Category Archives: North Korea

A Murderous History of Korea

Bruce Cumings, the author of several books on the Korean Peninsula, writes for the London Review of Books:

Image result for A Murderous History of KoreaMore than four decades ago I went to lunch with a diplomatic historian who, like me, was going through Korea-related documents at the National Archives in Washington. He happened to remark that he sometimes wondered whether the Korean Demilitarised Zone might be ground zero for the end of the world. This April, Kim In-ryong, a North Korean diplomat at the UN, warned of ‘a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment’. A few days later, President Trump told Reuters that ‘we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.’ American atmospheric scientists have shown that even a relatively contained nuclear war would throw up enough soot and debris to threaten the global population: ‘A regional war between India and Pakistan, for instance, has the potential to dramatically damage Europe, the US and other regions through global ozone loss and climate change.’ How is it possible that we have come to this? How does a puffed-up, vainglorious narcissist, whose every other word may well be a lie (that applies to both of them, Trump and Kim Jong-un), come not only to hold the peace of the world in his hands but perhaps the future of the planet? We have arrived at this point because of an inveterate unwillingness on the part of Americans to look history in the face and a laser-like focus on that same history by the leaders of North Korea.

North Korea celebrated the 85th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People’s Army on 25 April, amid round-the-clock television coverage of parades in Pyongyang and enormous global tension. No journalist seemed interested in asking why it was the 85th anniversary when the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was only founded in 1948. What was really being celebrated was the beginning of the Korean guerrilla struggle against the Japanese in north-east China, officially dated to 25 April 1932. After Japan annexed Korea in 1910, many Koreans fled across the border, among them the parents of Kim Il-sung, but it wasn’t until Japan established its puppet state of Manchukuo in March 1932 that the independence movement turned to armed resistance. Kim and his comrades launched a campaign that lasted 13 difficult years, until Japan finally relinquished control of Korea as part of the 1945 terms of surrender. This is the source of the North Korean leadership’s legitimacy in the eyes of its people: they are revolutionary nationalists who resisted their country’s coloniser; they resisted again when a massive onslaught by the US air force during the Korean War razed all their cities, driving the population to live, work and study in subterranean shelters; they have continued to resist the US ever since; and they even resisted the collapse of Western communism – as of this September, the DPRK will have been in existence for as long as the Soviet Union. But it is less a communist country than a garrison state, unlike any the world has seen. Drawn from a population of just 25 million, the North Korean army is the fourth largest in the world, with 1.3 million soldiers – just behind the third largest army, with 1.4 million soldiers, which happens to be the American one. Most of the adult Korean population, men and women, have spent many years in this army: its reserves are limited only by the size of the population.

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Will Donald Trump Start The Second Korean War?

Doug Bandow writes for The Huffington Post:

[…] It’s hard to assess whether President Donald Trump is serious about going to war. He has no constitutional or legal authority to attack North Korea.

A majority of Americans say they are “uneasy” with his approach. Moreover, South Korean and Japanese assent would be necessary for Washington to use American forces stationed on their soil — unlikely given the potentially catastrophic consequences of starting the Second Korean War.

For the last quarter century a nuclear North Korea was prospect rather than reality. No longer. The North is believed to possess enough nuclear material for 20 bombs today and may accumulate enough material for 100 by 2024. With Pyongyang developing long-range missiles, the U.S. appears destined to face a small but potent North Korean nuclear deterrent.

The possibility is disconcerting, to say the least, even though there is no reason to believe that the North’s 33-year-old Kim Jong-un is suicidal. Still, who wants to rely on his good judgment to keep the peace, especially when matched against the equally impulsive and unpredictable Donald Trump?

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NPR Can’t Help Hyping North Korean Threat

Glen Frieden writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR):

NPR: As North Korea Acts Out, A Search for Kim Jong Un's MotivesUN Ambassador Nikki Haley told the UN Security Council on March 8 that “all options are on the table” regarding North Korea. Between then and April 27, NPR.org published 60 stories on US/North Korea relations.

