Posts Tagged ‘nuclear weapons’

North Korea ‘ramps up manufacture of illegal drugs’ amid sanctions — Likely also again into counterfeiting

August 21, 2017

Sanctions are taking their toll on the North Korean regime, which has allegedly resumed the production of narcotics to earn the hard currency required to advance its nuclear and missile programs. Julian Ryall reports.

Droge Methamphetamin Crystal Meth (imago/blickwinkel)

With the latest round of international sanctions making it increasingly difficult for the North Korean regime to obtain the hard currency that it requires to fund its nuclear and missile development programs, reports have emerged from the isolated state that it is once again stepping up the production of illegal narcotics, both for export and for its domestic market.

Quoting its network of covert contributors within North Korea, who communicate via mobile phone, the Seoul-based DailyNK news site has reported that state-run trading companies have begun to produce and sell illicit drugs.

Sources within North Korea say that companies have been “ordered to earn foreign currency” and, as legal means of doing so have been curtailed by the United Nations’ export bans, “are turning to drug manufacturing on an industrial scale.”

Read: China suspends North Korean iron, seafood imports over missile tests

Nordkorea Kim Jong Un Armee Offiziere (Reuters/KCNA)North Korea needs the hard currency to fund its nuclear and missile development programs

Long track record

“The North has a long track record of manufacturing and selling drugs overseas and it is a convenient fallback for the regime to ratchet up production when sanctions are stepped up and it is harder for them to export legitimate goods,” said Stephen Nagy, a senior associate professor of international relations at Tokyo’s International Christian University.

“It is clear that they need hard cash for their new military gadgets and they know there is a big cash market for illegal drugs,” he told DW.

North Korea has embassies in a number of states in Southeast Asia with high demand for narcotics and it is relatively easy to move shipments around once they are in the region because of the lax border controls.

As well as smuggling drugs into the country through ports, it has long been believed that the North’s diplomatic bag – which is immune from search or seizure – is being used to transport drugs.

“It is much more difficult for the North to export drugs to the US or Australia because of the security relationships that are in place, so they are targeting areas where they are more likely to get the deliveries through,” Nagy said.

North Korea has a long history of state-sponsored production and smuggling of narcotics, including heroin from poppies grown on farms and synthetic drugs prepared in university laboratories.

According to media reports, starting in the late 1990s methamphetamine was used as a medication in the North, which helped to fuel its spread. The regime began exporting to China, with the Chinese government confirming in 2004 that it had a problem with drugs smuggled over the border from North Korea.

– Philippines: Rodrigo Duterte hails the bloodiest day in his ‘war on drugs’

– Amnesty: Indonesia waging its own ‘war on drugs’


Exports subsequently expanded to the Philippines, Hong Kong, Thailand, the United States and western Africa.

In April 2003, Australian troops boarded the freighter Pong Su – owned by North Korea but flying a Tuvalu flag of convenience – and recovered nearly 125 kilograms of heroin that had been previously landed by inflatable boat on a beach in the state of Victoria.

Four North Korean nationals, including the ship’s political officer, were subsequently tried and deported. The North Korean government denied any knowledge of the illegal cargo.

North Korean diplomats and officials of state-run enterprises have been linked to the smuggling of ivory from Africa, counterfeit cigarettes and medicines, pirated DVDs, used cars and gold in order to earn money, but the most recent clampdown ordered by the United Nations under Security Council Resolution 2371 has made it more difficult to raise funds.

The DailyNK report identifies a number of educational institutions and companies that are allegedly involved in the manufacturing of crystal meth, including the Pyongsong College of Science and the Sunchon Pharmaceutical Factory. And given its relative proximity and a thriving underworld that already has links to North Korea, there are concerns that Japan would be one of the first targets of any export campaign.

‘Criminal enterprise’

“North Korea is essentially a criminal enterprise run by one family and they excel at criminal behavior, and that includes the delivery of illegal drugs,” said Jake Adelstein, author of “Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan” and an expert on Japan’s underworld groups.

“I have heard from my police sources that already there has been an increase in the supply of drugs that appeal to a younger generation of consumer, such as ecstasy. And Japanese authorities are doing their best to stem these imports, but there are just too many ways that they can be brought into the country,” he said.

Another factor that may trigger a boom in sales of narcotics in Japan is the internal rivalries in the Yamaguchi-gumi gang three years ago that led to the formation of two splinter groups.

While the Yamaguchi-gumi refused to countenance drug dealing, the two splinter groups have no such qualms, Adelstein said, and are looking to generate more business by cultivating repeat visitors. That business model is also likely to appeal to North Korea.


Pyongyang appears to be back in the fake currency business, with Chinese police arresting a North Korean agent after he attempted to pass a new batch of high-quality counterfeit $100 bills.

The North Korean agent was arrested in the border city of Dandong after exchanging $5 million for Chinese currency at two banks and then depositing the funds, South Korea’s JoongAng Daily reported.

