Chinese Pressure To Halt North Korean Nuclear Test Increases

7 02 2013

Tsar_Bomba(6 February 2013, NKnews.ORG) With North Korea threatening to go beyond a third nuclear test in response to what it sees as “hostile” sanctions imposed after the December rocket launch, Chinese pressure to halt a North Korean nuclear test appears to be mounting at considerable pace.

Building on high level talks held yesterday between Washington and Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters today that Beijing is “extremely concerned by the way things are going…We oppose any behavior which may exacerbate the situation and [urge] relevant sides to exercise restraint and earnestly work hard to maintain peace.”

Chunying’s comments came following an agreement  yesterday that the U.S. and China would “work together” to deal with the pending nuclear test, made public after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and China’s Foreign Minister talked by phone for the first time since Kerry took office.

On the subject of the call, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that both China and the U.S. agreed that North Korea should face “further consequences” if it violates UN Security Council resolutions with another test. Nuland also emphasized that the conversation between the two were “remarkably similar” to ones Kerry had in previous days with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts.

Beyond publicized Sino-American rhetoric, a senior Seoul diplomat told Yonhap News that he was aware that China was making its “own efforts” to persuade North Korea to cancel the test, although he did not elaborate on what those efforts were. The diplomat also said that China was taking the nuclear test “seriously.”

Outside of the diplomatic realm, an editorial in the English language Global Times today detailed Chinese displeasure even further, warning that Pyongyang would pay a “heavy price” for a third nuclear test and that China should “shatter any illusions Pyongyang may have” about not being punished.

While the editorial did note that Beijing would unlikely support the type of heavy sanctions that the U.S. and South Korea will likely demand in the event of a test, it underscored that China should support “reduced assistance” to North Korea and said that, “if Pyongyang gets tough with China, China should strike back hard.”

But despite all of the increasing rhetoric, North Korea expert Leonid Petrov today NK NEWS that in reality China is probably not that concerned about a further nuclear test.

Beijing policymakers know better than anyone how to benefit from Pyongyang’s insecurity and increasing international isolation. More sanctions against the DPRK means better deals for Chinese entrepreneurs operating in North Korea and increased dependency of Kim Jong-Un’s regime on China’s security assurance. A nuclear armed and unmanageable Pyongyang poses no threat to China but keeps its regional competitors anxiously overspending on their own national defense and security.

However, Chinese experts quoted yesterday in the Hong Kong daily Ming Pao have different thoughts. Shen Dingli, Executive Deputy Dean of the Institute of International Affairs at Fudan University, said that the planned nuclear test and rocket launch had already harmed China’s core interests, and that Pyongyang should be prepared to “bear the consequences” and “prepare itself for tougher international sanctions.”

In the same report Fan Jishe, a researcher on U.S. studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, went further and criticized Pyongyang for “embarrassing China” and “impeding [the progress of] Sino-U.S. relations.” He also criticized North Korea for implicitly blaming China for its “blind obedience” to Washington in the recent United Nations condemnation of the December rocket launch.

Amid the increasing pressure, Yonhap News suggests that the North Korean media’s decision to avoid citing Chinese media or report on Chinese news in recent weeks shows a growing spat between two countries once regarded as being as close as “lips and teeth”.  A screening of KCNA, Rodong Sinmun, KCTV, Radio Pyongyang and Chosun Central TV showed that following the passage of the Chinese supported UN Security Council Resolution on Jan. 23, there had been almost no mention of China in the North Korean media.

Tensions between China and North Korea have been on the increase recently, with public disagreements bubbling over in areas even outside of the nuclear realm. Less than two weeks ago Pyongyang reportedly hit out at Beijing for allowing reports to circulate that Kim Jong Un may have had plastic surgery to look like his grandfather Kim Il Sung.

Some suggest that China is the most important party in efforts both to dissuade North Korea from conducting a nuclear test, though others suggest Beijing’s influence is much more limited than leaders in the U.S. and South Korea like to think.

China has been traditionally uncooperative in pushing North Korea too hard, officially due to worries over fanning political and further economic instability in its neighbor.

To date, Pyongyang has conducted two nuclear tests, the first in 2006 and the second in 2009. Both times China ensured that sanctions on North Korea avoided inflicting too much economic damage.

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North Korea defiant as UN security council condemns rocket launch

29 01 2013

Image(by Tania Branigan in Beijing, The Guardian, 23 January 2013)

North Korea has vowed to strengthen its nuclear deterrent and other military capabilities after the United Nations security council condemned its latest rocket launch.

Analysts warned that the prospects of a third nuclear test by the regime had increased after its harsh response to the resolution, which extended sanctions against the North and expressed the council’s determination to take “significant action” against further missile or nuclear tests.

North Korea says it sent a satellite into orbit in December for peaceful and scientific purposes. But the council said it breached the ban on nuclear and missile activity, because the launch technology is near-identical to that required for long-range missiles.

China, which has veto rights as a permanent member of the council, agreed to Tuesday night’s resolution after sections were removed from an earlier draft. It has often blocked proposals for strengthened measures against its ally and neighbour in the past.

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, said the resolution “demonstrates to North Korea that there are unanimous and significant consequences for its flagrant violation of its obligations under previous resolutions”.

The security council reiterated its demand that the North cease further launches and end its nuclear weapons programme in a “complete, verifiable and irreversible manner”.

