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North Korea returns to its missile diplomacy

Pushing the nuclear envelope’: North Korea’s missile diplomacy  Guardian, 

Analysis: Fear and uncertainty of the Obama years could return as Kim Jong-un revives nuclear ambitions    Reuters. Justin McCurry in Tokyo, Wed 22 Sep 2021

North Korea’s recent missile launches signal that the regime has reverted to familiar tactics to attract the attention of the US. Although the rest of the world will take little comfort from this return to “normality”, after a six-month pause Pyongyang last weekend launched what it claimed were new long-range cruise missiles capable of hitting Japan, followed hours later by the test launch of two ballistic missiles into the sea, apparently from a train.

Then came the clearest sign since its last nuclear test in 2017 that the North is not about to abandon its project to build a viable deterrent, with satellite images showing it was expanding a uranium enrichment plant at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex……….. (registered readers only)

September 23, 2021 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

North Korea says Australia’s submarine deal could trigger ‘nuclear arms race

North Korea says Australia’s submarine deal could trigger ‘nuclear arms race’ WP,    By Rachel Pannett   20 Sep 21,  North Korea on Monday condemned a new defense pact by the United States, Australia and Britain, and a plan to share nuclear submarine technology with Australia, saying the deal could trigger a nuclear arms race and upset the balance in the Asia-Pacific region………Responding to news of the trilateral security pact on Monday, the unnamed North Korean ministry official described the United States as “the chief culprit toppling the international nuclear nonproliferation system,” adding that its “double-dealing attitude” was threatening “world peace and stability.”……..

September 21, 2021 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

North Korea, nuclear proliferation and why the ‘madman theory’ is wrong about Kim Jong-unç

North Korea, nuclear proliferation and why the ‘madman theory’ is wrong about Kim Jong-unç, Colin Alexander, Lecturer in Political Communications, Nottingham Trent University 15 Sep 21,  The two missile tests conducted by North Korea in recent days have reopened discussions about the country, its leadership, its foreign policy, its perception around the world and the use (and usefulness) of nuclear weapons as an option within global politics.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency announced on September 12 that it had test-fired a new long-range cruise missile, believed by analysts to be the country’s first missile with the capacity to carry a nuclear warhead.

Three days later the South Korean military said the North had launched “two unidentified ballistic missiles” into the Sea of Japan, prompting Japan’s outgoing prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, to order his country’s defence agencies to investigate.

North Korea usually makes grand nuclear statements like the ones we have seen in recent days during early September to mark the founding of the DPRK on September 9 1948. As such, these tests are as much about domestic propaganda and internal regime prestige as they are about threat to the outside world.

More broadly though, North Korea’s advance of its nuclear weapons technology – off and on since the 1950s – has made its integration with the rest of the international community much less likely. This is primarily on account of its development coming at considerable cost and sacrifice to the small nation.

No moral high ground

It can be argued that, given the indiscriminate barbarity of the destruction that a nuclear attack would cause, no state has a moral right to nuclear weapons over that of another state. But countries which already have a nuclear arsenal will often push the line that while it’s OK for them to have a nuclear stockpile, other countries do not necessarily have that right. These communications often rely on a manufactured sense of who is responsible and stable-minded and who is irresponsible and unstable. In short, it is an attempt to create a polarised world of good and evil.

This simplistic polarisation is encouraged through government communications regarding foreign policy. But they also depend on wider more implicit perception management strategies. These include harnessing the agendas of global mainstream news media and exporting popular culture products, films, television programmes and the like, that seek to encourage certain worldviews and to marginalise ones that are undesirable to the world’s most powerful nations.

It should always be remembered that the United States is the only state to have used nuclear weapons as an act of war (twice during 1945). Yet it declares North Korea to be a nuclear threat based on its “madness” (Donald Trump repeatedly called Kim Jong-un “mad”). But if we are to believe revelations from the upcoming book Peril by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, America’s top military personnel had to take action in the final months of the Trump administration to limit any risks of a nuclear showdown with China.

