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‘Executed’ North Koreans return to life

RT | January 21, 2018

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is famous in Western media for executing people that fall out of his favor – though some seem to have found the knack of returning from the dead.

Reports regularly surface on Kim’s latest means of execution, ranging from the relatively mundane firing squad to the theatrical, or even cartoonish – such as feeding foes to packs of starving dogs or roasting them with flame-throwers.

The pop star and ‘former lover’

The most recent case is North Korean popstar Hyon Song-wol, spotted alive and well in South Korea on Sunday despite having reportedly been killed in a purge of singers, musicians and dancers back in 2013.

The performer was reportedly executed along with 11 others, including other members of her group, the Moranbong Band, the head of Unhasu Orchestra, and several dancers from the Wangjaesan Light Music Band.

The 12 victims had allegedly been accused of, among other offenses, recording themselves having sex and selling the footage. The reported victims hadn’t been seen since, until Hyon Song-wol, with whom Kim had reportedly been romantically entwined, publicly resurfaced on Saturday to inspect Olympic venues in South Korea ahead of the Winter Games.

The military chief

Back in 2016, N. Korean army chief Ri Yong Gil was reportedly executed for “factionalism, misuse of authority, and corruption.” As with a lot of information emanating from the isolated country, this turned out to false.

South Korean intelligence officials seemed to take his removal as head of the army as confirmation of his execution. The only problem was that a couple of months later Ri Yong Gil apparently returned from the dead, with an array of new senior-level positions, when he attended the Workers’ Party Congress in May that year.

The uncle ‘executed by a pack of dogs’

Apparently Kim really has it in for his older relatives, if Western media reports are to believed. So much so, it seems, that Kim was willing to execute his own uncle, by setting a pack of 120 starving dogs on him as part of yet another purge back in 2014.

Though it appears that Jang Song Thaek was indeed executed, the ‘ripped apart by dogs’ story was a complete fabrication that first raised its head on a satirical Chinese microblogging website.

The aunt ‘poisoned on request’

Further to ‘feeding his uncle to dogs’, as mentioned above, he reportedly then turned his murderous gaze towards his aunt, Kim Kyong-hui.

Kyong-hui, Kim’s father’s sister and the wife of uncle Jang Song Thaek, was reportedly executed by poisoning on the leader’s orders.

However, once again these reports turned out to be false. South Korean news agency Yonhap reported last year that she is very much alive, although she is being treated for illnesses ranging from depression to cancer.

January 21, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | 7 Comments

Washington and Allies Go Orwellian on Korea Peace Talks

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 19.01.2018

Just as North and South Korea achieve important peaceful exchanges, Washington and its NATO allies appear to be moving with determination to sabotage the initiative for averting war on the East Asian peninsula.

Further, the reckless, gratuitous provocations beg the conclusion that the United States is indeed trying to start a war.

Meanwhile, unprecedented accusations this week by US President Donald Trump that Russia is supporting North Korea to evade United Nations sanctions also point to the danger that any conflict could spiral out of control to engulf world nuclear powers.

Moscow rejected the unsubstantiated claims leveled by Trump, saying that Russia is abiding by UN trade restrictions over North Korea, and that the American president’s allegations were “entirely unfounded”.

Trump’s verbal broadside suggests that Washington is trying to undermine the nascent talks between the two Koreas, talks which Russia and China have both applauded as a long-overdue diplomatic effort to resolve the Korean conflict.

Separately, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov deplored a summit held in Vancouver, Canada, earlier this week in which the US and 19 other nations – most of them NATO members – called for sharper sanctions on North Korea that go beyond the remit of the United Nations. The conference, co-hosted by Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, issued a stridently bellicose statement, calling in effect for North Korea to surrender its nuclear weapons or face US-led military action.

Significantly, and pointedly, China and Russia were not invited to the Canadian summit.

Most of the attending states were part of the original US-led military force which fought against North Korea during the 1950-53 war. A war which killed as many as two million North Koreans.

Russia admonished that the conference was “harmful” to current peace talks between North and South Korea. China rebuked the Canadian event as being stuck in “Cold War thinking”.

The anachronism of countries like Britain, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands and Norway attending a conference on the Korean crisis while Asia-Pacific powers Russia and China being excluded was noted by Russia’s Sergei Lavrov. The anachronism is not only absurd, he said, it reprises a provocative “war summit” message.

Disturbingly, what the Vancouver gathering demonstrated was the willingness by the US and its allies to circumvent the United Nations Security Council and the previously established regional Six-Party forum involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the US.

At the Vancouver event, Tillerson laid out a belligerent agenda that was endorsed by the other attendees. The agenda included the precondition of North Korea giving up its nuclear program unilaterally; and it also flatly rejected the proposal made by Russia and China for a “freeze” in all military activities on the Korean Peninsula as a step to get comprehensive settlement talks going.

Tillerson made the following sinister ultimatum: “We have to recognize that that threat [of North Korea’s nuclear weapons] is growing. And if North Korea does not choose the path of engagement, discussion, negotiation, [that is, surrender] then they themselves will trigger an option [US military action].”

The US diplomat also warned that the American public must be “sober” about the possibility of war breaking out. Tillerson said the risk of such a war on the Korean Peninsula “continues to grow”. This was echoed by President Trump a day later in an interview with the Reuters news agency in which he also warned of possible war. It was the same interview in which Trump blamed Russia for aiding and abetting North Korea.

This sounds like US leaders are intensifying the conditioning of the American public to accept use of the military option, which they have been threatening for the past year in a pre-emptive attack on North Korea.

The Vancouver summit also called for proactive interdiction of international ships suspected of breaching UN sanctions on North Korea. That raises the danger of the US and its allies interfering with Russian and Chinese vessels – which would further escalate tensions.

These reprehensible developments are a reflection of the increasingly Orwellian worldview held by Washington and its partners, whereby “war is presented as peace” and “peace is perceived as war”.

Just this week, North and South Korea held a third round of peace negotiations in as many weeks. Even Western news media hailed “Olympic breakthrough” after the two adversaries agreed to participate in the opening ceremony of the forthcoming winter games next month as a unified nation under a neutral flag.

After two years of no inter-Korean talks and mounting war tensions on the peninsula, surely the quickening pace of peace overtures this month should be welcomed and encouraged. Russia, China and the UN have indeed endorsed the bilateral Korean exchange. Even President Trump said he welcomed it.

Nevertheless, as the Vancouver summit this week shows, the US and its NATO allies appear to be doing everything to torpedo the inter-Korean dialogue. Issuing ultimatums and warning of “military options” seems intended to blow up the delicate dynamic towards confidence and trust.

Two reports this week in the New York Times conveyed the contorted Orwellian mindset gripping Washington and its allies.

First, there was the report: “Military quietly prepares for a last resort: War with North Korea”. The NY Times actually reported extensive Pentagon plans for a preemptive air assault on North Korea involving a “deep attack” manned by 82nd Airborne paratroopers and special forces. The paper spun the provocative war plans as a “last resort”. In other words, war is sold here as peace.

Which raises the question of who is trying to wreck the Olympic Games being held in South Korea in February. For months, Western media have been warning that North Korea was intending to carry out some kind of sabotage. Now, it looks like the sabotage is actually coming from the US, albeit sanitized by the NY Times.

The second report in the NY Times had the telling headline: “Olympic détente upends US strategy on North Korea”.

So, let’s get our head around that display of dubious logic. A peaceful development of détente between two adversaries is somehow presented as a pernicious “upending of US strategy on North Korea”. In other words, peace is sold here as war.

Take for example this choice editorial comment from the NY Times in the second report: “This latest gesture of unity, the most dramatic in a decade, could add to fears in Washington that Pyongyang is making progress on a more far-reaching agenda.”

And what, one wonders, would that “far-reaching agenda” entail?

Again the NY Times elaborates: “White House officials warn that the ultimate goal of [North Korean leader] Mr Kim is to evict American troops from the Korean Peninsula and to reunify the two Koreas under a single flag… For the United States, the fear has been that North Korea’s gestures will drive a wedge between it and its ally, South Korea.”

Only in a perverse Orwellian worldview would an initiative to calm tensions and build peaceful relations be construed as something to “fear” and be opposed to.

Only in a perverse Orwellian worldview would peaceful dialogue provoke plans for pre-emptive war.

But that is precisely the kind of dystopian world that Washington and its lackeys inhabit.

January 19, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘When US sidelined, Koreas can work towards peace & stability, talks suggest’

RT | January 18, 2018

US policy is a distraction from the ongoing Korean talks, which Seoul hopes will eventually lead to the denuclearization of the entire peninsula, security analyst Charles Shoebridge told RT.