The angry response from Pyongyang’s foreign ministry said the North “should counter the US hostile policy with strength, not with words” and warned it would “bolster the military capabilities for self-defence including the nuclear deterrence”.

“There can be talks for peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and the region in the future, but no talks for the denuclearisation of the peninsula,” it added.

The statement “considerably and strongly hints at the possibility of a nuclear test”, the analyst Hong Hyun-ik, of the private Sejong Institute thinktank near Seoul, told Associated Press.

The North tested nuclear devices shortly after rocket launches in 2006 and 2009, and last month the 38 North blog said analysis of satellite photos showed continued activity at a nuclear test site.

But Yang Moo-jin, of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told Reuters: “North Korea will likely take a sequenced strategy where the first stage response would be more militarily aggressive actions like another missile launch.”

Leonid Petrov, an expert on North Korea at the University of Sydney, said the resolution was “not helpful”.

He said: “It is just a sign of frustration. Diplomacy doesn’t work, military threats simply turn it into a worse situation, and nobody is prepared to give way in this standoff.”

He added: “Sticks without carrots do not work. A combination of sanctions with the prospect of engagement would be much more conducive to resolving the situation.

“North Korea does not want to abandon its nuclear programme. They have to develop it further, which means more tests … It looks like after the resolution, the nuclear test is now looming sooner rather than being postponed.”

He said there were hopes that Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s incoming president, would bring a “more pragmatic, less ideological and more stable” policy towards the North than that adopted by her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, who ended Seoul’s “sunshine policy” of engagement and aid.

But Daniel Pinkston, the north-east Asia deputy project director for the International Crisis Group, warned that if a nuclear test went ahead, “any ideas or initiatives that she is thinking about or planning will pretty quickly become impossible”.

He added: “As far as sanctions achieving the intended outcome, I don’t see that happening. The people named are national heroes from the North Korean perspective.”

While Rice said the resolution introduced new sanctions, others argued it had only extended previous measures, so that more government bodies and individuals – such as the space agency and the man who runs it – will have their assets frozen and face a global travel ban.

Li Baodong, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations, described the resolution as “generally balanced”, the state news agency Xinhua reported. He noted that measures which China believed would jeopardise normal trade had been removed.

He added: “Sanctions and resolutions alone do not work. Resolutions must be completed and supplemented by diplomatic efforts.”

The six-party aid for disarmament talks stalled in 2009 and a deal with the US – which would have placed a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests in exchange for food – collapsed after the North carried out an unsuccessful rocket launch in April last year.





Rare earths bankroll North Korea’s future

7 08 2012

Image(By Leonid Petrov, Asia Times On-line, 7 August, 2012)

Those who travel to North Korea regularly might have noticed that the last couple of years have brought significant improvement in the country’s economic situation. Newly built high-rise apartments, modern cars on the roads and improved infrastructure come as a surprise to visitors. It begs the question, where does Pyongyang get the money from?

The ambitious rocket and nuclear programs, which North Korea continues to pursue despite international condemnation, are expensive and harmful to its economy. International sanctions continue to bite the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s foreign trade and investment prospects. Regular floods and droughts, animal epidemics and other natural disasters hit the fragile economy even harder.

According to expert estimations, the DPRK should have ceased to exist in the mid-1990s, after the Communist Bloc collapsed and Kim Il-Sung died. But North Korea has fully recovered after the famine and even shows steady signs of economic growth.

Foreign critics looked everywhere with hope to unravel the mystery. After 2008, the stalled inter-Korean cooperation left North Korea without South Korean financial assistance. Western humanitarian aid has also been exhausted or reduced to a number of goods with little market value. Although the volume of North Korea’s foreign trade is negligible, the domestic economic situation continues to improve. Pyongyang is routinely suspected of violating international sanctions by trading arms, smuggling drugs, counterfeiting US dollars and other crimes.

These activities would be expected to refill the impoverished state with badly needed foreign exchange. However, anti-proliferation operations and bank account arrests have never disclosed anything criminal nor did they manage to answer the main question: where does the money come from?

In fact, North Korea is sitting on the goldmine. The northern side of the Korean peninsula is well known for its rocky terrain, with 85% of the country composed of mountains. It hosts sizeable deposits of more than 200 different minerals, of which deposits of coal, iron ore, magnesite, gold ore, zinc ore, copper ore, limestone, molybdenum, and graphite are the largest and have the potential for the development of large-scale mines.

After China, North Korea’s magnesite reserves are the second-largest in the world, and its tungsten deposits are almost the world’s sixth-largest. Still the value of all these resources pales in comparison to prospects that promise the exploration and export of rare earth metals.

Rare earth metals are a group of 17 elements found in the earth’s crust. They are essential in the manufacture of high-tech products and in green technologies, such as wind turbines, solar panels or hybrid cars.

Known as “the vitamins of high-tech industries,” REMs are minerals necessary for making everything that we use on a daily basis, such as smartphones, flat-screen TVs, and notebook computers. Some rare earth metals, such as cerium and neodymium, are crucial elements in semiconductors, cars, computers and other advanced technological areas. Other types of REMs can be used to build tanks and airplanes, missiles and lasers.

South Korea estimates the total value of the North’s mineral deposits at more than US$6 trillion. Not surprisingly, despite high political and security tensions, Seoul is showing a growing interest in developing REMs together with Pyongyang.