Counting machines at the banks determined that a number of the notes were fake and the man – who has not been named – was arrested and the accounts frozen.

The agent has confessed to being a former member of the North Korean government division tasked with carrying out espionage against South Korea, sources in China told the South Korean newspaper.

The money was to be used to purchase household goods and home appliances, the paper reported. The appliances – a luxury in North Korea – were to be shipped over the border and presented by Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, to his loyal supporters.

US authorities estimate that North Korea started manufacturing fake $100 notes in the 1970s, but began crafting notes that were almost indistinguishable from genuine bills in the late 1980s. Dubbed “supernotes”, the US estimated that Pyongyang managed to slip at least $45 million worth of the notes into circulation, primarily through its embassies overseas.

In 1998, Sean Garland, the alleged chief of staff of the Official Irish Republican Party, visited the North Korean embassy in Moscow. He was later arrested in Belfast and questioned in connection with the exchange of millions in counterfeit US currency in Dublin and Birmingham. Mr Garland subsequently fled to the Republic of Ireland, which refused a US application for his extradition.

The fake notes began to disappear around a decade ago, after the US introduced new security features, including a three-dimensional security ribbon and microprinting.

Given North Korea’s dire financial straits, in large part the result of sanctions imposed by the United Nations after Pyongyang carried out its fifth underground nuclear test in January, followed by a rocket launch the following month, it is believed that the regime is looking for new ways to generate the hard currency it requires to fund its nuclear and missile programmes.

There have also been reports of fake US notes being passed to foreign visitors to North Korea, who only learn they are counterfeit after they leave the country.

US-South Korea hold military drills amid tension

August 21, 2017

BBC News

South Korean protestors hold placards that read "stop war exercise" during a rally denouncing the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) joint South Korea-US military exercise, near the US embassy in Seoul on 21 August 2017

The US and South Korea are conducting annual military drills which consistently infuriate Pyongyang, despite appeals to halt the exercise.

Last week North Korea appeared to back down from a threat to send missiles towards the US Pacific island of Guam, but said it would watch US actions.

It has already condemned these drills as pouring “gasoline on fire”.

Washington describes the drills as defensive in nature, but the North sees them as preparation for invasion.

China and Russia had in July proposed a halt on military exercises in exchange for a freeze on missile tests.

But Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that the military exercises were “not currently on the table as part of the negotiation at any level” and the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercises were going ahead as planned.

About 17,500 US troops and 50,000 South Korean troops are involved in the exercises, which will last for about 10 days.

After North Korea’s threats against Guam and an almost unprecedented war of words over Pyongyang’s repeated missile tests, analysts have warned that the joint drills may be seen as a provocation at a particularly sensitive time.

On Sunday an editorial in North Korea’s official government newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, said the exercises would worsen the state of the peninsula and warned of an “uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war”.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in responded on Monday that Pyongyang should not use the exercises “as a pretext for aggravating the situation”, reported Yonhap news agency.

The drills have also been met with some opposition in South Korea, where protests were held on Monday.

Observers have been watching the north and south watch each other for more than 60 years.

The US and South Korea hold two sets of war games every year, involving a massive number of troops and military hardware.

Foal Eagle/Key Resolve is usually held in spring, while Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFG) is in autumn.

Both involve land, sea and air military drills and computer simulations. Held in South Korea, they have also involved practice drills for terror and chemical attacks in recent years.

South Korean marines participate in landing operation referred to as Foal Eagle joint military exercise with US troops Pohang seashore on 2 April 2017 in Pohang, South Korea.
Foal Eagle, held earlier this year, saw US and South Korean troops practice a beach landing. GETTY IMAGES

They can also sometimes involve troops from other allies – last year’s UFG saw the participation of nine other countries.

What has the North said?

Both events routinely anger North Korea, which insists that the exercises are rehearsals for an invasion.

The country’s media rhetoric over the drills has steadily intensified over the past three years and these exercises are being portrayed as a particularly strong provocation, BBC Monitoring reports.

In 2014 North Korean media warned of an arms race but used comparatively restrained language, saying Pyongyang’s “self-defensive measures” – its nuclear and missile testing – would become “annual and regular” as long as the exercises continued.

The next year, state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper warned that the drills represented “deliberate defiance against our active efforts to ease tension”.

And in 2016, state-run paper Minju Joson warned that North Korea would “constantly strengthen our self-defensive nuclear deterrent” in response. Within weeks, Pyongyang tested a nuclear warhead.

Emergency services personnel wearing protective clothing participate in an anti-terror and anti-chemical terror exercise as part of the 2016 Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) at Yeoui subway station on August 23, 2016 in Seoul, South Korea.
Last year’s UFG saw an anti-terror drill in Seoul simulating a subway chemical attack. Getty

This year, Sunday’s Rodong Sinmun said the situation on the Korean peninsula was a “touch-and-go crisis that has never been experienced before”.

