BREAKING NEWS: North Korea Readies More Missiles For Launch

BRITISH NEWSPAPER the Daily Express is reporting that North Korean forces have been detected moving more medium-range ballistic missiles into locations along its east coast; its speculation, citing South Korean military sources, is that the DPRK is readying for a sudden missile launch.

It is understood that the missiles have been loaded onto mobile launchers and hidden in an “unidentified facility” near the North Korean east coast, which has raised suspicion that the North’s intentions are to launch against unspecified targets within the next few days.

The development concerns two MRBMs in addition the the one seen by Western observers on Wednesday.

An earlier theory — based on the single missile observed two days ago — was that a “test” launch to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of deceased dictator Kim Il-Sung on 15 April had been scheduled; this latest development would seem to fly in the face of that.

It is understood the latest missiles observed by the South do not have the range to strike the US mainland or Guam, but South Korea and Japan are both well within range — and so are the US forces stationed in each.

Obviously, the veracity of this information may be updated as more information becomes available.

Readers can access a link to the Express story here, which will update during the night (AEST) as more details become known, and of course we will return to the issue over the weekend in this column if anything untoward occurs during that time.

 

“Final Approval” For Nuclear Attack: DPRK Raises Tensions To Boiling Point

NORTH KOREA has continued to raise the temperature of its nuclear standoff with the USA, warning the “moment of explosion” is approaching; it comes as the US acknowledges for the first time the DPRK represents a “real and clear danger,” and as the rest of the world simply waits.

I wrote in this column a few days ago that the time was approaching for North Korea to either put up or to shut up, based on the progression of its antics and its rhetoric, and this latest development reinforces that view.

Indeed, its statement — including a declaration that its threats to launch a nuclear strike on US interests “(have) been finally examined and ratified” — continue to box the North into a position which leaves little room for a climbdown, and responses from the US indicate that there is now real concern over just how far the DPRK might be prepared to go toward acting on those threats.

North Korea has said that the US would be smashed by “cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means.”

War, the North Koreans said, could break out “today or tomorrow.”

This latest escalation in the DPRK’s hostile and belligerent rhetoric comes as it yesterday denied access to the Kaesong joint industrial zone, just inside North Korea, to workers from the South.

This is potentially significant as Kaesong represents one of the few reliable sources of hard currency the North has access to; its workers constitute a pool of cheap labour for the South Korean companies who operate there, and who in turn pay the North Korean government rather than directly to the workers themselves.

The Kaesong precinct has long been regarded by analysts as a real bellweather of the state of inter-Korean relations, as distinct from the rhetoric from the regime in the North; whilst the DPRK has temporarily shut the area down in the past, its restriction on access to the area in light of the present threats it is propagating represents an ominous new development.

The USA, for its part, has continued to build up its countermeasures, beefing up its anti-missile defences on Guam, as well as bringing additional warships into the North Pacific to complement the aircraft and other military infrastructure it has moved into the region in recent weeks.

And in another sign of how seriously the development is being taken in Washington, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said Pyongyang represented a “real and clear danger” to the United States and to its allies South Korea and Japan.

Quoted in The Australian today, Hagel appeared to also acknowledge that the threat posed by North Korea is actually greater, in terms of its capabilities, than has previously been admitted publicly.

“They have nuclear capacity now, they have missile delivery capacity now…we take those threats seriously, we have to take those threats seriously.”

It remains to be seen where all of this might lead, but it is to be hoped that China still retains adequate influence over its errant neighbour to haul it into line, and to diffuse as far as possible the heightened state of crisis the DPRK has created.

Either way, it seems increasingly obvious that unlike previous episodes of aggressive bluster from the North, the current situation poses the real and potentially deadly prospect of igniting a conflagration that can be in the best interests of nobody — including, despite its bellicose assertions to the contrary, those of North Korea.

As ever, we will continue to watch developments on this issue. But at some point — given the high stakes the DPRK has created — something, soon, will need to give.

 

Unpredictable Miscreant: More Opinion On North Korea

WE HAVE spent a lot of time on North Korea lately, and rightly so, given the way it insists on behaving; the time is approaching for it to put up or to shut up, and whilst frenzied diplomacy would seem the North’s best next move, nobody really knows — it could just as likely be an invasion of the South.

Once again, I am going to share some links tonight in the continuing interests of holding back on the heavy stuff a bit until Easter is over, but even so, what is going on in the North Pacific — with the DPRK apparently holding court, and attempting to put the USA over a barrel — is well and truly deserving of the attention.

