Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners

Quotes of the Day:

“When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, This you may not read, this you may not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression no matter how holy the motives.”
- Robert Heinlein

 "Every crisis has both its dangers and its opportunities. Each can spell either salvation or doom." 
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

You cannot force ideas. Successful ideas are the result of slow growth. Ideas do not reach perfection in a day, no matter how much study is put upon them." 
- Alexander Graham Bell

​1. SRAD Director's Corner: Understanding North Korea and the Key to Security in East Asia

​2. S. Korean, U.S. defense chiefs agree to beef up policy, military measures to counter N.K. nuke threats

3. Navy chief to visit U.S. for defense diplomacy

4. N. Korea's new suspected COVID-19 cases remain at zero: state media

5. North Korea builds state-of-the-art wards for privileged COVID patients

6. As more North Koreans seek divorces, quotas block ‘anti-socialist’ practice

7. The Untold Shadow War Between Israel and North Korea

8. Mystery in Killing by North Korea Fuels a High-Level Dispute in the South

9. North Koreans seeking escape worry about being pushed back by South

10. Korea still balks at joining US-led chip alliance

​11. ​North Korea propaganda outlet decries Yoon's NK human rights policies

12. S. Korea, US, Japan start Pacific Dragon ballistic missile defense drill this week

​13. ​Can Yoon cut Gordian Knot of South Korea-Japan relations?

​14. ​Can Yoon find ways to salvage his approval rating?

1. SRAD Director's Corner: Understanding North Korea and the Key to Security in East Asia

A review of two important books about the regime in north Korea.  It can be downloaded here:

An important conclusion:

Indeed, the United States must recognize North Korea and the People’s Republic of China are a package deal. Beijing may well be playing the long game concerning North Korea. The two nations have a shared cultural history stretching back many centuries. While the two do not share the warmest relations today, China views North Korea as vital to its security, as evidenced by its direct intervention in the Korean War to fight against US forces. Beijing has also spent vast sums on keeping the Kim regime afloat and retaining North Korea as a territorial buffer zone. Should North Korea become a fully nuclear state, it would still be almost solely dependent on PRC support, giving China an unmatched degree of leverage over the Kim family regime. It would also provide the People’s Republic of China with something the United States does not have in the region—a nuclear-capable ally. This possibility gives Beijing a potentially significant counterweight for any effort it wants to undertake, including the forceable seizure of Taiwan. As such, Korea may well be the future key to regional security in East Asia.

SRAD Director's Corner: Understanding North Korea and the Key to Security in East Asia

George Shatzer


Finally, in the third installment of the SRAD Director’s Corner, Colonel George Shatzer focuses on North Korea and the Kim family regime. He reviews Becoming Kim Jong Un: A Former CIA Officer’s Insights into North Korea’s Enigmatic Young Dictator by Jung H. Pak and Rationality in the North Korean Regime: Understanding the Kims’ Strategy of Provocation by David W. Shin and shows how these books might help readers better understand North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un and the implications of his actions for US foreign and military policy in the region. The books also provide insights for strategists attempting to plan for security in East Asia.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Recommended Citation

George Shatzer, "SRAD Director's Corner: Understanding North Korea and the Key to Security in East Asia," Parameters 52, no. 3 (2022), doi:10.55540/0031-1723.3166.

2. S. Korean, U.S. defense chiefs agree to beef up policy, military measures to counter N.K. nuke threats

"The" tabletop exercise. "Strengthen the TTX".  As if we only do one! :-) 


TTX is an exercise aimed at practicing possible allied responses to hypothetical nuclear scenarios, like the North's nuclear blackmail, its impending nuclear use and actual use of nuclear arms.
"TTX is aimed at arriving at optimal allied responses in the event of the North's nuclear use," a military official told reporters on condition of anonymity. "The strengthening of TTX is in line with the efforts to enhance the credibility of extended deterrence."
At last week's talks, Lee and Austin also agreed to conduct this year's summertime combined training based on the concept of an "all-out" war, the official said, -- an indication of the breadth of the training set to take place from Aug. 22-Sept. 1.

S. Korean, U.S. defense chiefs agree to beef up policy, military measures to counter N.K. nuke threats | Yonhap News Agency · by 송상호 · July 31, 2022

SEOUL, July 31 (Yonhap) -- The defense chiefs of South Korea and the United States have agreed to reinforce both policy and military measures to reinforce the allies' readiness against evolving North Korean nuclear and missile threats, a Seoul official said Sunday.

During their talks in Washington on Friday, Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup and his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, decided to restart the allies' high-level Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group (EDSCG) meeting at an early date and strengthen the Table Top Exercise (TTX).

Seoul and Washington have been seeking to resume the EDSCG, a gathering of the allies' vice-ministerial defense and diplomatic officials, which was suspended in 2018 amid joint efforts to promote diplomacy with Pyongyang.

The EDSCG is a key policy dialogue that Seoul has been counting on to enhance the credibility of America's extended deterrence -- its stated commitment to mobilizing a full range of its military capabilities, including its nuclear options, to defend its Asian ally.

Expected to resume in September, the gathering itself is predicted to send a message of deterrence to the North, observers pointed out.

Along with the policy coordination, the two countries are also seeking to step up their military training.

TTX is an exercise aimed at practicing possible allied responses to hypothetical nuclear scenarios, like the North's nuclear blackmail, its impending nuclear use and actual use of nuclear arms.

"TTX is aimed at arriving at optimal allied responses in the event of the North's nuclear use," a military official told reporters on condition of anonymity. "The strengthening of TTX is in line with the efforts to enhance the credibility of extended deterrence."

At last week's talks, Lee and Austin also agreed to conduct this year's summertime combined training based on the concept of an "all-out" war, the official said, -- an indication of the breadth of the training set to take place from Aug. 22-Sept. 1.

The training, newly named "Ulchi Freedom Shield," involves the computer simulation-based command post training, field maneuvers and Ulchi civil contingency drills -- a makeup tantamount to a revival of the Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) drills.

The UFG was abolished in 2018 under the then liberal Moon Jae-in administration, as it remained keen on facilitating diplomacy with the North, which has decried the exercise as a war rehearsal.

(END) · by 송상호 · July 31, 2022

3. Navy chief to visit U.S. for defense diplomacy

Sustained high diplomatic and military alliance engagement. The ROK/US alliance and all US alliances are important (and perhaps key) to US national security and it is good to see the commitment to them.

Navy chief to visit U.S. for defense diplomacy | Yonhap News Agency · by 김덕현 · July 31, 2022

SEOUL, July 31 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Navy chief is set to depart for the United States to discuss military cooperation and exchanges, the Navy said Sunday.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lee Jong-ho will make a weeklong visit to Hawaii and Washington, D.C., during which he is scheduled to meet with Carlos del Toro, secretary of the U.S. Navy, and John Aquilino, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, as well as other senior military officials, it said.

The two sides plan to discuss how to bolster military cooperation and ocean security, the Navy added.

Currently, a Korean fleet of warships, maritime aircraft and around 1,000 troops is joining a U.S.-led multinational maritime exercise, called the Rim of the Pacific Exercise.

The Korean fleet includes the 14,500-ton Marado amphibious landing ship. Lee will visit the ship in Hawaii and be briefed on the achievements of the exercise, the Navy said.

On Thursday, Lee plans to deliver a keynote speech at an Indo-Pacific security conference in Hawaii.

Lee will visit Washington on Friday and meet with Carlos del Toro, the Navy said.

(END) · by 김덕현 · July 31, 2022

4. N. Korea's new suspected COVID-19 cases remain at zero: state media

The north's narrative seems to be that it is the best in the world at dealing with COVID.

(LEAD) N. Korea's new suspected COVID-19 cases remain at zero: state media | Yonhap News Agency · by 이치동 · July 31, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with details; CHANGES headline; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, July 31 (Yonhap) -- North Korea had no additional suspected COVID-19 cases for the second consecutive day, according to its state media Sunday, as the country is redoubling efforts to "completely end" its virus crisis.

