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New North Korea-Russia Sea Route Throws Washington’s Ambitions Into Doubt

Sputnik – 18.05.2017

Moscow has kicked off its first North Korea-Russian ferry service following Washington’s expansion of its sanctions against Pyongyang. On May 18 the DPRK vessel Man Gyong Bong arrived at the free port of Vladivostok. According to RIA Novosti contributor Alexander Khrolenko, this is how Russia responded to US’ unilateral sanctions.

Following US Congress’ endorsement of new sanctions on North Korea’s ships and employees, Russia has established permanent maritime communication between the DPRK’s Rajin port and Vladivostok; according to RIA Novosti contributor Alexander Khrolenko, this is hardly a coincidence.

On May 18, North Korea’s vessel Man Gyong Bong arrived in the Russian port of Vladivostok. While Russia and the DPRK already have a railway connection, the Rajin-Vladivostok route has become the first service between the countries.

“It took about nine hours [for Man Gyong Bong] to cross the sea,” Khrolenko wrote, “It is planned that the ferry will transport Chinese tourists (from Hunchun) to Russia every week, Russian tourists to Rajin and North Korean workers to Vladivostok and back (from May 25).”

“The Man Gyong Bong has three dry cargo holds with a total capacity of 1,500 tons, which will probably not be empty on voyages,” the Russian journalist elaborated, “The ice-free port of Rajin is located in the North-Korean city of Rason which enjoys the status of a special economic zone with free business allowed. The free port of Vladivostok is also a zone of special customs, tax, investment and related regulation.”

Previously, the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for expanding sanctions against Pyongyang. The bill bars vessels owned by the DPRK or by countries involved in trade with Pyongyang from operating in American waters or docking at US ports.

In accordance with the legislation, those countries which hire North Korean employees would be subjected to sanctions under the International Emergency Economic Power Act.

Khrolenko remarked that Congress even went so far as to maintain special control over Russia’s Far East ports of Vladivostok, Nakhodka and Vanino, as part of the measures.

Meanwhile, on May 16 US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haily urged other countries either to exert more pressure on North Korea or choose between Washington and Pyongyang.

“You either support North Korea or you support us, you are either with North Korea or not,” Haily said as quoted by Bloomberg.

“The free port of Vladivostok has already responded [to the US sanctions],” Khrolenko pointed out, referring to the ferry service linking North Korea and Russia.

The journalist noted that Russia is complying with the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2270 on restrictions against North Korea inked by President Vladimir Putin in December 2016. However, that doesn’t mean that the US has the right to impose its own police control on sovereign states, he added.

“No country and no international organization have authorized the US to monitor the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions by police or ‘cowboy’ methods,” Khrolenko wrote, adding that the bill supported by the US Congress contradicts the principle of sovereignty and calls into question international economic activity.

The journalist reminded his readers that Washington wants to track ships coming to Russia and other countries including China, Syria, Iran, and inspect cargo transported to certain ports of the DPRK.

He added that special US services can obtain the right to inspect ships and aircraft that have visited North Korea during the last 365 days.

Predictably, Washington’s unilateral initiative prompted criticism from Russian politicians.

Commenting on the issue, Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said that de jure the bill’s realization means “forced inspection of all vessels” by US warships. Such a scenario amounts to a declaration of war, Kosachev noted.

However, according to Khrolenko, the US congressmen’s plan to maintain control over the countries’ trade is nothing but wishful thinking.

“It is impossible to control the ports and economic activities of independent states from Washington,” the journalist noted, “As for the Far Eastern ports of Russia, the Americans may only conduct remote monitoring [of the region].”

“The US can also obtain information by using space reconnaissance means, remote hacking of the ports databases or agents in the field. Or they can simply inspect any vessel in neutral waters… Everything is possible, but taking into account the total volume of shipping and the capabilities of the Navy of the aforementioned countries [Russia, China, Iran, Syria], such control appears to be too dangerous,” he elaborated.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

What Western Media Never Tells You about North Korea

By Joe Clifford | Dissident Voice | May 1, 2017

There is a great deal of propaganda and deliberate misinformation about North Korea, which the public should know. While neocons, a cheering corporate media, and Deep State, rush to war with North Korea, information is the ultimate weapon. For example, did you know that North Korea, China, and India, are the only three nations who have committed to a “no nuclear first” policy. They have pledged never to use nuclear weapons “first”, but of course reserve the right to use them if attacked. How many times has the US threatened to use nuclear weapons against North Korea? Do you know that North Korea has repeatedly asked the US to engage in bi-lateral talks, to cool off the ever-escalating tension? The offer was flatly rejected by both Obama and Trump. Can you resolve differences within your family without dialog? No dialogue, no peace. Why won’t the US talk to North Korea?? The neocons, Deep State, and media argument, insist Kim Jong-un is irrational, and therefore you cannot negotiate with him. A look back at recent history illustrates the US and its complicit media demonize anyone we do not like, and the demonizing usually ends up with a war. Manuel Noriega in Panama, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi, and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, serve as recent examples. But the demonizing of Kim Jong-un continues as we move towards another war, and once again the public buys into the myth. There are no western reporters allowed in North Korea, and since North Korea is a virtual closed society, one must wonder who knows what Kim Jong-un really is like? On the other hand, some might suggest we have a very irrational leader in this country. This attitude of demonizing is akin to the Taliban’s offer to turn over Osama Bin Laden so many years ago, and the US, then under Bush, flatly rejected the Taliban offer. Sixteen years later we are still at war in Afghanistan. War is the result of failed diplomacy or the absence of diplomacy. Perhaps we did not want diplomacy; perhaps we don’t want diplomacy now.

