Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners

Quotes of the Day:

"Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country's cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause." 
- Abraham Lincoln

 "We will neglect our cities to our peril, for in neglecting them we neglect the nation." 
- John F. Kennedy

 "Poland reminds us that sometimes the smallest steps, however imperfect, can ultimately tear down walls, can ultimately transform the world." 
- Barack Obama

1. Readout of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III's Meeting With Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-Sup

2. Dashed Potential: How Misperceiving China Could Hamstring the U.S.-ROK Alliance

3. U.S., S. Korea agree to expand military exercise, resume extended deterrence dialogue

4. Top diplomats of S. Korea, Ukraine discuss cooperation on post-war reconstruction

5. Yoon receives credentials of new U.S. ambassador to Seoul

6. Military readiness 'critical' to defense of S. Korea: NSC spokesman

7. South Korea's new envoy for North Korean rights vows efforts for 'human security'

8. Commemorative event to open for Korean War veterans on USS Missouri

9. Hanwha Aerospace donates $1 million to KUSAF, KDVA

10. Why the US keeps throwing cold water on inter-Korean railway projects

11. [Column] Pompeo’s claims that China obstructed N. Korea’s denuclearization

12. North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center: Plutonium Production Continues

13. Inspector O and the Adverb Generator (north Korea)

14. North Korea resumes coal shipments to China in violation of sanctions

15. Yoon’s approval ratings already cratering in Korea

16. China Pushes for Maritime Preeminence in the Yellow Sea

1. Readout of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III's Meeting With Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-Sup

3 pieces below - in addition to the readout is the SECDEF's and Minister's initial remarks and a DOD article describing the meeting with photos at the link: HERE

While the remarks are all seemingly perfunctory it is the discussions behind closed doors here described here that are important. In acknowledgement of China as a competitor to both the US and the ROK is important.

To understand what was likely discussed behind closed doors it might be useful to read this article about the ROK Ministry of Defense's remarks at the Shangri La dialogue last month. I think most of us overlooked his remarks. But if you read them you can understand how well aligned are US and ROK security interests, policy, and strategy. It is clear the ROK is acting in its own interests but ROK and US interests are very aligned. I recommend reading this article: "S.Korea intends to ‘normalize’ security cooperation with Japan against N.Korean threats" HERE. Note that in this article China is mentioned a dozen times.

In addition this meeting is also the continued sustained high level diplomatic and military engagement that emphasizes and reinforces the importance of our alliances.


So, I look forward to a productive discussion today on how the alliance can further enhance our deterrent posture against aggression from North Korea and other systemic competitors, including the People's Republic of China and Russia.

Readout of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III's Meeting With Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-Sup


Immediate Release

July 29, 2022

Attributed to Acting Pentagon Press Secretary Todd Breasseale:

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III welcomed Republic of Korea (ROK) Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-Sup to the Pentagon today, to reaffirm the ironclad U.S. commitment to the U.S.-ROK Alliance and the defense of the ROK.

Both leaders emphasized the importance of close cooperation and maintaining “fight tonight” readiness to reinforce deterrence in the face of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) destabilizing activities.

During the meeting, the two leaders also discussed a broad range of Alliance issues and exchanged views on the security environment on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific region. Both leaders agreed to focus on strengthening readiness and interoperability of Alliance combined forces. Secretary Austin emphasized that the United States stands firm, with the full range of U.S. capabilities, in its extended deterrence commitment to the ROK.

Secretary Austin and Minister Lee also agreed on the importance of cooperating trilaterally with Japan and enhancing regional cooperation that protects shared security and prosperity, upholds common values, and bolsters the rules-based international order.

Austin Defense Secretary South Korea partnerships Indo-Pacific Indo-Pacific Command

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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Remarks Welcoming the Republic of Korea's Minister of National Defense, Lee Jong-Sup, to the Pentagon

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Well welcome to the Pentagon. Minister Lee, it's good to see you again after our meeting in Singapore in June at the Shangri-La Dialogue.

I especially want to thank you for coming to Washington this week to attend the dedication ceremony for the Korean War Veterans Memorial Wall of Remembrance. The memorial now enshrines the names of tens of thousands of Korean and American soldiers who fought shoulder to shoulder together and who made the ultimate sacrifice to forge a better future for both of our countries.

We hope to honor their service and sacrifice today by further strengthening our alliance. And that alliance remains a foundation of peace and security for the Korean Peninsula and the broader region. And it remains one of the most robust, interoperable and capable alliances of the world.

As President Biden has said the U.S. commitment to the ROK is ironclad. And we stand together in the face of several key challenges. And foremost among them, is the threat posed by North Korea. The Kim regime is engaged in the most active period of missile tests in its history.

But our alliance remains resolute and ready in the face of these dangerous and destabilizing actions. As the recent joint statement from both of our presidents noted. So President Biden affirms the U.S. extended deterrence to commitment to the ROK the using the full range of defense capabilities, including nuclear, conventional, and missile defense capabilities.

So, I look forward to a productive discussion today on how the alliance can further enhance our deterrent posture against aggression from North Korea and other systemic competitors, including the People's Republic of China and Russia.

We'll continue to work together to protect the rules-based international order that has underpinned the prosperity of both of our countries.

And the United States will continue to stand with the Republic of Korea to meet any challenge just as we have since the founding of our alliance more than 70 years ago. So, Minister Lee, thank you for being here today. And thanks for your enduring commitment to our alliance. And I look forward to today's discussion.

ROK MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENSE LEE JONG-SUP (through translator): Secretary Austin, thank you for your words and our opportunity to talk to you at the Shangri-La Dialogue in June. And it's been 50 days since then, to see you again at Pentagon here today, it's a great pleasure.

So, visiting the Pentagon again, it really takes me to a trip down memory lane, because 20 years ago when I visited the Pentagon, I was one of the action officers who sat at the back seat taking notes.

And since then, I've visited the Pentagon numerous times, but being here at the seat as a minister, it makes me feel very happy. But at the same time, I do feel a lot of pressure and responsibility. And especially given that we have to further enhance our ROK-U.S. alliance, and work on the security issues on the Korean Peninsula. And having those tasks on hand I do feel much responsibility.

And for the past week, I do feel that the Wall of Remembrance was a topic that was widely discussed here in Washington, DC. One year ago, Secretary Austin, you were there at the Wall of Remembrance commencement ceremony and a few days ago I was there at that dedication ceremony. I do feel that the Wall of Remembrance had -- this entire project -- was both started and finished with the attendance of the Republic of Korea Minister of Defense and the U.S. Secretary of Defense.

And the names are written -- the names of those who were killed in action during the war -- written on the Wall of Remembrance, and the saying, "Freedom is not free." I do feel that these two are the root and the foundation of the ROK U.S. alliance.

And keeping those historical facts in mind and giving ourselves a reminder that such a tragic historical event should never repeat on the Korean Peninsula. I would like start this meeting with much responsibility on my mind.

And I feel that it's important to have a thorough understanding on the situation, especially on the situation regarding North Korea. And I hope today's meeting gives an opportunity for us to widely discuss about our deterrence options on North Korean nuclear tests. And also, how to respond to North Korea threats bilaterally between the United States and the Republic of Korea. I also hope that we have an opportunity to enhance our execution capability of extended deterrence and also increase the level of combined training and exercises.

While there are many things that will be discussed during this meeting today, I believe one of the takeaways -- the biggest takeaway from this meeting will be that the more North Korea provokes, the firmer the ROK-U.S. alliance will become.

SEC. AUSTIN: Well Mr. Minister, we're delighted to have you here. And we look forward to this being the first of many visits during your tenure as minister. And so, I look forward to a great discussion. Thank you everybody.

Austin, Lee Discuss State of U.S.-South Korea Alliance · by Jim Garamone

News Partnerships July 29, 2022 | BY , DOD News

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III emphasized the history that South Korea and the United States share as he welcomed South Korean National Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup to the Pentagon for talks, today.

Pentagon Talks

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosts South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup for talks at the Pentagon, July 29, 2022.


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Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD

VIRIN: 220729-D-BN624-0165

The South Korean leader visited after participating in the dedication of the Korean War Veterans Memorial's Wall of Remembrance yesterday. The wall contains both the names of Americans killed during the Korean War as well as the thousands of South Korean soldiers who served as augmentees for U.S. Army units during the conflict.

Memorial Statues

Statues of Korean War troops peer from behind the wreaths laid during the dedication of the Korean War Veterans Memorial Wall of Remembrance in Washington, D.C., July 27, 2022.


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Photo By: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Chase Baran

VIRIN: 220727-M-JD243-389

Wall of Remembrance

The names of U.S. Marines killed in the Korean War were among the more than 43,000 names added during the dedication of the Korean War Veterans Memorial Wall of Remembrance in Washington, D.C., July 27, 2022.


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Photo By: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Chase Baran

VIRIN: 220727-M-JD243-390

Marine March

A Marine Corps trumpeter participates in a wreath laying ceremony during the dedication of the Korean War Veterans Memorial Wall of Remembrance in Washington, D.C., July 27, 2022.


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Photo By: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Chase Baran

VIRIN: 220727-M-JD243-415

The wall honors those "who fought shoulder-to-shoulder together and made the ultimate sacrifice to forge a better future for both our countries," Austin said. "We hope to honor their service and sacrifice today by further strengthening our alliance."

Austin stressed that the U.S. commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea is "ironclad." North Korea remains the greatest threat to peace and stability on the peninsula, but the alliance between the United States and South Korea continues to grow. South Korea is a positive, democratic ally that is a force for peace and the international order that has fostered that peace.

North Korea has engaged in the most active period of missile tests in its history, Austin said. "Our alliance remains resolute and ready in the face of these dangerous and destabilizing actions," he said.

Flag Display

U.S. and South Korean flags stand in a display.


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Photo By: U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Seoul

VIRIN: 211201-D-D0439-101Y

He also restated President Joe Biden's assurance that the U.S. extended deterrence commitment to South Korea that includes nuclear, conventional and missile defense capabilities.

Lee noted that in his first visit to the Pentagon, he was a young officer taking notes in the back of the room and that he feels tremendous responsibility being back in the Pentagon Nunn-Lugar Room as national defense minister. "I hope today's meeting is an opportunity for us to discuss about our deterrence options of North Korean nuclear tests, and also how to respond to a North Korean threats bilaterally between the United States and the Republic of Korea," Lee said.

Austin Defense Secretary South Korea partnerships

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 · by Jim Garamone

2. Dashed Potential: How Misperceiving China Could Hamstring the U.S.-ROK Alliance

The 7 page memorandum can be downloaded HERE

The ROK as a "global pivotal state" will compete with China. I think the SECDEF-MINDEF talks likely covered the issues in this useful essay from Michal Sobolik.  

A key point from the essay:

This reality is not lost on Yoon. By all appearances, South Korea’s new president is not guided by the same quixotic notions as his predecessor. Yoon’s administration openly views the PRC as a security threat to South Korea, and “China hawks” in the People Power Party privately question the long-term staying power of the CCP. What, then, informs Seoul’s belief that China has something to offer in the North Korean context?

Dashed Potential: How Misperceiving China Could Hamstring the U.S.-ROK Alliance | American Foreign Policy Council · by Michael Sobolik Fellow in Indo-Pacific Studies

The Republic of Korea (ROK) is undergoing a strategic reorientation under the administration of President Yoon Suk-yeol. Upon assuming office in May 2022, Yoon quickly signaled his intent to break from the positions of his predecessor, Moon Jae-in, on two critical issues: North Korean denuclearization, and countering the rise of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). He also hopes to make the ROK a “global pivotal state” that looks and acts beyond the Korean peninsula.

These shifts have great potential to advance America’s interests in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. That potential, however, could easily dissipate. The outlook of U.S.-ROK relations, and South Korea’s global ambitions, hinge in large part on how Washington and Seoul calibrate their relationship with Beijing. · by Michael Sobolik Fellow in Indo-Pacific Studies

3. U.S., S. Korea agree to expand military exercise, resume extended deterrence dialogue

Byun Duk-kun always seems to be able to get some additional detail of the meetings.

With the ROK as a global pivotal state the alliance is transforming into a global comprehensive strategic alliance. I think the recent arms sales to Poland by the ROK is an example of the ROK contributing to the "arsenal of democracy."

Lee and Austin also reaffirmed the countries' agreement to develop their alliance into a "global comprehensive strategic alliance," according to the defense ministry.

This is an important point

Austin noted the North Korean regime was currently "engaged in the most active period of missile tests in is history."
North Korea has fired more than 30 ballistic missiles this year, marking the largest number of ballistic missiles launched in a single year.
"Our alliance remains resolute and ready in the face of these dangerous and destabilizing actions," the U.S. secretary of defense said at the top of his meeting with his South Korean counterpart.
Lee underscored the importance of joint efforts by the allies to prevent and counter any North Korean nuclear test.

However, we should acknowledge the range of actions that the alliance has taken during this period, the collection of which is a message to Kim that his political warfare,blackmail diplomacy, and warfighting strategies will not succeed. That said, I disagree with Minister Lee that we can do anything to prevent a north Korean nuclear test. Of course we could give in to blackmail diplomacy and provide concessions such as sanctions relief to try to prevent a nuclear test but that will only delay it until Kim decides to make new demands. Instead we should look at the nuclear test as an opportunity to demonstrate that Kim's strategy will not work. I would also recommend preparing to initiate a strategic strangulation campaign focused on aggressively working to cut off external support to the nuclear and missile program by reinvigorating the Proliferation Security Initiative and shut down as much north Korean proliferations as possible while shutting down its global illicit activities, interdicting its cyber offensive operations, conduct presence patrols in all areas where ship-to-ship transfer to evade sanctions might occur, and imposing secondary sanctions on all financial institutions that are complicit in north Korean sanctions evasion. And it goes without saying that we will continue the full range of training and exercises to include integrated missile defense with the ROK-Japan, and the US. Collectively these actions are a message to Kim that we will not appease him and that his strategies are doomed to failure. The result will be either Kim being pressured by his elite to change course or Kim being pressured by the elite that results in other effects.

(LEAD) U.S., S. Korea agree to expand military exercise, resume extended deterrence dialogue | Yonhap News Agency · by 변덕근 · July 30, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, additional information, remarks from Defense Minister Lee in paras 6-8, 17-21; ADDS more photo)

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, July 29 (Yonhap) -- The top defense officials of South Korea and the United States agreed Friday to expand the countries' upcoming joint military exercise and to restart their strategic dialogue on extended deterrence at an early date.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also reaffirmed U.S. commitment to the defense of South Korea in his bilateral meeting with South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup here, according to the South Korean defense ministry.

The decision to expand the military exercise comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un lashed out at the allied countries for holding such drills.

"The two ministers agreed to combine their countries' joint military exercise in the second half of 2022 with (South Korea's) government exercise (Ulchi civil contingency exercise) and continue strengthening the allies' deterrence posture, including the ballistic missile defense system and U.S. strategic assets deployed on the Korean Peninsula," Seoul's defense ministry said in a press release.

"The two ministers agreed the security condition on the Korean Peninsula was very serious due to North Korea's continued provocations, and emphasized that the South Korea-U.S. alliance will only solidify in the face of North Korea's provocations," it added.

Lee later explained the expanded military exercise will likely be called "Ulchi Freedom Shield," noting the name, freedom shield, is used for the highest-level exercise and that it represents the defensive nature of the exercise.

Pyongyang periodically accuses the joint military drills of South Korea and the U.S. of being aimed at toppling its regime.

The North Korean leader again blasted Seoul and Washington on Wednesday for holding joint military drills, calling them "thug-like behavior" and threatening to "wipe out" Seoul and its military if they make any dangerous attempt.

North Korea is widely anticipated to conduct a nuclear test in the near future, with officials in Seoul and Washington saying the country appears to have completed "all preparations" for what will be its seventh nuclear test.

Pyongyang conducted its sixth and last nuclear test in September 2017.

Austin noted the North Korean regime was currently "engaged in the most active period of missile tests in is history."

North Korea has fired more than 30 ballistic missiles this year, marking the largest number of ballistic missiles launched in a single year.

"Our alliance remains resolute and ready in the face of these dangerous and destabilizing actions," the U.S. secretary of defense said at the top of his meeting with his South Korean counterpart.

Lee underscored the importance of joint efforts by the allies to prevent and counter any North Korean nuclear test.

"We must accurately understand where North Korea stands right now, and I wish we can discuss various ways to better implement the U.S.' commitment to providing extended deterrence, prevent North Korean nuclear tests and how South Korea and the U.S. will react when the North does conduct a nuclear test," he said.

To this end, Austin and Lee agreed to resume the countries' high-level Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group (EDSCG) talks at an early date to help boost their joint deterrence, according to the defense ministry.

A ministry official later said the countries have agreed to hold a EDSCG meeting before the end of September.

Defense Minister Lee said the countries will also hold a joint "operational exercise" for U.S. extended deterrence in the near future.

"It was an opportunity to again confirm the U.S.' commitment to extended deterrence and its ability to execute such a commitment," Lee said while meting with reporters.

"For instance, we reaffirmed the U.S.' commitment to counter North Korea's nuclear capability with all available means, including strategic assets such as nuclear-powered carriers and fighter bombers," added the minister.

Lee and Austin also reaffirmed the countries' agreement to develop their alliance into a "global comprehensive strategic alliance," according to the defense ministry.

"The two ministers made it clear that South Korea and the U.S. will jointly take stern measures against a North Korean nuclear test based on their strong joint defense posture should North Korea conduct its seventh nuclear test despite opposition from the international community," it said.

(END) · by 변덕근 · July 30, 2022

4. Top diplomats of S. Korea, Ukraine discuss cooperation on post-war reconstruction

South Korea as a global pivotal state. Note also Russia has asked for north Korean support for "rebuilding" in the Russian occupied areas. We need to be observing for the indicators that north Korea sends combat forces (SOF) to fight for Russia to alleviate the manpower shortfall.​

Top diplomats of S. Korea, Ukraine discuss cooperation on post-war reconstruction | Yonhap News Agency · by 장동우 · July 29, 2022

SEOUL, July 29 (Yonhap) -- The top diplomats of South Korea and Ukraine on Friday discussed ways to cooperate in reconstructing the war-torn Eastern European nation, Seoul's foreign ministry said.

In a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin expressed regret that the war in Ukraine has been going on for more than five months and the loss of life continues.

Park added he hopes South Korea can contribute to the post-war reconstruction and restoration of Ukraine based on its experience of rebuilding the country after the Korean War.

The two ministers also agreed to strengthen mutually beneficial economic cooperation between the two countries by using various consultation channels between the governments.

South Korea and Ukraine celebrate the 30th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties this year.

(END) · by 장동우 · July 29, 2022

5. Yoon receives credentials of new U.S. ambassador to Seoul

​Now the ambassador can be fully engaged.

Yoon receives credentials of new U.S. ambassador to Seoul | Yonhap News Agency · by 채윤환 · July 29, 2022

SEOUL, July 29 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk-yeol on Friday received the credentials of the newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Seoul and foreign envoys from three other countries, officials said.

U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg, Mongolian Ambassador Erdenetsogt Sarantogos, Ethiopian Ambassador Dessie Dalkie Dukamo and Chilean Ambassador Mathias Francke presented their credentials to Yoon during a ceremony at his office in central Seoul.

Goldberg has vowed to make efforts to strengthen the alliance between Seoul and Washington after arriving here earlier this month.

(END) · by 채윤환 · July 29, 2022

6. Military readiness 'critical' to defense of S. Korea: NSC spokesman

I know people get tired of hearing this message but it must be emphasized because there are many who do not understand the importance of readiness and some in the ROK and US who believe we can forgo readiness in exchange for negotiations. Most importantly the American people need to be made aware of how important and how difficult it is to sustain readiness. We should always keep in mind that Kim will exploit weakness but that he is intelligent enough not to attack into strength. This is why his political warfare, blackmail diplomacy, and war fighting strategies have as a major objective to create weakness in the alliance - he does not want a "security guarantee" by ending exercises - he focuses on ending exercises to create weakness and create conditions that make the presence of US forces untenable on the peninsula.

Military readiness 'critical' to defense of S. Korea: NSC spokesman | Yonhap News Agency · by 변덕근 · July 30, 2022

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, July 29 (Yonhap) -- Maintaining the readiness of U.S. and South Korean forces through appropriate military drills is important to ensuring the security of South Korea, a National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson said Friday.

John Kirby, NSC coordinator for strategic communications, made the remarks after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un lashed out at Seoul and Washington for holding joint military exercises, calling it "thug-like behavior."

"We do believe that military readiness on the peninsula is critical," Kirby said in a telephonic press briefing, when asked if the U.S. thinks the allies should continue their military drills.

"There's lots of ways that you can get after that military readiness," Kirby added. "Some of that is exercises. Some of its tabletop exercises, Some of it's done virtually. it's got to be a blend."

The NSC official declined to get into any more details, but said the allies are always trying to boost their joint readiness.

"We are always looking to tailor the training and exercise regime to the conditions there on the peninsula and making sure that we are fully ready, and we are," said Kirby.

Kim, addressing his reclusive nation on Wednesday to mark the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, said the South Korean government and its military will be "wiped out" should they make any "dangerous attempt."

Seoul and Washington believe the North may soon conduct its seventh nuclear test with "all preparations" for a test already completed.

Pyongyang staged its sixth and last nuclear test in September 2017.

(END) · by 변덕근 · July 30, 2022

7. South Korea's new envoy for North Korean rights vows efforts for 'human security'

As an aside, some of us met with a Korean think tank yesterday ​and one of the comments from the participants was thanking them for discussing human rights in north Korea for the first time in five years.

We need a ROK-US united human rights upfront approach.

South Korea's new envoy for North Korean rights vows efforts for 'human security'

The Korea Times · July 28, 2022

Lee Shin-wha, South Korea's new envoy for North Korean human rights, talks with Foreign Minister Park Jin at the foreign ministry in Seoul, Thursday. Yonhap

South Korea's new envoy for North Korean human rights emphasized her commitment Thursday to enhancing "human security" in the reclusive country, as she received her appointment certificate from Foreign Minister Park Jin.

Lee Shin-wha, political science professor at Korea University, filled the position that had been vacant for years since the inaugural ambassador, Lee Jung-hoon, left office in September 2017.

Her appointment came as the South has apparently shifted to a more proactive stance in handling the North Korean human rights issue under the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol administration in a policy shift from the preceding liberal Moon Jae-in administration.

"Mentioning the human rights issue may be a sensitive issue for the North Korean regime, but for its people, the issue is a matter of life or death," she said in a meeting with reporters. "I believe (my role) is to call on the North Korean regime to (ensure) not regime security but human security."

The ambassador also commented on the hot-button issue of the forced repatriation of two North Korean fishermen in 2019.

"Forcibly repatriating them without due procedures is a breach of both international and domestic laws," she said." This issue should be viewed from the perspective of the international principle of non-refoulement and the enforcement of the (domestic) North Korean human rights act."

She also pointed out, "A photo is worth a hundred or a thousand words," in an apparent reference to the photo unveiled by Seoul's unification ministry of the North Korean fishermen being dragged into the North against their will.

