Monday, October 09, 2006


GI Korea

Not really, they are basically making the same old demands they always do: that they want bi-lateral talks with the US so they can get their pay day for saying they will give up nuclear weapons:

North Korea informed China it may drop its plan to test its first atomic bomb if the United States holds bilateral talks with the communist country, a former South Korean lawmaker said Sunday.

The North also denied speculation that its nuclear test was imminent and said the regime has not raised the alert level of the country's military, said Jang Sung-min, citing a telephone conversation with an unidentified Chinese diplomatic official.

North Korea warned the Chinese official, however, that it would accelerate its preparations for a nuclear test if the United States moves toward imposing sanctions or launching a military attack, Jang said, citing his contact.

The Chinese official was informed of North Korea's stance by North Korean officials Sunday afternoon, Jang said.

While this is going on, North Korea has also turned to their lackeys within South Korea to begin lobbying for the US to hold direct talks. Former President Kim Dae-jung who bribed for $156 million won the Nobel Peace Prize for his failed Sunshine Policy was on CNN's Talk Asia saying the US needs to hold bi-lateral talks:

South Korea's former President Kim Dae-jung said that the United States should give North Korea one more chance even though it is on the brink of a nuclear test.

In an interview with CNN's Talk Asia on Sunday, he urged the U.S. to engage in direct talks with North Korea so that the isolated country could give up its nuclear ambition and come back to the negotiation table.

``Even former U.S. President Ronald Reagan had dialogue with the Soviet Union, which he branded as an `evil empire,''' Kim told the U.S. 24-hour news channel. ``I can hardly understand why the U.S. does not hold talks with North Korea.''

First of all, North Korea is not the equivalent of the Soviet Union. NK is one of the world's poorest countries with a ruthless dictator who is trying to blackmail the US into giving him free aid. The US is treating this as a regional problem that will require a regional solution with the country's in the region. That is what the six party talks are for. What precedent is this going to set if the United States is expected to hold bi-lateral discussions with every two bit dictator in the world? Here is a chance for major powers in the region like China to step up and show the world their global leadership credentials.

This is basically 1994 all over again. North Korea needs a deal soon in order to keep the regime a float, but has no intentions of completely scrapping their nuclear weapons program. Kim Jong-il not only needs the weapons for international prestige, but also for protection from any international attempts at regime removal and to appease the generals in his military that keep him in power. If a deal is reached the North Koreans will just keep the program secret just like after the 1994 deal until they need more money again and 8 years down the road the US will be doing the same old song dance with these guys once again under a new US administration.

Kim Jong-il might also see the time as right now for a favorable deal because the Republicans are hurting at the polls with the elections coming up and major foreign policy success such as appearing striking a deal on the NK nuclear crisis may help the Republicans. I think this is just one of many factors driving this crisis but I would be really surprised if President Bush makes any big policy changes in regards to North Korea even if there are political consequences.


North Korea says nuclear test successful

North Korea said Monday it has performed its first-ever nuclear weapons test. U.S. and South Korean officials could not immediately confirm the report.

The South Korean seismic monitoring center confirmed that tremors felt at the time of the alleged test were not natural occurrence. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said information still needed to be analyzed to determine whether North Korea truly conducted the test.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said the underground test was performed successfully and there was no radioactive leakage from the site. South Korean intelligence officials said a seismic wave of magnitude-3.58 had been detected in North Hamkyung province, according to Yonhap. It said the test was conducted at 10:36 a.m. (9:36 p.m. EDT Sunday) in Hwaderi near Kilju city on the northeast coast, citing defense officials.

North Korean scientists "successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions," the KCNA report said, adding this was "a stirring time when all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a great prosperous powerful socialist nation."

The director of South Korea's monitoring center that is watching for a test with sound and seismic detectors declined to immediately comment on the reported test. "We don't know whether it is a nuclear test or not," an official at the earthquake center at the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources said on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitive nature of the issue.

The U.S. Geological Survey said it had detected no seismic activity in North Korea, although it was not clear whether a blast would be strong enough for its sensors. The North said last week it would conduct a test, sparking regional concern and frantic diplomatic efforts aimed at dissuading Pyongyang from such a move. North Korea has long claimed to have nuclear weapons, but had never before performed a known test to prove its arsenal.

"The nuclear test is a historic event that brought happiness to our military and people," KCNA said. "The nuclear test will contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and surrounding region."

On Sunday night, U.S. government officials said a wide range of agencies were looking into the report of the nuclear test, which officials were taking seriously. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun has convened a meeting of security advisers over the issue, Yonhap reported, and intelligence over the test has been exchanged between concerned countries.

Kyodo News agency reported that the Japanese government has set up a taskforce in response to reports of the test. The North has refused for a year to attend international talks aimed at persuading it to disarm. The country pulled out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2003 after U.S. officials accused it of a secret nuclear program, allegedly violating an earlier nuclear pact between Washington and Pyongyang.

Speculation over a possible North Korean test arose earlier this year after U.S. and Japanese reports cited suspicious activity at a suspected underground test site.

Don’t Panic! (Ok, worry a little bit.)

Here’s a handy-dandy Guide To The End (Or Not):

While generally nothing should happen now that the DPRK has tested an A-bomb (hell, nothing else they’ve done over the years has changed anything) let’s take a brief look at what an expat in Korea should look forward to before they decide to freak out.

Keep tabs on the American media

For many expats (esp. those of us who don’t know the language) Korea can be kind of a cocoon. You never know what the outside world is thinking about what is going on here unless you seek it out. Therefore, the next few days you should probably avail yourself of the American media to see if there is The Great Freakout on the part of the American mass media. There might be a week of hand-wringing that will climax with the Sunday chat shows where a final decision will be imparted by The Powers That Be. Within a week, we should have a sense of where that’s headed. How many talking heads focus on the potential blackmarket value of an a-bomb? How many talk about how Iran and the DPRK might join forces to become a “true” Axis of Evil?

The UN

American President Bush has said he plans to head to the UN if, well, if the DPRK does exactly what it just did. Things could start to get a little hot in these parts if he is able to successfully get sanctions placed on the DPRK in the coming days. Pay close attention to the exact wording of any resolutions. Can the US take proactive steps to enforce the embargo? Does it tacitly allow for a navel blockade?

The US Military & CNN

Another thing to keep an eye on is the US military…or more exactly, how CNN starts to deal with such things. Ever since the first Gulf War, CNN has had a tendency to be the wink & nod of the US military. If suddenly there are lots of prime time specials about starving North Korean children and or torture chambers, then you know that the US government is at least brooding about some sort of military action. This will be doubly so if there are all kinds of odd military movements in the area that CNN mentions in passing in a very casual-yet-threatening way.


This is significantly more difficult for someone like me to give anyone any advice on ’cause I’ve only been here two years and I can’t speak the language. But…as all this happens…is there a more obvious security / military presence on the streets? Are there more military copters in the air randomly?

I would suggest that any type of random civil defense practice on the part of the ROK government would definitely be the first concrete sign that somewhere other than Korea might be a good bet (unless, of course, you want to be a stringer for a Western news agency.)

The only military thing I could maybe — just maybe — see happening is some sort of limited middle-of-the-night attack on some DPRK military installations. Then we all would have to collectively hold our breath. But, honestly, I just think we’re in store for a lot of nervousness…then the “new normal” of a ICBM / A-bomb DPRK.

Welcome to the future, bitches!

Yonhap is reporting that it appears North Korea tested a nuclear device sometime Monday morning, and that the nations concerned have exchanged intelligence.

That’s all the report says. Undoubtedly, there will be more.

UPDATE 1: A little more detailed Yonhap report. A high-ranking South Korean intelligence official told Yonhap that it received intel that North Korea carried out a nuke test this morning, and that Seoul was now examining things.

President Roh has apparently called a snap meeting of security-related ministeries to discuss measures. Attending this meeting was UN General Secretary Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok, Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung and Cheong Wa Dae national security secretary Song Min-soon.

And here I was, thinking a nuke test wasn’t imminent.

BTW, the Grand National Party decided yesterday to call for Roh’s resignation in the event of a North Korean nuke test. Will be interesting to watch if the reports are accurate.

UPDATE 2: OK, I guess it’s official now—the KCNA is reporting a successful underground nuke test. You’ll be happy to know that amidst the chest thumping over this “historic” moment, the KCNA did assure us that no radioactivity leaked from the test site. Oh, and the test was conducted using 100 percent homegrown technology—mansei!

And for a bit more specific info about the earlier intel, it appears a 3.58-scale earthquake was detected around Hwadae, Hamkyongbuk-do at 10:36 a.m. Korea time.

The Korean Liberator

Acording to Fox News (broadcast), North Korea notified China that a test was going to occur, and China passed that warning on to the U.S. 20 minutes beforehand. The website notes that, “U.S. intelligence official cannot confirm what would be North Korea’s first-ever nuclear weapons test.”

A few brief thoughts until we can learn more about what happened.

First, that North Korea tested a nuke is not confirmed. The could have merely detonated a large amount of conventional explosives in deep (est. ~2km) mine to simulate a nuclear test; after all, the Taepodong 2 ICBM was an abject failure. It’s a possibility, but I doubt it as satellites will probably be able to differentiate between the two. Second, militarily I don’t see any action coming soon; Pakistan/India, but with more sanctions. Seoul didn’t even raise the military alert level. Third, mid-to-long term, UN sections are on the way that may finally topple the Kim regime; let’s hope so. Fourth, North Korea once again a) made China look the fool for conveying its offer not to test, and b) showed that it makes such offers in bad faith to begin with.

I think that this will eventually be shown to be an almost incredible FUBAR on the part of Kim Jong-il.

I don’t think that it’s reached the point of being considered ‘common knowledge’, but Kim just isn’t all that smart, really.

I recall Pyongyang’s similar mishandling of another situation - when Kim Jong-il admitted to Prime Minister Koizumi about having North Korean agents kidnap Japanese citizens on Japanese soil (and elsewhere) and smuggle them to North Korea to train North Korean spies on how to better infiltrate and undermine Japan.

Kim’s gameplan was that his admission to Prime Minister Koizumi on 17 Sep 2002 was going to be greeted with hosannas in Tokyo, diplomatic relations would be established, and that $10 billion in WWII reparation moneys would be shortly forthcoming. The operative word here being ‘$10 billion’ and ’shortly’ … like in ‘tomorrow’.

Wrong-o … with a capital ‘W’.

Kim (and his addlebrained advisors) completely misjudged the nature and depth of the feelings of the Japanese populace on this matter and were completely taken aback by the vehemence of their negative response.

I can still recall KCNA’s bitching about Tokyo’s not forking over the big bucks immediately after the ‘two nations’ big bosses had already agreed to it and can’t understand what the problem is’ … which, by the way, certainly seems to imply a clear lack of understanding of how democratic governments actually operate.

My views on the Kim Family Regime’s political sophistication at the international level (as reflected in my thinking then, ‘Geez! These guys are really stoopid!’) haven’t changed all that much since then … and, if nothing else, are certainly being confirmed by this latest antic.


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