The third session of inter-Korean talks in a week signalled a significant breakthrough in the frosty ties between the two Koreas. And while the thaw in relations was welcomed by Seoul, the recent rapprochement was greeted with skepticism by 20 foreign ministers of the so-called “Vancouver Group,” which defended South Korea during the Korean War more than five decades ago.

“It is particularly ironic… That while this… Thawing of tensions is going on between North and South… It’s happening… In Vancouver, the former allies of South Korea are tightening the noose, increasing the rhetoric, raising the temperature,” Shoebridge told RT after the US-led group decided to consider unilateral sanctions against Pyongyang Tuesday.

The US is adamant that it will apply not only economic and diplomatic pressure, but also issue military threats to force N. Korea to disarm. On Wednesday, Seoul and Washington “reaffirmed its security commitment to the defense of South Korea using all categories of its military capabilities,” the Ministry of National Defense said. The allies also “agreed to continue the rotational deployment of US strategic assets to South Korea and nearby areas as long as North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats persist.”

The decision to keep up with military threats comes the same day as Donald Trump expressed doubt that the intra-Korean talks will lead to “anything meaningful.” The US president also warned that it is “very possible” that the standoff with North Korea might not be resolved peacefully. Charles Shoebridge criticized Washington’s foreign policy, pointing out that Seoul and Pyongyang can achieve much more if the US stops interfering in their “considerable diplomatic achievement.”

“These talks themselves started on the back of South Korea agreeing to persuade America to at least pause its military exercises,” Shoebridge told RT. “It appears to be the case when the interests and the foreign policy, and the actions of the United States are put to one side, local players are, to some degree at least, able to start finding local solutions, [and] make some progress towards securing their local interests, which are usually peace and stability.”

China and Russia – two major regional players who were not invited to participate in the Vancouver summit this week – criticized Washington’s pessimistic outlook of the Korean diplomatic process. Participants that gathered in Canada, while rejecting the Chinese-Russian ‘double freeze’ roadmap for easing Korean tensions, failed to provide any alternative, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

In July 2017, Moscow and Beijing proposed the initiative that would see the US and its allies halting all major military exercises in the region in exchange for Pyongyang suspending its nuclear and ballistic missile program. The ‘double freeze’ initiative, however, was once again rebuffed by Washington Tuesday during the Vancouver summit.

Beijing also slammed the meeting, saying it was driven by a Cold War mentality. “When major parties to the Korean Peninsula issue are not present, such a meeting will not contribute to properly resolving the issue,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang pointed out Wednesday. “All parties should cherish the hard-won momentum of easing tension on the peninsula, support the efforts made by the DPRK and the ROK in improving ties, and double their commitment in alleviating the situation and promoting dialogues.”

On Wednesday, North Korea agreed to allow a joint women’s ice hockey team to participate at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics (February 9-25) and march together as one with their southern neighbor under a “unified Korea” flag at the opening ceremony.

The North also consented to send a 150-member delegation of athletes and cheerleaders to the Paralympic games in March. South Korean President Moon Jae-in once again expressed hope Wednesday that the inter-Korean talks will pave the way for broader dialogue between the United States and the North which could eventually lead to the resolution of the North Korean nuclear standoff.

January 18, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

Vancouver summit on N. Korea failed to provide alternative to Russian & Chinese proposals – Moscow

RT | January 17, 2018

The joint US-Canada summit is just a “heavy-handed attempt” to undermine the decisions of the UNSC, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said. It added that the meeting failed to provide an alternative to the Russian-Chinese initiative.

Participants at the Vancouver summit failed to provide any alternative to the existing Chinese-Russian roadmap for easing the Korean knot, the ministry said in statement. It noted that instead of coming up with any “constructive” results, the gathering demonstrated “absolute disrespect” for the authority of the UN Security Council (UNSC).

What’s more, the decision to consider imposing unilateral sanctions against North Korea that overstep the demands outlined by the UNSC resolutions are “absolutely unacceptable and counterproductive,” the statement added. The ministry said further that a situation, in which some countries adopt roles as interpreters of UNSC resolutions without any permission or mandate – thus undermining the role of the UN – is “absolutely inadmissible.”

Back in July 2017, Moscow and Beijing put forward a proposal known as the ‘double-freeze’ initiative that envisaged the US and its allies halting all major military exercises in the region in exchange for Pyongyang suspending its nuclear and ballistic missile program. The initiative was, however, turned down by Washington – which was reiterated on Tuesday during the Vancouver summit.

The same day, the Russian Foreign Ministry again drew attention to the fact that the initiative is aimed at “resolving the entire range of problems [around the Korean Peninsula] solely through the political and diplomatic means.”

The Vancouver meeting, on the contrary, did not contribute to the normalization of the situation on the peninsula and only exacerbated existing tensions, the ministry said. Notably, neither Russia nor China was invited to the gathering despite being major players in the region as well as immediate neighbors of North Korea.

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that he was told Russia and China would only be “briefed” on the results of the meeting, calling such an attitude “unacceptable.” He also said that it would be a “great result already” if the meeting merely avoided leading to anything “counterproductive.”

Beijing also slammed the summit by saying that it had “not the slightest legality and representativeness.” It also accused the meeting participants of evoking Cold War ghosts. Pyongyang denounced the Vancouver summit as a “provocation” which is not helping the talks between North and South Korea.

In the meantime, US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard noted that it was the US regime change policy that prompted Pyongyang to develop its nuclear and missile arsenal in the first place. She turned to Twitter to call on Washington to put an end to such practices as well as to cast away “unrealistic preconditions” that the US government has been setting for decades to negotiate with North Korea.

January 17, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Why “Coercive Diplomacy” is a Dangerous Farce

By Gareth Porter | Dissident Voice | January 16, 2018

With his recent “my (nuclear) button is bigger than yours” taunt, Donald Trump’s rhetoric has fully descended into school yard braggadocio, with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un as a convenient foil. But his administration’s overwhelming reliance on military and economic pressure rather than on negotiations to influence North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ICBM programs is hardly new. It is merely a continuation of a well-established tradition of carrying out what the national security elite call “coercive diplomacy”.

As Alexander George, the academic specialist on international relations who popularized the concept, wrote:

The general idea of coercive diplomacy is to back one’s demand on an adversary with a threat of punishment for noncompliance that he will consider credible and potent enough to persuade him to comply with the demand.

The converse of that fixation on coercion, of course, is rejection of genuine diplomatic negotiations, which would have required the United States to agree to changes in its own military and diplomatic policies.

It is no accident that the doctrine of coercive diplomacy acquired much of its appeal on the basis of a false narrative surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962—that John F. Kennedy’s readiness to go to war was what forced Khrushchev’s retreat from Cuba. In fact, a crucial factor in ending the crisis was JFK’s back-channel offer to withdraw U.S. missiles from Turkey, which were useful only as first strike weapons and which Khrushchev had been demanding. As George later observed, enthusiasts of coercive diplomacy had ignored the fact that success in resolving a crisis may “require genuine concessions to the opponent as part of a quid pro quo that secures one’s essential demands.”

The missile crisis occurred, of course, at a time when the United States had overwhelming strategic dominance over the Soviet Union. The post-Cold War period has presented an entirely different setting for its practice, in which both Iran and North Korea have acquired conventional weapons systems that could deter a U.S. air attack on either one.

Why Clinton and Bush Failed on North Korea

The great irony of the U.S. coercive diplomacy applied to Iran and North Korea is that it was all completely unnecessary. Both states were ready to negotiate agreements with the United States that would have provided assurances against nuclear weapons in return for U.S. concession to their own most vital security interests. North Korea began exploiting its nuclear program in the early 1990s in order to reach a broader security agreement with Washington. Iran, which was well aware of the North Korean negotiating strategy, began in private conversations in 2003 to cite the stockpile of enriched uranium it expected to acquire as bargaining chips to be used in negotiations with the United States and/or its European allies.

But those diplomatic strategies were frustrated by the long-standing attraction of the national security elite to the coercive diplomacy but also the bureaucratic interests of the Pentagon and CIA, newly bereft of the Soviet adversary that had kept their budgets afloat during the Cold War. In Disarming Strangers, the most authoritative account of Clinton administration policy, author and former State Department official Leon Sigal observes: “The North Korean threat was essential to the armed services’ rationale for holding the line on the budget,” which revolved around “a demanding and dubious requirement to meet two major contingencies, one shortly after the other, in the Persian Gulf and Korea.”

The Clinton administration briefly tried coercive diplomacy in mid-1994. Secretary of Defense William Perry prepared a plan for a U.S. air attack on the DPRK Plutonium reactor after North Korea had shut it down and removed the fuel rods, but would not agree to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to determine how many bombs- worth of Plutonium, if any, had been removed in the past. But before the strategy could be put into operation, former President Jimmy Carter informed the White House that Kim Il-sung had agreed to give up his plutonium program as part of a larger deal.

