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Feb 14, 2013

“North Korea and Iran – partners in nuclear and missile programs”

DEBKAfile Special Report February 12, 2013, 1:42 PM (GMT+02:00)

There is full awareness in Washington and Jerusalem that the North Korean nuclear test conducted Tuesday, Feb. 12, brings Iran that much closer to conducting a test of its own. A completed bomb or warhead are not necessary for an underground nuclear test; a device which an aircraft or missile can carry is enough.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s boast this week that Iran will soon place a satellite in orbit at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers – and Tehran’s claim on Feb. 4 to have sent a monkey into space – highlight Iran’s role in the division of labor Pyongyang and Tehran have achieved in years of collaboration: the former focusing on a nuclear armament and the latter on long-range missile technology to deliver it.

Their advances are pooled. Pyongyang maintains a permanent mission of nuclear and missile scientists in Tehran, whereas Iranian experts are in regular attendance at North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.

Since the detonation of the “miniature atomic bomb” reported by Pyongyang Tuesday – which US President Barack Obama called “a threat to US National security”- Iran must be presumed to have acquired the same “miniature atomic bomb” capabilities – or even assisted in the detonation.
Word of the North Korean atomic test reminded US officials of Ahmadinejad’s boast only a couple of days ago about the forthcoming launch of an Iranian satellite into orbit. The two events clearly hang together as probably coordinated between Tehran and Pyongyang.
Ahead of the UN Security Council emergency session later Tuesday, Kim Jong Un’s government warned of “stronger actions” after the nuclear test. Its diplomat warned the UN disarmament forum that his country will “never bow to any resolutions.”
The nuclear threat is not the only unconventional warfare peril looming closer. In Damascus, Syrian rebels are nearer than ever before to crashing through the capital’s last lines of defense. Tuesday, they were only 1.5 kilometers short of the heart of Damascus.
Western and Israeli military sources believe that if the Syrian rebels reach this target, the Syrian ruler Bashar Assad will have no qualms about using chemical weapons for the first time in the two-year civil war to save his regime. Both the US and Israel have warned him that doing so would cross a red line.

debkafile’s military sources report that Syrian rebel forces, spearheaded by an Al Qaeda-allied Islamist brigade, gained entry Tuesday to the 4th Division’s (Republican Guard) main base in the Adra district of eastern Damascus and are fighting the defenders in hand to hand combat for control of the facility.

Other rebel forces are retaking parts of the Damascus ring road in fierce battles, thereby cutting off the Syrian army’s Homs units in the north from their supply lines from the capital.

These two rebel thrusts, if completed, would bring the Syrian army closer than ever before to collapse. Assad is therefore expected to use every means at his disposal to cut his enemies down.

Deadly spiral towards war begins: South Korea unveils ballastic missile it says can hit anywhere in North Korea

February 14, 2013SOUTH KOREA – South Korea unveiled a cruise missile on Thursday that it said can hit the office of North Korea’s leaders, trying to address concerns that it is technologically behind its unpredictable rival which this week conducted its third nuclear test. South Korean officials declined to say the exact range of the missile but said it could hit targets anywhere in North Korea. The Defense Ministry released video footage of the missiles being launched from destroyers and submarines striking mock targets. The weapon was previewed in April last year and officials said deployment was now complete. “The cruise missile being unveiled today is a precision-guided weapon that can identify and strike the window of the office of North Korea’s leadership” ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters. North Korea has forged ahead with long-range missile development, successfully launching a rocket in December that put a satellite into orbit. The North’s ultimate aim, Washington believes, is to design an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that could hit the United States. North Korea, which accuses the United States and its “puppet,” South Korea, of war-mongering on an almost daily basis, is likely to respond angrily to South Korea flexing its muscles. North Korea, technically still at war with the South after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, carried out its third nuclear test on Tuesday, drawing condemnation from around the world including its only major ally China. The test and the threat of more unspecified actions from Pyongyang have raised tensions on the Korean peninsula as the South prepares to inaugurate a new president on February 25. “The situation prevailing on the Korean peninsula at present is so serious that even a slight accidental case may lead to an all-out war which can disturb the whole region,” North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said.

