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04/01/2021 News & Commentary – Korea

04/01/2021 News & Commentary – Korea

News & commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and published by Daniel Riggs.

1. UN Panel of Experts Report on north Korea

2. Russia says Pyongyang facing severe shortages

3. North’s hackers stole $316 million, says UN report

4. U.S. says it will hold North ‘accountable’ for human rights abuses

5. S.Korea Must Be Prepared for All Possible N.Korean Threats

6. N. Korea likely to conduct more KN-23 variant missile tests to replace Scud missiles: think tank

7. Now for the hard part: Biden in new chapter of North Korea saga

8. N. Korea steals over US$300 mln to support weapons development in 2020: UN panel

9. N. Korean airline publishes flight schedule to China, but no flight detected yet

10. Cheonan sinking being reinvestigated per request of ‘conspiracy theorist’

11. Ruling party distancing itself from President Moon

12. Japan’s bigger presence adds complexity to NK nuke talks

13. Good deal, bad deal or no deal (Korea)

14. Pyongyang's Secret: There Is No Strategy

15. Moon administration receives failing grade

16. White House: Biden does not intend to meet with N. Korean leader

17. Is Korea policy too important to be left to the Americans? by Mark Tokola

18. White House official says U.S. review of North Korea policy in 'final stages'

19. It’s Time to Act, Not React, on North Korea

 

1. UN Panel of Experts Report on north Korea

The 419 page report (60 pages of main text and the remainder in annexes) can be downloaded from the UN web site here.  

There is a lot to digest in this report and the sanctions experts are doing so and we will see thorough analysis in coming days.

A couple of things. The names of the panel members are redacted for security reasons.

Although there is a lot of interesting information and useful data it appears Russia and China are still working to suppress the most damaging information.

Note the north Korean - Iran cooperation:25. The Panel continued to investigate allegations concerning the cooperation between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Islamic Republic of Iran on ballistic missiles. In its previous reports,17 the Panel reported on the continuous involvement of representatives of the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation in the Islamic Republic of Iran and on technical cooperation between the two countries in this field. According to a Member State, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Islamic Republic of Iran have resumed cooperation on long-range missile development projects (see annex 19). This resumed cooperation is said to have included the transfer of critical parts, with the most recent shipment associated with this relationship taking place in 2020 (see annex 19-1). In an interim reply of 21 December 2020, the Islamic Republic of Iran stated that: “Preliminary review of the information provided to us by the Panel indicates that false information and fabricated data may have been used in investigations and analyses of the Panel” (see annex 19-2).

 

139. Consistent with its previous reporting, the Panel continues to observe and

investigate individuals and companies linked to the Democratic People’s Republic of

Korea that, to facilitate sanctions evasion activities related to maritime sanctions, the

importation of luxury goods, illicit labour and the laundering of proceeds related to the

theft of virtual assets, predominantly target and use financial institutions in China. 119

Moreover, corporate service providers continue to facilitate, both wittingly and

unwittingly, the sanctions evasion activities of the Democratic People’s Republic of

Korea. 

 

Virtual assets and virtual asset service providers

156. The Panel continued its investigations into cyberactivities of the Democratic

People’s Republic of Korea that target financial institutions, virtual assets and virtual

asset service providers. Based on a review of publicly available information and

information provided by Member States, the Panel continues to assess that

cyberactors linked to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued to

conduct operations against financial institutions 135 and virtual currency exchange

houses in 2020 to generate revenue to support its weapons of mass destruction and

ballistic missile programmes. According to one Member State, the total theft of virtual

assets by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, from 2019 to November 2020,

is valued at approximately $316.4 million. 

 

2. Russia says Pyongyang facing severe shortages

asiatimes.com · by AT Contributor · April 1, 2021

It is obvious the Kim family regime is not using the proceeds from its myriad illicit activities as outlined in the UN Panel of Experts Report to ease the suffering of the Korean people living in the north.

 

3. North’s hackers stole $316 million, says UN report

koreajoongangdaily.joins.com · by Sarah Kim

A useful summary of the UN panel of Experts report.

 

4. U.S. says it will hold North ‘accountable’ for human rights abuses

koreajoongangdaily.joins.com · by Sarah Kim

The question is how? Human rights must be a major line of effort in the Administration's new Korea policy.

 

5. S.Korea Must Be Prepared for All Possible N.Korean Threats

english.chosun.com

And to do that it must first recognize and accept the full spectrum of threats. This means revising its strategic assumptions about the nature, objectives, and strategy of the Kim family regime.

 

6. N. Korea likely to conduct more KN-23 variant missile tests to replace Scud missiles: think tank

en.yna.co.kr · by 오석민 · April 1, 2021

The military must test and train in preparation to field and deploy. What this should indicate to us is that this is a key conventional warfighting capability that will be critical to the success of the nKPA campaign plan should Kim decide the conditions are right for execution.

 

7. Now for the hard part: Biden in new chapter of North Korea saga

The Korea Times · by Robert Manning · April 1, 2021

Unfortunately north Korea gets a vote on the new policy.

Conclusion: "With all those caveats, expect that some effort at nuclear diplomacy will be one result of Biden's North Korea policy review. But judging by Pyongyang's escalating threats and looming missile tests it will be a wild ride of mini-crisis after mini-crisis. At the end of the day this new chapter in the North Korea story is more likely to be about how to live with a de facto "Nuclear North Korea."

 

8. N. Korea steals over US$300 mln to support weapons development in 2020: UN panel

en.yna.co.kr · by 변덕근 · April 1, 2021

This is the attention getting headline but there is more information in the report. And most importantly, we can judge regime intent and long term objectives from the information in the report. The regime has no intention of reducing the threat or of ever giving up its nuclear weapons program.

