Showing posts tagged as "North Korea"

Showing posts tagged North Korea

11 Apr
Out of the blue | S.C.S.
FORAGING in South Korea’s mountains may soon become more fruitful. Since a wild ginseng digger reported the wreckage of a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on April 3rd, the South’s ministry of defence has been ruminating on rewards for anyone who spots an enemy drone. The report followed the discovery of two other similar aircraft: on March 24th in Paju, a border city; and on March 31st on Baengnyeong island, near the disputed Northern Limit Line which demarcates the two Koreas’ maritime border. North Korean inscriptions on the planes’ batteries; an ongoing military investigation into their engines, fuel tanks and weight; and the sequence of the photographs found stored in one of the plane’s cameras suggest the drones were sent from North Korea. For others, their sky-blue camouflage paintwork, identical to that on larger drones paraded in the capital Pyongyang two years ago, was a giveaway.
FULL ARTICLE (The Economist)
Photo: Uwe Schwarzbach/Flickr

Out of the blue | S.C.S.

FORAGING in South Korea’s mountains may soon become more fruitful. Since a wild ginseng digger reported the wreckage of a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on April 3rd, the South’s ministry of defence has been ruminating on rewards for anyone who spots an enemy drone. The report followed the discovery of two other similar aircraft: on March 24th in Paju, a border city; and on March 31st on Baengnyeong island, near the disputed Northern Limit Line which demarcates the two Koreas’ maritime border. North Korean inscriptions on the planes’ batteries; an ongoing military investigation into their engines, fuel tanks and weight; and the sequence of the photographs found stored in one of the plane’s cameras suggest the drones were sent from North Korea. For others, their sky-blue camouflage paintwork, identical to that on larger drones paraded in the capital Pyongyang two years ago, was a giveaway.

FULL ARTICLE (The Economist)

Photo: Uwe Schwarzbach/Flickr

7 Apr
South Korea finds images of presidential residence on Kim Jong-un’s drones | Julian Ryall
Two North Korean drones that crashed in South Korea had taken hundreds of aerial photos of military installations as well as the official residence of President Park Guen-hye, authorities in Seoul have revealed.
Presidential security has been stepped up after one of the unmanned aerial vehicles, which crashed near the town of Paju last week, was found to contain images of the Blue House, the target of a 1968 assassination attempt by Pyongyang against the then South Korean leader.
Another, which crash-landed on Baeknyeong Island, off the west coast of the Korean peninsula on Monday, had photographed the defences on the island and the neighbouring islands of Socheong and Daecheong.
FULL ARTICLE (The Telegraph)
Photo: toughkidcst/flickr

South Korea finds images of presidential residence on Kim Jong-un’s drones | Julian Ryall

Two North Korean drones that crashed in South Korea had taken hundreds of aerial photos of military installations as well as the official residence of President Park Guen-hye, authorities in Seoul have revealed.

Presidential security has been stepped up after one of the unmanned aerial vehicles, which crashed near the town of Paju last week, was found to contain images of the Blue House, the target of a 1968 assassination attempt by Pyongyang against the then South Korean leader.

Another, which crash-landed on Baeknyeong Island, off the west coast of the Korean peninsula on Monday, had photographed the defences on the island and the neighbouring islands of Socheong and Daecheong.

FULL ARTICLE (The Telegraph)

Photo: toughkidcst/flickr

31 Mar
North Korea declares no-sail warning off coast to conduct firing drills | Jack Kim and James Pearson
North Korea declared a no-sail warning on Monday for areas off its west coast near a disputed border with South Korea and has notified the South that it will conduct firing drills, a South Korean government official said.
The area is near the so-called Northern Limit Line, drawn up at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, which the North has refused to recognize. Past clashes between the two navies in the area killed scores of sailors on both sides.
The warning comes amid heightened tensions surrounding the North after the U.N. Security Council condemned Pyongyang for its mid-range missile launches last week, just as the leaders of South Korea, Japan and the United States met to discuss the North’s arms program.
FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)
Photo: expertinfantry/flickr

North Korea declares no-sail warning off coast to conduct firing drills | Jack Kim and James Pearson

North Korea declared a no-sail warning on Monday for areas off its west coast near a disputed border with South Korea and has notified the South that it will conduct firing drills, a South Korean government official said.

