Kim Jong-un Does what Kim Jong-do

True to form, North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un has responded to the most recent United Nations’ sanctions against his country by engaging in precisely the behavior which led to the sanctions.

Earlier this week, the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed a new round of sanctions against North Korea, designed to put increased economic pressure on the pariah state in the hopes of forcing it to cease its nuclear and missile tests (the article from The Resurgent is here).

In response, Kim today launched a ballistic missile over Japan and into the northern Pacific Ocean.  This is the furthest a North Korean missile has traveled, achieving a range of 2,300 miles and a height of 478 miles.  It is initially believed to be a “Hwasong-12” type intermediate range missile.  North Korea’s capability means that the U.S. territory of Guam is now within range of its weapons.

The United States and its allies are even now deciding how to respond.  The U.S. and Japan have condemned North Korea.  South Korea launched its own missile drill to demonstrate its resolve.  The U.N. Security Council is meeting this afternoon to decide what to do next.

According to analysts, North Korea’s intent with these missile launches is the following:

  • Have the international community accept North Korea’s influence over a wider geographical sphere (that is, if other countries tacitly accept overflights of Japan, then North Korea will be emboldened to continue).
  • Put pressure on the U.S. by being able to target Guam; the goal is to get the U.S. to remove its troops from South Korea
  • Weaken Japan and South Korea’s trust in the United States as an ally.  That is, will the U.S. risk a nuclear war to protect its allies?  Ask Ukraine.
  • Test the atmospheric re-entry capabilities of its missiles to ensure that a nuclear warhead could survive the launch and re-entry to hit its intended target.
  • Continue to build out its land-based and sea-based ballistic missile capability.

If past history is any clue, the U.N. Security Council will adopt additional sanctions this evening and then Kim Jong-un will respond with more weapons tests.

UN Security Council Sanctions North Korea (Again)

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously approved a new set of sanctions against North Korea in response to its nuclear and missile programs.  This is significant as both Russia and China voted for the sanctions, rather than vetoing them or abstaining from the vote. In order to get this unanimity, the United States had to remove provisions which would have blocked all oil imports into North Korea as well as provided for stronger naval inspections of ships entering or leaving North Korea.

However, the new sanctions do have some teeth.  They reduce oil imports into the country by 30%, ban all natural gas imports, prohibit the export of textiles (worth $800 million), eliminate work authorization for North Korean nationals (worth $500 million), ban joint ventures with the country or its nationals, and allow for inspection of ships (with the consent of the ship’s flag state).  It also imposes travel bans on certain individuals and freezes their financial assets.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said that the addition of this set of sanctions on top of previous sanctions means that 90% of North Korean exports are now banned.

The hope is that North Korea can be encouraged to stop its nuclear and missile testing programs through the use of these latest set of sanctions.  However, based on past history this may be a forlorn hope.  Since the country began weapons testing in 2006, sixteen resolutions have been passed by the U.N. Security Council condemning North Korea and imposing sanctions against the country.

Despair Is Not The Answer For North Korea

Journalist Suki Kim spent nearly a year undercover in North Korea teaching English at the country’s only foreign-run school. South Korean-born Kim moved to the U.S. as a young teen and has visited North Korea several times.

She hid her notes in USB sticks and her camera’s SIM card during her teaching stint at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), a school run by Christian missionaries and only tolerated by the Kim regime because of its excellent reputation.

Her verdict on North Korea’s prospects to join the civilized world: despair and catastrophe.

In a revealing interview with The Intercept‘s Jon Schwarz, himself no stranger to the Hermit Kingdom, Suki Kim painted a very depressing picture.

Unsurprisingly, then, Kim’s students were shockingly ignorant of the outside world. They didn’t recognize pictures of the Taj Mahal or Egyptian pyramids. One had heard that everyone on earth spoke Korean because it was recognized as the world’s most superior language. Another believed that the Korean dish naengmyeon was seen as the best food on earth. And all Kim’s pupils were soaked in a culture of lying, telling her preposterous falsehoods so often that she writes, “I could not help but think that they – my beloved students – were insane.” Nonetheless, they were still recognizably human and charmingly innocent, and for their part came to adore their teachers.

Kim saw a North Korea several generations departed from any ties to the South, which has prospered as a modern, technologically advanced industrial powerhouse. Everything about North Korea is an insulated, Godless, controlling and brutal cult.

It was paradoxical. They could be very smart, yet could be completely deluded about everything. I don’t see why that would be different in the people who run the country. The ones that foreigners get to meet, like diplomats, are sophisticated and can talk to you on your level. But at the same time they also have this other side where they have really been raised to think differently, their reality is skewed. North Korea is the center of the universe, the rest of the world kind of doesn’t exist. They’ve been living this way for 70 years, in a complete cult.