In 2011, after receiving permission from the Ministry of Unification, officials from the Korea Resources Corp visited North Korea twice to study the condition of a graphite mine. Together with their counterparts from the DPRK’s National Economic Cooperation Federation they had working-level talks at the Kaesong Industrial Complex on jointly digging up REMs in North Korea. An analysis of samples obtained in North Korea showed that the type of rare earth metals could be useful in the manufacture of liquid crystal display (LCD) panels and optical lenses.

The joint report also revealed that there are large deposits of high-grade REMs in the western and eastern parts of North Korea, where prospecting work and mining have already begun. It also reported that a number of the rare earth elements are being studied in scientific institutes, while some of the research findings have already been introduced in economic sectors. The North built a REM reprocessing plant in Hamhung in the 1990s but has been unable to put the plant into full operation due to power and supply bottlenecks.

Rare earth minerals are becoming increasingly expensive, as China, the world’s largest rare earth supplier, puts limits on its output and exports. In February, China’s exports of rare earth metals exceeded the price of $1 million per ton, a nearly 900% increase in prices from the preceding year.

China, which controls more than 95% of global production of rare earth metals, has an estimated 55 million tons in REM deposits. North Korea has up to 20 million tons of REM deposits but does not have the technology to explore its reserves or to produce goods for the high-tech industry. Nevertheless, in 2009 the DPRK’s exports of rare metals to China stood at $16 million, and as long as someone invests, exports will continue to expand.

This growing rise in REM prices and strong demand gives the young leader Kim Jong-Un a good chance to improve the economic standing of North Korea without actually reforming its economy.

Following the Gulf States’ and Russian example of catching the wind of rising oil prices in their sails, Pyongyang is likely to follow suit, becoming rich and powerful through the exploration and sale of natural resources. The export of rare earth metals will replenish the state coffers; stimulate the loyalty of the elites to Kim Jong-Un’s autocratic rule; and secure the growth of consumption among the ordinary people.

Relations with South Korea, China and Japan are also likely to improve due to the large scale cooperation on exploring, processing and utilizing REMs – the mineral of the 21st century.

Pyongyang needs international assistance through joint projects to explore its mineral resources, and mainly its rare metal and rare earth minerals. North Korean and Chinese teams have been cooperating to explore mineral resources in the DPRK for many decades. Seoul has recently expressed interest in working with Pyongyang on mining projects and technological innovations.

Perhaps, Japan and Taiwan, which look for alternative REM supplies for their micro-processor and other cutting edge industries, might also decide to contribute to the development of this economically promising venture.

Paradoxically, the promise of Kim Jong-Il might soon come true and North Korea may become a “rich and powerful state” – rich in natural resources and empowered by nuclear technologies. In that case, North Korea might not even need to go through a painful and potentially destabilizing economic reform.

Although the political regime will remain dictatorial, the idea of unification with the South by war or absorption will soon become meaningless. The purges of political elites and the mass starving of ordinary people in North Korea will cease. Gradually the level of prosperity in the two halves of the divided Korea will start equalizing, opening more opportunities for greater exchange and cooperation.

Read this article in Korean here… 북한의 숨겨진 비장의 카드…

Largest Known Rare Earth Mineral Deposit Discovered

(Mining Weekly.Com 4 December 2013) SRE Minerals Limited announces the results of exploration and studies in collaboration with the Korea Natural Resources Trading Corporation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

SRE Minerals Limited (“SRE” or “the company”) announced today their joint venture agreement with the Korea Natural Resources Trading Corporation for rights to develop all rare-earth-element deposits at Jongju, North Pyongan Province.

The joint venture company known as Pacific Century Rare Earth Mineral Limited has the rights under the joint venture agreement which includes the exploration, mining, beneficiation and marketing of all REE deposits in the Jongju area for the next 25 years with a further renewal period of 25 years.

Under the terms of the JV agreement SRE has also been granted permission for a National Rare Earth Mineral Processing Plant on site at Jongju, which is situated approximately 150 km north-northwest of the capital city of Pyongyang, within the North Pyongan Province, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Leading Australian mining and geological consultancy, HDR Salva Resources Pty Ltd, has been SRE’s technical representative for the project and has been commissioned to access the mineralised potential of the Jongju REE target* with special reference to detailed mapping, extensive trenching and limited drilling.

HDR Salva Resources (Pty) Ltd.’s initial assessment of the Jongju REE Exploration Target* indicates a total mineralisation potential of 6.0 Bt (216.2 Mt total rare-earth-oxides including light rare-earth- elements such as lanthanum, cerium and praseodymium (mainly britholite and associated rare earth minerals). Approximately 2.66% of the 216.2 Mt TREO consists of heavy rare-earth-elements. A detailed classification of mineralised potential present in the Jongju REE Target* is presumed to be:

• 664.8 Mt @ >10.00% TREO,
• 1.1 Bt @ 4.72% TREO,
• 579.4 Mt @ 3.97% TREO, and
• 3.63 Bt @ 1.35% TREO.

Dr Louis Schurmann said: “The Jongju Target* would appear to be the World’s largest known REE occurrence.”

Technical information in this announcement has been compiled by Dr Louis W. Schurmann, who is a Fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and a Professional Natural Scientist with over 18 years of experience relevant to the styles and types of rare earth mineral deposits under consideration, and to the activities which has been undertaken to qualify as a Competent Person as defined by the Australasian Code for Reporting of Minerals Resources and Reserves (JORC) 2004. Dr Schurmann consents to the inclusion of information in this publication.

