Tag Archives: North Korea

Summit between leaders of North and South Korea began today

The first summit in more than a decade between the leaders of North and South Korea began today.

The two leaders are meeting at Peace House, south of the demarcation line in the border truce village of Panmunjom.

Kim is the first North Korean leader to step foot in South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War, and the two leaders are expected to discuss issues relating to peace and denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

The two leaders smiled and shook hands after which Kim gestured to Moon to cross over to North Korea briefly, which they did for a few steps, then returned to the South, holding hands.

Though no one should trust much of what Kim says or does, this summit is certainly a testament to the foreign policy of Donald Trump. During the Obama administration, all we had from North Korea were nuclear tests and threats of war, with the U.S. weakly responding with typically empty diplomatic statements of “serious concern.”

Now Kim is signing the guest register in South Korea like so: “New history starts now; age of peace, from the starting point of history.” Trump forced his allies, most specifically China, to put pressure on him, and it has apparently had a positive effect.

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North Korea suspends nuclear and rocket programs

Can we believe it? In anticipation of the upcoming summits with both South Korea and President Trump, North Korea today announced that it has suspended both its nuclear and missile programs.

The new policy, which sets the table for further negotiations when the summits begin, was announced by leader Kim Jong Un at a meeting of the North Korean ruling party’s Central Committee on Friday and reported by the North’s state-run media early Saturday.

Kim justified the suspension to his party by saying that the situation around North Korea has been rapidly changing “in favor of the Korean revolution” since he announced last year his country had completed its nuclear forces. He said North Korea has reached the level where it no longer needs to conduct underground testing or test-launching of ICBMs.

I think the real reason he announced this is that he knows that if he continues the program, he shall be increasingly isolated. Trump’s pressure on China forced that nation to put the screws on Kim, and as a result he really has no choice but announce the suspension of these programs.

What we really don’t know is if this announcement can be taken seriously. Its public framing, justified under the lie that the programs were completed, makes me very suspicious that he is lying about everything. We shall see how Trump takes it in the coming months..

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Trump to meet with North Korean leader

President Trump has accepted an offer by North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-Un to meet face-to-face sometime in the next few months to discuss that nation’s nuclear weaponry.

The historic meeting was brokered by the South Korean government, which delivered the invitation to the White House and divulged the details outside the West Wing. “He expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible,” South Korean National Security Director Chung Eui-yong said of Kim. “President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-Un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization.”

According to Chung, the North also agreed to suspend nuclear and missile tests during such future talks — a longstanding US demand.

There is progress here, but everyone should not assume much will come of this. The last time an American president, Bill Clinton, made a deal with North Korea, it was supposed to have ended North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. That certainly didn’t work, and Trump could be double-crossed just as easily.

Nonetheless, Trump appears to be having more success forcing North Korea to the table than anyone in decades.

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North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un meets with South Korean delegation

In a sign that he is backing off his previous and long maintained belligerent stance, North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un met with a South Korean delegation on March 5.

The above link is a press release by a North Korean news source, so it is hardly informative. This Reuters story has some information from the South Korean delegation:

Next month, North Korea and South Korea will have the first meeting between their leaders since 2007 at the border village of Panmunjom, said Chung Eui-yong, head of the South Korean delegation. “North Korea made clear its willingness to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and the fact there is no reason for it to have a nuclear program if military threats against the North are resolved and its regime is secure,” Chung told a media briefing.

Chung cited North Korea as saying it would not carry out nuclear or missile tests while talks with the international community were under way. North Korea has not carried out any such tests since last November. North Korea also is willing to discuss normalizing ties with the United States, Chung said.

This sudden willingness to talk, after more than a decade of war talk, strongly suggests that Trump’s hardline position, which subsequently forced China and others to follow, has had an effect.

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North Korea launches another ICBM

North Korea today launched another ICBM, landing it in the Sea of Japan.

The Department of Defense said that initial assessments indicated the missile was an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM. In a news conference, Japan’s defense minister also said it seemed to be an ICBM. The missile went higher than any shot North Korea had previously taken, according to Defense Secretary James Mattis.

This was North Korea’s first launch in a couple of months.

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North Korea’s new plan to develop and launch satellites

North Korea announced yesterday a new program to accelerate the development of home-built space satellites and orbital rockets.