[…] North Korea’s dictatorial government uses the threat of war as a propaganda tool against its own population—fostering loyalty to itself and its military establishment. As NPR’s own reporting (3/23/16) put it, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un “needs to establish his own legitimacy, and that means standing up to enemies.” According to Brookings’ Sheena Greitens, interviewed in that piece: “North Korea might use a range of strategies…but we should remember that they’re all aimed at the same underlying, fundamental objective: ensuring Kim’s political survival.”

If North Korea’s warlike propaganda is so transparent, what should we think of the US media? Of course, professional journalists claim to pursue the truth, and report it in nobody’s interest but the public’s. But what if even a “serious” outlet like National Public Radio launches a flurry of fear-mongering at a word from the Pentagon? A survey of its coverage since March 8 suggests that NPR has promoted the perspective of the US government at the expense of public understanding of US/North Korean relations. The construction of foreign “threats” benefits both a national government hungry for legitimacy—and news organizations hungry for an audience.

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The CIA Has a Long History of Helping to Kill Leaders Around the World

Ewen MacAskill reports for The Guardian:

Image result for CIA assassinationsSome of the most notorious of the CIA’s operations to kill world leaders were those targeting the late Cuban president, Fidel Castro. Attempts ranged from snipers to imaginative plots worthy of spy movie fantasies, such as the famous exploding cigars and a poison-lined scuba-diving suit.

But although the CIA attempts proved fruitless in the case of Castro, the US intelligence agency has since 1945 succeeded in deposing or killing a string of leaders elsewhere around the world – either directly or, more often, using sympathetic local military, locally hired criminals or pliant dissidents.

According to North Korea’s ministry of state security, the CIA has not abandoned its old ways. In a statement on Friday, it accused that the CIA and South Korea’s intelligence service of being behind an alleged recent an assassination attempt on its leader Kim Jong-un.

The attempt, according to the ministry, involved “the use of biochemical substances including radioactive substance and nano poisonous substance” and the advantage of this was it “does not require access to the target (as) their lethal results will appear after six or 12 months”.

The person directly responsible was allegedly a North Korean working for the foreign intelligence agencies.

A CIA spokesman refused to comment on the allegations.

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The Korean War’s Brutality Turned the Stomachs of America’s Most Hardened Soldiers

Darien Cavanaugh writes for War Is Boring:

[…] On a per-capita basis, the Korean War was one of the deadliest wars in modern history, especially for the civilian population of North Korea. The scale of the devastation shocked and disgusted the American military personnel who witnessed it, including some who had fought in the most horrific battles of World War II.

World War II was by far the bloodiest war in history. Estimates of the death toll range from 60 million to more than 85 million, with some suggesting that the number is actually even higher and that 50 million civilians may have perished in China alone. Even the lower estimates would account for roughly three percent of the world’s estimated population of 2.3 billion in 1940.

These are staggering numbers, and the death rate during the Korean War was comparable to what occurred in the hardest hit countries of World War II.

Several factors contributed to the high casualty ratios. The Korean Peninsula is densely populated. Rapidly shifting front lines often left civilians trapped in combat zones. Both sides committed numerous massacres and carried out mass executions of political prisoners. Modern aircraft carried out a vast bombing campaign, dropping massive loads of napalm along with standard bombs.

In fact, by the end of the war, the United States and its allies had dropped more bombs on the Korean Peninsula, the overwhelming majority of them on North Korea, than they had in the entire Pacific Theater of World War II.

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Pentagon Warns of Heavy Casualties in a New Korean War

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

While the content of a high-profile White House meeting in which the entire US Senate was briefed about North Korea has not been totally made public, official attempts to emphasize the non-military efforts being made appear to be just one aspect of the story, as the consequences of a military conflict appear to also have been discussed.

Military officials emphasized the increased naval buildup around the Korean Peninsula, and preparations being made for a new Korean War, while also offering some frank warnings that North Korea would certainly retaliate against an American attack, and that such a retaliation would include major attacks against US forces in South Korea, and the South Korean capital of Seoul.

This was something the Senate was warned about, but has been surprisingly rarely discussed in public as the US masses forces in the area and talks up “taking care of” North Korea one way or another. Indeed, the White House has gone out of its way to dismiss North Korea’s retaliatory capabilities.