Further exploration is planned to recommence in March 2014, which will include 96,000m (Phase 1) and 120,000m (Phase 2) of core drilling. Results from the exploration program will be reported according to the Joint Ore Reserves Committee of The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Australian Institute of Geoscientists and Mineral Council of Australia (JORC Code (2004 / 2012)).

Investigations by the DPRK’s Academy of Science geologists have also identified several HREE targets*. There are also seven newly discovered carbonatite complexes which have been identified as green-field exploration targets. Exploration programs have been planned to assess their potential in 2014, together with the evaluation of known bastnasite and monazite deposits.

According to the mentioned HDR Salva Resources’ assessment, the Jongju REE Target* also contains economical quantities of rare and critical metals associated with fluorite, apatite, zircon, magnetite, ilmenite, nepheline and feldspar. These commodities will also be addressed during future exploration and further studies.
“This joint venture agreement reinforces the strong and constructive relationship SRE has developed with the DPRK over that time,” he said.

“The REE resource potential of the DPRK, while estimated to be massive has only been lightly explored to date. Given the major economic significance of the effective utilisation of these important minerals to the DPRK, we look forward to working in close co-operation with our partner to progress the development of this excellent opportunity.”

In terms of back ground, the majority of rare earth elements were sourced from placer deposits in India and Brazil in 1948. During the 1950’s, supply came mainly from South Africa, mined from large veins of rare earth-bearing monazite. Then from the 1960’s to 1980’s, rare earths were supplied primarily from the U.S., predominantly from Mountain Pass in California. Competition from China and environmental concerns eventually saw the U.S. operations shut down, and for the last 15 years China has dominated global supply. China today supplies an estimated 90-95% of the global market.

China has recently set quotas to restrict its rare earth exports, and global suppliers have made considerable headway in reducing dependence on Chinese supply. Based on this, several major rare earth companies have been taking advantage of this situation while many junior exploration companies have embarked on exploration programs to add value to small and relatively low-grade REE occurrences.

References to Exploration Target(s)* or Target(s)* in this document are in accordance with the guidelines of the JORC Code (2004). As such it is important to note that in relation to reported Exploration Targets or Target any reference to quality and quantity are conceptual in nature. Exploration carried out to date is insufficient to be able to estimate and report rare-earth mineral resources in accordance with the JORC Code (2004). It is uncertain if further exploration will result in the determination of a rare earth mineral Resource.

Further information will be available at www.pcreml.com and www.sreminerals.com

To subscribe to Mining Weekly’s print magazine email subscriptions@creamermedia.co.za or buy now





Cyber attacks may spark new war in Korea

8 06 2012

(Leonid Petrov, 38 North, 9 July 2013) Those who are familiar with Len Wiseman’s 2007 film “Live Free or Die Hard” (“Die Hard 4.0”) will recall the actor Bruce Willis taking on a gang of cyber terrorists intent on hacking FBI computers. At one point, the arch-villain Gabriel orders a crew of hackers to start a “fire sale” by taking control of the stock market and transportation grids. The attack is designed to target the nation’s reliance on computer controls, sending the public into a panic and presenting us with an almost credible sci-fi plot. The reality of today’s world shows that cyber-terrorism, if left unchecked, might be used not only by individuals or extremist groups, but by hostile governments on the offensive.

The Korean peninsula is now quickly turning into a place where a singular cyber-attack might spark a full-fledged conflict. Last month, North Korea was accused of actively jamming global positioning system (GPS) signals, targeting South Korea’s two largest airports outside its capital city of Seoul. The jamming signals, which were first detected on April 28 and ended on May 6, were traced to the North Korean border city of Kaesong, just 10 km north of the DMZ. Suspicions fell on imported truck-based jamming systems from Russia, capable of jamming signals within 100 kilometres. Was it really North Korea who stood behind the GPS jamming incidents and, if so, what was the purpose?

Following the North’s failed satellite launch on April 13, cyber warfare could be considered by Pyongyang as a more cost-effective way of intimidating the South. North Korea can send out jamming signals over a wide bandwidth, affecting a large number of facilities without consuming excessive amounts of energy or much needed foreign currency. A total of 553 aircraft flying in and out of South Korea’s Incheon and Gimpo airports reported GPS system failures, as did hundreds of ships and fishing boats. Considering the proximity of Seoul to the DMZ and Incheon International Airport’s proximity to the disputed waters of West Sea (Yellow Sea), such activity could cause aircrafts or ships to stray into North Korean territory, which would justify another naval clash.

GPS jamming can be used alone or in combination with other electronic and network-based attacks to disrupt South Korea’s highly digitized society. In addition to its forays into electronic warfare, the North’s military is also reportedly building up its hacking expertise. Within the last 12 months, North Korean military intelligence was accused of conducting a number of cyber attacks against South Korean and US financial institutions, government, and military websites. Experts believe that the DPRK People’s Army has units with hundreds of hackers, many of them based in China, who are employed in psychological operations to spread propaganda and infiltrate social networks. The Reconnaissance General Bureau is usually suspected of being responsible for coordinating these attempts to take down South Korea’s IT and communications infrastructure.