As the USA flies more of its most sophisticated combat aircraft onto the Korean Peninsula, continuing to parade its military might before the North — this time, two F-22 Raptor fighters — a few things are becoming clear, in the crystalline sense, about the developing confrontation between the United States and the bellicose North Korea.

One, that the DPRK appears determined to continue to ratchet up the rhetoric, the tension and the danger of military conflict — whether accidental or deliberate — with no apparent end in sight; it seems that North Korea is playing a game of brinkmanship with the US and refuses to blink first, and back down.

Two, the USA, at least, seems to be in no mood to be bullied, and nor should it be; showing off its most potent nuclear-capable bomber aircraft — ostensibly as part of prearranged and recurring war games with South Korea — is an ominous and unmistakable warning that the nuclear sabre-rattling of the DPRK, if acted upon, will elicit lethal consequences.

The dumping of harmless ordnance a few miles from the North Korean border by B-2 stealth bombers that flew to the Peninsula last week further underlined the US capability to respond — if the DPRK took any notice.

And three, it is obvious that China (and, increasingly, Russia) are moving into position behind the North; as odious and distasteful as China’s errant brat of an ally has become, the bottom line has become clear: if push comes to shove, China will back the DPRK, and confront the United States.

I have consistently maintained that the outcome of what is going on is likely to be — in round terms — nothing; the North has engaged in this type of belligerence many times before, and whilst this is its most truculent tantrum episode to date, it remains more probable than not that one way or another, it will climb down in the end.

I think the DPRK wants something; a big diplomatic win over the USA to take back to its people (and the hardened military men surrounding the young leader) to bolster Kim Jong-Un’s credentials as a leader who “kicks ass” (to use the American pejorative) on behalf of his country.

He probably wants food and money too.

But North Korea has also pursued a wish list including bilateral ties with the USA, security guarantees, a peace treaty and a non-aggression pact for many years; the Americans haven’t acceded to these demands thus far, and would seem less likely than ever to dole such baubles out to Jong-Un as a reward for threats of nuclear strikes against a litany of US-aligned targets and in response to his country’s vicious, warlike posturing.

There are two excellent opinion pieces I’ve seen today that I think will interest readers: the first is by Greg Sheridan, the respected foreign editor at The Australian; the second is by Dr Tim Stanley, and was published today in The Age, having first appeared in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph.

Readers will note that the sentiments in both of these articles reflect many of the points I have made myself; they will also note that both articles canvass in greater detail the less palatable outcome — military conflict — and where that might lead.

Whilst I have been careful to ensure that outcomes involving both peace and war have been canvassed in this column in discussing the latest incident with North Korea, I note  that when I first raised the option it could end in war, nobody was interested; now everyone is discussing it.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. But the first article I published on North Korea and its antics, earlier this year, was read by just two people at the time; today, search terms based on North Korea/war/nuclear weapons were the top three drivers of people to this site, and readership here is running at several hundred people per day at present, and growing.

This is not a situation that would appear to be about to vanish, and it can’t be ignored; God willing, cooler heads will prevail, and some form of normality on the Korean Peninsula will be restored in good time, and without any shooting.

In the meantime, we will of course continue to talk about it here; but it bears remembering that four of the world’s most dangerous hotspots for potential military conflict — North Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Spratly Islands off the Philippines — all involve China.

Some time ago, I hypothesised in an article “America vs China: Why The US Is The Right Choice;” at the time — again — I was pilloried. How naive. How fantastic. And what a brilliantly conspiratorial mind I must have, where theories like that are concerned!

It may be that when the current climate concerning North Korea has cooled down somewhat, that particular question is one that Western governments and their people should spend rather more time considering a little more closely.

BREAKING: “State Of War:” North Korea Ratchets Up Rhetoric To Boiling Point

NORTH Korea this morning announced that a “state of war” now exists between itself and South Korea, and that it will deal with each inter-Korea issue “accordingly;” whilst the latest rhetorical flourish is consistent with talk and no action, it raises the atmospherics of the standoff to boiling point.

Clearly, we have followed this issue quite closely; and whilst I restate — again — my belief that the bluff and bluster from North Korea will come to nothing in terms of military conflict, it would equally be unsurprising if it did.

Declaring that the “longstanding situation of the Korean peninsula being neither at peace nor at war is finally over,” through a statement posted on the KCNA website I provided a link to last night, the DPRK declared that all matters between North and South Korea will now be dealt with “according to wartime protocol.”