Earlier this year during Foal Eagle/Key Resolve, it warned it would “mercilessly foil the nuclear war racket of the aggressors with its treasured nuclear sword of justice”.

But while it has frequently threatened serious retaliation, North Korea usually ends up conducting shows of force, such as firing missiles or moving troops.

Last week, in what was seen as a de-escalation, leader Kim Jong-un said he would watch “a little more” before launching missiles in the direction of Guam.

US soldiers give first aid to a mock victim in a tent during a joint medical evacuation exercise as part of the annual massive military exercises, known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, at a South Korean Army hospital in Goyang, northwest of Seoul, on 15 March 2017.
Medical evacuations are also practiced during the exercises. Getty

Have the drills caused conflict before?

Depending on the political climate, the drills have at times exacerbated tensions between the two sides.

The UFG drill in 2015 took place amid high tensions, which resulted in North and South Korea exchanging artillery fire across the border.

Military officials took the unusual step of halting the UFG while emergency talks were held between the North and South. The drill resumed several days later.

The US and South Korea say that the exercises are purely for defence purposes, and based out of a mutual defence agreement they signed in 1953.

They also say the exercises are necessary to strengthen their readiness in case of an external attack.


Annual War Games Begin as U.S., South Korea Brace for North’s Annual Fury

August 21, 2017
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Updated Aug. 20, 2017 11:20 p.m. ET

SEOUL—A new cycle of escalation on the Korean Peninsula looked set to begin this week as the U.S. and South Korea kicked off annual military exercises that have a history of enraging Pyongyang.

The long-planned drills follow weeks of belligerent rhetoric between the U.S. and North Korea that stoked fears of a catastrophic outcome. In what many saw as a slight easing of tensions last week, dictator Kim Jong Un said he would hold off…

Includes video:



Playing Chicken With China

August 21, 2017

Trump’s North Korea brinkmanship might seem scary, but it’s not that unusual.

Aug. 20, 2017 3:52 p.m. ET

President Trump appears desperate, erratic and even irrational as he struggles to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. If the president is to be believed, he stands ready to run any risk, pay any price and do whatever necessary to keep the U.S. safe. This includes launching a pre-emptive attack that risks dragging America and China into a second Korean War. To understand the method in what looks like madness, recall the Cold War strategy known as “nuclear chicken.”

A game…

U.S., South Korea begin computer-simulated drills amid North Korea tensions

August 21, 2017

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U.S. Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady takes part in a drill at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, August 21, 2017.


SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean and U.S. forces began computer-simulated military exercises on Monday amid tensions over North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, amid reports that Pyongyang has generated at least $270 million since February despite U.N. sanctions.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the joint drills, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian, were purely defensive and did not aim to raise tensions on the peninsula.

“There is no intent at all to heighten military tension on the Korean peninsula as these drills are held annually and are of a defensive nature,” Moon told Cabinet ministers.

“North Korea should not exaggerate our efforts to keep peace nor should they engage in provocations that would worsen the situation, using (the exercise) as an excuse,” he said.

The joint U.S.-South Korean drills will continue to Aug. 31 and involve computer simulations designed to prepare for war with a nuclear-capable North Korea.

The United States also describes them as “defensive in nature”, a term North Korean state media has dismissed as a “deceptive mask”.

“It’s to prepare if something big were to occur and we needed to protect ROK,” said Michelle Thomas, a U.S. military spokeswoman, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.

North Korea views such exercises as preparations for invasion and has fired missiles and taken other actions to coincide with the military drills in the past.

North and South Korea are technically still at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.

North Korea’s rapid progress in developing nuclear weapons and missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland has fueled a surge in regional tension and U.N.-led sanctions appear to have failed to bite deeply enough to change Pyongyang’s mind.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in presides over a cabinet meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, August 21, 2017. Kim Ju-hyoung/Yonhap via REUTERS


Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported on Monday that a confidential United Nations report found North Korea had continued to evade U.N. sanctions by “deliberately using indirect channels” and had generated $270 million in banned exports since February.

The “lax enforcement” of existing sanctions and Pyongyang’s “evolving evasion techniques” were undermining the United Nation’s goal of getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, Kyodo quoted the report as saying.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Aug. 5 that could slash the North’s $3 billion annual export revenue by a third. The latest sanctions were imposed after North Korea tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.

U.S. President Donald Trump has warned that North Korea will face “fire and fury” if it threatens the United States.

The North responded by threatening to fire missiles toward the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam, but later said it was holding off on a decision while it waited to see what the United States would do next.

There will be no field training during the current exercise, according to U.S. Forces Korea.

The United States has about 28,000 troops in South Korea. About 17,500 U.S. service members are participating in the exercise this month, down from 25,000 last year, according to the Pentagon.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Sunday the reduction in the number of U.S. troops taking part reflected a need for fewer personnel and was not because of tensions with Pyongyang.

Other South Korean allies are also joining this year, with troops from Australia, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand taking part.