While inter-Korean confrontation is reaching new heights, the arrest of a 56-year-old naturalized citizen of New Zealand in Seoul in June reveals a new trend in an old conflict. An ethnic Korean known as “Mr. Kim” has been accused of exporting a satellite navigation system and long-range rocket detectors, which could have seriously compromised South Korea’s military capability. Kim and his South Korean business partners were arrested after an alleged meeting with a North Korean agent in Dandong, China. In July of last year, Kim also engaged in trade activities in Nampo, North Korea, where he handed over sensitive information that had been requested by a North Korean agent.

To what extent the North Korean military was able to utilize this equipment and information became clearer in early June this year. In an unusually detailed statement, the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army declared an ultimatum to the South Korean president Lee Myung Bak. It claimed that its missile units and other forces had been programmed with the longitude and latitude co-ordinates of various media outlets in Seoul. Among the named targets were the Chosun Ilbo and JoongAng Ilbo newspapers, a TV channel operated by the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper, and the KBS, CBS, MBC, and SBS television stations. In its report, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) named specific coordinates of the targets and promised to eliminate them if Lee did not publicly apologize for “hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK.”

According to Martyn Williams, who runs the “North Korea Tech” website, the coordinates given by the KCNA for the Chosun Ilbo and Dong-A Ilbo were incorrect, in that they failed to factor in the simple rule that the maximum value for measuring minutes and seconds is 60. That is, the Chosun Ilbo was listed at 37°56’83″ North and 126°97’65″ East. Even if these calculations were corrected and processed through mapping software, one would end up in the mountains to the northwest of Chuncheon province—a long way from downtown Seoul. The Dong-A-Ilbo’s location was similarly mistaken, as well as the coordinates of JoongAng Ilbo office, which in fact, belonged to a building across the street.

However, it is not only the hi-tech GPS equipment that North Korea might use to cause chaos and panic in South Korea. Some computer experts say that the North could try to destroy infrastructure in South Korea connected with traffic, electricity, power plants, and water supplies by hacking into computer systems. Over the years, the arsenal of North Korean cyber warfare has expanded to include virus-laden computer games. A 39-year-old South Korean game distributor, known as “Mr. Cho,” is now in police custody for allegedly violating the National Security Law when he travelled to Shenyang, China, where he is said to have met with agents of a North Korean trading company.

Cho asked the North Korean programmers to develop game software that would be used in South Korea, purchasing dozens of copies valued at tens of millions of Korean won. He then sold them to South Korean distributers. According to South Korean intelligence officials, these games were infected with malignant viruses, which turned customers’ PCs into “zombie computers,” contributing to the attempted cyber attacks against Incheon International Airport in March 2011. This activity could also provide the North with the personal information of hundreds of thousands of South Korean users of online games.

Unlike the GPS-guided conventional strike, a cyber-attack can be much more precise, long-ranged, and frustrating. North Korea-focused websites run by Pyongyang watchers and academics often fall victim to hacking attempts, which usually take the form of a Distributed Denial of Service attack. DDoS attacks involve surging a server with unwanted requests, creating such demand on the processor that the website itself becomes unavailable. Tad Farrell’s web portal “NK News: DPRK Information Center” suffered several such attacks in the past before being knocked out completely on June 6 by a different type of malicious attack where passwords were changed and most of the data in the server was wiped out.

It happened just two days after a rare photo of Kim Il Sung was published online, revealing the huge cyst on the neck of the former North Korean leader. Talking about this tumor is considered a crime in the North, and the DPRK media still meticulously avoids depicting it. Was this attack initiated by the North Koreans? It is always very difficult to find the culprit of any cyber attack. The North is routinely blamed for masterminding cyber attacks against the unfriendly sites, particularly if they are linked to North Korean defectors or focused on human rights issues. The paranoid nature of the South’s spy agencies and the ongoing inter-Korean conflict tend to elevate such suspicions to the status of common knowledge.

Cyber-attacks occur regularly worldwide and Trojan viruses are relatively easy to code. To organize and sustain a DDoS attack, the hackers must have resources on the scale that could only be provided by a wealthy client or a nation state. With heightening tensions in mind, North Korea would certainly do everything in its power to bolster its intelligence gathering capability along with the ability to attack vulnerable targets. But would not South Korea or China do the same? Even rogue NGOs with sufficient funds and vested interests can be linked to cyber crime.

For example, another news portal that follows North Korea, The Daily NK, reports that it knows the source of the malware infections installed on its website because the same Trojan scripts can be found on Chinese registered domains digtaobao.com and 10086chongzhi.com. These sites have no content and could be used by squads of international hackers. But just because a script is associated with China, does not necessarily answer the question about the origin of the malware code. The reasons behind each attack are much more obvious then the identity of a culprit. In most cases, cyber attacks leave us with circumstantial evidence but never with a smoking gun.

Still, following the most recent incidents, South Korean prosecutors will look even closer at any possible relations between the arrested suspects and North Korea’s jamming of GPS signals and cyber attacks. In a divided Korea, espionage can mean the death penalty. Although no one has been executed in the South for any crime since 1997, the new age of burgeoning information and communication technologies presents new challenges to states and national security. More peoples’ lives become vulnerable to subtle technological manipulations, and even foreign nationals can be easily accused of conspiring with the enemy or targeted by the conflicting sides.