Do you know North Korea has agreed to suspend its nuclear testing if the US agreed to end the annual war games along the border of North Korea? You may not know the US conducts war games that simulate the overthrow of the North Korean government, and this year there were almost 400,000 soldiers participating. Did you know that?? Do you know the Korean War has never officially ended because there was no formal truce signed? This is one of North Korea demands. A final treaty to end the Korean War was never signed, because if there was a treaty, the US would have no legal basis for the occupation of South Korea with our many military bases. Do you know that in 1993 the US announced it was re-targeting hydrogen bombs from the old USSR to North Korea?

Do you know George Bush called the leader of North Korea a “pygmy”, and said he wanted to “topple his regime”? Do you know Bush also prepared a policy of “preemptive” attack, and referred to North Korea as a member of the “axis of evil”? It was shortly thereafter that North Korea left the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and threw all inspectors out of the country. Neocons, Deep State, and the corporate media, argue North Korea is a threat to the US, and just days ago Trump said they were a “threat to the world”? That is asinine, as Trump’s increase in military spending of 54 billion, is 11 times greater than the entire North Korean military budget. To suggest North Korea is a “threat to the US” or the “world” is either stupidity or an outright lie, and yet a CNN poll shows 37% of the US public believes North Korea is a threat to the US. Who says propaganda isn’t effective? Do you know the recent leader of South Korea was impeached for corruption, and there is a pending election to decide on new leadership? The opposition party wants the US out of South Korea, and wants the THAAD missile system just installed by the US, out.

Theresa May, in Great Britain, shocked many recently, when she announced she would be willing to use nuclear weapons in a “first strike”? Why have we not declared war on Britain, as Theresa May is apparently a bit “irrational”? Experts suggest North Korea has perhaps 8 nuclear weapons, but has no effective delivery system. The US has 7,000.

North Korea has not invaded or attacked any nation since the end of the Korean War, while the US has bombed over 30 countries. How many countries is the US currently bombing?? Can’t answer? Who is the aggressor here? Who has refused to “talk” to North Korea? Who has threatened to use nuclear weapons repeatedly against North Korea?

Why can’t the US simply sit down and agree to bi-lateral talks? Is there a logical reason why this cannot be done? What is there to lose by such talks? This whole policy of antagonizing, instead of talking, is insane! We know its insanity; we don’t know if it is intentional rejection of diplomacy.

May 2, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , | 2 Comments

Trump says he’d be ‘honored’ to meet Kim Jong-un

RT | May 1, 2017

President Donald Trump has said he “would be honored” to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un under the right circumstances.

“If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it,” Trump told Bloomberg News Monday. “If it’s under the, again, under the right circumstances. But I would do that.”

“Most political people would never say that,” Trump said. “But I’m telling you under the right circumstances I would meet with him.”

“We have breaking news,” he added, likely referring to the news coverage his comments would garner.

Trump’s surprising statements could spark rumors of a new “bromance” between the president and another world leader. The comments come only a day after Trump also described Jong-un as “a smart cookie,” on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday.

North Korea is seen as one of the US’s geopolitical adversaries. Tensions between the two nations have increased recently, following Trump’s vow to stop North Korea from developing a nuclear weapon and Pyongyang’s recent missile tests.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the United Nations on Friday that the US would only negotiate with Pyongyang if it took steps towards giving up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and urged nations to cut diplomatic and financial ties.

Tillerson also told NPR that the US was open to holding direct negotiations should North Korea have the right agenda.

North Korea’s missile test on Friday came hours after Tillerson’s statements at the UN.

The US Congress plans to debate new sanctions against Pyongyang this week, targeting its shipping industry.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer addressed the comments at a press briefing Monday, highlighting Trump’s statement that it would be “under the right circumstances.”

“There’s a lot of conditions that I think would have to happen with respect to its behavior, and to show signs of good faith,” Spicer said. “Clearly the conditions are not there right now.”

May 1, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Hamas: We appreciate North Korea’s support for Palestinians

Sami Abu Zuhri, File Photo
Palestine Information Center – May 1, 2017

GAZA – Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri praised on Sunday the statements of the North Korean Foreign Ministry against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and in support of the struggle of the Palestinian people until the attainment of freedom.

In a statement on Twitter, Abu Zuhri rejected the offensive Israeli speech against Pyongyang, saying that Israel is the source of “evil and terrorism” and the cause of instability in the region.

The Israeli war minister, Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview with the Hebrew website Walla that any confrontation between the United States and North Korea would directly affect Israel.

On Lieberman’s statements, Pyongyang said that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that possesses nuclear weapons under the protection of the United States, adding that Israel “constitutes an obstacle in the Middle East, occupies Arab lands, and carries out crimes against humanity”.

Pyongyang affirmed that North Korea’s stands are always based on justice and peace, expressing support for the Palestinian people and their struggle to establish their own state.