North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun published a commentary laying out the country’s plans to send more satellites into space over the next five years. The program “can contribute to improving the economy and people’s lives,” the article reads. “It is a global trend to seek economic development through space programs,” the October 31 piece said. “According to our five-year plan for space development, we will launch more working satellites, such as geostationary ones.” Geostationary satellites orbit the Earth about 38,500 kilometers (22,000 miles) over a fixed position over the equator and revolve from west to east like the Earth.

It is hard to know how realistic this program is, and how much of it is actually a cover for North Korea’s ICBM development efforts.

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Could North Korea use its missiles to fill orbital space with debris?

Link here. While most of the discussion about the missile threat from North Korea has focused on the possibility of it detonating a nuclear bomb high enough to cause an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that would disable most electronic equipment, this article notes that they could much more easily do almost as much harm by simply using their ballistic missiles to fill low-Earth-orbit (LEO) space with space junk, thus disabling much of the world’s military surveillance and reconnaissance satellites.

I am not sure how much of a threat this might be, but I find the article somewhat worrisome because it proposes something that seems quite reasonable and doable, with the technology that North Korea appears to have, right this minute.

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Chinese government orders shutdown of all North Korean businesses

The Chinese government has ordered that all businesses run by North Koreans, whether singly or in a joint partnership, must shut down within the next four months.

The order applies to all such businesses in China, as well as any Chinese/North Korean joint ventures abroad. It will exempt nonprofits and “noncommercial infrastructure projects,” whatever that is, and will also allow individual businesses to request a waiver.

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Chinese banks cease all business with North Korea

China’s central bank has ordered all Chinese banks to stop all business with North Korea.

Chinese banks have come under scrutiny for their role as a conduit for funds flowing to and from China’s increasingly isolated neighbor. The sources said banks were told to stop providing financial services to new North Korean customers and to wind down loans with existing customers, following tighter sanctions against Pyongyang by the United Nations. The sources said lenders were asked to fully implement United Nations sanctions against North Korea and were warned of the economic losses and reputational risks if they did not do so.

Chinese banks received the document on Monday, the sources said.

It appears that this order only effects new business with North Koreans, which means it can be gotten around, and is somewhat meaningless. At the same time, it appears that China’s is slowly stepping up its pressure on North Korea, which is a good thing.

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North Korea fires another missile

North Korea today test fired another missile, this time sending it over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.

South Korea’s defense ministry said it probably traveled around 2,300 miles and reached a maximum altitude of 478 miles after being launched near Pyongyang’s airport.

It was the second aggressive test-flight over the territory of the close US ally in less than a month and it followed the sixth and most powerful nuclear test by North Korea to date on September 3.

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Russia and China both condemn North Korea’s nuclear test

Has the veil finally lifted from their eyes? The leaders of both Russia and China on Sunday agreed to work together to deal with the threat of a North Korea with nuclear weapons and ICBMs, with China strongly condemning North Korea.

It appears that these nations have suddenly realized that a North Korea with nuclear weapons and missiles capable of delivering those weapons anywhere on the globe is not merely a threat to the U.S., it also poses a threat to them. It is a shame that it took so long for this basic and obvious fact to sink in.

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North Korea launches another missile

North Korea has launched another ballistic missile.

Not much information yet about its range or capability.

Update (now that I am off the mountain and back in the lobby, able to post): It appears North Korea successfully launched three short range ballistic missiles on Saturday.

Initial reports had suggested that all were failures. Now it appears that all were successful, flying about 150 miles.

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North Korea appears to back down

A news report today out of North Korea suggests that its leader, Kim Jong Un, has stepped back from a plan to test fire four missiles in the direction of Guam.

This could be related to China’s decision this week, under strong pressure from the Trump administration, to finally go along with UN sanctions and ban imports of iron, lead, and coal from North Korea.

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China admits it will do nothing to stop North Korea from attacking US

In an official editorial, China has admitted that it will do nothing to stop North Korea from using missiles to attack the US territory of Guam.

Beijing is not able to persuade Washington or Pyongyang to back down at this time. It needs to make clear its stance to all sides and make them understand that when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand.

China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral. 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.

In other words, China will not stop North Korea from carrying out its attacks, but if it does so China will also not do anything if the U.S. responds.

The editorial is intellectually dishonest however. It also states,

The real danger is that such a reckless game may lead to miscalculations and a strategic “war.” That is to say, neither Washington nor Pyongyang really wants war, but a war could break out anyway as they do not have the experience of putting such an extreme game under control. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words are simply wrong. It has been very clear now for several years that North Korea is eager for war, and has been doing everything it can to instigate a conflict.