The Carter-Kim initiative, based on traditional diplomacy, led within a few months to the “Agreed Framework”, which could have transformed the security situation on the Korean Peninsula. But that agreement was much less than it may have seemed. In order to succeed in denuclearizing North Korea, the Clinton administration would have been required to deal seriously with North Korean demands for a fundamental change in bilateral relations between the two countries, ending the state of overt U.S. enmity toward Pyongyang.

U.S. diplomats knew, however, that the Pentagon was not willing to entertain any such fundamental change. They were expecting to be able to spin out the process of implementation for years, anticipating the Kim regime would collapse from mass starvation before the U.S. would be called upon to alter its policy toward North Korea.

The Bush administration, too, was unable to carry out a strategy of coercive diplomacy toward Iran and North Korea over their nuclear and missile programs because its priority was the occupation of Iraq, which bogged down the U.S. military and ruled out further adventures. Its only coercive effort was a huge March 2007 Persian Gulf naval exercise that involved two naval task forces, a dozen warships, and 100 aircraft. But it was aimed not at coercing Iran to abandon its nuclear program, but at gaining “leverage” over Iran in regard to Iran’s role in the Iraq War itself.

On nuclear and missile programs, the administration had to content itself with the highly subjective assumption that the regimes in both Iran and North Korea would both be overthrown within a relatively few years. Meanwhile, however, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, whose primary interest was funding and deploying a very expensive national missile defense system, killed the unfinished Clinton agreement with North Korea. And after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice got Bush’s approval to negotiate a new agreement with Pyongyang, Cheney sabotaged that one as well. Significantly no one in the Bush administration made any effort to negotiate with North Korea on its missile program.

Obama Whiffs on Iran and North Korea

Unlike the Bush administration, the Obama administration pursued a carefully planned strategy of coercive diplomacy strategy toward Iran. Although Obama sent a message to Supreme Leader Khamenei of Iran offering talks “without preconditions,” he had earlier approved far-reaching new economic sanctions against Iran. And in his first days in office he had ordered history’s first state-sponsored cyber-attack targeting Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz.

Although Obama did not make any serious efforts to threaten Iran’s nuclear targets directly in a military attack, he did exploit the Netanyahu government’s threat to attack those facilities. That was the real objective of Obama’s adoption of a new “nuclear posture” that included the option of a first use of nuclear weapons against Iran if it were to use conventional force against an ally. In the clearest expression of Obama’s coercive strategy, in early 2012 Defense Secretary Leon Panetta suggested to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius that the Iranians could convince the U.S. that its nuclear program was for civilian purposes or face the threat of an Israeli attack or an escalation of covert U.S. actions against the Iranian nuclear program.

In his second term, Obama abandoned the elaborate multilayered coercive diplomacy strategy, which had proven a complete failure, and made significant U.S. diplomatic concessions to Iran’s interests to secure the final nuclear deal of July 2015. In keeping with coercive diplomacy, however, the conflict over fundamental U.S. and Iranian policies and interests in the Middle East remained outside the realm of bilateral negotiations.

On North Korea, the Obama administration was even more hostile to genuine diplomacy than Bush. In his account of Obama’s Asian policy, Obama’s special assistant, Jeffrey Bader, describes a meeting of the National Security Council in March 2009 at which Obama declared that he wanted to break “the cycle of provocation, extortion and reward” that previous administrations had tolerated over 15 years. That description, which could have come from the lips of Dick Cheney himself, not only misrepresented what little negotiation had taken place with Pyongyang, but implied that any concessions to North Korea in return for its sacrifice of nuclear or missile programs represented abject appeasement.

It should be no surprise, therefore, that Obama did nothing at all, to head off a nuclear-armed North Korean ICBM, even though former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter acknowledged to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last November, “We knew that it was a possibility six or seven years ago.” In fact, he admitted, the administration had not really tried to test North Korean intentions diplomatically, because “we’re not in a frame of mind to give much in the way or rewards.” The former Pentagon chief opined that no diplomatic concession could be made to North Korea’s security interests “as long as they have nuclear weapons.”

The Obama administration was thus demanding unilateral concession by North Korea on matters involving vital interests of the regime that Washington certainly understood by then could not be obtained without significant concessions to North Korea’s security interests. As Carter freely admits, they knew exactly what the consequences of that policy were in terms of North Korea’s likely achievement of an ICBM.

This brief overview of the role of coercive diplomacy in post-Cold War policy suggests that the concept has devolved into convenient political cover for maintaining the same old Cold War policies and military posture regarding Iran and North Korea, despite new and essentially unnecessary costs to U.S. security interests. The United States could have and should have reached new accommodations with its regional adversaries, just as it had with the Soviet Union and China during the Cold War. To do so, however, would have put at risk Pentagon and CIA budgetary interests worth potentially hundreds of billions of dollars as well as symbolic power and status.


Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. His Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare was published in 2014.

January 17, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Intra-Korean Talks: Who Got Whom To Blink First?

By Andrew KORYBKO – Oriental Review – 15/01/2018

Intra-Korean talks resumed in the run-up to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and immediately following Trump’s threatening tweet about his big nuclear button.

The American President claimed in a later tweet that his tough stance was the reason why Kim Jong-Un decided to return to the negotiating table, but the truth is that North Korea did this immediately following news that the US and South Korea delayed a planned military drill until after the upcoming Olympic Games. In hindsight, it’s possible that Trump’s “nuclear brinksmanship” on social media was meant to divert the attention of the global masses from this ‘politically inconvenient’ fact and provide a ‘face-saving’ distraction from a pragmatic move that could have otherwise misleadingly been painted by his opponents as “backing down”.

As it stands, Trump believes that the implementation of his “Madman Theory” in practice is the reason why it was Kim who backed down, not himself, while Kim seems to think that his year of successful nuclear and missile tests was responsible for the US taking the first step in de-escalating the situation by delaying its upcoming military exercises with South Korea. Both sides can brush off any criticism over who blinked first by actually embracing this charge and justifying it on the basis of being in the “Olympic spirit”, thereby turning any potential attack into a soft power advantage if they’re clever enough.

It’s highly likely that this incipient “détente” will only last until the end of the Olympics, if at all, but there’s also the chance that it could provide China with a golden opportunity to make progress in mediating the crisis on the peninsula. Beijing has previously called for a so-called “double freeze”, or the simultaneous suspension of US-South Korean military drills and North Korean nuclear & missile tests, which is actually what in fact has just temporarily happened despite none of the parties openly recognizing this. Depending on the outcome of the intra-Korean talks, South Korean President Moon Jae-In might even feel encouraged to revive last year’s campaign pledge to initiate a “New Sunshine Policy” towards North Korea.

The challenge to this happening has always been the US, which has sought to provoke North Korea over the past year in order to provide South Korea with the ‘plausible pretext’ for shelving this policy and agreeing to more THAAD deployments on the peninsula, so it remains to be seen whether America will ruin the possibly positive progress that both sides might make. Even if it tries to, however, then it’ll be important for North Korea not to take the bait, since this “goodwill gesture” could build enormous trust and confidence in the South Koreans and show them that Pyongyang is serious about abiding by China’s “double freeze”, which could conceivably enter into effect so long as Seoul is convinced to continue delaying military drills with the US or outright suspending them like Beijing proposed.

To revisit the analysis’ original question, it can be argued in conclusion that neither Trump nor Kim backed down in paving the way for the intra-Korean talks, but that both have an interest in making it seem like their rival was the one who did, though the ultimate judge of character will be in seeing which of the two subverts the “Olympic spirit” either during the games or afterwards in returning to the status quo of much-ballyhooed rhetorical hostility.

The post presented is the partial transcript of the CONTEXT COUNTDOWN radio program on Sputnik News, aired on Friday Jan 12, 2018.

January 15, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Sabotaging Peace in Korea

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | January 3, 2018

It just might be that the two Koreas are figuring out a way to avoid war, much to the anger and chagrin of President Trump and the U.S. national-security establishment, who are obviously increasingly viewing war as inevitable and even in the best interests of the United States.

Why, even the U.S. mainstream press, which oftentimes seems to operate as an ex officio spokesman for the U.S. government, appears irritated over North Korea’s initiation of talks with South Korea. The press describes North Korea’s overtures not as an attempt to avoid war but instead as a cynical attempt to “drive a wedge” between the United States and South Korea.

Actually, it’s President Trump, who is obviously upset that the Koreas are marginalizing him, that is using his ridiculous and dangerous tweeting abilities to further provoke North Korea, with the obvious intent of “driving a wedge” between North Korea and South Korea, a wedge that could conceivably sabotage talks between them.