News

NK test sets off arms race on Korean peninsula: South Korea said it would accelerate the development of longer-range ballistic missiles that could cover the whole of North Korea in response to a third nuclear test by Pyongyang. “We will speed up the development of ballistic missiles with a range of 800 kilometers (500 miles),” Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok told reporters. In October last year, South Korea reached a deal with the United States to almost triple the range of its missile systems – with Seoul arguing it needed an upgrade to counter the North’s missile and nuclear programs. The United States has 28,500 troops in South Korea and guarantees a nuclear “umbrella” in case of any atomic attack. In return, Seoul accepts limits on its missile capabilities. Prior to the October agreement, the South was restricted to missiles with a range of 300 kilometers. The extension will not only bring the whole of North Korea within reach of Seoul’s rockets, but also parts of China and Japan. Some experts have suggested it would provide the South with a pre-emptive strike facility against the North’s nuclear installations. Kim said the South would also speed up the deployment of a “kill chain”’ system capable of detecting, targeting and destroying North Korean missiles. “The military is closely watching the North in case of further provocative acts,” he said. Following North Korea’s nuclear test yesterday, the head of South Korea’s intelligence agency warned that Pyongyang may well carry out a further test or a ballistic missile launch in the coming days or weeks. North Korea is a “serious threat” to the United States and Washington must be prepared to deal with it, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta warned after Pyongyang conducted a nuclear test. “We saw what North Korea has done these last few weeks with a missile test and now a nuclear test,” said Leon Panetta, the outgoing defense secretary, at a farewell ceremony.

 

N Korea insecure, says China

Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times
Beijing, February 13, 2013

North Korea’s repeated flexing of its nuclear muscle is rooted in insecurity about the confrontational history it has with estranged neighbour South Korea besides Japan and the US’s military might, a Chinese state media commentary has said.

On Tuesday, China had said it was “firmly” opposed to North Korea’s third nuclear test and called for a denuclearisation for peace in the Korean Peninsula.

Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi also summoned Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ambassador to China, Ji Jae Ryong, on Tuesday to lodge a solemn representation.

Yang said China was “strongly dissatisfied with” and “firmly opposed to” DPRK’s third nuclear test, according to a press release issued by the Chinese foreign ministry.

The commentary, published in the state-run Xinhua news agency, however said that at a superficial level, “…it was Pyongyang that has repeatedly breached UN resolutions and used its nuclear program as a weapon to challenge the world community, which was considered to be unwise and regrettable.”

Full Article

 

North Korea admits to nuclear testing

Updated Wed Feb 13, 2013 7:32am AEDT

North Korea has admitted it successfully exploded a miniaturised nuclear device, sparking broad condemnation from the international community. The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting at UN headquarters in New York. North Korea’s sole major ally, China, agreed with other members that the test was provocative.

 

Nuclear Test #3: What will Follow Pyongyang’s Dangerous Atomic Gambit?

Global Research, February 12, 2013
An activist from an anti-North Korea civic group defaces a North Korea flag depicting North's leader Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju during a rally against North Korea's nuclear test near the U.S. embassy in central Seoul

North Korea’s nuclear and rocket tests are viewed domestically as essential for national security and prestige. But they alienated even China, and may escalate tensions beyond the point of no return, which would be disastrous for everyone involved.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have ignited once again, marking the most-unstable period of inter-Korean relations since Kim Jong-un began his tenure in December 2011. On February 12, 2013, news surfaced of man-made seismic activity measuring at 4.9 on the Richter scale in North Korea, which was later confirmed to be the result of the third nuclear test Pyongyang promised to carry out.

Following the successful launch of an indigenous satellite into orbit using a long-range missile in December 2012, the UN Security Council recently tightened sanctions on the DPRK that impose asset freezes and travel bans on individuals involved in state companies and North Korea’s space agency. Pyongyang has recently threatened to respond to the tightened UN sanctions using “stronger measures” than a nuclear test.

 An official of the Korea Meteorological Administration shows a seismic image of a tremor caused by North Korea′s nuclear test, in Seoul on February 12, 2013. (AFP Photo/Kim Jae-Hwan)
An official of the Korea Meteorological Administration shows a seismic image of a tremor caused by North Korea′s nuclear test, in Seoul on February 12, 2013. (AFP Photo/Kim Jae-Hwan)

While bellicose rhetoric is to be expected from Pyongyang, recent statements against the United States and South Korea are unusually high on the Richter scale of belligerence. “We are not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are aimed at the United States,” stated North Korea’s National Defense Commission.

Pyongyang has also warned of “physical countermeasures” against South Korea if they participate in the UN sanctions against the North, stating, “as long as the South Korean puppet traitors’ regime continues with its anti-DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] hostile policy, we will never sit down with them.”