China, North Korea’s main ally and trading partner, has urged the United States and South Korea to scrap the drills. Russia has also asked for the drills to stop but the United States has not backed down.

North Korea Media Blitz Against U.S., South Korea — “Like pouring gasoline on fire” — North Korea warns of ‘merciless strike’ ahead of US-South Korea drills (Same as August 22, 2016)

August 20, 2017
NORTH Korea has issued a fresh warning to the US as its foe gears up to conduct military exercises on its doorstep with ally South Korea.

PUBLISHED: 12:00, Sun, Aug 20, 2017 | UPDATED: 12:52, Sun, Aug 20, 2017

US demonstrates how close F-16 jets can get from North Korea

An annual war game is due to take place in South Korea could be the spark which tips the region into conflict, with a war of words over the past few months threatening to escalate into conflict.North Korea and the US have been trading barbs, backed up by missile launches on both sides as a sign of strength and defiance.The joint military exercise, named the “Ulchi Freedom Guardian” (UFG), kicks off Monday and will see thousands of troops from both sides taking part.

The 10-day exercise was described by Pyongyang as “reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war.”

Numbers from the South’s defence ministry claim 17,500 US soldiers will participate in this year’s drills, a drop from last year.

North Korea’s warning over US drillGETTY

The region is a tinderbox which could ignite at any moment

Pyongyang views the exercise as a highly provocative rehearsal for war, which despot leader Kim Jong-un feels threatened by.The regime’s mouthpiece, the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper, fired off a warning ahead of the exercise.It said: “The joint exercise is the most explicit expression of hostility against us, and no one can guarantee that the exercise won’t evolve into actual fighting.

“The Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint military exercises will be like pouring gasoline on fire and worsen the state of the peninsula.”And they threatened the dawn of an “uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war” on the Korean peninsula, blaming the US.It continued: “If the United States is lost in a fantasy that war on the peninsula is at somebody else’s doorstep far away from them across the Pacific, it is far more mistaken than ever.

“The Trump group’s declaration of the reckless nuclear war exercises against the DPRK … is a reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war.”

North Korea’s warning over US drillGETTY

Pyongyang views the exercise as a highly provocative rehearsal for war

“The Korean People’s Army is keeping a high alert, fully ready to contain the enemies.”It will take resolute steps the moment even a slight sign of the preventive war is spotted.”The region is a tinderbox which could ignite at any moment, with tensions on a knife edge.

US president Donald Trump previously warned the hermit kingdom would be met with “fire and fury” if they crossed from empty threats into action.

Dictator Kim Jong-un declared he would fire missiles at the US territory of Guam, releasing photos of him presiding over a map with a large arrow pointing towards the island.

North Korea’s warning over US drillGETTY

North Korea and the US have been trading barbs, backed up by missile launches

The Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint military exercises will be like pouring gasoline on fire

Rodong Sinmun

He later scrapped the idea, but indicated he could still strike depending on how the US acts.General Jeong Kyeong-Doo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for South Korea, outlined the dire situation which he branded “more serious than at any other time”.


Mr Kyeong-Doo said: “If the enemy provokes, (our military) will retaliate resolutely and strongly to make it regret bitterly.”Amid the fragile situation South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported the two countries were considering scrapping bringing in two aircraft carriers to take part.

North Korea’s warning over US drillGETTY

They threatened the dawn of an “uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war”

Despite the rumours it may be scaled back in the wake of North Korea’s aggression, neither side confirmed this.The drills, involving the computer-simulated UFG exercise, dates back to 1976.
North Korea warns of ‘merciless strike’ ahead of US-South Korea drills

Story highlights

  • The threat appeared on the official government newspaper
  • Tensions between the two nations have grown in recent week

(CNN) — North Korea warned Sunday that the upcoming US-South Korea military exercises are “reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war.”

Pyongyang also declared that its army can target the United States anytime, and neither Guam, Hawaii nor the US mainland can “dodge the merciless strike.”
The messages in Rodong Sinmun, the official government newspaper, come a day before the US starts the Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercises with South Korea.
Tensions between the US and North Korea have grown in recent weeks.
Just last week, Pyongyang said it had finalized a plan to fire four missiles toward the US territory of Guam. State media reported that leader Kim Jong Un would assess the US’ next move before giving launch orders.
Kim would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees,” a North Korean statement said last week.

kim jong un

But US military and Trump administration officials said the 10-day military exercises set to begin Monday, would go ahead as scheduled.
The annual drills antagonize Pyongyang, which sees them as practice for an invasion. However, the US and South Korea maintain they are purely defensive.
“The Trump group’s declaration of the reckless nuclear war exercises against the DPRK … is a reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war,” Rodong Sinmun said, using the acronym for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the nation’s official name.
It described North Korea as the “strongest possessor” of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the US mainland from anywhere.
“The Korean People’s Army is keeping a high alert, fully ready to contain the enemies. It will take resolute steps the moment even a slight sign of the preventive war is spotted,” it said.
It did not provide any details on what it meant by “preventive war.”
The Pacific Island of Guam
Both US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis said last week that the US was keeping military options on the table in dealing with North Korea.
Tillerson said peaceful diplomatic pressure was the preferred way to get Pyongyang to stop its testing of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. But he added that the diplomatic approach “has to be backed with military threat” if North Korea chooses to move forward with destabilizing actions.
Mattis also made clear the US’ willingness to use force if North Korea steps out of line.
“In close collaboration with our allies, there are strong military consequences if the DPRK initiates hostilities,” he said.