The area is near the so-called Northern Limit Line, drawn up at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, which the North has refused to recognize. Past clashes between the two navies in the area killed scores of sailors on both sides.

The warning comes amid heightened tensions surrounding the North after the U.N. Security Council condemned Pyongyang for its mid-range missile launches last week, just as the leaders of South Korea, Japan and the United States met to discuss the North’s arms program.

FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)

Photo: expertinfantry/flickr

21 Mar
West seeks to decipher message of North Korea rocket launch | Simon Mundy
A day after North Korea fired 25 short-range rockets into the sea off its east coast, state media on Monday depicted Kim Jong Un overseeing an air force exercise, exhorting his fighter pilots to embrace “the spirit of becoming human bombs”.
The North Korean military exercises coincide with large-scale annual joint drills by South Korean and US forces, which Pyongyang has fiercely opposed as in previous years. “The acute situation is prevailing on the Korean peninsula in which a war may break out anytime,” an editorial in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper said on Sunday. “This is entirely attributable to the US persistent hostile policy toward the DPRK to stifle it by force of arms.”
FULL ARTICLE (Financial Times)
Photo: rapidtravelchai/flickr

West seeks to decipher message of North Korea rocket launch | Simon Mundy

A day after North Korea fired 25 short-range rockets into the sea off its east coast, state media on Monday depicted Kim Jong Un overseeing an air force exercise, exhorting his fighter pilots to embrace “the spirit of becoming human bombs”.

The North Korean military exercises coincide with large-scale annual joint drills by South Korean and US forces, which Pyongyang has fiercely opposed as in previous years. “The acute situation is prevailing on the Korean peninsula in which a war may break out anytime,” an editorial in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper said on Sunday. “This is entirely attributable to the US persistent hostile policy toward the DPRK to stifle it by force of arms.”

FULL ARTICLE (Financial Times)