Bruce Willis_die-hard-4The damage from cyber warfare can be serious and its potential consequences are yet to be understood worldwide. A Russian specialist on information security, Eugene Kaspersky, warns: “A cyber weapon can replicate itself and hit a random victim anywhere around the world, no matter how far you are from the conflict zone. After all, the Internet has no borders and an attack may target an identical system, for example power stations, even if they are located in a very different region of the world.” In other words, cyber terrorism opens a new Pandora’s Box of dangers of which the world has not had a chance to witness except from hypothetical scenarios in the Hollywood blockbuster “Die Hard 4.0.”

Peace and security in Korea is becoming increasingly susceptible to cataclysms, which can be triggered by either a malicious intent or human mistake. The non-aggression and non-nuclear agreements, which were signed by Seoul and Pyongyang in the early 1990s, as well as the suspension of mutually hostile propaganda, which was maintained during the years of “Sunshine Policy” (1998-2008), are now null and void. Any provocation—either real or assumed—can be fatal and can lead to the resumption of a full-scale war on the densely populated peninsula.

The Armistice Agreement signed in Korea in 1953 is long over-due for replacement by a firm peace treaty, which would guarantee security and create conditions for peaceful co-existence of the two Korean states. Reconciliation and collaboration between Koreans and their neighbors is necessary to avert the danger of a man-made regional catastrophe. Failing to achieve it quickly, means the whole world might be caught in the virtual crossfire of an unfinished civil war, which began 62 years ago.

Read a shorter version of this article in Korean here…  한반도에서 펼쳐지는 사이버 전쟁?!





North Korea’s 100th – To Celebrate or To Surrender?

2 04 2012

by Gavan McCormack (“North Korea’s 100th – To Celebrate or To Surrender?” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 14, No 2, April 2, 2012)

On 16 March 2012, North Korea announced that it would launch an earth observation satellite named Kwangmyongsong (Lodestar) 3, aboard an Unha carrier rocket sometime between the hours of 7 am and noon on a day between 12 and 16 April, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of its state founder, Kim Il Sung, and the attainment of “strong and prosperous” status by the country. The launch from a base in the north of the country close to the border with China would be pointed south, dropping off its first phase rocket into the Yellow Sea about 160 kms to the southwest of South Korea’s Byeonsan peninsula and the second into the ocean about 140 kilometres east of Luzon in the Philippines.

Due notice of the impending launch was issued to the appropriate international maritime, aviation and telecommunication bodies (IMO, ICAO and ITU) and, to mark the occasion, North Korea announced that it would welcome scientific observers and journalists. The 15 April date, in the 100th year according to the calendar of North Korea, has long been declared a landmark in the history of the state, and the launch seems designed to be its climactic event.

Meteorological earth observation satellites (multi-functional, but weather forecasting central) are either polar orbiting (Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite or POES) or stationary. This one, North Korea later made clear (KCNA, 26 March), was to be an “advanced geostationary meteorological satellite data receiver.”

Where polar orbiting satellites circle the globe 14.1 times each day on a north-south polar axis commonly at a height of around 800 kilometers, geostationary ones obit it roughly every half-hour at a height of around 33,880 kilometres (thus requiring advanced rocketry capacity), and because of their height they remain stationary with respect to the orbiting earth. Both types are multi-functional and in the words of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) they are able to “collect global data on a daily basis for a variety of land, ocean, and atmospheric applications … including weather analysis and forecasting, climate research and prediction, global sea-surface temperature measurements, atmospheric analysis of temperature and humidity, ocean dynamics research, volcanic eruption monitoring, forest fire detection, global vegetation analysis, search and rescue…” Many satellites, military and civil, are launched every year. The US has three of the stationary variety in operation. Russia, Japan, Europe, China and India also operate geostationary satellites, joined in July 2010 by South Korea. Japan conducts fairly regular launches from its Tanegashima space station site, and devotes some of its information gathering capacity to spying on North Korea.

Satellites, of whichever type, are a mark of advanced scientific status and economic development. As a country that especially in recent years has suffered from acute weather irregularities, presumed due to global warming, and is surrounded by satellite-operating states, North Korea has a strong interest in itself joining the select company, both for motives of pride and face as well as for scientific and economic reasons. A covert military purpose, development of intercontinental ballistic missile capacity, may be assumed, since the rocketry is virtually the same, only the load and the trajectory differ; but this is true of all satellite-launching countries. North Korea became a signatory to the Outer Space treaty (of 1966) in 2009, and now protests that it alone of the world’s nations cannot be denied the universal right to the scientific exploration of space simply because of that convergence of civil and military technology…

… As at time of writing (30 March 2012) there are several possibilities. Pyongyang might, although it seems unlikely, choose to buckle under the pressure and cancel the launch. Such display of weakness and repudiation of the legacy of the late leader would have unpredictable domestic consequences, and the act of submission would likely encourage the member states of the Beijing group to demand more.  If, however, Pyongyang resists all pressures and proceeds with the launch, either the launch succeeds or it does not. If an “advanced geostationary meteorological satellite” duly takes its place in the skies, the world will face a fait accompli. Despite sanctions and irrespective of its poverty and isolation, North Korea’s claim to a place in the ranks of advanced scientific and industrial powers would be reinforced and, sooner or later, the hostile powers would have to return to the agenda of September 2005: a comprehensive peninsular peace and normalization agenda. If on the other hand the launch is unsuccessful and/or the vehicle breaks up or enters a missile trajectory, North Korea would face considerable loss of face both domestically and heightened hostility internationally, making early resumption of the Six Party talks unlikely. Embattled, it might resume nuclear testing (as it did when the Security Council denounced the failed launch in 2009), the regime’s hold would likely weaken and the “North Korea problem” might become just so much more difficult to resolve.