Let’s first get to the root of the problem in Korea. That root is the U.S. government, specifically the U.S. national-security branch of the government, i.e., the Pentagon and the CIA. That’s the reason there is a crisis in Korea. That’s the reason why war could suddenly break out, killing hundreds of thousands of people and more if it the war turns nuclear.

The U.S. government and its acolytes in the mainstream press say that the problem is with North Korea’s nuclear development program.

Balderdash! The problem is with the Pentagon’s and CIA’s decades-old aim to effect regime change in North Korea, a Cold War aim that they have never been able to let go of. That’s why the Pentagon has some 35,000 troops stationed in South Korea. That’s why they have regular military exercises over there. That’s why they have those bomber fly-overs. They want regime change, bad, just like they still do in Cuba and Iran, and just like they wanted (and got) in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Chile, Guatemala, Indonesia, and so many other countries.

That’s why North Korea wants nuclear bombs — to protect its communist regime by deterring the United States from attacking and fulfilling its decades-old aim of regime change. North Korea knows that a nuclear deterrent is the only thing that might deter the Pentagon and the CIA from attacking.

The nuclear deterrent strategy certainly worked for Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Once the Soviet Union installed nuclear missiles in Cuba, that stopped the Pentagon and the CIA from attacking and invading the island again and even caused President Kennedy to vow that the Pentagon and the CIA would not again invade the island.

North Korea also has seen what happens to impoverished Third World regimes that don’t have nuclear weapons, like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. They go down quickly to defeat and regime change at the hands of an all-powerful First World country.

Here’s the big point: Korea is none of the U.S. government’s business. Never has been and never will be. The Korean conflict was always nothing more than a civil war. A civil war in an Asian country is none of the U.S. government’s business. It wasn’t in the 1950s when the war broke out. It still isn’t. Korea is the business of the Korean people.

Keep in mind also that U.S. interventionism into the Korean War was always illegal under our form of constitutional government. The Constitution, which the president, the Pentagon, and the CIA, swear to uphold, requires a congressional declaration of war. There was never a congressional declaration of war against North Korea. That means that U.S. troops and CIA agents had no legal right to kill anyone in Korea, not with rifles, artillery, carpet bombing, or with the use of germ warfare against the North Korean people.

The Pentagon and the CIA claimed that it was necessary to illegally intervene in Korea because the communists were coming to get us. It was a lie, just as the entire Cold War was a lie. It was all just one great big fear-mongering racket to solidify the power and control of the military and intelligence services over the American people.

Those 35,000 U.S. troops in Korea today have no business being there, not only because the communists are still not coming to get us but also because they are simply the outgrowth of the original illegal intervention in the 1950s. The Pentagon has those troops there for one reason and only one reason: No, not to defend and protect the South Korean people, who are of minor importance to U.S. officials compared to the United States, but rather to serve as “tripwire” to guarantee U.S. involvement should war once again break out between the two Koreas.

In other words, no congressional deliberation on a declaration of war on whether to get involved should war break out. No national debate. Once tens of thousands of troops are automatically killed, the United States is, as a practical matter, stuck, trapped, committed. That’s why the Pentagon and the CIA have those troops there — to box in the American people — to deprive them of a choice on whether to get involved in another land war in Asia or not.

That makes U.S. soldiers in Korea nothing more than little pawns. Their assigned role is to die in order to ensure that Congress has no say on whether the U.S. gets involved in another land war in Asia. The Pentagon and the CIA, not Congress, remain in charge.

Why hasn’t the U.S. already attacked North Korea? One big reason: China. It says that if the United States starts the war, it’s coming in on the side of North Korea. China has lots of troops that could easily be sent into Korea to fight against U.S. forces. It also has a nuclear capability that can easily hit the United States.

So, that leaves Trump and his national security establishment doing their best to provoke North Korea into “firing the first shot,” or at least making it look like they have fired the first shot, like what happened at the Gulf of Tonkin or what the Pentagon hoped to accomplish with Operation Northwoods and a concocted war against Cuba.

If Trump can successfully taunt, tease, antagonize, and provoke North Korea into attacking first, then he and his national-security establishment can exclaim, “We’ve been attacked by the communists! We’re shocked! We’re innocent! We have no choice but to protect America by carpet-bombing North Korea again, this time with nuclear bombs.”

And as long as it’s not the United States that suffers the death and destruction, it will all be considered acceptable. Tens of thousands of U.S. troops will be dead. Hundreds of thousands of Koreans will also be dead. Both countries will be devastated. But the United States will remain intact and, equally important, will no longer be threatened by North Korea’s growing nuclear capability. It will all be considered a victory as far as the United States is concerned.

That’s why the South Koreans are smart in agreeing to talk to North Korea. If they were really smart, they would give Trump, the Pentagon, and the CIA the boot. The best thing South Korea could ever do is immediately kick out every U.S. soldier and every CIA agent out of their country. Send them packing back to the United States.

Sure, Trump would be hopping bad, just as the Pentagon and the CIA would be. So what? It would be the best thing that could ever happen to Korea, the United States, and the world.

January 4, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Beijing responds to report of secret aid to North Korea with two words

‘Fake news’

Asia Times | January 3, 2018

An unverified report that Beijing was negotiating a secret deal with Pyongyang, published on Tuesday by the Washington Free Beacon, and syndicated by the Washington Times newspaper, has not gained much traction beyond that spattering of conservative American news outlets, garnering only a healthy dose of skepticism.

Not surprisingly, China was also not interested.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang responded Wednesday to a Chinese-language question on the report with two words – in English.

“Fake news,” Geng was quoted as saying in the official transcript of Wednesday’s regular press breifing. Next question, please.

The “top secret” document published in the report was purported to be from “a person who once had ties to the Chinese intelligence and security communities,” whatever that means, but the author also said he could not independently verify the document.

The question we posed yesterday is whether conservative media’s reporting of the document as newsworthy will pique Trump’s interest, regardless of its veracity. If the report was true, it makes Trump look like he was played like a fiddle, so he might be careful not to draw attention.

We might also see if the US president buys the “fake news” line — which he uses exclusively to lambast hostile liberal media — when it is used against conservative media supportive of his administration.

January 4, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 3 Comments

The WannaCry Cyberattack: What the Evidence Says and Why the Trump Administration Blames North Korea

By Gregory Elich | CounterPunch | January 3, 2018

On December 19, in a Wall Street Journal editorial that drew much attention, Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert asserted that North Korea was “directly responsible” for the WannaCry cyberattack that struck more than 300,000 computers worldwide. The virus encrypted files on infected computers and demanded payment in return for supposedly providing a decryption key to allow users to regain access to locked files. Bossert charged that North Korea was “using cyberattacks to fund its reckless behavior and cause disruption across the world.” [1]

At a press conference on the same day, Bossert announced that the attribution was made “with evidence,” and that WannaCry “was directed by the government of North Korea,” and carried out by “actors on their behalf, intermediaries.” The evidence that led to the U.S. to that conclusion? Bossert was not saying, perhaps recalling the ridicule that greeted the FBI and Department of Homeland Security’s misbegotten report on the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. [2] “Press Briefing on the Attribution of the WannaCry Malware Attack to North Korea,” Whitehouse.gov, December 19, 2017.

The centerpiece of the claim of North Korean culpability is the similarity in code between the Contopee malware, which opens backdoor access to an infected computer, and code in an early variant of WannaCry. [3]

Contopee has been linked to the Lazarus group, a cybercrime organization that some believe launched the Sony hack, based on the software tools used in that attack. Since North Korea is widely considered to be behind the cyberattack on Sony, at first glance that would appear to seal the argument.

It is a logical argument, but is it founded on valid premises? Little is known about Lazarus, aside from the operations that are attributed to it. The link between Lazarus and North Korea is a hypothesis based on limited evidence. It may or may not be true, but the apparent linkage is far weaker than mainstream media’s conviction would have one believe. Lazarus appears to be an independent organization possibly based in China, which North Korea may or may not have contracted to perform certain operations. That does not necessarily mean that every action – or even any action at all – Lazarus performs is at North Korea’s behest.