Activists from an anti-North Korea civic group burn a North Korea flag in front of banners bearing anti-North Korea messages near the U.S. embassy in central Seoul February 12, 2013. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

Activists from an anti-North Korea civic group burn a North Korea flag in front of banners bearing anti-North Korea messages near the U.S. embassy in central Seoul February 12, 2013. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

 

Reports issued prior to the February 12 test claimed that North Korea has allegedly been placed under martial law, and its people told to “prepare for war” with the South. South Korean sources reported, accurately, that Kim Jong-un issued a secret order to “complete preparations for a nuclear weapons test and carry it out soon.” Seoul-based military sources have also claimed that Pyongyang plans to conduct two simultaneous nuclear tests at once, or in quick succession, based on satellite data monitoring the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

To further complicate matters, General Jung Seung-jo, Chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned that the South could launch pre-emptive strikes against the North if it tried to use nuclear weapons, stating, “if [the North] shows a clear intent to use a nuclear weapon, it is better to get rid of it and go to war, rather than being attacked.” North Korea’s plans to test nuclear weapons go against the conciliatory tone struck by Kim Jong-un toward relations with the South in his New Year’s Address, and his intentions to bolster the isolated state’s moribund economy.
Nuclear insecurity

Pyongyang is often viewed as a wildcard, but a closer examination of its domestic affairs in recent years shows that moves towards nuclearization are inevitably linked to extracting as many aid concessions as possible (especially at a time when political changes are taking place in South Korea), in addition to buying time for the regime in Pyongyang to incrementally improve its weapons technology.

Pyongyang is keen to avoid being overly reliant on Beijing, and so North Korea actually has a strong imperative to secure as much aid as possible from the US and South Korea to keep itself afloat. This recent nuclear test does not serve the DPRK’s interests and will only further strain its economic lifeline with China, even possibly inviting preemptive strikes from South Korean forces, leading to open war and a truly unpredictable situation that all regional players should be keen to avoid.

South Korean passengers watch TV news reporting North Korea′s apparent nuclear test, at the Seoul train station on February 12, 2013. (AFP Photo/Kim Jae-Hwan)

South Korean passengers watch TV news reporting North Korea′s apparent nuclear test, at the Seoul train station on February 12, 2013. (AFP Photo/Kim Jae-Hwan)

 

From the perspective of the Kim regime, which molds the opinions that North Korean civilians uphold, half of the Korean Peninsula is occupied by the United States. State newspapers such as the Rodong Sinmun routinely refer to the South Korean government as a puppet of the United States, and recently highlighted Pyongyang’s displeasure with increasingly provocative joint US-ROK military drills: “Ultra-modern war means are being amassed in South Korea and in the areas around the Korean Peninsula. The US nuclear submarine and Aegis cruiser entered south Korea to hold combined marine exercises and to show off ‘military muscle’… warmongers are inciting war fever while touring units in the forefront areas.”

North Korea routinely complains of discrimination by world powers, compelling it to resort to nuclear deterrence; the fact that South Korea faced no international obstruction over its recent satellite launch only reinforces Pyongyang’s rationale. By acknowledging the “ultra-modern” military capabilities of the joint US-ROK forces, it can be gathered that the North realizes its own arsenal is much less sophisticated, as many military analysts confirm.

The military muscle of the US-ROK forces certainly poses an existential threat to Pyongyang, and as a result, the Kim dynasty sees the proliferation of nuclear weapons as the only surefire way to guarantee its own security. However, the North Koreans must realize that they can only get away with nuclear adventurism for so long, and it appears that the DPRK may soon be at risk of aggravating the hand that feeds it – literally.

This screen grab taken from North Korean TV on February 12, 2013 shows an announcer reading a statement on the country′s nuclear test. (AFP Photo/NORTH KOREAN TV)

This screen grab taken from North Korean TV on February 12, 2013 shows an announcer reading a statement on the country’s nuclear test. (AFP Photo/NORTH KOREAN TV)

 

Straining ties with Beijing

China is not looking for any additional agitation as it prepares for its once-in-a-decade leadership transition. Analysts are pondering how Xi Jingping’s administration will treat North Korea. China’s seven-member Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) is the ultimate decision-making and policy-shaping body, and two members of China’s incoming PSC, Zhang Dejiang and Sun Zhengcai, have spent years in close proximity to North Korea, engaging in cross-border interactions with North Korean counterparts aiming to promote economic reform in Pyongyang.

Despite nearly open war between the two Koreas in 2010 after the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island and the sinking of a South Korean military vessel, China’s relationship with North Korea during the incumbent Hu Jintao administration was marked by several victories – noticeable economic cooperation with Beijing during the stable succession of Kim Jong-un, and a general lack of external interference in the DPRK’s affairs.