Promise from South Korea’s President


As tensions escalate, South Korean President Moon Jae-in promised his citizens last week there “will be no war on the Korean Peninsula ever again.”
Moon, who took office in May, announced on his 100th day in office that US and South Korean policies are aligned on North Korea.
US President Donald Trump assured South Korea he would consult with them before making any military decisions on North Korea, according to Moon.

Moon Chung-in: We do not want war

Moon said North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons technology was “nearing” a red line, which he described as “completing an ICBM and weaponizing it with a nuclear head.”
North Korea claims it has successfully miniaturized a nuclear weapon. While some experts believe it may have the technology, others caution that even if it doesn’t, North Korea should be taken at its word.
“If North Korea provokes again, it will face with much harsher sanction and won’t stand it in the end. I want to warn North Korea to do no more dangerous gambling,” Moon said.
His comments about averting war echoed similar statements he made Tuesday that only South Korea could give consent to initiate any conflict with the North.
“The government, putting everything on the line, will block war by all means,” Moon said.

China weighs in

Related image


China has urged both Washington and Pyongyang to tone down the rhetoric and stop actions that inflame tensions, missile testing on North Korea’s side and military exercises on the US and South Korean side.
China’s Global Times newspaper, a state-run tabloid, was scathing of South Korea’s decision to proceed with the drills.
“The drill will definitely provoke Pyongyang more, and Pyongyang is expected to make a more radical response,” it said in an editorial.
“If South Korea really wants no war on the Korean Peninsula, it should try to stop this military exercise.”


Includes videos:


From last August:

Nervous Japanese hold drill in case North Korea fires missiles over them — “Drills with a sense of emergency.”

August 19, 2017


KOTOURA, Japan (Reuters) – Residents of a town on the Japanese coast held evacuation drills on Saturday to prepare for any launch of North Korean missiles toward the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, that would fly over their homes.

As sirens blared from speakers in the town of Kotoura, children playing soccer outside ran to take shelter in a school, along with their parents and their team coach.

“I’ve been concerned every day that something might fall or a missile could fall in an unexpected place due to North Korea’s missile capabilities,” said the coach, Akira Hamakawa, 38.

North Korea’s rapid progress in developing nuclear weapons and missiles has fueled a surge in tension across the region.

U.S. President Donald Trump warned North Korea this month it would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States.

The North responded by threatening to fire missiles toward the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam. Any such missiles would have to fly over western Japan.

While North Korea later said it was holding off firing toward Guam, tension remains high and annual joint military exercises by the United States and South Korea beginning on Monday are likely to enrage Pyongyang.

Nearly 130 people took part in the drill in Kotoura, which has a population of 18,000, a town official said.

For 10 minutes, people ducked down covering their heads with their arms. Many of those taking part said they were worried.

North Korea has in the past threatened to attack Japan, a staunch U.S. ally and host to U.S. military bases.

Japan is the only country in the world to be attacked with nuclear weapons.

Authorities are publishing notices in newspapers, on television and online, advising people to take shelter in robust buildings and to keep away from windows should missiles land.

Evacuation drills, however, have only been held in remote towns such as Kotoura.

A North Korean missile could reach Japan in about 10 minutes.

“A lot of people participated in the drill with a sense of emergency,” said Yosuke Suenaga, the cabinet counselor of situation response and crisis management.

Reporting by Kwiyeon Ha; Writing by Tim Kelly and Junko Fujita; Editing by Robert Birsel

Gen. Joseph Dunford: North Korean missile threat would be “horrific” — But allowing North Korea the capability to launch a nuclear attack on the United States is “unimaginable.”

August 17, 2017

Image result for Dunford, Photos, china

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford and his Chinese counterpart, chief of the general staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Gen. Fang Fenghui, attend a signing ceremony in Beijing, China, Aug. 15, 2017.

The Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — The top U.S. military officer said Thursday a military solution to the North Korean missile threat would be “horrific” but allowing Pyongyang to develop the capability to launch a nuclear attack on the United States is “unimaginable.”

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, told reporters in Beijing that President Donald Trump directly has “told us to develop credible viable military options and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Dunford was responding to questions about Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon’s comments in an interview published Wednesday.

Bannon was quoted as saying there’s no military solution to the threat posed by North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, despite the president’s recent pledge to answer further aggression with “fire and fury.”