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Advocates Urge President Trump to De-escalate Tensions with North Korea

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak with Christine Hong, associate professor at University of California, Santa Cruz, and an executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute, and Bruce Cumings, professor of history at the University of Chicago and the author of several books on the Korean Peninsula including Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History and North Korea: Another Country. Cumings’ most recent piece for The Nation is titled: This Is What’s Really Behind North Korea’s Nuclear Provocations. (Democracy Now!)

North Korea Says Syria Airstrikes Prove Its Nukes Justified

The Associated Press reports:

TV screen broadcasting a news report on North Korea's long range rocket launch on February 7, 2016.North Korea has vowed to bolster its defenses to protect itself against airstrikes like the ones President Donald Trump ordered against an air base in Syria.

The North called the airstrikes “absolutely unpardonable” and said they prove its nuclear weapons are justified to protect the country against Washington’s “evermore reckless moves for a war.”

The comments were made by a Foreign Ministry official and carried Sunday by North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency. The report did not name the official, which is common in KCNA reports.

The airstrikes, announced shortly after Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up dinner at a two-day summit in Florida last week, were retaliation against Syrian President Bashar Assad for a chemical weapons attack against civilians caught up in his country’s long civil war.

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South Korea Removes President, North Korea Test Fires Missile During Annual U.S. War Games

Amy Goodman speaks to University of Chicago professor Bruce Cumings, author of several books on the Koreas, and Christine Ahn, founder and international coordinator of Women Cross DMZ, about ousted South Korean leader Park Geun-hye and North Korea’s latest missile test. (Democracy Now!)

Suspect in North Korea killing ‘thought she was taking part in TV prank’

Oliver Holmes reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Suspect in North Korea killingAn Indonesian woman arrested for suspected involvement in the killing of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s half-brother in Malaysia was duped into thinking she was part of a comedy show prank, Indonesia’s national police chief has said, citing information received from Malaysian authorities.

Meanwhile, Malaysian police said on Saturday they had arrested a North Korean man in connection with the murder.

The man was identified as Ri Jong Chol, born in 1970. He was arrested on Friday night in Selangor state, the police said in a statement. He is the fourth suspect to be arrested.

Indonesia’s national police chief, Tito Karnavian, told reporters in Indonesia’s Aceh province that the Indonesian woman, 25-year-old Siti Aisyah, was paid to be involved in pranks .

He said she and another woman performed stunts which involved convincing men to close their eyes and then spraying them with water.

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Trump Hypes Missile Defense Systems Targeting Iran and North Korea

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Image result for Missile DefenseWithin mere minutes of his inauguration, President Trump’s White House website laid out a series of new policy positions, including a promise to develop a “state-of-the-art” missile defense system to protect against both Iran and North Korea.

The statement was prominently positioned, underscoring it as a point of emphasis for the new administration, but provided no details on what the announcement actually means, and indeed whether or not it marks any change from the existing missile defense systems the US has been throwing money at over the years.

The US started bankrolling anti-Iran missile defense systems way back in the Bush Administration’s waning years, a sore subject in US-Russia relations because Bush was positioning them all right along the Russian frontier, and far outside the range of Iran’s best missiles. In more recent years, the US has been scrambling to get a system in place in South Korea targeting their neighbor to the north as well.

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US Warns China It Will Target Firms for Illicit North Korea Business

Lesley Wroughton and Yeganeh Torbati report for Reuters:

Image result for us china north koreaThe United States has warned China it will blacklist Chinese companies and banks that do illicit business with North Korea if Beijing fails to enforce U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang, according to senior State Department officials.

The tougher U.S. approach reflects growing impatience with China and a view that it has not strictly enforced existing sanctions to help curb Pyongyang’s nuclear program, which a U.S. policy of both sanctions and diplomacy has failed to dent.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave the message to Chinese officials in meetings in Beijing in October after North Korea conducted its fifth and largest nuclear test, the officials said.

U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the importance of choking off financial flows to Pyongyang during a meeting with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi in New York on Nov. 1.

In response to the U.S. warning, Chinese officials said they believe pressure alone on North Korea will not work, and that they oppose any U.S. action that would hurt Chinese companies, officials said.