The merciless stare which almost the entire world fixes upon North Korea is not to be understood solely in rational terms. The stare is less fierce, it is true, in the case of Russia and China, but both on this occasion seem at least to be joining the coalition of the hostile in urging North Korea to cancel the launch and avoid “provocation.” For much of the world, however, the country serves as a kind of ultimate “other.” Over much of the apst half century, and certainly since the end of the Cold War, no country has been so lacking in international sympathy or solidarity. The United States and Japan expect others to condemn North Korea, and it is easy to find cause to condemn and much less likely to cause offence in the global quarters that count than any serious attempt to identify and pursue global powers that are responsible for aggression and abuse on the grand scale. Thus the Government of Australia, having shown no previous interest in peninsular matters and no understanding of the historic context or of the core of legitimacy that encapsulates North Korea’s cry to the world, to declare itself threatened by the imminent launch and to demand it be cancelled is simply a cheap and empty gesture…

See the full text of this article here…

Author

Gavan McCormack is an emeritus professor of the Australian National University and a coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal. He is author of many books and articles on modern and contemporary East Asia, and many of his articles are accessible on this site. His Target North Korea: Pushing North Korea to the brink of Nuclear Catastrophe, was published in 2004 and translated and published in Japanese and Korean. In 2008 and 2009 he contributed a monthly column to the Seoul daily Kyunghyang shinmoon. His discussion with John Dower of the prospects for 2012 was featured on NHK satellite television as its New Year program (“Kantogen 2012”). His most recent book, co-authored with Satoko Oka Norimatsu, is Islands of Resistance: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States, forthcoming, Rowman and Littlefield, July 2012.





The DPRK Interregnum: Window of Opportunity for the International Community

19 01 2012

By Victor Hsu (Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability, January 10, 2012)

Now that the funeral of Kim Jong Il is over, it is time for the international community to explore avenues of engaging with the DPRK, rather than trying to read the tea leaves about who is in charge or whether Kim Jong Un is the real Supreme Leader and Military Commander. This period presents a window of opportunity either to engage constructively or to destabilize the Korean peninsula. It is truly a time of danger and opportunity. While it is legitimate to expect the DPRK to take the first step, there is an equal onus on the international community to adopt policies and strategies to encourage the DPRK to initiate a new chapter in its foreign policy. However, this post funeral interregnum may be ironically the right time for the “strategic patience” policy of the Obama’s administration.

First, it is important to bear in mind that following precedent is a basic rule of engagement on the part of the DPRK. It was a full three years before Kim Jong Il emerged to lead the country following Kim Il Sung’s unexpected death. There is no reason for the DPRK not to observe a similar period of prolonged national mourning. Of course, next year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of the eternal President, Kim Il Sung. The celebration is likely to proceed in April. Moreover, to use a term often employed by the DPRK to describe the success of Kim Il Sung and the DPRK heroes, the “exploits” of the Dear Leader will be extolled and given more prominence than if he were still alive. This is already evident from the DPRK’s annual New Year’s Editorial which has heaped high praise on the accomplishments of Kim Jong Il.

Second, the confirmation of Kim Jong Un as the “supreme leader and commander” is to be expected. Anything else would be a real surprise and would warrant speculation and analysis. For analysts keen to spot fissures in the leadership of the DPRK, perhaps the sole speculation that can be made is a possible vacuum in the decision-making process. Kim Jong Un is unlikely to take bold unilateral actions unless his position or his family is threatened. In fact, he may even welcome a prolonged period of national celebration of his father and grandfather.

It is unrealistic to expect dramatic policy reversal or new initiatives for the foreseeable future. If anything, it will be business as usual unless the leadership is forced or provoked into taking action.

Therefore, in the near term, the international community should:

–   Avoid taking actions that will force the DPRK to make premature decisions.
–    Respond to the DPRK should the invitation be extended to resume existing negotiations.

This past week, newspaper editorials noted the absence of commentary on the DPRK nuclear program in the New Year Joint Editorial and questioned the DPRK’s motivation. In fact, keeping silent on controversial issues is part of the DPRK’s diplomatic brinksmanship and has been the DPRK’s signature negotiation tool.
Third, following precedent, the DPRK is likely to resume existing formal or back channel talks and honor existing commitments, be it the 6-party talks or a new round of food/nutrition aid from the US government, or the joint ventures in Kaesong or tours to Mount Kumgang by South Koreans. The Joint Editorial contains ample indications about DPRK’s desire to be a “thriving country,” with a “knowledge-based economy.”  There are repeated references to “achieving prosperity” with world standards.  For 2012, it talks about

“the important task of scaling without fail the historical-stage targets… true to the lifetime instructions of General Kim Jong Il. By registering a brilliant success in this year’s struggle for opening the gates of a thriving country, we must enter a new, high stage of building a thriving socialist country in an all-round way.”

Therefore, for example, “light industries” should be a “modern base” to produce “larger quality goods” that “cater to people’s tastes” and are “welcomed” by them.  Equally significant is the highlighting of solving the food problem as a “burning issue” and the pathway to prosperity.

