeiting and drug dealing. The bad news is that we’ve agreed to launder it for him. At section 1957 of the United States Criminal Code is one of the two main laws that our prosecutors use to prosecute money laundering. It prohibits transactions in criminally derived property:

Whoever [in the United States or in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States] knowingly engages or attempts to engage in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property of a value greater than $10,000 and is derived from specified unlawful activity, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b). 

Author Josh Stanton was present on February 27th to hear Christopher Hill tell Congress that “law enforcement will not be compromised,” but if diplomacy is the art of being disingenuous without crossing the line to perjury, and if Mr. Hill did not perjure himself, then he certainly is an excellent diplomat. Senior officials of our State Department have just about concluded a more-or-less open conspiracy, hammered out with the North Koreans in New York that would land any of us in a federal penitentiary for international money laundering. Another statute, section 1956, contains a list of “specified unlawful activities,” of which counterfeiting is one, and drug dealing another. A detailed Treasury Department report has dispelled most doubt that these funds are largely “criminally derived property,” or, as one unnamed U.S. official said last fall, “It is all one big criminal enterprise. You can’t separate it out.” 

Thank goodness for prosecutorial discretion, because we seem to have struck the outlines of a deal under which the $25 million will be transferred to an American bank – Wachovia Bank, according to several press reports – which will then give Kim Jong Il the free use of that money. One can only speculate on how he would spend it, although the millions of his people who struggle each day to feed their children on starvation rations shouldn’t expect to see any of it.

Along with America’s own money laundering laws, the bureaucrats are also shredding two U.N. resolutions for whose passage America presumably expended considerable political capital less than a year ago. Resolution 1695 required those transferring funds to North Korea to “exercise vigilance” to assure that Kim Jong Il could not use those funds for WMD programs. Resolution 1718, passed in October after North Korea’s nuclear test, required those funding North Korea to “ensure” that their money would not go for those banned purposes, for major weapons systems, or for luxury goods for Kim Jong Il’s elite. In April of 2007, hardly anyone noticed when the State Department tacitly green-lighted a large North Korean arms deal with the Ethiopians, something that was undeniably a violation of 1718. Proponents of multilateral diplomacy have just lowered the bar for a U.N. resolution’s shelf life to six months.

After six years of internecine struggle between the State Department establishment and conservatives over the course of George W. Bush’s Korea policy, the establishment finally prevailed in 2007. Yes, it’s likely that the North Koreas will shut down Yongbyon in due course. According to diplomatic chatter, “shut down” may mean something as superficial as putting yellow tape over the front door so that the diplomats can claim victory. The reactor, built in the 1960’s, is a decrepit wreck anyway, and the North Koreans are building a much larger one.

 

Yes, they may even let in U.N. inspectors. After all, they’ve thrown them out. But when it comes to key tests of good faith like admitting its uranium program and agreeing to an aggressive inspections program, the February 13th Agreed Framework buries those details in “working groups” to be carried out by low-level working groups that seem designed to attract little attention from the press.

 

Any discussion of human rights, demanded by the 2005 North Korea Human Righs Act, including North Korea’s infamous concentration camps and Kim’s use of food as a weapon of political cleansing, will be buried in yet another anonymous working group whose actual function will be to smooth the way for full normalization of U.S.-North Korean relations. The State Department seems to be counting on having these discussions below the media radar, preferably buried amid reporting about Iraq or the 2008 elections.

 

By the time the North Koreans make their intention to renege plain to those who still refuse to see it, President Bush will be at the end of his tenure. Bush will likely try to exit office under the cover of an illusion that he has “solved” the North Korea problem, while the professional diplomatic class will pray that the next president will be even more deferential.

 

What about the State Department’s “realists,” who have invested their credibility in an arms control agreement grounded on Kim Jong Il’s honesty, China’s good faith, and South Korea’s loyalty? They will continue to skate through their careers unchallenged by outside authority and confident that the combined mechanism of the protective Foreign Service Officers Union and a short public attention span will allow them to obfuscate their tracks.

 

America will be a loser, having sacrificed even more of its influence and power in East Asia, and having been publicly tricked by a two-bit, huckster state led by a buffoonish dictator. Those who see the waning of American power will be heartened by this agreement.

 

The big losers will be as usual – the North Korean people, particularly the concentration camp inmates whose plight Bush once famously discussed with Bob Woodward in 2001 and for whom he appeared to be concerned when he highlighted their plight with an oval office visit for a defector four years later.