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Hillary Clinton Warned U.S. Would ‘Ring China With Missile Defense’

David Brunnstrom reports for Reuters:

U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at the Colorado State Fair Grounds in Pueblo, Colorado, U.S. October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy NicholsonU.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said in a private speech to bankers three years ago that the United States had warned Beijing it would “ring China with missile defense” unless it did more to rein in North Korea’s missile program, according to hacked emails.

According to a purported Clinton campaign document attached to an email published by Wikileaks, Clinton said in a speech to Goldman Sachs on June 4, 2013, that the message to China had been, “You either control them, or we’re going to have to defend against them.”

It was not possible to confirm the authenticity of the leaked email. The Clinton campaign has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of hacked emails.

The State Department on Friday declined to comment on “alleged leaked documents.” When asked whether such a message had been delivered to China, an official said it was not department policy to comment publicly on diplomatic discussions.

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North Korean Official’s ‘Resurrection’ Casts Doubt on Seoul Intel

John Power reports for The Diplomat:

North Korean Official’s ‘Resurrection’ Casts Doubt on Seoul IntelThe reliability of South Korea’s spy agency has come under renewed scrutiny after the reappearance of a North Korean army official who was previously reported killed.

In the latest in a series of embarrassing intelligence failures out of Seoul, former army chief of staff Ri Yong-il emerged alive Tuesday in state media coverage of the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency reported that Ri was appointed to several high-ranking party positions at the first such meeting since 1980. The Congress, which finished Monday, reaffirmed North Korea’s right to nuclear arms and announced a vaguely-defined five-year plan to improve the weak economy.

Following the KCNA report, Seoul’s Unification Ministry confirmed that Ri was in fact alive.

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Obama Spurns North Korea Offer to Suspend Missile Program

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Speaking during is visit to Germany, President Obama denounced North Korea for its offer to abandon its nuclear and missile program in return for an end to US military exercises with South Korea, condemning the nation for its “provocative behaviours.”

Tensions between North Korea and the US rise this time of year every year, as North Korean officials condemn the ever-larger US military exercises, and conduct tests which they present as purely defensive, but which the US presents as proof that they are hostile.

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The War Against the World: Washington Finds Enemies Everywhere

Philip Giraldi writes for Unz:

Defense Secretary Ash Carter testifies on the Defense Department's proposed fiscal year 2017 budget during a posture hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C., March 17, 2016. DoD photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian CadizSecretary of War Ash Carter is concerned about America’s posture. No, it’s not about sitting with your back straight up and your knees placed primly together. It all has to do with how many enemies there are out there threatening the United States and what we have to do, globally speaking, to make them cry uncle. Ash outlined his views at a “posture hearing” before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 17th, part of a process intended to give still more money to the Pentagon, $582.7 billion to be exact for fiscal year 2017.

I respect Ash at least a bit because he once studied Medieval History at Yale, though he apparently has forgotten about the Hundred Years War and the War of the Roses. Both devastated winners and losers alike, a salutary lesson for those who are concerned about what the United States has been up to for the past fifteen years. Yet Ash, who is characteristically no veteran and for whom war is an abstraction that must be supported by counting and piling up sufficient beans, thinks that more is always better when it comes to having fancy new toys to play with. Since his proposed budget will be giving the Navy a few tens of billions worth of Ohio class subs the Air Force will have to get its own strategic bombers so no one will feel cheated. Just wait until the bill from the Army comes in.

Ash justified all the needless spending by telling the Senators that there are five “security challenges” confronting the United States – terrorism, North Korea, China, Russia and Iran – before lapsing into Pentagon-speak about why more money is always better than less money. He attacked any attempt at sequestration, which would require budget cuts across the board, because it risks the “funding of critical investments.”

If you thought that investments were something financial services guys do you would be wrong. The War Department also knows all about it and also can generate “new posture in some regions” with all that extra cash. Why? To “protect the homeland,” of course, and to “have the ability to ensure that anyone who starts a conflict with us will regret doing so.”

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North Korea and the Frightening Foreign Policy of Clinton, Trump, Cruz and Rubio: Interview with Larry Wilkerson

Sharmini Peries talks to former Bush administration official Colonel Larry Wilkerson who says the candidates’ hawkish foreign policy record is cause for concern with the potential of a possible North Korea engagement. (The Real News)

Conflicting Reports: Who Rejected United States-North Korea Peace Talks?

Ben Ariel reports for Arutz Sheva:

An undated photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un released by the country’s Korean Central News Agency.There were conflicting reports on Sunday regarding a recent proposal for United States-North Korea peace talks which was allegedly made before North Korea’s recent nuclear test.

The State Department insisted that Washington rejected a North Korean proposal to discuss a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War because it did not address denuclearization on the peninsula, according to Reuters.

But a report earlier in the Wall Street Journal suggested the opposite – that it was the United States that offered the peace treaty and that Pyongyang had been the one to reject it.

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North Korea’s ‘Biggest’ Export – Giant Statues

Lawrence Pollard reports for BBC Magazine:

Mansudae artist working on sculpture, 2004It may surprise you to know that North Korea would love to carry out your artistic commissions. How about a mural, a tapestry, or a “jewel painting” coloured with powdered semi-precious stones?

Or something a bit more imposing, like a giant bronze statue of that dictator or liberator close to your heart? The Mansudae Art Studio is keen to hear from you.

Founded in 1959, it caters for North Korea’s considerable domestic propaganda needs. The huge statues, murals and banners you see being dutifully applauded at military processions – as well as the poster images that surround North Korean daily life – are all made by its 4,000 staff.

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China Dismisses US Criticism, Blames Them for North Korea Troubles

Jason Ditz reports for Anitwar:

This week’s atomic weapons test by North Korea fueled a round of condemnation by the US against them, and also against China, with Secretary of State John Kerry declaring that China’s policies toward the north had failed and it was time for new strategy.

Chinese officials today dismissed that, saying that the US-led efforts to isolate North Korea have only made matters worse, and that China shouldn’t be expected to solve the entire problemby themselves.

China was an historical ally of North Korea, but tends to see the nation as more of a headache these days, trying to keep them from starting any big wars or collapsing outright, and leading to a massive influx of refugees into China.

North Korea, for its part, is said to be courting more help from China after today’s test, saying they need to come up with a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War, and warning they will continue their nuclear tests until a peace deal happens. US officials have repeatedly ruled out a peace deal with North Korea.

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North Korea Bomb Test Challenges U.S. Policy in Asia

Carol E. Lee reports for The Wall Street Journal:

North Korea’s fourth nuclear weapons test spread alarm through the U.S. and allied countries, reigniting concerns about Pyongyang’s advancements and thrusting the country back into the diplomatic spotlight.

The Obama administration on Wednesday disputed North Korea’s declaration that it had detonated a hydrogen bomb, a thermonuclear device with far greater destructive power than a conventional atomic bomb. But even if the device is proven smaller than that claimed by North Korea, the test indicates Pyongyang has continued to advance its nuclear program.

President Barack Obama, despite a diplomatic pivot aimed at increasing U.S. clout in Asia, has seen North Korea perform three of its four nuclear tests during his time in office. The isolated communist country has long been resistant to diplomatic pressure, despite international sanctions that exacerbate the grinding poverty there.

The blast underscores both the strategic significance and the complications of the U.S. relationship with China. Despite Washington’s recent efforts to counter Beijing’s influence in the region, it is precisely China’s influence that the U.S. most needs to address North Korea’s continuing nuclear bomb work.

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How ‘Crazy’ Are the North Koreans?

Joel S. Wit, a former State Department official, writes for The New York Times:

As someone who has spent most of the past 25 years of his professional life in the United States government, think tanks and academia trying to stop the North Korean nuclear weapons program, I found last week’s nuclear test and the events that followed depressingly familiar. They reminded me of Captain Renault’s famous line from “Casablanca” just before he shuts down Rick’s Café: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” The reactions to North Korea’s 2006, 2009 and 2013 nuclear tests were the same — shock. Yet a decade has gone by and the North Korean nuclear threat has only grown.

I probably shouldn’t say this, but I take my hat off to the North Koreans. They have played their cards extremely well. Despite this episodic outrage, they have managed to become a full-fledged small nuclear power with a growing and increasingly sophisticated arsenal. Moreover, even as they have moved down the nuclear path, they have maintained fairly normal political, economic and other relations with many countries from China to Ethiopia. In effect, a large number of countries have tacitly accepted North Korea as a nuclear weapons state.

