Wednesday, May 8, 2019

North Korea update

-the N. Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to Farm No. Unit 810  in this undated photo released in Pyongyang Sept. 13, 2016.KCNA / via Reuters file 

Feb. 20, 2019  By Phil McCausland and Dan De Luce
 “They’re going to want some denuclearization steps from North Korea, but I don’t think the North Koreans are going to give up very much,” Victor Cha, who served as the director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council during the Bush administration. said.  “When we talk about any sanction-lifting though, a lot of experts would say the place where you can do the least harm and the most good for the North Korean people is through humanitarian sanctions.”
  Of North Korea’s 25 million people, 10.3 million or 41 percent of the population face food insecurity and 10.1 million suffer from malnutrition, according to a March 2018 UN report. ....   
  In an attempt to increase the pressure against Kim’s regime and their nuclear program, the Trump administration increased sanctions that essentially cut off the flow of international humanitarian aid to North Korea, according to an August Reuters report.  U.S. humanitarian aid in 2018 dropped nearly 57 percent from the year prior, the wire service reported....
  The country has repeatedly suffered food crises in recent decades, due to a combination of inefficient collectivist farming methods and bad weather.  A devastating famine in the mid-1990s claimed the lives of up to three million people, and some aid experts called it one of the 20th century’s worst famines....
  Even if North Korea managed its resources more efficiently, it does not have enough arable land to feed its population of about 24 million people, Jasper said.  Much of the Korean peninsula’s fertile land lies in South Korea. “The division has always taken a toll on food security in the North,” he said.
  The North Korean regime in the past also has linked negotiations over its nuclear program to food aid, demanding more assistance as a condition for taking part in talks.  The new memo is consistent with Pyongyang’s tactics “to weaken the sanctions regime by appealing to humanitarian concerns,” said Jung Pak, a former CIA officer and now senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.  “Even though the regime imports hundreds of millions of dollars in luxury items, it consistently blames the U.S. and U.N. for its problems,” she said....
  The Trump administration will probably be open to broadening exemptions for humanitarian aid, as it would be something concrete to offer to Pyongyang without having to fully lift the economic sanctions before North Korea makes substantial concessions over its nuclear weapons program, she said.  This could be “one of the deliverables at this second summit,” Terry said.

3-5-19   SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea has started rebuilding the facilities it uses to launch satellites into orbit and test engines and other technologies for its intercontinental ballistic missile program, according to American military analysts and South Korean intelligence officials.
  The revelation comes days after the breakdown of the second summit meeting between the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and President Trump last week in Hanoi, Vietnam.  It could be a first sign that North Korea is preparing to end its moratorium on missile tests, which Mr. Trump has claimed as a major diplomatic achievement.
  North Korea began dismantling the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri near its northwestern border with China last summer, after Mr. Kim held his first meeting with Mr. Trump in June in Singapore.  It partially took down an engine test site, a rocket launchpad and a rail-mounted building used by engineers to assemble launch vehicles and move them to the launchpad.
  The North did not completely dismantle the facilities, and when Mr. Kim met with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea in September, he offered to destroy them in the presence of American experts.
  But that offer is now in doubt, after Mr. Kim’s meeting with Mr. Trump in Hanoi ended without an agreement on how to end the North’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.
  In Hanoi, Mr. Kim asked for the removal of punishing United Nations sanctions in return for the dismantling of its Yongbyon nuclear complex north of Pyongyang, the North’s capital, as well as the Tongchang-ri facilities.  Mr. Trump rejected the demand, calling the lifting of sanctions too high a price to pay for partial moves toward denuclearization.
  Although the Yongbyon complex has been used to produce nuclear bomb fuel, North Korea is believed to have other fuel-making facilities elsewhere, as well as fissile materials, nuclear warheads and missiles that it keeps in secret locations.
  Analysts have wondered what Mr. Kim’s next move might be after the breakdown of the Hanoi talks. In a New Year’s Day speech, he warned that North Korea would find a “new way” if the United States persisted with sanctions.  The news of rebuilding at Tongchang-ri first emerged hours after Mr. Kim returned home on Tuesday from Hanoi.
  Speaking to lawmakers behind closed doors at South Korea’s National Assembly on Tuesday, officials from its National Intelligence Service indicated that North Korea had been rebuilding the Tongchang-ri facilities even before the Hanoi summit meeting, South Korean news media reported on Wednesday.
  North Korea may have wanted to rebuild them in order to make their dismantling more dramatic if the Hanoi summit produced a deal with the Americans, the intelligence officials were quoted as saying.  Or it may have wanted the option to resume rocket tests if the Hanoi talks broke down, they said.  The intelligence service declined to confirm the South Korean reports on Wednesday.  North Korea has not conducted any nuclear or missile tests since November 2017.  Mr. Trump has cited that as a key achievement of his policy of imposing tough sanctions, which he said forced North Korea to return to the negotiating table.
  Speaking at a news conference in Hanoi last week, Mr. Trump said Mr. Kim had promised not to resume nuclear or missile tests.  Later, the United States canceled two large-scale joint military exercises with South Korea to help support Mr. Trump’s diplomacy with Mr. Kim.
  The Tongchang-ri facilities have been vital to North Korea’s space and missile programs.  The country has used the facilities there to launch satellite-carrying rockets.  The United States has called the satellite program a front for developing intercontinental ballistic missiles.
  Mr. Kim visited the rocket engine test site in 2017 when engineers there successfully tested a new high-thrust engine, which was believed to have powered intercontinental ballistic missiles that the North launched months later.
  Reports published Tuesday on the rebuilding at Tongchang-ri were based on satellite images obtained Saturday, but analysts said the work could have begun as early as mid-February.  “Based on commercial satellite imagery, efforts to rebuild these structures started sometime between February 16 and March 2, 2019,” 38 North, a website specializing in North Korea analysis, said in a report about the Tongchang-ri facilities on Tuesday.  “On the launchpad, the rail-mounted transfer building is being reassembled,” it said.  “At the engine test stand, it appears that the engine support structure is being reassembled.”  Beyond Parallel, a website run by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, published a report with similar assessments on Tuesday. “Commercial satellite imagery acquired on March 2, 2019, shows that North Korea is pursuing a rapid rebuilding of the long-range rocket site,” it said.  The renewed activity “may indicate North Korean plans to demonstrate resolve” after the Hanoi summit, it said.
  Officially, North Korea says it no longer needs to carry out nuclear or missile tests because it has finished developing its nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles and begun mass-producing them.  But some Western officials and analysts still doubt that the country has mastered the technologies needed to reliably strike a target across an ocean with a missile.
  In his Singapore meeting with Mr. Trump, Mr. Kim made a vague commitment to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”  But the North has since balked at taking specific actions toward dismantling its nuclear and missile programs, criticizing what it called Washington’s “unilateral, gangster-like demand for denuclearization” and insisting that it will not move toward denuclearization unless the United States takes “corresponding” steps.
3)    3-6-19    (CNN)  North Korean food production in 2018 fell to its lowest level for over a decade, leaving millions without enough to eat, according to the United Nations.  An estimated 11 million people inside the country -- nearly 44% -- are undernourished, the UN's 2019 North Korea Needs and Priorities report found.
  North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his predecessors have faced harsh international criticism for ignoring the needs of their people at the expense of other priorities, notably the nuclear weapons program.  
  North Korean negotiators, however, have said the country has chosen to engage US President Donald Trump in denuclearization talks in an effort to boost the economy and improve the people's livelihood.  But talks ended abruptly at last week's summit in Hanoi, after Trump said he walked away from the table when North Korea demanded the removal of all sanctions levied against it.  North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said his country asked the Trump administration to remove the "sanctions that hamper the economy and the livelihood of our people.”
4)    4-24-19   North Korean leader Kim Jong Un crossed the border into Russia on Wednesday via his armored train ahead of a summit with the Russian President Vladimir Putin set for Thursday in the city of Vladivostok, according to reports.    This North Korea-Russia summit-- taking place roughly two months after a failed meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump--marks the first since Kim's father Kim Jong Il traveled to Russia in 2011.  The main topic of the summit, according to the Kremlin, is North Korea's nuclear program and denuclearization.   Here's a basic rundown of what each country is seeking
  "In the last few months the situation around the peninsula has stabilized somewhat, thanks in large part to North Korea's initiatives of stopping rocket testing and closing its nuclear test site," Yuri Iskov, an advisor to the Kremlin told Russian state media.  "Russia intends to help in any way possible to cement that positive trend."
  Kim will potentially ask for the more than 10,000 North Korean laborers
to remain in Russia, despite a United Nations sanctions resolution from
2017 that calls for them to be expelled at the end of the year, the
Associated Press reported.  These laborers bring a steady flow of revenue
to North Korea. 
  Kim also likely wants Putin to side with North Korea on the easing of
sanctions.  The US and its allies have applied a "maximum pressure"
approach of economic sanctions push North Korea to denuclearize.  After
the summit collapsed in Hanoi in February, Trump said that North Korea
would have to do something "meaningful" to before sanctions were lifted
and the two countries have dug in on their hard lines.
  North Korea is also courting broader Russian trade and investment into
its infrastructure, the AP explains.  Finally, the AP reports that Kim is
concerned about pot entail food shortages, and Reuters points out that
Russia sent 2,000 tons of wheat to North Korea this year and is poised to
send more through its World Food Programme.
  Russia would like to exert more influence in the region (and weaken the
United States' influence), without upsetting China, North Korea's main
regional partner.   According to the Associated Press, Russia would also
like to "gain broader access to North Korea's mineral resources, including
rare metals."
5)      5-1-19    The South Korean government has reaffirmed that humanitarian aid to improve the livelihood of North Koreans should continue and said it is on the same page with the U.S. on this. 
  A Unification Ministry official said on Thursday that it is Seoul's position to support civic groups' humanitarian aid to North Korea, but added the government itself isn't considering food aid at this point. 
  Noting that the World Food Program is soon to release its findings on North Korea's food crisis, the official said that the governments of South Korea as well as other countries are waiting for the report. 
  Regarding Seoul's decision in 2017 to provide eight million dollars in humanitarian aid to North Korea, the official said the government has to review again whether to pursue it as conditions have changed.  The official said it isn't certain yet whether food aid will be among the issues to be discussed with U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, who is likely to visit Seoul next week.
6)   5-3-19   The South Korean government says right now it is not looking into sending food aid to North Korea, despite reports of a severe food shortage crisis.
  Unification Ministry Deputy Spokesperson Lee Eugene clarified the position on Friday, but said both Seoul and Washington maintain that humanitarian aid to the North should continue.  The spokesperson added that Seoul is keeping tabs on the situation in the North through the UN's World Food Program and Food and Agriculture Organization, noting the two agencies will soon release findings of a related joint study. 
  Meanwhile, the co-heads of the inter-Korean liaison office failed to hold their weekly meeting for the tenth consecutive week, amid a deadlock in North Korea's nuclear negotiations with the U.S.  The last meeting of the two Korea's liaison office chiefs was held on February 22nd, days before the collapse of the U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi.
7)   5-8-19  SEOUL, May 8 (Yonhap) -- The international Red Cross has decided to provide North Korea with water pumps as part of an emergency measure to help the impoverished nation cope with worsening food shortages caused in part by droughts.
  The emergency "action plan" for North Korea will include a provision of 15 mobile water pumps to help improve irrigation under the disaster relief emergency fund, according to a release by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) on Monday.
    The IFRC has set aside 76,946 Swiss francs (US$75,466) for the aid program.  The funds will be spent over a three-month period to provide the pumps and fuel to operate the pumps and educate farmers about proper use, it said.
  The provision is expected to benefit some 331,967 residents, or 5,831 households, in counties in eastern South Hamgyong Province.  The IFRC said providing water pumps is essential, especially for the spring crop production, because a shortage would deprive North Koreans of food supplies until the main harvesting season in September.
  A recent joint report by the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization found that 10.1 million, or 40 percent, of North Korea's population is in urgent need of food assistance.  It said the North needs at least 1.36 million tons of additional grain to make up for the food shortage this year.  North Korea's Red Cross Society is due to make a recommendation to the IFRC for further assistance based on its own research conducted this week.  The North Korean government plans to import 200,000 tons of food to tackle the shortage and it has also been working to achieve its harvest target of 400,000 tons for spring, the IFRC said.

8)   5-8-19   SEOUL -- South Korea's Moon Jae-in administration will soon begin official procedures associated with its move to resume food aid to North Korea, according to a Cheong Wa Dae official Wednesday.
  The official, however, said it's still too early to talk in detail about the issue, as the government has yet to review the size, format and other specifics.
9)   Let those who are the freedom-fighters in every nation
  hear my voice of comfort, of relief, and of deliverance!
Let it be so!
Let there be the starving of the armies of the fallen ones
  and their malintent in every nation!
Let there come the liberation of the valiant souls
  of Afghanistan, of Poland, and every other nation
  where the attack is at every conceivable level!
Let the people who remain free be willing to wear
  the sackcloth, be willing to sacrifice!
And therefore let the crumbling of the Soviet empire
  be from within!….
  There is no alliance at any level that God does not ordain the breaking of when that alliance is with the seed of the wicked.   Blessed hearts, the enemy has no power except that which is given to it by the sons of God and the children of light….All the ascended masters have ever done is to point the way!  If there have been victories--and victories there have been indeed—it is because you have followed and accepted the call.     
                                  -El Morya:  12-31-1981 at Camelot, Los Angeles

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