Photo: rapidtravelchai/flickr

28 Feb
Cross Purposes: Beijing, Washington and the Korean Peninsula | Daniel Pinkston and Yanmei Xie
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent East Asia tour raised the prospect that the Six-Party Talks – in the deep freeze for over five years – could soon reconvene. After conversing with Chinese officials, Kerry spoke positively of their promise to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons. Kerry announced in Beijing that “China could not have more forcefully reiterated its commitment” to the goal of denuclearising North Korea. In the background was hope that an inter-Korean thaw might be underway, with the two Koreas agreeing to hold the first reunion of separated family members in over three years.
But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s own statement, while forceful, was far less specific. “China will never allow chaos or war on the Korean Peninsula”. Kerry had said the two sides agreed that the North “must take meaningful, concrete, and irreversible steps towards verifiable denuclearisation, and it needs to begin now”. Wang stressed that the “top priority at the moment is to grasp the opportunity and resume talks”.
Clearly the U.S. and China have a mismatch in priorities. Even though both posit denuclearisation as a goal, Beijing and Washington have contradicting prescriptions. The U.S. employs diplomatic isolation, economic sanctions, containment, and deterrence to pressure Pyongyang to denuclearise. Many in Washington believe Beijing holds the real key given the North’s economic dependence on China.  But China is reluctant to take any coercive action that might destabilise the Kim regime and possibly change a delicate geopolitical balance. So China utilises diplomatic engagement and economic cooperation as instruments with which to encourage the North Korean leadership to denuclearise, but it is willing to live with a de facto nuclear North Korea in exchange for stability in the present. Kerry himself acknowledged this when he said the Chinese “will not allow a nuclear program” in the North and added: “over the long run”.
Certainly a public consensus is emerging in China that believes Beijing’s unconditional support has led to some excessive North Korean behaviour contrary to China’s interests. Xi Jinping’s administration is trying to re-set boundaries. China almost certainly would deliver a harsh reprimand if North Korea were to conduct another nuclear or missile test, or start a military skirmish with the South, for example. But the red lines that would trigger serious punishment – and what the punishment would be – remain unclear.
Both the U.S. and China wish to avoid a war on the peninsula and therefore share an interest in managing Pyongyang’s behaviour. However – and here’s the fundamental difference in viewpoints – the risks and costs associated with managing Pyongyang are qualitatively different from those associated with the actions that might be required for denuclearisation. Pyongyang’s “normal” intransigence can be countered with short-term, easily reversible steps such as temporarily slowing down economic cooperation or tightening border inspections. Making Pyongyang abandon its nuclear weapons almost certainly would require more drastic actions, some of which could threaten Beijing’s bottom lines of no instability, no sudden regime change, no unified U.S. ally on China’s border. Managing Pyongyang’s behaviour helps maintain the status quo; denuclearising North Korea risks changing the status quo.
Setting the table to resume the Six-Party Talks appears to be good enough for China. The framework allows Beijing to play its preferred role of mediator, garnering good-will for its efforts while ensuring minimum costs to its relations with the parties involved (the U.S., both Koreas, Japan and Russia). The Chinese consensus is that the North Korean nuclear issue is ultimately a “U.S.-DPRK” problem that can be solved if the two parties would only sit down and hammer out an agreement, so Beijing may well feel it has done its part if it can get the parties to reconvene talks. Having the parties at the table also gives Beijing a structure for monitoring and managing tensions.
The barriers to talks therefore remain significant. Washington wants Pyongyang to take verifiable and irreversible steps towards dismantling its nuclear program, including implementing its previous denuclearisation commitment. China, however, wants the U.S. to lower its threshold for talks, or in Wang Yi’s words, “show flexibility”.
U.S. policymakers very likely see the limits of cooperating with Beijing, but at this stage choose to paper over differences in public. Lauding China’s commitment to denuclearise the North, Kerry also could be aiming to bind Beijing to a position it might find difficult to abandon. But Beijing has its own ideas. China’s stated goal actually is “the denuclearisation of the peninsula”, a nod to Pyongyang’s assertion that Washington’s nuclear umbrella must be retracted from Seoul.
In short, there is little sign of Beijing moving towards Washington’s pressure-driven approach in the absence of Pyongyang crossing China’s red lines. Evidence suggests quite the opposite. On the heels of Kerry’s visit to Beijing, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin travelled to Pyongyang where he reiterated China’s desire to foster the “healthy and stable development of bilateral relations”, including by “respecting each other’s interests and expanding pragmatic cooperation”.  China may be willing to apply pressure on North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks. But when the table is set, Beijing will likely congratulate itself for fulfilling its responsibilities, and the ball will then be in Washington’s court as to whether talks alone are sufficient.
crisisgroupblogs.org
PHOTO: REUTERS/Diego Azubel/Pool

Cross Purposes: Beijing, Washington and the Korean Peninsula | Daniel Pinkston and Yanmei Xie

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent East Asia tour raised the prospect that the Six-Party Talks – in the deep freeze for over five years – could soon reconvene. After conversing with Chinese officials, Kerry spoke positively of their promise to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons. Kerry announced in Beijing that “China could not have more forcefully reiterated its commitment” to the goal of denuclearising North Korea. In the background was hope that an inter-Korean thaw might be underway, with the two Koreas agreeing to hold the first reunion of separated family members in over three years.

But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s own statement, while forceful, was far less specific. “China will never allow chaos or war on the Korean Peninsula”. Kerry had said the two sides agreed that the North “must take meaningful, concrete, and irreversible steps towards verifiable denuclearisation, and it needs to begin now”. Wang stressed that the “top priority at the moment is to grasp the opportunity and resume talks”.