"No new fever cases were reported" over a 24-hour period until 6 p.m. the previous day, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, citing data from the state emergency epidemic headquarters.

It did not provide information on whether additional deaths have been reported.

The total number of fever cases since late April stood at 4.77 million as of 6 p.m. Saturday, of which 99.99 percent had recovered and 176 are being treated, it added.

On May 12, the North announced its first confirmed coronavirus case and the daily fever count peaked at 392,920 three days later. It has since been on a downward trend, as Pyongyang said Saturday there had been no new fever case for the first time since the outbreak.

The KCNA said in a separate English-language report later Sunday, the North is "dynamically" waging an "anti-epidemic campaign to hasten its victory."

"Measures have been taken to differentiate the common cold from the malignant epidemic via multiple testing," it reported. "Quality inspection to scientifically confirm the state of the attainment of biological safety standards of test equipment for different indices made by various units is completed and work to make and issue relevant guides is pushed ahead with. And research is intensified to analyze data on monkeypox and perfect its test method."

(END) · by 이치동 · July 31, 2022

5. North Korea builds state-of-the-art wards for privileged COVID patients

The nature of the Kim family regime: nuclear weapons, missiles, and the elite are priorities over the welfare of the Korean people in the north.

North Korea builds state-of-the-art wards for privileged COVID patients

Average citizens are angry that they must fight for basic treatment.

By Hyemin Sohn for RFA Korean


North Korea has set up “Special Treatment Divisions” in hospitals in the capital Pyongyang, where the country’s elite can go for treatment if they show symptoms of COVID-19, angering average citizens who lack access to similar care, sources told RFA.

For high-ranking officials of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, the divisions are up and running at the Pyongyang Medical University and Kim Man Yu hospitals, a resident of the city told RFA’s Korean Service on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

“A medical practitioner said that the number of the Party’s high-ranking officials who have been hospitalized due to confirmed COVID-19 at Pyongyang Medical University Hospital’s ‘Special Treatment Division’ is unknown, but there have been 10 or more officials who were quarantined with suspected COVID-19 symptoms,” the source said.

“The Central Committee organized the Special Treatment Divisions as special medical facilities for high-ranking officials when the pandemic crisis began [in 2020]. There were few hospitalized patients, but after the military parade in April, the hospitalizations of Central Committee officials increased significantly,” he said.

Though North Korea maintained that it was completely “virus free” for the first two years of the pandemic, Pyongyang finally acknowledged the presence of the virus within its borders in May 2022, saying that a large military parade at the end of April had spread the disease nationwide, and the government declared a maximum emergency.

The country’s archaic medical system is ill-equipped for the global pandemic, but the wealthy and elite live in an almost first-world bubble and their money or status can grant them top-notch care in the event they need it.

The facilities at the Special Treatment Divisions are state-of-the-art, the source in Pyongyang said.

“They are equipped with imported COVID-19 diagnostics and vaccines,” they said.

“If a fever patient is confirmed, he or she receives intensive treatment. The facility is equipped with various medicines and medical facilities such as IVs, oxygen cylinders, as well as oral vaccines. The patient receives three nutritious meals [a day] for a quick recovery.”

While fever cases do not appear to be in decline in Pyongyang, the government continues to claim victory over the disease, another resident of the city told RFA.

The government declared the capital as one of the areas of the country with no active cases as recently as Wednesday, according to 38 North, a website run by the Washington-based Stimson Center that monitors North Korean issues.

“Fever patients who show symptoms of COVID-19 continue to appear from among the residents and officials here in Pyongyang, but the Central Committee keeps repeating propaganda that it has won the battle,” the second source said.

“The residents are complaining that the authorities are only interested in special treatment for high-ranking officials … while ignoring treatment for ordinary residents,” he said.

The second source confirmed that the Special Treatment Divisions for the high ranking officials of the Central Committee are operated out of the two hospitals mentioned by the first source. Meanwhile, senior officials of the city government go to Special Treatment Divisions in Pyongyang Hospitals #1 and #2, the second source said.

But the average citizen receives much more rudimentary treatment.

“For ordinary residents [exhibiting symptoms], the doctor assigned to their household will [only] check their body temperature each day. Unless they have a high fever, they will be designated as suspected COVID-19 patients and quarantined at home for two weeks,” the second source said.

“If they are suspected of having COVID-19 after a diagnosis, they must be isolated at a quarantine facility located on the outskirts of Pyongyang and the only treatment they get is two anti-fever pills each day,” he said.

Meanwhile at the Special Treatment Centers, a team of doctors will check in on patients several times a day and provide medicines for specific side effects, the second source said. Once they are discharged, food is delivered to their homes, he said..

“The residents who see this are accusing the authorities of discrimination. They say, ‘Only the officials are actually people, and we are not even considered human,’” he said.

North Korea has so far only confirmed six cases of COVID-19 infection. Nearly 4.8 million people suffering from symptoms of the virus have been recorded as “fever” patients, 99.994% of whom have recovered, according to state media.

Translated by Claire Shinyoung O. Lee. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

6. As more North Koreans seek divorces, quotas block ‘anti-socialist’ practice

​Just more examples of how inhumane is the system in north Korea.​

“Recently, family strife has worsened for economic reasons and the number of families wanting to divorce is increasing, but the authorities ordered the courts not to easily approve divorces,” a resident of Kyongsong county in the northeastern province of North Hamgyong told RFA’s Korean Service on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
Sources told RFA of several more divorce cases they knew of.
A woman in Kyongsong county paid $300 to the court’s deputy chief to expedite her divorce last year. She got the money from her older sister who escaped North Korea to resettle in the South.
A resident in the northeastern city of Chongjin paid $500 and a truck battery to a judge who was introduced by a relative. The resident got a divorce without even visiting the court.
A man in Kyongsong county who had less means was not as fortunate. He had been separated from his wife for more than four years without receiving an official divorce. He and a different woman moved in together, but he was caught by authorities for the crime of “double marriage” and sentenced to hard labor.

As more North Koreans seek divorces, quotas block ‘anti-socialist’ practice

Couples who can’t afford to pay hefty bribes have to wait years to legalize their split, sources say.

By Chang Gyu Ahn for RFA Korean


The number of North Koreans filing for divorce has increased, due in part, sources say, to the stresses of a crippled economy. But because the government considers the dissolution of a marriage to be “anti-socialist,” many couples are forced to wait years for their split to become official.

“Recently, family strife has worsened for economic reasons and the number of families wanting to divorce is increasing, but the authorities ordered the courts not to easily approve divorces,” a resident of Kyongsong county in the northeastern province of North Hamgyong told RFA’s Korean Service on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

“When I occasionally pass in front of the courthouse, I always see a dozen young men and women gathered in front of the main gate. These are mostly couples who want to see a judge or lawyer to file for divorce,” she said.

Courts usually do not grant divorces unless there is an “unavoidable reason,” the source said. People who have stopped living with their spouses years ago are still waiting for their separations to be finalized.

“Divorce is traditionally recognized as an anti-socialist act that creates social unrest. Here in North Korea they insist on living a ‘socialist lifestyle’ which includes ‘home revolutionization,’” she said, without elaborating on how staying unhappily married was considered revolutionary.

“Last week, I learned something surprising from an acquaintance of mine. Her husband is an influential official in one of the courts. She said the number of divorce cases that each city and county court can handle each year is capped based on the size of the population,” the source said.

Kyongsong county, which has a population of about 106,000, can only grant 40 divorces this year, she said.

“If the court exceeds their divorce trial quota, it will be questioned by the authorities. I knew the courts were reluctant to approve divorces, but it was shocking to hear that the authorities even set the number of divorce trials,” the source said.

The source said she met a woman in front of the court who upon marriage had moved to Kyongsong county from Myonggan, the next county to the south. She returned to her hometown after splitting up with her husband, but still is forced to come back for court appearances to try to finalize her divorce.