Parents have no agency or control of children, who belong solely to the State. No phone calls, no travel, no visits allowed at PUST, even for the most elite families. No exceptions. In 70 years of Kim family rule–the Juche cult venerates them as gods–even the language has become coarse and uncivilized. Schwarz described it as “like finding the words f*** and s*** in a presidential speech or on the front page of the New York Times.”

Kim agreed.

Yes, I think the language does reflect the society. Of course, the whole system is built around the risk of an impending war. So that violence has changed the Korean language. Plus these guys are thugs, Kim Jong-un and all the rest of them, that’s their taste and it’s become the taste of the country.

Kim blamed history, and that the United States, along with the allies who won World War II, set an arbitrary line dividing North and South Korea, each side installing its puppet dictator in a Soviet versus West iron curtain played out on the peninsula. She bitterly spoke of U.S. conduct before and during the Korean War, calling the air war against North Korea “barbaric.”

All of that may very well be true, and it may have given the underpinnings of the Kim family’s hatred of America merit. But the Kims have built that hatred into a doctrine of its own, and without access to the outside world, the only world North Koreans know is what they’re told.

Based on those facts, and her observations of young North Korean adults, for whom lying, surveillance, brutality and control are the only way of life they’ve ever experienced, Kim believes that the North is not a reliable partner in any negotiations, and will never give up nuclear weapons.

The only way North Korea can be dealt with is if this regime is not the way it is. No agreements are ever honored because North Korea just doesn’t do that. It’s a land of lies. So why keep making agreements with someone who’s never going to honor those agreements?

But regime change is not an easy option when the leader is seen by his people as a god. You can’t just take control. Kim murdered the most ready replacements in his bloodline, but there are others.

All roads, for Suki Kim, lead to catastrophe. But one thing she said offers an amazing hope.

Every path is a catastrophe. This is why even defectors, when they flee, usually turn into devout fundamentalist Christians. I’d love to offer up solutions but everything leads to a dead end.

I’m not sure here if Kim meant that fundamentalist Christianity is a negative in her mind–a perverted result of years under a cult. But to me, it represents freedom.

Many have written about Juche, and how it was originally designed to be a counterfeit Christianity. Missionaries are familiar with how North Koreans are inculcated, and even recognize Biblical truth because what they’re taught is so similar, albeit with different deities.

The son of Christian parents and the grandson of a Christian pastor, Kim Il-sung was intimately familiar with Christianity and witnessed Christians choose martyrdom over worshipping the Japanese Emperor during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of Korea.

Recognizing the power of Christianity, Kim wanted it to be directed at himself. So he took Christianity, removed God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, set up himself, his wife and son as the new trinity, and called it Juche. At its core, Juche is a counterfeit Christianity that is deathly afraid of the True Gospel, and rightfully so.

There is no truth the North Korean regime is more afraid of than Biblical truth. Even possession of a Bible is grounds for banishment to a work camp or execution. Yet Christian missionary organizations infiltrate thousands of Bibles into the North every year. They use balloons, electronic devices and other methods to smuggle the Bible from South Korea and China.

Pastors have been targeted for assassination (and have in fact been assassinated), who run house churches, hospitality homes, and shelters for defecting North Koreans along the long border with China. Defectors don’t flee, then become fundamentalist Christians–they meet Christ, then they flee. But some stay and share the Gospel, on pain of death.

This is the power of Christianity to transform nations. South Korea is openly Christian, given to prayer and Bible study. South Koreans have been praying nonstop for their brothers and sisters in the North for decades.

Ultimately, all the military weapons in the world will accomplish nothing but kill more North Koreans, most of whom are more than willing to die for their country and their gods. The answer to this unsolvable problem must come from outside human understanding. The war is spiritual in nature and can only be won in a spiritual context.

Don’t think that God cannot reach North Korea. He is reaching China, Cuba, and the Middle East, sending dreams and visions where missionaries cannot go. God can and will reach North Korea.

Whatever happens in our global security and military context, we have to believe and have faith that God is sovereign and it is His will to save North Koreans. We must not compromise, but we must have compassion. The only real solution in North Korea is to increase efforts, by a thousand-fold, to pump the Gospel into that land of despair.

We should not despair, but trust in Him who can save.

Switzerland Will Mediate With North Korea. What Should We Ask For?

North Korea has an arsenal of nuclear weapons. They’ve likely got a thermonuclear weapon, or at least an enhanced “atomic bomb” that can produce a yield of at least 100kt. The bomb that America exploded over Hiroshima was 15kt.