It’s probably true to say that few aspiring candidates for high office are going to say that they would never use their country’s nuclear capability in any circumstance. But it could also be said that any head of government who boasts of their readiness to use nuclear weapons is demonstrating their lack of fitness to govern. But, as the first part of this paragraph suggests, no candidate is likely to make this assertion.

Madman’ theory wrong

There is no evidence that the previous leaders of North Korea, Kim Il-sung or Kim Jong-il, were assessed by psychologists and found to be suffering from mental ill health. This is also true of Kim Jong-un, the country’s current leader – in fact before Kim’s summit with Trump in 2018, a former State Department psychiatrist, Kenneth Dekleva, who creates psychological profiles of foreign leaders, told America’s National Public Radio that: “I think the madman theory was wrong.”

I would say he’s smart, that he’s a very, very savvy diplomat, a leader with a sense of gravitas. He wants to be a player on the world stage.

For Simon Cross, a colleague of mine at Nottingham Trent University, “madness” is an imprecise term and a cultural construct that does not require a trained medical professional to identify it, but it resonates with ease with audiences when uttered by someone they trust. Stephen Harper at the University of Portsmouth, says our perception of what represents “madness” is based on uncritical interpretations of the past and fantasies and inclinations within the human mind towards what he calls “self-haunting”. These tropes are perpetuated, confirmed and even encouraged at the persuasion of powerful individuals reinforced by mainstream media content.

So, for example, the Hollywood films Team America: World Police (2004) and The Interview (2014), despite being satires of North Korea’s leaders, promote this idea of the North Korean leader and his senior advisers as mad.  And Trump kept hammering at this with his regular references to Kim as a “madman”, as “crazy” and as a “little rocket man”.

North Korea’s prevailing international image of being mad is thus predominantly the creation of hostile external parties. But Pyongyang has also played up to it at times when it has been deemed useful – as the psychologist Dekleva said earlier in this article, it could be a useful tool of diplomacy. This is a theme explored by Niccolo Machiavelli in his book The Prince in 1517.

That said, what is perhaps most interesting is the extent to which recent US administrations and their allies appear to have come to believe the madness story – despite the fact that they are largely responsible for it. This has been the case with successive US administrations – but whether they genuinely believe it, or perpetuate it because it is convenient to their wider foreign policy ambitions to do so, remains to be seen.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | culture and arts, North Korea, politics, psychology - mental health | Leave a comment

N.Korea tests first ‘strategic’ cruise missile with possible nuclear capability 

N.Korea tests first ‘strategic’ cruise missile with possible nuclear capability By Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith  

  • Tests involved new, long-range cruise missiles – KCNA
  • New missiles represent serious capability for N.Korea – analysts
  • U.S. military: Launches highlight threat to N.Korea’s neighbours
  • Tests came before meeting by U.S., Japan, S.Korea to discuss N.Korea
  • SEOUL, Sept 13 (Reuters) – North Korea carried out successful tests of a new long-range cruise missile over the weekend, state media said on Monday, seen by analysts as possibly the country’s first such weapon with a nuclear capability.Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Peter Cooney and Lincoln Feast.

September 14, 2021 Posted by | North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

U.S. says North Korea nuclear report shows “urgent need for dialogue” -official

U.S. says North Korea nuclear report shows “urgent need for dialogue” -official WASHINGTON, Aug 30 (Reuters) Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Nick Macfie, 31 Aug 21, – A U.N. watchdog report that North Korea appears to have restarted a nuclear reactor reflects an urgent need for dialogue and the United States is seeking to address the issue with Pyongyang, a senior administration official said on Monday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said in its report dated Friday that the signs of operation at the 5-megawatt (MW) reactor, which is seen as capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium, were the first to be spotted since late 2018. 

“This report underscores the urgent need for dialogue and diplomacy so we can achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” the senior administration official said on customary condition of anonymity.