May 1, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

The Haircut (2017) – A North Korean Adventure

Boy Boy – April 22, 2017

The isolated, hermit kingdom of the DPRK is shrowded in secrecy, It’s nearly impossible to get any reliable information from behind the bamboo curtain. Nonetheless, every week, on T.V. and online, we are bombarded by the bizzare media-spectacle of North Korea. From nuclear apocalypse and prison camps to banned sarcasm and compulsory identical haircuts – any shred of information regarding North Korea becomes a viral media hit, regardless of how dubious the story is.

But that’s all about to change.

Two Aussie boys decided to take matters into their own hands and go to North Korea to find out the truth for themselves. Join us as we look past the clickbait and unpack the forces behind the way our media represents the “Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea”.

– Warning – Graphic Content

April 30, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | Leave a comment

Israel and North Korea’s war of words sheds light on western hypocrisy over nukes

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | April 30, 2017

A war of words between North Korea and Israel has done a lot to highlight the hypocrisy of the west when it comes to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other WMD. Israel’s illegal and unaccounted for nuclear weapons programme is generally ignored by the west, while America appears ready to go to war with North Korea over its nuclear weapons programme, in spite of no consensus over weather Pyongyang has the ability to deliver its nuclear weapons or even how many nuclear weapons the communist state has.

Ultra right-wing Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that North Korea is “undermining global stability” and that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is a “madman” leading a “crazy and radical” regime.

North Korea did not waste time in responding, issuing a statement reading,

“Israel is the only illegal possessor of nukes in the Middle East under the patronage of the US. However, Israel vociferated about the nuclear deterrence of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea/North Korea), slandering it, whenever an opportunity presented itself”.

One needn’t have a positive view of North Korea to understand this statement as an objective truth.

Israel frequently conducts unprovoked attacks on Syria without any retribution from the so-called international community.

North Korea’s statement continued,

“The DPRK’s access to nuclear weapons is the legitimate exercise of its righteous right for self-defence to cope with the US provocative moves for aggression and the DPRK’s nuclear force is the treasured sword of justice firmly defending peace on the Korean peninsula and in the region”.

North Korea went on to accuse Israel of “crimes against humanity” and of being an occupier of Palestinian territory.

North Korea called for a “thousand-fold punishment to whoever dares hurt the dignity of its supreme leadership” and referred to Lieberman as “sordid and wicked”.

While both Israel and North Korea are widely seen as rogue states, only Israel is currently engaged in the occupation and invasion of other countries.

April 30, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | 4 Comments

Pyongyang slams Israel as ‘disturber of peace armed with illegal nukes under US patronage’

RT | April 30, 2017

North Korea has accused Israel of being the “only illegal possessor” of nukes and threat to peace in the Middle East, and threatened Tel Aviv with a “thousand-fold punishment” after Israeli Defense Minister called Pyongyang’s leadership a “crazy and radical group.”

In an interview with Hebrew news site Walla this week, Avigdor Lieberman stated that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un is a “madman” in charge of a “crazy and radical group” which is “undermining global stability.”

Pyongyang “seems to have crossed the red line with its recent nuclear tests,” the Israeli defense minister said, according to the Times of Israel.

In response, Pyongyang promised a “thousand-fold punishment to whoever dares hurt the dignity of its supreme leadership,” calling Lieberman’s “sordid and wicked” remarks a part of Israel’s smear campaign to cover up its own crimes.

Firing back at the perceived hypocrisy, the North Korean Foreign Ministry said that, unlike Israel, which is a “disturber of peace” in its neighborhood, their country is fully entitled to seek deterrence against “US aggression.”

“Israel is the only illegal possessor of nukes in the Middle East under the patronage of the US. However, Israel vociferated about the nuclear deterrence of the DPRK, slandering it, whenever an opportunity presented itself,” the Foreign Ministry spokesman said, as cited by state-run agency KCNA.

While Israel has never publicly confirmed or denied possessing nukes, it is universally believed to have dozens of warheads, and maintains ambiguous policy that it will not be the first to “introduce” them in the Middle East.

“The DPRK’s access to nuclear weapons is the legitimate exercise of its righteous right for self-defense to cope with the US provocative moves for aggression and the DPRK’s nuclear force is the treasured sword of justice firmly defending peace on the Korean peninsula and in the region,” the North Korean statement added.

Pyongyang went on to call Israel a “culprit of crimes against humanity” and an “occupier” which seeks to dominate the region and oppress Palestinians.

Lieberman’s remarks also sparked criticism at home, with some Israeli politicians noting that their country has enough enemies to create even more with such reckless statements.

“We have enough enemies. Let’s focus on them,” MP Shelly Yachimovich of the Zionist Union said on Twitter.

“The minister of talk is chattering irresponsibly about North Korea. And there is no prime minister to rein in the babbling and posturing ministers,” former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon wrote on Twitter, Times of Israel reports.

Already heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula escalated further on Saturday after the North conducted yet another failed test of its ballistic rocket technology. The test was conducted as US kicked off joint naval exercises with South Korea just after the US aircraft carrier group led by the USS Carl Vinson entered the Sea of Japan.

For some time now, it has been speculated that Pyongyang is also getting ready to conduct its sixth nuclear test. Speaking about North Korea on Saturday, Trump noted that neither China nor the US would welcome a further North Korean nuclear test.