Putting this into perspective, a big chunk of America’s nuclear inventory is the W76 thermonuclear warhead, which has a yield of 100kt. The W76 weighs something less than 362 lbs, which is the combined weight of the warhead plus its re-entry vehicle. (Source.)

North Korea also has demonstrated the capability for an extended-range IRBM or possibly an ICBM. If the North Koreans can successfully fit their warhead into the re-entry package for their missile, that’s a credible threat. Of course, we don’t know if they can (assuredly, we know more than our government is telling, however) until they do it.

Kim Jong-un has repeatedly said his nuclear program is non-negotiable. We can assume this means the missile program is also non-negotiable. So what would the United States tell Switzerland to ask for in mediation?

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is set on ratcheting up diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea.

She told the Security Council Monday that Kim is “begging for war,” and urged the adoption of the strongest sanctions possible against North Korea.

“Enough is enough,” Haley said. “We have taken an incremental approach, and despite the best of intentions, it has not worked.”

The Chinese Ambassador to the UN, Liu Jieyi, stopped short of giving thought to a military option.

“The peninsula issue must be resolved peacefully,” he said. “China will never allow chaos and war on the peninsula.”

This seems like an impasse. Anything other than China’s tacit approval of a military threat with the UN’s imprimatur seems to acknowledge the inevitability of a nuclear, ICBM-equipped North Korea.

It would appear this is the starting point of any mediation through Switzerland. North Korea gets to keep its nuclear deterrent in exchange for…what?

Here’s some thoughts on that–which has been unthinkable until now.

A real peace, an end to armistice

First on the list has to be an end to the armistice signed in 1953. The armistice preserves a technical state of war between North and South Korea. A formal peace treaty recognizing both countries, their common ethnic heritage, and the importance of international cooperation has to be a must.

This means giving up on reunification except through political means.

Demilitarization

If real peace is to be had, then the threat of conventional war needs to be reduced significantly. The North must agree to remove its Sword of Damocles hanging over Seoul and enter into arms reduction talks with South Korea for peace to have a chance.

As part of this discussion, America has to be willing to pull our troops out of South Korea. There’s no need to defend South Korea from attack if North Korea abandons its hopes for conquest.

America’s withdrawal, China’s accountability

If we leave the Kims in charge of North Korea, armed with a realistic nuclear deterrent (to America), then China has to step up as the adult in the room.

We ask for normalized relations between North and South Korea, with a permanent treaty, and America leaves the peninsula. However, only China can enforce that treaty. So if North Korea breaks it, and China backs the North, everything goes back to the way it was…and quickly.

The risk

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Switzerland negotiates some form of all-of-the-above between North and South Korea, and China accepts. What are the risks?

The risk is that Kim never really intended to keep the treaty, and never truly complies with demilitarization, while the U.S. leaves South Korea. Then China backs Kim by covering up the deception.

Now the U.S. can’t get back to South Korea without facing serious charges of its own destabilizing influence. In fact, the North could threaten to lob an ICBM at us if we set foot on the peninsula.

The real question we must ask is if we can trust Kim to be a rational actor, who has no designs on forced reunification, or if this is would be another fruitless ruse.

Would discussions progress indefinitely while Kim continues to build his nuclear arsenal? Would the North suddenly disengage at the last minute, claiming some minor event as a trigger?

Camp David and Oslo

We’ve all seen this before: the Middle East discussions between Israel and the Palestinians has moved tantalizingly close to “peace” (Camp David, Oslo) only to have the entire thing thrown in the trash by the latest Palestinian leader who really wants Israel destroyed, not peace.

If Kim is like the Palestinians, there’s no good solution, and a military conflict seems inevitable. If Kim simply wants to be left alone, the unthinkable (a nuclear North Korea, left alone at peace with its neighbor) could be possible.

Personally, I think Kim has been raised from birth to believe his own bulls*it. I believe he wants to rule–or for his successors to rule–over one Korean people. I believe, like the Palestinians, he will never accept true peace, even a peace secured by his own nuclear deterrent.

I believe we must stop Kim by other means, which will be extremely dangerous. I honestly hope I’m wrong, but we can’t afford the price of being right.

Also published at The New Americana.

Trump’s Korean Legacy: Shotgun Diplomacy

The last 24 hours have done nothing if not shown the resiliency of the American president’s thumbs. They are dutifully back at work now that he’s done his due diligence in Texas. Unfortunately, his performance in the wake of Hurricane Harvey does not invalidate the actions he takes the rest of the time. His latest tweeting should make us all wish it did.