“We continue to seek dialogue with the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) so we can address this reported activity and the full range of issues related to denuclearization.”……….

Biden’s administration has said it will explore diplomacy to achieve North Korean denuclearization, but shown no willingness to ease sanctions.

August 31, 2021 Posted by | North Korea, politics international | 1 Comment

The Case for a New North Korean Nuclear Deal

he Case for a New North Korean Nuclear Deal
Mutual distrust has doomed past efforts to settle a deal between the U.S. and North Korea
., The Diplomat 
By Iordanka Alexandrova, August 11, 2021
  President Joe Biden is planning a full review of U.S. policy toward North Korea. However, unless his team abandons bilateralism and the insistence on “inspections first, negotiations later,” his new approach is unlikely to break the nuclear stalemate with Pyongyang.

The diplomatic impasse continues because the two sides cannot find a way to trust each other. 

Negotiating a nuclear deal between North Korea and the United States is challenging since both sides face strong incentives to cheat. When negotiating, Washington hopes to see Pyongyang cooperate by disarming, at which point it will be tempted to make new demands. Pyongyang prefers to reap the benefits of cooperation with Washington, while making sure its deterrent stays in place as insurance. As a result, neither can credibly commit to uphold the terms of any agreement………………

The only hope to restrain North Korea’s nuclear development is through a reversal of American policy. Biden would have to revive multilateral talks, ease sanctions, and commit to concessions to negotiate a mutually acceptable deal…………

There are two main reasons why the timing is perfect for crafting a new functional deal.

First, Pyongyang appears more willing to cooperate. The country is in deep economic trouble. Kim’s unprecedented recognition that North Korea has failed to fulfill its latest economic plan speaks of the gravity of the current situation. The coronavirus pandemic has also taken its toll on the country. Kim desperately needs a moment of stability, making him more likely to agree to meaningful concessions as long as they do not threaten the security of his regime.

Second, this time it may be possible to help North Korea trust U.S. security guarantees. Regional powers today are better equipped to assume more active roles in underwriting the deal between Washington and Pyongyang. China and possibly Russia have grown both their interest and capabilities to act as guarantors of an arms control agreement. There is a role for South Korea, albeit different from the course of direct inter-Korean cooperation pursued by the current administration. Seoul can offer its own guarantee, such as a promise to advocate on behalf of Pyongyang before Washington to increase mutual trust and understanding. Japan would be an important part of this effort as well.

Ultimately, the success of a deal will depend on the ability of North Korea and the United States to overcome their mutual distrust. If they use the present opportune moment to set in motion a virtuous circle of trust-building, a solution of the nuclear issue might soon come in sight.

August 12, 2021 Posted by | North Korea, politics international | Leave a comment

The tally of North Korea’s nuclear weapons

Nuclear Notebook: How many nuclear weapons does North Korea have in 2021? Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 

By Hans M. KristensenMatt Korda, July 21, 2021  orth Korea has made significant advances over the past two decades in developing a nuclear weapons arsenal. It has detonated six nuclear devices––one with a yield of well over 100 kilotons––and test-flown a variety of new ballistic missiles, several of which may be capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to targets in Northeast Asia and potentially in the United States and Europe. However, there is considerable uncertainty about which of North Korea’s missiles have been fielded with an active operational nuclear capability.

It is widely assumed that North Korea has operational nuclear warheads for medium-range missiles. However, it is unclear whether it has managed to develop fully functioning nuclear warheads that can be delivered by long-range ballistic missiles and, following violent atmospheric reentry, detonate as planned. That said, just because North Korea has not yet publicly demonstrated a capability to deliver a functioning nuclear reentry vehicle on a long-range ballistic missile does not necessarily indicate that it is not working on developing one or could not field one in the future. It is clear from its development efforts and public statements that North Korea ultimately intends to field an operational nuclear arsenal capable of holding regional and US targets at risk.

