Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners

Quotes of the Day:

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing you can do is keep your mind young."
 - Mark Twain

 "I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." 
- Elie Wiesel

"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward."
- Amelia Earhart

My thoughts on “Irregular Warfare Thinking”

“Irregular Warfare Thinking”

Necessary because IW is the dominant form of war in the emergent human domain.  
 
We need to infuse “irregular warfare thinking” into DOD and “political warfare thinking” into the US government.
 
*What is “Irregular warfare thinking?” It is thinking about the human element in the full spectrum of competition and conflict up to and including conventional and nuclear war. It includes but is not limited to all aspects of lawlessness, subversion, insurgency, terrorism, political resistance, non-violent resistance, political violence, urban operations, stability operations, post-conflict operations, cyber operations, information and influence activities e.g., (strategic influence through information advantage, public diplomacy, psychological operations, and military information support operations), working through, with and by indigenous forces and populations, irregular warfare, political warfare, economic warfare, alliances, diplomacy, and statecraft in all regions of the world. 
 
Irregular warfare is the military contribution to political warfare. Political warfare is the action of the whole of government in strategic competition.

1. Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: May (KOREA)
2. S. Korea, U.S. to begin two-week combined air drills next week: sources
3. U.S.-S. Korea alliance an incredibly important relationship: Psaki
4. U.S. continuing increased surveillance of N. Korea: Pentagon
5. A Nuclear South Korea? Why It Might Be the Best Option
6. South Koreans hack top-secret server in exchange for Bitcoin from North Korea - OKN
7. Two South Koreans arrested for helping Pyongyang steal ‘military secrets’
8. Will South Korea stop bankrolling Myanmar’s military?
9. Defense chief nominee says N. Korea may conduct normal-angle ICBM launch
10. S. Korea, China agree on close cooperation for stability in regional security
11. Incoming gov't to seek N. Korea's complete denuclearization, boost defense capability
12. Japan foreign minister to attend South Korean President-elect Yoon’s inauguration to mend frayed ties
13. Yoon asks for Australia's support over Quad working groups
14. S. Korea, Japan hold diplomatic consultations on strained ties
15. Four months after re-opening, China-North Korea rail traffic shuts again
16. What's behind North Korea's continued refusal to accept COVID-19 vaccines?
17. North Korea distributes pork to military units to mark 90th anniversary of army's founding


1. Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: May (KOREA)




Korea
By David Maxwell

Previous Trend: Negative
On the night of April 25, North Korea conducted its first military parade of the year and showed off its Hwasong-17 ICBM, among other weapons. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un gave a speech at the parade making it clear he will not give up his nuclear weapons and will maintain them for deterrence and offensive operations. Kim’s political warfare and blackmail diplomacy continue apace despite the Biden administration’s continued offer to negotiate anywhere, anytime, without preconditions.
The Biden administration continued to execute its policy of “stern deterrence” toward North Korea, deploying multiple strategic assets to the region over the last three months in response to Pyongyang’s provocations. Additionally, the U.S. and ROK militaries conducted the semi-annual Combined Command Post Training Exercise. The Biden administration also issued limited sanctions designations and enforcement actions. These are insufficient to achieve significant effects, yet the refusal to lift sanctions is in keeping with multiple UN Security Council resolutions that call for the full denuclearization of North Korea. Despite Kim’s efforts to coerce the administration into making concessions, there is no indication it will provide any kind of sanctions relief absent negotiations. The United States remains committed to the complete, peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The incoming administration of Yoon Seok-yeol is aligning itself with the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, particularly the critical task of improving trilateral cooperation between South Korea, Japan, and the United States. The Yoon administration will likely also seek closer relations with the Quad as well as regional and global cooperation with the United States. The Biden team will likely ask Yoon for increased support for Ukraine, which he will likely provide, in contravention of the outgoing Moon administration’s wishes.



2.  S. Korea, U.S. to begin two-week combined air drills next week: sources


Routine training to sustain readiness. A return to a strong training regimen.

Excerpt:

"The two air forces plan to begin the two-week training on the same scale as the past trainings," one source told Yonhap News Agency on condition of anonymity.


S. Korea, U.S. to begin two-week combined air drills next week: sources | Yonhap News Agency
en.yna.co.kr · by 송상호 · May 3, 2022
By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, May 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States plan to kick off regular combined air force drills next week, informed sources said Tuesday, in yet another move to highlight their defense posture especially against North Korea's evolving missile threats.
The allies are set to begin the two-week Korea Flying Training on Monday, the eve of the inauguration of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, who has vowed to bolster the Seoul-Washington security alliance under his slogan of "peace through strength."
"The two air forces plan to begin the two-week training on the same scale as the past trainings," one source told Yonhap News Agency on condition of anonymity.
The source stopped short of giving details including specific air assets to be mobilized.
The upcoming training is a scaled-back version of the large-scale Max Thunder exercise that the two countries staged in the past with the massive mobilization of their air assets and service members.
South Korea and the U.S. have recently stepped up their security coordination in the wake of North Korea's missile launches, including its test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on March 24.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
(END)
en.yna.co.kr · by 송상호 · May 3, 2022








3. U.S.-S. Korea alliance an incredibly important relationship: Psaki

But our Korean friends will read everything into these things. It is unusual to visit Seoul before Tokyo. But there are many scheduling considerations that impact the decision on the order visit. And from a US perspective going to one capital before the other is never meant to send a signal but sometimes the people in those capitals will read more into the order of visits than they should.

Excerpts:
Psaki said the order of Biden's trip should not be over emphasized when asked if his visit to Seoul before Tokyo indicates the U.S.' focus on North Korea issues.
"In terms of the order of the trip. I would not over read into that. Obviously we have a strong relationship with Japan, strong relationship with South Korea," she said, adding, "I'm certain North Korea will, of course, be on the agenda, prominent part of the agenda."
U.S.-S. Korea alliance an incredibly important relationship: Psaki | Yonhap News Agency
en.yna.co.kr · by 변덕근 · May 3, 2022
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, May 2 (Yonhap) -- The U.S.-South Korea alliance is an incredibly important relationship that is vital to many issues in the region and around the world, a White House spokesperson said Monday of reasons for President Joe Biden's planned trip to Seoul.
Jen Psaki also noted North Korea will be a "prominent part" of the agenda for Biden's upcoming trip that will also take him to Japan.
"I would note that we have an incredibly important, vital relationship with South Korea. We work on a range of issues in the region and around the world, and that is the reason why the president is going to be visiting later this month," she said in a press briefing when asked if the U.S. plans to invite South Korea to join the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a grouping of the U.S., Australia, Japan and India.

"There are many ways that we engage with South Korea. It's an incredibly important partnership, relationship, but the Quad will remain the Quad. We will continue to engage with South Korea through a range of mechanisms and continue to work on the strength of our relationship," she added.
The White House earlier said the U.S. leader will be traveling to South Korea and Japan, in that order, from May 20-24.
Psaki said the order of Biden's trip should not be over emphasized when asked if his visit to Seoul before Tokyo indicates the U.S.' focus on North Korea issues.
"In terms of the order of the trip. I would not over read into that. Obviously we have a strong relationship with Japan, strong relationship with South Korea," she said, adding, "I'm certain North Korea will, of course, be on the agenda, prominent part of the agenda."
Pyongyang has staged more than a dozen rounds of missile launches since September, while remaining unresponsive to U.S. overtures since the Biden administration took office in January 2021.
bdk@yna.co.kr
(END)
en.yna.co.kr · by 변덕근 · May 3, 2022


4. U.S. continuing increased surveillance of N. Korea: Pentagon

This should be no surprise. It would be irresponsible not to sustain increased surveillance.