Much to the surprise of many analysts, China backed the recent UN sanctions on Pyongyang, indicating some disapproval with the Kim dynasty’s hostility. Even so, it is unlikely that Beijing and Washington will begin playing from the same sheet music. China signaled its frustration with the North in an opinion piece in the ultra-nationalis newspaper Global Times: “If North Korea engages in further nuclear tests, China will not hesitate to reduce its assistance to North Korea.” The editorial went on to say that if the US, Japan and South Korea “promote extreme U.N. sanctions on North Korea, China will resolutely stop them and force them to amend these draft resolutions.”

Activists from an anti-North Korea civic group burn placards of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a protest against North Korea nuclear test in Seoul on February 12, 2013. (AFP Photo/(Kim Jae-Hwan)

Activists from an anti-North Korea civic group burn placards of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a protest against North Korea nuclear test in Seoul on February 12, 2013. (AFP Photo/(Kim Jae-Hwan)

China’s position on this issue should be commended for its balanced approach. For Beijing, stability is the name of the game; China does not want any military confrontations or mass refugee spillovers into its borders.

Even as Beijing becomes more upfront with its discontent, China has a valuable economic stake in North Korea’s development; it continually invests in joint ventures with Pyongyang and has led initiatives to develop the nation’s vast untapped mineral resources (which include deposits of coal, iron ore, gold ore, zinc ore, copper ore, and others) valued at a staggering $6.1 trillion.

The centerpiece of Beijing’s foreign policy strategy towards the North under Xi Jingping will be encouraging the regime to behave more sensibly and focus on meeting the needs of its people. Perhaps policymakers in Beijing will have an easier time convincing Pyongyang to drop the nuclear rhetoric in exchange for a meaningful security pact in which Pyongyang is guaranteed military support from China if things ever get ugly. Given the non-interference stance championed by Beijing, it would be doubtful that Beijing would extend itself in this way.
Conundrum for President-elect Park

This third nuclear test will also put South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye in an extremely uncomfortable position, making it easy for her to enrage those on both South Korea’s left and right depending on how hard or soft a line she toes with Pyongyang.

Park spoke of easing relations with the DPRK, but like her predecessor, she maintains that the North’s denuclearization is a prerequisite for any negotiations; translation – there will be no negotiations and the ROK’s foreign policy trajectory is likely not to differ from that of hardline-conservative President Lee Myung-bak.

Pyongyang has repeatedly demonstrated its unwillingness to comply with the ROK’s demands, and vice-versa. Inter-Korean relations appear to be following a repetitive script, with Washington’s solution to every issue being to tighten sanctions on the North.

No good from US military pressure

The case has never been stronger for the withdrawal of the 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea, a move that would satisfy civilians in both Koreas and yield higher chances of provoking a positive response from Pyongyang.

Analyst Geoffrey Fattig argues in favor of a new approach being taken by the US by highlighting how Washington’s main source of leverage against the North is the military option, citing the friction caused by the mere presence of US troops: “The Obama administration needs to realize that it is holding a weak hand and fundamentally change its strategy… it is time for the Obama administration to start withdrawing the American military from Korean soil.

He adds: “Not only would such a move save billions of dollars annually at a time when the cost of maintaining America’s global garrison is coming under increasing scrutiny, but it would shift the impetus for negotiating solutions to the long-running dispute squarely onto the shoulders of the key players in the region.”

Full Article

 

North Korea threatens stronger action after nuclear test

DEBKAfile February 12, 2013, 5:58 PM (GMT+02:00)

 

“Second and third measures of greater intensity if Washington maintains its hostility” were threatened by Pyongyang Tuesday after its latest nuclear test, the third in a series. North Korea’s “detonation of a miniature atomic bomb” was universally condemned – even China voiced opposition. US officials said North Korea may now be planning to test a missile. US President Barack Obama called North Korea’s third successive nuclear test a “highly provocative act” that “undermines regional stability” and constitutes “a threat to US national security.” The UN Security Council is preparing a resolution of condemnation at a special emergency session.

 

North Korea not to bow to UN nuclear resolutions: diplomat

UN Security Council (file photo)

Tue Feb 12, 2013 5:34PM GMT
North Korea says it would never give in to “unreasonable” resolutions against its nuclear program, blaming the US hostility for failing the prospects of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

“The US and their followers are sadly mistaken if they miscalculate that the DPRK (North Korea) would accept the entirely unreasonable resolutions against it,” the first secretary of North Korea’s mission in Geneva Jon Yong Ryong said.

Addressing the UN Disarmament Forum, the North Korean diplomat added that “the DPRK will never be bound to any resolutions.”