How has the North been able to do this? There are, of course, wonky answers: Unilateral and multilateral sanctions haven’t been forceful enough, negotiators haven’t been tough enough. But a big reason you will not often hear is that Americans and the international community have a comic book image of North Korea. We simply don’t take them seriously.

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North Korea cites Muammar Gaddafi’s ‘destruction’ in nuclear test defence

AFP reports:

North Koreans celebrate the nuclear test in Pyongyang's Kim Il-sung square on Friday.[…] A commentary published by the official KCNA news agency late on Friday said Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test was a “great event” that provided North Korea with a deterrent powerful enough to secure its borders against all hostile forces, including the United States.

“History proves that powerful nuclear deterrence serves as the strongest treasured sword for frustrating outsiders’ aggression,” the commentary said.

North Korea said the test was of a miniaturised hydrogen bomb – a claim largely dismissed by experts who argue the yield was far too low for a full-fledged thermonuclear device.

The KCNA commentary said the current international situation resembled the “law of the jungle” where only the strongest survive.

“The Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq and the Gaddafi regime in Libya could not escape the fate of destruction after being deprived of their foundations for nuclear development and giving up nuclear programmes of their own accord,” it said.

Both had made the mistake, the commentary argued, of yielding to Western pressure led by a United States bent on regime change.

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Could Iran Nuke Deal Help Create Way to Address North Korean Crisis? Interview with Joe Cirincione and Christine Ahn

Amy Goodman speaks to Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund and author of Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It is Too Late, and Christine Ahn, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War. (Democracy Now!)

Behind North Korea’s Nukes: George W. Bush’s “Khan Job”

Greg Palast writes:

How did North Korea get The Bomb in the first place?  As I disclosed on BBC Television Newsnight, the ugly answer is that George W. Bush turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s secret sale of the technology to the North Korean regime.

Read the original story from The Best Democracy Money Can Buy:

On November 7, 2001, BBC Television’s Newsnight reported that the Bush administration thwarted investigations of Dr. A.Q. Khan, known as the “father” of Pakistan’s atomic bomb. This week, Khan confessed to selling atomic secrets to Libya, North Korea, and Iran.

The Bush Administration has expressed shock at disclosures that Pakistan, our ally in the war on terror, has been running a nuclear secrets bazaar. In fact, according to the British news teams’ sources within US intelligence agencies, shortly after President Bush’s inauguration, his National Security Agency (NSA) effectively stymied the probe of Khan Research Laboratories, the Pakistani agency in charge of the bomb project. CIA and other agents told BBC they could not investigate the spread of ‘Islamic Bombs’ through Pakistan because funding appeared to originate in Saudi Arabia.

Greg Palast and David Pallister received a California State University Project Censored Award for this expose based on the story broadcast by Palast on BBC television’s top current affairs program.

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In a dangerous world, North Korea’s latest nuclear test makes a kind of sense

Aidan Foster-Carter writes for The Guardian:

[…] The last century was extremely tough for Korea: it was brutally occupied by Japan, then sundered in 1945 by its liberators. Kim Il-sung’s bid for reunification by force precipitated the Korean war (1950-53) which saw the North bombed and napalmed mercilessly by the US on behalf of the UN.

To grasp the mentality this apocalypse bred, think Israel. Kim Il-sung resolved to ensure that no one would ever do that to his realm again. Taking aid where he could, but trusting friends no more than foes, he built a mighty, impregnable fortress – literally and metaphorically.

Just as in Jerusalem – which gets away with this, unlike North Korea – the view from the Pyongyang bunker is that, in a dangerous world, nuclear weapons are the only sure guarantee of security and survival. The argument is essentially the same as the National Rifle Association’s case against gun control. Fortunately most of the world’s 200-odd states do not think and act this way. Yet recent events can only have confirmed the DPRK in its worldview.

A decade ago, siren voices urged Kim Jong-il to emulate that sensible Colonel Muammar Gaddafi: give up weapons of mass destruction, come in from the cold. Pondering both Gaddafi’s miserable end and the state of Libya today, Kim Jong-un’s firm grip on his bomb makes a kind of sense.