U.S. continuing increased surveillance of N. Korea: Pentagon | Yonhap News Agency
en.yna.co.kr · by 변덕근 · May 3, 2022
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, May 2 (Yonhap) -- The United States is continuing to closely monitor North Korea for signs of additional provocations while sharing such intelligence with South Korea, a U.S. Department of Defense spokesperson said Monday.
John Kirby said the U.S. is also always looking for ways to get better information about the reclusive country.
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command was ordered to intensify its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) collection activities in waters near the Korean Peninsula in early March following a series of North Korean missile tests.

"Without getting into specific intelligence issues ... you saw us talk about increased ISR capabilities that we were going to be applying in the wake of these now multiple recent tests by the North Koreans and we're still doing that," the Pentagon press secretary said in a press briefing.
"And we're constantly looking for ways to get smarter and to get better information, as well as to make sure we're sharing that with the South Koreans," added Kirby.
Pyongyang has staged more than a dozen rounds of missile launches since September, including its first intercontinental ballistic missile launch in more than four years in March.
Officials in Seoul have also noted the North appeared to be repairing underground tunnels at its Punggye-ri nuclear test site that it purportedly demolished in 2018 to show its willingness to denuclearize, indicating a possible nuclear test down the road.
North Korea has so far conducted six nuclear tests, all at the Punggye-ri site. Its last nuclear test was in September 2017.
bdk@yna.co.kr
(END)
en.yna.co.kr · by 변덕근 · May 3, 2022


5. A Nuclear South Korea? Why It Might Be the Best Option

There are a lot of conservatives in South Korea who will be citing this article. I do not want this to happen for lal the obvious reasons. But I certainly understand and appreciate the argument.

Excerpts:

The core problem is that North Korea is not going to stop. Its nuclear, missile, and weapons of mass destruction programs have been growing for decades. They will not slow down anytime soon. As the North’s weapons programs mature, the threat they pose to U.S. allies grows. Indeed, North Korean missiles can now reach much of the planet, including the United States and Europe. But countries like Japan and South Korea face the greatest danger.
...
Given all this, I think South Korean direct nuclear deterrence against North Korea is a growing possibility. In other words, South Korea will likely develop its own nuclear weapons. The U.S. opposes this, and South Korean nuclearization would probably end the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime for good. But South Korea is in a tight spot now, especially with Kim openly talking about pre-emption. Direct nuclear deterrence, for all the anxiety it would create, would be a better solution than airstrikes, which would likely ignite a war.

A Nuclear South Korea? Why It Might Be the Best Option
19fortyfive.com · by ByRobert Kelly · May 2, 2022
Twice in the last week, North Korea has threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike. We also have growing evidence that Pyongyang will soon test a nuclear weapon for the first time since 2017. North Korean rhetoric is still belligerent, and Pyongyang has clearly indicated that it intends to develop a full-spectrum nuclear program. This is prompting difficult discussions in South Korea.
South Korean President-Elect Yoon Seok-yeol has suggested that pre-emptive strikes on North Korean missile sites would be appropriate in a crisis. That would be a huge risk. In 2017, former U.S. President Donald Trump considered this option, and he rejected it.
South Korean nuclearization is often criticized as being too risky. Yet even nuclearization would carry less of a risk than airstrikes.
Thinking the unthinkable
The core problem is that North Korea is not going to stop. Its nuclear, missile, and weapons of mass destruction programs have been growing for decades. They will not slow down anytime soon. As the North’s weapons programs mature, the threat they pose to U.S. allies grows. Indeed, North Korean missiles can now reach much of the planet, including the United States and Europe. But countries like Japan and South Korea face the greatest danger.
Ideally, Pyongyang would bargain with Seoul and Washington, brokering some manner of negotiated deal to cap its developments. North Korea probably has enough warheads now to achieve basic deterrence with the U.S. and its allies. If it keeps building and testing, Pyongyang will signal that it has bigger goals for its nukes than mere defense. North Korea has spoken of its desire to build tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons, and leader Kim Jong Un’s recent comments hint at a more aggressive doctrine.
The Ukraine war suggests one obvious task for North Korean WMD: Keep the United States out of any conflict in Korea. Russian President Vladimir Putin has successfully leveraged his nuclear weapons to keep NATO from intervening more directly in the Ukraine war. Kim is almost certainly watching, learning, and considering whether his own nukes might purchase the same outcome.
These developments prompt a discussion of how South Korea and the United States might fight a conflict that could slide toward the use of nuclear weapons. During the Cold War, debates like this were called “thinking the unthinkable” – considering options against a nuclear-armed state that might spark even greater conflict.
Risky airstrikes
Using American and South Korean airpower to denuclearize North Korea by force is an old and much-debated idea. It is attractive because it would not require North Korean assent. Pyongyang has a long history of gimmicking negotiations. There is always skepticism about whether it will stick to any deal it signs. Airstrikes would solve the problem, and U.S. and South Korean airpower commands the skies in Korea. North Korea’s air force is obsolete; its air defenses are better but should be suppressible.
The risk, of course, is North Korean retaliation. Indeed, it is unclear that North Korea would recognize a limited strike on its sites as, well, limited. The air campaign would necessarily be extensive, both because of North Korea’s ample stock of WMD, and because of the need to first suppress North Korean surface-to-air missile sites. Pyongyang might easily see this as the start of a full-scale war and respond in kind. This is ultimately why the Trump administration gave up on the so-called bloody nose option in 2017. The air campaign would have to be so large that the North might not interpret it as limited. This could provoke the very war it is intended to prevent.
South Korean direct deterrence
South Korea’s other options are mediocre. Missile defense does not work well enough to absorb all the incoming missiles we anticipate from the North. And while it is important to continue talks with North Korea, there is little evidence that Pyongyang will accept a serious arms reduction treaty. American extended deterrence has worked for decades, especially as concerns China’s nuclear arsenal. But North Korea’s threat to nuke the U.S. homeland in a conflict casts doubt on the American guarantee. To participate in a Korean conflict, an American president would have to be willing to risk a nuclear attack on U.S. cities. It is hard to imagine the psychological and strategic pressures on a leader faced with such a decision.
Image: Creative Commons.
Given all this, I think South Korean direct nuclear deterrence against North Korea is a growing possibility. In other words, South Korea will likely develop its own nuclear weapons. The U.S. opposes this, and South Korean nuclearization would probably end the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime for good. But South Korea is in a tight spot now, especially with Kim openly talking about pre-emption. Direct nuclear deterrence, for all the anxiety it would create, would be a better solution than airstrikes, which would likely ignite a war.
Dr. Robert E. Kelly (@Robert_E_Kelly; website) is a professor of international relations in the Department of Political Science at Pusan National University. Dr. Kelly is now a 1945 Contributing Editor as well.
19fortyfive.com · by ByRobert Kelly · May 2, 2022