Clearly the U.S. and China have a mismatch in priorities. Even though both posit denuclearisation as a goal, Beijing and Washington have contradicting prescriptions. The U.S. employs diplomatic isolation, economic sanctions, containment, and deterrence to pressure Pyongyang to denuclearise. Many in Washington believe Beijing holds the real key given the North’s economic dependence on China.  But China is reluctant to take any coercive action that might destabilise the Kim regime and possibly change a delicate geopolitical balance. So China utilises diplomatic engagement and economic cooperation as instruments with which to encourage the North Korean leadership to denuclearise, but it is willing to live with a de facto nuclear North Korea in exchange for stability in the present. Kerry himself acknowledged this when he said the Chinese “will not allow a nuclear program” in the North and added: “over the long run”.

Certainly a public consensus is emerging in China that believes Beijing’s unconditional support has led to some excessive North Korean behaviour contrary to China’s interests. Xi Jinping’s administration is trying to re-set boundaries. China almost certainly would deliver a harsh reprimand if North Korea were to conduct another nuclear or missile test, or start a military skirmish with the South, for example. But the red lines that would trigger serious punishment – and what the punishment would be – remain unclear.

Both the U.S. and China wish to avoid a war on the peninsula and therefore share an interest in managing Pyongyang’s behaviour. However – and here’s the fundamental difference in viewpoints – the risks and costs associated with managing Pyongyang are qualitatively different from those associated with the actions that might be required for denuclearisation. Pyongyang’s “normal” intransigence can be countered with short-term, easily reversible steps such as temporarily slowing down economic cooperation or tightening border inspections. Making Pyongyang abandon its nuclear weapons almost certainly would require more drastic actions, some of which could threaten Beijing’s bottom lines of no instability, no sudden regime change, no unified U.S. ally on China’s border. Managing Pyongyang’s behaviour helps maintain the status quo; denuclearising North Korea risks changing the status quo.

Setting the table to resume the Six-Party Talks appears to be good enough for China. The framework allows Beijing to play its preferred role of mediator, garnering good-will for its efforts while ensuring minimum costs to its relations with the parties involved (the U.S., both Koreas, Japan and Russia). The Chinese consensus is that the North Korean nuclear issue is ultimately a “U.S.-DPRK” problem that can be solved if the two parties would only sit down and hammer out an agreement, so Beijing may well feel it has done its part if it can get the parties to reconvene talks. Having the parties at the table also gives Beijing a structure for monitoring and managing tensions.

The barriers to talks therefore remain significant. Washington wants Pyongyang to take verifiable and irreversible steps towards dismantling its nuclear program, including implementing its previous denuclearisation commitment. China, however, wants the U.S. to lower its threshold for talks, or in Wang Yi’s words, “show flexibility”.

U.S. policymakers very likely see the limits of cooperating with Beijing, but at this stage choose to paper over differences in public. Lauding China’s commitment to denuclearise the North, Kerry also could be aiming to bind Beijing to a position it might find difficult to abandon. But Beijing has its own ideas. China’s stated goal actually is “the denuclearisation of the peninsula”, a nod to Pyongyang’s assertion that Washington’s nuclear umbrella must be retracted from Seoul.

In short, there is little sign of Beijing moving towards Washington’s pressure-driven approach in the absence of Pyongyang crossing China’s red lines. Evidence suggests quite the opposite. On the heels of Kerry’s visit to Beijing, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin travelled to Pyongyang where he reiterated China’s desire to foster the “healthy and stable development of bilateral relations”, including by “respecting each other’s interests and expanding pragmatic cooperation”.  China may be willing to apply pressure on North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks. But when the table is set, Beijing will likely congratulate itself for fulfilling its responsibilities, and the ball will then be in Washington’s court as to whether talks alone are sufficient.