“There’s no military solution (to North Korea’s nuclear threats), forget it,” Bannon said in the interview. “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

Image result for Dunford, Photos, china

In Beijing, Dunford said it’s “absolutely horrific if there would be a military solution to this problem, there’s no question about it.”

But, he added, “what’s unimaginable is allowing KJU (North Korean leader Kim Jong Un) to develop ballistic missiles with a nuclear warhead that can threaten the United States and continue to threaten the region,” he said.

Dunford has been in Asia this week, visiting South Korea, Japan and China. In China, he has met with his Chinese counterpart Fang Fenghui, chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s joint staff department. On Thursday he also met with Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the ruling Communist Party’s Central Military Commission, and Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat.

Image result for Yang Jiechi, dunford, photos

Yang Jiechi

In Seoul, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he would consider sending a special envoy to North Korea for talks if the North stops its missile and nuclear tests, in an effort to jumpstart diplomacy.

He also declared, amid fears in South Korea that threats from Trump to unleash “fire and fury” on Pyongyang could lead to real fighting, that there would be no second war on the Korean Peninsula.

“The people worked together to rebuild the country from the Korean War, and we cannot lose everything again because of a war,” Moon said in a nationally televised news conference. “I can confidently say there will not be a war again on the Korean Peninsula.”

Steve Bannon

Moon’s comments follow a spike in animosity generated by North Korea’s warning that it might send missiles into waters near the U.S. territory of Guam, and by Trump’s warlike language. Both Koreas and the United States have signaled in recent days, however, a willingness to avert a deepening crisis, with each suggesting a path toward negotiations.

Trump tweeted early Wednesday that Kim had “made a very wise and well-reasoned decision,” amid indications North Korea doesn’t immediately plan to fire multiple missiles toward Guam.

“The alternative would have been both catastrophic and unacceptable!” Trump wrote.

Next week’s start of annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises that enrage the North each year could make diplomacy even more difficult.


Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim and Kim Tong-Hyung contributed to this report from Seoul, South Korea.

Where did North Korea get its missile technology?

August 16, 2017

A new media report claims North Korea was able to develop its missile system after buying rocket engines on the black market in Ukraine. Kyiv denies the link. In this international mystery, the clues lead to Russia.

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko visits a rocket plant (picture alliance/dpa/epa/M. Markiv)

Anyone who asks Vitaly Zushtchevski about the allegations being made against his former employer is quickly interrupted. “It is a lie,” said the ex-deputy production manager for engines at Yuzhmash, the former Soviet rocket manufacturer based in the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro. According to a New York Times report published on Monday, North Korea’s surprising progress in missile technology may be linked to Yuzhmash.

The engineering plant is in financial difficulty, and this may be the reason why criminals and former employees reportedly smuggled old Soviet engines, or parts of them, into North Korea. The Times referred to a study conducted by Michael Elleman from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London and assessments by US intelligence agencies. The newspaper did not provide evidence, only clues.

Read – German weapons makers profiting from Korea tensions

Aiding a technological leap

Elleman has analyzed North Korean medium-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles of the Hwasong 12 and 14 types, whose extended range holds the potential to hit the United States. He concluded that the surprisingly fast development in the last two years has only been possible with the help of foreign suppliers, meaning countries from the former Soviet Union. Even the German missile expert Robert Schmucker from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) agreed with Elleman’s analysis, although he avoided any explicit accusations.

Experts believe that the one-chamber engine used in the latest Hwasong missiles is reminiscent of the Soviet RD-250 rocket engine, which had two chambers and was developed in the 1960s.

It is difficult to prove whether the RD-250 was also manufactured by Yuzhmash. Vitaly Zushtchevski said that they received these engines from Russia, where they were “produced in low quantities.” Elleman suggested that they were also made in Ukraine. In his IISS study, he wrote that “hundreds, if not more” RD-250 engines have remained in Russia, as well as in Ukraine, adding it is also possible that Moscow is Pyongyang’s supplier.

North Korean rocket (picture alliance/AP Photo)Does North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile contain old Soviet technology?

“We have never produced the types of engines that are shown in the New York Times article,” said Zushtchevski, who worked at Yuzhmash for almost five decades. The retired engineer confirmed that since the end of the company’s cooperation with Moscow, triggered by the annexation of Crimea, the rocket plant in Dnipro has been “virtually dead.” Smuggling technology into North Korea is unfathomable to him. Kyiv and Yuzhmash officials both denied the Times report. Elleman suspects the government in Kyiv knew nothing about the smuggling.

Read – North Korea: Who would have to go to war with Trump?

Shadow of the past

It is the first time that Yuzhmash, the former manufacturer of the giant Soviet SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile, has been suspected of violating UN sanctions or any other international treaties. However, Pyongyang has shown its interest in Ukrainian expertise in the past. In 2012, two North Koreans were tried in Ukraine for spying on Yuzhmash.