In Bossert’s mind as well as that of media reporters, Lazarus – the intermediaries Bossert refers to – and North Korea are synonymous when it comes to cyber operations. North Korea gives the orders and Lazarus carries them out. James Scott, a senior fellow at the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, notes that “speculation concerning WannaCry attributes the malware to the Lazarus Group, not to North Korea, and even those connections are premature and not wholly convincing. Lazarus itself has never been definitively proven to be a North Korean state-sponsored advanced persistent threat (APT); in fact, an abundance of evidence suggests that the Lazarus group may be a sophisticated, well-resourced, and expansive cyber-criminal and occasional cyber-mercenary collective.” Furthermore, Scott adds, the evidence used to tie Lazarus to North Korea, “such as an IP hop or some language indicators, are circumstantial and could even be intentional false flags” to misdirect investigators. [4]

Whether an association exists or not between Lazarus and North Korea has little meaning regarding a specific attack. Joseph Carson of Thycotic emphasizes “that it is important to be clear that [Lazarus] is a group and motives can change depending on who is paying. I have found when researching hacking groups they can one day be working for one government under one alias and another using a different alias. This means that association in cyberspace means nothing.” [5]

It is considered a particularly damning piece of evidence that some of the tools used in an early variant of WannaCry share characteristics with those deployed in the cyberattack on Sony. [6] However, there is ample cause for doubting North Korea’s role in the Sony hack, as I have written about before. [7] Following the Sony breach, IT businessman John McAfee revealed that he had contact with the group that attacked Sony. “It has to do with a group of hackers” motivated by dislike of the movie industry’s “controlling the content of art,” he said, and the FBI was wrong in attributing the attack to North Korea. [8]

If attribution of the Sony hack to North Korea does not hold up, then linkage based on tool usage falls apart.

Once malware is deployed, it often appears for sale on the Dark Web, where it can be purchased by cybercriminals. The reuse of code is a time-saving measure in building new threats. Indeed, malware can find its way onto the market quite rapidly, and almost as soon as WannaCry was wreaking havoc back in May, it was reported that “researchers are already finding variants” of WannaCry “in the wild.” [9]

According to Peter Stephenson of SC Media, “The most prevailing [theory] uses blocks of code that were part of known Korean hacks appearing in the WannaCry code as justification for pinning the attacks on NK. That’s really not enough. These blocks of code are readily available in the underground and get reused regularly.” [10]

Commonality of tool usage means less than we are led to believe. “While malware may initially be developed and used by a single actor,” Digital Shadows explains, “this does not mean that it will permanently remain unique to that actor. Malware samples might be accidentally or intentionally leaked, stolen, sold, or used in independent operations by individual members of the group.” [11]

“Shared code is not the same as attribution. Code can be rewritten and erased by anyone, and shared code is often reused,” observes Patrick Howell O’Neill of Cyberscoop. “The same technique could potentially be used to frame another group as responsible for a hack but, despite a lot of recent speculation, there is no definitive proof.” [12]

None of the shared code was present in WannaCry’s widespread attack on May 12. Although it is more likely than not that the same actor was behind the early variants of WannaCry and the May version, it is not certain. Alan Woodward, cybersecurity advisor to Europol, points out, “It is quite possible for even a relatively inexperienced group to obtain the malicious WannaCry payload and to have repackaged this. Hence, the only thing actually tying the May attacks to the earlier WannaCry attacks is the payload, which criminals often copy.” [13]

The most devastating component WannaCry utilized in its May 12 attack is EternalBlue, an exploit of Windows vulnerabilities that was developed by the National Security Agency and leaked by Shadow Brokers. The NSA informed Microsoft of the vulnerability only after it learned of the software’s theft. According to Bossert, the NSA informs software manufacturers about 90 percent of the time when it discovers a vulnerability in operating software. It keeps quiet about the remaining ten percent so that it can “use those vulnerabilities to develop exploits for the purpose of national security for the classified work we do.” [14] Plainly put, the NSA intentionally leaves individuals and organizations worldwide exposed to potential security breaches so that it can conduct its own cyber operations. This is less than reassuring.

The May variant of WannaCry also implemented DoublePulsar, which is a backdoor implant developed by the NSA that allows an attacker to gain full control over a system and load executable malware.

The two NSA-developed components are what allowed WannaCry to turn virulent last May. After loading, EternalBlue proceeds to infect every other vulnerable computer on the same network. It simultaneously generates many thousands of random IP addresses and launches 128 threads at two-second intervals, seeking vulnerabilities in computers that it can exploit at each one of the generated external IP addresses.[15]

China and Russia were among the nations that were most negatively impacted by the malware. [16] WannaCry initially targeted Russian systems, which would seem an odd thing for North Korea to do, given that Russia and China are the closest things it has to allies. [17]

Digital Shadows reports that “the malware appeared to spread virtually indiscriminately with no control by its operators,” and a more targeted approach “would have been more consistent with the activities of a sophisticated criminal outfit or a technically-competent nation-state actor.” [18]

Flashpoint analyzed the ransom note that appeared on infected computers. There were two Chinese versions and an English version. The Chinese texts were written by someone who is fluent, and the English by someone with a strong but imperfect command of English. Ransom notes in other languages were apparently translated from the English version using Google translator. [19] It has been pointed out that this fact does not disprove the U.S. attribution of North Korea, as that nation could have hired Chinese cybercriminals. True enough, but then North Korea does not have a unique ability to do so. If so inclined, anyone could contract Chinese malware developers.  Or cybercriminals could act on their own.

Lazarus and North Korean cyber actors have a reputation for developing sophisticated code. The hallmark of WannaCry, however, is its sheer sloppiness, necessitating the release of a series of new versions in fairly quick succession. Alan Woodward believes that WannaCry’s poorly designed code reveals that it had been written by “a less than experienced malware developer.” [20]

Important aspects of the code were so badly bungled that it is difficult to imagine how any serious organization could be responsible.

IT security specialists use virtual machines, or sandboxes, to safely test and analyze malware code. A well-designed piece of malware will include logic to detect the type of environment it is executing in and alter its performance in a virtual machine (VM) environment to appear benign. WannaCry was notably lacking in that regard.  “The authors did not appear to be concerned with thwarting analysis, as the samples analyzed have contained little if any obfuscation, anti-debugging, or VM-aware code,” notes LogRhythm Labs. [21]

James Scott argues that “every WannaCry attack has lacked the stealth, sophistication, and resources characteristic of [Lazarus sub-group] Bluenoroff itself or Lazarus as a whole. If either were behind WannaCry, the attacks likely would have been more targeted, had more of an impact, would have been persistent, would have been more sophisticated, and would have garnered significantly greater profits.” The EternalBlue exploit was too valuable to waste “on a prolific and unprofitable campaign” like the May 12 WannaCry attack. By contrast, Bluenoroff “prefers to silently integrate into processes, extort them, and invisibly disappear after stealing massive fiscal gains.” [22] Bogdan Botezatu of Bitdefender, agrees. “The attack wasn’t targeted and there was no clear gain for them. It’s doubtful they would use such a powerful exploit for anything else but espionage.” [23]

WannaCry included a “kill switch,” apparently intended as a poorly thought out anti-VM feature. “For the life of me,” comments Peter Stephenson, “I can’t see why they might think that would work.” [24] When the software executes it first attempts to connect to a hostname that was unregistered. The malware would proceed to run if the domain was not valid. A cybersecurity researcher managed to disable WannaCry by registering the domain through NameCheap.com, shutting down with ease the ability of WannaCry to infect any further computers. [25]

Once WannaCry infected a computer, it demanded a ransom of $300 in bitcoin to release the files it had encrypted. After three days, the price doubled. The whole point of WannaCry was to generate income, and it is here where the code was most inept.

Ideally, ransomware like WannaCry would use a new account number for each infected computer, to better ensure anonymity. Instead, WannaCry hard-coded just three account numbers, which basically informed authorities what accounts to monitor. [26] It is an astonishing botch.

Incredibly, WannaCry lacked the capability of automatically identifying which victims paid the ransom. That meant that determining the source of each payment required manual effort, a daunting task given the number of infected computers. [27] Inevitably, decryption keys were not sent to paying victims and once the word got out, there was no motivation for anyone else to pay.

In James Scott’s assessment, “The WannaCry attack attracted very high publicity and very high law-enforcement visibility while inflicting arguably the least amount of damage a similar campaign that size could cause and garnering profits lower than even the most rudimentary script kiddie attacks.” Scott was incredulous over claims that WannaCry was a Lazarus operation. “There is no logical rationale defending the theory that the methodical [Lazarus], known for targeted attacks with tailored software, would suddenly launch a global campaign dependent on barely functional ransomware.” [28]

One would never know it from news reports, but cybersecurity attribution is rarely absolute. Hal Berghel, of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Nevada, comments on the “absence of detailed strategies to provide justifiable, evidence-based cyberattribution. There’s a reason for that: there is none. The most we have is informed opinion.”  The certainty with which government officials and media assign blame in high-profile cyberattacks to perceived enemies should at least raise questions. “So whenever a politician, pundit, or executive tries to attribute something to one group or another, our first inclination should always be to look for signs of attribution bias, cognitive bias, cultural bias, cognitive dissonance, and so forth. Our first principle should be cui bono: What agendas are hidden? Whose interests are being represented or defended? What’s the motivation behind the statement? Where are the incentives behind the leak or reportage? How many of the claims have been substantiated by independent investigators?” [29]

IT security specialist Graham Cluley raises an important question. “I think in the current hostile climate between USA and North Korea it’s not unhelpful to retain some skepticism about why this claim might have been made, and what may have motivated the claim to be made at the present time.” [30]

To all appearances, WannaCry was the work of amateurish developers who got hold of NSA software that allowed the malware to spread like wildfire, but their own code was so poorly written that it failed to monetize the effort to any meaningful degree.