In order for the DPRK to become “a thriving nation,” the technocrats and sectoral professionals, will have to play a pivotal role. Ideology, alone, cannot feed the people or achieve prosperity.  To quote from the Joint Editorial, the professionals with technical know-how and expertise will have to ensure that:

–    “Farming materials and machinery needed” “hit the target for agricultural production.”
–    “Modern bases for stockbreeding and poultry farming and large-size fruit and fish farms” lead to “the improvement of people’s living standards, run at full capacity.”
–    Continue the construction of large hydropower stations, thermal powered mining, metallurgy, and upgrade railroads, and chemical industries.
–    Guide scientific research to develop “core, basic technologies, including information and nano technologies and bioengineering, and promote technical engineering in major fields and produce more research findings that would beat the world.”

In short, “all sectors and units of the national economy should drastically increase the capacity for developing new technologies and products of their own, and push forward in a far-sighted way the work of turning the national economy into a technology-intensive one.”  Hence, “talents in the field of science and technology,” are “precious assets of the country,” to be “given prominence and the conditions for their scientific research should be provided at the highest standard.”

The challenges that the Joint Editorial laid out for 2012 are formidable. But the contours of a roadmap to its economic prosperity are clearly laid out. To date, governments in North America and the European Union have refused to engage the DPRK in any form of assistance other than humanitarian aid. The technocrats within the DPRK will not be able to accomplish their mandate without technical upgrade, inputs and resources.

Interestingly, NGOs such as Adventist Disaster Response Agency, American Friends Service Committee, Christian Friends of Korea, Eugene Bell Foundation, German Agro-Action, Global Resources Services, Mercy Corps, Samaritan’s Purse, Save the Children UK, and World Vision have had fruitful partnerships with the DPRK in projects that address organic farming, upgrading of clinics and hospitals, livestock, food aid, vegetable and fruit fertigation and renewable energy.  These are helpful knowledge sharing activities seen by the DPRK to be particularly valuable.

This post funeral interregnum in the DPRK should be seen as a window of opportunity for moving its relationships in a constructive direction. The international community should take time to network and to plan a coordinated engagement at multiple levels such as exchange visits, knowledge sharing activities, and other confidence building measures.  A coordinated plan is necessary to avoid duplication, to maximize the increasingly scarce resources among traditional donors and to gather the lessons learned for follow-up.  Donors should facilitate this networking by supporting civil society knowledge-sharing efforts. Civil society access is more sustainable and is less susceptible to the vicissitudes of inter-state relations, as the history of NGO involvement there has amply demonstrated.  If NGO involvement has decreased in recent years it is in large measure due to decreased donor funding.

It is also time for the international community to consider the implications of the existing UN sanctions which have not been effective and are perceived mainly as a political exercise by states with few options to punish the DPRK’s nuclear program.  It should also ask itself whether the relationship with the DPRK should be dictated by, and solely confined to, the now highly contentious nuclear and human rights issues. Countries not involved in the 6-party negotiations, such as those in the EU, should encourage the broadening of the engagement agenda with the DPRK to include confidence building measures.

*Victor Hsu, a Visiting Professor at the Korea Development Institute School of Public Policy and Management.





First University Founded by two Koreas to Open in Pyongyang Next Week

23 10 2010

SHENYANG, China, Oct. 22 (Yonhap) The first university founded jointly by South and North Korea is scheduled to open next week in Pyongyang, a school official said Friday.

The project to build Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) was launched in 2001 after the two countries’ governments approved a South Korean nonprofit organization to participate in it. The university’s stated aim is to promote reconciliation and prosperity among the Korean people, separated since the 1950-53 Korean war, and “help North Korea develop the necessary economic and intellectual infrastructure to function as a member of the international community,” according to its Web site.

“All the facilities and staff are ready, and we will officially open (next Monday, 25 October),” said James Chin-kyung Kim, the school’s founding president and co-chairman. Kim, a U.S. citizen, also founded the Yanbian University of Science and Technology in the Chinese city of Yanji, a major Korean-Chinese population center.

“In time for the opening, 17 foreign professors will fly to Pyongyang from Shenyang (on Saturday). These professors come from the U.S. and Europe,” he said. South Korean staff will also be able to teach, starting next semester, according to the school.

Instruction will be in English, and 160 students have been selected for the school’s undergraduate and master’s degree courses in agriculture, information and communication technology, and industry and management. Forty doctorate-level students began studying with four foreign academics in the summer. The university plans to increase the number of students to 500 and open more departments to teach architecture, engineering, construction and public health care.

An Unlikely Pairing Bears Fruit in North Korea

The driving force behind the school was Kim Chin-kyung, an American born in Seoul who founded a university in China in 1992. He made periodic trips from China into North Korea and in 1998 was arrested at his hotel in the capital and thrown into prison, accused of being an agent for the C.I.A…

Also read “The capitalist who loves North Korea”
“After making it as an entrepreneur in America, James Kim is fulfilling his dream of opening an university in North Korea that will offer, of all things, an MBA…”

Leonid Petrov has received an e-mail message from the PUST informing him about the following positive developments: “It seems that we will be able to open the first official semester within the next few weeks. The first faculty team members are ready to move to Pyongyang and begin the work. We are waiting for the final approval for the faculty to arrive. There are still many fine points that will have to be determined, but the main issues seem settled and we are happy to report that the North Korean counterparts who will work with us are very cooperative and have been extremely helpful to us since they arrived on campus in mid-summer. There are a few PUST personnel who are already residing at PUST and are preparing the campus for the faculty when they arrive shortly. The students also are either already on campus or will arrive in the next week. That means that there is real progress.”