“She has been coming to the Kyongsong courthouse for over two years trying to get her divorce and this is 60 kilometers [37 miles] from her hometown. She is so upset that it has still not been approved,” the source said.

The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged North Korea’s economy, in part because it led to the closure of the Sino-Korean border and suspension of all trade with China. Much of the country’s commerce depends on imported Chinese goods, and after the boundary was shut, families have had to scramble to find new means of making a living.

That added stress has led to an increase in marital strife, a resident of Unhung county in the northern province of Ryanggang told RFA on condition of anonymity to speak freely.

“In the past few years, family quarrels have been increasing due to difficulties in living, so the number of families seeking a divorce is increasing. There used to be a tendency to be ashamed of getting a divorce, but this is not the case these days,” he said.

“People who want to get a divorce try to get one as soon as possible, but it is not easy. The amount of the bribe paid to the court judge or lawyer determines whether a divorce can be granted and how long it will take,” he said.

Bribery is a fact of life in North Korea, and people who do not pay judges for their attention can expect to wait longer for their cases to be heard.

“Since there are so many divorce applicants, it is impossible to get past the first stage of filing documents without paying a bribe to the court,” he said. “The reality is that if you don’t pay a bribe, you won’t get your divorce even after waiting three to five years.”

Conversely, divorces can happen quickly for those with plenty of cash to distribute.

“A friend of mine, who got divorced this year, gave a lawyer 500 yuan [U.S. $74] to file the papers, and then bribed the judge in charge of the trial with 1500 yuan [U.S. $222]. The process of the hearing was simplified, and the trial proceeded in a snap. He got his divorce in two weeks,” the second source said.

“The reality in North Korea is that you cannot get a divorce without money. Divorce is so difficult, it has become common for young people to not register their marriages even after they are married.”

Unregistered couples do not need to go through the divorce process. They can simply split and the state is none the wiser.

“They register their marriages only after they’ve had a child or they’ve lived together for a few years,” the second source said.

Sources told RFA of several more divorce cases they knew of.

A woman in Kyongsong county paid $300 to the court’s deputy chief to expedite her divorce last year. She got the money from her older sister who escaped North Korea to resettle in the South.

A resident in the northeastern city of Chongjin paid $500 and a truck battery to a judge who was introduced by a relative. The resident got a divorce without even visiting the court.

A man in Kyongsong county who had less means was not as fortunate. He had been separated from his wife for more than four years without receiving an official divorce. He and a different woman moved in together, but he was caught by authorities for the crime of “double marriage” and sentenced to hard labor.

Translated by Claire Shinyoung O. Lee and Leejin J. Chung. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

7. The Untold Shadow War Between Israel and North Korea

Some history and current events that not many are aware of.

The Untold Shadow War Between Israel and North Korea

Michael Peres · by Michael Peres · July 31, 2022

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, more commonly known as North Korea, carried out a cyberattack on Israel on March 4, 2021, via the Lazarus hacker group — which is backed by Pyongyang. While Israel claims that the cyberattack was unsuccessful, ClearSky— an international cybersecurity firm has brought it to light that the attack was indeed successful, and the hackers did steal a substantial amount of classified data, though the precise details of the hack remain unclear.

There’s a subtle fear that this data could be shared with Iran— a strong ally of North Korea and an archenemy of Israel. While the precise details of the attack are unclear, it is no news that North Korea and Israel have not been in each other’s good books, and one would wonder why.

This silent feud dates as far back as 1966, when North Korea had a close relationship with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). North Korea provided significant amounts of arms and military aid to the Palestine leftist factions and revolutionary movements, which on the surface, did seem like North Korea was indeed an ally of the PLO.

North Korea reinforced Palestinian armed factions by providing them with renegade warfare training. Abu Jihad, one of the founders of the Fatah and Abu Daoud— leader of the Black September group that killed members of the Israeli Olympic team at the 1972 Munich Olympics, received heavy military training in the DPRK. Gradually, over 200 members of the Palestinians received military training in three locations near Pyongyang from 1970 to 1972, and the supply of weapons to Palestinian groups continued into the 2000s.

Yasser Arafat of the PLO and Kim Il Sung, then leader of North Korea. Photo credit: UPI news.

Although the conflict of Israel-Palestine had little to do with North Korea, then-leader Kim Jong II viewed Israel as an expansion of the US influence in a new region of the world. This, coupled with the fact that North Korea has geostrategic interests with Israel’s adversaries, most notably crucial economic trade with Iran, set forth the conditions for the present-day relationship.

Now, North Korea’s involvement in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has become pragmatic after the fall of the Soviet Union. The Palestinian cause was still much supported, and North Korea strongly condemned every Israeli action in the region.

North Korea reinforced its involvement during the Gaza war in 2008-2009, and a foreign ministry spokesman harshly spoke against Israeli actions, denouncing the alleged killing of unarmed civilians as a crime against humanity and a threat to the Middle East Peace Progress. Sin Son-ho (North Korean permanent representative at the UN Assembly) mentioned that “North Korea fully supported Palestinians’ struggle to expel Israeli aggressors from their territory and restore their right to self-determination,”.

Sin Son-ho, North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations. Photo credit:

North Korea’s Less Known Involvement in the Yom Kippur War

During the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, also known as the Yom Kippur war, North Korea sent pilots and non-combat personnel to Egypt. The unit had about four to six encounters with the Israelis at some points during the war.

As stated by Shlomo Aloni, the last aerial engagement on the Egyptian front on 6th December saw Israeli F-4s engage North Korean-piloted MiG-21s. The Israelis shot down one MiG, and another was shot down by friendly fire from Egyptian air defenses. Although it remains unclear what truly happened, we can align some facts together. In Hazardous Duty (the autobiography of the Chief of Staff of the United Nations Command in Korea), Major General John K. Singlaub stated that; in 1976, he was involved in negotiations with a North Korean official— General Han.


North Korean People’s Army MiG-21 fighter jet. Photo credit: Flight Global.

Han was a military attache in Egypt during the Yom Kippur war and had organized North Korean pilots to fly Mig-21s against Israel. After all, Israel was a common enemy at that point. At the same time, the United States was a loyal ally to Israel and Israel had turned to the U.S. for a quick replacement of arms during the war.

Singlaub further stated that many of the North Korean pilots were shot down by US-supplied Sidewinder missiles, which denotes that; directly or indirectly, Israeli pilots did succeed in downing some of their North Korean rivals who allied with Egypt and Syria in the Yom Kippur war. The reason for a North Korean presence in that region was due to the forging of a warm relationship between the two countries in the 1970s when Egypt invited highly experienced Korean fighters to station and train in Egypt.

A Friend of an Enemy is an Enemy- North Korea’s Unwavering Alliance With Iran and Syria

Since the onset of the civil war, North Korea has been a supportive ally to Iran and Syria. Since as early as the Iran-Iraq war, North Korea has been Iran’s foremost supplier of arms and ammunition. Iran, in turn, funds Hezbollah and Syria with technical know-how, arms, and militants on the ground.

To a large extent, one can say that North Korea has gradually become Iran’s leading source of military technology. Looking at the ‘why’— there’s a purely beneficial relationship between the two countries. Iran has the money, and North Korea has the technology. It seems like what one country lacks is found in the other. Iran is of particular interest for multiple reasons. Firstly, due to its sheer proximity to North Korea. More importantly, Iran is seen as a more reliable partner to North Korea, in contrast to other wealthy neighboring countries. Given its hostility towards the US, it’s less likely to succumb to US-imposed sanctions and other pressures.

Iran’s most prominent proxy, Hezbollah, lives on Israel’s northern border and acts as her primary external threat. For over 30 years, Hezbollah caters to Iran’s foreign policy interests in exchange for dire financial support. Since Hezbollah’s 2006 war with Israel, Hezbollah has turned to Iran for precision-based missiles in preparation for a future war against the Jewish state. Such weaponry would grant the Shiah malia group a strong military edge and pose a serious threat to Israel, as an attack on a nuclear facility is a hypothetical Israel cannot afford to entertain. Hezbollah, and by proxy Iran, has gained a strong political footing and militaristic advancements since 2006 and is a threat the Jewish state takes with concern.


North Korea’s Nuclear Program- A Lowkey Investment in Syria?

North Korea has been long accused of providing aid to Syria’s bootleg military and chemical weapons program. Although the depth of North Korea’s support is not entirely clear, some facts do align.

The Mossad— Israel’s intelligence agency, ran surveillance on Ibrahim Othman— the director-general of the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission. Via hacking Othman’s personal computer, the Mossad discovered photos of a cube-like building being constructed in Eastern Syria, along the Euphrates river.

Ibrahim Othman, director-general of the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission. Photo credit: Times of Israel.

On the surface level, this confirmed the initial discovery of a mysterious building found during previous scans of Syria. And on a deeper level, the photos confirmed that the building was a doppelganger of North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor, which the U.S. and Israel had previously uncovered as a bomb-making factory.

Aside from the fact that there was an uncanny resemblance between the cube-like building and North Korea’s nuclear reactor, the greater confirming link was the photo of Othman standing arm-in-arm with Chon Chibu— a North Korean nuclear scientist who worked at the Yongbyon facility.

It’s no secret North Korea supplied extensive nuclear know-how and boots on the ground to help build a nuclear reactor in al-Kibar, within the heart of Syria.

Retaliation of Israel- Operation Outside the Box

6th September 2007 is a day both Israel and Syria could never forget. Although considered one of Israel’s most successful operations, Operation Outside the Box was censored for over a decade.

Just after midnight, and with the aid of Ten Israeli F-151 Ra’am and F-161 Sufa fighter jets, Israel carried out an airstrike on the suspected nuclear site. By feeding Syrian air defenses a false sky picture (so Syria couldn’t see Israel’s fighter jets in the sky), Israel could get its fighter jets across Syria, bomb the supposed nuclear facility, and evacuate. The facility was destroyed and left in shambles. By doing this, Israel was able to counter North Korea’s indirect attack through Syria.

Now here’s the tricky part. Later in 2013, a former major in the Syrian air force— Abu Mohammed, recounted that air defenses in the region had been told to stand down as soon as they detected that Israeli planes were approaching the reactor. However, according to a WikiLeaks cable, the Syrian government put long-range missiles in place after the attack but did not retaliate. Perhaps, was the country fearful of a counterstrike?

But much later, Syria denied ever having such a facility in the first place. As late as April 2008, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad provided his first remarks on the allegations, where he dismissed any attack by Israel on a nuclear facility. He claimed that it wasn’t logical for a nuclear site to have zero protection with the surface-to-air defenses. Indeed, it seems like Syria didn’t build fortifications around the facility to prevent drawing attention. Also, it was silently agreed by both sides; Israel won’t brag about destroying it, and Syria would pretend it never existed.

Before (left) and after (right) satellite images of the Syrian nuclear reactor which was reportedly struck by Israel in 2007. Photo credit: AP/DigitalGlobe.

Israel Against A North Korea-Iran-Syria Trio; What to Expect

After the Israeli president formed a three-member panel to investigate the supposed Syria nuclear site, Brigadier General Ya’akov Amidror (one of the panel’s members) discovered Iran was also working with North Korea on the nuclear facility. Iran had funneled $1 billion to the project and planned on using the facility to replace Iranian facilities should Iran fail to complete its uranium enrichment program.

Well, there’s no denying the fact that Syria could open doors for North Korea’s cooperation with Iran and its proxies, and even more unspeakable things. Using Yemen’s Houthi movement as an example, North Korea transferred ‘essential parts’ for Iran’s long-range missile development in 2020. The Houthis have Hwasong-6s ( North Korean-made scuds) in their military arsenal.

Israel is known not to take security threats with levity. Either direct threats or indirect ones. Furthermore, Israel has made it clear on multiple occasions that it makes no dissociation between a physical or cyber attack, most notably on the 5th of May 2021 when it responded with force to an attempted cyberattack by Hamas.

Though North Korea has operated within the shadows in regards to its conflict with Israel, it does appear from the most recent cyberattack that it has come out of the darkness and played a more direct role in this escalating conflict. It’s hard to say where this current escalation can lead us, but such a tit-for-tat can potentially move the current shadow war between the two countries out into the open. · by Michael Peres · July 31, 2022

8. Mystery in Killing by North Korea Fuels a High-Level Dispute in the South

The connecting thread between these controversial cases is that one side is pro-South Korea and the other side has at least sympathies for north Korea and at least to coddle or even appease the Kim family regime.

Mystery in Killing by North Korea Fuels a High-Level Dispute in the South

Question of whether slain South Korean official was trying to defect is at center of fight between new government and its predecessor

By Dasl YoonFollow

July 30, 2022 5:30 am ET

SEOUL—The details of her husband’s death were shocking. The South Korean fisheries official was shot and burned by North Korean sailors who interrogated him after he had drifted into Pyongyang’s territorial waters nearly two years ago.

But what bothered Kwon Young-mi most, she said, was what South Korean officials claimed he said just before he died: that he wanted to defect to North Korea. Ms. Kwon said she didn’t believe her husband would have ever wanted to do that, but her family couldn’t convince the government of that.

Now, a new South Korean government has sided with the family and opened an inquiry into how the previous government handled the incident. The re-examination is creating fresh divisions between South Korea’s new and old administrations.

“For the first time, I was able to cry over his death,” Ms. Kwon said of the move by the new administration in Seoul.


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The initial September 2020 determination was provided by the South Korean government led by left-leaning Moon Jae-in, who favored engagement with Kim Jong Un’s regime. The reassessment comes from the new administration of Yoon Suk-yeol, a conservative, who took office in May and backs a tougher line with the North.

Lee Rae-jin, the elder brother of Lee Dae-jun, and Kwon Young-mi, Lee Dae-jun’s wife, held a news conference in Seoul in June following an apology by the presidential office and coast guard.


At the heart of the dispute is how the Seoul government concluded that Lee Dae-jun, Ms. Kwon’s husband, had expressed a desire to defect and why he wasn’t rescued despite drifting northward for nearly a full day in the lightly trafficked maritime waters shared by the two Koreas.

This month, the South Korean intelligence agency filed a complaint against its former director, Park Jie-won, for allegedly destroying documents related to the September 2020 case. Mr. Park has denied the allegations. Top coast-guard officials last month apologized and tendered their resignations, after the coast guard said it had no evidence that Mr. Lee had wanted to defect, reversing its prior assertion. Mr. Yoon’s ruling party has set up a task force seeking to unseal documents about the Moon administration’s response.

Mr. Moon’s party has called the Yoon administration’s probe politically motivated and claimed the current government was involved in pressuring the coast guard to reverse the initial investigation results.

“On one hand this is a tragic incident for which the government owes the family an explanation. On the other hand, the sealed records could compromise security,” said Moon Seong-mook, a retired South Korean Army brigadier general. 

News media broadcast reports on Lee Dae-jun’s disappearance and killing in September 2020.


Former Seoul intelligence officials say revealing information about Mr. Lee’s case could complicate South Korea’s military operations intercepting North Korean radio communications. If the techniques are publicized, the North Korean military will likely change its encryption system and it would take months for the spy agency to figure out how to decode North Korean communications, former intelligence officials say.

If Mr. Lee had tried to defect, it would have been a rare attempt to do so from the South. Nearly all defections on the Korean Peninsula go in the other direction. Between 2010 and 2020, only 55 people left South Korea for North Korea, the majority of whom were people who had earlier defected from the North and struggled to assimilate or faced financial difficulties, according to Seoul government data. Most individuals who attempted to defect have been detained and returned to South Korea. 

The two South Korean administrations agree on certain facts. Around 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 21, 2020, Lee Dae-jun, sailing on a government vessel near the two Koreas’ maritime border on the lookout for illegal fishing boats, told colleagues he needed to take care of some paperwork, according to testimonies they gave to the Defense Ministry. Nearly half a day passed before he was reported missing. 

Mr. Lee, for more than a full day after being reported missing, traveled more than 20 miles to the north—and against sea currents at the time—before North Korean sailors spotted him holding on to an unspecified floating device. He was shot while paddling in the water. North Koreans, wearing gas masks and protective suits due to Covid-19 protocols, poured gas on Mr. Lee’s corpse and burned the body, according to the Defense Ministry’s investigation, which involved North Korean communications. 

Mr. Moon demanded an apology from North Korea. Mr. Kim, in a rare move, sent a letter saying he was “deeply sorry.” Mr. Lee didn’t respond to orders to identify himself, according to the North Korean version of events, as explained in the letter. The sailors burned the floating device Mr. Lee was holding on to, not his body, the North Koreans claimed. 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, here delivering a farewell speech at the presidential Blue House in Seoul in May, favored engagement with Kim Jong Un’s regime.


Ms. Kwon had sent what turned out to be her final text message to her husband hours before he told colleagues he needed to do paperwork. She expressed worry about their son’s prospects of getting into college. Her husband, out on patrol for weeks, was due back home five days from then. He didn’t respond to her last message.

The family would eventually learn of Mr. Lee’s death on the local news. “I was hoping they would at least find his body,” said Ms. Kwon, who struggles to breathe whenever she looks at the sea.

The rationale, as provided by the Moon government at the time, was that Mr. Lee may have been fleeing gambling debts that had run into thousands of dollars. Furthermore, the government said at the time, the prospects of an accidental fall into the waters seemed unlikely, given that he had worn a life vest and left on deck his pair of slippers. 

Ms. Kwon said she was well aware of her husband’s debts. They had a plan to pay it off together within the next three years. To keep the creditors away from their two children, she said the couple even filed for divorce in April 2020, though the family kept living together.

Her brother-in-law grew upset by the explanation from the South Korean government and even rented a boat to conduct a search himself in the region. 

Mr. Lee’s brother, on behalf of the family, filed criminal complaints last month against former Moon administration officials, accusing them of obstruction of justice and abuse of authority. The family said they would also file a criminal complaint against Mr. Moon unless his party cooperates in disclosing records related to Mr. Lee’s case, which the ruling party has also demanded. Representatives of Mr. Moon didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Kim Jong Un Says North Korea Is Ready to Use Nuclear Missiles Against U.S.

Kim Jong Un Says North Korea Is Ready to Use Nuclear Missiles Against U.S.

Play video: Kim Jong Un Says North Korea Is Ready to Use Nuclear Missiles Against U.S.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the country’s nuclear missiles are ready to be used in potential military conflicts with the U.S. and South Korea, state media reported. Photo: KCNA via KNS/AFP

The records can be declassified with parliamentary approval from two-thirds of lawmakers. Mr. Moon’s party controls a strong majority of National Assembly seats.  

“People point fingers at our family,” said Lee Rae-jin, the slain fishery official’s brother. “Many people around us became critical of us.”

Mr. Yoon, a career prosecutor, took an interest in Mr. Lee’s death on the campaign trail. He vowed to reveal sealed records if elected president and wrote Mr. Lee’s son a letter promising to recover his father’s honor and criticizing the Moon administration for trying to “cover up the truth.”

Mr. Yoon’s ruling party is pushing for the disclosure of presidential records to verify the government’s response at the time, including whether the Moon administration had taken sufficient measures to rescue Mr. Lee.

A key point was surfaced by the ruling party task force in their investigation: The word “defect” was mentioned only once during seven hours of wiretapped North Korean conversations between the sailors and regime officials. The detail was included in a South Korean military report submitted to Mr. Moon’s presidential office.

The government hasn’t disclosed whose line was tapped or who used the word “defect.” Ruling-party lawmakers who saw the military report say the word wasn’t uttered until two hours after Mr. Lee was found by the North Koreans and it wasn’t Mr. Lee who said it.

South Korean marines patrol a beach on the western border island of Yeonpyeong in late September 2020, days after Lee Dae-jun was killed.


Write to Dasl Yoon at

9. North Koreans seeking escape worry about being pushed back by South

Yes, the Moon administration gave the north Korean Propaganda and Agitation Department a propaganda coup.

South Korea must work with escapees to counter this. It has never been more important for South Korea to conduct influence operations. And this will have an impact on the process that must lead to a free and unified Korea.  

North Koreans seeking escape worry about being pushed back by South | DW | 29.07.2022

DW · by Deutsche Welle (

Recently inaugurated South Korean PresidentYoon Suk-yeol is requesting an investigation into the 2019 case of two North Korean defectors who were allegedly sent back without due process.

North Korean refugees who have made the perilous journey to the South say the case is widely known in the North and could dissuade future would-be defectors.

Video footage released in July shows the men struggling as they are forced toward the border at Panmunjom, with one man throwing himself to the floor.

"I cried when I saw on the news the images of the two men being handed back to North Korea," Yuna Jung, who defected in 2006 and today lives in Seoul with her family, told DW. "Those two men knew at that moment that they were going to die," she said.

Two North Korean fishermen accused of murder

The incident occurred in November 2019, when South Korean naval units monitored a North Korean squid-fishing boat as it crossed into the South's territorial waters off the east coast of the peninsula.

After tracking the vessel for two days, South Korean forces stopped the boat and brought two men ashore.

The former South Korean government of President Moon Jae-in soon announced that the two men had killed the 15 other members of the crew and thrown their bodies overboard, and were fleeing justice in the North.

Five days after they had first set foot in the South, the men were secretly handed over to North Korean officials.

There was concern at the time about the haste with which the two men were sent back to the North.

Critics accused Moon — a well-known human rights lawyer before he became president — of attempting to curry favor with the North for his own political agenda and for failing to legally protect the defectors' human rights.

That criticism has snowballed since the recent release of the video footage.

The defector community in South Korea is angry at reports that much of the documentation and evidence in the case was destroyed by the outgoing administration earlier in the year, which will complicate the investigation.

North Korean defectors discouraged

NK News, a Seoul-based dissident media organization, has reported that the footage has elicited "shock and outrage" in the North that the South Korean government forcibly repatriated the two men, despite being aware that they would likely be executed.

Citing a source in the North contacted by mobile phone, NK News reported that would-be defectors are now "reconsidering their plans."

"We do not know what they did in the North and we cannot trust what Pyongyang says, but, even if they were murderers, then they should have been put on trial in the South," Jung said.

"They said they wanted to stay here, so it was against their human rights and the South's constitution to send them back," she added.

The former defector believes that many people in the North think the South Korean government would accept them and help them. "To see defectors being forced to go back is shocking," Jung said.

Escaping North Korea becoming more difficult

Jung, 33, said escaping from the North had become far more difficult in recent years.

Traveling in a group of 11, Jung was able to cross the border into China undetected.

She avoided patrols, and the likelihood of being returned to North Korea, before entering Myanmar, Laos and Thailand, from where she flew to South Korea. The entire journey took four months.

Watch video 04:44

How serious is North Korea's food crisis?

"It's harder for several reasons now," Jung said.

"The government has blocked all the borders because of the coronavirus, and they are now building a new wall on the Chinese border to stop defectors," she said. "The cost of escaping has also risen, with brokers now charging $100,000 (€98,393) per person because the risks are so high."

"Even after you cross the river," Jung said, "you are not really safe as the Chinese police are always trying to catch defectors and send them back."

"With all the changes, it has effectively become mission impossible now," she said.

Sokeel Park, director of research and strategy for Liberty in North Korea, an NGO,told DW that there has been a sharp decrease in the number of defectors reaching the South.

Government statistics indicate that there were 1,047 arrivals in 2019, which was the lowest annual figure since the turn of the century. In 2020, that total fell to 229 defectors and just 63 completed the journey in 2021.

In the first six months of 2022, there have been 19 arrivals, and the annual total is likely to be around 40 individuals, Park said.

"The numbers have just fallen off a cliff," Park said. "We are hearing that it is now almost as difficult to cross the border into China as it is to cross the Demilitarized Zone between North and South. The Chinese border is being heavily fortified and that work is also being accelerated," he added.

Because of coronavirus restrictions in China, it is also far more difficult for defectors to travel through the country en route for a safe third country, Park said.

Defectors who are presently in China are opting to sit tight because it is so difficult to move and hoping that travel eventually becomes easier, he added.

Park also believes that the case of the two fishermen will make more would-be defectors think again.

"The pictures are out there now, the controversy in South Korea is huge, and none of this is going to be helpful for defectors or potential defectors," he said.

Edited by: Wesley Rahn

DW · by Deutsche Welle (

10. Korea still balks at joining US-led chip alliance

Korea is not subservient to the US. It acts in its own interests. But it must not kowtow to China.

Korea still balks at joining US-led chip alliance

The Korea Times · July 31, 2022

President Yoon Suk-yeol talks with U.S. President Joe Biden prior to a trilateral summit among Korea, the U.S. and Japan on the sidelines of the 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid, Spain, June 29. Courtesy of presidential office

Government delays decision on fears of possible trade conflict with China

By Baek Byung-yeul

Korea is still hesitant to join the United States-led semiconductor supply chain alliance, known as the Chip 4, fearing that this could lead to further retaliation from China similar to its response to the deployment of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile battery here in 2016.

"We cannot evaluate the direct impact of Chip 4 because the details of the alliance have not been decided and the agenda of the alliance has not been set," Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Lee Chang-yang reiterated during a conference at the National Assembly on July 29.

"The government is discussing what cooperation and strategies are needed to increase the competitiveness of the Korean semiconductor industry in the midst of the international situation."

However, experts said Sunday that the country needs to show its willingness to participate actively in the alliance and choose to cooperate with the U.S. because that is the way for Korea to ensure economic and national security.

"The most important thing in operating the country is ensuring national security, and Korea has had security issues with China. In that sense, it is more important for the country to join the semiconductor alliance to cooperate with the member countries of the alliance and go together with the U.S.," said Kim Dae-jong, a professor of business administration at Sejong University.

"Korea's economy is 80 percent dependent on international trade and the Chinese market accounts for around 25 percent of the nation's total trade. It is safer for the country to reduce its reliance on China and expand trade with other countries."

The Chip 4 alliance is a proposed consultative body led by the U.S. to discuss the stable management of chip-related supply chains, train skilled personnel and conduct research and development jointly in the semiconductor sector. Korea, Japan and Taiwan have been invited to join.

U.S. President Joe Biden proposed forming the alliance in a bid to contain China's growing involvement in high-tech industries. Though Japan and Taiwan have already responded positively to joining the chip alliance, Korea has not decided on its stance, as joining could possibly cause further economic retaliation from China​. ​Another reason for the Korean government's careful deliberation is that 60 percent of the country's semiconductor exports came from China, including Hong Kong, in 2021.

When the country decided to deploy the THAAD system in 2016, China launched various economic retaliation measures including tourism restrictions, a ban on Korean pop cultural imports, the denial of government subsidies to Korean companies and unofficial boycotts of Korean products.

Due to the disruptions, companies like Lotte Group had to withdraw its long-established operation from the Chinese market as it was unable to continue running its business there. Also, game companies were denied the ability to earn licenses required to sell their new games in the Chinese market.

The Chinese government has already warned of what will happen if Korea joins the U.S-led chip alliance. "We hope South Korea will proceed from its own long-term interests, the principle of fair and openness to do more things that are conducive to the development of China-South Korea relations and the stability of the global industrial and supply chains," Zhao Lijian, a spokesman of China's foreign ministry, said on July 26.

The U.S. is reportedly supposed to notify the three countries about the first Chip 4 meeting at the end of August, but Korea has yet to decide whether to join the U.S.-led alliance, as joining the alliance could lead directly to trade friction with China.

The Korea Times · July 31, 2022

11. North Korea propaganda outlet decries Yoon's NK human rights policies

A focus on human rights is an existential threat to the regime.

KJU must deny the human rights of the people in the north in order to maintain power.

Human rights is a national security issue in addition to being a moral imperative.

Although it is counterintuitive to some, when we focus on the north's nuclear threat it enhances the legitimacy of the Kim family regime and supports themes and messages of the Propaganda and Agitation Department. But when we focus on human rights it informs the Korean people in the north and it undermines the legitimacy of the regime.

It is imperative that the ROK/US alliance tak e human rights upfront approach. We cannot be dissuaded from doing so by those who argue that human rights will prevent denuclearization. We must take a lesson from President Reagan who maintained a human rights focus while conducting arms control negotiations.

North Korea propaganda outlet decries Yoon's NK human rights policies

The Korea Times · July 31, 2022

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un Yonhap

A North Korean propaganda outlet on Sunday lashed out at the Yoon Suk-yeol administration's policy measures to improve North Korea's human rights, calling them a move to foment inter-Korean confrontation.

Ryomyong, the propaganda website, took issue with a series of Seoul's policy moves, including the recent appointment of Lee Shin-wha, a Korea University professor, as an ambassador on the North's rights issue.

In a post under the name of an official at the National Reconciliation Council, the website said the South's "human rights farce is an unbearable insult to our people and a grave political provocation to our republic."

Claiming South Korean people's lives have been worsening, the website said it is reasonable for the South to improve its own issues at home.

Meanwhile, Tongil Sinbo, a North Korean weekly, has denounced the plan by the South and the United States to conduct their regular summertime training, called Ulchi Freedom Shield, from Aug. 22-Sept. 1.

The weekly called the training a "demonstration for a war of invasion," saying it is an "unacceptable challenge." (Yonhap)

The Korea Times · July 31, 2022

12. S. Korea, US, Japan start Pacific Dragon ballistic missile defense drill this week

This is a step toward countering one of China's three No's that is demanded from the Moon administrator - No additional THAAD, no integrated missile defense, and no trilateral alliance.

This is a positive step toward integrated missile defense and maybe someday down the road even an alliance.

S. Korea, US, Japan start Pacific Dragon ballistic missile defense drill this week · by Ji Da-gyum · July 31, 2022

Seoul will take cautious, case-by-case approach to gradually expand trilateral military drills

By Ji Da-gyum

Published : Jul 31, 2022 - 17:34 Updated : Jul 31, 2022 - 17:56

The US military, NASA, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory members observe NASA`s low-density supersonic decelerator (LDSD) test vehicle trajectory after its launch from U.S. Navy`s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (File Photo - US Indo-Pacific Command)

South Korea, the United States and Japan are set to jointly conduct a ballistic missile defense exercise to enhance military interoperability and readiness against escalating threats from North Korea.

The Pacific Dragon ballistic missile defense drill led by the US Pacific Fleet will be held for two weeks between Monday and Aug. 14 off the coast of Hawaii, the South Korean military confirmed on Sunday.

A total of five countries — South Korea, Australia, Canada, Japan, and the US — will participate in the multilateral exercise. South Korea’s Navy plans to dispatch the 7,600-ton Sejong the Great-class Aegis destroyer equipped with SM-2 surface-to-air missiles.

The Pacific Dragon exercise aims to improve interoperability and tactical and technical coordination among participants in detecting, tracking, reporting and assessing ballistic targets.

During the drill, the five countries will practice detecting, tracking and sharing information on dummy ballistic projectiles which are fired by the US Navy, according to the South Korean military. The US Navy will also intercept the dummy projectiles with guide missiles.

Although the Pacific Dragon has been staged every two years on the occasion of the US-led biennial Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, exercise, the drill was not open to the public in 2018 and 2020 in order to not provoke North Korea.

But the South Korean military’s confirmation came after the South Korean, US and Japanese defense chiefs met in June and agreed to regularize and publicize trilateral missile defense exercises to deter North Korea’s ballistic missile threats.

Cautious approach on trilateral drills

Expanding trilateral security cooperation and military exercises was one of the key agenda topics for the recent defense ministerial meeting, a senior ministry official - who requested to remain anonymous - said during a closed-door briefing Sunday.

South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met Friday in Washington and discussed ways to enhance trilateral security cooperation to jointly respond to North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats.

Lee also briefed Austin on the Yoon Suk-yeol government’s stance on trilateral military drills during the meeting, the senior official said.

In essence, Seoul sees the necessity of expanding trilateral military drills with Japan and the US in light of North Korea’s mounting threats, but it will push forward the plan gradually with a cautious, case-by-case approach.

Lee elucidated that the Yoon government seeks to “gradually expand trilateral exercises” while focusing on reinforcing existing trilateral exercises such as a simulation-based trilateral missile warning drill, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said Sunday in a separate statement.

The three countries agreed to conduct a trilateral missile warning exercise -- that aims to track a virtual ballistic target and trade information -- every three months in 2016. But the missile warning exercise has been staged just once this year and only three times last year.

“We expressed our stance that we pursue expansion of trilateral exercises and training in a phased manner and with careful examination in light of public sentiment and other factors,” the unnamed senior official said.

Widespread anti-Japanese public sentiment is a key consideration in conducting trilateral military exercises, although Seoul sees the growing importance of trilateral security cooperation.

In a nutshell, Lee told Austin that Seoul needs to take a case-by-case, gradual approach to decide whether to join trilateral exercises in view of public opinion. But South Korea will actively participate in non-military training, including the Search and Rescue Exercise that has been suspended.

South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup (second from L) and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (second from R) are seen holding bilateral talks at the U.S. Department of Defense in Washington on July 29, 2022. (Ministry of National Defense)

Reinforcing alliance deterrence, readiness

Austin and Lee also discussed how to reinforce the alliance’s deterrence and defense posture to address evolving threats from North Korea.

The defense chiefs discussed ways to enhance the viability of the US extended deterrence as the key agenda, the senior official said.

Austin and Lee agreed to reactivate the Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group (EDSCG) and hold a meeting this September.

The last meeting of the EDSCG between South Korean and US vice ministers of foreign affairs and defense -- which was launched in December 2016 in the aftermath of North Korea’s fifth nuclear test-- was held in January 2018.

The defense chiefs also committed to reinforcing tabletop exercises (TTXs) on the use of deterrence assets and deployment of US strategic military assets in line with the joint efforts to enhance the alliance’s deterrence. Seoul and Washington conducted TTXs only in 2019 and 2021.

The TTXs allow South Korea and the US to practice joint military responses in simulated contingency scenarios, including North Korean nuclear threats and the use of nuclear weapons.

South Korea and the US essentially seek to come up with policy measures at the EDSCG while enhancing military readiness by conducting TTXs.

Resuming theater-level exercises

The two defense chiefs also agreed to conduct theater-level military drills in August and September by incorporating the South Korean government’s Ulchi civil contingency exercise and combined military exercise, the source said.

The theater-level military exercises have been suspended in the aftermath of the first US-North Korea summit in June 2018.

South Korea and the US plan to conduct large-scale “Ulchi Freedom Shield” military drills including field training exercises between Aug. 22 and Sept. 1. The UFS simulates an “all-out war” with North Korea, according to the senior official.

Austin and Lee committed to resuming and expanding regiment-level and larger-scale field training exercises or FTXs.

“The action aims to further solidify the combined defense posture by enhancing policy and strategic coordination as well as improving interoperability between tactical units,” the senior official told reporters. The official explained that FTXs will provide opportunities for South Korean and US tactical units to share tactical doctrine.

Meanwhile, the Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korea newspaper produced by the Chongryon community in Tokyo, warned South Korea and the US over the consequences of the upcoming combined military exercises in a Korean-language article published Saturday morning.

The article was penned by Kim Ji-young, a Choson Sinbo senior writer and a high-profile mouthpiece for Pyongyang, and published hours after Seoul and Washington announced the outcomes of the defense-ministerial meeting.

“The DPRK-US confrontation is getting more and more fierce. Actions could be taken corresponding to the intensity of the opponent’s provocations and level of confrontation as we are in the phase of strength-for-strength,” the Choson Sinbo said. “It is impossible to predict how the DPRK will smash the US military provocations to prevent war.”

The Choson Sinbo warned that North Korea has a “wider range of options to respond to provocations” compared to the period before the 2018 Singapore summit, underscoring that North Korea has reinforced its “war deterrent.”


13. Can Yoon cut Gordian Knot of South Korea-Japan relations?


The current issue between the two nations is the South Korean Supreme Court’s ruling that orders Japanese companies to sell their assets based in South Korea to provide compensation for Koreans who they forced into labor during the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945.

As the liquidation process date is approaching -- expected around the end of August or September -- the Japanese firms are refusing to comply with the ruling, and their government has been demanding Seoul come up with a solution.

President Yoon Suk-yeol, who has set out a goal of restoring the soured relations with Japan, is now striving to address the impending liquidation of the Japanese firms.

[News Analysis] Can Yoon cut Gordian Knot of South Korea-Japan relations? · by Jo He-rim · July 31, 2022

Yoon, who vowed to repair relations with Tokyo, strives to find solutions related to impending liquidation

By Jo He-rim

Published : Jul 31, 2022 - 16:45 Updated : Jul 31, 2022 - 17:54

South Korean flag (left) and Japanese flag (123rf)

They are not allies, but they are close neighbors and sometimes join hands for regional security.

Yet, there has always been tension between South Korea and Japan, as disputes stemming from their bitter history plague relations.

The current issue between the two nations is the South Korean Supreme Court’s ruling that orders Japanese companies to sell their assets based in South Korea to provide compensation for Koreans who they forced into labor during the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945.

As the liquidation process date is approaching -- expected around the end of August or September -- the Japanese firms are refusing to comply with the ruling, and their government has been demanding Seoul come up with a solution.

President Yoon Suk-yeol, who has set out a goal of restoring the soured relations with Japan, is now striving to address the impending liquidation of the Japanese firms.

It is a tall order: The required solution must prevent the liquidation while at the same time compensate the victims for their suffering.

Just last week, the Foreign Ministry delivered a written opinion to the Supreme Court that is currently reviewing the lower court’s ruling for the companies to sell off their assets.

The letter explained its “diplomatic efforts” to resolve the issue, an apparent attempt to earn more time before the court makes a final decision.

“The government is consistently in discussion with Japan to find a rational solution that can mutually benefit both countries. It is also making multilateral efforts, such as collecting opinions from different interest groups, including the plaintiffs (victims) via a consultative group,” the Foreign Ministry wrote in the letter, according to a ministry official.

Members of a civic group supporting victims of wartime forced labor during the colonial period hold a press conference in Gwangju on Thursday. (Civic group of citizens forced into labor during Japanese colonial era)

’Agree to disagree’

In 2018, Seoul’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Korean victims of forced labor, saying the Japanese companies, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel were liable for their wartime actions. This judgment reminded many of the root cause of the unending historical disputes between the neighboring countries.

The ruling immediately prompted a backlash from Japan, which argues that all claims related to its annexation of Korea were settled once and for all by an agreement signed in 1965 that opened the diplomatic relations between Seoul and Tokyo.

The top Korean court, however, made the ruling under the premise that the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty of 1910 was illegal, null and void under the 1948 Korean Constitution -- reminding how South Korea and Japan have long held completely different interpretations of their bilateral accord signed in 1965.

The controversial Article 2 of the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea states, “It is confirmed that all treaties or agreements concluded between the Empire of Japan and the Empire of Korea on or before Aug. 22, 1910, are already null and void.”

Seoul interprets this as meaning that Japan’s annexation treaties were “already null and void” at the time of their signing in 1965. Tokyo counterargues that the article means the treaties were null and void then, but they were still valid until 1948 when Korea was established.

Despite the gap in their understanding of the clause, the two countries at the time did not negotiate further, leaving it as an “agreement to disagree.”

“The biggest cause of dispute when South Korea and Japan try to stabilize their bilateral ties has been their differing perspectives on Japan’s annexation of Korea,” Shin Kak-soo, former South Korean ambassador to Japan, said in an interview with a local daily Hankyoreh. Shin served the post from 2011 to 2013.

“The two countries had mended their differences and ‘agreed to disagree.’ They had resorted to a diplomatic solution to the legal problem. And the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2018 reopened the Pandora’s box that was sealed diplomatically.”

Japan has been showing a completely different attitude toward South Korea and other countries over its wartime forced labor issue. To Chinese victims who were forced into labor during wartime, Japan has been accepting of its faults.

Last November, a Japanese civic group erected a memorial stone in Nagasaki, Japan to commemorate the Chinese victims who worked at a mine in Hashima Island. Mitsubishi Materials, an affiliate of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries that used forced labor, provided the funds to produce the stone.

For Korean victims, the Japanese government and the companies maintain they do not owe an apology, because they were Japanese nationals during its occupation of the Korean Peninsula.

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin (left) pose with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the prime minister’s residence in Tokyo on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

A solution for mutual benefit?

While the previous Moon Jae-in administration held a victim-centered approach to the top court’s ruling and refrained from intervening in the issue, the Yoon Suk-yeol administration has been actively seeking ways to resolve the dispute to prevent the liquidation of the Japanese firms’ assets.

Making his first official trip to Japan in July, South Korean Foreign Ministry Park Jin met with his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi to share concerns over asset liquidation and explain Korea’s efforts to resolve the issue before the liquidation is carried out.

In a government interpellation session, Park also said that resolving the forced labor issue is the “key” that will open the way to the next step to normalizing ties with Japan.

“The victims are aging, and the liquidation is drawing near, so we will make the best efforts to resolve this issue as soon as possible. I also asked Japan to sincerely take responsive measures,” Park had said during the interpellation session on July 25.

Earlier in July, Seoul launched a consultative group of the government and private groups to collect the opinions of experts and the victims.

Over the Korean government’s stepped-up moves to address the court ruling, opinions are divided here.

Yuji Hosaka, a political science professor at Sejong University, criticized the Yoon Suk-yeol administration for taking a “submissive attitude” toward Japan and that it was “inappropriate” for either country’s government to wield influence on the result of a civil suit.

“Japan has not said a word about what it will do to resolve the dispute. And it is highly unlikely that Japan’s stance demanding Korea for a solution will change soon, at least not until the national funeral for the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,” Hosaka told The Korea Herald.

Several options are being discussed, including a “subrogation payment,” in which the South Korean government pays the victims and then asks the Japanese companies for reimbursement later. Seoul could also create a fund to gather donations from South Korean and Japanese companies to pay the victims.

But if the Yoon Suk-yeol administration’s approach lifts the burden on Japanese companies, Hosaka said it would effectively endorse Japan’s interpretation of the 1965 agreement.

“The top court handed down the ruling, based on the country’s laws, and Japan has no right to say anything about the decision. But if the Yoon Suk-yeol administration follows Japan’s logic to resolve this issue, it would be the same as accepting Tokyo’s interpretation of the 1965 agreement.”

The professor said the only way for the dispute to be resolved is for the two governments to “stop intervening” and allow the victims and the companies to reconcile.

“This is a civil suit. When the victims and the companies can directly negotiate, and the firms apologize to the victims, they can take the reconciliation process in the litigation.”

Choi Eun-mi, an expert on Japan Japan at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said the Korean government’s attempt to resolve the dispute should be seen positively, since the negotiation between the victims and companies failed to make progress in three years since the court’s ruling.

“The most crucial part of the negotiation would be getting the consent from the victims (on whatever solution they decide on), of course. At the same time, the relations with Japan should not be left unrepaired,” Choi told The Korea Herald.

It is too early to judge the Korean government’s gesture to resolve the wartime forced labor issue, and it is important that the government take preventive measures to avoid irreversible damage to relations with Japan, she added.

The victims have asked the Korean government to guarantee “diplomatic protection” -- to step up efforts to protect the rights of its nationals.

A discretionary right identified by international law, diplomatic protection is an action taken by a state against another to protect its nationals whose rights and interests have been injured by a state.

“Since the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2018, we asked the companies multiple times for direct negotiation, but the Japanese companies refused,” said Lim Jae-sung, a legal representative for Korean forced labor victims.

“So we request that the Korean government exercise its diplomatic protection rights, to push for the victims to directly negotiate with the companies,”

The Foreign Ministry did not recognize the case as subject to diplomatic protection but said it would make efforts to resolve the dispute.

By Jo He-rim (

14. Can Yoon find ways to salvage his approval rating?

Can Yoon find ways to salvage his approval rating? · by Shin Ji-hye · July 31, 2022

Yoon’s office ‘listens attentively’ to demands for Cabinet reshuffle

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : Jul 31, 2022 - 13:12 Updated : Jul 31, 2022 - 17:36

President Yoon Suk-yeol (Yonhap)

Yoon Suk-yeol has shrugged off the decline in his approval ratings, but as they fall below 30 percent, he faces an uphill battle if he wants to get public opinion on his side.

According to a poll released by Gallup Korea on Friday, which surveyed 1,000 people from July 26-28, only 28 percent of the respondents said Yoon was doing well.

Personnel management accounts for the biggest part of the decline in approval ratings.

Alongside his Cabinet, dominated by former prosecutors and figures embroiled in personal scandals, the “unfair” hiring of his and first lady Kim Keon-hee’s acquaintances in the presidential office caused several controversies. Whenever criticism was made, Yoon and his office refused to apologize, denouncing the media for taking issue with it.

In the second and third weeks of July, the decline seemed to be slowing, with a positive evaluation holding up at an already low 32 percent.

At the time, he refrained from speaking during regular morning press briefings -- where he often made gaffes -- and his spouse Kim also refrained from public activities.

However, as a text message between Yoon and his closest aide Kweon Seong-dong, floor leader of the ruling People Power Party, was caught on press cameras, controversy erupted again. The text message showed Yoon saying he was happy with the change in the party’s leadership and took a swipe at suspended party leader Lee Jun-seok.

“It’s different now that the party leader, who was just picking fights within his own party, has changed,” Yoon wrote in the messages sent via Telegram.

The presidential office has been sticking to its original stance for weeks that it will not be swayed by a decline in approval ratings. But on Sunday afternoon, it changed its tone for the first time, saying, “We are listening attentively” to the demand for a Cabinet reshuffle.

However, as Yoon’s approval rating fell to 20 percent, which is very rare in a president’s honeymoon period, the idea of a reshuffle of the presidential office is re-emerging.

“The primary responsibility for the decline in the approval rating is President Yoon, and the presidential office and Cabinet should be completely reformed,” former National Intelligence Service chief Park Jie-won said in a local radio interview Friday.

Park headed the NIS under the previous administration and has been under investigation since Yoon took office over alleged wrongdoing during that time.

Political commentator Park Sang-byoung said the most severe problem is that Yoon himself is not “aware of the seriousness” of the situation at all.

“Yoon should be fully aware of the seriousness of the situation during his vacation,” he said. Yoon began his first five-day summer vacation on Monday.

“To recover public trust, Yoon should apologize in a press conference after returning from vacation and reshuffle his Cabinet,” he said. “Yoon can regain the people’s trust with these measures because he is a political novice and is still in the early stages of state administration.”

By Shin Ji-hye (


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


David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
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