 

9. N. Korean airline publishes flight schedule to China, but no flight detected yet

en.yna.co.kr · by 이원주 · April 1, 2021

An indicator that the north intends to soon restart trade with China.

 

10. Cheonan sinking being reinvestigated per request of ‘conspiracy theorist’

koreajoongangdaily.joins.com · by Michael Lee

This is very sad: “The Cheonan was a naval corvette which sank in the Yellow Sea near South Korean-controlled Baengnyeong Island on March 26, 2010, following an explosion that caused the ship to break in half. Fifty-eight crewmembers were rescued, and 46 perished. The JIG, a South Korean-led multinational investigative group, issued a summary of its findings in May of the same year. It concluded that the Cheonan sank due to a non-contact underwater explosion, which the group blamed on a North Korean torpedo which detonated close enough to the stern section of the hull to cause severe damage. Shin, who claimed that the Cheonan sank after running aground before he joined the JIG, continued to write articles for his own online media outlet after the findings were released, saying that the then-conservative government fabricated the cause of the sinking.  

As a result, Shin was indicted for defaming the military and JIG members. Although being found guilty and sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment in February 2016, he won his appeal in October last year. The appeals court acknowledged that his articles were false but said defamatory intent had not been proved. The fact that the commission accepted Shin’s petition for an inquiry into the sinking provoked outrage.”

 

11. Ruling party distancing itself from President Moon

The Korea Times· by Kang Seung-woo · April 1, 2021

It will be a difficult year for Korean politics.

 

12.  Japan’s bigger presence adds complexity to NK nuke talks

koreaherald.com · by Lee Ji-yoon · April 1, 2021

This is a key point form Dr. Shin:  “Japan may have acted as a spoiler in the denuclearization talks in the past. But this time when Japan and the US are in deep cooperation under the new US government, South Korea, not Japan, could be seen as a spoiler in the trilateral relationship,” said Shin Beom-chul, director of the Center for Diplomacy and Security at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy."

 

13. Good deal, bad deal or no deal (Korea)

The Korea Times · by Yun Byung-se · April 1, 2021

Some interesting and important historical comparisons. 

Key point and key questions: As to whether to push for another deal with North Korea or not, however, there is a big divide both in South Korea and the U.S. in light of the endless non-compliance and cheating by North Korea. It begs a key question. Do we have the resolve and commitment to make a sustainable good deal to match our principles of denuclearized peace? Or should we be resigned to a bad deal that may bring transient peace but legitimize a nuclearized North Korea?

Conclusion:  If President Biden sticks to his principled position of denuclearization of North Korea and if Kim does not change his course, Kim might not ever meet his new U.S. counterpart and have to be content with reminiscing on the good old days of the "Last Tango in Singapore" with Trump.

After the collapse of South Vietnam in 1975, President Gerald Ford issued a regretful statement: "History must be the final judge of that which we have done or left undone, in Vietnam and elsewhere. Let us calmly await its verdict."

South Korea, allied to the U.S., is no comparison for South Vietnam of the 1970s or Czechoslovakia of the 1930s. However, both South Korea and the U.S. should learn from the lessons of history to avoid policy mistakes, especially in the second nuclear age with the possibility of a nuclear conflict.

What the Biden administration will have done or left undone in the coming months and years together with its allies, including through a new North Korea policy, will also be given a verdict by history. I am sure that his team will be on the right side of history, keeping the "peace and honor."

 

14. Pyongyang's Secret: There Is No Strategy

realcleardefense.com · by Alex Wong

A very interesting thesis. This is one of the most insightful essays we have seen in a long time. Alex should know. He has been dealing with north Korea more than most for the past few years as the deputy to the special representative.

 

15. Moon administration receives failing grade

donga.com · April 1, 2021

Tough times

 

16. White House: Biden does not intend to meet with N. Korean leader

donga.com· April 1, 2021

I do not think he should unless there is an agreement to be inked after substantive working level negotiations.

Of course Kim will not meet with him unless he receives guarantees of sanctions relief before doing so.

 

17. Is Korea policy too important to be left to the Americans? by Mark Tokola

asiatimes.com · by Mark Tokola · April 1, 2021

I agree that we need to continually assess and revise our assumptions based on understanding the conditions as they evolve. I also agree that the north Korean nuclear problem is NOT the biggest problem. The biggest problem is the nature, objectives, and strategy of the Kim family regime (even if Alex Wong says the regime has no strategy!!!)

Is Korea policy too important to be left to the Americans?

 

18. White House official says U.S. review of North Korea policy in 'final stages'

Reuters · by Reuters Staff · March 31, 2021

We are waiting with bated breath. :-) 

 

19. It’s Time to Act, Not React, on North Korea

fairobserver.com · by Eric J. Ballbach • · March 30, 2021

A view from Germany.

 

------------

 

"Assessing China’s growing power incorrectly has always proved to be hazardous. US policymakers have underestimated China’s power at least twice since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, once catastrophically and another time with serious consequences for US credibility. . . Accurately assessing the power of China is still a critical task today, especially with renewed tensions on the Korean Peninsula and continuing volatility in the Taiwan Straits "

- David Lampton, Johns Hopkins, 2010

 

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt, Strenuous Life

 

“There is a big difference between motion and action. Just because you get out of bed doesn't mean you are making progress. Taking action requires decisiveness, dedication, and clear direction.”

-Farshad Asl

DanielRiggs Thu, 04/01/2021 - 11:52am




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