Due to the lack of clarity surrounding North Korea’s nuclear program, agencies and officials of the US intelligence community, as well as military commanders and nongovernmental experts, struggle to assess the program’s characteristics and capabilities. Based on publicly available information about North Korea’s fissile material production and missile posture, we cautiously estimate that North Korea might have produced sufficient fissile material to build 40 to 50 nuclear weapons and that it might possibly have assembled 10 to 20 warheads for delivery by medium-range ballistic missiles.

North Korea’s nuclear policy

North Korea declared a no-first-use policy following its fourth nuclear test in 2016; however, it diluted its statement with the caveat that it would not “be the first to use nuclear weapons […] as long as the hostile forces for aggression do not encroach upon its sovereignty”………………

Nuclear testing and warhead capabilities

After six nuclear tests––including two with moderate yields and one with a high yield––there is no longer any doubt that North Korea can build powerful nuclear explosive devices designed for different yields. ………………………..

Medium-range ballistic missiles

North Korea has developed three medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs), all three of which are likely to be operational. This is the category of missile that is most likely to have an operational nuclear capability…………

Intercontinental ballistic missiles

The most dramatic development has been North Korea’s display and test-launching of large ballistic missiles that appear to have intercontinental range. North Korea has publicly shown five types of missiles in this category: the Taepo Dong-2, the Hwasong-13, the Hwasong-14, the Hwasong-15, and the Hwasong-16. These systems are in various stages of development, and some may simply be mockups or technology demonstrators…………………….

July 22, 2021 Posted by | North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

North Korea Needs the Bomb to Protect Itself From America

North Korea Needs the Bomb to Protect Itself From America

Pyongyang isn’t crazy, just focused on a credible threat. 

Foreign Policy,By Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. 9 July 21,  ”’…………..  North Korea’s quest for nukes has helped make it an economic disaster, turning it into a global pariah and diverting resources from economic investment. That’s one reason the country, as Kim admitted in public recently, is facing another critical food crisis. However, it now is an unofficial member of the world’s exclusive nuclear club.

Nevertheless, the mere possession of nuclear weapons does not mean it threatens America with them. North Korea makes no pretense of having global concerns, other than using diplomatic relations for profit when possible. In the abstract, the Kim dynasty has no interest in the United States or even the Western Hemisphere. Pyongyang’s priority is regional, especially avoiding domination by another power.China exerted substantial influence (Russia less so) over the ancient Korean kingdom, long known as a shrimp among whales. Japan was a colonial oppressor during the first half of the 20th century. Most important today is North Korea’s relations with South Korea, as the two states remain engaged in a de facto civil war, short-circuited by outside intervention in 1953. One reason China’s importunities against North Korea’s nuclear program fall flat is because such weapons help Pyongyang preserve its independence from Beijing.

However, the United States has intruded in Northeast Asia. America intervened in the Korean War, maintains forces in and around the Korean Peninsula, is prepared to intervene in a future conflict, and regularly threatens to wage preventive war.

Indeed, Washington’s willingness to routinely oust governments on Uncle Sam’s naughty list makes the United States particularly dangerous. Washington can’t even be trusted to live up to a denuclearization accord, as Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi discovered a decade ago. The Iranians learned that one president’s word does not bind their successor.The North desires a deterrent. At the party congress earlier this year, Kim explained, according to a summary report by state media, that “Korea was divided by the U.S., the world’s first user of nukes and war chieftain, and the DPRK has been in direct confrontation with its aggressor forces for decades, and the peculiarities of the Korean revolution and the geopolitical features of our state required pressing ahead uninterruptedly with the already-started building of nuclear force for the welfare of the people, the destiny of the revolution and the existence and independent development of the state.”