 

That was then, this is now, and the new North Korean agreement boldly illustrates how a presidency in disarray can be manipulated by a committed enemy, a disloyal bureaucracy, a do-nothing Congress, and a spiteful media.

 

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North Korea and Iran Ink Evil Agreement

North Korea and Iran Ink Evil Agreement

As if to mock the efforts of America’s appeasement-advocating, dumbbell diplomats, Stalinist/Kimist North Korea and Islamist Iran (rising China’s vassal and ally, respectively) have reportedly agreed to expand cooperation in political, economic, and cultural fields.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki signed the agreement with visiting North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Yong-il on Thursday evening, according to the Iranian Student News Agency.

The US State Department can be expected to downplay the significance of the news; but State is wrong, as usual. In fact, the announced accord is a thin cover for cooperation between the two rogue nations in the development of missiles, nuclear warheads, and chemical and biological weapons.

Bombed, Yes. Bombs, No.

Bombed, Yes. Bombs, No.

nakedkim

We’ve learned two things about Kim Jong Il recently. While the average North Korean survived on $1,000 a year, Ol Dirty Il Bastard personally spent $800,000 a year on his favorite Cognac. Until, that is, the sanctions hit, and he had to start guzzling cheaper fuels. Well, that may in fact have been his motivation for faking a nuclear test, and then, this February 14, leveraging a massive $330 million economic aid package, in exchange for halting his nuclear program.

Yes, that big North Korean nuclear explosion last year was a failure, according to the head of the CIA. And according to Russian intelligence officers, it was not only a failure, but a straight up fake. The Russians are still trying to figure out how they pulled it off. And it has contributed to a bombshell story also slipping out of Russian intelligence circles: Russia is about to pull the plug on Iran’s nuke aims. This will be one of my next two stories.

As for the CIA statement on North Korea:

Just over a week ago, on March 28, CIA Director Michael Hayden told South Korean media “The United States does not recognize North Korea as a nuclear weapons state. It’s because the nuclear test last year was a failure.” His comment was first published in the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper.

So, for better or for worse, Los Angeles is probably safe from attack.

Cindy Does Seoul

Cindy Does Seoul
By Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu
FrontPageMagazine.com | November 27, 2006

One of the things that protestors in South Korea know is that the local riot police have ample experience with demonstrators. While a viable democracy, South Korea has seen out-of-control street riots in its turbulent past. Now authorities across the political spectrum are unwilling to allow anyone to go too far. Peaceful demonstrations? Sure, but don’t press your luck. While American demonstrators – including the most violent – are accustomed to being treated with kid gloves; in South Korea the gloves are off.

This is something that career protestors Cindy “Peace Mom” Sheehan and Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin might want to keep in mind while they cavort throughout South Korea on their Quixotic mission of preventing the U.S. military from expanding a base south of Seoul and demanding immediate negotiations with North Korea, NOW!

 

By short background, the presence of large numbers of American military in the Yongsan Base located in the middle of Seoul has long been a contentious issue with Koreans. Its presence was a needless source of friction in a bilateral relationship that has had its share of disagreements anyway. Originally a remote base outside of the city, urban sprawl has progressed over the decades so the base is now in the geographic center of the bustling city. Aggravating the situation a major roadway bisects the base. Overhead walkways were added years ago to expedite pedestrian traffic, but impatient Korean drivers are forced to wait through two stoplights while on-base vehicles cross the road.

 

Meanwhile, negotiations for relocation of the American forces to the Camp Humphreys area, located in Pyongtaek about 45 miles south of Seoul, and Taegu, about 70 miles southeast of Seoul, have been underway for years. After adjacent land was purchased by the Korean government for expansion of the Pyongtaek base, the relocation out of Yongsan is finally underway to the delight of both South Koreans and Americans.

 

To the surprise of many, including no doubt the Korean government, Sheehan and Benjamin decided to shadow President Bush on his Asia trip to protest expansion of the Camp Humphreys site. Along the way they are also protesting the new Free Trade Agreement between America and South Korea, as well as demanding negotiations with North Korea. It is a collection of issues that are unrelated, somewhat mundane, and of little public interest, especially in America.