Yesterday morning, President Trump shot across the bow of South Korean leadership by presuming to tell them – via Twitter, of course – that diplomatic efforts to save their people “will not work.” North Korea had just tested an underground hydrogen bomb that registered a 6.3 on the Richter scale. Maybe he thinks Twitter is a better method of communication than traditional government channels. Apparently, his real estate development experience has honed his foreign policy skills, and informed his knowledge of what North Korea understands. We are to assume his “good brain” knows more about North Korean behavior than South Korean leaders do.

Oh ok. So, after 60 years, they’re NOW finding out what Trump has been telling them for a few months? Got it. Six hours later, presumably to show he means business, he threatened to stop all trade with anyone who does business with North Korea, including China, who represents 83% of all DPRK trade.

So, they still only understand sanctions? Or military threats? Which is it? That itself came hours after he said he’s working on a plan to pull out of our free trade agreement with South Korea, too. Why he’s pushing them around on trade at the time we need military unity is unknown. This has economic leaders there worried. Add to this the disconnect between the public stance of our two countries, which Korean experts are calling “Korean passing,” or, the passing over of Southern interest to deal with North Korea unilaterally.

Yes, the President is literally taking a shotgun to everyone in the room – both our allies, and our enemies, along with the negotiators, all at once.

 

South Korea already has reason to distrust the American president’s impulses, as he once demanded South Korea pay for our military presence there. (They actually do subsidize 30% of operations)

Many felt his several statements over the years indicate he does not grasp the geopolitical value of the region.

If Trump gets his way (at least what he thinks the last 24 hours), our North Korean strategy no longer includes the collaboration of 51 million South Koreans facing probable death in a military conflict with their neighbors. But to make matters worse, we will no longer trade with China, Russia, India and even Brazil or Chile – because they conduct trade with North Korea – and we will no longer have free trade with the South. This means more than $1 trillion of economic activity will cease, if the U.S. government performs according to Trump’s tweets.

No doubt, the reliable defenders will rush to say:

1. He doesn’t mean it,
2. His administration will temper his threats, or
3. That it’s a good idea.

So, in other words:

1. He doesn’t speak the truth,
2. He can’t make good decisions without his administration stepping in, or
3. We’re headed for a global recession in the next year, and millions may die.

Which is it? The fact that we can ask is frightening.

I’m just gonna say it: We told you so.

 

 

Trump Gets North Korea to Back Down From Threat to Hit Guam

NBC Nightly News reported that while Kim is said to be “reviewing plans for the missile strike to launch toward . . . Guam,” if North Korea “actually goes through with it, Defense Secretary Mattis promised swift military action.”

The Los Angeles Times reports North Korean looney leader Kim Jong-un has “decided not to launch missiles toward Guam. According to the Times, the North Korean announcement appeared in Pyongyang’s state media Tuesday shortly after U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned that an attack could quickly escalate to war:

Mattis said Monday that if North Korea follows through on its threats to fire a missile at the United States, “it’s game on.”

 

Speaking to reporters, Mattis added that the U.S. military would “take out” any North Korean missile it detects is heading for American soil, including Guam, a U.S. territory. Mattis said the U.S. would detect a missile of that nature heading toward Guam “within moments.”

 

Mattis added that if North Korea fires at the U.S., “it could escalate into war very quickly . . . yes, that’s called war, if they shoot at us.”

 

Asked how the U.S. would respond, Mattis initially declined to say. When pressed, he said that if U.S. radars and other detection and tracking systems determine that a missile was going to fall into the sea, short of Guam, then the matter would be taken to President Donald Trump for a decision on how to respond.

The Washington Examiner reports North Korea backed down on its threat to launch a missile attack on Guam after Trump threatened it last week with “fire and fury” on North Korea if it threatened the U.S. again.

North Korea’s decision to back down is a yuge victory for President Donald J. Trump and the United States.  The North Koreans backed down after a sustained “Twitter war of words” with President Trump. Trump’s cabinet members deserve credit here as well. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley got Russia and China to agree to harsh United Nations Security Council economic sanctions against North Korea. Sanctions China actually seems to be willing to implement.  China even warned North Korea that it would be on its own if it launches missiles threatening the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and  National security adviser H.R. McMaster did a great job calming the waters, saying that an attack from North Korea is not imminent And Mattis made it clear the U.S. military was “ready to fight tonight.” NPR reports that Guam and the U.S. air and naval forces based there have been under alert since it was named by North Korea as a potential target

In addition, Sunday the Trump administration announced the end of Obama’s failed do nothing “Strategic Patience” so-called strategy for dealing with the rogue state. Under President Trump the U.S. will hold North Korea to account as we pursue a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

Unfortunately the North Koreans could always change their minds about attacking the U.S. The Los Angeles Times reported the statement in the North Korean state media warned that Kim could change his mind “if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions,” in which case the country’s artillerymen would “wring the windpipes of the Yankees and point daggers at their necks.”