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North Korea launches another ballistic missile

Does this make you feel safer? North Korea today launched another ballistic missile.

Not much is known about the rocket or the launch. My overall impression however is that North Korea is refining its approach to the launch of these rockets. Several years ago they would blast away, with no sense of rhyme or reason, often following up one failed launch with another almost immediately. Sometimes they would even try to launch a bunch of rockets in one day. To me these earlier launches suggested a mindless attempt at bravado, with little serious interest at improving the technology.

Now their launches seem to have a more measured cadence, as if they are properly treating each launch as an engineering test. They then review their results, apply them, and try again.

If so, we have much more to fear from their effort to develop rockets and nuclear bombs.

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U.S successfully tests missile intercept system

The U.S. military successfully used its new THAAD missile defense system to intercept a test target over Alaska today.

While government officials say the timing of this test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system had nothing to do with the escalating tensions in Korea, I don’t think anyone believes them.

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North Korea test fires another ballistic missile

North Korea today launched another test missile into nearby waters, this time landing in Japanese waters.

Update: North Korea now claims this was an ICBM that could have reached Alaska, and some of the experts quoted appear to agree.

It was estimated to have reached an altitude that “greatly exceeded” 2,500 kilometres, Japan said, prompting arms control specialist Jeffrey Lewis to respond on Twitter: “That’s it. It’s an ICBM. An ICBM that can hit Anchorage not San Francisco, but still.”

David Wright, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote on the organisation’s allthingsnuclear blog that the available figures implied the missile “could reach a maximum range of roughly 6,700 km on a standard trajectory. … That range would not be enough to reach the lower 48 states or the large islands of Hawaii, but would allow it to reach all of Alaska.”

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China cuts off oil to North Korea

It’s about time. China’s national oil company has suspended all oil sales to North Korea because of lack of payment.

The reason North Korea doesn’t have the money to buy oil is largely because it hasn’t been able to sell any coal to China. And the reasons for both is likely China’s increasing desire to rein in North Korea’s missile and nuclear arms programs.

Without oil or coal, North Korea’s leadership will find itself hard-pressed to survive.

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North Korea fires another ballistic missile

North Korea today conducted its ninth ballistic missile test this year, all of which have been in violation of UN sanctions.

The missile, presumed to be a Scud type, was launched eastward from the vicinity of Wonsan, Gangwon Province, at around 5:39 a.m., according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). “The flight distance is around 450 kilometers,” it said.

As a Scud, the missile would likely not have the capability of carrying a heavy payload, like a nuclear bomb. Nonetheless, with each test North Korea gains knowledge on how to do exactly that.

For a detailed look at the people building North Korea’s missile program see this article from yesterday: Kim’s rocket stars – The trio behind North Korea’s missile program

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North Korea completes ballistic missile test

North Korea today successfully completed a ballistic missile test.

The unidentified ballistic missile was launched at 5:27 a.m. Sunday Seoul time (4:27 p.m. Saturday ET), off Kusong north of the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, a South Korean military official told NBC News. The missile flew around 30 minutes and landed in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary said.

The missile is not believed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, U.S. Pacific Command said. Defense officials said the U.S. is assessing whether it was a success of failure. “Right now it sure looks successful,” one U.S. defense official said.

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North Korean missile destroyed because it was heading to Russia?

A new report today suggests that the North Koreans purposely destroyed their ballistic missile on Saturday because their tracking indicated it would land in Russia.

According to South Korea’s SE Daily, the ballistic missile would have struck ‘a harbour point or a Russian territory’ if it had not failed. ‘It is for this reason that North Korea intentionally destroyed the missile,’ the website reportedly said. A source is quoted as saying the launch target was ‘different from the previous direction’ and that ‘in the past, we fired 89-90 degrees to the east, and the projectile fell off the East Sea. But the angle of this shot was 49 degrees.’

So far the theories surrounding this missile test include an unintended explosion, a planned explosion, an aborted explosion, and even sabotage. All this suggests to me that the real issue here is that we really don’t have good intelligence behind North Korea’s actions.

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North Korean missile explosion part of planned test

South Korean government officials said today that they do not believe the most recent North Korean missile test, which exploded shortly after launch, was a failure.