 

Sheehan, Benjamin, and 16 fellow Americans accompanied by a handful of South Koreans met with villagers who do not want to be relocated and demanded work cease. AFP reports that construction near Pyongtaek has met “strong protests from activists and villagers” who will be displaced from their homes or farmland. Translated, this means that fewer than 100 villagers don’t want to leave despite the generous compensation paid by the Korean government for their land. This is sad but it happens worldwide in these cases. Open support for the villagers’ protest has come from virulent anti-American, strongly pro-North Korean groups in South Korea including hard-Left student movements, labor organizations, and Communist sympathizers. Reports from South Korea note that without this support the village protests would have “faded away” long ago, but that the anti-American spin gives the local media an excuse to pack cameras down to Pyongtaek on slow news days.

 

…And for Sheehan and Benjamin to pack their bags. Sheehan bragged to reporters, “Believe me, we will be passing along these [villagers’] concerns to the Pentagon, to the Congress, to the people of America and we will be doing every thing we can as Americans to correct this situation in South Korea.” Benjamin added, “There is no way that I feel my family will be more secure or that Korean families will feel more secure by expanding the Camp Humphreys base and taking land from people who have farmed there for generations.”

Dissatisfied with the lack of attention their presence generated in sleepy Pyongtaek, Sheehan and Benjamin trucked north to Seoul where they tried unsuccessfully to crash the gates at the Yongsan Base. The American Commander-in-Chief, crusty four-star General Burwell Bell, wisely refused them entrance to the base and virtually ignored their pathetic demonstration. Assembling outside of the gate – blocking traffic on the busy thoroughfare, a move that risked being beaten to a pulp by road-rage-possessed South Korean commuters, taxi drivers, and truckers – the demonstrators were outnumbered by South Korean police in full riot gear. Media swarmed like flies, outnumbering both police and protestors.

With her usual eloquence and reason, Cindy waved her American passport and noted, “My father served at this base. I have the right as an American to come onto this base.” Well, Cindy, actually you don’t. Access to U.S. overseas bases is not automatic but is left to the discretion of the local commander. Many American expatriates working in or visiting Seoul over the years have wished to come onto the base but were denied access if they had no official reason for entry. Apparently General Bell was not convinced of Sheehan-Benjamin’s need to enter.

In reaction to the protest the U.S.-Korean Combined Forces Command issued a statement not naming the demonstrators but upholding their right “to express their opinions.”  The statement noted parenthetically that the South Korean general officer who was General Bell’s deputy was rotating that day and that both he and his replacement “are great patriots and have dedicated their lives to protecting freedom, to include the right to protest, here in Korea.” Good night, Cindy and Medea, and good luck.

In what has become her cynical default position, Sheehan held up a photo of her son and “posed for photographers,” while insisting, “we are not against the troops themselves, we’re against their leaders who deploy them carelessly.”

The facts are known about Sheehan and Benjamin: “Mother Sheehan” called terrorists in Iraq “freedom fighters,” and Benjamin has tried to convince soldiers to declare themselves conscientious objectors so they can be sent home. Both present American armed forces as a plague on the earth. At least General Bell had one opportunity to deny Cindy Sheehan the use of American servicemen as a prop for an anti-troop message.

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Confronting the North Korean Threat

Confronting the North Korean Threat
By Yuri Yarim-Agaev
FrontPageMagazine.com | October 31, 2006

The recent nuclear test by North Korea has once again underscored how little progress has been made to curb that country’s bid for a nuclear program. Six-party negotiations and even a U.N. resolution unanimously passed by the Security Council have all proven failures. The main problem with North Korea, however, is not its nuclear missiles, but its communist system. A democratic Korea, even with nuclear weapons, would hardly pose a threat. By contrast, Communist Korea, even bound by agreements and promises, remains a serious danger. From this premise it follows that the most realistic solution to the rogue state’s provocations is not to prevent that regime from producing weapons of mass destruction. It is to facilitate the rapid change of the regime.

The history of fruitless attempts to end the arms race with the Soviet Union shows us that no negotiations or agreements with a totalitarian state can stop it from pursuing a military buildup. Andrei Sakharov and other Russian human-rights activists realized very early that the only way to tame Soviet aggression was to influence public opinion in the West by exposing the system’s injustices to the outside world.

This was the goal that brought me into the ranks of the dissidents. Our position was supported most prominently by President Reagan. Uninterested in signing new accords with the Soviets, Reagan took a strong position against communism. This helped to open up the Soviet Union and to spur the development of the democratic movement. As a result, Soviet authorities were forced to make concessions in their arms programs that would have been unthinkable to Reagan’s predecessors.

