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North Korea

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Readers of China Matters may have noticed there hasn’t been too much to read lately. That’s because since the beginning of the year I’ve been doing a weekly video reports for Newsbud, an online indy media outfit run by Sibel Edmonds. It started with China Watch, a weekly newsprogram that covers key China-related international affairs.... Read More
I have a piece up at Asia Times on Donald Trump’s North Korea options: waste it, sanction it (and China), or have a burger with Kim Jong Un: Trump, North Korea, bombs, and burgers. “Kinda crippling sanctions” got another workout at the UN on November 30, highlighting a point I made in the piece that... Read More
I consider North Korea to be America’s stalking horse for its China strategy. If I’m right, things aren’t looking too good. I have a piece up at Asia Times, Will We Have to Nuke Asia in Order to Save It? It reviews the recent excitement over the fifth North Korean nuclear test and addresses the... Read More
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In my opinion, a lot of the mockery of the North Korean nuclear test—the silly little man with his silly little bomb—is racism that reassures. It evokes the explanation for why many poor rural whites adopted a posture of racial exclusion instead of class solidarity with poor rural blacks in the American South: “because 'If... Read More
Astrelok / Shutterstock.com
One byproduct of tensions with the People’s Republic of China over the South China Sea (to be followed, shortly, I believe by tensions over the friction between the PRC and Taiwan ruled by the DPP) is the opportunity for the United States to abandon the useful but by now threadbare fiction that the massive U.S.... Read More
[Updated Jan. 17 & Jan. 20, 2015--CH] A couple days ago I was interviewed by The Real News on the current round of sanctions against North Korea. Link here. I talked about a few things that I’ve covered in China Matters and on my twitter feed, not all of which made it into the report:... Read More
[Update, Dec. 19: I am not blown away by the US attribution of the hack to North Korea. On technical grounds, there’s problems like this, pointed out by Jeffrey Carr (h/t to “@SaiGonSeamus), who wrote a book on cyberwarfare: The White House appears to be convinced through "Signals intelligence" that the North Korean government planned... Read More
James Risen’s report in the New York Times on Blackwater’s death threat against State Department investigators in Iraq (and the US embassy’s craven decision to kick out the investigators for being “unsustainably disruptive to day-to-day operations” in response) also includes this interesting passage: The backstory for the Shenyang job is presumably the flood of economic... Read More
[This piece appeared at Asia Times Online on May 21, 2013.  It can be reposted if ATOl is credited and a link provided.]   The big story in Asia affairs today is a little trip that was supposed to stay a secret: the dispatch of Isao Iijima, adviser to Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to... Read More
Is the US Thinking About Backpedaling on North Korean Nukes?  Will the Pivot Go Wobbly?
Will President Obama become a late and unlikely convert to realpolitik and allow John Kerry to sacrifice America’s nuclear non-proliferation principles on the battered altar of North Korean diplomacy? And will the fearsome pivot to Asia turn into a dainty pirouette, an American pas de deux with China as the two great powers search for... Read More
Putting Korean Lipstick on the “Pivot” Pig [revised and expanded April 9, 2013] This piece appeared in somewhat different and more decorous, somewhat desnarked form at Asia Times Online on April 10, 2013 as "China: Pivot Partner or Pinata?".   For readers outside the Americas who are unfamiliar with what a pinata is, the ATOl editors... Read More
In response to a query, here is my take on North Korea’s seemingly outlandish behavior (I might also direct interested readers’ attention to my article Big Bang Theory in North Korea in the March 2013 edition of CounterPunch Magazine—subscribe at www.counterpunch.org--which covers the issue in more detail): 1.        China’s influence on North Korea’s nuclear policy... Read More
Today, China Matters wins the Internet…or at least the North Korea/Syria contrarian sub-category… A couple items that demonstrate the value of close and impartial reading of news reports…or dumb luck? We report, you decide. First, North Korea. On February 28, I wrote: In my current piece for Asia Times Online … I argue that the... Read More
Nope. In my current piece for Asia Times Online (reproduced below) I argue that the PRC leadership has, for better or worse, reconciled itself to a nuclear North Korea, since the alternative—the Korean peninsula unified under a pro-US democracy—is unattractive both economically and strategically. So I was rather nonplussed—actually I felt kind of stupid, mingled... Read More
It’s All Evan Osnos’ Fault!