On Tuesday, North Korea staged its most powerful nuclear test yet, claiming a breakthrough with a “miniaturized” device, which drawn criticism from the UN Security Council.The prospect for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula has become gloomier due to the US hostile policies to the DPRK that have become ever more pronounced, Jon added.

Jon also criticized the European Union saying if the “EU truly wants peace and stability on the Korean peninsula; it should urge the US first to terminate its hostile policy towards the DPRK on an impartial basis.”

Condemning the test, the US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said North Korea should expect “increasing isolation and pressure.”

North Korea’s actions “will not be tolerated and they will be met with North Korea’s increasing isolation and pressure under the United Nations sanctions,” she added.

North Korea carried out its two previous nuclear tests on October 9, 2006, and May 25, 2009.

Pyongyang is already under tough UN sanctions over its latest rocket launch in 2012.

The Dangers of North Korea’s Nuclear Test

Author’s Note: On February 12, 2013, news surfaced of man-made seismic activity measuring at 4.9 on the Richter scale in North Korea, likely the result of the third nuclear test Pyongyang promised to carry out.

The contents of this article examine the various dimensions of the situation, and the consequences it could hold for the region.

By Nile Bowie
theintelhub.com
February 12, 2013

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have ignited once again, marking the most-unstable period of inter-Korean relations since Kim Jong-un began his tenure in December 2011.

Following the successful launch of an indigenous satellite into orbit using a long-range missile in December 2012, the UN Security Council recently tightened sanctions on the DPRK that impose asset freezes and travel bans on individuals involved in state companies and North Korea’s space agency.

Although talk of Pyongyang conducting a highly controversial nuclear test has been in the cards for months, the DPRK has recently threatened to respond to tightened UN sanctions using “stronger measures” than a nuclear test.

While bellicose rhetoric is to be expected from Pyongyang, recent statements against the United States and South Korea are unusually high on the Richter scale of belligerence.

“We are not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are aimed at the United States,” stated North Korea’s National Defense Commission.

Pyongyang has also warned of “physical countermeasures” against South Korea if they participatein the UN sanctions against the North, stating, “as long as the South Korean puppet traitors’ regime continues with its anti-DPRK [North Korea] hostile policy, we will never sit down with them.”

Reports claim that North Korea has allegedly been placed under martial law and its people told to “prepare for war” with the South. South Korean sources have reported that Kim Jong-un has issued a secret order to “complete preparations for a nuclear weapons test and carry it out soon.”

Seoul-based military sources have also claimed that Pyongyang plans to conduct two simultaneous nuclear tests at once, or in quick succession, based on satellite data monitoring the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

To further complicate matters, General Jung Seung-jo, Chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned that the South could launch pre-emptive strikes against the North if it tried to use nuclear weapons, stating, “if [the North] shows a clear intent to use a nuclear weapon, it is better to get rid of it and go to war, rather than being attacked.”

Analysts have predicted that the upcoming nuclear weapons test could fall on February 16, the birthday of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, or February 25th, the inauguration day of South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye. North Korea’s plans to test nuclear weapons go against the conciliatory tone struck by Kim Jong-un toward relations with the South in his New Year’s Address and his intentions to bolster the isolated state’s moribund economy.

Pyongyang is often credited with being a wildcard, but a closer examination of its domestic affairs in recent years shows that moves towards nuclearization are inevitably linked to extracting as many aid concessions as possible (especially at a time when political changes are taking place in South Korea), in addition to buying time for the regime in Pyongyang to incrementally improve its weapons technology.

Pyongyang is keen to avoid being overly reliant on Beijing, and so North Korea actually has a strong imperative to secure as much aid as possible from the US and South Korea to keep itself afloat.

A third nuclear test does not serve the DPRK’s interests and will only further strain its economic lifeline with China, even possibly inviting preemptive strikes from South Korean forces, leading to open war and a truly unpredictable situation that all regional players should be keen to avoid.

From the perspective of the Kim regime, which molds the opinions that North Korean civilians uphold, half of the Korean Peninsula is occupied by the United States.

State newspapers such as the Rodong Sinmun routinely refer to the South Korean government as a puppet of the United States, recently highlighting Pyongyang’s displeasure with increasingly provocative joint US-ROK military drills, “ultra-modern war means are being amassed in south Korea and in the areas around the Korean Peninsula.

The U.S. nuclear submarine and Aegis cruiser entered south Korea to hold combined marine exercises and to show off ‘military muscle’… warmongers are inciting war fever while touring units in the forefront areas.”

North Korea routinely complains of discrimination by world powers, compelling it to resort to nuclear deterrence; the fact that South Korea faced no international obstruction over its recent satellite launch only reinforces Pyongyang’s rationale.