“I would not be happy,” Trump said in a CBS interview for Sunday’s Face the Nation. When asked if the sixth Korean nuclear test would prompt American military action, Trump responded: “I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see.”

April 30, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 2 Comments

At UN Security Council session Rex Tillerson opens door for negotiations with North Korea

By Alexander Mercouris | The Duran | April 28, 2017

Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, acted today to confirm his authority as the head of US diplomacy by using a UN Security Council session to make what amounted to a peace offer to North Korea.

After sidelining Nikki Haley at the UN Security Council session today, Tillerson signalled what could be a significant shift in the US approach to the Korean crisis, appearing to offer direct talks with North Korea’s leadership with a promise of an eventual normalisation of relations between the US and North Korea, and holding out the prospect of the eventual denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and of sanctions relief.

The peace offer inevitably came wrapped up with more demands for more sanctions (about which however see below), and with talk of military action remaining an option. However the thrust of Tillerson’s words was clear enough:

Our goal is not regime change. Nor do we desire to threaten the North Korean people or destabilize the Asia Pacific region. Over the years, we have withdrawn our own nuclear weapons from South Korea and offered aid to North Korea as proof of our intent to de-escalate the situation and normalize relations. Since 1995, the United States has provided over $1.3 billion dollars in aid to North Korea, and we look forward to resuming our contributions once the D.P.R.K. begins to dismantle its nuclear weapons and missile technology programs.

… even though the present condition of that country is bleak, the United States believes in a future for North Korea. These first steps toward a more hopeful future will happen most quickly if other stakeholders in this – in the region and the global security join us.

(bold italics added)

As for Tillerson’s demand for further sanctions, on close examination these turn out to be pitched at a level which he appears to think China and Russia might accept

Third, we must increase North Korea’s financial isolation. We must levy new sanctions on D.P.R.K. entities and individuals supporting its weapons and missile programs, and tighten those that are already in place. The United States also would much prefer countries and people in question to own up to their lapses and correct their behavior themselves, but we will not hesitate to sanction third-country entities and individuals supporting the D.P.R.K.’s illegal activities.

We must bring maximum economic pressure by severing trade relationships that directly fund the D.P.R.K.’s nuclear and missile program. I call on the international community to suspend the flow of North Korean guest workers and to impose bans on North Korean imports, especially coal.

(bold italics added)

These demands appear to pitch sanctions at the level of obstructing development of North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes rather than intending them to bring about the wholesale collapse of North Korea’s economy, something which Tillerson probably realises the Chinese will never agree to.

In passing I should say that whilst the Chinese might be willing to forego imports of coal from North Korea at least for a while, I think it is all but inconceivable that either they or the Russians would suspend the flow of North Korean guest workers to their countries.

Despite his call for  total denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula Tillerson probably knows that the degree of suspicion of the US on the part of the North Korean government is so great that it is all but inconceivable that North Korea will ever agree to give up the nuclear weapons it already has. Indeed in his remarks to the UN Security Council Tillerson made it fairly clear that his real objective is not to get North Korea to part with all its nuclear weapons – an objective he probably realises is unachievable – but rather to prevent North Korea from developing its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons technology to the point were it can threaten the US mainland:

With each successive detonation and missile test, North Korea pushes Northeast Asia and the world closer to instability and broader conflict.

The threat of a North Korean nuclear attack on Seoul, or Tokyo, is real.

And it is likely only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the U.S. mainland.

Indeed, the D.P.R.K. has repeatedly claimed it plans to conduct such a strike. Given that rhetoric, the United States cannot idly stand by. Nor can other members of this council who are within striking distance of North Korean missiles.

If so then a deal might be possible.

It is not inconceivable that North Korea might be open to a deal where it obtains the normalisation of its relations with the US and an end or at least an easing of economic sanctions in return for its agreement to forego developing the capability to strike at the US mainland.

Vassily Kashin, a prominent Russian military analyst, recently discussed the North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme for Sputnik. He made the point that despite impressive recent advances North Korea is still many years away from achieving the capability to launch a strike against the US mainland, and he suggested that North Korea’s real purpose may be to trade the prospect of it eventually achieving that capability – which may in reality be decades away – against the normalisation of its relations with the US.

Vassily Kashin’s comments are so interesting – especially so coming from an expert – that they deserve to be set out at length:

At the moment, successful testing of these missiles (the sea-based KN-11 Pukkuksong-1, and its ground-based cousin, the KN-15 Pukkuksong-2 – AM) is being carried out,” the expert explained. “Factually, the North Koreans have reached the same level that China was at in the early 1980s, when Beijing was carrying out flight testing of its JL-1,” China’s first submarine-launched missile, “created on the basis of the ground-based DF-21” (a Chinese mobile medium-range ballistic missile).

Kashin recalled that it took China 5-6 years to complete flight testing on the JL-1. “The North Koreans began flight testing on the Pukkuksong-1 in 2014, and it’s possible that they will be ready to deploy them closer to the end of the decade. These missiles have an estimated range of up to 2,000 km, which is comparable to the JL-1 and the DF-21A.”

According to the analyst, a successful deployment of these missiles could be seen as a real achievement for the North Koreans. “Pyongyang will attain the guaranteed ability to strike at targets anywhere in South Korea and Japan, but still would not be able to reach the United States.”