Evan Osnos is the China columnist for the New Yorker. My impression is that he usually covers the social issues/human rights/dissident beat. However, yesterday, riffing off the news about organized Chinese hacking of US government and private websites, he veered off into counter-proliferationblack ops: The fact is that the United States government has already shown... Read More
Virtue is its own reward, intransigence is infinitely satisfying, and masturbation is an end in itself. That’s my feeling about the “three stage” negotiation process for North Korea, that requires a meeting of the minds between Lee Myung-bak and Kim Jung-Il. Going nowhere, is my prognosis. And that’s why my piece for Asia Times is... Read More
I have an article up on Asia Times titled The Most Dangerous Man in Korea. The man I’m referring to is South Korean president Lee Myung-bak. Provocative, n’cest pas? The point of the article is that Lee wants the U.S. to support his hands-off policy toward the DPRK until the Kim regime staggers off and... Read More
In recent days I've had two articles up at Asia Times that touch on efforts by the United States and the ROK to turn the Cheonan outrage into a tipping point in the affairs of the Korean peninsula, framing the issue as continued ostracization of Pyongyang by the international community as a prelude to reunification... Read More
Update: Consider this can of worms officially closed! Do not open! The United States on Wednesday rejected a call by North Korea for a new investigation of the sinking of a South Korean warship in March that Seoul blames on Pyongyang. The U.S. said the findings of a South Korean inquiry that attributes the attack... Read More
Several people have pointed out that the Foal Eagle exercise officially ended March 18, well before the Cheonan sinking on March 26. Not so. According to the U.S.F.K. spokesman as reported by the Korea Times: Navy Times, also not known as a Nork mouthpiece, reported the incident thusly:   ... The U.S. ships were already... Read More
Kim Jung Il has been very good to me. I have an article up on North Korea at Asia Times under the pen name Peter Lee, titled A convenient North Korean distraction. Kim Jung Il has also been very good to the United States and Japan, providing a conventional security threat that plays to America’s... Read More
I have a feeling that Pyongyang, taking a leaf from Iran’s book (and its detention and subsequent release of American journalist Roxana Siberi) has the idea of releasing the two hapless American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee--who were just sentenced to twelve years of hard labor for illegally entering North Korea from China and... Read More
There’s nothing new about Kim Jung Il setting off atomic bombs and launching missiles in order to attract attention. The same thing happened in 2006. At the heart of North Korea’s seemingly reckless behavior is a strong desire to assert an independent economic and geopolitical role for itself in North Asia. Lips and teeth rhetoric... Read More
The Bush administration refuses to deal with Kim Jung Il The Obama administration calls on China to handle the North Korea mess. Ah, for the good old days of the Bush administration. So simple, so easy to predict and analyze. One always knew that it would make the stupidest, most violent, and most vehement response... Read More
I heard one Colum Lynch, UN correspondent for the Washington Post, pontificating on the current North Korean nuke crisis on PRI (Public Radio International). Lynch joined the PRI anchor, Lisa Mullins, in lauding the financial sanctions imposed on Banco Delta Asia in 2005 by the Bush administration as an example of " some measures against... Read More
The Saga of Syria's Nuclear Plant
There is a goodly amount of spin surrounding American allegations that North Korea assisted Syria in the construction of a nuclear reactor. If the report is true and the pictures are not some Hail Mary neocon forgeries, Syria's motives and judgment are certainly open to question. But in the context of Syria's stated nuclear ambitions,... Read More
Over at McClatchy, Kevin Hall provides what promises to be the final word on the allegations of North Korean counterfeiting promoted by hardliners within the Bush administration. Hall delves into the interesting and, for me, new issue of the administration’s cooperation with friendly and perhaps overly obliging elements inside the South Korean intelligence and/or policy... Read More
October 25: October 11: Keen observers will notice a pattern here. Russia and China—two of the five veto holders on the Security Council—want the North Korea deal to serve as the template for Iran. What does this mean? It means that world opinion has abandoned the Bush administration on the creation of a united front... Read More
With apologies to Steve Clemons, maybe it’s the reality based SCUDs in Syria community—and not the nukes in Syria crowd—that’s getting “Judith Miller’d”. Looking at an actual immediate security threat by North Korea and Syria that could justify a pre-emptive strike by Israel, my money’s always been on SCUDs not nukes. But, based on the... Read More
This looks about right. Via Laura Rozen, Intelligence Online reports on the probable target of the Israeli raid on Syria in early September: This confirms the version that Raw Story reported a week ago. As an aside, North Korea is prohibited from exporting spare parts for missile systems under the UNSCR 1718 sanctions. If there's... Read More
The Israeli censors have finally approved reporting on the fact of the raid, but nothing about target, results, or consequences. A couple possible data points. AP via Talking Points Memo: BBC via Syria Comment: To continue musing about Stratfor’s speculation about a North Korean sellout of Syria, maybe North Korea revealed details of its SCUD-related... Read More
Via the Marmot’s Hole via Tom Coyner’s blog via Stratfor via God’s lips to our ears, interesting speculation that North Korea demonstrated its sincerity in denuclearization by revealing its list of buyers, presumably including Syria, to the United States, that Washington tipped off Tel Aviv, and Israel thereupon bombed the bejeezus out of some Nork-equipped... Read More
I inquired to Treasury concerning the fate of the petition to Treasury by Banco Delta Asia’s parent group to rescind the final rule directing U.S. financial institutions not to do business with BDA. In its final rule, Treasury had advised that it didn’t matter how BDA tweaked its operations as long as Stanley Au remained... Read More
Further Parsing the North Korean Nuclear Weapons in Syria Allegations
Judging from a couple of items by Syria Comment, China Matters is entitled to a little preening. Concerning the target of the September 6 Israeli raid on Syria, I wrote yesterday: Per Syria Comment, Raw Story reports: Israel did not strike a nuclear weapons facility in Syria on Sept. 6, instead striking a cache of... Read More
Certainly devotees of the “nothing to see here” school of purported North Korea—Syrian nuclear cooperation, of which I am a member, are being tested by the stream of reports and leaks coming out of Israel and Washington concerning the notorious September 6 bombing raid on Syria. On September 22, The Sunday Times weighed in with... Read More
Is China the True Target of Financial Sanctions Against Iran?
Those with long memories—that go back, say, three months—will remember the last time the U.S. Treasury Department tried to bend an Axis of Evil member to its will through targeted financial sanctions. Failure was the outcome. Now the United States is trying for a do-over with Iran and, though the techniques—particularly for handling China—may be... Read More
Update, September 16, 2007 I was hoping the North Korean nukes in Syria story was an opportunistic bit of Boltonian nonsense that would be put to rest with a bit of State Department pushback. I found the subsequent statement from the State Department’s Andrew Semmel—who is apparently a non-doctrinaire arms control professional— to be reassuring... Read More
...This Article Should Do the Trick
A propos the Patriot Act Section 311 investigation against Banco Delta Asia in Macau that caused so much heartburn for the Six Party Agreement, I described an apparent worldwide campaign of financial warfare against North Korea and wrote : Well, speculate no more. Reuters delivers a crate of smoking guns in its reporting on another... Read More
History Gets Whacked by Lazy Time Magazine Stenography on North Korean “Soprano State”...But Lawrence Wilkerson Provides a Much Needed Corrective
With the shutdown of the reactor at Yongbyon, the Six Party agreement to denuclearize North Korea has lumbered into its next stage. That means it’s time for all the hardliners who eagerly predicted the collapse of the agreement (and, indeed, may have worked actively to sabotage it by hindering the unfreezing of the North Korean... Read More
Was there a secret executive order targeting North Korea?
Recent news reports concerning the gentle treatment of A. Q. Khan—acknowledged mastermind of the world’s most extensive proliferation network for nuclear weapons technology—bring home the point that U.S. nuclear policy is a tangle of contradictions. We ignore a proliferator like Pakistan, reward a defiant nuclear program like India’s with a legitimizing treaty, and go hammer-and-tongs... Read More
Via AP: From Reuters:
With respect to the reports in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times concerning the Russian bank/Federal Reserve Bank route to remitting the Banco Delta Asia funds to a North Korean account, my initial, jaundiced view was to take it as merely a piece of negative confirmation: that the efforts to obtain a... Read More
Reader DJ sets the cat among the pigeons, e-mailing the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp. asking if HSBC, Banco Delta Asia’s main correspondent partner until September 2005, was part of the web of collusive bankers that David Asher alleged is knowingly passing Supernotes instead of confiscating them, thereby keeping the magnitude of the North... Read More
Via Arms Control Wonk , the Russians are also offering to step up and handle North Korea’s $25 million if... To me, this is no more—or less—than the Russians weighing in on the side of the State Department and pushing the Bush administration to override whatever objections raised by the Treasury Department and/or hardliners and... Read More
AFP reports: Chalk this report up to a State Department attempt to try to push the Bush administration to resolve the funds remittance by pointing out that the Chinese are upset. The Banco Delta Asia ball seems to be squarely in Washington’s court—and neither the State Department nor the media seems to taking the effort... Read More
The Federal Reserve Board Debunks Allegations of Large Scale Laundering of North Korean Supernotes
In my previous post about alleged North Korean counterfeiting, I wrote that the U.S. Secret Service had reported that only $50 million in Supernotes had been seized over the last 15 years. This meager haul provides little evidentiary or logical support for the idea that North Korea was funding its current account deficit through counterfeiting.... Read More
As sharp-eyed read DJ pointed out, Bush admits that somebody “screwed up” on the North Korea funds transfer. Full text of the Kyodo News report : Presumably the people that “screwed it up” were in the State Department by being creatively vague in February about what “resolving” the BDA matter actually meant—so they could get... Read More
I asked Wachovia Bank, today, May 25: and they replied: FYI
Another nail has been tapped into the coffin of the North Korea Supernote counterfeiting story by McClatchy. Recall Stanley Au’s sworn statement that Banco Delta Asia didn’t come across significant quantities of counterfeit currency in the deposits of North Korean account holders since 1994, the U.S. claim that Pyongyang is faking our currency looks ever... Read More
Nothing like a good conspiracy theory to liven up a dusty diplomatic and banking dispute. Via Onefreekorea , the March 19 Washington Times informs us that Congressman Ed Royce (whose positions closely follow those of the hardline crowd on North Korea) wrote a letter to Condoleezza Rice accusing the State Department of trying to “unravel”... Read More
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