The post on the North's rights was created in 2016 following the enactment of the North Korean Human Rights Act. (Yonhap)

The Korea Times · July 28, 2022

8. Commemorative event to open for Korean War veterans on USS Missouri

Just as an aside, although a unique situation due to the Korean War, there are few countries,(and probably not any) in the world that do more to honor US veterans than the ROK.

Commemorative event to open for Korean War veterans on USS Missouri

Posted July. 30, 2022 07:35,

Updated July. 30, 2022 07:35

Commemorative event to open for Korean War veterans on USS Missouri. July. 30, 2022 07:35. by Kyu-Jin Shin

USS Missouri, the first U.S. battleship which arrived on the Korean Peninsula during the Korean War, will invite war veterans to credit and thank them. The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs announced that it will open an event to express gratitude for Hawaii-based war veterans on the battleship of Missouri located in the United States Pacific Fleet in Hawaii at 5 p.m. on Friday (local time). With the underlying theme of the honorable alliance between South Korea and the United States, it will be attended by a total of 200 participants or so including Minister Park Min-shik of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, Commander Samuel Paparo of the United States Pacific Fleet, Korean War veterans and their families.

The Battleship Missouri, a.k.a. Mighty Mo, is considered a symbol of the alliance between South Korea and the United States. Its arrival on the Korean Peninsula on Aug. 19, 1950 made it the first U.S. battleship on Korean shores since the breakout of the Korean War. It conducted bombardment missions on Samcheok on Sept. 15, a month after its arrival, to help lead the Incheon landings to success. Added to this, the battleship fought to the last minute to keep Chinese People's Volunteer Army from approaching by firing massive guns onboard during the Hungnam refugee evacuation operations on Dec. 24 of the same year. One of the most impressive memories etched on USS Missouri is a signing ceremony of the Surrender of Japan on Sept. 2 1945.

Retiring from the battlefield in 1955, USS Missouri was upgraded with modern weapon systems an equipment in 1986 to return to the forefronts. Afterwards, it contributed to the United States in the Gulf War. It is currently in used as a museum.


9. Hanwha Aerospace donates $1 million to KUSAF, KDVA

What an incredible gift for these two organizations. KDVA and KUSAF do great work for US and ROK veterans of Korean defense and for the alliance.

Hanwha Aerospace donates $1 million to KUSAF, KDVA

The Korea Times · July 28, 2022

From left, Vincent Brooks, president of the Korea Defense Veterans Association (KDVA), CEO of Hanwha Aerospace Shin Hyun-woo, and Jung Seung-jo, president of the Korea-U.S. Alliance Foundation Korea (KUSAF) pose after signing an agreement for Hanwha to donate 1 million dollars to the other two organizations at the Mayflower Hotel, Washington D.C., Wednesday (local time). Courtesy of Hanwha Aerospace

By Lee Yeon-woo

Hanwha Aerospace underwrote a donation of 1 million dollars to the Korea-U.S. Alliance Foundation Korea (KUSAF) and the Korea Defense Veterans Association (KDVA) to enhance the Korea-U.S. alliance, the company said, Thursday.

Hanwha Aerospace CEO Shin Hyun-woo, KDVA President Vincent Brooks, KUSAF President Jung Seung-jo, Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs Park Min-shik, and Commander Paul LaCamera of the United States Forces Korea attended the signing ceremony held in the Mayflower Hotel, Washington D.C., Wednesday (local time).

This event was held right after the dedication ceremony celebrating the completion of the Wall of Remembrance at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., honoring U.S. troops and Korean Augmentation Troops to the U.S. Army (KATUSA) who died during the Korean War.

"Hanwha has been sponsoring both organizations to strengthen the alliance between Korea and the United States. We feel glad to continue the work," Shin said.

Hanwha Group ― especially its defense units such as Hanwha Aeropspace ― has made donations to the KUSAF and KDVA since 2017.

The KDVA was founded in 2017 to support around 3 million veterans and service members of the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea (USFK), ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC) and KATUSA. The KUSAF, established in the same year, was founded to support the operations and management of the KDVA while also promoting the Korea-U.S. alliance.

The Korea Times · July 28, 2022

10. Why the US keeps throwing cold water on inter-Korean railway projects

This is one interpretation of history and diplomatic actions from the progressive Hankyoreh.  

This illustrates the anti-US and anti-UN Command bias that exists among the Korean hard left progressives who have pro-Pyongyang sympathies and who do not have a realistic understanding of the nature of the Kim family regime and the threat it poses to the ROK.


But Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense for the Bush administration, was resolutely uncooperative. Using the US Forces Korea Command — that is, the UN Command — as his mouthpiece, he communicated a message of pressure to the South Korean minister of national defense, questioning the need to proceed with the inter-Korean railway and road linkage efforts at a time when there were concerns about the North working pursuing a highly enriched uranium program.

The mine clearing initiative was held up for three weeks as a result. After Seoul and Pyongyang finally managed to sort things out, the UN Command’s deputy chief of staff at the time, US Air Force Lt. Gen. James Soligan — known to be one of USFK’s chief hawks — openly applied pressure in a conversation with the Ministry of National Defense press corps on Nov. 28, 2002. In his remarks, he stressed the need to receive UN Command approval when crossing the MDL for purposes of overland tourism at Mt. Kumgang, adding that the South Korean military also had to comply with the Armistice Agreement. He also warned that inter-Korean exchange and cooperation efforts would not be able to proceed effectively if the Armistice Agreement was not observed.

Soligan’s stalling tactics led to the postponement of assistance to North Korea in the form of materials for the railway linkage and land-based tourism at Mt. Kumgang.

Why the US keeps throwing cold water on inter-Korean railway projects

Posted on : Jul.30,2022 09:42 KST Modified on : Jul.30,2022 09:42 KST

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The US’ interference in the initiatives aimed at inter-Korean cooperation and reconciliation have their basis in the Cold War order of Northeast Asia

UN delegate Lt. Gen. William Harrison (seated left) and delegate Gen. Nam Il of the Korean People’s Army and Chine People’s Volunteers (seated right) sign the Armistice Agreement at a wood panel building at Panmunjom on the morning of July 27, 1953. (courtesy National Archives)

The US has been uncooperative about the project to connect railways and roads between North and South Korea. This has been the case especially during Republican administrations, namely those of George W. Bush (2001-2008) and Donald Trump (2017-2020). At the time, the US justified its stance by saying that progress in inter-Korean relations should align in pace with the North’s denuclearization.However, the bottom line of the US’ uncooperativeness is more fundamental, rooted in the Cold War order in Northeast Asia. The essence of the matter is tug-of-war concerning whether the armistice regime is maintained, keeping the US in its position of overwhelming supremacy, or whether inter-Korea cooperation is hastened, opening up an opportunity for a transition from the armistice regime to a regime of permanent peace.Railways and roads connecting South and North Korea would inevitably have to pass through the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The MDL and the DMZ have their basis in the Korean Armistice Agreement of July 27, 1953. The agreement was signed by the commander of the UN Forces, the supreme commander of the (North) Korean People’s Army, and the commanding officer of the People’s Volunteer Army of China. In other words, South Korea was not a signatory. This is because Syngman Rhee, the South Korean president at the time, opposed a ceasefire, instead advocating that South Korea unify Korea by marching northwards.The MDL is a boundary line between South and North Korea that replaced that of the 38th parallel according to the Armistice Agreement — it’s the official name of the ceasefire line. It spans 155 miles, from Ganghwa on the western coast to Ganseong on the eastern coast. There’s no line drawn on the earth, but if you were to connect the dots of the 1,292 numbered military signposts that run from coast to coast, you’d end up with the MDL.The DMZ covers two kilometers on either side to the north and south of the MDL. The Armistice Agreement treated this area as a buffer zone, barring armed forces from being stationed there. In reality, however, it’s a heavily militarized zone, packed with soldiers and heavy weapons along the 100 or so guard posts on the South Korean side and roughly 280 on the North Korean side.Off limits to civilians, the DMZ accounts for about 0.5% of the Korean Peninsula’s total area of 221,487 square kilometers. Traveling west to east from Gyodong Island at the mouths of the Ryesong and Han rivers to the village of Myeongho in Goseong on the East Sea coast, it crosses six large rivers, one plain, and two mountain ranges, encircling a total of 70 villages.In that sense, railways and highways connecting South and North Korea represent a peace corridor, shaking open the MDL and DMZ areas that have remained sealed up and frozen in time for 70 years under the Armistice Agreement’s spell.The Sisyphean struggle to link up inter-Korean railways and roads succeeded in open up two airways along the peninsula’s midsection: the Gyeongui (Seoul-Sinuiju) Line, measuring 250 meters in width, and the Donghae (East Sea) Line, measuring 100 meters widthwise.That combined 350 meters of breadth still represents only 0.14% of the 250 kilometers of the MDL. But if the 80 million people of the Korean Peninsula hold out and continue traveling back and forth along those tiny passages — if, in other words, they can transform misunderstandings into understanding and antagonism into coexistence — then the icy wall of the armistice regime can gradually melt away in the warm spring winds of peace.It’s a lofty dream, but the reality is bleak. At the moment, the 350 meters of hopeful passages have fallen into desuetude.Someone once said that if you cannot see the road in front of you, look back at the road you have followed. After South and North Korea agreed upon plans for making the Gyeongui and Donghae railway lines and road linkage project a reality at the first inter-Korea summit, in June 2000, this meant that they would urgently need the cooperation of the US. For the construction to go ahead, there had to be an agreement on transferring jurisdiction over the DMZ between the UN forces and the Korean People’s Army, two of the signatories to the Armistice Agreement.But Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense for the Bush administration, was resolutely uncooperative. Using the US Forces Korea Command — that is, the UN Command — as his mouthpiece, he communicated a message of pressure to the South Korean minister of national defense, questioning the need to proceed with the inter-Korean railway and road linkage efforts at a time when there were concerns about the North working pursuing a highly enriched uranium program.As the discussions between South Korea and the US ran into difficulties, the inter-Korean military discussions ended up spinning their wheels. In his memoirs “Peacemaker,” former Minister of Unification Lim Dong-won recalls that the Blue House finally took action itself, insisting that it was “going to proceed with the railways and road linkage project as agreed upon by the South and North.”Lim also writes that Blue House “demanded that the US hold general-level talks at Panmunjom without delay to take the necessary measures, while guaranteeing that the groundbreaking ceremony could take place on the agreed-upon date.”After all these twists and turns, the “Agreement for Establishing Joint Administration Areas in the East Sea and West Sea Regions and Providing Military Guarantees for the Railway and Road Effort Connecting South and North” just managed to go into effect on Sept. 17, 2002 — a day before the groundbreaking ceremony date agreed upon by South and North Korea.While the US may have backed off a bit in the face of the Blue House’s resolute stance, it did not stop throwing wrenches into the works. In November 2002, efforts to remove landmines from the Gyeongui Line route in the joint administration area were in their final stages when the US demanded a mutual inspection, claiming that the North’s mine-clearing activities were “questionable.”After some back and forth, North Korea agreed to the inspection, providing the South with a list of the personnel who would be doing the testing. The US once again doused cold water on the activities, insisting that the UN Command’s dignity could not be besmirched, and that the North had to submit its information to receive approval directly from the UN Command.The mine clearing initiative was held up for three weeks as a result. After Seoul and Pyongyang finally managed to sort things out, the UN Command’s deputy chief of staff at the time, US Air Force Lt. Gen. James Soligan — known to be one of USFK’s chief hawks — openly applied pressure in a conversation with the Ministry of National Defense press corps on Nov. 28, 2002. In his remarks, he stressed the need to receive UN Command approval when crossing the MDL for purposes of overland tourism at Mt. Kumgang, adding that the South Korean military also had to comply with the Armistice Agreement. He also warned that inter-Korean exchange and cooperation efforts would not be able to proceed effectively if the Armistice Agreement was not observed.Soligan’s stalling tactics led to the postponement of assistance to North Korea in the form of materials for the railway linkage and land-based tourism at Mt. Kumgang.Finally, the South managed to resolve the differences with the North by including a provision in a supplementary inter-Korean agreement stipulating that the joint administration area was part of the DMZ, and that the Armistice Agreement would have to be followed in all matters concerning transit approval and safety. That, plus a presidential election in South Korea, led to the US backing off a bit with its quibbling.Writing about the controversy at the time, the Hankyoreh noted, “While this may come across right now as a matter of transit over the Military Demarcation Line, from a longer-term perspective it is a complex issue that also includes matters concerning the replacement of the Armistice Agreement with a peace agreement.”In “Peacemaker,” Lim Dong-won writes, “If we were to bow to the pressure, inter-Korean relations might end up in ruins once again, and the Joint Declaration of June 15 [of 2000] might have been scrapped.”The US’ fixation on using the Armistice Agreement as a basis for maintaining jurisdiction over the DMZ remained unchanged even when the warm winds of peace started arriving on the peninsula around 2018, with three inter-Korean summits and the first North Korea-US summit in history.When the ninth Korea-Germany Unification Advisory Committee meeting was held in Pyeongchang on June 12–13, 2019, Gen. Robert Abrams, the commander of the USFK and UN Command, prohibited the South Korean Ministry of Unification’s plan to show the German government delegation the preserved Guard Post No. 829, located within the DMZ in Goseong, Gangwon Province, citing “safety” concerns.Then-South Korean Vice Minister of Unification Suh Ho went so far as to send Abrams a letter of protest, but the UN Command never did explain exactly what the “safety reasons” were. The decision had been made to preserve Guard Post No. 829 permanently to commemorate the removal of posts — evidence of the military confrontation in the DMZ — in the wake of the inter-Korean military agreement of Sept. 19, 2018.In 2019, then-Minister of Unification Kim Yeon-chul made plans to visit Daeseong, the only civilian place of residence within the DMZ, while attending the Aug. 9 opening of the DMZ Peace Trail in Paju at Dorasan Station on the Gyeongui Line. The UN Command continued pouring cold water on Seoul’s efforts by barring him from traveling with members of the press, citing the “inconvenience to residents.”Does the UN Command — i.e., the USFK Command — get to decide that it “inconveniences residents” for a member of the South Korean Cabinet to visit a community where members of the South Korean public live? Even the cows there would get a good laugh out of that.At issue in this controversy is the UN Command’s authority to grant or deny permission to cross the MDL and enter the DMZ — powers that are based on the Armistice Agreement. The agreement does not specify the scope or procedures for that authority, but the preamble does stipulate the agreement’s objective and validity. Its aim is to ensure “a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved” and its “conditions and terms are intended to be purely military in character.”With the agreement focusing on preventing war from erupting again, its drafters never envisioned a future where South and North would be putting the DMZ to peaceful use and crossing the MDL for purposes of reconciliation and cooperation.The UN Command’s establishment was based on UN Security Council Resolution No. 84 (July 7, 1950), the first item of which states that its aim is to “furnish such assistance to the Republic of Korea as may be necessary to repel the armed attack and to restore international peace and security in the area.”That is the premise underlying the UN Command’s authority. The official letter sent by then-South Korean President Syngman Rhee on July 14, 1950, “delegating” operational control for the South Korean military to the UN Command, also limited this measure to the “period of the continuation of the present state of hostilities.”It therefore stands to reason that the UN Command’s authority to grant or deny permission should be limited to matters of a “military character” that are meant to prevent hostile and military actions.By Lee Je-hun, senior staff writerPlease direct questions or comments to []

11. [Column] Pompeo’s claims that China obstructed N. Korea’s denuclearization

They certainly did not help. I do not think it is Pompeo's rhetoric but instead the nature, objectives, and strategy of the CCP of the PRC that prevents cooperation.

I expect the author, Moon Chung-in, will be leading anti-American sentiment for the next four+ years. According to Moon and those of similar views, the problems on the Korean peninsula are because of the US. My belief is the root of all problems in Korea is the existence of the most evil mafia- like crime family cult known as the Kim family regime that has the objective of dominating the Korean Peninsula under the rule of the Guerrilla Dynasty and Gulag State. I doubt I will be getting anymore invitations to speak at the Sejong Institute.

[Column] Pompeo’s claims that China obstructed N. Korea’s denuclearization

Posted on : Jul.25,2022 16:32 KST Modified on : Jul.25,2022 16:32 KST

The North Korean nuclear issue can’t be resolved without US cooperation with Beijing — but Pompeo’s rhetoric makes that appear near impossible

Moon Chung-in

By Moon Chung-in, chairman of the Sejong Institute

North Korea is making swift progress on its nuclear weapon and missile programs. It has already test-launched 18 ballistic missiles this year and is very likely to carry out a seventh nuclear test as well.

What’s particularly troubling is a decisive shift in North Korea’s nuclear doctrine, as it seeks to make its nuclear warheads smaller, lighter and more diverse.

Along with its long-standing position that nuclear weapons are a means of retribution and deterrence, Pyongyang is now moving to officially adopt the preemptive use of tactical nuclear weapons. That was strongly indicated by the “addition of operational missions and the revision of operational plans for front-line units” during the third expanded meeting of the Eighth Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea, which was presided over by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on June 21.

Simply put, all efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue over the past 30 years have proved futile.

“Up until 2006, North Korea did not have nuclear weapons,” Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, remarked recently, while lamenting that the international community had failed to prevent the North from gaining nuclear weapons despite several rounds of negotiations. He described that as “a big collective failure.”

Grossi attributed the responsibility to all countries involved. Nevertheless, the US on one side and China and Russia on the other continue playing a pointless blame game, with each side blaming the other for the failure.

Mike Pompeo, who served as secretary of state under the Trump administration, was a leading advocate of China’s responsibility in the matter. In an interview with the Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean daily newspaper, on July 7, he argued that Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party have blocked North Korea’s denuclearization.

“There were many times that I was convinced that Chairman Kim himself believed that the right path forward was the one that we were offering, but that it was in fact Xi Jinping that was operating him,” Pompeo said in the interview.

According to Pompeo, China’s actual objective is to maintain North Korea as a “buffer state” while using the North Korean nuclear program as leverage for diverting American resources and maintaining discord between the US and North Korea as part of its policy of countering the US.

China’s ultimate goal, in Pompeo’s eyes, is to turn the Korean Peninsula into an obedient client state under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party. He added that tough sanctions put genuine pressure on Kim Jong-un, pressure that brought him to serious denuclearization talks.

Pompeo’s provocative claims of Chinese obstructionism were flatly dismissed by responsible Chinese figures as nonsense. The Chinese retort that North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons goes against China’s national interest and that China has actively cooperated with the US through the Six-Party Talks and other measures aimed at Pyongyang’s denuclearization.

It’s also true that, given North Korea’s uniquely independent foreign policy, there are clear limitations on Beijing’s influence over the North. The Western assumption that Xi Jinping could change Kim Jong-un’s attitude with a single phone call evinces ignorance of the historical characteristics of Beijing-Pyongyang relations.

Given its penchant for erratic behavior, Pyongyang is hard to handle not only for Washington, but also for Beijing. Pompeo’s argument repeats the Trump administration’s error of exaggerating China’s influence over North Korea.

In addition, the argument that China is exploiting the North Korean nuclear card to counter the US is the mirror image of the argument that the US is playing up the North Korean nuclear issue to counter China. But just as a nuclear-armed North Korea is a serious security risk to the US, it undeniably presents an element of instability to China as well.

The Chinese say that such calculations lie behind Beijing’s support for peace, stability and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear issue realized through dialogue and negotiations. Cooperation with the US, they say, has also derived from Chinese foreign policy goals based on the national interest.

The Chinese add that Pompeo’s view of North Korea as a buffer zone reflects an outdated mindset and that Beijing has no reason to sow discord between the US and North Korea, given its steady support for the normalization of Pyongyang-Washington relations.

Since China is already strapped with the responsibility of ruling a population of 1.4 billion people, it has no reason to turn North Korea into a client state, the Chinese say. Those are their grounds for dismissing Pompeo’s argument as a typical attempt to demonize the Chinese Communist Party.

In actuality, the Chinese say, Pompeo’s belief that sanctions are a cure-all is the main reason no solution has been found for the North Korean nuclear issue. In their view, Kim Jong-un joined talks with Trump in 2018 not because he was under pressure from sanctions but rather because Trump recognized him and demonstrated his willingness to resolve the issue through dialogue and negotiations.

According to the Chinese, there’s still just one solution: diplomatic talks based on the principles of “freeze-for-freeze” of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile tests and ROK-US military exercises, “parallel progress” toward a peace regime and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and gradual exchange of simultaneous concessions. The Chinese are adamant that this issue cannot be solved by the US’ total reliance on sanctions that it refuses to lift until North Korea has denuclearized.

As this suggests, the viewpoints of Pompeo and the Chinese are diametrically opposed. One thing that is clear, however, is that the North Korean nuclear issue can’t be resolved without cooperation with Beijing. If major politicians with presidential ambitions such as Pompeo ignore that and cling to an almost conspiratorial theory of Chinese responsibility, there’s little chance that the US and China will be able to work together to reach a breakthrough on the North Korean nuclear issue.

Please direct questions or comments to []

12. North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center: Plutonium Production Continues

Images at the link:


...could be related to waste handling or preparations for a forthcoming reprocessing campaign.

North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center: Plutonium Production Continues


JULY 28, 2022

Recent commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center indicates that, despite adverse weather conditions, plutonium production continues. The 5 MWe Reactor is still operating and has been since July 2021. It may be ready for a partial discharge of the reactor core, which could then be sent a few months later for reprocessing. Some activities are underway at the Radiochemical Laboratory (RCL), which could be related to waste handling or preparations for a forthcoming reprocessing campaign.

5 MWe Reactor

Despite heavy rains in recent weeks, discharge of cooling water from the 5 MWe Reactor—a key indicator of ongoing operations—is still observed. The reactor appears to have been operating since early July 2021, which means the reactor core may be ready for a partial discharge—an important step in recovering weapons-grade plutonium.

There are several vehicles located near the 5 MWe Reactor, which have been seen frequently at the site. Two semi-trucks are parked in front of the main entrance to the reactor building. One is a truck with a flatbed tractor-trailer, and the other is a blue-toned tank trailer that has been previously associated with the delivery of carbon dioxide (CO2). As often observed, there is a smaller cargo truck parked next to the end of a support building located across the street.

Figure 1. Vehicles and water discharge observed at 5 MWe Reactor.

Satellite image © 2022 Maxar Technologies. All rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact

Radiochemical Laboratory

The emission of smoke from the Thermal (Steam) Plant, which was first observed in imagery from July 5, continues. The faint smoke plume suggests that the plant is not operating with full power but providing a limited amount of steam to the RCL. The purpose of this activity is not yet clear but could indicate treatment of radioactive wastes or preparations for a future reprocessing campaign.

Figure 2. Faint smoke emission visible from Thermal Plant.

Satellite image © 2022 Maxar Technologies. All rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact

A small cargo truck is parked at the entrance to the spent fuel receiving building, and a tank truck is parked at the motor pool located immediately to the west. Other identifiable pieces of equipment or materials continue to be seen at each location. The significance of this increased vehicle activity is unclear.

Figure 3. Vehicle activity observed at Radiochemical Laboratory motor pool and spent fuel storage building.

Satellite image © 2022 Maxar Technologies. All rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact

Building 500

Activity at Building 500, a suspected radioactive waste storage facility, continues. This was first noted in early July. So far, this activity has taken place just outside the central door to the building. Light-colored debris or materials are visible on either side of the access road to the center door. The pattern observed suggests the removal of material, as opposed to excavation, in preparation for building modifications. This would support the idea of interior work being planned or the removal of derelict equipment or materials.

Figure 4. Unidentified materials visible outside Building 500 entrance.

Satellite image © 2022 Maxar Technologies. All rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact

Uranium Enrichment Plant (UEP) Area

There is no apparent vehicle activity at the UEP nor any clear signatures indicating whether the plant is operating. However, vapor emissions are observed coming from the nearby Uranium Dioxide (UO2) Conversion Plant, which provides feed materials for possible production of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) for the UEP and manufacturing of uranium metals for the fuel rods of the 5 MWe Reactor.

Figure 5. Vapor emissions observed at UO2 Conversion Plant.

Satellite image © 2022 Maxar Technologies. All rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact

13. Inspector O and the Adverb Generator (north Korea)

The author of this satire is a former member of the US intelligence community and the author of the "Inspector O" novels about north Korea.

I cannot seem to access NK News' old random insult generator which used to be a lot of fun.

Inspector O and the Adverb Generator - 38 North: Informed Analysis of North Korea · · July 27, 2022



“Do you throw darts or take one out of a hat?”

I’d just walked up to his table, and this opening set me back a moment. Inspector O could be abrupt, but this was a home run.

“Excuse me?” I decided to try to disarm him, build his confidence, as it were, by pushing back but only gently. “Isn’t it appropriate to start with a hello, how are you, that sort of thing?” I pulled up a chair and set myself down across from him. “Something on your mind, I take it.”

“It’s a question, Church, a simple question. Don’t dodge. Darts or a hat?”

“Hello, I’m fine. How are you?” I picked up a battered menu and pretended to peruse it, nodding as if I’d found something that looked good. “Do I get context for your question, or do I just pick one of the choices, and if I guess the right answer, take home the barbeque set and the beach chairs?”

“Don’t be cute, Church. This isn’t a game show. You can’t buy any letters. And I couldn’t sell them anyway; they’re sanctioned. Let’s try it this way. You might want to write these down.” He opened his notebook. “Sternly, seriously sustained, robustly.” He looked up and gave me a meaningful look. “And now this new one—appropriately.”

“Adverbs. All except ‘sustained.’ I supposed it could be sustainedly.”

“As usual, you are a font of knowledge.” He pulled an envelope from his jacket pocket and took from it an official-looking piece of paper. He cleared his throat. “I am instructed to ask if your people have invented an adverb generator.” He waited for a moment. “Don’t scoff. Every time one of your officials speaks on the question of a response to our next nuclear test, there is a new adverb. And the question I keep getting is, why?”

“It’s an affliction,” I said. “Adverbs, I mean. They are an affliction. They are irresistible, seep into talking points like water under a rotting baseboard. Naked verbs are treated as embarrassing or dull, to be avoided at all costs. Write a simple verb, and someone on the clearance line will add an adverb.”

“Church, I really don’t need a lesson in bureaucratic disease. Another time, maybe.”

“All right. As far as I can tell, those first adverbs you listed were meant to communicate a certain amount of weight.”

“Weight,” O repeated, and he wrote it down. “You want us to buy new scales?”

“Figure of speech,” I said. “Words can’t have weight, really.”

“Oh? You think so?” His eyebrows shot up. “We might differ there. The right word might say more than you think. I trust you know the saying that people ‘weigh their words.’”

“Fine, pedantic but fine.”

“As I’ve noted to you before, your ‘s’ words seem to have some sort of bite, or so you might think. However, this latest one, ‘appropriately,’ sounds lightweight. To another nuclear test, we’re now told by Mr. Kirby, nice fellow, by the way. We like listening to him.”

“Your point, Inspector?”

“Ah, yes, he now says you will respond ‘appropriately.’ Very gray, very foggy. Makes us think we might need to order rain slickers from Elbin.”

“L.L. Bean,” I said. “You get the catalogs?”

“Never mind what I get. The word ‘appropriately,’ what is it?

“Not foggy, more likely it is meant to be sound judicious.”

“Or weaselly.” He smiled. “See, I am not a boob in the woods.”

“Babe,” I said, “and, no, I wouldn’t think so.”

“We need to know why these keep changing. Better yet, I am authorized to make a suggestion that you just stop them. Don’t worry about weight. Your talking points will not float away without them. Just say that you will respond, and that we’ll know what it will be when we see it. Because let’s face it, Church, you aren’t going to scare us ahead of time, no matter what word ending in -ly you use.”

“That’s deterrence,” I said.

“What is?”

“Scaring you ahead of time.”

“Yes, well.” He scratched his ear. “Two can play that game.” He paused to consult his notebook again. “Which reminds me, what is this obsession with predicting when our next nuclear test will be? Does someone get a prize if they guess right? If I slip you the right date, can we share the winnings?”

“You know the date?”

He stood up. “I’ve got to make a flight. But go ahead and order something you like from the menu. I know you can’t read Chinese, so just tell them you want number seven.”

I thought about it a moment too long. “You mean it will be on August 7?” I shouted after him, but he was already out the door. · by Iliana Ragnone · July 27, 2022

14. North Korea’s nuclear nightmare: A former top CIA official reflects on how we got here and what to do about it

This article covers a lot of important ground and is very much worth reading.

But to me this is akey judgment and we should understand and accept this and it should inform our policy and strategy:

Finally, though North Korea’s stated goal of reunifying the peninsula on its terms seems far-fetched at the moment, there is no evidence that Kim has given up on it. In the North Korean mind, superior military power is certainly a prerequisite — as is a U.S. withdrawal from the peninsula. While the latter is unlikely in an era of U.S. emphasis on Asia, Kim now has more tools to make life increasingly difficult and dangerous for U.S. forces there, and he can reasonably hope that U.S. politics will shift toward a more isolationist stance. Kim probably has not forgotten that his grandfather went to war to unify the peninsula — and almost succeeded.

To this conclusion, I would add for strategists and campaign planners as well:

Yet North Korea remains a seemingly unending, intractable and increasingly dangerous problem for the international community. Which makes it all the more challenging, both for intelligence officers seeking to understand it and policymakers seeking to manage or eliminate the danger. We must use every lever we have to meet that challenge, as difficult as it is.

​I will stand by my recommendations here:  

The Yoon and Biden administrations have an opportunity for a new approach to the Korean security challenge. The Alliance way ahead is an integrated deterrence strategy as part of the broader strategic competition that is taking place in the region. There is a need for a Korean “Plan B” strategy that rests on the foundation of combined ROK/U.S. defensive capabilities and includes political warfare, aggressive diplomacy, sanctions, cyber operations, and information and influence activities, with a goal of denuclearization but ultimately the objective must be to solve the “Korea question” (e.g., the unnatural division of the peninsula) with the understanding that denuclearization of the north and an end to human rights abuses and crimes against humanity will only happen when the Korea question is resolved that leads to a free and unified Korea, otherwise known as a United Republic of Korea (UROK).

North Korea’s nuclear nightmare: A former top CIA official reflects on how we got here and what to do about it

John McLaughlin used to brief presidents on the North Korean threat. Today, he’s more worried than ever.

John McLaughlin

Special Contributor

July 29, 2022 · by John McLaughlin

There are times when I feel I might be responsible for starting a chain reaction that cascaded into a nightmare on the Korean peninsula. More specifically, I wonder whether a briefing I gave the president of the United States led in strange ways to the heavily armed and isolated nuclear North Korea we confront today.

The story begins with a phone call I received one afternoon in September 2002 from then-White House National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. She asked whether, in my capacity as deputy director of Central Intelligence, I could come to the White House the next morning and brief President George W. Bush and the national security team on the latest intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear posture. The Bush administration was considering whether to keep President Bill Clinton’s commitment to give Pyongyang much-needed fuel supplies and help in the building of peaceful nuclear reactors — in return for Pyongyang’s pledge to abandon its weapons-related work on plutonium. This was all part of the “Agreed Framework” negotiated by the Clinton administration in 1994. Bush wanted to make sure North Korea was honoring the deal before continuing.

Many details of what I said the following morning remain classified. What I can say is that my briefing kept strictly within the bounds of what we knew with reasonable confidence and did not speculate beyond that. My key point was that we had learned that North Korea had begun seeking centrifuge-related materials in large quantities. Centrifuges are used in the enrichment of uranium for peaceful and weapons purposes; if true, the finding would mark a significant development — as clear a sign as the world had to that point that the North had secretly resumed its march toward a nuclear capability.

It was also enough to start that chain of events.

First, the administration decided to send then-Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Jim Kelly to Pyongyang to confront the North Koreans. Kelly was armed with talking points summarizing what I had said — without revealing how we knew. Kelly met the North Koreans on Oct. 3, and by all accounts they were shocked — and scrambled overnight to respond. After some arguments among translators, it was apparent they had acknowledged their plan to enrich uranium.

Now, the U.S. had proof.

Kelly’s mission — and the North Korean response — shut down any consideration of concessions to the North and triggered a series of North Korean moves that still reverberate today: the December 2002 ejection of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); the January 2003 withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT); and the North’s announcement, in February 2003, that it had reactivated its nuclear facilities. By April 2003, the North Koreans were reprocessing spent fuel rods to make weapons-grade plutonium.

That spring — roughly nine months after my White House briefing — the North was openly back in the business of producing nuclear explosive material usable for weapons.

They have never looked back.


North Korea today — what you need to know

Watching the news in recent years from North Korea can seem like a slow and hard-to-follow drip of developments. Here are three takeaways that matter.

The yield of North Korea’s nuclear tests has risen exponentially.

Clearly we were right to worry about those centrifuge materials and the North’s plans for its nuclear program. In 2010, North Korea invited Stanford University physics professor Siegfried Hecker and a colleague to view its now-completed uranium enrichment facility. “Our jaws just dropped,” Hecker said. They “couldn’t quite believe” what they saw — 2,000 centrifuges in a modern enrichment facility. And the North Koreans were showing off the accomplishment to a Western visitor.

North Korea has carried out six nuclear tests since 2006. Its first test that year had a yield of only 0.7 to 2 kilotons. But the yield has kept growing; in the North’s last test, in late 2017, the yield had jumped to 250 kilotons — 16 times the size of the Hiroshima bomb — enough to level all the residential buildings in downtown Washington, D.C. The blast caused a 6.3 magnitude earthquake near the test site.

Another test may be in the offing. Analysis of satellite imagery from last month shows tunnel construction that looks to me — and other observers — like preparation for a nuclear test. And this week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he stood ready “to deploy the country’s nuclear deterrent.”

A paradigm shift in what the North’s missiles can do.

Kim was 27 when he took power. On the one hand, he carried out what struck me as a textbook case of how extreme authoritarian leaders tighten their grip: create an inner circle of loyal followers who control the means of coercion, reward them handsomely, and imprison or kill any would-be competitors who begin to build power bases or stray from absolute loyalty. In following this playbook, Kim has kept up a pace of executions that experts generally agree exceeds that of his predecessors (over 300 in his first five years alone).


On the other hand, Kim lacked the experience or charisma of his father and grandfather, who led the nation before him. Kim needed something more to lock in his authority and prove his ability to lead and protect the country. That “something more” turned out to be an unrelenting push for advances in the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities.

Kim has increased the range of North Korea’s missile force — enough so that it poses a threat to the continental United States. He has pushed testing relentlessly, racking up well over 100 missile tests, compared with only 31 conducted during the reigns of his father and grandfather. The turning point came in 2017, when the North succeeded for the first time in launching an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). This was the Hwasong 14, followed four months later by the Hwasong 15 — a missile that is considered capable of flying 8,000 miles. That would put it in range of the entire continental United States.

I took some sour satisfaction from this. My analysts had taken heavy criticism from Congress’s missile defense advocates in 1995 for estimating then that the North could not get this far for at least 15 years. It took them 22 years to hit this milestone.

The North’s latest test, last March, appears to have built on and exceeded these successes, achieving the longest duration yet.

These missiles can probably carry nuclear warheads — though there is debate about whether the missiles’ reentry vehicles (the parts that deliver a nuclear warhead to a land-based target) can survive the heat of reentering Earth’s atmosphere. And little is known publicly about the sophistication of guidance systems for these weapons.


Meanwhile, the amount of nuclear material the North can produce is increasing, and by extension so is its nuclear warheads inventory. The U.S. Army’s 2020 estimate of 20 to 60 North Korean nuclear weapons is generally in line with expert public estimates.

Tech upgrades: Kim is making his weaponry more sophisticated

Kim is also focusing on advances likely to render his weaponry more dangerous, harder to locate and more difficult to deter. The U.N. says the North successfully tested a hypersonic glide missile earlier this year; these travel at least five times the speed of sound, typically fly lower than other missiles, and their greater maneuverability makes them nearly impossible to defend against. The North is also working to develop submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), which would complicate detection.

The takeaway: North Korea has become a fully functioning nuclear weapons state, with work underway to increase the quantity, sophistication, stealth and survivability of its arsenal — all while developing a formidable program of missiles capable of reaching halfway across the globe.

Nightmares — short and long term

Clearly, Kim sees these weapons as the best way to ensure regime survival in a world he regards as hostile. As my successors in the intelligence community noted during the time of then-President Donald Trump’s meetings with Kim in 2018 and 2019, there is almost no chance of Kim voluntarily surrendering these weapons. He has doubtless noted the vulnerability of states that either did give them up (see Libya — or Ukraine) or failed to acquire them (Iraq and Syria).

In terms of what to worry about, I have a short-term set of concerns — and then a range of issues that may last a decade or more.


In the short term, my major worry is the country’s record of proliferation. North Korea is perennially cash-strapped because of its backward economy and sanctions; sales of weapons technology have proved to be one of the country’s very few reliable revenue sources. And it’s a highly profitable one.

Versions of the North’s Nodong medium-range missile remain the workhorses of the Iranian and Pakistani missile forces. North Korea has also sold missiles to Libya, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Syria. The North helped Syria build the nuclear reactor that Israel destroyed in 2007; it is providing Iran with the two-stage missile technology it used for its longer-range Hwasong missiles, and the two countries have collaborated on missile engine development. Kim plows the profits back into his missile and nuclear programs and into the system of rewards and privileges for the elite that sustains his regime.

Longer term, I think the key challenge is to accurately assess Kim’s intentions. For intelligence agencies/analysts, what’s in the adversary’s head is always more elusive than capabilities — the things we can locate and see. In Kim’s case, I’m convinced he is not a madman; he is rational within the strategic construct he has created. Although there can no longer be much doubt that he has acquired the capability to strike the U.S. homeland, he also knows that such an attack would be suicidal. As a CIA official said in 2017: “He wants to rule for a long time and die peacefully in his own bed.” I believe that’s still an accurate assessment — and it’s important in crafting policy and responses going forward.

But this hardly means Kim’s purposes are benign. Among other things, the arsenal he has built buys him some assurance that other countries will not attack his country. He also now has impressive muscle to bolster North Korea’s traditional pressure tactics in the region — tactics aimed at intimidating neighbors and gaining economic concessions and assistance. And if negotiations ever resume between North Korea and the U.S. (President Joe Biden has signaled a willingness to talk), or with a larger U.S.-led group, Kim has gained far more leverage to bargain for sanctions relief. Our negotiators and intelligence professionals will just have to be aware of the history: Along with demanding the maximum and delivering the minimum, the North has a record of cheating on agreements.

Finally, though North Korea’s stated goal of reunifying the peninsula on its terms seems far-fetched at the moment, there is no evidence that Kim has given up on it. In the North Korean mind, superior military power is certainly a prerequisite — as is a U.S. withdrawal from the peninsula. While the latter is unlikely in an era of U.S. emphasis on Asia, Kim now has more tools to make life increasingly difficult and dangerous for U.S. forces there, and he can reasonably hope that U.S. politics will shift toward a more isolationist stance. Kim probably has not forgotten that his grandfather went to war to unify the peninsula — and almost succeeded.


What can the U.S. — and the rest of the world — do?

I think often about what the U.S. should do about North Korea — or what I might advise, were I summoned back to the Oval Office.

Although the North’s military capabilities have changed dramatically, one reality remains for any American leader dealing with North Korea: No one option is sufficient, and Washington will be forced to use all of them simultaneously to at least keep the North Korea problem from getting worse. This amounts to a strategic mix of sanctions, deterrence, containment and negotiations. Each option has drawbacks, risks and limitations, but when orchestrated skillfully, they can keep the North off balance and preserve the possibility of progress when the time is ripe.


Biden has stated his willingness to negotiate — and there is nothing wrong in principle with another U.S.-North Korea summit. But I would not contemplate it unless it was so well prepared as to know in advance the outcome, and to know clearly what we are willing to accept — full denuclearization or something less, such as a freeze on nuclear and missile development and testing? There would also have to be clear agreement on an international mechanism for ensuring compliance by the North with any agreement, along with a declaration by the North of its existing inventory — a particularly onerous requirement for highly secretive Pyongyang.


The U.S. and international organizations have levied economic sanctions on North Korea since the 1950s, adjusting them as conditions have changed. The impact, though, has been felt mainly by the populace rather than the governing elite. It has also encouraged a thriving gray market and spurred smuggling networks. No doubt sanctions have hurt, but the North has become deeply expert at evading them, as a recent study of illicit oil deliveries showed. As Grid has reported, the country has also reaped riches from cryptocurrency crime; according to the 2022 Crypto Crime Report from Chainalysis, the regime obtained nearly $400 million in stolen cryptocurrency last year alone. China also comes to the rescue regularly, sending in vital commodities such as fuel and food.

There are additional sanctions that might plug gaps — but given that 90 percent of North Korea’s trade is with China, adding sanctions without Chinese cooperation is fruitless. And one of the unfortunate side effects of recent Chinese-Russian cooperation is the added difficulty of sanctioning a country like North Korea, which counts China and Russia among its very few allies.



Deterrence is always complicated, but when it comes to North Korea, the classic “three Cs” of deterrence are in place, and each can be strengthened:

First, capability: Kim knows the U.S. has superior force, but he must see it orchestrated effectively with our South Korean partners through close and visible military and political coordination. A major Pyongyang goal is to divide Washington and Seoul, so keeping that connection tight is key to frustrating the North’s policies. The U.S. and South Korea do not always agree, but in my experience, nothing is more counterproductive than a sense in Seoul that the U.S. is circumventing the South.

Second, communication: the international community must convey clearly and convincingly to the North that there will be no sanctions relief without certifiable progress on denuclearization.

Third, credibilityThis should be strengthened by the Biden administration’s efforts to more closely align policies among Asian allies and by the somewhat tougher stance South Korea’s new president, Yoon Suk Yeol, is taking toward the North, such as his pledge to develop more advanced missiles for South Korea.

There’s a fourth “C” in play here — one that hangs over it all: “containment.” This was diplomat George Kennan’s term during the Cold War, the word that informed U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union for decades, and in a different way it’s relevant now, when it comes to North Korea. Containment should inform all that we do when it comes to North Korea — be it those other “three Cs” or in-person diplomacy, and in particular our efforts to establish some understanding with China about the boundaries of acceptable behavior by North Korea.


China — North Korea’s longtime ally — is generally content with the status quo of a divided Korean peninsula that absorbs U.S. resources. But China has also participated in talks to limit North Korea’s nuclear program and would not want Kim doing anything that would be destabilizing in Asia or provoke war on the peninsula. For all the troubles in today’s U.S.-China relationship, this offers a critical opportunity for common ground; I doubt that China wants to see another North Korean nuclear test, for example. Bringing China into some harmony with the U.S. on such issues would markedly strengthen containment strategy.

Nearly 20 years after that 2002 White House briefing, I often reflect on how much the world around North Korea has changed. South Korea is a strong democracy and economic powerhouse; China is moving into peer competitor status with the United States; the U.S.-China relationship writ large has sharply deteriorated; and the U.S. has tried a “pivot to Asia,” only to be followed by Trump’s open disdain for our Asian allies. And now of course we face a major conflict in the heart of Europe.

Yet North Korea remains a seemingly unending, intractable and increasingly dangerous problem for the international community. Which makes it all the more challenging, both for intelligence officers seeking to understand it and policymakers seeking to manage or eliminate the danger. We must use every lever we have to meet that challenge, as difficult as it is.

Thanks to Lillian Barkley for copy editing this article. · by John McLaughlin

14. North Korea resumes coal shipments to China in violation of sanctions

China is complicit in sanctions evasion activities.

Time for a strategic strangulation campaign. Here is my recommendation from 2016: "A Strategic Strangulation Campaign for North Korea: Is the International Community Ready for What May Come Next?"

North Korea resumes coal shipments to China in violation of sanctions

North Korea has resumed shipping coal to energy-starved China to secure much needed foreign currency despite U.N. sanctions prohibiting the transactions, RFA has learned.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 2371, adopted in August 2017, forbids countries from buying coal that originates in North Korea. The sanctions are aimed at depriving Pyongyang of cash and resources that could be funneled into its nuclear and missile programs.

But China’s energy needs are great, and North Korea’s coal is of exceptionally high quality, so sales of coal stocks to Chinese buyers resumed in mid-July, a trade official in North Korea’s South Pyongan province, north of Pyongyang, told RFA’s Korean Service on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

“Trading companies affiliated with the party and the military resumed exporting coal to earn foreign currency on orders of the Central Committee,” said the source.

“Coal exported to China is transported from Nampo port to the West Sea,” the source said, referring to the body of water west of the Korean peninsula, known internationally as the Yellow Sea.

“It is common for the coal to be transferred from the North Korean trading company’s ships to Chinese ships on the open sea,” the source said.

The ship-to-ship transfers are an effort to avoid detection, although monitors have known the sales have continued since the sanctions were imposed. In 2019, the U.S. Treasury penalized two Taiwanese citizens and three shipping companies for transferring petroleum products with North Korean ships on the high seas.

In October 2021 RFA reported that coal exports from North Korea to China, sometimes through ship-to-ship transfers, were on the rise as China struggled with severe coal shortages that led to rolling blackouts in many parts of the country.

Maritime trade between the two countries has been on and off during the coronavirus pandemic. It was off again at the time that North Korea declared a “maximum emergency” in May when a major outbreak was traced to a military parade in late April. Authorities have apparently made an exception in the case of coal.

Some trading companies are getting bolder and forego ship-to-ship transfers entirely, the source said.

“Some of the powerful party-affiliated trading companies bring the Chinese ships into the port of Nampo, where they are loaded with coal and then sail directly to Chinese ports. They can receive the cash right there on the spot,” the source said.

“Foreign currency earned from coal exports is not deposited into the Foreign Trade Bank of the DPRK but is collected directly by the party.”

The coal shipped out of Nampo goes to various ports in China’s Shandong province, with Longkou being the most popular destination, sources said.

Coal is also transferred over a much shorter distance between Ryongchon county in the northwestern province of North Pyongan and Donggang, China, a trade official in North Pyongan told RFA on condition of anonymity to speak freely.

“These days, at Jinhung Wharf in Ryongchon county, military trading companies that have received permission to resume coal exports from the Central Committee are exporting coal through the sea,” he said.

“Powerful trading companies are earning foreign currency by exporting hundreds of thousands of tons of coal at a time by borrowing large ships from China,” said the second source.

A ton of North Korea’s high-quality anthracite coal can fetch between U.S. $100 and $110 in China, according to the second source. This is almost double the cost per ton quoted by sources in the RFA report from October 2021.

“Military companies are using the foreign currency they earn from coal exports to secure fuel for Border Guard patrol boats and warships and food for military personnel,” the second source said.

Sources told RFA that they were not able to determine if the resumption of coal exports is being carried out under any agreement with the Chinese government.

RFA contacted offices at the United Nations, including the U.S. mission to the U.N., by phone and email but had not received any response as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told RFA that United Nations sanctions on the DPRK remain in place.

“We will continue to implement them and encourage others to fully implement them, including at the United Nations and with the DPRK’s neighbors,” the spokesperson said. “The DPRK continues to fund its WMD and ballistic missile programs through sanctions evasion efforts in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.”

“It is important for the international community to send a strong, unified message that the DPRK must halt provocations, abide by its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions, and engage in sustained and intensive negotiations with the United States.”

Translated by Leejin J. Chung. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

15. Yoon’s approval ratings already cratering in Korea

I guess winning a presidential election in Korea is like buying a new car: as soon as you drive it off the lot it loses value. In Korea on day one of the presidential term you are a lame duck because there is only one presidential term. One thing Yoon should push is for a term presidency that would take effect after he leaves office and with the election of the next president.

Yoon’s approval ratings already cratering in Korea

South Korean presidents mutate into ‘lame ducks’ late in their terms but Yoon is waddling toward that status after mere months · by Andrew Salmon · July 29, 2022

SEOUL – Despite being warned of potential “annihilation” by not-so-amicable neighbor Kim Jong Un yesterday, conservative South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol feasibly has much good news to mull.

National flagship Samsung Electronics yesterday announced its second largest-ever quarterly profits: 11.1 trillion won, a 15.2% rise, year on year. South Korea is negotiating its biggest ever arms deal with Poland, enriching national arms merchants to the tune of $15-20 billion. And national GDP growth this year is set for a solid 2.7%, according to the IMF.

In terms of global prestige, Yoon – in a first for a South Korean president – was invited to this year’s NATO summit in Madrid. He is also receiving a revolving door of senior visitors from his leading ally: After President Joe Biden visited Seoul in May, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen dropped in this month and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland was in town this week.

All very presidential and positive. Yet Yoon’s approval ratings today fell below 30%, according to a Gallup poll reported today (July 29) by Yonhap news agency.

For such an early-term leader – Yoon took office on May 10 – those numbers are unprecedented. So what happens if he has already lost the popular mandate to govern so early in his tenure?

That political reality would certainly not be welcome in Washington. Yoon, after all, has leaned closely to the US – preaching the values of freedom, democracy and human rights; supporting Ukraine including through arms sales to NATO allies; agreeing to restart joint summer military drills regardless of Kim’s bluster; and promising to improve relations with Japan.

To be sure, political misfortune for a close US ally is hardly unique in current times.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Biden publicly stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot remain in power. In fact, Putin remains firmly entrenched, while anti-Putin US allies are tumbling left.

Hardcore anti-Putinist UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been given the boot by his own party for his endless lies and dissembling. In Italy, President Mario Draghi has fallen from power, partly for his anti-Russia stance.

Granted, Yoon is not – at least, not yet – headed for the abyss that has swallowed Johnson and Draghi. But his plummeting popularity is unlikely to make enacting politically risky pro-Japanese, pro-US or anti-North Korean policies easier.

Waddle waddle, quack quack

Gallup found today that only 28% approved of Yoon’s policies, compared with 68% who were opposed. According to a survey of the Gallup poll ratings of late-term Korean presidents by local media Joongang Ilbo, Yoon’s numbers look closer to the ratings of those about to exit office than a newcomer with a fresh electoral mandate.

As Korean presidents are constitutionally restricted to single terms, late-term lame-duckhood essentially means that their dictates can be ignored or slow-played by a lethargic bureaucracy, meaning their power ebbs away.

The Joongang found that the end-of-term approval ratings of those presidents who held power from 1998 to 2017 were 24%, 27%, 24% and 5%. (That last 5% was an anomaly: Then-President Park Geun-hye was impeached and left office on the back of million-person demonstrations).

Yoon’s immediate predecessor exited with a far more muscular mandate.

Then-President Moon Jae-in cut a more charismatic figure than Yoon. Photo: AFP / Roslan Rahman

Though Moon Jae-in was beset by the failures of multiple high-profile policies – notably, his outreach to North Korea and his efforts to level out the real estate market, a perennial political hot potato – he left office with a rating of 45%.

But – beyond ultra-hardcore and mostly elderly right-wingers who insist Moon was a “Red” commie traitor – most Koreans saw Moon as an affable leader who had handily managed the Covid pandemic.

What has gone wrong?

Many analyses emphasize the fact that Yoon faces a hostile National Assembly – at least, until parliamentary elections in 2024.

That situation is not unique to Yoon. Indeed, a situation wherein one party holds the presidency and the other holds the (unicameral) legislature is the classic balance of power in South Korean democratic politics.

What is unquestionable is that he won the presidency by a whisker, with a less than 1% margin.

Given that, it is odd that he kicked off his administration with a major expenditure of scarce political capital: An unnecessary and poorly justified move of the presidential office and residence away from its customary, purpose-built location, the Blue House, to a workaday ministerial site.

A stated aim of leaving the gated, mountain-backed Blue House was “getting close to the people.” In that vein, Yoon did something even more shocking: He instituted a regular morning stand-up Q&A with waiting media.

Previous Korean presidents tended to hold a new year’s press conference, offer a sprinkling of exclusive interviews over the rest of the year – usually with questions sent in advance – and that was it. “Door-stopping” was simply not a media tradition here.

Yoon overturned all that. His unscripted approach to answering reporters’ shouted questions should have been a breath of fresh air. Alas, unscripted has often looked unprofessional, with his un-prepared, off-the-cuff responses being criticized even among members of his own party.

There are also matters of substance. Gallup found many disapproved of Yoon due to economic worries. That is no surprise: Korea, a net energy importer, is suffering from the soaring energy prices that have followed in the wake of the Ukraine strife.

Korea’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 6% year-on-year in June, the highest level since November 1998 during the traumatic Asian financial crisis. Compensatory interest rate rises by the Bank of Korea are placing a heavy burden on Korea’s massively indebted households, who will face greater difficulty servicing their debts.

South Korean inflation is surging. Image: Screengrab / BBC

Gallup found there was also controversy over personnel appointments. Those are a common bugbear in Korean politics but Yoon has faced particular criticism for placing so many ex-prosecutors in high places.

There is also discontent within both the public and constabulary over a mooted police oversight bureau, raising yet another perennial Korean controversy: Political control of law enforcement bodies.

Yet another issue Gallup found to be a concern was Yoon’s inexperience, which has shown through in some dodgy optics.

Unlike Moon – who despite his modest stature walked within an aura of charisma, the sum perhaps of years of political experience – Yoon had prior to his presidential run zero political bona fides. His professional expertise was at the top of the elite but faceless ranks of the national prosecution service, a stern and far-from-fluffy organization.

During the NATO summit, Yoon was photographed wearing a cheesy grin as he reached out to press the flesh with Biden. It had looked as if Biden was about to greet Yoon, but in fact, he was approaching another participant.

Though it was a diplomatic gaffe by the elderly US president, the embarrassing shot of Yoon drew derision when it was plastered all over Korean media and social media.

Then there is his wife, Kim Kun-hee. She has been accused of falsifying segments of her resume, offering positions to chums and benefitting from insider information – though these are all common pratfalls in Korean politics.

The wider problem is that Kim is very different from previous first ladies who have tended to be matronly figures who fade into their husband’s shadows.

Eleven years Yoon’s junior, Kim looks far more youthful, dresses like a celeb and has taken a high-profile approach to her public duties. Disapproval has simmered and the media have zoomed in.

All this provides plentiful ammunition to Yoon’s detractors among the electorate.

The First Lady Kim Kun-hee with her husband and dog. Image: Twitter

A pro-Moon voter who runs a design business stormed in Seoul, “He talks badly, he walks like a gangster and his wife is an embarrassment!”

“He has a solid brain trust around him but he is proving intransigent, not listening to people around him,” Kim Sung-nam, an Inchon-based translator who voted against Yoon, told Asia Times. “The party suggests he spruce up his image, but apparently he has a weird Trumpian attitude – ‘I am the president and I run this show!”’

Internal controversies within Yoon’s People Power Party are not helping, either. The PPP has seen the party’s youthful head resign amid sexual abuse allegations. This could potentially erode Yoon’s support among 20-something males, a politically active cohort.

Inherited problems

What has gone so wrong so fast?

“The general wisdom is that Yoon has inherited the problems,” Michael Breen, author of The New Koreans, told Asia Times. “We thought that, coming out of Covid, we were free, but it is payback time economically and the war in Ukraine has happened with all its consequences.”

“There are a lot of issues to handle, and there is not a strong feeling of vigorous leadership to guide us through,” Breen said.

Kim the translator agreed. “He does not seem to know what to do,” he said. “Not having a macro direction, not having an over-arching policy – the Yoon government is not putting that forth.”

If Kim is correct, Korean democracy is steering for uncharted waters. For a country with a tradition of strong top-down leadership and industrial policy, it has never been led by a disempowered president so early in his term.

But Breen counters that the lame duck issue has less to do with poll popularity, and more to do with the fact that Korean presidents run the show for a single five-year term.

“In the last year [of the presidency] everybody is thinking about who will be the next leader, which means the current leader has no authority to do anything,” Breen said. “But I don’t think it applies now. Yoon has more than four more years to go.”

Follow this writer on Twitter @ASalmonSeoul · by Andrew Salmon · July 29, 2022

16. China Pushes for Maritime Preeminence in the Yellow Sea

West Sea.

This could be a significant challenge to the ROK and the alliance.

China Pushes for Maritime Preeminence in the Yellow Sea

Publication: China Brief Volume: 22 Issue: 14

By: Joshua NT Park

July 29, 2022 05:22 PM Age: 19 hours · by Joshua NT Park · July 29, 2022


Recent headlines on Northeast Asian maritime affairs have focused on Beijing’s claim that the Taiwan Strait should not be considered international waters based on the principle that Taiwan is Chinese territory (Huanqiu Shibao, June 23; Liberty Times, June 23; JongangIlbo, June 20). With international attention focused on Taiwan, the South Korea-China Maritime Cooperation Dialogue meeting on June 17 went largely unnoticed (Yonhap News, June 17;, June 17). The dialogue, which was launched in 2021, promotes cooperation on maritime issues in the Yellow Sea. The meeting was hosted by the South Korean and Chinese foreign ministries, but also included each country’s coast guard, defense ministry, and several other relevant government agencies.

Several points of contention between South Korea and China exist in the Yellow Sea, including unresolved maritime boundary delimitation, frequent illegal fishing by Chinese vessels, disagreement over the status of Socotra Rock (an underwater reef known as Ieodo in Korean), and Chinese military assertiveness. [1] Beijing is in no hurry to resolve these matters, but Seoul is less patient. China apparently believes that time is on its side, and officially declares that it has no serious maritime issues with South Korea in the Yellow Sea. By contrast, South Korea is concerned about China’s coercive attitude toward its weaker neighbors, and expects China’s naval influence to become stronger, putting Korea at an increasing disadvantage. Moreover, the South Korean Navy, Coast Guard, and even civilian fishermen report daily encounters with Chinese naval and fishing vessels in the Yellow Sea (KBS News, October 16, 2021Financial News, April 18, 2022).

The eastern seaboard of China abuts four seas, the northernmost of which is the Yellow Sea (known as “the West Sea” in Korean), which is perhaps the most vital to China from both a security and economic perspective. The geographical position of the Yellow Sea, with the large port city of Tianjin on its western edge is only 120 kilometers from Beijing, which makes it a critical area in terms of security. Despite the strategic importance of the Yellow Sea, it has not attracted much external attention. This article discusses three key issues concerning the Yellow Sea that are poorly understood:

  1. Historical background and current perceptions concerning the Yellow Sea’s strategic value to China;
  2. China’s current actions in the Yellow Sea;
  3. Policy options for responding to China’s increasing assertiveness in the Yellow Sea.

The Weight of History

In China’s official narrative, the period from the mid 19th to the early 20th century is regarded as a historical nadir, an era that is known as the “century of humiliation.” During that time, China fell victim to foreign colonial powers that leveraged their naval superiority to project force on to the Chinese Mainland and compel the Qing dynasty to make concessions through a series of “unequal treaties” (不平等条约, bu pingdeng tiaoyue).

A decisive event in China’s decline was the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), which also involved Korea’s Chosun dynasty. In September 1894, the Qing dynasty’s Beiyang Fleet was soundly defeated by the Japanese navy in the Battle of the Yellow Sea. Then, in 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion, the foreign legations in Beijing came under siege. In response, a multilateral force of eight countries led by Great Britain passed through the Yellow Sea to land at Tianjin, and later entered Beijing. This Western pressure was an essential factor in the subsequent collapse of the Qing Dynasty.

In April 2019, President Xi Jinping attended a ceremony at Qingdao, a city that was once a German treaty port, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy. For Xi, marking China’s burgeoning naval power on the Yellow Sea sent a signal that by “striving to build the PLA Navy into a world class navy in an all-around way,” China had overcome its tragic legacy of past defeats at the hands of foreign powers (Xinhuanet, April 23, 2019).

Contemporary Attitudes

Historical experience frames the current security perspective of the Chinese government, particularly its goal of preventing foreign powers from entering the Yellow Sea. Two cases in 2003 and 2010, respectively, illustrate the Chinese attitude. In 2003, then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il tried to stimulate his country’s economy by opening up several ports to the outside world: Chongjin and Rajin on the eastern coast of North Korea, and Sinuiju on the western coast. Sinuiju is a port city on the border between China and North Korea, and China did everything possible to obstruct its opening. When North Korea appointed Chinese businessman Yang Bin as chief executive of the Sinuiju Special Economic District, China suddenly arrested him on charges of bribery and tax evasion. Amidst the ensuing confusion, Pyongyang eventually canceled the creation of the Sinuiju Special Zone (Yonhap News, September 24, 2002). In response to the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan by North Korea in 2010, the U.S. and South Korea planned military exercises in the Yellow Sea involving a U.S. aircraft carrier. China fervently objected to the presence of an American carrier in the Yellow sea, causing the Obama administration to move the exercises to the East Sea (also known as the Sea of Japan) (, July 7, 2010). Thus, the primary task of China’s North Sea Fleet , is to fully control the Yellow Sea in order to protect the approaches to Beijing.

The Yellow Sea region is also vitally important to China from an economic perspective. Western China is dominated by deserts and mountain ranges, whereas the eastern part is densely populated with many major cities, including Dalian, Qingdao, and Shanghai, which are all on the coast of the Yellow Sea and account for a very high percentage of the Chinese economy. In addition, there is an oil field in Bohai Bay, which lines in the innermost area of the Yellow Sea. Given its strategic and economic value to China, it is unsurprising that Beijing seeks to deny external powers, particularly the U.S., access to the Yellow Sea. However, China’s effort to essentially turn the Yellow Sea into its own domain is extremely worrisome for Seoul (Newsis, February 25, 2011). [2]

If China achieves its goals in the Yellow Sea, it will also considerably advance Beijing’s efforts to bring about unification with Taiwan. For China, achieving full control of the Yellow Sea is a prerequisite for a successful attack on Taiwan. [3] In order to achieve a forcible reunification, China will need to control the East China Sea to the north of Taiwan and the South China Sea to the south. Establishing control of the East China Sea will prove challenging, as Japan maintains substantial naval power there. In order to succeed in any struggle with Japan, China must secure the Yellow Sea to serve as a strong rear base for operations.

Furthermore, by blocking the Yellow Sea, China could also divide Japan’s naval forces. The Japanese fleet has two components, one in the Pacific and one in the East Sea (a.k.a. Sea of Japan), with the Japanese islands in between them. Passage from the East Sea to the East China Sea skirts the edge of the Yellow Sea, so China taking full control of the Yellow Sea would limit Japan’s ability to support the defense of Taiwan. Likewise, should China achieve total control of the Yellow Sea, this would also prevent U.S. Forces in Korea (USFK) in Pyeongtaek from being transported by ship from this port on the west coast of Korea. Again, this would hamper support for Taiwan.

China’s Current Actions in the Yellow Sea

The second issue that deserves greater attention is China’s current actions in the Yellow Sea.

From a security standpoint, China is, broadly speaking, seeking to strengthen its maritime dominance in the Yellow Sea through military power. Moreover, in economic terms, China is attempting to extract as many resources from the waters as possible. Since around 2010, China has sought to strengthen its North Sea Fleet, having previously prioritized its East Sea Fleet which focuses on Taiwan, and its South Sea Fleet, which contends directly with the U.S. Navy in a struggle to establish and secure maritime territories in the South China Sea. The North Sea Fleet was thus the place where the oldest ships were re-deployed, earning it the moniker “the Nursing Home Fleet.” Recently, however, the PLA Navy (PLAN) has been deploying newer ships to the North Sea Fleet, including both Type 055 destroyers and the latest Type 052D destroyers. [4] China enjoys overwhelming naval superiority over South Korea in the Yellow Sea, but the South Korean Navy nevertheless maintains a policy of responding proportionally to the PLAN. If the South Korean Navy sends one warship towards China, however, the PLAN sends five or six ships as a countermeasure, so the effectiveness of the South Korean Navy is limited by China’s quantitative advantage.

The economic importance of the Yellow Sea for China is underpinned by political motives, specifically the need to achieve economic stability in northeast China, and garner popular support for the ruling Communist Party. The provinces bordering the Yellow Sea are Shandong [山东] and Liaoning [辽宁], which along with Heilongjiang [黑龙江] and Jilin [吉林] comprise the Three Northeastern Provinces [东北三省, Dong Bei San Sheng]. Notably, the population of the Three Northeastern Provinces includes many ethnic Koreans and Manchurians and relatively fewer Han Chinese, so this region has historically presented a threat to Beijing. Thus, the region is considered to be more vulnerable to political disaffection than other regions; hence the importance of ensuring economic stability.

China has been passive about negotiating the delimitation of the maritime boundary, but it has engaged successfully with South Korea on fisheries, signing a 2001 Fisheries Agreement to create a Provisional Measures Zone managed by a Joint Fisheries Commission to manage overlapping exclusive economic zone (EEZ) use given the lack of maritime boundary delimitation. [5] While Chinese authorities punish illegal fishing in response to South Korean requests, they do not take the initiative to independently enforce the agreement. Fish stocks have been devastated by maritime pollution and overfishing, so China is also promoting fish farming in order to meet the economic needs of the regions adjacent to the Yellow Sea.

A Policy Challenge

Concerns are growing in South Korea that Beijing is ultimately seeking to turn the Yellow Sea into a Chinese inland sea and is therefore beginning to consider China as a potential military threat. In addition to the PLAN, the PLA Air Force also present concerns for South Korea. The South Korean Navy has daily encounters with Chinese vessels in the Yellow Sea, and the South Korean Air Force routinely monitors Chinese aircraft departing from the Yellow Sea, circling the southern part of the Korean Peninsula without giving notice of entering KADIZ (Korea Air Defense Identification Zone). There are also joint flight exercises between Chinese and Russian military aircraft in the East Sea (a.k.a. Sea of Japan). In July 2019, during one such exercise, a Russian military aircraft entered the territorial airspace of Dokdo, an island that is claimed by both South Korea and Japan in a longstanding dispute. During this incident, South Korean fighters fired warning shots. Due to increased military presence in the region, there is clearly a growing risk of a serious accidental military confrontation (Yonhap news, July 23, 2019).

From a South Korean perspective, it is also troubling that China’s efforts to assert control over the Yellow Sea have progressed largely undisturbed. China has had naval predominance in the Yellow Sea since 2010, when US carriers were withdrawn from its waters (Xinhua Daily Media Group, August 27, 2020). In recent years, the U.S. military has conducted reconnaissance flights to monitor Chinese military activity in the Yellow Sea. On August 25, 2020, USFK sent a U-2 reconnaissance aircraft over the Bohai Bay. The PLA had previously announced a no-fly zone from August 22-26 in the Yellow Sea and the Bohai Bay, and was conducting military exercises. A Chinese military spokesperson strongly condemned the US flight (Xinhuanet, August 26, 2020). U.S. efforts to counter China have been largely focused on the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. Meanwhile, South Korea, the country most closely affected by China’s Yellow Sea activities, has limited options to respond to China’s growing naval strength and assertiveness.

Unfortunately, external powers have demonstrated relatively little interest in the Yellow Sea. America is occupied by Chinese naval forces elsewhere in Northeast Asia, and so it seems that the Yellow Sea is destined to become a Chinese inland sea. On its own, South Korea can do little to prevent or even delay this outcome, but if and when China takes full control of the Yellow Sea, then the U.S. and Japan will surely regret their current inaction.

Joshua NT Park is a Ph.D. Senior Researcher in IAS (Institute for Asian Strategy), Seoul Korea. He is currently a visiting scholar in Taipei, Taiwan.


[1] Negotiations to establish the Korea-China Maritime boundary in the Yellow Sea have been ongoing since 1996 but without significant progress. South Korea insists on a median line equidistant from the two coastlines; whereas China argues that comparative length of relevant coastlines, the relative population of fishermen, and the topography of seabed should be considered, emphasizing “equity”. However, since the creation of a provisional measures zone by the Sino-Korean fisheries agreement signed in 2001, China has no major problems with fishing, and expects its negotiating position to improve as time goes on. China is therefore not actively pursuing the maritime boundary delimitation negotiations with South Korea.

[2] Usually, the term ‘inland sea’ refers to semi-enclosed oceanic areas completely surrounded by land or connected to the ocean on one side. The connotations of the term therefore imply that such waters are fully under Chinese jurisdiction. In South Korea, China’s attempt to gradually seize the Yellow Sea has raised significant concerns. The issue was discussed at the National Assembly in 2011 when National Assembly member Chung Mong-joon demanded measures in response from then Prime Minister Kim Hwang-shik.

[3] See Chinese scholar Zhang Wenmu’s book, which highlights the role of the Yellow Sea as part of the bigger picture of Taiwan’s unification, Zhang Wenmu [张文木], On Chinese Sea Power [论中国海权] (Beijing: Ocean Press), 2009.

[4] The Type 055 and Type 052D destroyers are the Chinese Navy’s most modern surface ships. In particular, the Type 055 Nanchang (南昌), launched on January 13, 2020, is the largest similar vessel in Asia (12,000 tonne-class) with Aegis-class air defense capabilities.

[5] See Young Kil Park, “The Role of Fishing Disputes in China–South Korea Relations,” National Bureau of Asian Research Maritime Awareness Project, April 23, 2020, · by Joshua NT Park · July 29, 2022

De Oppresso Liber,

David Maxwell

Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Senior Fellow, Global Peace Foundation

Senior Advisor, Center for Asia Pacific Strategy

Editor, Small Wars Journal

Twitter: @davidmaxwell161


Phone: 202-573-8647


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