By acknowledging the “ultra-modern” military capabilities of the joint US-ROK forces, it can be gathered that the North realizes its own arsenal is much less sophisticated, as many military analysts confirm.

The military muscle of the US-ROK forces certainly poses an existential threat to Pyongyang, and as a result, the Kim dynasty sees the proliferation of nuclear weapons as the only surefire way to guarantee its own security. However, the North Koreans must realize that they can only get away with nuclear adventurism for so long, and it appears that the DPRK may soon be at risk of aggravating the hand that feeds it – literally.

China is not looking for any additional agitation as it prepares for its once-in-a-decade leadership transition. Analysts are pondering how Xi Jingping’s administration will treat North Korea. China’s seven member Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) is the ultimate decision-making and policy-shaping body, and two members of China’s incoming PCS, Zhang Dejiang and Sun Zhengcai, have spent years in close proximity to North Korea, engaging in cross-border interactions with North Korean counterparts aiming to promote economic reform in Pyongyang.

Despite nearly open war between the two Koreas in 2010 after the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island and the sinking of a South Korean military vessel, China’s relationship with North Korea during the incumbent Hu Jintao administration was marked by several victories – noticeable economic cooperation with Beijing the stable succession of Kim Jong-un, and the general lack of external interference in the DPRK’s affairs.

Much to the surprise of many analysts, China backed the recent UN sanctions on Pyongyang, indicating some disapproval with the Kim dynasty’s hostility.

Even so, it is unlikely that Beijing and Washington will begin playing from the same sheet music. China signaled its frustration with the North in an opinion piece in the ultra-nationalistic newspaper, the Global Times, “If North Korea engages in further nuclear tests, China will not hesitate to reduce its assistance to North Korea.”

The editorial went on to say that if the US, Japan and South Korea “promote extreme U.N. sanctions on North Korea, China will resolutely stop them and force them to amend these draft resolutions.” China’s position on this issue should be commended for its balanced approach. For Beijing, stability is the name of the game; China does not want any military confrontations or mass refugee spillovers into its borders.

Even as Beijing becomes more upfront with its discontent, China has a valuable economic stake in North Korea’s development; it continually invests in joint ventures with Pyongyang and has led initiatives to develop the nation’s vast untapped mineral resources (which include deposits of coal, iron ore, gold ore, zinc ore, copper ore, and others) valued at a staggering $6.1 trillion.

The centerpiece of Beijing’s foreign policy strategy towards the North under Xi Jingping will be encouraging the regime to behave more sensibly and focus on meeting the needs of its people.

Perhaps policy makers in Beijing will have an easier time convincing Pyongyang to drop the nuclear rhetoric in exchange for a meaningful security pact by which Pyongyang is guaranteed military support from China if things ever get ugly. Given the non-interference stance championed by Beijing, it would be doubtful that Beijing would extend itself in this way.

Plans for a third nuclear test will also put South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye in an extremely uncomfortable position, making it easy for her to enrage those on both South Korea’s left and right depending on how hard or soft a line she toes with Pyongyang.

Park has spoke of easing relations with the DPRK, but like her predecessor, she maintains that the North’s denuclearization is a prerequisite for any negotiations – translation – there will be no negotiations and the ROK’s foreign policy trajectory is likely not to differ from that of hardline-conservative President Lee Myung-bak.

Pyongyang has repeatedly demonstrated its unwillingness to comply with the ROK’s demands, and vice-versa. Inter-Korean relations appear to be following a repetitive script, with Washington’s solution to every issue being to tighten sanctions on the North.

The case has never been stronger for the withdrawal of the 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, a move that would satisfy civilians in both Koreas and yield higher chances of provoking a positive response from Pyongyang.

Analyst Geoffrey Fattig argues in favor of a new approach being taken by the US by highlighting how Washington’s main source of leverage against the North is the military option, citing the friction caused by the mere presence of US troops, “the Obama administration needs to realize that it is holding a weak hand and fundamentally change its strategy… it is time for the Obama administration to start withdrawing the American military from Korean soil.

Not only would such a move save billions of dollars annually at a time when the cost of maintaining America’s global garrison is coming under increasing scrutiny, but it would shift the impetus for negotiating solutions to the long-running dispute squarely onto the shoulders of the key players in the region.”

Pyongyang is playing a dangerous game and its continued belligerence can only be tolerated for so long. At this stage, Kim Jong-un’s rhetoric of bringing about a “radical turn in the building of an economic giant” can only be taken as seriously as Pyongyang’s hilarious claims of “conquering space” by launching its satellite.