6. South Koreans hack top-secret server in exchange for Bitcoin from North Korea - OKN

Excerpts:
According to the media, the military officer told the investigative agency that he committed the crime due to his debt caused by online gambling. He reportedly accepted the recruitment offer from the North Korean agent in return for financial assistance in cryptocurrency.
On April 28, the Hankook Ilbo newspaper exclusively reported that information stored in the command communication system controlled by U.S.-ROK combined forces was leaked to the enemy.
The classified system called CENTRIXS-K is stored at the underground bunker in the headquarters of the military command located in Yongsan, central Seoul. According to the report, the police transferred a man surnamed Lee, who works at a company that manages the military communication system, to the prosecution on April 11 for violating the National Security Act. Lee faces charges of hacking military secrets after accessing CENTRIXS-K. The military investigation agency also arrested a military official who aided Lee’s espionage in exchange for 30 million won ($23,557).
The CENTRIX-K is technically operated by U.S.-ROK combined forces, but the South Korean military has limited access to the server. The U.S forces unilaterally manage the maintenance of the server.
The police charged Lee with multiple crimes under the National Security Act, suggesting that his crimes were on the order of North Korea. The police analyzed Lee’s smartphone and smartwatch to find out that he was in contact with the North Korean agent.
South Koreans hack top-secret server in exchange for Bitcoin from North Korea - OKN
onekoreanetwork.com · April 29, 2022
Two South Koreans were arrested on charges of stealing military secrets on behalf of a suspected North Korean spy agent in return for cryptocurrency.
According to the police on April 28, the two were arrested earlier this month and face criminal charges of breaking the South Korean National Security Act.
A 29-year-old South Korean military officer was recruited by a North Korean hacker he was introduced to by his college classmate, who is a civilian, around March 2020. The officer began by taking pictures of the Army’s security protocols and main pages of the military’s intranet homepage in November last year. He sent those photos to a North Korean spy using the Telegram messenger application. Since then, the officer continued to leak classified military data by taking pictures with his smartphone and was paid about 48 million won ($37,700) in Bitcoin cryptocurrency by the North Korean spy.
A 38-year-old executive at a cryptocurrency company met the agent through an online cryptocurrency community six years ago. He was paid $600,000 in cryptocurrency through February last year. In July last year, he received an order to recruit an active military officer who can access military secrets but failed to recruit one at that time.
The two suspects began their conspiracy in January. The North Korean agent gave orders to them separately through Telegram. The two did not know of each other’s specific roles but they were both ordered to work on hacking into the South Korean military’s command communication system, the Korean Joint Command and Control System (KJCCS). They used the automatic conversation delete feature provided by Telegram, according to the police.
The military investigation team received information regarding the hacking attempt in January and gave the information to the police for the joint investigation.
According to the police, the two suspects attempted to hack into military secrets from January to March this year. The 38-year-old man purchased a spy camera watch and sent it to the officer. The man also purchased parts to make a USB hacking tool and assembled it on his own. He connected the USB to his laptop, which allowed the North Korean spy to remotely access his computer from overseas.
The military officer brought the spy camera watch inside the military base and provided military data such as KJCCS login information to the North Korean spy and the cryptocurrency executive. However, the police said that hacking into the communication system itself failed.
“This is the first espionage case by an active serviceman who was recruited by a North Korean hacker,” said the Ministry of Defense’s prosecution office. “If the network used by the military was hacked, many military secrets could have been leaked, causing a grave threat to national security,” the office said. “However, we were able to prevent that by investigating closely with the police.”
The police also released a statement, saying, “if the hacking tool was delivered completely, military secrets could have been leaked through the KJCCS. We will take the most severe measures against crimes that threaten national security.”
The police said that they suspect that the agent is from North Korea after assessing how he phrased his Telegram messages. “The identity of the North Korean spy is not clear but we think the person is a North Korean agent when considering how he operated. However, it is difficult to track down agents in general.”
According to the media, the military officer told the investigative agency that he committed the crime due to his debt caused by online gambling. He reportedly accepted the recruitment offer from the North Korean agent in return for financial assistance in cryptocurrency.
On April 28, the Hankook Ilbo newspaper exclusively reported that information stored in the command communication system controlled by U.S.-ROK combined forces was leaked to the enemy.
The classified system called CENTRIXS-K is stored at the underground bunker in the headquarters of the military command located in Yongsan, central Seoul. According to the report, the police transferred a man surnamed Lee, who works at a company that manages the military communication system, to the prosecution on April 11 for violating the National Security Act. Lee faces charges of hacking military secrets after accessing CENTRIXS-K. The military investigation agency also arrested a military official who aided Lee’s espionage in exchange for 30 million won ($23,557).
The CENTRIX-K is technically operated by U.S.-ROK combined forces, but the South Korean military has limited access to the server. The U.S forces unilaterally manage the maintenance of the server.
The police charged Lee with multiple crimes under the National Security Act, suggesting that his crimes were on the order of North Korea. The police analyzed Lee’s smartphone and smartwatch to find out that he was in contact with the North Korean agent.
Author
onekoreanetwork.com · April 29, 2022

7. Two South Koreans arrested for helping Pyongyang steal ‘military secrets’

Photos of the watch and the devicea the link.

Excerpts:

According to South Korean outlet Kookmin Ilbo, Captain B held large amounts of debt due to his online gambling habits, a fact that Pinkston said made the 29-year-old military officer a ripe target for extortion.
“They’ll look for the weak points or the vulnerability whether it’s an ideological affinity, debt, gambling or sexual issues,” he said. “Those have been well known for centuries.”
The attack represents a relatively rare North Korean cyberattack based on physical infiltration. Other attacks — such as those against the Russian aerospace industry in 2020 and against South Korea’s atomic energy agency in 2021 — were based on spear-phishing or other social engineering tactics that don’t require a person to enter government facilities.

Two South Koreans arrested for helping Pyongyang steal ‘military secrets’

North Korean spy paid the two over $600,000 in bitcoin to hack military command and control systems, police say
Ethan Jewell | Jeongmin Kim May 2, 2022
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A "Poison Tap" device executing on a Macintosh computer | Image: Samy Kamkar via YouTube
A North Korean spy paid two South Korean men over half a million dollars worth of bitcoin to steal “military secrets” from a joint U.S.-ROK military command and control center, according to South Korean authorities, a rare physical infiltration of secure South Korean systems by the North. 
South Korean prosecutors and police said that a 38-year-old South Korean crypto exchange executive under the direction of a suspected North Korean agent supplied an active-duty military officer with James Bond-esque equipment to execute the heist, including a watch with a hidden camera and microphone and a “Poison Tap” USB drive to hack government computers.
Their target was the Korean Joint Command and Control System (KJCCS), a U.S.-ROK command center that serves as the digital spinal cord of the countries’ joint forces, authorities said Friday. 
In exchange, the agent paid the crypto executive, referred to as “Lee,” over $600,000 worth of bitcoin between Feb. and April 2021. The active-duty officer, a 29-year-old referred to as “Captain B,” received roughly $37,900 worth of bitcoin from the North Korean agent. 
According to South Korean police, Lee met the North Korean agent through an online cryptocurrency community six years ago. After failing to remotely infiltrate South Korean military communications systems, Lee recruited Captain B to steal login credentials in person.
Both have been arrested and now face charges for violating the country’s National Security Act
“The North Koreans have demonstrated they’re quite adept at social engineering,” said Daniel Pinkston, an expert on North Korean cyber threats and lecturer on cyber warfare at Troy University. “They will attack vulnerable points and people and exploit them.”
According to a press release from prosecutors, in June 2021 the North Korean agent ordered Lee to “recruit an active-duty officer to obtain military secrets.” The following month, Lee sent Captain B a message through the online messaging service Telegram stating that sharing military secrets would be “rewarded with means such as cryptocurrency.”
In Jan. 2021, the North Korean agent instructed executive Lee to purchase a wristwatch with a hidden camera and microphone. Lee then sent Captain B the watch, who wore it onto a military base.
A diagram of the watch used in the intrusion (left) and a Poison Tap device (right) | Image: Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office
Between January and March this year, the North Korean agent instructed Lee to purchase a “Poison Tap,” a cheap, USB drive-like device that compromises password-protected computers when physically connected.
Jang Gye-hyun, a cybersecurity professor at Korea University, said South Korean military computers only accept data from trusted external drives, meaning Captain B and Lee may have integrated the Poison Tap’s capabilities into another USB device routinely used in the facility.
South Korea’s Prosecution Service and National Police Agency said in a press release that Captain B actually provided KJCCS login information to the North Korean agent and Lee, meaning the intrusion was successful.
This is not the first time North Korea has attempted to breach KJCCS systems. During U.S.-ROK Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) combined exercises in 2017, North Korean hackers targeted the same systems with WannaCry ransomware. 
These attacks spurred Seoul to implement additional security measures, Jang said, but suggested the latest attack had laid bare some of the limitations of those measures.
According to South Korean outlet Kookmin Ilbo, Captain B held large amounts of debt due to his online gambling habits, a fact that Pinkston said made the 29-year-old military officer a ripe target for extortion.
“They’ll look for the weak points or the vulnerability whether it’s an ideological affinity, debt, gambling or sexual issues,” he said. “Those have been well known for centuries.”
The attack represents a relatively rare North Korean cyberattack based on physical infiltration. Other attacks — such as those against the Russian aerospace industry in 2020 and against South Korea’s atomic energy agency in 2021 — were based on spear-phishing or other social engineering tactics that don’t require a person to enter government facilities.
Edited by Arius Derr