“We don’t believe the mid-air explosion was an accident,” cable news channel YTN quoted a government official as saying. “It’s believed the explosion was a test to develop a nuclear weapon different from existing ones.”

The nuclear-armed isolated country fired a ballistic missile on Saturday morning from near Pukchang in Pyeongannam-do (South Pyeongan Province). The missile climbed to 71 kilometers before exploding within North Korean territory, according to the South Korean and U.S. defense ministries. The explosion happened two or three minutes after blast-off.

Military experts say mid- or long-range missiles normally stabilize at 20 or 30 kilometers above ground. In the latest test, the missile climbed to three times the so-called “stabilizing height, which means the chances that any internal mechanical failure caused the explosion were “very low,” according to experts.

The officials also added that they think this test flight is preparation for a future nuclear bomb test that would take place above ground.

Update: This detailed essay takes a look at North Korea’s military capabilities for attacking its neighbors by short and long range artillery and missiles.

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North Korea ballistic missile test ends in failure

North Korea on Saturday local time once again attempted and failed to launch a ballistic missile.

Some details here. The missile flew 25 miles, and was a short range missile.

While previously I attributed the consistent failures of every single North Korean missile test to the inherent incompetence of that society’s totalitarian regime, I am now beginning to wonder if espionage from either the U.S. or China might be a contributing factor. It seems unlikely, and the simplest explanation remains engineering failures with North Korea’s aerospace industry. Yet…

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North Korea missile test fails

North Korea on Sunday failed to launch another ballistic missile, with the missile apparently exploding immediately upon launch.

This failure once again highlights the fact that North Korea’s communist totalitarian culture, which has made that nation very poor, puts some limit on its ability to build things like intercontinental missiles and nuclear bombs. At the same time, we must never underestimate the ability of madness to achieve irrational things. North Korea continues to be a very dangerous player on the international stage, which is why the Trump administration’s aggressive threats against it have not been protested by China in a strong manner, and instead have prompted that nation to finally apply its own pressure against Pyongyang.

In fact, it appears to me that the only ones with strong misgivings about the Trump administration’s aggressive policy against North Korea’s missile and nuclear program have been leftwing politicians, academics, and journalists here in the U.S.

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China and South Korea agree to counter North Korea’s missile/nuclear program

Under pressure from the Trump administration to do something about North Korea’s out-of-control and aggressive nuclear and missile program, China has worked out an agreement with South Korea to take “strong action”.

It remains a question how serious this response will be, but it is also the first sign in a long time that China is finally taking the threat from North Korea seriously.

Update: China refuses acceptance of coal from a fleet of North Korean ships.

This new story confirms that China was serious about this ban when it announced it in February. Set to run to at least the end of this year, the loss of income to North Korea, very poor already, should have some influence there. Whether good or bad, however, remains unknown. One cannot expect irrational and mad individuals holding great power to come to rational conclusions.

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North Korea test fires four ballistic missiles

Does this make you feel safe? North Korea today test fired four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan.

North Korea on Monday launched four ballistic missiles, three of which fell into Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan, the Japanese government said. There were no immediate reports of damage to ships or aircraft in the area, Japan’s top government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said at a news conference in Tokyo, calling the latest missile launch a “grave threat to national security.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe separately told reporters that the missiles traveled around 1,000 km. He later said at a Diet session that the remaining missile also fell near the EEZ.

It is very unclear whether these missile tests were a success, since we really don’t know what kind of missiles they were. If short or medium range, they went the right distance. If longer range, the distance traveled (600 miles or 1000 kilometers) suggests the missiles did not travel as far as they should.

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China suspends coal purchases from North Korea

Finally! In an apparent response to North Korea’s recent ballistic missile test China has suspended its coal purchases from North Korea through the end of this year.

China will suspend all imports of coal from North Korea until the end of the year, the Commerce Ministry announced Saturday, in a surprise move that would cut off a major financial lifeline for Pyongyang and significantly enhance the effectiveness of U.N. sanctions. Coal is North Korea’s largest export item, and also China’s greatest point of leverage over the regime.

The ministry said the ban would come into force Sunday and be effective until Dec. 31. China said the move was designed to implement November’s United Nations Security Council resolution that tightened sanctions against the regime in the wake of its last nuclear test.

While there are doubts this will change policy in North Korea, it does indicate that China is finally losing patience with that rogue state and its threatening behavior. And since China is one of the few countries that does any trade with North Korea, it is probably one of the few countries that can influence it in any way.

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