The North Korean totalitarian state is a replica of the Soviet system. As it was with the Soviet Union, North Korea’s nuclear threat will end only with the end of the communist regime. How and when that regime goes may depend on us. Will North Korea’s leaders have enough time and resources to develop nuclear weapons and the will to use them, or will they depart before that with little resolve for resistance? Herein is the essence of the North Korean threat. This should determine America’s North Korea policy: Its goal should be to help weaken the Korean communist regime, thereby hastening its ultimate end.

Attempting to force out the ruling power through negotiations is not very realistic. Sanctions alone will not do the job, either. Trying to topple the communist dictatorship by military intervention is not only highly risky, but also hardly justifiable, morally or politically, as long as there are any alternatives to that approach.

In the case of North Korea, such an alternative exists. It lies in liberalizing and opening up North Korean society. Our goal should be to make the communist regime give in to the demands of its own people and international public opinion, and to leave peacefully, as happened in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe.

Such a policy will certainly meet with resistance from the communist government. Nevertheless, the suggested strategy is feasible, because the North Korean communist system has weakened significantly and lost the totality of its control over the country. Consider that North Korea’s border has become porous and now allows more people to defect and more contraband, including modern electronics, to be smuggled in. The government has begun to lose its hold on information. Many people have mobile phones operated by Chinese companies. Information about goings on inside the country has also become more available. CNN recently broadcast a video shot by hidden cameras in North Korea, including some episodes inside a labor camp.

The increasing weakness of the communist regime is also evidenced by the very adventurous behavior of its leaders. Their nuclear program is suspiciously demonstrative. It looks as if its major goal is not to prepare for aggressive war or to defend the country, but rather to blackmail the United States and its allies into providing the regime with the economic and political assistance it desperately needs to maintain power.

Unfortunately, the blackmail has been working, since the current policy of the allies has helped Kim Jung Il to procure the many things that he needs: He receives ongoing threats from a powerful enemy, which helps him treat any dissent inside the country as treason; he attains legitimization of his fading system by sitting at six-party negotiations with the major world powers; and he secures economic assistance, which provides resources for that same nuclear program.

The irony of the situation is that the West is helping to prolong and embolden the North Korean communist regime, while it is in our best interest to do just the opposite. Instead of propping up the regime, the West should support the liberalization of Korean society through direct interaction with the Korean people against the wishes of their communist rulers. Three measures in particular should be implemented.

  1. Information and technology should be provided to the North Korean people. Flooding North Korea with portable TV sets and computers, launching direct satellites, and expanding television and radio broadcasting in the country will help to break the regime’s uncontested hold on the flow of information.
  2. Ideas of freedom and democracy should be vigorously promoted inside the country. Propaganda is one of the regime’s most useful weapons and undermining its influence is an essential first step toward loosening its grip on power.
  3. Maximum support should be given to North Korea’s dissidents. Establishing direct lines of communication will make it clear to the regime’s opponents that they are not alone in their struggle.

In short, the thrust of the West’s policy toward North Korea should be to shift from traditional diplomacy to public diplomacy. There have been some steps in these directions, but too few to constitute an effective challenge to the communist authorities. The National Endowment for Democracy allocates only a few hundred thousand dollars for all its North Korea programs, while American assistance to the North Korean communist government has exceeded one billion dollars over the last decade. To make the policy work, much more can and should be done.

Destabilizing the regime in this way will not be easy. Even so, the successful realization of a similar approach toward the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe suggests that it is possible. When we were planning to send the first copy machine, fax and computer to our fellow dissidents in Russia, few people believed that this would have any meaningful impact on the political situation. Before long, however, our information technology was aiding the cause of the democracy movement in all parts of the Soviet Union. North Korea’s secret police may be even more vicious than their KGB predecessors, but the informational revolution works against them. Even at the peak of the dissident movement, we could not dream of mobile phones or camcorders inside the labor camps.

Technology is a necessary but not sufficient condition for successful regime change. Equally essential is expertise. That expertise is uniquely possessed by those who, in the 1970s and 80s, worked to weaken the Soviet Empire: governmental officials, Russian and East European dissidents, and the groups that supported them. The experiences of Chinese dissidents over the last two decades may also prove invaluable.