The statement went on to warn that any military “provocations” from South Korea and/or the United States would result “in a full-scale conflict and a nuclear war.”

And since we last discussed the situation on the Korean peninsula at length, Russia has now weighed in, predictably echoing the posturing from China, which advocates a general cooling of tensions on all sides but failing to either admonish nor reprimand the DPRK for wilfully escalating tensions in the first place.

It bears remembering that North Korea has, on numerous occasions withdrawn from the armistice that brought the Korean War to a ceasefire, cut its links with the South, and/or decreed that a state of war exists between North and South.

The problem however is that the rhetoric on this occasion has gone far further than it ever has and, ominously, there are specific and explicit threats of nuclear strikes against defined targets being thrown around by the DPRK like confetti.

Despite the bluster and the sinister rhetoric, the real risk is that North Korea is painting itself into a corner, with nowhere else to go except into battle; and even if its threats of nuclear apocalypse prove meaningless (as is overwhelmingly probable), even a minor confrontation with the South risks developing into a wider and messier conflagration.

For the interest of readers, I include a link to another excellent article providing more analysis of the situation here; this is from the New York Times.

We will — as ever — keep a close eye on this as it continues to develop.

Interesting Links On The North Korea Situation

JUST to follow up on the articles I have posted on the escalating tensions between North Korea and its “hated enemies” — the USA, the South Korean government, and Japan — I’m posting a couple of links tonight which readers may find of interest.

Whilst acknowledging the dangers — and not least given North Korea and its incendiary rhetoric have gone far further than the usual empty bluster it engages in — I still think the most likely outcome of the rising crisis on the Korean peninsula is that nothing will happen.

Even so, any country or regime promising “all out nuclear war” on anyone — especially when it’s three of our biggest trading partners in Japan, South Korea and the USA, the latter also being the owner of thousands of multi-megaton nuclear weapons — needs to be taken seriously to the extent they are monitored, their words and actions analysed, and contingencies prepared for even if such preparations are never acted upon.

It is for these reasons that I have written the occasional article on the present flare-up between the DPRK and everyone else — even if the latest round of belligerent bluster proves to be nothing more, I think it’s important to cover it, given we talk about events in other parts of the world too.

With this in mind, I wanted to share a good article from the BBC World News agency, which you can access here; this article also has some links to other material of interest about North Korea, its threats, and reaction and analysis — including from the South.

I note that it also links to an obituary for dead DPRK leader Kim Jong-Il, father of present leader Kim Jong-Un; it may amuse/interest/perplex/disgust readers to know that one of the favourite articles I have written and published in this column over the past two years was my own obituary for Kim Jong-Il; you can access that article here.

(And knowing I get quite a bit of traffic from readers in South Korea, I hope our friends in the South enjoy it too — the guy caused you enough trouble over the years).

Finally, for those who have either not heard of it or never been able to find it, I wanted to share a link to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) website — the official North Korean “bulletin board” for posting propaganda, threats and seriously weird stuff for the benefit of the outside world. You can access that little gem here.

The site is hosted by an internet server in Japan, which is no real surprise given the internet is really the preserve of the ruling elite in North Korea — even if Japan is a starring member of the DPRK’s murderous hit list.

Somehow, the mangled English the translations feature really add something; as readers will see, much of the ranting that is published on this site has a distinctly surreal feel about it anyway, but the broken sentences and words mismatched to their intended meaning take the experience to another level altogether.

I trust readers will find the material included in these links to be of interest and — whilst not detracting from the potential gravity of the situation on the Korean Peninsula at present — some amusement as well.

 

Pyongyang: We’ll Nuke South Korea, Japan, Guam, Hawaii And Mainland USA

BELLICOSE miscreant state North Korea has ordered its “strategic” rocket forces and long-range missiles readied for war; it comes amid a long period of belligerent rhetoric from the DPRK, and threats to inflict nuclear strikes on a growing list of targets. The real threat, however, may be China.

One simmering issue we’ve kept an eye on over the past couple of months — and which was pushed into the background to some extent by the nonsense the Australian Labor Party has been up to — is the perennial problem of North Korea and its recent, and increasingly strident, threats of nuclear war against the USA.

I wanted to make comment on the matter tonight, coming as it does after news today that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has ordered what seems to be his country’s nuclear and conventional rocket forces to what the Americans call Def Con 2, or one step short of a state of active warfare.

Apparently the move is in response to a fly-by of nuclear-capable US bombers that took place today as part of joint US-South Korean military drills that are being staged off the South Korean Coast, and which are scheduled to continue until 11 April.

Whilst South Korea’s defense ministry said it saw no sign of imminent military action by North Korea, the development continues a deeply disturbing trend on the part of the North to escalate tensions in its “confrontation” with the United States.

As I have said before in this column, one of the great dangers — and unknowns — when talking about North Korea is the extent of its grip on reality; for example, it seems genuinely persuaded of the view that armed with a handful of relatively low-yield nuclear weapons it is a superpower in its own right, and the military equal of the USA.

Over the past month or so, too, it has been developing and adding to a list of countries and targets that are supposedly in line for an atomic strike: first it was Washington, then South Korea, and then a few weeks ago, Japan; as part of today’s call to arms, Guam and Hawaii are now on the list, and as I have said before, its threat to hit mainland America is most likely made with Los Angeles in mind, owing to its relative proximity across the Pacific.

It is true that most military experts do not believe North Korea possesses the ICBM capability to hit the US mainland — yet — and there is dispute over whether or not it has mastered the miniaturisation technology required to allow it to fit warheads to its MRBMs and short-range missiles, which also calls into question its ability to hit Guam or Hawaii.

Yet the DPRK’s local enemies, real or perceived — South Korea and what it calls the “puppet regime” that governs it, and Japan — are probably right to be worried; and even if the North lacks the long-range missile capabilities to lob one at LA, it could just as feasibly pack a warhead in a shipping container, and sail it somewhere in the US where it wasn’t expected — and detonate it in a port.

One of the biggest worries with this situation is that having endlessly ratcheted up the level of tension and hostility in his own ranks, Kim risks an errant commander taking matters into his own hands, and start shooting if some incident occurs; unlike established nuclear-armed states like Russia or China, the DPRK is not known for advanced control systems and other measures to safeguard against accidental, unauthorised or rogue launches.

But the greatest worry of all could turn out to be China, the North’s only (and steadfast) ally; the British newspaper The Guardian is carrying an article in which the Chinese seem to be doing what they do best, which is to protect the DPRK and to attempt to manipulate Western responses to allow the North to continue its reckless behaviour unchecked.

The Chinese Foreign Minister quoted in the article said that

“Actions such as strengthening anti-missile [defences] will intensify antagonism and will not be beneficial to finding a solution for the problem…China hopes the [USA] will proceed on the basis of peace and stability, adopt a responsible attitude and act prudently.”

And this is the problem with China when it comes to North Korea or, indeed, to the myriad of territorial disputes it is itself engaged in with other neighbouring countries around the South China Sea rim, and Japan.

Under the cover of seemingly peaceful rhetoric, the message to the US is clear, emphatic, and unmistakable: if you’re thinking about responding to anything the North does — don’t.

It’s a problem because even China doesn’t really know exactly what its volatile, fractious ally might do; and as I have pointed out, the potential for a war to start as the result of a miscalculation or misinterpreted event is real, high, and growing.

If the DPRK were to follow through on its threat to hit any or all of the targets it has bandied around with an atomic bomb, it is virtually certain that American nuclear retaliation against Pyongyang would be immediate, and overwhelming.

In that eventuality, the Chinese would most likely show their hand — one way or the other.

It’s one thing to lecture the US — whether in defence of its errant ally or not — in rhetoric preaching peace, but oozing confrontational and menacing undertones.

The Chinese game of military poker it plays, especially with the US, is no benign exercise.

It would be another matter altogether to be faced with a nuclear conflict on its doorstep, even if in response to aggression from the DPRK, and to sit back and do nothing after its posturing and its prescriptive diplomacy, and especially in light of its wilful militarisation and expansionist outlook — in the Asia-Pacific region at least.

Were such a conflict to occur, all bets would be off as to how China might respond.

And in turn, it’s why North Korea’s behaviour is so dangerous.

It might play well to ordinary North Koreans — the few with TVs or radios, that is, or electricity to power them — but the machinations of Kim Jong-Un are tantamount to poking Uncle Sam in the eye with a bloody big stick; push it too far, and he might — to use the US vernacular — “kick their ass.”

As ever, we’ll keep an eye on this, and hope China finds some way to bring the belligerent brat on its doorstep to heel.

By The Twitching Of My Thumbs: North Korean Nuclear Test

I certainly don’t mean to be flippant; North Korea’s third nuclear test at 1.57pm today (AEDT) heightens the risk its mad regime poses to regional and world security, backs China into a dangerous corner, and signals an approaching strike capability upon the United States.

