04/07/2021 News & Commentary – Korea

News & commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and published by Daniel Riggs.

1. Sinpo South Shipyard Update: North Korea Moves Submersible Missile Test Stand Barge

2. Sinpho South Shipyard: Repositioning of the Submersible Test Barge

3. N. Korea moves submersible missile test stand barge: U.S. think tank

4. More movement in North further raises suspicions of SLBM test

5. N.K. urges ‘cell secretaries’ to root out anti-socialist practices

6. Kim Jong-un calls on party’s grassroots members to cut antisocialist practices

7. Kim Jong-un says North Korea facing its ‘worst-ever situation’

8. Defense minister, EU military chief vow to boost security ties

9. New “hypersonic missile technology” college created at North Korea’s national defense university

10. US alliance bedrock of South Korea’s foreign policy

11. South Koreans vote for key city offices as political winds shift

12. South Korean Conservatives Are on the Rise a Year Before Presidential Election

13. Biased National Election Commission decisions raise questions in the run-up to Seoul and Busan by-elections

14. South Koreans see politics as a choice between two bad options

15. Iran considering release of seized Korean oil tanker

16. Cheonan warship families urge Moon to announce that N. Korea was behind it

17. High-wire act for Seoul in balancing ties with US and China

18. Toward stronger US security ties with Seoul, Tokyo

 

1. Sinpo South Shipyard Update: North Korea Moves Submersible Missile Test Stand Barge

CSIS · by Joseph Bermudez, Victor Cha and Jennifer Jun · April 6, 2021

This report is generating some speculation and reporting but note Joe Bermmudez’ assessment is that it does not mean an SLBM test is imminent. 

 

2. Sinpho South Shipyard: Repositioning of the Submersible Test Barge

38north.org · by Peter Makowsky · April 6, 2021

Excerpt: “The purpose for repositioning the test barge to the construction hall at this time is unclear. It may be to make room in the secure boat basin for the new submarine. Alternatively, since it is berthed behind the floating drydock, the North Koreans may be preparing to float it into the drydock or onto the marine railway to undergo maintenance or to move it inside the construction hall for modifications. The barge was designed for testing of the Pukguksong-1. As two new, untested Pukguksong missiles were displayed in recent military parades, the barge may need modifications to accommodate newer generation missiles.”

 

3. N. Korea moves submersible missile test stand barge: U.S. think tank

en.yna.co.kr · by 송상호 · April 7, 2021

 

4. More movement in North further raises suspicions of SLBM test

koreajoongangdaily.joins.com · by Michael Lee

Isn’t the blackmail diplomacy (the use of threats, increased tensions, and provocations to gain political and economic concessions) so obvious?

Excerpt: “The U.S. president’s comments are a provocation and encroachment on our country’s right to self-defense,” said Ri Pyong-chol, the vice chairman of the North’s Central Military Commission, in a statement issued March 27. “If the United States continues with its thoughtless remarks without thinking of the consequences, it may be faced with something not good.” 

 

5. N.K. urges ‘cell secretaries’ to root out anti-socialist practices

en.yna.co.kr · by 이원주 · April 7, 2021

These statements provide important insight into the nature of the Kim family regime.

The regime has few “policy tools” other than doubling down on regime ideology as the response to every problem. Perhaps more importantly, this report indicates how much Kim Jong-un fears the Korean people living in the north. The development of political resistance among the population is an existential threat to the regime. It is a greater threat than COVID, sanctions, natural disasters, and the ROK/US alliance.

 

6. Kim Jong-un calls on party’s grassroots members to cut antisocialist practices

koreajoongangdaily.joins.com· by Sarah Kim

For north Korea, ideology is everything.

 

7. Kim Jong-un says North Korea facing its ‘worst-ever situation’

The Korea Times · April 7, 2021

Is this the true test of Kim Jong-un’s leadership? Is this the inflection point in the 70 + year history of the Kim family regime? Are we ready for the possible contingencies that might come next?

Excerpts: ”North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has acknowledged his country was facing the ”worst-ever situation” as he addressed thousands of grassroots members of his ruling party during a major political conference in Pyongyang.

Experts say Kim is facing perhaps his toughest moment as he approaches a decade in rule, with North Korea’s coronavirus lockdown unleashing further shock on an economy devastated by decades of mismanagement and crippling U.S.-led sanctions over his nuclear weapons program.

We should not forget that the reason for the suffering of the Korean people in the north is the sole responsibility of Kim Jong-un and his deliberate policy decisions.

 

8. Defense minister, EU military chief vow to boost security ties

The Korea Times · April 7, 2021

This could signal an important development as European countries increase their presence in Asia (re: Quad – note naval exercise in the Indian Ocean that will include France and the UK). The ROK is not going to be left out of broader relationships even as it tries to balance relationships with the PRC and the US.

 

9. New “hypersonic missile technology” college created at North Korea’s national defense university

dailynk.com · by Jeong Tae Joo · April 7, 2021

The military is the priority and there has never been a deviation from Military FIrst politics.

Excerpt:  “The authorities want to produce more national defense specialists by teaching them about hypersonic weapon design, production, and research,” the source said. “Starting next year, incoming students will face much higher criteria regarding test scores than other places.”

 

10. US alliance bedrock of South Korea’s foreign policy

straitstimes.com · April 7, 2021

There is a lot to unpack in this short essay but these excerpts really sum up Korea’s strategic situation and issues:

The bedrock of its survival and growth has been the US alliance.