Even in the late 1980s, the Soviet Union was regarded by many influential thinkers as a permanent feature on the international landscape. Pyongyang has benefited from similar fatalism. To end the tyranny in North Korea, the West must first reject this conventional wisdom.

Yuri Yarim-Agaev is a former leading Russian dissident and a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. Upon arriving in the
United States after his forced exile from the
Soviet Union, he headed the New York-based Center for Democracy in the
USSR
.

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Cracking the Hermit Kingdom

Cracking the Hermit Kingdom
By Gordon Cucullu and Joshua Stanton
FrontPageMagazine.com | October 24, 2006

The twin fizzles of North Korea’s attempted long-range Fourth of July rocketry and its semi-successful nuclear test encourage those who favor procrastination as a viable foreign policy. In the long run, it affords little comfort that North Korea’s weapons don’t work well, because it cannot stop Kim Jong-il’s patience and marketing of more and better rockets. After 15 years of stalling, lying, and cheating his way through nuclear negotiations, Kim Jong-il could be the subject of a Country & Western song. We must accept the fact that he is faithful to his nuclear weapons programs, and unfaithful to anyone who would take them away from him. As Ambassador Christopher Hill put it, “North Korea can have nuclear weapons or it can have a future.” Kim Jong-il has chosen; he means to build the Arsenal of Terror. Now, we must choose whether we will let him.

Can we disarm Kim Jong-il at less risk of a catastrophic war than the risks of continuing with the present course?  We think so, but not through conventional diplomatic or military means.

 

Some analysts talk of military strikes directed at key facilities. Newt Gingrich has suggested that the Kim regime be told privately, on unequivocal terms, that every time he stands a missile up for testing it will be killed on the pad. Some suggest reacting against any movement toward another nuclear test with a strike against the deeply dug-in, highly protected test equipment. Strikes might set some of those programs back but probably could not destroy his underground nuclear facilities. The other side of the cost-benefit ledger is heavy:  domestic forces might compel Kim Jong-il to respond, and that could escalate into a second Korean War and the destruction of Seoul, which lies within artillery range of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

 

Economic sanctions have the benefit of attacking Kim Jong-il’s economic vulnerabilities. For the past year, the Treasury Department has been constricting the financial arteries that support Kim Jong-il’s palace economy:  illegal weapons, narcotics, and counterfeiting. These measures have shown some promising results. Japan’s new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, just added his muscle to the squeeze by denying North Korean merchant ships access to Japan’s ports and by vigorously attacking one of Kim’s great sources of foreign cash: Korean Yakuza operations in western Japan. UN Resolution 1718 (which, by itself, justified John Bolton’s confirmation) freezes or cuts off funds for his WMD-related assets and accounts, and even bans him from purchasing luxury items, such as his French Cognac supplies. The object of this goes beyond the inducement of derelium tremens. Louis XIV said, “L’État, c’est moi,” but Kim Jong-il has perfected it in practice. He stands atop a precarious pyramid of faction-riven Party hacks, intelligence service thugs, and what former Ambassador Jim Lilley calls “hard-faced generals.” Kim Jong-il knows that too many missed payments to these men, whose endemic corruption requires constant care and feeding, puts him a trigger squeeze from oblivion.

 

Others have proposed a naval blockade, but Kim’s protectors, including China and South Korea, might help diffuse the effect of the more onerous sanctions. Another less risky option could be almost as devastating:  the Treasury Department could designate North Korea itself as an “entity of concern” for money laundering, under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act. That would instantly sever all of North Korea’s connections to the international finance system, but would have collateral effects in other countries whose cooperation we would prefer to obtain through polite requests.

 

All of these measures will have an effect, but they will take time. They might also cause Kim Jong-il to squeeze his suffering people even harder, and in the end, they might mean little more than replacing one evil tyrant with another. They might force Kim Jong-il to negotiate, but not in good faith. They might weaken the regime, but they won’t necessarily replace it with one that will live in peace.

 

We still have not spoken of North Korea’s greatest vulnerability: its citizens’s disapproval. We think of North Korea as a stable, opaque, Orwellian monolith, but recently we have seen cracks in the façade. Refugees and defectors report a recent wave of uprisings and expressions of dissent. A few of the disturbances, such as the rising in the Onsong Concentration Camp and the planned mutiny of the Chongjin garrison, were significant. Most, however, were localized, and the regime was able to keep them that way by taking great pains to isolate its subjects from outside world and compartmentalize them from internal communication among themselves.