As has been observed in the mainstream press today, North Korea is a state that is immune to the repercussions of its actions; I would go a step further, and say it is run by a junta obsessed with obtaining a nuclear strike capacity and, seemingly, the intent to use it.

Never mind that any nuclear attack launched by the DPRK’s resident despot Kim Jong-Un on South Korea, Japan or the US would likely result in the instant nuclear annihilation of his country; bellicose North Korean propaganda and rhetoric has long emphasised the regime’s belief that with an atomic strike capacity, it will be the equal of the United States.

It is difficult to sort rhetoric from reality when it comes to North Korea; certainly when endeavouring to ascertain the scope of its offensive nuclear capacity or the technological progress it has made to advance it.

Today’s test comes at a time when tensions in the North Pacific are already running high, as China throws its military muscle around in apparent pursuit of various territorial claims, with Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines all deeply unsettled by its conduct.

And it follows the recent test of a long-range ballistic missile by the DPRK that was at the minimum partially successful, and which in any case proved that North Korea is making progress in terms of the delivery systems required to hit the west of the United States.

Ominously, however, it is the first of the three nuclear tests carried out by North Korea in which the regime has claimed to have detonated a miniaturised device; were this to be true it would represent a terrifying leap forward in the North’s capacity to fit a warhead to a long-range missile and fire it at an urban American target, most likely Los Angeles.

North Korea has never attempted to conceal its hatred of the United States, nor make any secret of its desire to attack America should the means present themselves.

The difference between the DPRK and, say, Iran, is that the Koreans have also paraded their weaponry, detonated their warheads where the explosions can easily be detected, and allowed the world to watch as it openly strengthens its ability to strike.

It is here that the delusion of the North Korean regime makes it so dangerous: it actually believes the ability to hit a couple of American cities will transform it into a superpower.

China — the North’s only ally — is known to be losing patience with its problem child, and it strongly advised the DPRK not to proceed with today’s test.

Yet it seems bound to continue — for now, at least — in its role as protector, for fear of a unified Korea in alliance with the USA and the alteration to the regional strategic balance such an eventuality would bring.

The test has elicited the justified, if predictable, wave of outrage and condemnation around the world that incidents such as this do; it remains to be seen what stomach — if any — there is among the international community to do anything meaningful in response.

There will, of course, be another resolution in the United Nations to condemn the DPRK, and quite possibly another resolution imposing more sanctions.

North Korea, however, wears condemnation and isolation as a badge of honour; any additional sanctions — toothless as they must be to circumvent the vetoes of China and Russia at the UN — would seem to offer no prospect of shifting the DPRK from its course.

On the contrary, such action would likely embolden it, and not least considering today’s test was in apparent defiance of the previous sanctions imposed over the long-range ballistic missile test.

It is to be hoped the re-elected Obama administration finds a way to pressure China to reel its errant neighbour in; too often in the past four years, Obama’s government has borne a suspicious resemblance to Bill Clinton’s in foreign matters: kick issues down the road wherever possible, and hope for the best when it can’t.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, in an initial reaction to news of the test, made a lot of noise as a United Nations Security Council member about “(working) for the strongest possible response to North Korea’s continuing defiance of the will of international community.”

Her government would want to do better in its efforts than the pathetic abrogation of responsibility in the UNSC with its abstention from the vote on the admission of Palestine as a member state.

China, for now, has given no indication that its position is at all changed by today’s test.

And the test, coupled with the recent missile test North Korea attempted to pass off as a satellite launch, makes it clear that the mad junta running the DPRK will not stop until it is able to lash out with nuclear weapons — and that when able to, may well do precisely that.

It pushes China down a dangerous path, and confronts it with what it perceives to be an insidious choice: to continue to back its troublesome ally and risk an eventual US-DPRK conflict into which it would inevitably be drawn; or to abandon North Korea, with the certain result it would be flooded with refugees, and hemmed in by a US-backed, unified Korea that would radically alter the strategic balance in the Pacific in America’s favour.

Both outcomes are regarded as intolerable by Beijing.

Yet the US — rightly — will not tolerate a nuclear strike on its soil without enacting colossal nuclear retribution on the perpetrator; it is doubtful the US would even tolerate the strike capability in this case, given the belligerent and inherently violent conduct of the DPRK.

By the twitching of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes…

Our part of the world got that little bit more dangerous this afternoon.