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To End North Korea’s Nuclear Program, End the Korean War

Christine Ahn writes for The Nation:

South KoreaNorth Korea announced recently that it had successfully detonated its first hydrogen bomb. “This test is a measure for self-defense,” state media announced, “to firmly protect the sovereignty of the country and the vital right of the nation from the ever-growing nuclear threat and blackmail by the US-led hostile forces.”

South Korea, Japan, and China were swift to respond with condemnation, as was the UN Security Council, which issued a statement that North Korea’s test was a “clear violation of Security Council resolutions” and resolved to take “further significant measures.”

Many observers, however, including nuclear-weapons experts and government officials, doubt whether North Korea really did test a hydrogen bomb.

“I don’t think this was a hydrogen bomb,” said Bill Richardson, a former diplomat who’s traveled to North Korea. “It was apparently six kilotons. A hydrogen bomb is 20.” The White House also issued a statement saying that data collected by US intelligence was “not consistent” with a hydrogen-bomb test.

While an independent verification may take days, and the world may never fully know the true extent of North Korea’s nuclear capacity, what we do know is that this would be Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear-weapons test since 2006—and the third under President Obama’s watch.

If anything, this proves the utter failure of the Obama administration’s policy of “strategic patience” when it comes to achieving North Korean de-nuclearization.

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The author of the above piece was recently interviewed on Democracy Now!:

U.S. Politicians Use North Korea H-Bomb Fears to Pitch Wasteful Missile Defense Projects

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

Republican politicians responded almost reflexively to the North Korean nuclear test on Tuesday by demanding more spending on missile defense programs that have historically proved ineffective at preventing an enemy strike — but are built by companies that have lavished policymakers with campaign cash and political support.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., released a statement calling for the country to “reinvest in missile defense and our military presence in the Pacific.” Mike Rogers, R-Ala., called for Obama to “dramatically enhance trilateral missile defense” and declared that Obama should deploy a Lockheed Martin missile defense system in South Korea. Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are among his top donors. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Tex., issued a statement specifically calling for spending on that same program; Lockheed Martin is by far his biggest donor over the course of his congressional career.

Since the early 1990s, politicians of both parties have cited the threat of North Korea to demand funding for an array of missile defense programs that quickly became monumental examples of government waste. Meanwhile, the contractors involved in these projects, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon, among others, have manipulated the politics around these programs by funding politicians, pundits, think tanks, and lobbyists behind the never-ending spiral of taxpayer spending.

More than $50 billion has been spent on ineffective missile defense programs so far — the result of efforts that often began by citing the threat of states such as North Korea.

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There’s No Evidence North Korea Has An H-Bomb But The New York Times Knows Fear Sells Papers

Jim Naureckas reports for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Officials examining a map of North Korean seismic event (photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)The New York Times‘ David Sanger and Choe Sang-Hun (1/5/16) say that if North Korea’s claim to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb is true, that would “dramatically escalate the nuclear challenge from one of the world’s most isolated and dangerous states.” But they don’t say why.

Fusion-based hydrogen bombs have more explosive power than nuclear fission bombs that rely on uranium or plutonium. “If the North Korean claim about a hydrogen bomb is true, this test was of a different, and significantly more threatening, nature,” theTimes reports. It’s not made clear, though, what if anything North Korea could achieve by having a bomb that could destroy a city and its suburbs rather than just a city, or how the response by the US and its allies to such a threat would be in any way different.

Nor does the Times‘ front-page story point out how unlikely it is that North Korea has, in fact, detonated a hydrogen bomb.

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US, experts cast doubt on North Korea’s H-bomb claim

Ju-min Park and Mark Hosenball report for Reuters:

North Korea said it successfully tested a powerful nuclear bomb on Wednesday, drawing criticism from world powers even though experts and the U.S. government doubt that the isolated nation’s atomic weapons capability is as advanced as Pyongyang claims.

It was the fourth time that North Korea has exploded a nuclear device. It unnerved neighbours South Korea and Japan and prompted an emergency meeting on Wednesday of the U.N. Security Council in New York.

While a nuclear test had long been expected, North Korea’s assertion that it exploded a hydrogen device, much more powerful than an atomic bomb, came as a surprise. The White House said North Korea might not in fact have tested a hydrogen bomb.

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