In 2002, there were press reports claiming that Ukraine wanted to supply Iraq with modern radar systems. Kyiv denied the reports and no radar systems were found in Iraq. But there were cases of verified smuggling. In 2005, the then-prosecutor general of Ukraine admitted in a newspaper interview that a group of Ukrainians and Russians illegally sold 18 cruise missiles to China and Iran in 2001.

Kim Jong-un watches a rocket test (Reuters/KCNA)North Korean rocket technology has made significant strides in recent years

Oleg Uruski, former head of the State Space Agency of Ukraine, finds it improbable that the same could have happened in this case, saying that the state has a multistage monitoring system. However, Uruski did not rule out that the clues point to wrongdoing. “A crime is possible in every sphere,” he said.

Pointing the finger at Moscow

Observers in Kyiv believe that the Times article may be part of a targeted campaign by Russia. In an analysis published on Tuesday, the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies (CACDS) in Kyiv wrote that the US publication shows “signs of an information attack on Ukraine.” Among other things, the aim of the article is apparently to divert attention from “their own missile technology shipments to North Korea” and to discredit Ukraine, especially in the eyes of the US.

“Russia shares a border with North Korea, so one can deliver anything, even entire engines,” said Mykhailo Samus, the CACDS deputy director for international affairs. Ukraine, on the other hand, would have logistical problems, he said.

TUM’s Robert Schmucker said that the latest story is about more than just the engines. “What about the missiles? The information itself is of no use; you need production facilities, technical equipment and above all, good quality control,” he said. “A lot more must have come from Ukraine than just a few engines.”

North Korea Follows Familiar Playbook With Guam Reversal

August 15, 2017

Cycle of tensions is set for another jolt with next week’s U.S.-South Korea military exercises

In this photo distributed on Tuesday by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is shown visiting his military forces.
In this photo distributed on Tuesday by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is shown visiting his military forces. PHOTO: KOREA NEWS SERVICE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Aug. 15, 2017 10:43 a.m. ET

North Korea’s climbdown from its threat to attack Guam was a product of textbook brinkmanship from Pyongyang, amid economic pressure from Beijing, President Donald Trump’s bellicose rhetoric and an effort by senior U.S. officials to emphasize the need for diplomacy.

But concrete progress is less certain. Pyongyang is expert at rapidly escalating and de-escalating tensions, and the next cycle could begin as early as next week, when American forces begin annual joint exercises with South Korea.

North Korea’s turnaround also does little to address the Trump administration’s longer-term challenge: stopping the country’s quest for an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reliably delivering a nuclear warhead to the U.S. mainland.

An escalation of threats between Washington and Pyongyang has rattled world leaders, injected uncertainty into markets, and sparked fear of a nuclear showdown. The WSJ’s Shelby Holliday takes a look back at the week. Photo: AP

Pyongyang’s exact motivations for dialing down tensions are as opaque and subject to debate as its motivation for having threatened Guam in the first place. In addition to concerns about further escalation, they appear to have been influenced by Beijing’s announcement Monday that it would enforce new trade sanctions and diplomatic statements by senior U.S. officials.

Officials in China, Japan, South Korea and many other nations had been alarmed last week when Mr. Trump threatened to unleash “fire and fury” in response to threats from North Korea, and declared that U.S. military solutions were “locked and loaded.”

In many ways, North Korea’s announcement on Tuesday that it would hold off—for now—on threats to surround Guam with an “enveloping fire” of intermediate-range ballistic missiles follows a familiar pattern in Pyongyang’s playbook.

Beachgoers enjoy Ypao Beach Park in Tamuning, Guam on Tuesday. North Korea threatened an attack near the American territory before backing down this week.
Beachgoers enjoy Ypao Beach Park in Tamuning, Guam on Tuesday. North Korea threatened an attack near the American territory before backing down this week. PHOTO: JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

Two years ago, during another August standoff, North Korea issued a 48-hour ultimatum to South Korea to switch off loudspeakers blaring propaganda critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un across the demilitarized zone that separates the two countries, following the explosion of a land mine there that maimed two South Korean soldiers. North Korea threatened to use force to stop the broadcasts.

South Korea ignored the deadline, and days later, North Korea expressed regret for the land mine, dismissed several senior officials and put inter-Korean relations back on what it called a “track of reconciliation and trust.” South Korea shut off its loudspeakers.

In March last year, also during U.S.-South Korea military exercises, Pyongyang threatened to attack Seoul’s presidential palace unless it received an apology from then South Korean President Park Geun-hye. No apology was forthcoming, and the threat never materialized.

North Korea’s threat to Guam was consistent with its record of using strategic brinkmanship to compensate for its relative weakness, said Yang Xiyu, a former Chinese diplomat who has taken part in multilateral talks on North Korea’s nuclear program.

“They try to create a situation where North Korea and the U.S. are at the brink of war and if you want to save the whole world, then you have to return to negotiations,” he said.

The North Korea Crisis

A timeline of the escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang

  • July 4, 2017

    North Korea test-launches its first intercontinental ballistic missile, a weapon capable of hitting the mainland U.S.
  • July 28, 2017

    A North Korean missile flies even higher in a new test, establishing that if launched at a standard trajectory it could hit the contiguous U.S. states and possibly go as far as Denver and Chicago.PHOTO: KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Aug. 5, 2017

    In a show of unanimity, the United Nations Security Council approves new sanctions against North Korea.
  • Aug. 6, 2017

    North Korea calls the sanctions “a frontal attack on our republic and violent infringement on our sovereignty.”
  • Aug. 8, 2017

    President Donald Trump says North Korea will be met with “fire and fury” if it continues threatening the U.S.PHOTO: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

  • Aug. 9, 2017

    North Korea says it is considering plan to launch four missiles to surround Guam with “enveloping fire.”
  • Aug. 10, 2017

    Mr. Trump ratchets up his rhetoric, saying maybe his threat of fire and fury “wasn’t tough enough.”
  • Aug. 11, 2017

    Mr. Trump tweets that military solutions to the crisis are “in place, locked and loaded.” Separately, Mr. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping discuss North Korea by phone. China says it urged restraint. The U.S. says the leaders affirmed the importance of the new sanctions.
  • Aug. 12, 2017

    The Trump administration announces plan to investigate alleged Chinese intellectual-property theft.
  • Aug. 14, 2017

    China announces ban on imports of coal, iron and seafood from North Korea.
  • Aug. 15, 2017

    North Korea says it has decided not to carry out missile attack on Guam.PHOTO: JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

Source: Staff and news reports

However, Mr. Yang said Pyongyang’s climbdown this time came faster than expected. He gave some of the credit for North Korea’s apparent reversal to China’s rapid implementation on Monday of new United Nations sanctions banning North Korean exports of goods including coal, iron, lead and seafood.

“The significance is that if China can stop major imports like these, then it can do something further too,” he said.

China has resisted U.S. pressure to take bolder measures, such as cutting oil exports to Pyongyang, fearing that might cause the regime to collapse, trigger a flood of refugees into northeastern China and bring U.S. forces closer to its border.

China almost certainly sent back-channel messages to the North Koreans in the past few days warning them against firing missiles toward Guam, said Dennis Wilder, a former senior China analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency.

“Kim [Jong Un] has to worry that the newly imposed U.N. sanctions will be combined with unannounced unilateral sanctions from Beijing on such commodities as jet and diesel fuel,” Mr. Wilder said.

Beijing also appeared to indicate displeasure with Pyongyang by proceeding with a long-planned visit to China this week by Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, he added.

Gen. Dunford signed an agreement with his Chinese counterpart on Tuesday to formalize and increase the level of communication between the U.S. and Chinese militaries. On Wednesday, Gen. Dunford is due to visit China’s Northern Theater Command, which oversees Chinese forces on the North Korean border, according to Chinese and U.S. military officials.

On a visit to Seoul before arriving in Beijing on Tuesday, Gen. Dunford said the U.S. military was supporting efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the North Korean crisis, even as it prepared other options.

His comments echoed remarks from other senior administration officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who in recent days have sought to moderate Mr. Trump’s threats toward North Korea.

Some longtime North Korea watchers say that North Korea had likely never intended to launch four missiles toward Guam. The leadership in Pyongyang may also have been encouraged that, while President Trump raised the rhetorical temperature last week, the U.S. refrained from taking any actions that would signal more of a war footing.

North Korea was particularly sensitive about the dispatching of B-1B bombers from the U.S. Air Force base on Guam, the initial stated impetus for the North’s most recent threat, said Euan Graham, director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, an Australian think tank. The U.S. hasn’t conducted any further B-1B flyovers since the threat against Guam.

Mr. Trump’s tough talk could also have spooked the North Koreans into fearing that the regime was truly in danger of unleashing a war against the U.S., said Grant Newsham, a senior research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies in Tokyo.

“Maybe North Korea felt that they had pushed it a little too far, at least for now,” said Mr. Newsham, a retired U.S. Marine colonel. “Now you’ve got a president who is certainly a different kind of president, and when Kim starts talking big, Trump says ‘I see you and raise you one.’ ”

But any lull in tensions could prove ephemeral.

“I don’t think they’ve taken the threat off the table,” said Adam Mount, senior fellow with the left-leaning Center for American Progress think tank in Washington.

The North’s statement now appears to tie a Guam launch to the coming military exercises, Mr. Mount said.

Much could depend on whether the U.S. sends major assets, such as aircraft carriers, to participate, or stages lower-key drills.

Ahead of those exercises, Gen. Vincent Brooks, the top American military commander in South Korea, on Monday played down questions about whether the U.S. was planning to deploy more “strategic assets” to the Korean Peninsula. The phrase “strategic assets” typically refers to nuclear weapons, stealth bombers or aircraft carriers—all of which tend to trigger complaints from Pyongyang.