Is China Using North Korea To Test Trump?

China figures strongly into the current North Korea crisis, but exactly how is a matter of dispute. President Trump seems to believe that China is the key to resolving the matter of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, but it is far from certain that China’s interests in the region align with our own.

Beyond the fact that Trump was overtly hostile and, at times, insulting to China during the presidential campaign, China is in the midst of a long campaign to expand its power in Asia and beyond. Chinese island-building in the South China Sea is common knowledge. Less known is how Chinese influence is growing in the Middle East, Africa and even the Americas.

As Chinese military and economic influence grows around the world, the inescapable conclusion is that China has dreams of replacing the US as the world’s dominant superpower. That being the case, it would be in China’s interest to make the US look bad in the confrontation with North Korea. If China can use North Korea to hasten the American decline in Asia, which began with the 1953 stalemate in Korea and continued with Vietnam and the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership, it would probably not hesitate to do so.

Aside from their aim of overtaking the United States, a secondary goal of the Chinese government could be to test President Trump. There is pattern of Chinese crises shortly after Republican presidents take office. In June 1989, five months after George H. W. Bush became president, violent repression of the Chinese democracy protests at Tiananmen Square led to soured relations between the two countries. In April 2001, three months into the presidency of George W. Bush, a Chinese fighter collided with a US Navy reconnaissance plane. The American plane made an emergency landing on Hainan Island and the crew was detained for 11 days by the Chinese government. Now, soon after President Trump took office, the North Koreans increased their missile testing. While these incidents were presumably not manufactured by China, they may well have used the events to test the mettle of the new occupants of the Oval Office.

What could be the Chinese endgame for the Korean crisis? After President Trump made trade concessions to China last spring for doing approximately nothing to help with the Korean situation, Beijing may believe that they can win additional concessions from the US if the crisis is allowed to get worse.

If President Trump backs down after having made resolving the North Korean issue a priority, the Chinese will win by default. The United States and President Trump will lose face and credibility around the world. With both President Trump and Kim Jong Un trying to outdo the other’s bellicose rhetoric, at the moment China is playing the role of the adult in the room.

If the US actually attacks North Korea, it would present a problem for China. China has a longstanding relationship with its patron government in Pyongyang. Animosity between the Chinese and the Koreans goes back centuries, but for the past 75 years, North Korea has been a loyal client of Communist China.

In 1950, when American and United Nations troops advanced too close to the Chinese border, China intervened with a massive attack that sent allied armies reeling. Those who doubt that China would do the same thing in 2017 need only consider the unofficial nickname of Korea, “a dagger aimed at the heart of China.” China cannot allow the US or its allies to occupy North Korea.

A US attack on North Korea would require a Chinese response and the Chinese have said as much in an editorial in the Chinese Global Times. The paper notes that “Beijing is not able to persuade Washington or Pyongyang to back down at this time,” but that “it needs to make clear… when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand.”

The editorial says that if North Korea strikes first China will remain neutral. This may be a tacit assurance that the North will not attack without provocation. Then it issues a warning: “If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.”

Regardless of whether China is goading North Korea forward behind the scenes or Kim is acting on his own, the brinksmanship is a most dangerous game that could easily get out of hand and lead to a major conflict. Whatever President Trump does, on the Korean peninsula and elsewhere, the Chinese will undoubtedly be watching.

The North Korean Solution




I’ve let this go on for days now.  North Korea threatens to nuke Guam and suddenly everyone is an expert on how to stop them.  All these “experts” cite “books” and “war colleges” and “visits to North Korea”.  Well if there’s one thing I learned from watching professional wrestling, it’s that you don’t need to be literate to have power.

I’ve done my own research.  I watched Die Another Day, I used Google Maps to make sure I knew where Guam was for sure, and I asked my dry cleaner about the whole situation (turns out she’s actually from China but she seemed smart so I took her advice).

The solution is simple.  We draw up a simple treaty with Kim Jong Whatever.  We let him have Guam if he promises never to develop a nuke that can reach further than California and we agree to send him one of our barbers at least once a month .  We wait until he occupies Guam, then we nuke it ourselves.



Boom. We just liberated North Korea while also shedding the dead weight that is Guam (seriously, why do we own Guam?).  I’ve forwarded this information to the Trump administration and it must be picking up steam because I already heard back from the Secret Service.

I’ll keep you posted.