WannaCry has its uses, though. The Trump administration’s public attribution is “more about the administration’s message that North Korea is a dangerous actor than it is about cybersecurity,” says Ross Rustici, head of Intelligence Research at Cybereason. “They’re trying to lay the groundwork for people to feel like North Korea is a threat to the homeland.” [31] It is part of a campaign by the administration to stampede the public into supporting harsh measures or possibly even military action against North Korea.

[1] Thomas P. Bossert, “It’s Official: North Korea is Behind WannaCry,” Wall Street Journal,” December 19, 2017.

[2] “Press Briefing on the Attribution of the WannaCry Malware Attack to North Korea,” Whitehouse.gov, December 19, 2017.

[3] “WannaCry and Lazarus Group – the Missing Link?” SecureList, May 15, 2017.

[4] James Scott, “There’s Proof That North Korea Launched the WannaCry Attack? Not So Fast! – A Warning Against Premature, Inconclusive, and Distracting Attribution,” Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, May 23, 2017.

[5] Eduard Kovacs, “Industry Reactions to U.S. Blaming North Korea for WannaCry,” Security Week, December 22, 2017.

[6] “WannaCry: Ransomware Attacks Show Strong Links to Lazarus Group,” Symantec Official Blog, May 22, 2017.

[7] Gregory Elich, “Who Was Behind the Cyberattack on Sony?” Counterpunch, December 30, 2014.

[8] David Gilbert, Gareth Platt, “John McAfee: ‘I Know Who Hacked Sony Pictures – and it Wasn’t North Korea,” International Business Times, January 19, 2015.

[9] Amanda Rousseau, “WCry/WanaCry Ransomware Technical Analysis,” Endgame, May 14, 2017.

[10] Peter Stephenson, “WannaCry Attribution: I’m Not Convinced Kim Dunnit, but a Russian…”, SC Media, May 21, 2017.

[11] Digital Shadows Analyst Team, “WannaCry: An Analysis of Competing Hypotheses,” Digital Shadows, May 18, 2017.

[12] Patrick Howell O’Neill, “Researchers: WannaCry Ransomware Shares Code with North Korean Malware,” Cyberscoop, May 15, 2017.

[13] Alan Woodward, “Attribution is Difficult – Consider All the Evidence,” Cyber Matters, May 24, 2017.

[14] Thomas P. Bossert, “It’s Official: North Korea is Behind WannaCry,” Wall Street Journal,” December 19, 2017.

[15] Luke Somerville, Abel Toro, “WannaCry Post-Outbreak Analysis,” Forcepoint, May 16, 2017.

Sarah Maloney, “WannaCry / WCry /WannaCrypt Attack Profile,” Cybereason, May 16, 2017.

Rohit Langde, “WannaCry Ransomware: A Detailed Analysis of the Attack,” Techspective, September 26, 2017.

[16] Eduard Kovacs, “WannaCry Does Not Fit North Korea’s Style, Interests: Experts,” Security Week, May 19, 2017.

[17] “A Technical Analysis of WannaCry Ransomware,” LogRhythm, May 16, 2017.

[18] Digital Shadows Analyst Team, “WannaCry: An Analysis of Competing Hypotheses,” Digital Shadows, May 18, 2017.

[19] Jon Condra, John Costello, Sherman Chu, “Linguistic Analysis of WannaCry Ransomware Messages Suggests Chinese-Speaking Authors,” Flashpoint, May 25, 2017.

[20] Alan Woodward, “Attribution is Difficult – Consider All the Evidence,” Cyber Matters, May 24, 2017.

[21] Erika Noerenberg, Andrew Costis, Nathanial Quist, “A Technical Analysis of WannaCry Ransomware,” LogRhythm, May 16, 2017.

[22] James Scott, “There’s Proof That North Korea Launched the WannaCry Attack? Not So Fast! – A Warning Against Premature, Inconclusive, and Distracting Attribution,” Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, May 23, 2017.

[23] Eduard Kovacs, “WannaCry Does Not Fit North Korea’s Style, Interests: Experts,” Security Week, May 19, 2017.

[24] Peter Stephenson, “WannaCry Attribution: I’m Not Convinced Kim Dunnit, but a Russian…”, SC Media, May 21, 2017.

[25] Rohit Langde, “WannaCry Ransomware: A Detailed Analysis of the Attack,” Techspective, September 26, 2017.

[26] Jesse Dunietz, “The Imperfect Crime: How the WannaCry Hackers Could Get Nabbed,” Scientific American, August 16, 2017.

[27] Andy Greenberg, “The WannaCry Ransomware Hackers Made Some Major Mistakes,” Wired, May 15, 2017.

[28] James Scott, “WannaCry Ransomware & the Perils of Shoddy Attribution: It’s the Russians! No Wait, it’s the North Koreans!” Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, May 18, 2017.

[29] Hal Berghel, “On the Problem of (Cyber) Attribution,” Computer — IEEE Computer Society, March 2017.

[30] Scott Carey, “Should We Believe the White House When it Says North Korea is Behind WannaCry?” Computer World, December 20, 2017.

[31] John P. Mello Jr., “US Fingers North Korea for WannaCry Epidemic,” Tech News World, December 20, 2017.

Gregory Elich is on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute and the Advisory Board of the Korea Policy Institute. He is a member of the Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea, a columnist for Voice of the People, and one of the co-authors of Killing Democracy: CIA and Pentagon Operations in the Post-Soviet Period, published in the Russian language. He is also a member of the Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and Militarism in Asia and the Pacific. His website is https://gregoryelich.org Follow him on Twitter at @GregoryElich

January 3, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Kim Jong-un Opens Contact Channel Between Two Koreas

© Sputnik/ Ilya Pitalev
Sputnik – 03.01.2018

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered the reopening of a contact channel between Pyongyang and Seoul to discuss issues related to the upcoming Olympic games in Pyeongchang, Ri Son Gwon, the head of North Korea’s agency handling inter-Korean affairs, said as quoted by the Yonhap news agency.

“I was instructed to open the Panmunjom [the shared border village] contact channel between North and South at 15:00 [3:30 p.m. in Seoul, 6:30 GMT] in order to settle issues related to hosting the PyeongChang Olympic Games, including sending [North Korea’s] delegation to the Games,” Ri said.

The officials added that Pyongyang would closely work with Seoul on practical issues related to sending the country’s delegation to the upcoming sports event, based upon the leadership’s stance, and expressed the hope that the Olympics would be successful.

“We sincerely wish once again that the PyeongChang Olympic Games will be held successfully,” Ri said.

Cheong Wa Dae, South Korea’s presidential office welcomed the announcement.

“I believe it signals a move toward an environment where communication will be possible at all times,” Yoon Young-chan, the chief presidential spokesman, told reporters, as quoted by the news agency.

Pyongyang’s statement came a day after Seoul proposed high-level discussions with the DPRK following Kim’s New Year’s address in which he had stressed he was willing to launch a dialogue with South Korea.

Meanwhile, US Envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned in a statement on Tuesday that Washington would not recognize any talks between the two Koreas unless the nuclear issue is resolved and all of their nuclear weapons banned.

“North Korea can talk to anyone they want, but the United States is not going to recognize it or acknowledge it until they agree to ban the nuclear weapons that they have,” Haley said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year’s Day address that Pyongyang was ready to send its athletes to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and expressed readiness to start talks with Seoul on the issue.

Seoul, in turn, has proposed holding high-level talks on January 9 in Panmunjom Village in the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea.

The 2018 Winter Olympic Games will take place in Pyeongchang and two nearby cities, Gangneung and Jeongseon, in South Korea from February 9 to February 25. The South Korean resort city is located just 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the border with North Korea.

January 3, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

The World’s Real Nuclear Menace Isn’t North Korea

By Joshua Cho | CounterPunch | December 29, 2017

With growing speculation of war with North Korea and familiar apocalyptic rhetoric in recent times, the United States and North Korea have participated in increasingly bellicose exchanges. These recent exchanges range from President Trump calling on other nations to stop financing and trading with North Korea because it’s a “very serious nuclear menace,” redesignating North Korea as an official state sponsor of terrorism, to more North Korean nuclear missile tests and American and South Korean joint war games.

In light of the nuclear brinkmanship with North Korea bringing frequent comparisons to the Cuban Missile Crisis and discussion of hypothetical worst-case scenarios, it’s worth reviewing the United States’ record and examining whether North Korea is really the belligerent nuclear menace the world needs to liberate itself from. As critics of American foreign policy have noticed, the United States’ leaders, its media and its citizens never quite seem to recognize the full consequences of their country’s actions in other regions, or investigate its long history of conflict with North Korea.

To begin in chronological order, touring around the globe, it’s been noted by international relations scholars and historians that the Korean War is partly known as “The Forgotten War” because Americans have largely forgotten “the utter ruin and devastation” the United States inflicted upon North Korea. It’s not widely known that the United States’ own leaders have admitted to have “killed off” approximately 20% of North Korea’s population throughout the war by targeting “everything that moved.” Or that the United States destroyed more cities in North Korea than it did in Germany or Japan during World War II by dropping more bombs than it did throughout the entire Pacific Theatre. When there were few urban targets left to bomb, the United States began to bomb dams that supplied water for the production of rice—one of the quintessential food commodities in Asia—which led to mass starvation during and after the war. While Americans may not remember the carnage across the other side of the world, North Koreans have never forgotten the destruction on its own peninsula, nor the American threats to use nuclear weapons during the war which first inspired Kim Il-Sung to obtain his own nuclear deterrent decades ago.

Looking at events throughout the next few decades, it’s apparent that American policymakers either fail to consider, or disregard, how their duplicitous dealings and illegal military interventions across the world could inspire smaller countries like North Korea to seek more cost-effective and credible deterrents to an American invasion than large standing armies, in the form of nuclear weapons.

While American officials compare the situation in North Korea with the 1960s Cuban Missile Crisis by depicting North Korea as an irrational and unpredictable adversary willing to initiate nuclear destruction, the real comparison lies in the United States’ refusal to live under the same threat it subjects to other countries, which forms a straight line of continuity to the present.

Historians have long known that John F. Kennedy lied to the American public by claiming that the Eisenhower-Nixon administrations had allowed a dangerous missile gap to grow in the Soviet Union’s favor, despite the opposite being the case. And that Nikita Khrushchev was inspired to equalize the balance of power by dispatching Soviet nuclear weapons to Cuba upon learning that the United States had stationed its nuclear weapons near the Soviet Union in Turkey, and to deter the United States from launching an invasion of Cuba. This fear of invasion was a justifiable concern considering the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in the previous year and the CIA’s ongoing Operation Mongoose at the time, which tried to undermine the Castro regime through assassination attempts and sabotage.

However, the United States found the mere perception of an even playing field intolerable as it dispatched a naval blockade, considered an act of war in international law, to prevent further missiles from reaching Cuba. All of this happened despite Kennedy’s own assessment that the blockade would increase the probability of war to climb as high as 50%. We now know that even top-level decision makers like former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara were rendered speechless decades later upon learning that both the United States and Cuba had severely underestimated the risk of nuclear war at the time.

In the end, nuclear war was barely averted by the heroism of Soviet submarine officer Vasili Arkhipov, who disobeyed orders to to launch a nuclear torpedo in response to his superiors’ panic over depth charges dropped by American ships during the blockade. The United States struck a deal with the Soviet Union to lift the blockade, provide a promise not to invade Cuba and to secretly remove the missiles in Turkey in exchange for the public removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba. The mere semblance of a rational quid pro quo was unacceptable to the United States, which insisted on the risky optics of humiliation in order to reinforce its hegemonic principles that Cuba had no right to possess a deterrent to what seemed like an imminent American invasion, and that the United States should enjoy an offensive nuclear capacity denied to the Soviet Union.

Later on during the Reagan era, the United States illegally invaded Grenada to enact regime change in 1983, while simultaneously ratcheting up the annual joint United States-South Korea war games simulating possible invasions of North Korea near its borders. Kim Il-Sung was reportedly unsettled by the idea that the United States could perceive the tiny spice island of Grenada as a threat, and feared that nothing less than a nuclear deterrent would be sufficient to keep Pyongyang outside the crosshairs of Washington. Three years after the invasion of Grenada, the North Korean regime established its Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry to formally declare its intent to develop a nuclear weapons program, which exists to this day.

Moving towards the twenty-first century, the Bush 43 administration’s illegal invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime in March 2003, which had long given up Iraq’s nuclear weapons despite the Bush 43 administration’s lies about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), would serve as one example of a dictatorship being toppled due to the lack of a credible nuclear deterrent. Another example would follow with Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who announced that Libya would also give up its biological and chemical weapons stockpiles in addition to its infant nuclear weapons program in December 2003. Even though George W. Bush celebrated Libya’s decision at the time, declaring that the world should take away the lesson that “leaders who abandon the pursuit of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and the means to deliver them, will find an open path to better relations with the United States and other free nations,” the succeeding Obama administration would go on to deliver the exact opposite lesson by assisting in the ouster of Gaddafi in 2011. Observing the situation in Libya, a North Korean official at the time explicitly remarked that the “Libyan crisis is teaching the international community a grave lesson,” claiming the West’s deal with Libya was “an invasion tactic to disarm the country.”

More towards the present, President Trump’s decision to “decertify” the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in October—despite worldwide acknowledgment that Iran has fully kept its side of the deal—has led some journalists to note that it’s more accurate to report that the United States was reneging on its JCPOA commitments, drawing parallels with its inconsistent foreign policy in Libya. The United States’ refusal to honor its agreement has bolstered the popularity of the hardline Iranian view that the United States and Saudi Arabia can’t be trusted.

There is remarkable irony in the United States betraying its JCPOA commitments considering the previous hysteria claiming that Iran was “the gravest threat to world peace,” despite not having invaded a single country in over 200 years. It’s a little known fact that Iran’s own Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, Javad Zarif, actually critiqued the JCPOA because it didn’t go far enough towards ensuring peace in the Middle East—calling on Israel to join Iran in establishing a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East—which Iran incidentally first proposed to the UN General Assembly in 1974.

The irony is only heightened when we consider that the United States possesses an additional obligation to engage in good faith efforts towards establishing a NWFZ in the Middle East as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), as well as the Bush administration’s appeal to UN Security Council Resolution 687 to provide some pseudo-legal basis for its invasion of Iraq—claiming that Iraq had failed to live up to the resolution’s obligation to disarm itself of WMDs—when Article 14 of Resolution 687 called for the elimination of Iraqi WMDs for the explicit purpose of creating a NWFZ in the Middle East.

Aside from North Korea, another nuclear power the United States is presently antagonizing is Russia, which has led some observers to liken the current relationship to be that of a new Cold War for quite some time. One can recite a litany of American provocations against Russia ranging from the still unproven allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election to the United States’ proven interference in Russian elections, from the hypocritical accusations of war crimes in Syria that the American-backed rebel forces seeking regime change also committed, to the Obama administration’s use of deceit in persuading Russia not to veto a UN Security Council resolution permitting the use of force in Libya, which would teach Vladimir Putin the “lesson” that weakness and compromise would be exploited by the United States.

But these examples ignore the United States’ more direct contributions to heightened nuclear tensions with Russia. Despite the Bush 41 administration’s verbal “iron-clad guarantees” made to Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand “one inch eastward,” in exchange for the reunification of West and East Germany in 1990 and agreements to halt the arms race, ban chemical weapons and drastically reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles, succeeding administrations began to treat Russia as a defeated nation who “lost” the Cold War ever since.

The succeeding Clinton administration would proceed to illegally bomb Serbia and violate prior promises by expanding NATO to include former Warsaw Pact countries, tarnishing the Russian population’s perception of the United States. Currently, NATO’s eastern expansion has reached Russia’s borders with NATO troops deployed in Poland and the Baltic States, which would be analogous to the United States finding Mexico, Cuba, Canada and most of South America welcoming Russian bases and troops in a military alliance against it. Notwithstanding the barrage of propagandistic charges of “Russian aggression,” NATO’s expansion and the Obama administration’s support for a violent coup ousting pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych is responsible for provoking Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Crimea.

Adding insult to injury, the Obama administration’s placement of ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems near Russian borders was a continued reversal of the short-lived Nixon-Ford administrations’ policy of détente. It’s common knowledge among nuclear strategists around the world that BMD systems are offensive weapons by nature—designed to secure a nuclear first-strike advantage by neutralizing the threat of retaliatory nuclear strikes—and serve as a “Trojan Horse” for the militarization of outer space, as BMD systems depend on satellites that must be protected from the anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons readily available to other nations. The threat BMD systems pose to international stability was what led the United States and the Soviet Union to sign the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 1972.