That is a prolix way of saying Pyongyang needs the bomb to protect itself from Washington…………

July 10, 2021 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

How to deal with a nuclear-armed Kim Jong Un

How to deal with a nuclear-armed Kim Jong Un, bDavid A. Andelman, May 10, 2021,   CNN,The Biden administration has pledged to pursue “calibrated” diplomacy.

to persuade North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to halt his mad dash toward a deliverable nuclear weapon. But that is a vain hope. Instead, the world and especially the United States must find a way to live with a North Korea armed with The Bomb. And keep Kim from using — or selling — it.

Discussions with a number of individuals who have dealt with the North Korean government or monitored the actions of its ruling family have convinced me that no Kim — neither Kim Jong Un, nor his father nor his grandfather — ever has or will give up a quest for a deliverable nuclear weapon. Nor is Kim likely to relinquish such a device once it can be deployed. Indeed, North Korea clearly does have any number of such devices — some analysts say it could be more than 60 — though the delivery vehicles are still in development.

That brings us to the realm of what may be possible and achievable. For Kim, possession of a nuclear weapon is a question of existential survival. His ultimate fear is no doubt the fate of Libyan strongman Colonel Moammar Gadhafi — dragged from a drain pipe by rebels and executed, a direct consequence of the decision to relinquish his own nuclear program that allowed his enemies in the West to undermine his regime.

Still, it’s not clear that President Biden or his principal advisers are prepared to accept any nuclearized North Korea. President Joe Biden has said that any diplomacy “has to be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization.” At the same time, he and his team are rightly rejecting former President Donald Trump’s “go big or go home” approach — agreeing to remove all sanctions in exchange for North Korea fully dismantling its weapons program — which Kim rejected out of hand at their last, abortive summit in Hanoi……….

The essence of any such [diplomacy] plan must lie in the United States finding a way to persuade the North to join the global nuclear non-proliferation club. Implicit would be the acceptance that it already has a weapon. In turn the North will need to make its weapons and their security clearly visible and open to inspection…………
The essence of any such plan must lie in the United States finding a way to persuade the North to join the global nuclear non-proliferation club. Implicit would be the acceptance that it already has a weapon. In turn the North will need to make its weapons and their security clearly visible and open to inspection.

May 11, 2021 Posted by | North Korea, politics international | 2 Comments

North Korea’s new tactical nuclear weapons means new dangers, new U.S. strategy needed

North Korea’s tactical nuclear weapons expand deterrence, risk

Experts say sanctions relief would get North Korea’s attention to return to negotiations as the country faces economic downfall.   Aljazeera, By Frank Smith3 Apr 2021   Seoul, South Korea 
– North Korea appears to be well on its way to becoming a mature nuclear state despite longstanding United Nations sanctions, after Pyongyang’s tests in late March of cruise and ballistic missiles capable of carrying tactical nuclear warheads.

North Korea’s nuclear development increased dramatically under leader Kim Jong Un, who took power in 2010 following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea and Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, conducted 15 ballistic missile tests between 1983 and 1993, according to the database of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a Washington think-tank.Kim Jong Il oversaw two nuclear tests and 16 missile tests.

Kim Jong Un has presided over four nuclear tests and 91 ballistic missile tests, as well as the launches of cruise missiles and the firing of rocket-propelled artillery.

“They clearly see this type of weapons development as a key to their survival, and they will not stop,” Eric Gomez, director of defence policy studies at the Cato Institute, told Al Jazeera, while at the same time suggesting there was a window through which the US could at least reduce the threat with greater efforts and compromise.

North Korean missile development has continued even as the North has been subject to strict UN Security Council sanctions and through on-and-off talks on denuclearisation.Negotiations have now been stalled for about two years and North Korea has rebuffed offers to resume discussions from the new US administration under Joe Biden.

Predictable patternThe development of nuclear and missile programmes has followed a somewhat predictable pattern………..

……Kim’s wish listTactical nuclear weapons are one of the items on Kim’s wish list that elicit concern, because, despite Kim Jong Un’s assumed preference to maintain personal “assertive control” over any launch of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, with tactical nuclear weapons that expectation changes.“Tactical nuclear weapons are a big headache when it comes to command and control … as they lend themselves to pre-delegation to officers in the field,” explained Panda.