North Korean engineers are believed to have made about a dozen tests of the Pukkuksong-1 and its ground-based variant since October 2014; the latest test is thought to have taken place in February. In August 2016, Pyongyang carried out a successful submarine-launch of the Pukkuksong-1.

According to Kashin, these successes are creating the basis for further progress. However, “the transition to the creation of an intercontinental ballistic missile in general and a solid-fueled-based ICBM in particular will require a qualitative leap in the development of North Korea’s production base and test infrastructure,” he emphasized.

North Korea has been engaged in the development of the KN-08, also known as the Rodong-C or Hwasong-13, a road-mobile ICBM is believed to have been under development since the early 2010s. Pyongyang has showed off the missile at parades on several occasions, including the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung in April 2012. However, two suspected tests, which US intelligence said had been carried out in October 2016, were believed to have ended in failure.

Kashin stressed that in order to actually produce such advanced weapons, the North Koreans “will have to learn how to produce solid fuel rocket engines with a large diameter. They will have to experiment with new fuels and new missile casing. An important limitation here will be based on their ability or lack thereof to purchase the necessary equipment abroad or create their own (but apparently, also using foreign components).”

Furthermore, the analyst noted, “in order to be tested, the ICBMs will have to be launched over Japanese territory in the direction of the southern Pacific Ocean. As the Chinese experience in testing its DF-5 ICBMs in the early 1980s shows, testing will require the creation of a whole fleet of specialized vessels equipped with complex measuring equipment and, probably, new warships for their protection and escort.”

“Attempts to conduct such tests will be likely to face a backlash from the US and its allies, including attempts to shoot the missiles down during the first stage of their flight (if the US and Japanese missile defense systems in Japan are ready to do so) or attempts to block the measuring equipment onboard the North Korean vessels.”

According to Kashin, the ICBMs’ testing will also take about 5-6 years. China “deployed its DF-31 ICBMs 15-20 years after deploying the Jl-2 and the DF-21.” In other words, according to the analyst, it will be decades before Pyongyang is actually able to successfully field a true intercontinental ballistic missile.

Faced with these limitations, which Pyongyang must surely be aware of, the analyst noted that there are several possible reasons for them to have rolled out their experimental ICBMs at Saturday’s parade.

“Why did the North Koreans feel the need to draw attention to weapons systems which, even under the most optimistic scenario, cannot be deployed until the second half of the 2030s? It’s possible that from Pyongyang’s point of view, this is a demonstration of its determination and, at the same time, an invitation to talks, which North Korea, despite its isolation, intends to conduct from a perceived position of strength.”

It’s possible, Kashin added, “that these potential missile systems are what North Korea is ready to sacrifice in exchange for a reduction in sanctions pressure. The country’s security is guaranteed by its ability to inflict unacceptable damage to key US allies South Korea and Japan in the event of war.”

Ultimately, in Kashin’s view, Pyongyang “will not abandon their nuclear weapons and medium-range missiles, but could agree not to conduct new tests or develop intercontinental missiles (ranged 5,500 km and up) in exchange for economic and political concessions. This, it’s possible, may very well be Pyongyang’s ideal exchange scenario.”

(bold italics added)

If Vassily Kashin’s analysis is right, then taken together with Tillerson’s comments to the UN Security Council today there may be a basis for a settlement.

The North Koreans might be prepared to give up a planned capability to launch a strike against the US mainland – which may in reality be beyond their reach before 2040 – in return for a normalisation of relations with the US and an easing of sanctions now. If so then that appears sufficiently close to what Tillerson appeared to say today the US wanted to make a deal possible. In that case with hard work and tough bargaining an agreement might be achieved.

The big question is whether these two countries – the US and North Korea – are capable of negotiating with each other in such a way, and have the political will to stay the course during the long years such a negotiation would require.

We are so poorly informed about the political system in North Korea that it is difficult to say with any confidence what are the exact intentions of its government. However if Vassily Kashin is right, it would appear that it is willing to talk. Besides, if there were a desire to talk on the part of the US, the Chinese and Russians would surely put pressure on North Korea to get it to talk. That after all is what the Chinese have been saying they want – direct talks between North Korea and the US – for some time now.

The bigger uncertainty has to be with the US.

It is difficult enough to predict with any confidence what the policy of the Trump administration will be from one day to another, let alone to have any confidence that it can stay the course over the years of tough bargaining that achieving a settlement with North Korea would require. Unfortunately there are always hardliners in Washington who can be relied upon to work to undermine any prospect of an agreement, and it is a certainty that if negotiations between the US and North Korea were ever to get underway they will immediately set to work to undermine them.

Tillerson’s grip on the US foreign policy establishment looks shaky enough as it is. What confidence can there be that either he or someone who thinks like him would be around for long enough to bring negotiations with North Korea to a successful conclusion and to get that settlement accepted in the US, even if that is indeed Tillerson’s objective? What confidence would there be if such a settlement were ever reached that a succeeding administration would abide by it?

The short answer unfortunately is that there can be no confidence about any of these things.

However on the strength of what Rex Tillerson said to the UN Security Council today, and what Vassily Kashin thinks North Korea’s intentions might be, the possibility of a diplomatic settlement might be there.

The job of diplomats is to explore this possibility. It is to be hoped that they are given the opportunity to do so. Past experience unfortunately leaves plenty of room for doubt.

April 29, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

Russia backs China’s call to stop N. Korea nuke tests in exchange for halt in US-S. Korea drills

RT | April 29, 2017

Russia has supported a Chinese initiative in the UNSC intended to stabilize the situation on the Korean peninsula. It calls on the North to refrain from missile and nuclear testing, while the US and South Korea should halt military drills in the area.

“Members of the [UN] Security Council have unanimously called upon DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] to stop missile and nuclear tests and to fulfill UNSC resolutions,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday following a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) session held in New York earlier on Friday.

The UNSC called for a political and diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, the ministry added.

“In this context, the Russian Federation supported a Chinese proposal for a ‘double suspension’ (Pyongyang is to stop missile and nuclear tests and the US and South Korean militaries are to halt drills near North Korea) as a starting point for political negotiations.”

However, the council was not able to agree on a common solution, the ministry added.

The UNSC session was joined by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, who urged Washington and Seoul to reconsider their decision to station a THAAD anti-missile system on the Korean Peninsula, warning that it will serve as a “destabilizing factor” in the region.

Gatilov said the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) had been deployed “in line with the vicious logic of creating a global missile shield,” while warning that it is also undermining the security and deterrent capacities of adjacent states, such as China, thus threatening “the existing military balance in the region.”

“It is not only we who perceived this step very negatively. We are once again urging both the United States and the Republic of Korea to reconsider its expediency, and other regional states not to yield to the temptation of joining such destabilizing efforts,” the deputy foreign minister said.

Ahead of the UNSC session, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters that a peaceful solution to the Korean crisis is the “only right choice.”

“Peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and negotiations represents the only right choice that is practical and viable,” Wang said.

READ MORE: ‘Destabilizing factor’: Russia urges US, S. Korea to reconsider THAAD anti-missiles deployment

April 29, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Why Is Britain Rattling its Nuclear Saber and What Could Be the Consequences?

Sputnik – 27.04.2017

British Defense Minister Michael Fallon has said that Prime Minister Theresa May would launch a preemptive nuclear strike if she feels it is needed. The majority of Britons seem to support this attitude. But just how dangerous is this kind of rhetoric?

Radio Sputnik’s Brian Becker spoke with Alexander Mercouris, editor-in-chief of The Duran, to try to parse Fallon’s statement.

Britain is in the midst of a general election. Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn is a well-known opponent of nuclear weapons, despite his party’s general refusal to condemn them.

​So Fallon’s statement is purely political in nature, Mercouris explained. It aims to highlight the division between the Labor Party’s dominant faction and its leader, to depict him as a weak candidate.

“It’s a very irresponsible thing to do,” he told Becker.

So far, it’s worked. Mere hours after Corbyn made a statement Sunday that he would never authorize a pre-emptive nuclear strike, members of his party spoke out to the contrary. Interestingly, Mercouris pointed out, many within the Labour Party are perfectly aware of Fallon’s pretense and are “perfectly comfortable to play along,” he said.

There are those within the Labour Party opposed to Corbyn’s leadership, and his resistance to militarism will “freeze these people out,” Mercouris explained, rendering them unable to promote their own more aggressive ideas. These people are eager to deepen the division within the party, he says.

“The subject of the British nuclear weapons is far too serious and far too important to be used in this way,” Mercouris noted, adding that statements like Fallon’s, even if uttered away from media cameras, have a range of ramifications.

“If we start using them or threatening to use them on a regular, routine basis, then, I’m afraid, the whole structure of international relations we know will collapse and we will be in mortally dangerous situation; indeed, the one in which a disaster is likely to happen,” he added.

Mercouris noted an absence of criticism on the global stage toward May or US President Donald Trump for making threats of missile or even nuclear strikes, while other nations such as North Korea are threatened with retaliation merely for testing a nuclear weapon on their soil, calling the perspective of defense talks today akin to “Alice in Wonderland.”

If examined realistically, Mercouris noted, since the Korean war in the mid-20th century, North Korea has not started a single war with a foreign nation; NATO, on the other hand, has waged wars left and right in the meantime.

“It would be a complete reversal of fact to say that North Korea is the danger; it is a country which is in danger, and that’s why it is acquiring nuclear weapons,” he added.

It would be an interesting situation, Mercouris said, should Russian President Vladimir Putin or Chinese President Xi Jinping make a similar statement: to announce publicly that their countries would start a nuclear war if they felt threatened.

“The British establishment would have gone absolutely berserk on it,” he said, and waves of denunciation would have followed. “Especially, dare I say, if it would be made by Mr. Putin, who is a particular bogeyman in Britain. The Chinese leadership and North Korea — they’re too far away to concern the British people,” Mercouris said.

April 27, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Shift in Trump Policy on North Korea

By Stephen Lendman | April 27, 2017

Following heavy-handed threats, saber-rattling, and Wednesday’s administration meeting with all Senate members, a joint statement by Defense Secretary Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Coates and Secretary of State Tillerson announced a shift in US policy toward North Korea.

On the one hand, it called Pyongyang’s “pursuit of nuclear weapons… an urgent national security and top foreign policy priority.”

On the other, it said Trump “aims to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our Allies and regional partners.”

Instead of a military option, the Trump administration now seeks dialogue and diplomacy to achieve “peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

At the same time, it may designate the DPRK as a state sponsor of terrorism, maintaining hostility towards its government over responsible outreach.

On Wednesday, Pyongyang’s Permanent Mission to the UN said “(t)he DPRK, as a peace-loving socialist state, highly values the sustaining of the peace most of all, but it neither fears a war nor wants to avoid it,” adding:

“The DPRK has access to a powerful nuclear deterrent to protect itself from the US nuclear threat… The DPRK will react to a total war with an all-out war, a nuclear war with nuclear strikes of its own style and surely win a victory in the death-defying struggle against the US imperialists.”

“It is an unshakable will of the DPRK to go to the end if the US wants to remain unchanged in its confrontational stance.”

Separately on Wednesday, US Pacific Command chief Admiral Harry Harris told House Armed Services Committee members that North Korea remains the most “immediate threat” to US regional security, adding it’s trying to develop a “preemptive nuclear strike capability” against US cities.

Fact: Throughout its history, the DPRK never attacked another nation. It threatens none now. If attacked, it’ll surely respond with all the military force it believes necessary.

China, Russia and Pyongyang consider US deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile systems in South Korea highly provocative.

In January, Moscow and Beijing announced unspecified measures to counter them, warning of escalating tensions and instigating an arms race.

Harris said the THAAD system will be operational “in the coming days.” China again expressed “grave concern,” saying THAAD breaks the region’s strategic balance, along with heightening tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Urging cancellation of the deployment, Beijing warned it’ll take all necessary measures “to safeguard its own interests.”

Despite the threat of imminent war abating, regional tensions remain. Trump’s rage for warmaking endangers all independent nations.

On Wednesday after midnight, the Pentagon launched an unarmed Minuteman 3 ICBM from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

Col. John Moss said “(t)onight’s launch was an important demonstration of our nation’s nuclear deterrent capability.”

America’s only enemies are ones it invents – no others. America’s homeland hasn’t been attacked by a foreign power since the War of 1812 with Britain.

Hawaii didn’t become a US state until March 1959. During WW II, Japan occupied the remote, sparsely inhabited islands of Attu and Kiska in the Aleutians off Alaska from June 1942 until summer 1943.

America’s homeland faces no threats except in response to US aggression on a nation able to retaliate in kind. Otherwise, none exist.

Stephen Lendman can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. His new book is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.

April 27, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Trump’s North Korean Obsession

By Federico PIERACCINI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 27.04.2017

Since Donald Trump’s victory, tensions in the Korean Peninsula have reached almost unprecedented levels. This aggressive approach from the new administration has accentuated tensions with Pyongyang, leaving one to wonder whether another US war is in the making.

During the election campaign, Trump often took ambiguous and, in some respects, isolationist positions concerning hotspots around the world. The exception to this rule has often been North Korea. Business Insider cites the current US president speaking in January of 2016 about the DPRK with the following words about its nuclear program: «We got to close it down, because he’s getting too close to doing something. Right now, he’s probably got the weapons, but he does not have the transportation system. Once he has the transportation system, he’s sick enough to use it. So we better get Involved».

As soon as he became president, the words became even more threatening, clear and explicit, with this tweet becoming famous: «North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the US. It won’t happen!»

A few weeks later, words were turned into action: the United States and its allies (South Korea and Japan) carried out two enormous exercises between March and April 2017. The first, focusing on land and sea operations and named Foal Eagle, involved tens of thousands of US and South Korean soldiers and naval warships. A few weeks later the Max Thunder 17 exercise kicked in, with dozens of aircraft involved. In both exercises the goal is to focus on the DPRK, with simulations of an attack by the United States and its allies by land, sea and air.

From Pyongyang’s point of view, the deterioration of relations with the US, South Korea and Japan has risen beyond any tolerable limit with a vicious cycle of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, since Trump’s assumption of the presidency. The United States, the world’s premier military power, continually threatens to bomb and invade the DPRK with thousands of soldiers, or threatens to kill Kim Jong-un. As if this situation were not tense enough, the ongoing exercises by the US and her allies suggest a realistic possibility of invasion rather than a simple exercise (usually wars begin simultaneously with great maneuvers, since in such exercises forces are already deployed, operational, and ready to fight). Finally, to top off the madness coming from Washington, Trump repeatedly broached a change in the historical strategic balance reflected by MAD (mutually assured destruction), floating the idea of arming South Korea and even Japan with nuclear weapons.

Nuclear deterrence for peace

In light of all these historical provocations and threats, Kim Jong-un has in recent years had to accelerate his atomic program and demonstrate the consistency of DPRK’s nuclear capability and convincingly deter opponents. In order to asses the capacity of North Korea to hit the US with a WMD, one has to take into consideration two main factors: the ability to create a nuclear warhead, and the method of delivery.

The first, concerning the ability to detonate a domestically manufactured nuclear bomb, is already a fact acknowledged by the international community and demonstrated with five nuclear tests. The second question focuses on the means used to deliver the nuclear weapon. With the first question already a known fact (the DPRK has up to 30 nukes), this only leaves the assessment of missile range and reliability, which will be discussed later. For now, it is important to focus on the motives that may have driven the DPRK to develop an nuclear program. During American exercises, North Korean reservists from the countryside were often summoned from the countryside when they were most needed for harvesting and planting seasons, creating significant strains in the agricultural area so vital to the country’s economy.

Thanks to the nuclear deterrent, the amount of people recalled has been considerably reduced due to the reduction in the likelihood of an American attack on the peninsula.

Obviously nuclear deterrence plays a key part in North Korea’s defensive posture, but we can further consider the lesser known determinants of this strategic choice. First of all we can consider the reduction in military spending on conventional means of war by the possession of a nuclear deterrent. Pyongyang’s ability to almost market its nuclear deterrence with nuclear and missile tests is certainly more cost effective than building thousands of multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) and mortar rounds. This does not mean that in a military assessment of conflict, such equipment does not tip the balance of power; we will see that they do exactly this.

The DPRK’s deterrence policy is a much more complex matter than just its nuclear component. The common idea is that with a nuclear bomb Pyongyang is safe. That is true on the basis of the theory of MAD. But with missile defense systems in play, this could change the equation, or maybe not. What really makes the DPRK safe is conventional weapons and geography.

China Cannot Help Disarm Pyongyang

Regarding the considerations made by Pyongyang on nuclear disarmament, it is interesting to note that the North Korean leadership has often referred to the promises made by the west to Gaddafi regarding Libya’s nuclear disarmament, and the consequences of this choice seen in the subsequent attack on Libya and the killing of Gaddafi. Kim Jong-un has repeatedly made it clear that trusting Washington and its allies is simply impossible given these historical precedents.

Another important factor when talking about the Korean Peninsula is the common notion of Beijing’s influence on Pyongyang. Trump has on several occasions made it clear that China is the only actor capable of putting sufficient pressure on Kim in order to force him to disarm or stop missile tests. But this is a political position that leaves many questions and doubts and is based entirely on the notion that Beijing is assisting Pyongyang economically and so has the necessary leverage. This, for Washington, means that if Xi wanted to shut down the Korean economy and oblige DPRK’s leadership to dialogue, he could do so.

Reality, however, shows us that Beijing has little influence on the Korean leader, and a deeper analysis shows how the DPRK is forced to trade and talk to China more out of practical need than any desire to do so. Further evidence shows how the relationship between China and the DPRK is at the very least complicated.

Realistically, it is difficult to ignore the contribution of the former Soviet Union, and then Russia, to the DPRK’s conventional and possibly nuclear development. The last parade of arms on April 15, 2017 saw the DPRK parade hardware very similar to that of the Russian military, especially the large Topol-M. Of course Beijing has a longstanding interest in the DPRK and with the state’s survival. The DPRK ensures that there are no hostile forces on China’s southern border. Beijing has learned the lessons from the end of the Cold War, where, following various pledges to Russia not to extend NATO into Eastern Europe, NATO subsequently expanded right up to Russia’s borders, directly threatening the Russian Federation.

Beijing supports the DPRK to avoid a unified Korea under US guidance that would pose a real threat to the Chinese state. In this context, Beijing faces diplomatic consequences at an international level, facing criticism and threats of armed intervention in the DPRK if Beijing does not do something to stop the North Korean leader.

It is a very complicated situation for Beijing, which finds itself between a rock and a hard place, having little real ability to influence Kim’s choices. From the point of view of the DPRK, the best outcome would be an agreement with the United States and Japan to loosen sanctions and embargoes. The problem is what these nations ask for in return is complete disarmament. For the reasons cited above, this solution is virtually impossible because of the complete lack of trust by all actors.

From words to nothing

At this point it is good to go to the heart of the matter and to analyze the most interesting aspects. First of all, Trump’s actions in Syria, as well as the use of a MOAB in Afghanistan, sought to put pressure on Kim Jong-un to make him come to the negotiating table. This obviously did not work, it being utterly unrealistic to commence negotiating with Pyongyang on the basis of threats of war. The DPRK has been besieged for over 50 years, and 50 cruise missiles, or a ten-ton bomb, will hardly do anything to change their position or scare them. The DPRK is neither Syria nor Afghanistan.

The subtle line between deception and perception in the Korean nuclear affair is certainly of great interest. We should begin by saying what we know. The DPRK as a country is a tightly state monitored system from many points of view, in terms of information, the internet, computer systems. Any information we read in the mainstream media on the DPRK should therefore be treated as propaganda. Two aspects are to be considered, namely what the DPRK wants western military planners to believe, and what the western press wants public opinion to know and believe about the DPRK. Let us take a practical and vital example in this discussion by looking at the range of the missiles mentioned in previous paragraphs.

We start with a basic premise stated by Washington, namely that the United States will prevent the DPRK from developing a missile (ICBM) capable of reaching American territory with a nuclear warhead. The DPRK is in response developing an ICBM that can reach US soil in order to gain the ultimate deterrent weapon and so ensure its safety. In reality, we cannot know what the DPRK’s capabilities are until they test them. And with regard to that, the US administration has limited interest in publicizing possible DPRK achievements and hinting that Pyongyang could hit the US with a nuclear warhead. That would then arouse domestic pressures exerted throughout the press, politics, think-tanks, the military, the intelligence community, and external actors (Japan and Korea) to attack North Korea.

Likewise, the DPRK has no interest in eventually testing an ICBM already knowing well that the United States would have its back against a wall, leaving it with no choice but to attack.

April 27, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment