The Al Kibar scandal – Why now?

29 04 2008

The Al Kibar scandal is a clear attempt of the White House (R.Cheney) group to undermine the negotiating efforts of the State Department (C.Rice) group, and to preclude any chance of removing NK from the list of terrorism-supporting states tomorrow – 30th April.

The “intelligence” (very unconvincing) was leaked deliberately to the media one week before the 30 April. Chris Hill and Sung Kim were sacrificed in the process. Also, the White House pursued some murky plans in the Middle East.

I don’t believe that Pyongyang might have provided its own snaps (the Syrian photographs) for Washington, as a quid for the desired quo (removal from the list of the terror supporting states). It’s too complex and unnecessary. If the US wanted to cut the deal with NK, they would have done so many years ago.

The 6PT might sustain this blow (as Hill and Kim Sook have suggested today) but it once again shows the rise of factional struggle in Washington, and once again (as it was in September 2005) leaves the US-DPRK normalization process in jeopardy.

The Nelson Report (4/28/2008) carries interesting information on this strange story:

N. KOREA…since our Reports of Thursday and Friday last week, possibly debilitating rumors, but little “fact” has been added to the deconstruction of the CIA’s controversial “Syria briefing”.

In the sexy rumor department, there are those claiming that the Israeli-supplied photos used in the “video” shown on Capitol Hill “came from a photo-shop”, specifically, “the pixels don’t match” on the alleged N. Korean nuclear expert and his Syrian compatriots.

This strikes us as amazingly easy to confirm, one way or the other, but we cite it as emblematic of the fundamental destruction of trust in nuclear-related “intelligence” since the Colin Powell ” Iraq WMD” debacle at the UN, oh so many long years ago.

On the photo allegedly of a DPRK nuclear expert, Administration sources confirm that the video ID is inaccurate, but our sources say the S. Korean newspaper identification of the man as a senior political official from the Foreign Ministry is also incorrect.

On the briefing itself, we can report that Capitol Hill “customers” are not at all happy that less than an hour after professional staff with the appropriate clearances were barred from the room, the whole video was handed over to the world.

“You have to think the Administration didn’t want to have experts in the room who might dare to ask tough questions”, notes one disgruntled bar-ee, whom, we should note, said he did not believe the “pixel” mismatch rumor “because it would be so unbelievably stupid…”

The majority of our expert sources do say they feel that the video briefing can be accepted as conclusive that…assuming the photos are not a complete fabrication…the Syrian plant can now be said to definitely be a Yongbyon-type of nuclear facility.

But after that, consensus breaks down completely on whether it was a nascent bomb facility, a power station of some kind, or what.

One Congressional expert, after watching the video, comments “the very first line in the briefing is false…there’s no way the plant was ‘ready to be switched on’, so you have to question the entire premise for the raid…”

For those who want to follow the pros and cons of what kind of a nuclear plant may have been bombed, and what about Israel ‘s “motive”, we urge you to check the blogs. For Asia purposes, the focus needs to shift to the effect of all this on the 6 Party Talks.

On the issue of how “Syria” relates to the 6 Party Talks, and the “Singapore” deal hammered out by A/S Chris Hill, now under review in both Washington and Pyongyang…

Indications are that the lack of support from his immediate boss, Condi Rice (noted in last Wednesday’s NY Times), plus the warning from President Bush “don’t make me look weak”, has led Hill to conclude he needs more detail than was brought back over the weekend by Korea Desk chief Sung Kim.

With that in mind, don’t be surprised if Kim is sent back to Pyongyang in hopes of generating materials which skeptics and supporters alike will accept on the vital “verification” issues now under such strong attack.

Hill cannot have been pleased to see a predecessor as Asst. Sec., Winston Lord, and the highly respected Les Gelb, join in an OpEd criticizing the Singapore deal, and thus legitimizing the concerted conservative/neo-con attack on what is clearly still a work in progress.

So…stay tuned.

Oh…one important point…the Sanger article in the Times last week led to speculation that Hill was close to resigning, and there were quotes being passed around by various “friends”…the Truman dictum at work again.

We can report definitely from Hill himself, “still here…still here…”

Here are some conclusions:

1. Syria-DPRK nuclear cooperation “evidence” is backfiring on the US and Israel:

a) Israel suspected that Syria was illegally developing a nuclear facility and NOT informed the IAEA, but instead attacked Syria without proclaiming a war and destroyed a suspected target.

b) The US did not blame Israel for this but, instead, sided with the aggressor.

c) The US apparently had the “intelligence” on the suspected nuclear facility in Syria but did not share it with the IAEA until eight months later.

d) The White House decided to reveal the “evidence” in the middle of highly successful negotiations with North Korea and one week before the update on the Terrorism-supporting Nations List: both actions undermining the negotiations efforts of the State Department. Does this improve the international standing of the US?

2. Any North Korean nuclear declaration can be labeled “incomplete” unless the US arbitrarily decides to accept it:

a) Nobody (except for KJI) really knows 100% truth about the NK nuclear program and it is impossible to verify anything or otherwise.

b) Neo-cons in the White House are NOT interested in concluding a deal with KJI because any deal with him would remind them of the 1994 Framework Agreement, which they singlehandedly dismantled in 2002.

c) By insisting that North Korean nuclear declaration is “incomplete” the US has a comfortable excuse NOT to implement #3 of the 13 Feb 2007 deal, which North Korea desperately needs to be accomplished to be removed from the Terrorism List and Trading with the Enemy Act.

3. Syria-DPRK link was engineered by the White House to destroy any NK’s expectations that it would be cleared of terrorism-supporting charges:

a) The 2007 report on terrorism did not bring any surprises. The report is online if you haven’t read it yet – you’ll note that the paragraph on NK is almost all verbatim to last year, and what was changed was minimal.

b) Don’t forget that there is NOT only a NK angle, but a Middle East angle in this story. This puts many analysts at a weakness, because there are few people well versed in both regions of the world (actually, I used to be fluent in Farsi and Arabic before learning Korean).

c) The common factor is that the Neo-cons who want to see negotiations with NK sank, want the same for Syrian/Israeli talks. Hard line all around…

LP

The Financial Times (Demetri Sevastopulo and Daniel Dombey, “HOUSE DRAWS LINE ON NORTH KOREA”, Washington, 2008/05/01) reported that a key congressional committee approved legislation that could complicate US efforts to reach a denuclearisation deal with the DPRK. The House foreign affairs committee unanimously approved a bill that would place conditions on any move by the Bush administration to remove the DPRK from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. If approved by Congress, the measure would require the White House to certify that the DPRK has provided a “complete and correct declaration” of all its nuclear programmes before lifting sanctions.

Stay assured that all NK declarations are going to remain “incomplete” and “incorrect”.

LP

Yonhap  (“N.K. NUKE DECLARATION MAY BE DELAYED TILL AFTER U.S. ELECTION: EXPERT”, Seoul, 2008/06/06) reported that the DPRK’s promised declaration of its complete nuclear holdings could take place after the U.S. presidential election due to the currently complex political terrain within the U.S., Gordon Flake, executive director of the Mansfield Foundation, said Friday. Flake said in an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA) that the U.S. is in a difficult position in terms of carrying out an immediate removal of the DPRK from the list of terrorist sponsoring nations as conservatives in the U.S. may still be skeptical about the DPRK’s credibility. Larry Niksch, an Asia and foreign affairs expert at the Congressional Research Service, told the RFA that the denuclearization process may lose momentum if the declaration and removal from the list does not occur in June, noting that the dialogue may have to be handed over to the next U.S. administration.





48% see North Korea’s influence as negative

29 04 2008

BBC_ViewsCountries_Mar07_graph3.jpgThe BBC has been tracking opinions about countries’ influence in the world over three years (2005 – 2007). During that time most ratings have remained relatively stable. North Korea is seen as a mainly negative influence in the world. Out of 27 countries polled, 20 have mostly negative views, while five lean towards seeing it positively, and two are divided. On average, 48 percent see North Korea as a negative influence and 19 percent believe it has a positive influence.

Some of the most negative views of North Korea can be seen in North America and Western Europe. Nearly three-quarters in Canada (74%) and the United States (73%) see North Korea as having a negative influence. An overwhelming majority in Germany (87%), France (75%), Great Britain (70%), Italy (70%), and Portugal (68%) have negative views of North Korea’s influence in the world. In the Asia/Pacific region, Australians (86%) and South Koreans (78%) are also quite critical.

No country has a majority with a positive view of North Korea, but views lean slightly positive in a number of Muslim countries including Lebanon (38%), Turkey (31%), and the UAE (29%). Nigeria (42%) and India (26%), which have large Muslim populations, also lean positive. In general, Muslims throughout the world lean towards a positive view of North Korea (34% positive to 26% negative). This may be an expression of support for the way that North Korea has stood up to the US in regards to its nuclear program. Egyptians, however, are evenly divided (18% positive, 18% negative), with nearly two-thirds not taking a position. Indonesians are also divided (40% positive, 37% negative).

Two key countries that have often stood by North Korea also lean negative on its influence—Russia (37% negative, 20% positive) and China (39% negative, 34% positive).

The poll was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan together with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. GlobeScan coordinated the fieldwork between November 2006 and January 2007. Each country’s rating is based on half-samples.





Retrospective Screening of North Korean Films in Australia

24 04 2008

6-8 May 2008 from 6 to 8 PM,
in Room G051, Melville Hall,
Australian National University,
Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia

Anyone interested in contemporary North Korea is warmly invited to attend a unique series of retrospective film screenings by Dr. Leonid Petrov. Please note that the films shown have no subtitles, but will be preceded by an explanatory synopsis in English. Complete synopses of the movies are available here.

Dr. Leonid Petrov (RSPAS, ANU), who has been studying and teaching North Korearelated subjects for many years, will provide a brief introduction and lead the discussion. Dr. Petrov is currently working on the projects “Historical Conflict and Reconciliation in East Asia” (ANU-ARC) and “North-South Interfaces on the Korean Peninsula” (French CNRS-EHESS).


THE DESTINY OF KŬMHŬI AND ŬNHŬITUESDAY 6 MAY: THE DESTINY OF KŬMHŬI AND ŬNHŬI [금희와 은희의 운명]
(1974, Dir. by Pak Hak and Ŏm Kilsŏn, 101 min. No subtitles; synopsis in English)
Room G051, Melville Hall: 18:00 – 20:00
One of the classics of North Korean cinematography, this film emulates the best examples of Soviet and Chinese film making traditions. The story is based on the famous novel by Paek Injun about two twins separated by the Korean War.

THE DESTINY OF KŬMHŬI AND ŬNHŬI

Having lost contact with each other, the sisters live in the very different societies separated by civil and ideological conflict. Kŭmhŭi lives a happy and comfortable life in North Korea, where she can see her talent for singing and dancing fulfilled. Her sister, Ŭnhŭi, on the contrary, is destined to suffer in the South, surrounded by social evils and class inequality. This film laments the national division and claims the superiority of the socialist system.The film wonderfully portrays the grim reality of everyday life shortly after the Korean War.


Our Fragrance

WEDNESDAY 7 MAY: OUR FRAGRANCE [우리의 향기]
(2003, Dir. by Chŏn Chongp’al, 85 min. No subtitles; synopsis in English)
Room G051, Melville Hall: 18:00 – 20:00
This film reflects the early changes and nascent conflicts that emerged in North Korean society after the introduction of market-oriented reforms in July 2002. Foreign cultural influences, growing materialism and consumerism are believed to create obstacles for the advancement of Korean-style socialism.

Pyŏngho, a researcher-scientist who develops new types of the traditional dish kimch’i, comes from a conservative family. He tries to preserve and incorporate the traditional values into modern life. A young guide-interpreter, Saebyŏl, who works for an international travel company, is overly accustomed to the lifestyle influenced by foreign traditions. The two meet at the fashion show in Pyongyang, where their participation becomes a major trial to both them and their families.


THURSDAY 8 MAY: THE SCHOOLGIRL’S DIARY [한녀학행의 일기]
(2006, Dir. by Chang Inhak, 93 min. No subtitles; synopsis in English)
Room G051, Melville Hall: 18:00 – 20:00

One of the most recent films produced in North Korea, The Schoolgirl’s Diary immediately hit the box-office record locally, won a prize at the 2006 International Pyongyang Film Festival, and even found its way overseas. The film chronicles a girl’s life throughout her school years, full of mundane problems such as peer pressure and concerns over money.

The main character, Suryŏn, is preparing to make a major decision on what to do with her life after school. She analyses her childhood and questions her parents’ difficult life. Suryŏn’s family lives in a rundown country house, her mother is suffering from cancer, and her father is a workaholic who spends days and nights at the factory working on a scientific project. Tensions at home and school translate into depression and disenchantment with her parents. However, one day Suryŏn comes to realise her selfishness and immaturity.

LP





DPRK propaganda at London’s most famous bookshop

24 04 2008

KJI Poster

Tuesday 29 April – Wednesday 7 May
Private View Tuesday 29 April

Opening times:
Mon – Fri 9.30am – 5.30pm
Sat 9.30am – 9.00pm, Sun 12.00pm – 6.00pm

To coincide with the launch of David Heather’s book on DPRK propaganda art North Korean Posters at the end of this month, Foyles is to be decorated with some examples of DPRK posters from David’s collection. The book comes from Prestel Publishing, and will be launched at Foyles next week. The posters will be on display from 29 April to 7 May. Foyles is at 113-119 Charing Cross Road, WC2H 0EB [Map] The show is also listed in Foyles’s events page

This information was copied from London Korean Links blog.

North Korean Posters

This unique collection of state-sponsored propaganda posters offers an unusual insight into one of the world’s most secretive societies and the last great Marxist bastion. An exceptional survey of current posters containing historical and social statements from the last 50 years, David Heather’s collection will appeal to artists and graphic designers, as well as to all those interested in the political history of the North Korean revolution, and the nature of North Korean society today.

North Korean propaganda art is a fascinating variant on the better-known posters from the Soviet Union and China. The current ‘Great Leader’ Kim Jong Il described the characteristics of Korean painting as ‘clarity, compactness and delicacy’, and through the use of recurring images, slogans and colours, these principles can also be seen in poster art. The posters also have a clear role in illustrating North Korea’s hopes and fears in the face of international events.

David Heather, author of North Korean Posters (Prestel), is an art collector and one of the few westerners to be granted access to the enigmatic country of North Korea. To organise an author interview or for more information, please contact: Anna Kenning – publicity@prestel-uk.co.uk / 020 7323 5004





Torch relay in Pyongyang enhances friendship with China

23 04 2008

Kim Il-sung Stadium

PYONGYANG, April 22 (Xinhua) – The torch relay in Pyongyang will enhance friendship between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and China, the DPRK’s Olympic chief said Monday. The event will promote the cooperation and exchanges in sports between the two countries, and will show their traditional friendship to the world, said Park Hak Seon, chairman of the National Olympic Committee of the DPRK.

The official made the remarks at a reception held by the Chinese Embassy to welcome the Beijing Olympic Flame to Pyongyang. The reception was attended by senior DPRK officials, including Yang Hyong Sop, vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, and Park Kwan O, chairman of the People’s Committee of Pyongyang, foreign diplomats in Pyongyang and famous DPRK athletes.

Liu Xiaoming, Chinese Ambassador to the DPRK, expressed thanks to various departments of the DPRK for their hard work in preparing for the torch relay in Pyongyang. He said he sincerely appreciates the strong support from the people of the DPRK to the Chinese people. The Olympic torch which will be used to carry the sacred flame in Pyongyang was displayed at the reception.

The torch relay will be held on April 28 in Pyongyang, the 18thleg of its global trip. The preparations are going smoothly. “The committee will try its best to ensure the torch relay in Pyongyang is the smoothest and safest one,” Park Hak Seon said. (Xinhua)





North Korea in Black and White…

18 04 2008

Two Sisters

Chinese photographer Dong Lin has visited North Korea three times since 2002, each time finding access more difficult and restrictive.

He claims that North Koreans did not allow him to take pictures of people, particularly military people. That’s true but not only for North Korea. South Koreans too, especially those who live in provinces do not like to be photographed. Try to take a picture of South Korean soldier or a military installation near the DMZ and you will risk to lose your camera.

Many Koreans are shy and conservative by nature. Korea (both in the North and South) is still dominated by the lingering effect of the rampant civil conflict. When you visit Korea, a great deal of sensitivity is needed. When you photograph it, try to see why so many things are presented in black and white…

See colorful North Korea here.

LP





“Crossing the Line” (2006) by Daniel Gordon

14 04 2008
James Dresnok
Solid documentary that is interesting despite the limited appeal of the material, (12 May 2007 Author: bob the moo from Birmingham, UK)

In 1962, the 20 year old PFC James Dresnok was serving in the demilitarised zone between North Korea and South Korea when he just headed across in the northern side of the border. Captured by the North Koreans, Dresnok became the first of several American GI’s to “defect” to the communist North and went on to be enormous propaganda tools to the regime of the time. This film looks back on the life of Dresnok in North Korea and his importance within that regime.

It is hard to deny that this film will have limited appeal as one does have to wonder how well known the Dresnok defection is outside of those from the US who were at a certain age in the early 1960’s. I certainly knew nothing of him but was drawn to the film by the chance of learning more about the mostly inward and secretive North Korea. As such the film is quite interesting because it does give an insider’s view while also having that insider being a westerner. However the film does not just use Dresnok as the way in to the country but he is the focus of the film and this is both a strength and a weakness.

It is a strength in the way that he is a complex but likable character who is an interesting focus but it is a weakness in the way that my interest was not really with him in the first instance. This does leave us with an interesting film but one with a rather limited appeal, meaning that I did find it to be rather too long and occasionally hard work when it is focusing totally on people who I have no knowledge of or vested interest in.

Overall then a solid documentary that is reasonably interesting despite the material having a limited appeal whenever it moves into specific territory (which is the majority).

The full version of Daniel Gordon’s 2006 documentary “Crossing the Line” about Joe Dresnok can be viewed here…








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