Inside the world’s weirdest bromance between Kim Jong-un and Dennis Rodman

13 01 2014

KJU_Rodman(News.com.au 08 January 2014) He may be in the country to celebrate his dictator best mate’s birthday today, but Dennis Rodman is making headlines for entirely different reasons.

The former NBA star, currently in the isolated state to celebrate Kim Jung-un’s birthday as part of a basketball tour, lost it during an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

The eccentric Rodman lashed out at the CNN anchorman who quizzed him about visiting North Korea so soon after the execution of Kim’s uncle.

When quizzed further about the status of detained US citizen Kenneth Bae, Rodman really let loose, struggling to contain his anger:
“I don’t give a rat’s a*** what the hell you think,” he said.
“Look at the guys right here.
“You are the guy behind the mic…and we are the guys here doing our thing.”

Rodman has been protective of his relationship with Kim after striking up a friendship since meeting a year ago.
But their relationship isn’t as bizarre as the rest of the world might think.

According to one expert, the pair have a mutually beneficial relationship with Kim using Rodman as a PR weapon against the west and the American using his new found friendship to become a celebrity once again.

KIM JONG-UN UNCLE’S IDENTITY ERASED

Dr Leonid Petrov, researcher at Australian National University’s School of Culture, History and Language, told news.com.au while North Korea seems a strange country, its leader’s friendship with a former sports star was far from odd.

Dr Petrov said the dictator’s attraction to someone like Rodman wasn’t unusual when you considered Kim’s lifelong obsession with sports and basketball in particular. Kim, who was educated in Switzerland, is a keen basketball fan and loves the Chicago Bulls. Rodman played a key role in winning three NBA titles for the Bulls alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s.

WHY RODMAN?

According to Dr Petrov, Rodman helped Kim show his people and the rest of the world the Supreme Leader had the human touch and that a friendship with a basketball icon would be a dream come true for him. “Kim has always had a strong interest in sport from a very young age and Rodman is an idol to him,” he said.

Dr Petrov added that with North Korea being isolated from the west, Kim “feels he needs some form of appreciation from the world” and such a relationship brought some normality to the country and its people. “Both (men) want the attention, Kim gets attention from the western media and so does Rodman” Dr Petrov said.

HOW THEY MET

Rodman first struck up a bond with the Supreme Leader in February last year when he visited the country for what was coined a “basketball diplomacy mission” where he attended a mixed-match basketball game with VICE Magazine . Kim Jong-un reportedly declared Rodman, known as “The Worm”, a “friend for life” and the sportsman is one of the few Westerners to have met him.

Upon visiting Kim’s private island, Rodman declared, “It’s like Hawaii or Ibiza, but he’s the only one that lives there.”

WHY IS HE BACK IN NORTH KOREA?

The ex-Chicago Bulls player is leading a team including retired NBA All-Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker for a celebratory exhibition game against North Korea in honour of Kim’s 31st birthday.

WHY THE RELATIONSHIP MATTERS

Dr Petrov said while Rodman had clearly failed when it came to bringing up human rights abuses in the rogue state, at least he was extending the hand of friendship in the spirit of reconciliation.

One positive aspect of Rodman’s visit was it did open up some diplomacy with the world and at least allowed North Koreans insight into the west and an opportunity to learn more about the world.

RODMAN NEEDS TO RECONSIDER POSITION

However Dr Petrov said the former NBA star had missed an opportunity to talk to his friend about human rights, its collapsed economy and an illicit drug and black market trade.

Speaking from Beijing Airport ahead of the visit, Rodman said he hoped the match could “open the doors” to “talk about certain things” and said he wasn’t there for a political debate. “But I am not going to sit there and go, ‘Hey guy, you are doing the wrong thing. That is not the right way to do it.’ He is my friend first … and I love him,” Rodman said.

According to Dr Petrov, it’s not only a missed opportunity to help the people of North Korea but loses him respect with the west.

WHY THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT

Dr Petrov maintained the visit did have some positive aspects such as developing some form of friendship with the isolated state. “If we want North Korea to change we need to engage them somehow,” he said. “At least his visit is better than not doing nothing at all.”