crisisgroupblogs.org

PHOTO: REUTERS/Diego Azubel/Pool

25 Feb
"North Korea is far outside the boundary of accepted behavior" - expert | Roman Kosarev
The exercises led to an extended surging tension last year when North Korea threatening preemptive nuclear strikes and attacks on South Korean and US targets. Meanwhile around 360 South Koreans reportedly met their North Korean relatives on Monday for the first time since the Korean War, that lasted between 1950 and 1953. The family reunion event took place in North Korea’s mount Kumgang resort. The Voice of Russia talked to Daniel Pinkston, a North East Asia Deputy Project Director at the International Crisis Group.
FULL INTERVIEW (Voice of Russia)
Photo: rapidtravelchai/flickr

"North Korea is far outside the boundary of accepted behavior" - expert | Roman Kosarev

The exercises led to an extended surging tension last year when North Korea threatening preemptive nuclear strikes and attacks on South Korean and US targets. Meanwhile around 360 South Koreans reportedly met their North Korean relatives on Monday for the first time since the Korean War, that lasted between 1950 and 1953. The family reunion event took place in North Korea’s mount Kumgang resort. The Voice of Russia talked to Daniel Pinkston, a North East Asia Deputy Project Director at the International Crisis Group.

FULL INTERVIEW (Voice of Russia)

Photo: rapidtravelchai/flickr

21 Feb
Concern, Little Sympathy, for Australian Missionary Detained in North Korea |  Michelle Arrouas
Karen Short seemed calm and collected during our interview. She had every reason not to be. Her husband, Australian missionary John Short, was detained in North Korea on Sunday for disseminating religious material. The 75-year-old carried Korean-language pamphlets advocating Christianity into the East Asian nation, and these were later discovered by security personnel.
“[John] does not live in the realm of ‘what if’ I get caught — otherwise he would never have done the things that he has been doing,” Karen Short told TIME at the couple’s bookstore in Hong Kong’s New Territories.
North Korea is widely considered one of the world’s most brutal regimes. A U.N. report released this week detailed unparalleled “crimes against humanity” including extermination, murder, enslavement, torture and rape by the government of young despot Kim Jong Un. Foreign nationals have also fallen victim. In November, Korean-American Kenneth Bae, another missionary, was sentenced to 15 years for “hostile acts” and currently toils in a labor camp.
FULL ARTICLE (Time)
Photo: U.S. Army Korea (Historical Image Archive)/flickr

Concern, Little Sympathy, for Australian Missionary Detained in North Korea |  Michelle Arrouas

Karen Short seemed calm and collected during our interview. She had every reason not to be. Her husband, Australian missionary John Short, was detained in North Korea on Sunday for disseminating religious material. The 75-year-old carried Korean-language pamphlets advocating Christianity into the East Asian nation, and these were later discovered by security personnel.

“[John] does not live in the realm of ‘what if’ I get caught — otherwise he would never have done the things that he has been doing,” Karen Short told TIME at the couple’s bookstore in Hong Kong’s New Territories.

North Korea is widely considered one of the world’s most brutal regimes. A U.N. report released this week detailed unparalleled “crimes against humanity” including extermination, murder, enslavement, torture and rape by the government of young despot Kim Jong Un. Foreign nationals have also fallen victim. In November, Korean-American Kenneth Bae, another missionary, was sentenced to 15 years for “hostile acts” and currently toils in a labor camp.

FULL ARTICLE (Time)

Photo: U.S. Army Korea (Historical Image Archive)/flickr

20 Feb
Separated Korean Relatives Meet for Emotional Reunions | Daniel Schearf
More than 100 South Koreans have crossed into North Korea to meet with relatives they have not seen since the 1950s Korean War. Pyongyang has not allowed the emotional reunions since 2010 and analysts have said the isolated nation uses them for political purposes.
One hundred forty South Koreans, most in their 70s and 80s, arrived Thursday at North Korea’s Mount Kumgang resort.
They are part of several hundred chosen by lottery to spend two days meeting with North Korean relatives they have not seen in six decades.
FULL ARTICLE (Voice of America)
Photo: lookingpost/flickr

Separated Korean Relatives Meet for Emotional Reunions | Daniel Schearf

More than 100 South Koreans have crossed into North Korea to meet with relatives they have not seen since the 1950s Korean War. Pyongyang has not allowed the emotional reunions since 2010 and analysts have said the isolated nation uses them for political purposes.

One hundred forty South Koreans, most in their 70s and 80s, arrived Thursday at North Korea’s Mount Kumgang resort.

They are part of several hundred chosen by lottery to spend two days meeting with North Korean relatives they have not seen in six decades.

FULL ARTICLE (Voice of America)

Photo: lookingpost/flickr

18 Feb
U.N. North Korea Report Puts China in Uncomfortable Position | Brian Spegele
A United Nations report that bleakly details widespread human rights abuses in North Korea is putting China in an uncomfortable position over its close ties to its isolated neighbor.
In its damning portrayal of North Korea, a special commission impaneled by the U.N. Human Rights Council takes Beijing to task for repatriating North Koreans who cross the border into China and are sometimes tortured and executed on return. The commission recommended that the U.N. Security Council refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court and adopt sanctions against North Korean leaders for allegedly committing crimes against humanity.
On a practical level, the report is unlikely to alter China’s policy toward Pyongyang, some scholars familiar with Chinese-North Korean relations said. As a permanent member of the Security Council, Beijing has veto authority. China’s role as North Korea’s largest trading partner and political benefactor is a strategic decision to maintain calm and a buffer on its northeast border, North Korea watchers said.
FULL ARTICLE (Wall Street Journal)
Photo: felibrilu/flickr

U.N. North Korea Report Puts China in Uncomfortable Position | Brian Spegele

A United Nations report that bleakly details widespread human rights abuses in North Korea is putting China in an uncomfortable position over its close ties to its isolated neighbor.

In its damning portrayal of North Korea, a special commission impaneled by the U.N. Human Rights Council takes Beijing to task for repatriating North Koreans who cross the border into China and are sometimes tortured and executed on return. The commission recommended that the U.N. Security Council refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court and adopt sanctions against North Korean leaders for allegedly committing crimes against humanity.

On a practical level, the report is unlikely to alter China’s policy toward Pyongyang, some scholars familiar with Chinese-North Korean relations said. As a permanent member of the Security Council, Beijing has veto authority. China’s role as North Korea’s largest trading partner and political benefactor is a strategic decision to maintain calm and a buffer on its northeast border, North Korea watchers said.

FULL ARTICLE (Wall Street Journal)

Photo: felibrilu/flickr

14 Feb
Kerry pushes China on North Korea’s nukes | Simon Denyer
Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Friday that China’s leaders told him that they were willing to put additional pressure on North Korea if it did not return to talks about abandoning its nuclear weapons program, but he acknowledged that Washington and Beijing took different approaches to the issue.
On a tour though Asia, Kerry said he held a constructive meeting Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. He said he urged China to “use every tool at its disposal” to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.
But Washington-based China experts said Beijing was unlikely to push its longtime ally too far over the issue and remained unwilling to join a U.S.-led attempt to isolate the Pyongyang regime.
FULL ARTICLE (Washington Post)
Photo: Center for American Progress Action Fund/flickr

Kerry pushes China on North Korea’s nukes | Simon Denyer

Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Friday that China’s leaders told him that they were willing to put additional pressure on North Korea if it did not return to talks about abandoning its nuclear weapons program, but he acknowledged that Washington and Beijing took different approaches to the issue.

On a tour though Asia, Kerry said he held a constructive meeting Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. He said he urged China to “use every tool at its disposal” to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

But Washington-based China experts said Beijing was unlikely to push its longtime ally too far over the issue and remained unwilling to join a U.S.-led attempt to isolate the Pyongyang regime.

FULL ARTICLE (Washington Post)

Photo: Center for American Progress Action Fund/flickr