South Korea needs to engage actively in exchanges and trade with China, but regarding security and related high-tech issues, it should clarify its position of alignment with the US.

The Moon administration has assumed a submissive attitude to North Korea to bring it to the negotiation table. But the Hanoi summit showed clearly that Pyongyang has no intention of denuclearising.

Talks only for the sake of talks are meaningless. Dialogue is important, but sanctions are the only realistic means to deter North Korea’s threats.

The first thing for South Korea to do is to figure out, with its allies, how to apply more effective sanctions against the North.

 

11. South Koreans vote for key city offices as political winds shift

Reuters · by Josh Smith, Sangmi Cha · April 7, 2021

Will there be a rudder adjustment to South Korean domestic politics?

 

12. South Korean Conservatives Are on the Rise a Year Before Presidential Election

WSJ · by Andrew Jeong and Timothy W. Martin

Will there be a conservative wave in these and upcoming elections (through the Presidential election next year)? 

Excerpts: “The winners of the Seoul and Busan mayor elections will hold office for about a year, as they are finishing terms started by others. Seoul’s ex-mayor was found dead last July in an apparent suicide—after his ex-secretary went to the police to file a complaint accusing him of sexual misconduct. Busan’s former mayor resigned months earlier due to a sexual harassment scandal.

South Korea’s conservatives lost three major elections in three years—and renamed their party three times during that period. Last year they renamed it the People Power Party. A victory in the mayoral races in the country’s two biggest cities would give them momentum, local political experts say.

“If the conservatives win, it would mark a revival for them and a return of the conservatives as a legitimate political power base that might contend for the presidency,” said Kang Won-taek, a professor of politics at Seoul National University.

 

13. Biased National Election Commission decisions raise questions in the run-up to Seoul and Busan by-elections

onekoreanetwork.com · April 7, 2021

Biased National Election Commission decisions raise questions in the run-up to Seoul and Busan by-elections

 

14. South Koreans see politics as a choice between two bad options

The Economist · March 31, 2021

Excerpts: “Even those without feminist sensibilities have plenty of reasons for dismay. The government’s failure to make housing more affordable has been compounded in recent weeks by the revelation that officials from the agency in charge of new housing developments had profited from inside information on big land deals. On Monday Kim Sang-jo, Mr Moon’s top economic adviser and the architect of the government’s flagship corporate-governance reforms, resigned after it emerged that he had substantially raised the rent on a flat he owned two days before a new tenant-protection law would have limited the increase. Covid-19 restrictions, a slow vaccine rollout and a sluggish economic recovery are eroding the goodwill the government earned by managing the early stages of the pandemic well.

But voters are not enamoured with the conservative opposition, says Mr Kang of SNU. “If they win the mayoral elections,” he says, “it will not be the opposition’s victory but the ruling party’s defeat.” That is mainly because the conservatives have developed little in the way of new ideas or personalities since the previous president, Park Geun-hye, was impeached for corruption four years ago. The voices of young people and particularly of young women are woefully under-represented in both main parties. Oh Se-hoon, the conservative candidate for mayor of Seoul (pictured on previous page), held the office until ten years ago. “It says a lot that they haven’t found a better candidate in a decade,” says Mr Kang. As the government stumbles and the opposition remains stuck in its ways, disillusionment is likely only to deepen. ■

 

15.  Iran considering release of seized Korean oil tanker

koreajoongangdaily.joins.com  · by Sarah Kim

What will Iranian blackmail diplomacy cost?

 

16. Cheonan warship families urge Moon to announce that N. Korea was behind it

donga.com · April 7, 2021

This should not be a difficult action at all. And it saddens me to think President Moon will not call out Kim Jong-un for the regime’s murderous behavior.

 

17. High-wire act for Seoul in balancing ties with US and China

SCMP · April 7, 2021

High-wire act for Seoul in balancing ties with US and China

As with many countries in the region, South Korea is being wooed by both Beijing and Washington and does not need or want to choose sides

 

18. Toward stronger US security ties with Seoul, Tokyo

asiatimes.com · by Stephan Haggard · April 7, 2021

The six areas (but only 5 subheadings in the article) for cooperation:

Artificial intelligence

5G technology

Reducing vulnerability of ‘value targets’

Competing against BRI

Space

Excerpts: “The report considers other areas of cooperation that relate directly to military spending, including anti-submarine-warfare and military-space cooperation, and these also make for interesting reading.

The report’s list is by no means exhaustive. It is, however, demonstrative of a key point: that strengthening extended deterrence is not the only or even the most logical route to a more robust balancing of China in Northeast Asia. The success of such a strategy ultimately depends on widening the scope of cooperation in ways that increase underlying capabilities and match those in which China’s rise poses risks.

Not coincidentally, such an approach has the benefit of reminding all three parties of the advantages that come from cooperation, and the costs of allowing outstanding issues – no matter how important – to drive them apart.”

 

———–

 

There are two things that must be rooted out in all human beings – arrogant opinion and mistrust. Arrogant opinion expects that there is nothing further needed, and mistrust assumes that under the torrent of circumstance there can be no happiness.” 

– Epictetus

 

“The great part of our happiness depends on our dispositions., and not on circumstances. We carry the seeds with us in our minds wherever we go.” 

– Martha Washington

 

“Endure and persist. The pain will do you good.”

-Ovid

DanielRiggs
Wed, 04/07/2021 – 11:21am

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