8. Will South Korea stop bankrolling Myanmar’s military?

I have not been tracking this.

Will South Korea stop bankrolling Myanmar’s military?
The country, seen as a beacon of democracy in Asia, continues business with Myanmar’s brutal military, revealing just how pro-business it is.
02 May 2022
koreaexpose.com · by Hyun-Phil Na · May 1, 2022
When Myanmar’s ruling National League for Democracy claimed landslide victory in the November 2020 general elections, the Tatmadaw, the country’s armed forces, quickly rejected the results, citing electoral fraud. Three months later, on February 1, 2021, this rejection would turn bloody as the military launched a brutal coup that landed many former officials, including state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, in prison.
Today, more than a year later, the country remains in conflict: dissent is quashed; activists have been harassed, if not outright killed; violence has become the norm. Democracy is dying.
In response, many energy companies across the world have pulled out from Myanmar, unwilling to have their money soaked in Burmese blood. This list includes Malaysia’s Petronas, Australia’s Woodside, France’s Total, America’s Chevron, and Japan’s Mitsubishi. Notoriously missing from this list, however, is South Korea, supposedly a bastion of democracy in Asia.
POSCO is a South Korean steelmaking company and one of its subsidiaries, POSCO International, is the country’s largest trading company. Since 2000, POSCO International has been running the Shwe natural gas field in Myanmar, together with the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE). South Korea’s state-run Korea Gas Corporation also owns an 8.5-percent stake.
The Shwe gas project, in which POSCO International invested about 1.53 billion dollars and holds a 51-percent stake, is the company’s biggest business in Myanmar — even throughout the bloody coup. Eighty percent of all the gas produced is sold to China, and in effect provides the MOGE (and the military by extension) some USD 300 million per year.
In June 2019, right in the middle of Myanmar’s violence against its Rohingya minority, POSCO International sold a warship to the military. Since 2013, POSCO Coated & Color Steel Co. Ltd (POSCO C&C), another subsidiary, has also been in a joint venture with Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd, an economic arm of the military which the United Nations found complicit in the Rohingya genocide.
Civil society speaks up
South Korea is known to stay mum on matters of human rights and democracy, often opting to stay out of what they deem to be other countries’ domestic affairs.
But in the past year, South Korean civil society, along with community organizations from Myanmar, have magnified their calls for justice and accountability. One-person demonstrations have taken place in front of the Chinese and Russian embassies — representing the two powers propping up the Tatmadaw — for 200 days. Activists have even held rallies and press conferences in front of the POSCO office in Seoul.
The strong pressure has bent the South Korean government and National Assembly, both of which came out with statements in the wake of the coup, declaring support for the country’s democracy. The National Security Council “expressed its profound regret at the situation and reaffirmed the need to respect Myanmar citizens’ right of assembly and protest.”
The National Assembly went a step further, defining the coup as a “serious defiance of democracy” and urging immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political figures from detention.
South Korean steelmaker POSCO is an industry giant based in the port city of Pohang. One of its subsidiaries, POSCO International, is the country’s largest trading company — and its biggest human rights failure as regards Myanmar. (Credit: Jacob Hong via flickrCC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Civil society sought to push the government to take further action by highlighting the complicity of POSCO (among other corporations and state entities) in the Tatmadaw’s atrocities. In December 2020, two months before the coup, human rights defenders filed a complaint with the Korea National Contact Point (NCP), claiming that by working with the Myanmar military, several South Korean companies were being remiss in their international obligation and contributing to the dire human rights situation in the Southeast Asian country.
The Korea NCP is responsible for monitoring multinational enterprises and ensuring that they adhere to the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which help corporations to “minimize adverse impact on economy, society, and the environment.”
Unfortunately, the Korea NCP is notorious for consistently siding with corporations since its founding in 2000, so much so that the NGO OECD Watch once characterized it as lacking “the confidence of social partners and other stakeholders” as well as the “ability to act with impartiality.”
Still, civil society, including the Korean House for International Solidarity, where this writer serves as the executive director, pressed on. They had reasons to be hopeful. While their initial 2020 complaint was met with silence, attention soon soared following the Myanmar coup. Many South Korea citizens, progressive actors, and even pro-business conservative political parties spoke up in support of Myanmar’s democracy.
Amid mounting pressure from the UN and the international community at large, which raised pointed questions about the ethics of corporate investment in Myanmar, the Korea NCP was suddenly in an unusual situation of handling a complaint that had attracted unprecedented attention.
Pro-business machine
Hopes were dashed, though, when the Korea NCP rejected the complaint in July 2021 despite the Tatmadaw’s brutal vice grip on Myanmar. “The NCP is not able to judge what is not corporate activities but the propriety of paying dividends to shareholders. It is not our role to engage in acts that could be construed as commentaries on the Myanmar government’s policies or laws,” it stated.
Lotte, whose name is on a five-star hotel in Yangon, did not respond to the complaint, and the Korea NCP found the company’s activities to be “of no relation to the Myanmar government’s action.”
Dae Sun Shipbuilding, the maker of the warship sold to the Myanmar navy, got off without reproach, as it “had manufactured a ship and delivered it to POSCO International without having any direct relationship to the Myanmar government.” The Korea NCP registered no objection even to POSCO International’s sale of the warship, citing “lack of evidence indicating that the vessel was involved in the Rohingya situation.”
“The NCP is not able to judge what is not corporate activities but the propriety of paying dividends to shareholders. It is not our role to engage in acts that could be construed as commentaries on the Myanmar government’s policies or laws,” the Korea NCP stated.
POSCO International, for its part, argues that their presence in Myanmar was even helping the Southeast country cling on to its democracy. If they left, so the argument goes, Chinese companies would take over and could have a more negative impact on the country.
Meanwhile, POSCO C&C announced that it would buy MEHL out of their joint venture, effectively ending the partnership. The Lotte Hotel has yet to close, and as for the warship, POSCO claims that what it exported to Myanmar was a civilian ship.
The most damning part of the rejection, however, was its summary statement. The Korea NCP wrote that “the conduct of the Myanmar government,” especially what it called “the conflict with the Rohingya tribe,” is that of the Myanmar government alone, and that “such events cannot have been prevented in the absence of corporate activities'' of South Korean firms.
All this was proof that the South Korean system and laws are inherently in favor of corporations, and that the Korea NCP, which was established in accordance with the OECD standards, is part of this entrenched pro-business machine. Without a strong, well-enforced law that empowers the government to intervene with the overseas acts of domestic companies, such a culture will only continue.
Unfortunately, the National Assembly hasn’t shown much interest in such a piece of legislation. A debate on possible laws took place in August 2021, but there has been little progress since.
Yoon Suk-Yeol (left), conservative People Power Party candidate, won South Korea’s presidency on March 9, 2022. Though experts expect Yoon to be harder on China and Russia, many still fear that the country’s businesses in Myanmar will remain untouched. After all, his campaign was marked by unabashed promises to roll back restrictions on corporations even further. (Credit: 고려 via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY 4.0)
Disappointing administrations
In November 2017, then-President Moon Jae-in started promoting his administration’s “New Southern Policy.” Under its slogan of “People, Peace, and Prosperity,” the policy aimed to boost South Korea’s economic cooperation with Southeast Asian countries. In line with this, too, was the Moon administration’s public statement of support of Myanmar’s democracy following the coup.
But statements have remained statements; there have been no concrete measures to put the pressure on the Tatmadaw, and money continued to flow from South Korean companies into the hands of the murderous regime.
Though disappointing, such tepidness from South Korea is unsurprising. Even before the coup, during the height of Myanmar’s Rohingya controversy, the South Korean government was holding briefing sessions to discuss investments in Rakhine, the very site where the genocide occurred. South Korea’s investments in CambodiaThailand, and the Philippines — all with questionable records on human rights and democracy — have steadily increased under Moon’s watch.
It's clear where the Moon administration's priorities lay: in benefiting South Korean corporations rather than, sometimes even at the cost of, democracy or human rights.
On March 9, 2022, conservative party candidate Yoon Suk-yeol won South Korea’s presidential election. Experts expect him to take a more hardline approach to China and Russia, as well as be more vocal against the Tatmadaw. Whether or not his strong words translate to decisive action have yet to be seen.
One of the most powerful weapons in South Korea’s arsenal is to suspend corporate investments in Myanmar — something Yoon may not be willing to use. During the campaign trail, in fact, Yoon pledged to reduce restrictions on businesses even further, promising to water down the recently passed Severe Accident Punishment Act, which was originally crafted to lower the number of industrial accident-related worker deaths in the country.
Statements have remained statements; there have been no concrete measures to put the pressure on the Tatmadaw, and money continued to flow from South Korean companies into the hands of the murderous regime.
Yoon is such a corporate-leaning candidate that his victory has even sparked fears that working hours will increase while wages will be kept down. Policies by the Moon administration that seek to protect workers’ welfare are also expected to be scaled back.
The hitherto unveiled policy direction of the incoming government doesn’t bode well just for workers’ rights in South Korea. Together with the conservative party’s usual positions that favor the corporate sector’s interests, the economic ties between South Korea and the Tatmadaw will not only persist, but could even deepen.
South Korea is seen to have achieved democracy and economic development. It’s now the world’s 10th largest economy, and elections are free and fair. The K-pop group BTS and cultural products such as Squid Game and Parasite have fed the nation’s self-confidence.
But before taking too much pride in these, South Korea should be ashamed that its companies, with complicity and backing from its government, are providing massive funds not only to the Myanmar military but also to other reprehensible regimes in the region.
Cover: POSCO Building in the South Korean capital Seoul (credit: oimo via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 3.0)
This article was produced in collaboration with the Asia Democracy Chronicles, the media wing of the Asia Democracy Network (ADN), a regional organization of more than 300 civil society groups working to advance the democratization of governance in Asia.
koreaexpose.com · by Hyun-Phil Na · May 1, 2022


9. Defense chief nominee says N. Korea may conduct normal-angle ICBM launch

Does he have access to current intelligence estimates or is this just a logical assessment?

Excerpts:
"We will ensure our preparedness, taking into account the possibility that the North could push to develop a nuclear-powered submarine domestically or build it with parts imported from overseas," he said.
Asked about how he would characterize a North Korean ballistic missile test, Lee said it should be viewed as a "provocation." The liberal Moon Jae-in administration had refrained from using the expression amid its drive for engagement with the North.
"(North Korean ballistic missiles) call for enhancing the credibility of the United States' extended deterrence to South Korea and the deployment of U.S. strategic assets in light of deterrence," Lee said.
The nominee also mentioned his hope for the deployment of America's strategic assets here on a "regular" basis -- an indication that he regards those assets as a key element of the allies' deterrence against North Korean provocations.


(LEAD) Defense chief nominee says N. Korea may conduct normal-angle ICBM launch | Yonhap News Agency
en.yna.co.kr · by 송상호 · May 3, 2022
(ATTN: UPDATES with nominee's mention of preemptive strike option in paras 5-6)
SEOUL, May 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korean Defense Minister nominee Lee Jong-sup on Tuesday raised the possibility of North Korea test-firing a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at a standard angle to prove its atmospheric reentry technology.
In a written answer to a lawmaker's question, Lee said that the North could conduct another test of the Hwasong-17 ICBM to verify the technology required to ensure the missile's warhead can withstand extremely high temperatures during reentry to Earth's atmosphere.
The reclusive regime fired what it claimed was the Hwasong-17 missile, apparently at a lofted angle, on March 24. Experts presume that if launched at a normal angle, the new ICBM could travel around 15,000 kilometers.
"North Korea has not yet verified the warhead's atmospheric reentry capability as it has so far test-fired the missile at a steep angle," Lee said. "There's the possibility of the North attempting to launch the missile at a normal angle to verify the reentry capability."

Noting the North's evolving nuclear and missile threats, Lee mentioned a "preemptive strike" option that he said can be executed "in light of self-defense through prudent judgment and determination."
But he added the use of such a military option would be limited to circumstances where there is a "clear" sign of a potential nuclear or missile attack.
In an answer to another lawmaker's question, the nominee said that the North could seek to acquire a nuclear-powered submarine, while noting the possibility of another submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test.
"We will ensure our preparedness, taking into account the possibility that the North could push to develop a nuclear-powered submarine domestically or build it with parts imported from overseas," he said.
Asked about how he would characterize a North Korean ballistic missile test, Lee said it should be viewed as a "provocation." The liberal Moon Jae-in administration had refrained from using the expression amid its drive for engagement with the North.
"(North Korean ballistic missiles) call for enhancing the credibility of the United States' extended deterrence to South Korea and the deployment of U.S. strategic assets in light of deterrence," Lee said.
The nominee also mentioned his hope for the deployment of America's strategic assets here on a "regular" basis -- an indication that he regards those assets as a key element of the allies' deterrence against North Korean provocations.
sshluck@yna.co.kr
(END)
en.yna.co.kr · by 송상호 · May 3, 2022


10. S. Korea, China agree on close cooperation for stability in regional security


Excerpts:
The two sides shared the assessments of the current regional security situation and discussed ways for the "stable management" of it, the ministry said.
Noh voiced worries about the North's sabre-rattling, including its reported work to restore the Punggye-ri nuclear testing site. He requested Beijing's "constructive" role in efforts to coax Pyongyang into refraining from carrying out additional provocations and resuming dialogue.
Liu agreed on the need for close cooperation among parties concerned for stability in regional security and reaffirmed his country's commitment to support a peaceful resolution to the Korean Peninsula issue.
(3rd LD) S. Korea, China agree on close cooperation for stability in regional security | Yonhap News Agency
en.yna.co.kr · by 채윤환 · May 3, 2022
(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 10-11; ADDS photo)
By Kim Eun-jung and Chae Yun-hwan
SEOUL, May 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and China agreed Tuesday to cooperate closely for the "stabilization" of the Korean Peninsula security situation during consultations between their top nuclear envoys, according to Seoul's foreign ministry.
The meeting between Noh Kyu-duk, Seoul's special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, and his Chinese counterpart, Liu Xiaoming, came amid heightened tensions over Pyongyang's recent spate of missile launches and reported signs of preparations for a nuclear test.
The two sides shared the assessments of the current regional security situation and discussed ways for the "stable management" of it, the ministry said.
Noh voiced worries about the North's sabre-rattling, including its reported work to restore the Punggye-ri nuclear testing site. He requested Beijing's "constructive" role in efforts to coax Pyongyang into refraining from carrying out additional provocations and resuming dialogue.
Liu agreed on the need for close cooperation among parties concerned for stability in regional security and reaffirmed his country's commitment to support a peaceful resolution to the Korean Peninsula issue.

Speaking to reporters after the session, the Chinese envoy noted a "new change" in the security situation on the peninsula and stressed the importance of joint efforts to address it. It seems like he was referring to a string of missile launches by North Korea and its threats to use nuclear force if necessary for the "fundamental interests" of its nation.
Liu arrived in Seoul on Sunday for his first visit to South Korea since assuming the post in April 2021, with just a week left before President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol's inauguration and three weeks to go before Yoon's summit talks with U.S. President Joe Biden in Seoul.
He is scheduled to meet with officials from the incoming administration, including Kim Tae-hyo, tapped as Yoon's deputy national security adviser, according to an informed source.
Later Tuesday, Liu visited the Ministry of Unification, which handles inter-Korean affairs, for a meeting with Vice Minister Choi Young-joon, followed by a courtesy call on Unification Minister Lee In-young.
During their meeting, Lee asked China to play a constructive role so that the North stops its tension-escalating acts and takes the diplomatic path for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, the ministry said in a release.
In response, Liu said it is an important period for the peninsula's political situation, citing the upcoming change of government in Seoul and noting that this year marks the 30th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties between Seoul and Beijing. He added that China is making efforts for a political solution for the peninsula issue, such as its denuclearization, according to the ministry.
Last month, the chief South Korean and U.S. nuclear envoys agreed to jointly push for a new U.N. Security Council resolution against the North for its recent missile launches. But its prospects remain dim, with China and Russia, both veto-wielding permanent members, having maintained a lukewarm stance toward imposing additional sanctions on the North.

yunhwanchae@yna.co.kr
(END)
en.yna.co.kr · by 채윤환 · May 3, 2022


11. Incoming gov't to seek N. Korea's complete denuclearization, boost defense capability

I wish the new administration would articulate the way to get to denuclearization., e,g. The only way we are going to see an end to the nuclear program and military threats as well as the human rights abuses and crimes against humanity being committed against the Korean people living in the north by the mafia-like crime family cult known as the Kim family regime is through achievement of unification and the establishment of a United Republic of Korea that is secure and stable, non-nuclear, economically vibrant, and unified under a liberal constitutional form of government based on individual liberty, rule of law, and human rights as determined by the Korean people. In short, a United Republic of Korea (UROK).
 
Incoming gov't to seek N. Korea's complete denuclearization, boost defense capability | Yonhap News Agency
en.yna.co.kr · by 이해아 · May 3, 2022
By Lee Haye-ah
SEOUL, May 3 (Yonhap) -- The incoming Yoon Suk-yeol government will seek North Korea's "complete and verified" denuclearization and a "revolutionary" reinforcement of South Korea's capability to respond to the North's nuclear and missile threats, the transition team said Tuesday.
The committee outlined 110 key policy tasks to pursue under the Yoon government, which included 18 tasks in foreign policy and national security under the overarching goal of achieving "a global leading nation that contributes to freedom, peace and prosperity."
Under the task of North Korea's denuclearization, the transition team said the aim will be to realize sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula through North Korea's "complete and verifiable denuclearization."

Previous administrations have sometimes used the term "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)" to describe their end-goal for North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, which prompted questions about why "irreversible" was left out.
"Even if we do not repeat the typical phrase CVID, that phrase is still valid," said Kim Tae-hyo, a transition team member who has been named a deputy national security adviser in the incoming administration, during a press briefing.
In particular, the incoming government will seek to achieve denuclearization and a peace regime on the basis of principle and consistency by drawing up a "predictable denuclearization road map" devised through close consultations with the United States and by pursuing negotiations with North Korea under the "principle of reciprocity."
In case of tangible progress in North Korea's denuclearization, the administration will push for peace treaty talks.
The transition team also promised to strengthen cooperation with the international community to strictly enforce U.N. Security Council sanctions on North Korea and induce China and Russia to play a constructive role for North Korea's denuclearization.
Moreover, the new administration will push to set up a trilateral security dialogue channel between the two Koreas and the U.S., such as by establishing a liaison office in the border village of Panmunjom or in Washington.
On the task of normalizing inter-Korean relations and preparing for eventual reunification, the new administration will seek pragmatic and flexible inter-Korean relations based on principles and the national interest.
Specifically, the incoming government will pursue economic development projects in the North in the areas of infrastructure, investment and finance, and industry and technology, in line with progress in denuclearization.
Another task is the "revolutionary" reinforcement of South Korea's capability to respond to North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.
The plan calls for securing the homegrown three-axis system consisting of Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR), an operational plan to incapacitate the North Korean leadership in a major conflict; the Kill Chain pre-emptive strike platform; and the Korea Air and Missile Defense system (KAMD).
Instead of including Yoon's campaign promise to deploy additional units of the U.S. THAAD antimissile system in the country, the transition team outlined plans to develop a multilayered defense system and push for the early deployment of a system to intercept long-range artillery, or a so-called "Korean Iron Dome."
hague@yna.co.kr
(END)
en.yna.co.kr · by 이해아 · May 3, 2022

12. Japan foreign minister to attend South Korean President-elect Yoon’s inauguration to mend frayed ties


Some good news.
Japan foreign minister to attend South Korean President-elect Yoon’s inauguration to mend frayed ties
  • Yoshimasa Hayashi’s presence next week at Yoon Suk Yeol’s oath-taking ceremony a sign of Tokyo’s will to set a new course in relations
  • Warming ties between the two US allies would also be a welcome development for President Biden as he seeks their help to counter security threats posed by China

+ FOLLOW
Published: 1:54pm, 3 May, 2022
By Bloomberg South China Morning Post3 min

South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol. Photo: Xinhua
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is dispatching his foreign minister to attend the inauguration next week of South Korea’s new president, who had been seeking the premier’s attendance as a symbol of putting troubled ties on a more stable course.
Kishida will send Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi to attend the swearing-in ceremony for South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, Japan’s Asahi newspaper and other media reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed government sources. Yoon’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comments, adding it does not comment on individual reports.
Jin Chang-soo, an expert on Japan at South Korea’s state-funded Sejong Institute think tank, said that although Yoon’s camp would have rather have Kishida attend, it would still consider Hayashi’s visit as a sign of Tokyo’s will to set a new course in relations.
“Hayashi’s talks with the new South Korean top officials may be the beginning of the two countries mending ties,” Jin said.
Soon after taking office, Yoon will be meeting US President Joe Biden, who will be on a trip to the region from May 20-24 that also takes him to Japan for talks with Kishida.
Warming ties between the two US allies would be a welcome development for Biden as he seeks their cooperation to counter security threats posed by China and North Korea, while securing supply chains for key goods such as semiconductors free from interference from Beijing.
Yoon, a conservative, has signalled he wants to take a hawkish diplomatic course, which would also be in line with some of the security priorities of Kishida’s conservative government.
The new leadership in Seoul may offer a chance to inch back relations to something more like normal, with the war in Ukraine providing a reminder to both countries of their reliance on their mutual ally amid growing regional threats.
02:23
Who is South Korea’s newly elected president Yoon Suk-yeol and what are his plans?
It had been the tradition for Japanese prime ministers to attend South Korean presidential inaugurations until political acrimony led Japan’s premier to skip the inauguration of former president Park Geun-hye in 2013.
Relations had deteriorated to their worst state in decades under Yoon’s predecessor, President Moon Jae-in, due to disputes related to Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.
In a bid to break the ice, Yoon dispatched a delegation of lawmakers and policy experts to Japan in late April that met with Kishida and sought to have him attend the ceremony.
In a reminder of the simmering tensions, a district court in South Korea last week ordered the sale of patent held by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. to pay compensation to a Korean woman in a case related to conscripted workers at factories during the colonial period, Kyodo News reported on Tuesday, citing a lawyer for the plaintiff.
A series of decisions by South Korean courts under Moon ordering compensation for Koreans forced to work at Japanese mines and factories during the colonial period – and women trafficked in Japanese military brothels – led to strains in security cooperation and trade ties between the two countries that host the bulk of US troops in the region.
Japan has said all matters of compensation have been settled decades ago by a treaty between the two while Moon’s government argues Tokyo hasn’t done enough to properly atone.
Due to procedural matters in these cases, any decision by a court could take months, if not years, to actually be implemented.
Yoon’s camp has indicated it may seek a two-track approach with Japan – trying to improve cooperation on security, while pressing Tokyo to show what Seoul sees as greater accountability for widespread harm to millions of Koreans before and during World War II.

13. Yoon asks for Australia's support over Quad working groups
Will the Quad offer an invitation to Korea? Will it accept? Or will Japan block it?

I wonder if this is why POTUS is traveling to Korea first. If the Quad does not offer Korea an invitation at the meeting in Tokyo it would be an awkward meeting if the Korea summit followed.


Yoon asks for Australia's support over Quad working groups | Yonhap News Agency
en.yna.co.kr · by 이해아 · May 3, 2022
SEOUL, May 3 (Yonhap) -- President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol met with Australia's ambassador to Seoul on Tuesday and asked for the country's support for cooperation between South Korea and working groups under the Quad security partnership, his spokesperson said.
Yoon made the request during a meeting with Ambassador Catherine Raper, referring to the U.S.-led forum seen as aimed at countering China's rise. Quad also involves Japan, Australia and India.
Yoon "called for Australia's support so that South Korea and the Quad working groups can pursue cooperation," his spokesperson Bae Hyun-jin said in a statement.
Raper responded that as countries sharing core values, she believes South Korea and Australia have much room to strengthen cooperation in diverse areas and that she will do her best in her role as ambassador, Bae said.
During the campaign, Yoon promised to gradually seek South Korea's joining of the forum after taking part in its various working groups.

hague@yna.co.kr
(END)
en.yna.co.kr · by 이해아 · May 3, 2022


14. S. Korea, Japan hold diplomatic consultations on strained ties

Professionals in both governments prep for the new South Korean president?
S. Korea, Japan hold diplomatic consultations on strained ties | Yonhap News Agency
en.yna.co.kr · by 김은정 · May 3, 2022
SEOUL, May 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and Japan held their first working-level diplomatic consultations in six months Tuesday, a week ahead of the launch of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration, according to Seoul's foreign ministry.
In the session held at the ministry's headquarters in Seoul, Lee Sang-ryeol, director general for Asia and Pacific affairs, and his Japanese counterpart, Takehiro Funakoshi, agreed to continue "communication" for mending relations between the neighboring countries, it said.
ejkim@yna.co.kr
(END)

Keywords
en.yna.co.kr · by 김은정 · May 3, 2022

15. Four months after re-opening, China-North Korea rail traffic shuts again


Excerpt:

The resumption of train traffic earlier this year was not the end of the border quarantine but, rather, the beginning of a new phase with intermittent shutdowns for the time being. As of now, this may help clear some of the backlog of imports in quarantine in North Korea. But as long as these dynamics continue, they will disrupt trade between the two countries and inflict serious damage on the North Korean economy.

Four months after re-opening, China-North Korea rail traffic shuts again
By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein
Only four short months after traffic started up again following a two-year shutdown, Chinese authorities announced late last week that railway traffic between Dandong and Sinuiju was to be halted again from May 1st, this past Sunday. According to Chinese authorities, this was done at the request of the North Korean government. The reason is the recent rise in Covid-19 cases in Dandong which has prompted a strict quarantine regime in the city, as in many Chinese localities. This move comes a few weeks after border guards in North Korea were apparently ordered to wear gas masks following the rise of cases in China.
As long as North Korea continues to hold zero Covid cases rather than mass vaccinations as the main policy goal, and China’s strict quarantine policies continue, this is like how trade between the two countries will continue for some time, with intermittent stops every now and then when cases rise in China. It still remains to be seen how long the pause in trade will last.
It is, of course, troubling for the North Korean economy. Goods such as fertilizer, pesticides and other farming inputs are badly needed imports. Radio Free Asia reports that traders have been purchasing these goods, in addition to food, as “national emergency goods”, most likely a priority category created by the North Korean government:
Days before the closure, traders made preparations for the last shipments, the source said.
“The freight station is now filled with fertilizer, pesticide and food purchased by North Korean trading companies as national emergency goods. The last trains will be shipped to a quarantine facility in Uiju either tomorrow or the day after,” he said.
RFA reported last year that North Korea had completed a new rail line between Sinuiju and a quarantine facility in Uiju, in anticipation of trade reopening prior to the end of the pandemic. The new facility allows entire trainloads of cargo to be sterilized prior to distribution to Pyongyang and the rest of the country.
A second source familiar with Sino-North Korean trade in Dandong confirmed that rail freight would stop at the beginning of May.
“North Korea urgently needs farming materials and fertilizer, so the two sides have both agreed to bring the supplies to Sinuiju by the end of this month,” he said. “People expect that the freight train between Dandong and Sinuiju will resume only after COVID-19 disappears and the city lockdown is lifted throughout China.”
(Source: Hyemin Son, “Zero-COVID policy in Chinese border city stops freight to North Korea,” Radio Free Asia, May 2nd, 2022.)
The resumption of train traffic earlier this year was not the end of the border quarantine but, rather, the beginning of a new phase with intermittent shutdowns for the time being. As of now, this may help clear some of the backlog of imports in quarantine in North Korea. But as long as these dynamics continue, they will disrupt trade between the two countries and inflict serious damage on the North Korean economy.

Tags: Corona
This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022 at 3:44 am and is filed under ChinaInternational trade. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can , or trackback from your own site.


16. What's behind North Korea's continued refusal to accept COVID-19 vaccines?



Sure - strengthen the state sponsored economic system. But even more importantly continue the draconian population and resources control measures to further control and oppress the population.


What's behind North Korea's continued refusal to accept COVID-19 vaccines? - Daily NK
One reason is that North Korean leaders may believe that the closure of the country's borders is an opportunity to strengthen the state-centered economic system
By Seulkee Jang - 2022.05.03 2:50pm
dailynk.com · May 3, 2022
Doctors at a hospital in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, discussing ways to deal with ways to deal with the outbreak of COVID-19. (Rodong Sinmun)
North Korea continues to refuse COVID-19 vaccine aid from the international community, even as the country’s authorities continue to emphasize the importance of disease control efforts. Many North Koreans believe the authorities refuse to adopt vaccines for economic and political reasons.
A high-ranking Daily NK source in North Korea said Monday that the state believes that accepting vaccines will lead to the opening of the border. He said the authorities cannot easily accept vaccines because vaccinations would remove their justification for keeping the border closed.
That is to say, North Korean authorities believe that the closure of the border and internal controls imposed ostensibly to stop COVID-19 are politically useful.
The source said there has been recent talk in the country that the authorities will decide on adopting a vaccine after efforts to restore a “state-centered economic order” are completed.
Daily NK has determined that, since last month, North Korea has been putting regional trading companies under the direct control of the Cabinet and dissolving or merging trading companies that have failed to post import or export results over the last several years.
In an economic report to the Supreme People’s Assembly in February, Premier Kim Tok Hun said the government would continue to push forward with efforts to restore the state-led, unitary trading system. Since then, North Korea has been working to reorganize the trading system into one where the state administers and supervises all imports and exports.
North Korean leaders apparently believe that the closure of the border is an opportunity to strengthen the state-centered economic system, and it plans to adopt vaccines and open the border only after efforts to bring the economy back under state control are completed.
Meanwhile, North Korea is apparently making full political use of COVID lockdowns and controls.
Since January 2020, North Korean authorities have used the spread of COVID-19 in China and the appearance of individuals with symptoms of the disease to put whole cities under lockdown and restrict internal movement, as well as to strengthen regular inspections by establishing separate quarantine checkpoints.
North Korea is also waging an intense struggle against so-called “anti-socialist and non-socialist behavior” through the December 2020 adoption of a law to eradicate “reactionary thought and culture.” In line with the border closure, the law completely blocks all communications and exchanges between North Koreans and the outside world.
A source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK that because the country’s leadership believes thought and culture from the outside world weakens the ideological convictions of the people, it is bolstering inspections and continues to limit the issuance of travel certificates. He said people also complain that the state is trying to “suffocate” them, continuously intensifying quarantine efforts while refusing to vaccinate people.
All this essentially means that many ordinary North Koreans believe the authorities are using COVID-19 to strengthen internal controls.
In an article published on Apr. 18 that called on people to “comply even more thoroughly” with quarantine regulations “with a sense of crisis,” the Rodong Sinmun reported that the rapid spread of the highly contagious “stealth variant” — which can also evade vaccine protections — is making the situation even worse.
The North Korean media’s continued emphasis on the imperfection of vaccines may be aimed at quieting public doubt and discontent with the country’s failure to adopt vaccines, while at the same time bolstering controls in the name of disease control efforts.
North Korea rejected some two million doses of AstraZeneca earmarked for the country by COVAX last year, citing concern over side effects. It also turned down three million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine.
This year, over 1.28 million doses of AstraZeneca and 252,000 doses of the US-made Novavax vaccine were earmarked for North Korea, but the entire consignment was canceled because Pyongyang expressed no intent to accept it.
Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.
Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
dailynk.com · May 3, 2022

17. North Korea distributes pork to military units to mark 90th anniversary of army's founding
Excerpts:

Daily NK’s source said that with the protracted border closure and focused efforts to provide pork to construction workers on major national projects – such as the the construction of 10,000 housing units in Pyongyang – pork supplies have hit rock bottom. This has led to worries among local officials in the runup to recent holidays.
In fact, workers at a collective farm in Sinsang-ri, Kimjongsuk County, had a tough time when they failed to provide pork for the local military unit.
The farm had to go through nine work teams just to find a 20 kilogram pig to send to the military unit. In return, the unit agreed to pay 10 times the price of the pork in grain harvested in autumn. Pork currently costs KPW 22,000 a kilogram in the area.
The source said with the repeated orders to supply pork to military units on holidays, the factories, enterprises and collective farms that end up taking responsibility for the provisions are complaining of extreme fatigue. He noted that despite this, the government simply brags about nuclear weapons and missiles, focusing solely on promoting its accomplishments.

North Korea distributes pork to military units to mark 90th anniversary of army's founding - Daily NK
North Korea also appears to have neglected to inform residents of border regions that it conducted a military parade recently
By Kim Chae Hwan - 2022.05.03 3:06pm
dailynk.com · May 3, 2022
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the Taechon Pig Farm in April of 2017. (Rodong Sinmun)
North Korea distributed pork to military units to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean army on Apr. 25. However, responsibility for the provision fell upon local factories, enterprises, and collective farms near where the units are based.
According to a Daily NK source in Yanggang Province on Monday, North Korean authorities ordered local party branches to supply pork to military units as this year was a tenth year anniversary of the army’s founding. Ten year anniversaries carry particular symbolic importance in North Korea.
Accordingly, Yanggang Province’s party committee ordered municipal and county-level party committees to ensure local military units received pork. These local party committees then passed on the order to local factories, enterprises, and collective farms.
The party committee of Kimjongsuk County assigned local factories, enterprises, and collective farms with taking care of designated military units, tasking them with providing the units with pork between Apr. 18 and 23.
However, with local providers constantly providing pork to military units this year for the 80th birthday of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il on Feb. 16 and 110th birthday of late North Korean founder Kim Il Sung on Apr. 15, they reportedly had little pork to provide for the Apr. 25 holiday.
Even after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, North Korea has been ordering that military units be supplied with pork on every state holiday.
Daily NK’s source said that with the protracted border closure and focused efforts to provide pork to construction workers on major national projects – such as the the construction of 10,000 housing units in Pyongyang – pork supplies have hit rock bottom. This has led to worries among local officials in the runup to recent holidays.
In fact, workers at a collective farm in Sinsang-ri, Kimjongsuk County, had a tough time when they failed to provide pork for the local military unit.
The farm had to go through nine work teams just to find a 20 kilogram pig to send to the military unit. In return, the unit agreed to pay 10 times the price of the pork in grain harvested in autumn. Pork currently costs KPW 22,000 a kilogram in the area.
The source said with the repeated orders to supply pork to military units on holidays, the factories, enterprises and collective farms that end up taking responsibility for the provisions are complaining of extreme fatigue. He noted that despite this, the government simply brags about nuclear weapons and missiles, focusing solely on promoting its accomplishments.
Interestingly, Daily NK understands that North Korea neglected to inform residents of border regions that it conducted a military parade and related events to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean military.
Believing that internal information is leaking to the outside world primarily through border regions, the authorities are apparently preventing the spread of information about the scheduling of major events to residents of Yanggang and North Hamgyong provinces.
Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.
Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
dailynk.com · May 3, 2022








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David Maxwell
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Foundation for Defense of Democracies
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V/R
David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email: david.maxwell161@gmail.com
Web Site: www.fdd.org
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

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