By failing to be a coherent actor in the economic, security and diplomatic realms, the DPRK is doing more long-term harm to its existence than it realizes. North Korea suffered immense human losses during the Korean War throughout the relentless US bombing campaign that flattened the country; it has legitimate grievances in wanting to safeguard its national security, but its lunatic defiance, odious personality cult, and unwillingness to follow Beijing’s advice by making serious economic reforms only further ostracizes Pyongyang in the eyes of the international community, to the point where its right of self-defense is being infringed by UN resolutions.

Additionally, geologists have warned that further nuclear tests may trigger an eruption of Mt. Baekdu, a dormant volcano, which is located near the Punggye-ri nuclear site. Mt. Baekdu plays an important role in ethno-nationalist North Korean propaganda, being the fictional birthplace of the late Kim Jong-il and an enclave of purity from which the Korean race was born out of.

For North Korea’s seasoned propaganda writers, an erupting Mt. Baekdu would be the perfect backdrop for the long-touted “holy war” often evoked to hasten the day when racially-pure North Koreans liberate their southern brethren from the occupying US vampires.

In the reality the rest of us live in, the scheduled nuclear test may not only provoke the eruption of Mt. Baeku, but also the very real possibility of a deadly military conflict between the two Koreas – a conflict that must be avoided no matter how provocative, belligerent or infantile either side behaves.

Nile Bowie is an independent political commentator and photographer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached at [email protected]

H/T Activist Post

 

How Not To Disguise A Nuclear Test: “Nuclear Test Road”

A Google map search of the coordinates of what is suspected is the latest North Korean nuclear test reveals an interesting road leading to the site. The site was one of many, including prison camps, recently included on Google Maps. This site was named such because it was rumored to be where North Korea was going to conduct its latest nuclear test.

Andrew Kaczynski BuzzFeed Staff

Via Ross Neumann.

N. Korea conducts 3rd nuclear test, warns more ‘measures’ may come

Published: 12 February, 2013, 07:26
Edited: 12 February, 2013, 13:20

Russia Today

This GeoEye Satellite Image captured January 23, 2013 shows the Punggye-ri nuclear test facility in North Korea.   South Korea has detected an "artificial earthquake" in North Korea, Yonhap news agency reported on February 12, 2013, suggesting Pyongyang may have gone ahead with an expected nuclear test. (AFP Photo)

A defiant North Korea has conducted its third nuclear test, prompting a wave of international criticism from governments and other organization. It also said that more “measures” may follow, raising concerns that more nuclear devices may be exploded.

­Track LIVE UPDATES on the fallout of the North Korean nuclear test.

Pyongyang said the Tuesday morning explosion was part of an effort to protect its national security and sovereignty, citing US opposition to the recent North Korean space launch.

“It was confirmed that the nuclear test – that was carried out at a high level in a safe and perfect manner using a miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously – did not pose any negative impact on the surrounding ecological environment,” North Korea’s KCNA state news agency said.

The UNSC has condemned the test by North Korea, calling it a “great violation of Security Council resolutions,” which poses “continuously a clear threat to international peace and security.”

The UN Security Council has unanimously approved the non-binding statement. The 15-member council “will begin work immediately on appropriate measures”.

The move came in defiance of the UN and individual nations, which have pressured North Korea not to proceed with its plan. After the test sparked condemnation, Pyongyang threatened that if the US responds to the test “with hostility,” then unspecified “second and third measures” may follow. This corresponds with earlier speculation that Pyongyang seeks to detonate more than one nuclear device.

North Korean diplomat Jon Yong Ryong also told the UN disarmament forum in Geneva that his country “will never bow down to any resolution,” in respondr to criticisms that the nuclear test violated several UN Security Council resolutions banning such actions.

South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye strongly condemned the new test. She said her incoming administration would not tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea “under any circumstances,” and pledged to enact strong deterrence measures against Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has urged all parties involved to reduce tensions and solve the issue through dialogue in the framework of six-party talks. It also expressed “firm opposition” to the test, called on North Korea not to take any actions that would aggravate the situation, and to “honor its commitment to denuclearization”.

South Korean passengers watch TV news reporting North Korea′s apparent nuclear test, at the Seoul train station on February 12, 2013. (AFP Photo/Kim Jae-Hwan)

US President Barack Obama warned that both Tuesday’s test and the earlier satellite launch are provocations, and that “far from achieving its stated goal of becoming a strong and prosperous nation, North Korea has instead increasingly isolated and impoverished its people through its ill-advised pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.He threatened“further swift and credible action” against Pyongyang.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has condemned the nuclear test, calling it “deplorable” and a “grave violation of the relevant Security Council resolutions.” The statement released by Ban’s spokesperson voiced concern over the “negative impact of this deeply destabilizing act on regional stability as well as the global efforts for nuclear non-proliferation.”