That means tactical nuclear weapons could be more widely distributed throughout the country, to more officials capable of launching them in the case of a perceived attack, which raises additional concerns, according to analysts…………

………..the US will have to give more concessions than it has been willing to in the past. Experts said sanctions relief would get North Korea’s attention, particularly with the deterioration of the country’s economy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of borders with China, its key trading partner.It’s an “important source of leverage … a door the North Koreans would be looking to crack open,” said the Carnegie Endowment’s Panda, advocating talks aimed at risk reduction.

The Biden administration has said it will soon conclude its policy review on North Korea, which will provide some clarity concerning the new US president’s strategy towards Pyongyang…….

April 6, 2021 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Kim Jong-un wants ”arms control talks” with USA, not denuclearisation in the short term

March 23, 2021 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Expert panel reports that North Korea is relying on cyberattacks to fund nuclear weapons.

February 13, 2021 Posted by | North Korea, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Kim Jong Un signals plans to develop new nuclear weapons

Kim Jong Un signals plans to develop new nuclear weapons.  North Korea raises tensions with incoming US administration of Joe Biden.      Edward White in Seoul JANUARY 9 2021  Kim Jong Un has signalled plans to develop new nuclear weapons and described the US as North Korea’s “biggest enemy”, moves that threaten to raise tensions with US president-elect Joe Biden. The North Korean leader’s comments, made at a rare gathering of top political officials in Pyongyang, marked the dictator’s strongest broadside against Washington since Mr Biden won the presidency in November’s election.

“Our external political activities going forward should be focused on suppressing and subduing the US, the basic obstacle, biggest enemy against our revolutionary development,” Mr Kim said,  according to a translation by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.  ……….

January 10, 2021 Posted by | North Korea, politics international | Leave a comment

Economic crisis forces North Korea to put new nuclear parade facilities on ice.

Kim Jong Un forced to put new nuclear parade facilities on ice.   Satellite images show economic crisis is delaying North Korean leader’s vanity projects, Edward White in Seoul,  DECEMBER 24 2020 “…….”…….The delays are the latest indications of the financial crisis unfolding in the secretive state, where the economy has been buffeted by sanctions, pandemic-linked border closures and damage from extreme flooding and typhoons this year. Rapid construction previously observed at Wonsan, as well as a new hospital in Pyongyang and facilities at a training ground for the regime’s theatrical nuclear weapons parades continue to “lose steam”, according to analysis of images published on Wednesday by 38 North, a programme run by the Stimson Center, a US think-tank.  …….

December 26, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, North Korea, politics | Leave a comment

Good Biden-Kim Relationship Necessary to Avoid a Nuclear Crisis 

Good Biden-Kim Relationship Necessary to Avoid a Nuclear Crisis   Council  on Foreign Relations,  by Guest Blogger for Asia Unbound,  December 4, 2020   The incoming Biden administration will face a nuclear catastrophe unless it can build good relations with North Korea. The U.S. President-Elect can begin by sending the right signals to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Because North Korea has nuclear weapons, the Biden administration cannot unilaterally impose terms on Pyongyang. Refusal to even talk with Pyongyang until it takes steps to denuclearize is a foolish and dangerous approach. Such an approach will likely inflame tensions and return Washington to a tense nuclear standoff with Pyongyang that poses a risk of miscalculation and accidental escalation into a nuclear war. Biden may be under pressure to be “tough” on North Korea to differentiate himself from Trump’s alleged cozy relationship with the North Korean dictator. However, a hostile stance toward Pyongyang will only make North Korea feel more insecure and drive Kim to pursue further nuclear development to ensure his regime’s survival.
Washington must recognize that Pyongyang has no incentive to denuclearize if the regime finds in nuclear weapons a guarantor of its survival and prestige. ………….

December 7, 2020 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment