What if Iran already has nukes hidden in North Korea?

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**Posted by Phineas

nuclear-explosion

That’s the not so subtle implication of Gordon Chang’s article in The Daily Beast. Much of the article explores the illicit nuclear proliferation network (parts confirmed, others suspected) between Iran, China, North Korea, and (formerly?) Pakistan, dating back nearly fifteen years. But the key portions follow:

In October 2012, Iran began stationing personnel at a military base in North Korea, in a mountainous area close to the Chinese border. The Iranians, from the Ministry of Defense and associated firms, reportedly are working on both missiles and nuclear weapons. Ahmed Vahidi, Tehran’s minister of defense at the time, denied sending people to the North, but the unconfirmed dispatches make sense in light of the two states announcing a technical cooperation pact the preceding month.

(…)

The North Koreans have also sold Iran material for bomb cores, perhaps even weapons-grade uranium. The Telegraph reported that in 2002 a barrel of North Korean uranium cracked open and contaminated the tarmac of the new Tehran airport.

(…)

The relationship between the two regimes has been long-lasting. Hundreds of North Koreans have worked at about 10 nuclear and missile facilities in Iran. There were so many nuclear and missile scientists, specialists, and technicians that they took over their own coastal resort there, according to Henry Sokolski,  the proliferation maven, writing in 2003.

Even if Iran today were to agree to adhere to the Additional Protocol, it could still continue developing its bomb in North Korea, conducting research there or buying North Korean technology and plans. And as North Korean centrifuges spin in both known and hidden locations, the Kim regime will have a bigger stock of uranium to sell to the Iranians for their warheads. With the removal of sanctions, as the P5+1 is contemplating, Iran will have the cash to accelerate the building of its nuclear arsenal.

So while the international community inspects Iranian facilities pursuant to a framework deal, the Iranians could be busy assembling the components for a bomb elsewhere. In other words, they will be one day away from a bomb—the flight time from Pyongyang to Tehran—not one year as American and other policymakers hope.

(Emphasis added)

Think about it. Pretend for a minute you’re one of the Muslim fanatics who rule Iran. Maybe you’re part of the faction that sees it as its duty to bring about the Islamic “end times.” You definitely want to crush the Jews and destroy Israel. You hate America as the Great Satan and see Iran’s Islamic Revolution as the one hope for truly making Allah’s religion supreme. To protect the revolution and fulfill Allah’s goals, you’ve decided Iran needs nuclear weapons.

But the Great and Little Satans (America and Israel) stand in your way. They don’t want you to have these weapons. They are infidels and enemies of Allah. So, to buy yourself the time to make them, you enter into negotiations — not to give anything away, but merely to delay. And, so far, it’s worked. The infidels are weak and anxious for an agreement, so they keep playing along, no matter how outrageous your demands.

And yet there are risks. What if the Zionist Entity (Israel) loses patience and attacks? That might set back your program. What if a new president takes charge in America, one who isn’t afraid to use his nation’s awesome resources to weaken your regime by supporting the opposition, as Reagan did with Poland, or through the direct use of armed force, as they did to Saddam? That could wreck your nuclear dreams, if not overthrow you altogether. How do you guard against that?

Well, like any well-run operation, you have a disaster back up plan. In this case, an offsite nuclear program, parallel to the one in Iran. One so offsite that  it is in another country, an allied nation with a nuclear program of its own and that hates America, too, and is obsessed with security.

A place like North Korea.

This is all speculative, of course, but it is also plausible. It’s what any reasonable person would consider doing in a similar situation. And, while the mullahs are aggressive antisemitic religious fascists, they are not stupid.

Keep your eye out: Iran has been playing hardball in the negotiations, demanding so much that even Obama and Kerry must have been tempted at times to walk out. The deadline for an agreement is coming up: If Iran suddenly and to everyone’s relief makes major concessions, I think the North Korean backup scenario goes from “likely” to “almost certain.”

Sleep well.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Leaked Chinese documents show planning for a North Korean collapse

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**Posted by Phineas

"I've got some bad news, boss..."

“I’ve got some bad news, boss…”

To paraphrase Whoopie Goldberg, I’m pretty sure these weren’t “leaked-leaked,” so much as deliberately slipped to the Japanese, knowing they’d go public. It’s a not-so-subtle to warning to Dear Leader III: “If things fall apart, don’t count on us to bail you out:”

China has drawn up detailed contingency plans for the collapse of the North Korean government, suggesting that Beijing has little faith in the longevity of Kim Jong-un’s regime.

Documents drawn up by planners from China’s People’s Liberation Army that were leaked to Japanese media include proposals for detaining key North Korean leaders and the creation of refugee camps on the Chinese side of the frontier in the event of an outbreak of civil unrest in the secretive state.

The report calls for stepping up monitoring of China’s 879-mile border with North Korea.

Any senior North Korean military or political leaders who could be the target of either rival factions or another “military power,” thought to be a reference to the United States, should be given protection, the documents state.

According to Kyodo News, the Chinese report says key North Korean leaders should be detained in special camps where they can be monitored, but also prevented from directing further military operations or taking part in actions that could be damaging to China’s national interest.

The report suggests “foreign forces” could be involved in an incident that leads to the collapse of internal controls in North Korea, resulting to millions of refugees attempting to flee. The only route to safety the vast majority would have would be over the border into China.

“Foreign forces,” of course, being the United States and South Korea. Kim Jong Un’s behavior since taking power, from hysterical rhetoric to live-fire artillery drills in sensitive areas to his penchant for executing rivals in various psychopathic creative ways, and especially his continued pursuit of nuclear weapons, has to worry governments with security interests in Northeast Asia. And the last thing anyone wants is a Korean conflict that might again force Beijing to come to Pyongyang’s aid and place Chinese forces in combat against Americans. North Korea’s behavior has become unpredictable since L’il Kim took power, and a lack of predictability in Great Power relations makes everyone nervous. Hence a the message to Kim that’s about as subtle as a gun to the face: instead of helping you, we may put you in a camp, instead.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this Chinese report comes out at just about the same time we learn of credible reports that North Korea has developed nuclear warheads that can fit on an ICBM. Missiles that can reach the United States:

According to the 16-page report, “The North Korean Nuclear Threat to the United States,” the Defense Intelligence Agency stated in an unclassified assessment made public a year ago that “DIA assesses with moderate confidence the North [Korean government] currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles.”

“This is disturbing news,” the report says. “The North Korean regime is one of the most fanatic, paranoid, and militaristic dictatorships on the planet. … While North Korea has long made occasional nuclear attack threats, the scope, magnitude, and frequency of these threats have vastly increased in 2013.”

North Korea has in the recent months issued provocative threats to carry out nuclear strikes on U.S. cities and against American allies.

By the way, the Obama administration is trying to deny the conclusions in this report, because it doesn’t fit with their diplomacy. Feel reassured.

Anyway, back to Chinese planning for a North Korean collapse, one has to wonder if the Chinese haven’t seen the same information as DIA (they have much better contacts than we with the regime, though they’ve worsened in recent years) and decided to let Pyongyang know that no help would be coming their way if they decided to play a game of nuclear chicken with us. Quite the contrary, in fact. In that case, it might even be in China’s interests to euthanize its ally before it could push us over the edge. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out they have a North Korean general on tap for a convenient coup, or that they were prepared to invade, themselves. For fraternal, humanitarian reasons, of course.

And let’s keep in mind that a military crisis might not be the catalyst for a North Korean state failure: East Germany fell apart after the Soviets left from sheer exhaustion, and the Soviet Union just sort of twitched and dissolved without us having to fire a shot. North Korea is subject to periodic severe famines, and the economy can’t produce what the people need. They’re only held in line through terror and constant propaganda — what if that suddenly stops working? Or what if some general decides he doesn’t want to be the next to go up against the wall? Rather than a military confrontation, Beijing might find itself dealing with hundreds of thousands of starving Koreans looking for food. Better to use the People’s Liberation Army to “restore order” south of the Yalu and keep those people from overwhelming the neighboring regions of Manchuria.

It’s a lot of speculation, I realize, which is all we have when dealing with a black box like North Korea. But, that the Chinese are taking the possibility of sudden regime collapse so seriously (and this isn’t the first time they’ve warned Pyongyang) means we should, too.

via Walter Russell Mead

RELATED: Earlier posts on North Korea.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

North Korea: the nightmare of living under a god

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**Posted by Phineas

North Korea Yeonmi Park

There’s an interesting and frightening interview posted to Business Insider today with Yeonmi Park, a woman who escaped from North Korea with her family as a teenager, but needed years to get over the brainwashing she endured there. An indoctrination so intense, she believed the late Kim Jong Il could read her mind:

Yeonmi Park grew up in North Korea, under the watchful eye of then-leader Kim Jong-il.

Though she escaped with her family when she was 15, it took her years to get over the intense brainwashing she experienced. In a recent interview with Australian public broadcasting channel SBS, Park went into unbelievable detail about growing up in the totalitarian state.

Growing up in North Korea, according to Park, was like “living in hell.” She describes constant power outages, no transportation, and watching classmates and friends disappear without a trace. While that may be unsurprising, the most interesting part of Park’s experience is her admission that she believed Kim Jong-il to be “a god” who could literally read her mind.

“I had to be careful of my thoughts because I believed Kim Jong-il could read my mind. Every couple of days someone would disappear,” Park said.

Ms. Park’s story is part of a larger program on mind-control shown by SBS, the Australian public broadcaster.  The whole show is worth watching.

In an article at SBS, she tells more of her own story:

I lived in North Korea for the first 15 years of my life, believing Kim Jong-il was a God. I never doubted it because I didn’t know anything else. I could not even imagine life outside of the regime.

It was like living in hell. There were constant power outages, so everything was dark. There was no transportation – everyone had to walk everywhere. It was very dirty and no one could eat anything.

It was not the right conditions for human life, but you couldn’t think about it, let alone complain about it. Even though you were suffering, you had to worship the regime every day.

I had to be careful of my thoughts because I believed Kim Jong-il could read my mind. Every couple of days someone would disappear. A classmate’s mother was punished in a public execution that I was made to attend. I had no choice – there were spies in the neighbourhood.

George Orwell’s 1984 depicts the UK after an atomic war and a Socialist revolution. Big Brother is a de facto god to the people: his every word the undeniable truth, no matter how it contradicted what he might have said just the day before. Your innermost thoughts known to him, and he held the power to make you willing to accept your own death and the deaths of those close to you as just. His Animal Farm is a parable of a just revolution hijacked by an anti-democratic cadre, who maintain power by turning the other animals against each other and all into slaves. Both are taught as works of fiction, but Yeonmi Park’s story reminds us that they were more like docu-dramas and that the story hasn’t come to an end.

It reminds me of a saying of John Adams:

“It is weakness rather than wickedness which renders men unfit to be trusted with unlimited power”

Our second president was right, but left something out: it’s not just that Mankind is too morally weak for any one person to hold absolute power, but there is also the weakness that makes us willing to surrender our responsibilities as citizens and entrust a small group of people or a single person with unlimited power. It is dangerous because, eventually and inevitably, that power will fall into the hands of evil men.

And then what is to stop them from proclaiming themselves gods?

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

North Korea: Kim III orders execution by flamethrower

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**Posted by Phineas

"I've got some bad news, boss..."

“Really? Let’s hold a BBQ…”

Sometimes I wonder if Kim Jong Un, a reputed heavy drinker, doesn’t sit around late at night nursing a bottle of scotch and fantasizing about the various outré ways he can whack people who have ticked him off:

A senior North Korean official has been executed with a flamethrower after Kim Jong-un branded him an ‘enemy of the state’, it has been claimed.

O Sang-hon is said to have been brutally killed for his close ties to the communist leader’s uncle Jang Song-taek, who was himself publicly tried and executed in December after being found guilty of corruption and ‘counter revolutionary’ activities.

Mr O is thought to be the latest of 11 senior Workers Party figures to have been executed this year over their links to Mr Jang, with South Korean media reporting that Kim Jong-un has plans to execute or imprison hundreds more of his supporters and extended family members.

Mr O had been Mr Jang’s deputy at North Korea’s ministry of public security, and his execution by flamethrower took place after being found guilty of helping his boss turn the state department into a personal security division and hide corruption, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported.

The ministry of public security has since been closed, with all 11 of the most senior officials said to have been either executed or sent to one of Kim Jong-un’s concentration camps in a second wave of vengeance following conviction of Mr Jang.

I’m not so sure a life sentence in in the North Korean gulag is much better than death, in fact I’m certain it’s in many ways worse, but execution by flamethrower? Mind you, that’s after we’ve had reports of execution by mortar and by being thrown to the dogs.

Use of a flamethrower brings a whole new meaning to “firing squad.”

Take this news with the usual caveats about “if it’s true,” but, regardless of its verity and in spite of its egregiousness, Kim’s savage, quixotic tyranny is a “teachable moment” for advocates for advocates of limited government, because it shows quite clearly the dangers posed when government is not restrained and its powers are not carefully limited. And when the Rule of Man replaces the Rule of Law, no one’s life, rights, or property is safe.

No need for flamethrowers to prove it: just ask the Sacketts of Idaho.

PS: I fully expect Kim to up his game — the next execution just has to be by tac-nuke.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

North Korea: all men must now wear Kim Jong Un’s hairstyle?

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**Posted by Phineas

Bah! You call that a "haircut?"

Bah! You call that a “haircut?”

When you’re the boy god-king of the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation, you can get away with weird, petty stuff like this:

If you are a man in North Korea, we sincerely hope you have a round face. It’s the shape that will work with your new haircut.

That new haircut is reportedly called the “Dear Leader Kim Jong Un,” modeled after—you guessed it—North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s impenetrable block of black hair atop his chubby cheeks. The style reportedly became a state-mandated guideline about two weeks ago, though experts familiar with the country have said there’s no evidence a new hairstyle rule has gone into effect.

According to the article, this isn’t something new for North Korea: Kim’s father, the late, demented Kim Jong Il, launched a state campaign against long hair on the grounds that it sucked the nutrients from one’s brain.

Really.

Anyway, a TV campaign was launched and “journalists” would go to people’s homes to confront them about their overly lengthy locks. This being North Korea, I suppose they were lucky not to be shot or fed to the dogs.

Back to Kim III, and regardless of whether this is true, it’s another illustration of why limited, constitutional government is best; when there are no limits to the powers of the rulers, there are also no limits to what they will do the the ruled. North Korea is just the extreme example that clarifies the point.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Startling: In image from space, North Korea seemingly disappears

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Kim Jong Un

North Korean ‘leader’ Kim Jong Un.

This depresses me beyond words:


Of the photo, the LA Times reports:

North Korea appears to be missing in an image taken from space.

NASA says of the nighttime image, taken from the International Space Station: “North Korea is almost completely dark compared to neighboring South Korea and China. The darkened land appears as if it were a patch of water joining the Yellow Sea to the Sea of Japan.”

Capital city Pyongyang has a population of more than 3 million, yet is a tiny island of light.

The dictator-ruled nation is in the dark in more ways than one. Electricity is sporadic and unreliable, with those who have it often receiving power only a few hours a day, according to U.S. News & World Report. Citizens struggle with chronic fuel shortages. Most get their fuel for heating and cooking on the black market, Global Post reports, or go out and gather fuel — such as firewood — themselves.

Lisa Ling, a journalist who was imprisoned in North Korea, wrote about the nation and creeping change in 2012 in the L.A. Times. She noted that North Korea was as “isolated and backward” as South Korea was “wired and technologically advanced.” The average North Korean, she said, has no knowledge of YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.

As the article insinuated, where there is no shining light there is no power for the people of North Korea – in more ways than one.

I weep – and pray.

Sobering: UN report finds “‘abundant evidence” of mass torture in North Korea

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Kim Jong Il and  Sec. of State Albright

Kim Jong Il and Sec. of State Albright in Pyongyang – 10-24-2000.

Via CNN:

A stunning catalog of torture and the widespread abuse of even the weakest of North Koreans reveal a portrait of a brutal state “that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” a United Nations panel reported Monday.

North Korean leaders employ murder, torture, slavery, sexual violence, mass starvation and other abuses as tools to prop up the state and terrorize “the population into submission,” the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea said in its report.

The commission traced the abuses directly to the highest levels of the North Korean government while simultaneously blaming world leaders for sitting on their hands amid untold agony.

“The suffering and tears of the people of North Korea demand action,” commission Chairman Michael Kirby told reporters.

The group said it would refer its findings to the International Criminal Court for possible prosecution. It also sent a letter warning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he could face prosecution for crimes against humanity.

[…]

The U.N. panel released its 400-page report after hearing from more than 320 witnesses in public hearings and private interviews.

You can read the full report here.

Many have long suspected that when and if the time comes and the lid is lifted wide open on the DPRK, its story fully told, we’ll see and read about horrors on a scale so massive that we’ll weep loudly in outrage over our decades-old feckless policies against the brutal tyrants there who have carried out the widespread abuse and torture of its citizens.

I pray I’m wrong, but fear I am not.

Kim Jong Un may have out-psycho’d his father and grandfather

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**Posted by Phineas

"I've got some bad news, boss..."

“We’re out of dog food? No problem…”

I mean, we’ve heard he was hammered when he ordered the trial and execution of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, but to carry out the sentence by feeding him alive to the dogs? Dude!

According to the report, unlike previous executions of political prisoners which were carried out by firing squads with machine guns, Jang was stripped naked and thrown into a cage, along with his five closest aides. Then 120 hounds, starved for three days, were allowed to prey on them until they were completely eaten up. This is called “quan jue”, or execution by dogs.

The report said the entire process lasted for an hour, with Mr Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader in North Korea, supervising it along with 300 senior officials.

Keep in mind all the usual caveats: “if this is true,” the difficulty of getting factual information from a paranoid Stalinist dictatorship (almost as hard as getting it from Jay Carney), the possibility that Kim might just be playing us for various reasons only a North Korean dictator could fathom….

Still, this has the air of plausibility about it; it fits a historical pattern in autocracies or near-autocracies when a dynasty decays and an immature or deranged (or both) leader who’s never known any limits comes to the throne. One example that comes to mind is the the Roman Empire: does Augustus to Tiberius to Caligula parallel Kim Il Sung to Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un?

Regardless, if these stories are even half true (1), expect Kim III to have a short reign before one of his generals blasts him to save himself.

via Sonny Bunch

Footnote:
(1) I mean, we do know he had one unfortunate executed by mortar fire.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

I’ve heard of drunk dialing, but drunk executing? Updated.

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**Posted by Phineas

"I've got some bad news, boss..."

“I did what last night?”

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, aka “Tiny Psycho Dictator III,” is not what one would call a happy drunk:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was drunk when he ordered the execution of two aides close to his uncle Jang Song-thaek, the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported on Saturday.

The Yomiuri cited a source that claimed Ri Ryong-ha, the first deputy director of the administrative department of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, and Jang Su-gil, a deputy director of the department, were executed because they did not immediately follow an order by Kim to hand over their control of a profitable business to the military. 

The newspaper said when Kim made the order, Ri and Jang responded that they first had to report to director Jang – the man in charge of the administrative department – which made the young leader “upset.”

When Kim ordered the execution of the two aides, he was “very drunk,” the source told the Yomiuri. 

It seems Jang may have been skimming from the money Kim gave him to buy presents bribes with which to buy the loyalty of others in the North Korean hierarchy. If he had known about that before the incident with the two aides, we can imagine why he was in a bad mood and why it was a bad time to tell him “no.”

By the way, under the “justice system” in the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation, collective punishment is the order of the day: Kim also ordered a purge of the director’s aides and, according to reports, had his family and relatives arrested. No word on if they have been executed.

via Bridget Johnson

UPDATE: Thanks to reader Crosspatch in the comments, this article from The Independent seems to confirm that “administrator Jang” is the same “Uncle Jang” who was executed by his nephew. Apparently people close to the aides who were shot called friends and family overseas and forgot the lines were tapped:

The paper said that it was intelligence from the first two deaths that made the South Korean government aware Jang’s own execution was “inevitable”. “Those who were close [to the two aides] were surprised by their execution, and made phone calls to their friends living abroad, and the South Korean government [spy agency] wiretapped their phone conversations,2 the newspaper said.

In all, at least eight people from Jang’s circle were executed in the purge – alongside the director himself.

Kim had better be careful: he keeps whacking random people when drunk, some general might decide it’s safer to launch a coup, and Kim won’t wake up from his last drunken stupor. Then again, given that we’re talking about North Korea, perhaps the best thing for the world and their own people would be for this nightmare regime to turn on itself.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

North Korea: Dictator executes ex-girlfriend for doing porn, owning Bible

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**Posted by Phineas

"I've got some bad news, boss..."

“She did what??”

I’ve figured it out: North Korea is the only nation founded on a bad acid trip:

Kim Jong-un’s ex-girlfriend was among a dozen well-known North Korean performers who were executed by firing squad on Aug. 20, reports said Wednesday.

Sources in China said singer Hyon Song-wol as well as Mun Kyong-jin, head of the Unhasu Orchestra, were arrested on Aug. 17 for violating North Korean laws against pornography and were executed in public three days later.

The victims of the atrocity were members of the Unhasu Orchestra as well as singers, musicians and dancers with the Wangjaesan Light Music Band.

They were accused of videotaping themselves having sex and selling the videos. The tapes have apparently gone on sale in China as well.

A source said some allegedly had Bibles in their possession, and all were treated as political dissidents.

According to reports (and we don’t know how reliable they are), Mun and her colleagues were mowed down by a machine-gun firing squad, which I suppose is merciful compared to dropping a mortar round on top of the condemned. And, really, who among us hasn’t at some time, however briefly, fantasized about doing the same to a pain-in-the-neck ex?

The families of the victims were all sent to North Korea’s hellish gulag, par for the course for the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation.

It is good to be King psycho-dictator.

At first glance, the “porn and Bible” angle made me think this was some sort of fake, but it does make a weird sort of sense. Think about it: you live in a police state that takes most of your income and rations how much food you get. You get more than most, but you want more. Well, porn sells.

Plus, and here’s where the Bible comes in, these are acts of rebellion and defiance. Could it be that the sex-videos and Bibles were some weird equivalent to a teen “acting out” against a parent, giving them a sense, however fleeting, of a bit of freedom and individuality? We’ll never know. But, in an atheistic, puritanical, Confucianist-Stalinst state, both uncontrolled sex and religion threaten the totalitarian rule of the individual by the government — they become thought-criminals, a la 1984, and have to be destroyed.

In this case, instead of being grounded, they were shot and their families swept into non-existence.

Final thought: North Korea has to be one of the most thorough internal-surveillance states on the planet. I find it very hard to believe that no one knew this was going on and that it didn’t get back to Dear Leader III before now. As a friend asked, did Kim know, but tolerated it until the new wife found out and demanded “something be done?”

Again, we’ll never know, but anything twisted is possible in North Korea. Especially if it’s twisted.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)