The test was also criticized by Britain, Russia, Japan, France, Germany, the EU, the IAEA and NATO.

Protesters shout slogans and raise their fists towards the headquarters of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) as police officers stand guard in Tokyo February 12, 2013, after North Korea conducted its third nuclear test. (Reuters/Toru Hanai)

The likely response to the nuclear test will be a new round of sanctions from the UN. But no matter how many sanctions other nations impose on Pyongyang, it is unlikely to yield to demands voiced by Washington, Asia specialist Tim Beal explained.

“No country really changes policy under sanctions if the alternative, what is being required, is worse than the sanctions,” he told RT. “And that is the case with North Korea. North Korea in a sense could surrender to American demands, but that in fact in their eyes would be worse that what the Americans can do to them with sanctions. So they will persevere until the Americans come to the negotiation table.”

­The United States Geological Survey confirmes an earthquake in North Korea’s northeast of between 4.9- and 5.1-magnitude, at a depth of about one kilometer.

The Japanese Meteorological Agency reports that the tremor’s epicenter was located in Kilju county, at exactly the same place and depth as the quake caused by North Korea’s last known underground nuclear test in 2009. North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006 was also carried out at the Punggye-ri test site.

Japan Meteorological Agency′s earthquake and tsunami observations division director Akira Nagai points at a graph of ground motion waveform data observed in the morning in Japan during a news conference in Tokyo February 12, 2013. (Reuters/Toru Hanai)

Pyongyang informed the US and China of its plans for a nuclear test on Monday, Yonhap reported. North Korea said it would continue with the test despite pressure from the UN Security Council and its non-UNSC neighbors.

The South Korean military estimate that the yield of the nuclear explosion was between six and seven kilotons. Russia’s defense ministry says the size of the blast was over seven kilotons. The Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization said the yield was roughly twice as big as the previous nuclear test in 2009.

Further investigation into the nature of the explosion is underway. The evidence gathered – including seismic data, satellite images and data from spy planes detecting radioactive fallout – could allow researchers to deduct the status of North Korea’s secretive nuclear program. So far, the isolated country was believed to be unable to build a nuclear device small enough to fit onto one of its long-range ballistic missiles, making its nuclear capabilities virtually useless for offensive warfare.

Concerns over the claimed miniaturization effort were fueled by North Korea’s rocket launch last December. Pyongyang said it put a satellite into orbit for civilian purposes, and for national prestige, but many countries claimed it was a clandestine rocket weapons test. The UN Security Council condemned the launch, which it said was carried out in violation of a UNSC resolution banning the development of ballistic technology by North Korea.

Japan′s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) speaks to media after attending a meeting of Security Council of Japan at his official residence in Tokyo February 12, 2013 after reports of North Korea′s possible nuclear test. (Reuters/Issei Kato)

An hour after the test, Japan said that it is considering leveling further sanctions against North Korea.

“I have ordered that we consider every possible way to address this issue, including our own sanctions, while cooperating with other countries,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters after a meeting of Japan’s security council.

The news of the suspicious seismic activity in North Korea came days after South Korea and the US threatened that they may carry out a pre-emptive strike at North Korean facilities to halt its nuclear program.

China, North Korea’s main economic partner and only ally, said Pyongyang would pay a “heavy price” and threatened to scale down aid should it carry out a nuclear test.

But war correspondent Eric Margolis has told RT that now is the time for “diplomacy on the issue not empty threats,” because Pyongyang does not feel threatened having a powerful military.

“Nobody is going to take any military measures against them.” Meanwhile Magolis argues “North Korea is important to China strategically,” saying that if the communist regime in Pyonyang would collapse, South Korea would take over the state and place US troops on China’s border. Therefore, China’s response will concentrate on doing everything to keep the communists in power in N. Korea.

A screenshot from facebook.com
A screenshot from facebook.com

­The timing of the test makes it difficult to ease tensions, and a lot of uncertainty surrounds the situation, independent news editor James Corbett said.

“I certainly couldn’t have happened at a worse time internationally speaking,” Corbett told RT. “It’s the Lunar New Year in China, so basically the entire country is holiday. And in the US there is no confirmed defense secretary or central intelligence director.”

“Throw into that the wildcard of Xi Jinping – we don’t know much about him or how he is going to lead China – and the fact that Kim Jong-un is a relatively new leader as well,” he said. “You also have the new Abe government in Japan. There is a lot of wildcard in this mix.”

 

 

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