See the full text of the article here…





‘Murky’ drug trade: How did North Korea become a meth hub?

8 12 2013

Foreign_nationals_suspected_of_smuggling_methamphetamines_from_NK(By Geoffrey Cain, GlobalPost Contributor, 7 Dec. 2013SEOUL, South Korea – Extradited from Thailand, the five suspects appeared before a New York court last month to face charges of a sensational plot: smuggling crystal meth from enemy number one, North Korea.

The five suspects – from China, the U.K., the Philippines and possibly Slovakia – stand accused by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of conspiring to sell 40 pounds of 99 percent pure crystal meth to an undercover agent. They pleaded not guilty, and will appear in court again in early December.

You wouldn’t guess it, but North Korea – run by the world’s most infamous authoritarian regime – happens to be a colossal supplier of a highly potent but moderately priced form of crystal meth, experts say.

It comes in the form of “Ice,” the powerful, smoke-able type that delivers a near-immediate jolt to the brain. The drug is primarily made for export, ferried through China and, from there, distributed around the world. But some North Koreans – despite the watchful eyes of their government – are avid consumers of crystal meth too.

Two North Korean refugees in Seoul told Global Post that, in a country suffering from poverty and food shortages, the drug is a much-needed appetite suppressant, offering a means of self-medication to cope with the hardship.

Near the Chinese border, they said, Ice was widely available on the black market. It was popular among private traders and their families, who had no problem inhaling or selling it in outdoor markets with a bribe to authorities.

“Life was hard, people were hungry, and we needed the drug,” said one female North Korean defector in Seoul, who fled to the Chinese border region in the mid-2000s. She admitted to smoking Ice multiple times, and once gave smaller doses to her two boys, aged 11 and 13.

“My family was a little wealthier, so we could afford it, but even poor people did it too,” she said. “It was a popular drug.” She asked not to be named, fearing reprisals against family members still in the country.

Of course, various types of amphetamines enjoy some popularity in developing countries in Asia and Africa, where laborers, for instance, need energy to work long hours on scant meals. Even South Korea, which leaped from poverty to riches in about 30 years, was once a big-time producer of crystal meth.

This booming trade, now in private hands, was once a fundraising arm for the cash-strapped government, experts say. North Korean embassies trafficked in hashish as far back as the 1970s.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the economy collapsed, resulting in a devastating famine. By the mid-2000s, a nascent class of merchants flourished, peddling just about any illegal product you could imagine, including drugs and pirated DVDs.

“These days, more and more freelancers and professional drug dealers are taking over this murky operation of delivering the drugs produced in North Korea, packed in Northeast China, and smuggled via South East Asia to Australia, America and Europe,” said Leonid Petrov, a North Korea watcher at the Australian National University in Canberra. “Many North Korean scientists began to moonshine in private laboratories producing the similar high-quality product for domestic consumption and illicit export,” he said.

Since crystal meth laboratories are smelly, they would have to be away from populated towns. From a business standpoint, moving the contraband from North Korea to China would be realistic and highly profitable.

Chinese Mafiosos probably hand over supplies, while North Koreans, in the safety of their country, synthesize the drugs in factories near the southern banks of the Tumen River that marks part of the boundary between North Korea, China and Russia, writes Andrei Lankov, a North Korea specialist at Kookmin University in Seoul. That’s a swift change from a lucrative narcotics trade that, a decade ago, was mostly state-run.

Still, it’s not clear whether the group of five suspected dealers had the resources and connections to move meth from North Korea all the way to North America. Prosecutors accuse the group of trafficking and selling North Korean drugs in Southeast Asia, a more reachable market.

One suspect even boasted that his organization was the only one that could get the job done. “Because before, there were eight [other organizations]. But now only us, we have the NK product,” Chinese suspect Ye Tiong Tan Lim was quoted as saying on the recordings.

The suspect said that his group stockpiled one ton of North Korean meth in the Philippines, anticipating an unconfirmed decision by North Korea to destroy meth labs under pressure from the U.S. The drugs would be shipped through Thailand, according to prosecutors.

The two North Korean defectors told GlobalPost they were unsure whether laboratories have been destroyed. One study in the North Korea Review suggested that the trade was indeed moving from an array of factories to the underground.

But, explains Petrov, “As with everything that comes out of North Korea, the veracity of this story is 50-50.”





Charles K. Armstrong presents Tyranny of the Weak

3 12 2013

Tyranny of the WeakOn Monday, December 9th, at 7pm, Charles Armstrong will host a discussion on his new book, “Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950-1992″ (Cornell U. Press). The talk will take place at Book Culture, 536 West 112th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam)

To much of the world, North Korea is an impenetrable mystery, its inner workings unknown and its actions toward the outside unpredictable and frequently provocative. Tyranny of the Weak reveals for the first time the motivations, processes, and effects of North Korea’s foreign relations during the Cold War era.

Drawing on extensive research in the archives of North Korea’s present and former communist allies, including the Soviet Union, China, and East Germany, Charles K. Armstrong tells in vivid detail how North Korea managed its alliances with fellow communist states, maintained a precarious independence in the Sino-Soviet split, attempted to reach out to the capitalist West and present itself as a model for Third World development, and confronted and engaged with its archenemies, the United States and South Korea.

From the invasion that set off the Korean War in June 1950 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Tyranny of the Weak shows how—despite its objective weakness—North Korea has managed for much of its history to deal with the outside world to its maximum advantage. Insisting on a path of “self-reliance” since the 1950s, North Korea has continually resisted pressure to change from enemies and allies alike. A worldview formed in the crucible of the Korean War and Cold War still maintains a powerful hold on North Korea in the twenty-first century, and understanding those historical forces is as urgent today as it was sixty years ago.

Charles K. Armstrong is the Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies in the Social Sciences at Columbia University. His recent books include The Koreas (Routledge, 2007); Puk Choson Tansaeng, the Korean translation of The North Korean Revolution, 1945–1950(Seoul: Booksea, 2006; originally Cornell University Press, 2003);Korea at the Center: Dynamics of Regionalism in Northeast Asia(M. E. Sharpe, 2006, coeditor); and Korean Society: Civil Society,Democracy, and the State (Routledge, 2002, editor; 2nd edition, 2006).





US Thanks Panama for Arms Shipment Seizure

23 11 2013

Cheongcheongang_Panama(ABC Radio, PM, Brendan Trembath reported this story on Wednesday, November 20, 2013)

MARK COLVIN: The US vice-president, Joe Biden, has thanked Panama for detecting a shipment of Cuban arms bound for the secretive nation of North Korea. Panamanian authorities seized a North Korean ship in July after they found tonnes of military hardware, including two MiG fighter jets, hidden in a cargo of sugar.

There’s a UN arms embargo against North Korea. The discovery sheds more light on the barter trade between North Korea and Cuba and the state of their defences. Brendan Trembath reports.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: On a visit to Panama, the US vice-president, Joe Biden, has thanked the thousands of workers expanding the Panama Canal.

JOE BIDEN: And I look forward to this relationship continuing to grow and prosper. And as a consequence of what you’ve done at the canal, we have the possibility of expanding our economy by hundreds of billions of dollars over the near term.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: If they finish on time, large freighters will be able to navigate the waterway from 2015. The US vice-president has also acknowledged a less desirable type of trade through the Panama Canal. He’s thanked Panamanian authorities for the seizure in July of a North Korean-flagged ship packed with Cuban military hardware.

Both the Cuban and North Korean governments have said the arms were obsolete and being shipped to North Korea for refurbishment. But the Communist allies did not explain why two MiG fighters were buried under more than 200,000 sacks of sugar.

Dr Leonid Petrov is a Korean studies researcher at the Australian National University.

LEONID PETROV: And I believe that it’s happened because North Korea simply feels they are cornered, they are being watched. They are paranoid, and they’re trying to disguise any possible activity with the outer world.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Can you read into the types of aircraft seized? Does it suggest anything about the state of the North Korean military?

LEONID PETROV: The state of North Korean military is not particularly great. The lack of fuel, particularly, for aircraft keeps its air force in the under-trained state of condition. I believe that North Koreans need more training to be more efficient in operations in any branch of their military, depending whether it’s air force, naval or army.

They have a very huge fleet of submarines, probably largest in the world. But in terms of air force and particularly these MiG-15, MiG-17 and MiG-21 aircraft, they were used during the Korean War, 60 years ago. Of course, they have been already outmoded, outdated. They don’t pose any strategic threat but can pose a danger of a suicidal mission or it may be used as a delivery kind of vehicle for a small, compact nuclear device if needed.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: There are no signs North Korea is about to engage in talks on its nuclear program.

LEONID PETROV: The Six-Party Talks are dead and buried. I personally never believed in the Six-Party Talks, simply because there are too many parties in the Six-Party Talks process. And the main obstacle for the resumption of Six-Party Talks, well, regardless of how efficient they might be, I think that, and it’s pretty clear, that Washington, Seoul and Tokyo simply refuse to go back to the negotiating table.

MARK COLVIN: ANU academic and frequent visitor to North Korea, Dr Leonid Petrov, with Brendan Trembath.

Listen to the audio file here…





US Citizen Jailed in North Korea Makes Fresh Plea for Help

14 08 2013

Kenneth Bae_hospital(The Voice of America News, 13 August 2013)

A Korean-American imprisoned in North Korea has made a fresh appeal to the United States, saying Washington should send a high-ranking official to Pyongyang to request his release.

Kenneth Bae made the plea in an interview conducted last week and published Tuesday by the Chosun Sinbo, a Japan-based newspaper known for its pro-North Korean stance.

In the interview, Bae said he has been transferred to a hospital from a prison camp, where he had only just begun serving 15 years of hard labor after being convicted of state subversion.

The 45-year-old said his health has deteriorated, specifically mentioning that he was under-nourished and had back problems. The paper said he has lost 23 kilograms. His family said he also suffers from kidney stones, vision, heart and liver problems.

The U.S. State Department on Monday again appealed for the immediate release of Bae, who was convicted in April of trying to topple the Pyongyang government.

Korea analyst Leonid Petrov said that in the current political climate, North Korea is unlikely to simply release Bae on humanitarian grounds, as the U.S. has requested. ‘It theoretically is possible, but practically I doubt it is going to happen without any clear prospects of improvements in relations with the United States,’ he said.

North Korea has in the past tried to use the plight of jailed Americans to convince the U.S. to make diplomatic concessions. Despite the North’s insistence it will not use Bae as a bargaining chip, some regional analysts think he is being used to coax the U.S. into dialogue.

But Bae’s case comes at a tricky time diplomatically, with Washington tightening sanctions against North Korea in response to its latest nuclear and missile tests. Petrov, who is with the Australian National University, said the U.S. is unlikely to move away from this posture.

‘The U.S. government is not interested in improving relations with the rogue state, with the self-proclaimed nuclear power, the one who threatens peace and stability in the region, looking at it from the Washington perspective,’ said Petrov.

Last month, there were rumors that ex-U.S. President Jimmy Carter may travel to North Korea to secure Bae’s release, as he did with a jailed Christian activist in 2010. A Carter spokesman later said there were no plans to make such a trip.

Stephen Noerper with the Asia Society tells VOA that Carter might, in fact, be able to win Bae’s release. But he says such a trip is unlikely, in part because it would obviously serve the interests of North Korean leadership. ‘That’s what the North Koreans are looking for in terms of a legitimizer for their new leader Kim Jong Un. And the Americans, I think, are very reticent to provide that,’ he said.

In the past, North Korean state media have portrayed visits by high-ranking U.S. officials and former presidents as trips to pay respects to the country’s authoritarian leaders.

Bae was visited by last week by a diplomat from Sweden, which represents U.S. interests in North Korea. The Swedish Foreign Ministry said Bae was well, ‘under the circumstances,’ and promised to keep checking regularly on his health.





All eyes on Kim Jong-un after North Korea gives 15 years’ hard labor to US citizen

3 05 2013

Kenneth Bae Jun-Ho(By Steven Borowiec, Christian Science Monitor, 2 May 2013)

North Korea says US citizen Kenneth Bae was conspiring to overthrow the regime. But analysts say the North is likely to use him as a new bargaining chip.

North Korea sentenced a US citizen to 15 years of hard labor today, after finding him guilty of crimes against the state. The move seems yet another in a series of efforts to gain interaction, attention or concessions from the US, some analysts believe.

Kenneth Bae was taken into custody in November while leading a legal tour in North Korea, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. He was tried on April 30, and found guilty of unspecified “hostile acts” against the North Korean state. A number of Americans have been detained and sentenced in the past few years but the 15-year sentence is the longest given to a US citizen there.

The country’s young leader Kim Jong-un has taken a number of bold and provocative positions since taking over from his father last year, of which this is the latest. The direction Mr. Kim takes now – and the US response – may start to set a deeper pattern for Kim’s rule and for US-North Korean relations.

“The question is whether or not the US will be willing to intervene on behalf of a citizen, given the high tensions, and whether it will kowtow to a repressive state that is known for human rights violations,” says Leonid Petrov, a researcher in Korean studies at Australian National University.

Mr. Bae, a tour operator born Pae Jun-ho in South Korea, became a US citizen more than two decades ago and has lived in Washington state. He had reportedly led a number of tours to North Korea previously, without incident.

North Korean reports indicated that Bae, who has been described as a devout Christian in Western media reports, was found with some photographs or other materials that North Korean authorities said showed Bae’s desire to overthrow the Kim regime.

“In the process of investigation he admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK [the Democratic People's Republic of Korea] with hostility toward it,” according to the official KCNA news agency.

Tensions have been high on the Korean peninsula following North Korea’s third nuclear test on Feb. 12, and two-months of an annual US-South Korea military exercise that ended April 30. Although tensions were expected to cool a bit after the end of the drills, analysts worry the sentence could reignite them. Alternatively, many speculate that North Korea is hoping to use Bae as a bargaining chip to secure aid.

Though the US and North have no formal diplomatic ties, the North has indicated it is interested in dialogue with Washington. The impoverished country prone to food shortage, has recently reached out to Mongolia for food aid. The US says it is open to dialogue but on condition North Korea gives up its nuclear ambitions, which Pyongyang sees as a non-starter.

Five other US citizens have been detained in North Korea since 2009 and all were eventually released, according to the Associated Press. American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were charged with “hostile acts” after being arrested by North Korean border patrols in 2009 while reporting along the border with China. They were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor, but were pardoned and released after former President Bill Clinton, who is viewed with relative favor in Pyongyang, traveled to North Korea and met with then-leader Kim Jong-il.

Staff from the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang met with Bae on the behalf of the US, but were unable to secure his release. In January, Google executive Eric Schmidt and former governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson reportedly asked to meet with Bae when they traveled to North Korea, though were not permitted to do so.

With his Swiss prep-school education and reported Western-style tastes and hobbies, some analysts suggested after Kim took power in January 2011 that he could be the leader to bring North Korea out of isolation, possibly enact China-style economic reforms, and begin to engage the outside world.

“He’s very proactive, both politically and economically, and very outward looking. He has given public speeches, which is different from his father. Every month, he brings some kind of surprise,” says Petrov.

Though Kim’s style may be different, the substance of North Korea’s leadership has remained the same. The past two months have seen some of the most aggressive rhetoric ever from North Korea, including a threat of a preemptive nuclear strike on the US, though it is not believed to be technically capable of such an attack.

Kim’s international antics are doing nothing to bring it closer to making progress in improving North Korea’s woeful economy. If Kim genuinely wants to make progress on its professed goals, he says, the regime has to start looking inward.

“It’s time for North Korea to focus on its domestic affairs, particularly on its goals of becoming a state with both strong defense and a strong economy,” says Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean studies in Seoul.





North Korea rockets and artillery ‘target’ US bases

27 03 2013

North-Korean-Threats-Propaganda(by Tania Branigan, The Guardian, 26 March 2013) North Korea said it had ordered its rocket and long-range artillery units to be combat-ready, targeting military bases in the US and American bases in the region, in its latest fiery warning.

Pyongyang has issued stern admonitions and threats on an almost daily basis since the UN security council tightened sanctions over its latest nuclear test and the US and South Korea began joint military drills.

“From this moment, the supreme command of the Korean People’s Army will be putting into combat duty posture No 1 all field artillery units, including long-range artillery units and strategic rocket units, that will target all enemy objects in US invasionary bases on its mainland, Hawaii and Guam,” said a statement from the North’s military supreme command, carried on the state’s KCNA news agency.

The South Korean defence ministry said it was monitoring the situation but had detected no signs of unusual activity by the North’s army. Seoul and Washington say their current military exercises, which will continue until the end of April, are strictly defensive.

“It’s attention-seeking behaviour. It’s like a child in a candy shop: if you haven’t bought him a lolly and don’t pay attention to his tantrums he tries to intimidate you with things – even if they are self-harming,” said Leonid Petrov, an expert on North Korea at the Australian National University.

“North Korea really doesn’t have the capability to strike the US, though they could strike US interests in north-east Asia and South Korea. They can spur another round of the arms race, as they have already done successfully. I don’t know who benefits from that, but it’s obviously not the North, because they can’t afford it.”

He added: “It is more of a message to the domestic population. Despite all the promises of the last year about people leading a better life, the imperialists are about to attack so you have to forget that. The North is trying to seal the loyalty of the people, insulate the country and buy more time for the regime to survive.”

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters at a daily briefing that it hopes all sides on the Korean peninsula can exercise restraint.

Reuters reported last week that China did not export any crude oil to the North in February, the first such instance of its kind for a year, and there have been reports of tightened restrictions on trade.

China is the North’s main ally and Pyongyang remains heavily dependent on trade and aid with its neighbour. But many analysts say it is too early to tell whether Beijing’s approach has changed and stress there is no sign of a fundamental or long-term shift in policy.

“I think philosophically they don’t really like sanctions and when I talk to the Chinese none of them seem to think sanctions will work,” said John Delury, an expert on Chinese-North Korean relations at Yonsei University in Seoul.

He noted that a clampdown on cross-border deals may be part of a more general desire to clean up trade, for example.

But he added that ties between the two countries appeared weaker than they were towards the end of Kim Jong-il’s rule, probably reflecting Pyongyang’s concerns about the relationship as much as Beijing’s.

“They were getting into a red zone where all the economic ties and diplomatic ties were with China,” he said.

Despite the military alert, Kim Jong-un has found time for civilian-focused duties as leader in recent days, according to the North’s media.

The Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported that in addition to his visits to the army, he toured a new restaurant boat on Sunday, “feasting his eyes on the deck and handrails around it” and expressing concern that the view and air-conditioning should be satisfactory.

See also ‘Combat Ready’ North Korea Threatens To Attack U.S. Bases (NKnews.org)

Listen to my interview given to RADIO JONES on Thursday, 28th March 2013, where I expressed my views on the ongoing stand-off between North Korea and the US-allied South Korea. Alternatively, tune in on “Listen Live” at www.talkfm.com/listen-live.html produced by Porcelain Audio.





In Show of Force, US Bomber Trains Over S. Korea

20 03 2013

B-52(VOA News, March 20, 2013) The United States has run its second training mission this month of the nuclear-capable B-52 bomber over the Korean peninsula in a show of military force following North Korea’s threats of a nuclear war.

The U.S. Forces Korea says the B-52 Stratofortress practiced dropping bombs on targets at a range in South Korea, Tuesday. It also released several photos of the aircraft, along with the warning that U.S. and South Korean forces are “battle-ready and trained to employ air power to deter aggression” and defend Seoul against any attack.

U.S. officials describe the mission, and an earlier one conducted March 8, as a “routine” part of annual joint military drillswith Seoul. But they have also been explicit that the flights are meant to send a strong message to Pyongyang, which has threatened a preemptive nuclear attack on the U.S. following U.N. sanctions the North’s latest nuclear test.

On Monday, Pentagon spokesperson George Little on Monday said the flights send a “very strong signal” the U.S. is firmly committed to its alliance with Seoul. He says the United States is “drawing attention to the fact we have extended deterrence capabilities that we believe are important in the wake of recent North Korean rhetoric.”

Carl Baker, with the Hawaii-based Pacific Forum think-tank, says he is certain the North Koreans are paying attention to the drills and are “very familiar” with what the B-52 flyovers represent.

“The United States is trying to send a very strong signal to North Korea that it is not going to bend; that it is not going to go back to negotiations just because North Korea has expressed commitment to using nuclear weapons,” said Baker.

But, although North Korea appears to be getting the message, it has not shown signs of backing down. A foreign ministry spokesperson in the North promised Wednesday a “strong military counteraction” if the U.S. continues the B-52 flyovers. In comments carried in the official Korean Central News Agency, he calls the flights an “unpardonable provocation” and says the situation is “inching close to the brink of war.”

Leonid Petrov, a Korea researcher at the Australian National University, says he expects more of that kind of talk from North Korea, as a result of the B-52 missions and corresponding war drills. He thinks the exercises are further destabilizing the situation, leaving Pyongyang with little choice but to continue developing nuclear weapons to survive.

“I think it’s pretty understandable that the people of Korea are quite indignant at the resumption of this flight and the regular U.S.-South Korean military drills,” said Petrov. “We know that strategic bombers have been used by the U.S. military in the North Pacific to scare North Korea.”

Daniel Pinkston, an analyst for the International Crisis Group, says he is not sure whether the projection of American military power will be successful in reducing tensions on the peninsula. But, he says demonstrating U.S. military superiority will likely succeed in deterring North Korea from carrying out a nuclear attack.

“In the past, when [the North Koreans] have embarked upon military adventurism, it has been at times when the opposing forces are off-guard or when the North Koreans view them as being weak,” said Pinkston. “So, I think these types of exercises and training sends a very clear signal that deters and greatly reduces the likelihood of North Korea lashing out in violent ways as they have done on numerous occasions in the past century.”

Pinkston says North Korea – which operates with the songun, or military first, ideology – is “very very cognizant” of the military balance between it and Washington.

“When they know they will take a severe beating, then they will behave. But, when you are weak, they won’t behave – then they will use violence and force to push their agenda,” he added.

The U.S.-South Korean military drills, known as Foal Eagle, began March 1 and are scheduled to last until the end of April. A separate, computer-simulated round of drills, known as Key Resolve, began on March 11 and last through Thursday.

North Korea had threatened military action if the United States continues with the computer-based drills. Washington has disregarded the threat and proceeded as normal. Although Pyongyang claims to have scrapped the 60-year armistice deal that ended the Korean War, it is yet to follow through on its threats of violence.





Dennis Rodman Bids Farewell to “Great Leader” Kim Jong Un

2 03 2013

KJU_Dennis Rodman_rodong shinmun(NKnews.org March 1, 2013) U.S. delegation attract huge media interest both in North Korea and abroad

Former basketball legend Dennis Rodman left North Korea today, calling the Kim family “great leaders” as he said goodbye to journalists at Pyongyang’s Sunan Airport.

In remarks about his time spent with Kim Jong Un, Rodman said, “He’s proud, his country likes him – not like him, love him, love him…[And] guess what, his grandfather, and his father were great leaders, and he’s such a proud man.”  He further added, “Guess what, I love him. The guy’s really awesome.”

Yesterday, Rodman broke world news by becoming the first high profile American visitor to meet North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong Un. The unlikely pair watched a basketball game between the visiting U.S. delegation and an unspecified local team. Sitting next to Kim Jong Un, North Korean state media outlet described their initial encounter, “Dennis Rodman went up to the auditorium to bow to Kim Jong Un….Warmly welcoming him, Kim Jong Un let him sit next to him.”

Wearing dark glasses and drinking a can of Coca Cola, Rodman apparently chatted without translators to Kim Jong Un throughout the game. The match ended in a 110-110 draw, with 12 DPRK players and four players from the U.S. team Harlem Globetrotters divided into two teams.  Rodman said afterwards that “although relations between the two countries are regrettable, personally I am a friend of Marshal Kim Jong Un and the DPRK people.”

Following the game, North Korean state media outlet KCNA reported that the group went for a dinner with Kim Jong Un, who expressed his “expectation that [further] such sports exchange would be activated, contributing to promoting mutual understanding between the peoples of the two countries”. A VICE Media staff member at the dinner Tweeted last night, “Um… so Kim Jong Un just got the #VICEonHBO crew wasted… no really, that happened.”

Spending five days in North Korea, Rodman’s delegation also took in a number of recently built tourist sites. KCNA reported that the group “spent a good time watching dolphins dancing to the tune of cheerful music, jumping in group, spinning rings, jumping into the air and shaking hands with people.”

Reacting to the news, North Korea expert Leonid Petrov today told NK NEWS,

“This week Kim Jong-Un has really surprised the world. Like a talented film director he changes the pace of the unfolding drama with new turns in the plot. The December rocket launch was overshadowed by the visit of Google’s CEO. The February nuclear test suddenly looked boring when an ex-NBA star and the Supreme Leader set together to cheer the basketball exhibition. Will the next visitor to Pyongyang be a game-changer?”

In stark contrast to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s January trip to North Korea, the Rodman delegation was covered in close detail by North Korean media. Making front page news in today’s edition of Rodong Sinmun (North Korea’s main newspaper), DPRK TV and radio news bulletins all led with the story both last night and this morning.  Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Dongguk University, told Yonhap News today, “North Korea is likely to show off an image of openness about Kim Jong-un by displaying Rodman’s visit at home and overseas.”

A picture released of Rodman’s farewell today showed Kim Jong Un hugging him, with North Korea’s world-famous basketball player Ri Myung Hun clearly visible in the background.  As the only North Korean basketball player that an NBA team was ever interested in, Ri is known to be the world’s tallest basketball player, standing at nearly 8 foot tall.

In an exclusive report for NK NEWS, journalist Nate Thayer yesterday described how the Rodman visit likely came to be.  ”Kim Jong Un and his brother Kim Jong Chol are known to be ardent fans of  American basketball, with Kim Jong Un reported to have had posters of  basketball star Michael Jordan on his wall during his schooldays and his brother, Kim Jong Chol, once photographed in Switzerland wearing a Chicago Bulls jersey with Dennis Rodman’s number on it.

Rodman’s visit comes at a sensitive time for South Korea and the United State’s relationship with North Korea. North Korea tested a nuclear device last month and launched a satellite into orbit, despite widespread international pressure against it. Currently, the UN Security Council is working to try and develop a suitable response to the third nuclear test.





What should the Six Party Talks be about?

10 11 2012

I do not believe in success of the Six-Party-Talks because there are too many parties, their intentions are too different, and their approach is wrong. Since 2003, when this forum was convened for the first time, the five nations tried to persuade North Korea to disarm it unilaterally and unconditionally despite the fact that Korean War had not finished.

They also targeted the North Korea’s nuclear and space exploration programs, automatically denying the DPRK of the right to generate electricity and launch peaceful satellites.

Finally, after 2009, the US, ROK and Japan refused to participate in the Six-party-Talks, demanding from North Korea to demonstrate a “sincere approach”, which is impossible to measure or describe.

Instead, to be more productive in resolving the nuclear problem, the Six-Party-Talks should have first addressed the four crucial issues:

1. Replacing the 1953 armistice regime with a permanent peace treaty between the DPRK and ROK;

2. Achieving the diplomatic cross-recognition of the DPRK by the US and Japan (as it was done in the early 1990s by the USSR and PRC in relation to the ROK);

3. Offering a security assurance to the DPRK by the US;

4. Lifting all bi-lateral and multi-lateral trading sanctions imposed against the DPRK since 1950;

Then, naturally, there will be no need in demanding from North Korea to destroy its nuclear and space programs because there would be enough safeguards against nuclear proliferation or inappropriate usage of these technologies. Only then would people on the Korean peninsula and the region stop worrying about a new devastating conflict.

In other words, the Six-Party-Talks have been addressing the issues in the wrong order and from the wrong end. Was it done by mistake? For the answer, see my previous post about the Cold-War unity and struggle of the opposites in East Asia.








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