 

Geography is also on the regime’s side. North Korea’s terrain is rugged. Its road and communications infrastructure is decrepit. (Its original dictator, Kim Il Sung, died of a heart attack, because ambulances could not negotiate the road to one of his mountain hideaways in time.) Today, even Kim Jong-il’s concentration camps are not, physically speaking, “concentrated;” they are really scattered networks of guarded hamlets where uprisings are easy to contain and from which escape is a formidable challenge. All information comes from tightly controlled Party outlets. Radios and televisions are pre-set with approved frequencies. Listening to any of the few sources of “unofficial” information – South Korean, Japanese, or “foreign” stations – is punishable with immediate exile of the suspect and his entire family to a labor camp.

 

Despite all of these countermeasures, the information blockade on which Kim Jong-il’s power depends is breaking down. Since the famine that killed 2.5 million North Koreans in the 1990’s, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have voted with their feet and risked death by crossing the border into China. Some of these refugees later returned to North Korea and spoke of China’s comparative prosperity. China arrested others and ruthlessly sent them back to the North Korean gulag. A few escaped to South Korea or elsewhere. This refugee flow is Beijing’s recurring nightmare. China dreads the prospect of an imploding North Korea releasing millions of refugees along the countries’ 900-mile border. China, which barely suppressed the SARS outbreak, worries that North Koreans – whose immune systems are weakened by malnutrition and a lack of basic medical care – could bring a plague of diseases and burden its economy.

 

Some of these refugees are crossing out of economic desperation. There is an active business of smuggling goods and people across the Chinese-North Korean border. But most refugees are probably motivated by politics to some degree – because the government has put them in a low-priority category for food rations, because they have lost all faith in their government, or a combination of both. The moment they see the relative prosperity of China, they realize the magnitude of the propaganda barrage inside North Korea. Meanwhile, corruption, disillusionment, and societal decay have accelerated the corrosive effect on the information blockade. Cell phones, tunable radios, and South Korean DVD’s are now available, even in Pyongyang, to those who know where to find them, even though the possession of these items can be a death-camp offense. There is a growing network of underground churches inside North Korea, a remarkable phenomenon given the ruthless repression with which the Communists have attacked any religion other than the worship of the two Kims.

 

This below-the-radar decline of the Cult of Kim has led to some surprising results. Last month, Thai authorities arrested as many as 300 North Korean refugees who survived a dangerous journey across China, along a thousand-mile underground railroad run largely by Christian missionaries and sympathizers. On every inch of this journey, they risked forcible repatriation to North Korea if caught by Chinese authorities. Of these 300, half asked to go to the United States – a nation they had been indoctrinated since birth to hate and fear as an imperialist warmonger. Their remarkable yearning for freedom led them to choose America instead of South Korea, where they already share a common language and customs. According to a recent New York Times report, “$10,400 will buy a package deal to get someone out of North Korea and, armed with a fake South Korean passport, on a plane or boat to South Korea within days.” It is simply a matter of money; the bodies of those who try to escape without it wash up in bullet-ridden heaps beside the Tyumen River. Yet still, more make the risky crossing.

 

More also want to know the truth. The Broadcasting Board of Governors recently cited surveys from 2003 and 2004, which found that 28 to 31 percent of North Korean refugees had listened to the Voice of America, and that 18 percent had listened to Radio Free Asia. They tuned in to these forbidden broadcasts in spite of the terrible risk of being caught. The percentage of listeners is probably higher today. Yet two years after the North Korean Human Rights Act authorized the expansion of Radio Free Asia, along with more programs to smuggle information into North Korea, our government is only starting the process of expanding radio broadcasts to the North. North Korea’s hysterical reaction speaks volumes about the subversive potential of broadcasting. The letters North Korean refugees write to Radio Free Asia are inspiring. To be sure, survey samples based on refugees are skewed, but the North Korean people do appear to be an emerging market for such subversive ideas as tolerance, religious freedom, pluralism, free markets, and democracy.