The ABM Treaty was promptly violated by the Reagan administration’s infamous Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) or “Star Wars” program—a large subsidy for American high-tech industry under the guise of its fantastical aims of constructing orbiting “battle platforms,” with uranium and plutonium powered hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons—with the ABM Treaty later being unilaterally abrogated by the Bush 43 administration in 2001. Concerns about the destabilizing effects of deploying BMD systems have already materialized with Russia recently testing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) designed to penetrate them.

But even critics of dishonest American foreign policy around the globe for fostering North Korea’s distrust often neglect to mention the history of the United States reneging on its commitments with North Korea itself. The Clinton administration was able to get North Korea to freeze its plutonium production for eight years (1994-2002) through the Agreed Framework of 1994, signed an additional agreement to mutually cease bearing “hostile intent,” and had indirectly worked out another deal to buy all of its medium and long-range missiles until the Bush 43 administration named North Korea as part of the “Axis of Evil,” threatening it with the possibility of “preemptive” war.

In spite of this setback, the Bush 43 administration was able to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons under the six-party talks in 2005—in return for a light-water nuclear reactor for its medical and energy needs and an end to aggressive rhetoric—only for the same administration to quickly undermine the agreement by renewing its threats of force, withdrawing its offer of a light-water reactor and freezing North Korean funds in foreign banks.

The succeeding Obama administration’s foreign policy wouldn’t diverge very much from its predecessors by continuing the United States’ aggressive rhetoric, and by enacting harsh and politically ineffective sanctions which punish the population for the actions of its insulated leadership. However, some differences include its State Department providing assistance in the production of a graphic film depicting Kim Jong-Un’s head exploding, increasing cyberattacks to sabotage North Korea’s missiles and simulating nuclear strikes with stealth bombers.

The situation has only deteriorated under the Trump administration with its destabilizing statements and policies around the world, which is increasing pressure on other nations to pursue nuclear weapons. President Trump and his fellow Republicans have illegally threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and cause its “extinction.” Despite the corporate media’s frequent barrage of misleading headlines implying that the North Korean leadership won’t surrender its nuclear weapons under any circumstances—and refusal to report the timing of North Korea’s missile tests in the context of the annual joint American and South Korean war games simulating nuclear first-strikes, invasions, and assassinations of the North Korean leadership near its borders—the truth is that North Korea has repeatedly offered to give up its nuclear weapons program. The Trump administration has rejected China and North Korea’s numerous proposals to freeze North Korea’s nuclear and missile program in exchange for ceasing the threatening joint war games. It’s possible that the offers are insincere and that North Korea can’t be trusted to follow through on its commitments, but the point remains that diplomacy hasn’t been seriously pursued and that the United States’ own trustworthiness is hardly any better.

While there are some differences between the Trump administration’s foreign policy and its predecessors’, the United States’ general pursuit of overwhelming supremacy in all terrains of warfare including land, air, sea and outer space (also known as “full-spectrum dominance”), has remained largely intact. President Trump has called for a tenfold expansion of the United States’ nuclear stockpile in spite of the numerous arms reduction treaties the United States is committed to. His administration is also rushing to enact Obama administration programs to “modernize” the “nuclear triad,” estimated to cost over $1 trillion across three decades, to improve precision targeting and reducing blast yields to make nuclear first-strikes more thinkable.

The “Trojan Horse” for the militarization of space represented by the installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) BMD system in South Korea—to secure a nuclear first-strike advantage against China and North Korea—is expected to trigger a new arms race in the region in addition to another arms race for space weapons. Despite virtually universal support for the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) Treaty in the UN since 1985, including Russia and China, the United States has continually refused to negotiate the PAROS Treaty in the UN’s Conference on Disarmament because of its large technical advantages in BMD systems and potential space weaponry.

South Koreans and American military officials, academics, and journalists are certainly correct to note that North Korea’s “realist” foreign policy has remained remarkably consistent and predictable in comparison to President Trump’s unpredictability and frequent commitments to keeping “all options on the table.” However, to imagine that the Trump administration’s unpredictable posture regarding nuclear weapons is a large deviation from the norm of past administrations is a mistake. The United States has consistently refused to adopt a “no-first-use” pledge in order to keep the option of a nuclear first-strike open. A 1995 STRATCOM report entitled the Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence during the Clinton administration mentioned that it would be detrimental for the United States to portray itself as “too fully rational and cool-headed,” and recommended that it project an “irrational and vindictive” national persona with some “potentially ‘out of control’” elements instead.

The hegemonic principles are consistent: the United States and its allies should possess an offensive nuclear capacity to destroy their enemies denied to other nations, and can flout international law and their foreign obligations on a whim.

The North Korean government is a contemptible and authoritarian regime that’s justly condemned for its numerous human rights violations, but as foreign policy critics like Noam Chomsky have pointed out, there’s no logical connection between a regime’s domestic brutality and the threat it poses abroad. Although the United States is increasingly degenerating into an impoverished and totalitarian society with its own internal human rights abuses, there’s no doubt that American citizens enjoy a greater degree of liberties than North Koreans. There’s also little question that the United States has unleashed far more violence and aggression abroad. The latest international poll found that the United States is considered to be the greatest threat to world peace, beating out all other competitors—including North Korea—by decisive margins. A casual examination of the United States’ record abroad can yield similar damning conclusions: the United States is the world’s nuclear menace, not North Korea.

Joshua Cho is a recent graduate of Boston College, aspiring journalist and former intern at Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. 

December 29, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Report that North Korean defector has anthrax antibodies feeds into biological weapons scare

RT | December 27, 2017

South Korean media have claimed that a North Korean defector was found to have developed antibodies to anthrax before his flight across the border. The report may likely play into the hands of those looking for a pretext for war.

The news was broken by South Korea’s Channel A on Tuesday, citing an anonymous intelligence official.

“Anthrax antibodies have been found in the North Korean soldier who defected this year,” the unnamed official said, without revealing the way in which the soldier might have been exposed to the deadly substance, which could be either direct contact or vaccination.

Little is known about the soldier apart from that he was one of four North Korean military servicemen to defect to South Korea this year. The revelation comes against the backdrop of a series of reports suggesting that North Korea has been developing a program to fit biological weapons on intercontinental missiles. An earlier anonymous report by Japan’s Asahi newspaper, that came out last week, claimed that Pyongyang has embarked on “conducting heat and pressure resistance tests to see whether anthrax germs can survive at temperatures of 7,000 degrees, the level an ICBM [inter-continental ballistic missile] encounters when it reenters the Earth atmosphere.”

The concerns of the pariah state getting hold of biological weapons were echoed in the recently released US National Security Strategy, claiming that Pyongyang has been striving to obtain “chemical and biological weapons which could also be delivered by missile.”

North Korea, meanwhile, rejected all the allegations and reiterated its commitment to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). It accused Washington of trying to forge a pretext for a military incursion, like it did in 2003 to justify its military aggression in Iraq.

The comparison has merit, as even the alleged biological weapon is exactly the same. At the fateful UN Security Council meeting on February 5, 2003, the then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell brandished a model vial of anthrax to illustrate the alleged danger coming from Iraq under Saddam Hussein, which according to Powell could have produced some 25,000 liters of anthrax. The word “anthrax” first made headlines in October 2001, when five Americans died and over a dozen fell sick due to exposure to powdered anthrax sent through the mail. In the most prominent case, a letter with anthrax was delivered to the office of Democratic Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, shutting down the whole Senate.

The letters that also contained death threats were linked by the media and the George W. Bush administration to Iraq at the time.

“The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax and nerve gas weapons for over a decade,” Bush said in his State of the Union address in January 2002, noting that the US would act first in the face of a possibility of such an attack.

Later, it was revealed that the man behind the toxic letters was US citizen Bruce Ivins, who was working in a military biodefense lab and had no relation to Iraq. The rest of Powell’s claims about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction found no proof either, with Powell later admitting that he was misled by intelligence community and the speech became a “blot” on his record.

While the US officials, spearheaded by UN envoy Nikki Haley, are upping the rhetoric and threatening to “utterly destroy” North Korea if war breaks out, or in case of Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, calling on Pentagon to move US servicemen’s families from South Korea as though the war is imminent, Russia and China have been advocating restraint, warning of disastrous consequences to the whole region, first and foremost to Washington’s ally South Korea, of a potential military confrontation. The so-called double-freeze plan, championed by Moscow and Beijing, envisions the simultaneous halt of war games regularly held by the US and allies and the suspension of the nuclear and missile program run by Pyongyang. The plan, however, was outright rejected by Washington in August.

December 27, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment