1 It has now been 16 days since North Korea violated every single pledge it made in the course of the February 13th agreement, notwithstanding our return of $25 million in proceeds of crime, no strings attached, in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718. Latest word has North Korea’s demand for the return of the money — which was not part of the February 13th deal — evolving into a demand that the United States grant a general amnesty and immunity over the laundering of funds from North Korea’s illegal activities.
Would anyone actually try to facilitate that? Of course. You already know who.
2 Or Else, What? Back in March, I predicted that the bipolar U.S. reversal of February 13th would lead to U.S.-Japan frictions and a visit from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and that has come to pass. There was no public discussion of the issue that I suspect was the most contentious — North Korea’s abductions of Japanese citizens and its seemingly inconsistent desire for removal from the terror list — but there was a more general warning to North Korea over its noncompliance:
U.S. President George W. Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned North Korea on Friday that they would take a tougher stance toward the communist nation if it does not honor its commitments on nuclear disarmament.
Bush and Abe expressed concern that North Korea missed an April 14 deadline to start shutting its Yongbyon nuclear reactor and warned of steps such as sanctions if it did not comply.
“Our partners in the six-party talks are patient but our patience is not unlimited,” Bush said, referring to the six-way negotiations involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States. [Reuters]
Their scheduled five-minute meeting lasted 40 minutes. That ought to mean something. In the end, both leaders agreed to give North Korea yet more “leeway” in
violating meeting its obligations, but Bush said, “We have the capability of more sanctions.” See also this AP story. Separately, Foreign Minister Taro Aso met Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and they will also meet with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. According to rumors I’ve heard, the U.S. side will pressure Japan to relax its demands for the return of its abducted citizens, but I predict Japan will be firm. Note to South Korea: this is how mature nations practice diplomacy when they take issue (in this case, justifiably) with U.S. foreign policy. Observe the complete absence of juvenile public antagonism. The Japanese just send their heavy hitters to the United States to meet with our heavy hitters, and to talk to them. Let’s hope Japan’s brand of diplomacy will be rewarded.
3 Pyongyang Spring Update: Did North Korea display a Taepodong I at its last big military parade? The Chosun Ilbo thinks so [or possibly, it was an entirely new model] [via IHT].
4 Confronting Betrayal: North Korean defectors are invited to give their views to the U.S. government, in the wake of its capitulation to North Korea, and they speak bluntly:
The Defense Department said in the past the U.S. prepared for the crumbling of authoritarian regimes by educating defectors from those countries and letting them take a role in rebuilding their countries. They asked whether North Korean defectors could play the same role. They also asked how the U.S. can help and intervene in the process.
The defectors urged the U.S. to employ strong pressure and dialogue at the same time in dealing with North Korea, so outside power can accelerate democratization from within. The U.S. officials promised to help North Koreans rebuild their nation in an efficient way. [….]
At the State Department, the defectors criticized Washington for hastily lifting financial sanctions against the North and failing to raise the issue of human rights abuse. They claimed North Korea was simply using the Yongbyon nuclear facilities it no longer needs as a means to get international pressure lifted.
But officials defended U.S. policies toward the North. The officials assured the defectors that the U.S. has not given up on North Korea’s human rights violations, but the closure of the Yongbyon nuclear reactors is a starting point, and the six-party dialogue framework is designed to deal with the nuclear problem, not human rights. Officials stressed that there are plenty of options to pressure North Korea if it fails to fulfill its part of a Feb. 13 denuclearization agreement. [Chosun Ilbo]
This entire article is an absolute must-read.
5 The Daily NK reports that North Korean authorities have ordered the banning of all Japanese made goods from North Korea within 3 years. A lot of mid- and junior-level bureaucrats are going to be awfully unhappy about giving up the perks — the bicycles, watches, and color TV’s — they worked so hard to earn.
6 Stage 4 Watch: What began as a crackdown on the smuggling of subversive goods has evolved into a red guard purge to reverse the spread of capitalism in Sinuiju:
[I]nvestigations are being held throughout all of Shinuiju city. Authorities, the Safety Agency and investigating teams have united to confiscate items such as foreign CD’s, capitalist-style clothing and computer programs. Also, any devices that could be used as a means of foreign communication such as TV’s, radios and mobile phone are also being strictly regulated.
The source said, “Authorities are enforcing strict control over Shinuiju city to use it as a confrontation with capitalism and socialism” and “An order was made to protect the border gateway and that the former guard post (Shinuiju) must not be shaken. The source confirmed that the goods caught at customs included computer software, CD’s, and foreign books including the bible. [Daily NK]
The Daily NK also has another fascinating photo essay of Sinuiju, where the infiltration of subversive business models has eased the misery of life in North Korea.
7 Stage 5 Watch: Also in Sinuiju:
Two young adults in their 30s, who harbored resentment against North Korea’s power organs, stabbed a Social Safety officer (police) with a deadly weapon and fled with a gun and seven bullets, reported a North Korean insider on the afternoon of the 23rd.
The source said, “This event took place on the 19th, in Baektodong (Southern Shinuiju), North Pyongan. The stabbed Safety officer is in serious condition, but whether or not he died has not been reported.
Baektodong is about 4km south from Shinuiju and the third detention cell of the People’ Safety Agency is located there.
Loss of weapons has occurred in North Korea from time to time, but an event where a weapon was stolen after stabbing a Social Safety officer is rare, so this event is being closely watched. North Korean citizens cannot possess small arms. [Daily NK]
Gee, we could fix that, couldn’t we? Give the people bags of rice, and a few apparatchiks will eat for a day. Give the people Tokarevs and you sow the seeds of a more equitable society.
Some background on the theoretical stages of regime collapse here.