 

There is another side to breaking down the isolation of the North Korean people that observers tend to overlook – getting information out of North Korea. In a land still described by popular media as the Hermit Kingdom, the factual vacuum about conditions inside North Korea partially explains why nations have failed to coordinate a common response to such issues as famine, food aid, human rights, crime, and weapons proliferation. Ask most Americans about conditions within North Korea, and you will elicit a shrug. In contrast, even closed societies such as the former Soviet Union and present-day China are open volumes compared to reclusive North Korea. The Great Famine was the most heartrending example of this. By the time international relief agencies gleaned through sparse information and agreed that a famine was killing millions of North Koreans, it was too late to save many of them. A German physician, Norbert Vollertsen, fled North Korea with photos of malnourished children in striped pajama uniforms. When he tried to tell the South Korean people this terrible news, he was beaten by South Korean police, threatened with expulsion, and threatened by pro-North Korean Stalinists determined to protect the South’s appeasement-based Sunshine policy from the truth about conditions in the North. In a more recent and highly suspicious incident, Vollertsen was attacked by a group of unidentified men on a street in downtown Seoul. South Korean Police dismissed the incident and accused Vollertsen of being drunk, although he proceeded to give a speech before an audience that can confirm otherwise.

 

To their everlasting shame, many in South Korea choose to live in cognitive dissonance and outright denial about conditions inside their northern neighbor. Many South Koreans dismiss reports of grave human rights abuses as “U.S. propaganda,” and dispute reports of conditions within North Korea’s gulag, to include the reported experimental poison gas chamber at Camp 22. Repeatedly, when the U.N. has considered resolutions condemning North Korea’s atrocities against its people, South Korea abstained or refused to vote. Now, Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, who presided over this shameful diplomacy, is about to become the new UN General Secretary.

 

While educating South Koreans and others is important, tearing open the bamboo curtain and allowing the light of truth to both penetrate and escape from the North is essential. North Koreans must learn what is happening in their own districts, provinces, and country, and the rest of the world should share this information. Already, this process has made a courageous start. Brave guerrilla cameramen recently brought out video of public executions, labor camps, starving soldiers sent home to die, South Korean food aid stolen by the military, and acts of dissent. A Seoul-based news site, The Daily NK, collects and publishes reports from defectors, traders, and clandestine journalists who cross the border between North Korea and China.

 

Our government can do much more to support the breaking of this blockade. It can start by breaking our own State Department’s blockade on the appropriation and distribution of funds already authorized under the North Korean Human Rights Act. It should also help to expand this network of clandestine journalists inside North Korea. Many of these journalists could be recruited from the same source that produced the concentration camp survivor, defector, journalist, and author Kang Chol-Hwan – the ranks of thousands of North Korean refugees in South Korea and in third countries. A select group of them, properly trained in clandestine reporting, could return to their homeland to tell their stories. We could provide them satellite telephones and cameras to transmit their reports without making the risky journey across the border. With enough money, it is possible to smuggle large quantities of i-pods, cell phones, and micro-radios into North Korea, so that the people could hear the news these journalists reported. Eventually, we could train other refugees in basic technical skills, the fundamentals of how democratic government works, and eventually, medicine, so that the underground could begin to provide essential services that the regime stopped providing years ago. Eventually, these volunteers could become the core of new civil society in a scarred, traumatized, and chaotic post-Kim Jong-il Korea.

 

Ultimately, the key rests with China’s treatment of refugees. China must realize that its refugee policy is earning the eternal enmity of the North Korean people for the sake of a dying regime. One day, North Koreans will make up one-third of the population of a united Korea, which will be one of China’s largest trading partners and trade corridors, and as an added bonus, might not require a large U.S. military presence for its defense. It must begin to accept North Korean refugees in large numbers, even if only in UN-run refugee camps along its border. The United States and a coalition of other nations could foot the bill for refugee care, something that is vastly cheaper than recovering from missile strikes. The establishment of these refugee camps, or “feeding stations” if you prefer, would be predicated on the notion that all inhabitants would eventually be repatriated to Korea or resettled outside of China.

From Washington, North Korea looks as stable as East Germany, Romania, and Albania looked in 1988. In reality, those regimes hung by tenuous threads, disguising political weakness behind statist omnipotence, waiting for the sword stroke that freed their subjects from oppression. By reaching out to the North Korean people with truth, hope, food, and medical care, we can do much to undermine the cult of hate and isolation on which Kim Jong-il’s grip on power depends. Diplomacy has failed, sanctions are only a partial solution, and military strikes carry an unacceptable risk of disaster. The root of the crisis is Kim Jong-il. We must help the North Korean people uproot him. We must help them achieve what Koreans and Americans have dreamed of for more than half a century:  a Korean that is united and free.

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