04/15/2021 News & Commentary – Korea

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

1. N. Korea may resume nuclear, ICBM testing: intelligence chief

2. N. Korea marks late founder’s birthday with celebrations, no signs of provocations yet

3. “Worst-Ever Situation” or Not (north Korea)

4. Sinpho South Shipyard: Submersible Missile Test Barge Returns to Secure Basin

5. After an Electoral Loss, Will South Korea’s President Change His Policies?

6. Sinpo South Shipyard Update: Continued Activity

7. As North Korea and China plan to resume trade, reported land mines on border illustrate Pyongyang’s paranoia over Covid-19

8. North spends quiet, festivity-filled day remembering its founder

9. State Security University students in Sino-N. Korean border region withdrawn

10. Pro-unification group denounces planned U.S. hearing on leaflet ban as ‘interference in inter-Korean affairs’

11. Military to set up AI security system near border following N.K. man’s crossing

12. North Korea: What we know about its missile and nuclear programme

13. Russian ambassador says no famine in North Korea, trade may resume soon

14. North Korean educational authorities rank average test scores of students nationwide

15. China, North Korea border could be site of new projects, report says

16. Left-wing education destroying the world’s liberal democratic system

17. Asean and Korea amid mounting US-China rivalry

 

1. N. Korea may resume nuclear, ICBM testing: intelligence chief

en.yna.co.kr · by 변덕근 · April 15, 2021

The questions for me are always what effects does Kim seek to achieve if he conducts a nuclear or ICBM test? How does the action support his strategy.

The DNI gives us some broad answers:  “For its part, North Korea may take aggressive and potentially destabilizing actions to reshape its security environment and will seek to drive wedges between the United States and its allies,” she said at the Senate hearing.

“Kim may be considering whether to resume long-range missile or nuclear testing this year to try to force the United States to deal with him on Pyongyang’s terms,” the report said.

She is describing Kim’s strategy of political warfare, his long con and blackmail diplomacy – the use of threats, increased tensions, and provocations to gain political and economic concessions.​ These statements and the detailed information that back them up in the intelligence estimates should be driving our policy and strategy. We have to address the Korean security situation with a deep understanding of the nature, objectives, and strategy of the Kim family regime and deal with it as it really is and not as we would wish it to be.

Kim seems to be trying to shape the conditions so that the new Biden administration strategy is either dead on arrival or if the US wants to make the new ​strategy work it will have to provide sanctions relief in return for a promise to negotiate.

​There is one other concept that has been on my mind of late. KIm Jong-un may also act as a “spoiler” in great power competition. ​north Korea is not and will not be a great power but it is possible that Kim may believe that he can enhance his strategy by being a spoiler in the relationship between the US and China.

For all the pundits out there who are recommending policy and strategy I think it would be useful to understand that our policy makers at the NSC, State, DOD, Justice, Treasury, etc are going to be (or should be but I am confident they are) basing the policy and strategy on these intelligence estimate. Going forward I would recommend the pundits and think tankers reference the ODNI’s threat assessment when making their new proposals. If their recommendations do not take into account the intelligence estimates then their policy and strategy recommendations should be dead on arrival.

 

2. N. Korea marks late founder’s birthday with celebrations, no signs of provocations yet

en.yna.co.kr · by 이원주 · April 15, 2021

Again, we really have to assess what effects Kim thinks he will achieve if he conducts a provocation.

 

3. “Worst-Ever Situation” or Not (north Korea)

38 North

Key point to help us understand north Korean propaganda:

“The term “Arduous March” is associated with an extremely trying situation and hunger. It originated in the approximately 100-day march by Kim Il Sung and his anti-Japan guerrilla unit in the late 1930s. The most recent Arduous March refers to the mid to late 1990s, when millions of North Koreans died from widespread hunger. The “spirit of the Arduous March” was announced in the 1996 New Year’s joint editorial by the party, army and Youth League dailies, North Korea’s most important policy document of the year.[5] North Korean state media articles regularly mention “Arduous March,” typically to recall the spirit with which the people tided over difficulties in the 1990s. On the other hand, this terminology has been attributed much less frequently to the leader. According to the ROK Ministry of Unification, Kim Jong Un has previously mentioned “Arduous March” in only three public speeches, all in historical contexts, unlike at the latest cell secretaries’ meeting.[6]

In regards to this statement I think there is great potential for the conditions to eventually be worse than the famine of the 1990s with no hope of relief because there is no South Korean Sunshine policy to bail out the regime because of the contemporary sanctions regime that was not in place in the 1990s. The second reason is that the markets that developed and provided resilience up until this point in time have become severely restricted with the regime’s implementation of its COVID mitigation measures which have been used as “cover” to crack down on economic and political activity that is a threat to the regime.

Excerpt: ”There is no evidence to suggest that North Korea’s economic situation is nearly as dire as the Arduous March of the 1990s. Unlike in 1996, Kim’s brief announcement of “Arduous March” at the party cell secretaries’ meeting was not presented as a policy guideline for the year. Choson Sinbo, a website operated by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), claimed that the term “Arduous March” was not synonymous with economic difficulties but rather reflected a “life-and-death” resolve to carry out the decisions reached at the January Party Congress.[7] The article also pointed out that Kim’s use of the term was confined to the Workers’ Party this time, not the entire population as was the case in the past. Choson Sinbo appears to have editorial ties to Pyongyang and regularly publishes commentary on issues that North Korea itself seems reluctant to discuss.”

 

4. Sinpho South Shipyard: Submersible Missile Test Barge Returns to Secure Basin

38north.org · by Peter Makowsky · April 14, 2021

Kim knows we are watching. We have to assume he is showing us what he wants us to see.

 

5. After an Electoral Loss, Will South Korea’s President Change His Policies?

carnegieendowment.org · by Chung Min Lee

From our good friend, Chung Min Lee.

Excerpts: “The PPP’s victory in the by-election provides a new political calculus and opens the possibility of the opposition sustaining its momentum through next year’s critical presidential election. Yet the path to victory is not assured. It will depend on whether the party can bring in outside big names and construct a united front, as they did in the by-elections. Former prosecutor general Yoon Seok-yeol, who resigned in March after the Moon administration’s relentless efforts to diminish his office’s powers, is seen as a serious presidential contender. If the conservative party attracts Yoon and other outside candidates such as Ahn Cheol-soo (a software entrepreneur turned politician who bolstered the PPP’s victory in Seoul by joining hands with mayoral candidate Oh), then it will be able to field a unified candidate in the 2022 presidential contest.

But the burden is much heavier on the ruling party. The DP’s biggest obstacle is whether its powerful old guard will allow a new generation of party leaders to enact wrenching internal reforms, boost a new presidential candidate, and extricate the party from Moon’s influence. But so far, party stalwarts have refused to back down from the very policies that crushed the party in Seoul and Busan.

If the past four years is any guide, Moon and the wall of ideologues surrounding him, will stay the course and press on. In the last year of the Moon administration, it seems that policies rejected by millions of Korean voters and unstinting political hubris will continue to be core guiding principles.”

 

6. Sinpo South Shipyard Update: Continued Activity

CSIS · by  Joseph Bermudez and Victor Cha · April 14, 2021

 

10. Pro-unification group denounces planned U.S. hearing on leaflet ban as ‘interference in inter-Korean affairs’

en.yna.co.kr · by 고병준 · April 15, 2021

We should keep in mind every time we talk about the north’s nuclear weapons we reinforce regime legitimacy. On the other hand the focus on human rights is an existential threat to the regime.

 

11. Military to set up AI security system near border following N.K. man’s crossing

en.yna.co.kr · by 최수향 · April 15, 2021

AI cannot replace the enduring requirement for boots on the ground patrolling to actually interdict infiltration operations. Perhaps AI can assist but there is no substitute for boots on the ground.

 

12. North Korea: What we know about its missile and nuclear programme

news.yahoo.com · April 13, 2021

I believe I sent the original BBC report but this is useful information we should keep in mind.

 

13. Russian ambassador says no famine in North Korea, trade may resume soon

Reuters · by Josh Smith · April 15, 2021

A lot to parse in this report.

And there is this: “Matsegora said positive changes in relations between North Korea and the United States were unlikely due to the hard line taken by the new administration of President Joe Biden.

“Judging by how aggressively the Joe Biden administration is behaving on the Russian, Chinese and other fields, there are very few hopes for a positive scenario in Korean affairs,” he said.

 

14. North Korean educational authorities rank average test scores of students nationwide

dailynk.com · by Ha Yoon Ah · April 15, 2021

Korea students in the north face two long term challenges that affect their intellectual capacity and ability to deal with the modern world, to include in unified Korea. First, the widespread malnutrition has not only the physical effects such as we see in stunted growth but also long term cognitive effects. Second, the curriculum in north Korea is dominated by ideological training and even STEM subjects are taught in the context of all that the Dear, Great, and Supreme leaders have done for the world in various areas. Students in north Korea will be ill-prepared to function in a modern society that does not follow the teachings of Jucje and the Kim family regime. This will be especially problematic during the unification process.

 

15.  China, North Korea border could be site of new projects, report says

upi.com  · by Elizabeth Shim · April 14, 2021

Probably only if Kim thinks he can maintain economic and political control in the region.

 

16. Left-wing education destroying the world’s liberal democratic system

onekoreanetwork.com  · Jebong Lee · April 14, 2021

A courageous view from South Korea.

 

17. Asean and Korea amid mounting US-China rivalry

straitstimes.com · by Lee Hyuk · April 14, 2021

Excerpts: “The US-China confrontation is an even more difficult challenge for Korea. The new Cold War between the US and China is unfolding on every front, and the dynamics of their competition over security, economy, political systems and values all carry deep implications for Korea.

Korea today is often touted as a democratic and economic miracle, and such achievements have been possible, to a substantial degree, because of its alliance with the US.

The US counts on Korea to remain its steadfast ally committed to defending shared values and strategic interests.”

 

———–

 

Science must become Art….Of the two fields into which we have divided the conduct of war, tactics and strategy, the theory of the latter contains unquestionably, as before observed, the greatest difficulties, because the first is almost limited to a circumscribed field of objects, but the latter in the direction of objects leading directly to peace, opens to itself an unlimited field of possibilities. 

War is part of the intercourse of the human race. We say therefore, war belongs not to the province of arts and sciences, but to the province of social life.

– Clausewitz

 

“The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.”

Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory: (1) He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight; (2) he will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces; (3) he will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks; (4) he will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared; (5) he will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.” 

– Sun Tzu

 

 

 

 

DanielRiggs
Thu, 04/15/2021 – 9:29am

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