We must be smoking what they’re growing

North Korea was dropped from the U.S. list of countries producing illicit drugs, a sign of further relief of tensions between the two countries.

“North Korea is not affecting the United States as much as the requirements on the list,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Christy McCampbell said on Sept. 17 in Washington, according to a transcript of her speech on the State Department Web site.  [Bloomberg]

And that decision is based on what?  On  absolutely nothing but the interests of  Chris Hill’s next book deal, of course.  It’s what  stinks so much about this entire deal.  You wake up one morning and see something like like this without so much as a word of public discussion beforehand, knowing that it couldn’t possibly be based on any verifiable fact, and knowing that hardly anyone else will even notice, much less care.  It’s my addiction to futility that keeps me going.

Indeed, it seems like only yesterday when the North Korean dope freighter Pong Su was caught off the coast of Australia unloading $144 million in high-quality heroin.  Youtube has video of the Australian Navy sinking the ship.  North Korea is still a suspected supplier of drugs to addicts in Japan, South Korea, and presumably anywhere else its retailers  can find customers.  North Korea even grows its own opium, and some of that opium is grown in Camp 15, one of Kim Jong Il’s concentration camps.  Here’s a satellite photo of one of the fields identified by a survivor, courtesy of the U.S. Commission for Human Rights in North Korea.

yodok_mapj_ipsok.jpg

 

North Korea is also reported to be a producer of high quality meth (see below).  So did our State Department actually go there and verify that (a) the fields are fallow, or (b) that this was  actually an operation run by rogue gulag inmates?  Not a chance.  Their answer isn’t that North Korea is out of the drug business.  The answer  is  that  it’s somebody else’s problem.  Never mind that drugs are a fungible and generally untraceable commodity.  Some recent articles on North Korea’s illegal drug production:

To say that North Korea is not producing and pushing drugs when all of the evidence we have suggests that it is is quite simply a lie — a dirty, expedient, political lie that only shows Pyongyang  that we will embrace its lies as our own.  It rewards crime and mendacity, and thus invites more of it.  Does this bode well for an honest process of disarmament?  Or, for that matter, our national drug policy?  The  Administration is simply playing politics with the inconvenient fact of North Korea’s dope dealing, the same way it played politics with its money laundering, the same way it played politics with its illegal arms dealing, the same way it wants to play politics with  the list of state sponsors of  terrorism.   Each case demonstrates a new low in disregard for law and truth for the sake of a dubious objective.  There are even signs we’re willing to ignore just the latest exposure of North Korea’s proliferation.  So just how thorough does anyone suppose our inspection and verification regime will be? 

If I had known in 2004 that I was actually voting for a Jimmy Carter foreign policy, I would  not have voted at all. 

See also:  

*   Orchard Update:   Sleep well.  More suspicious ships are headed from North Korea to Syria, but we’re  “tracking” them!   For the last several weeks, in fact:

The U.S. military and intelligence community have been tracking several shipments of material they believe have left North Korea and are destined for Syria or may have already landed there, a Pentagon official confirmed.

This same unnamed official, asked to clarify just what the Israelis bombed last week, said that  “none of the information he had reviewed as part of his job indicated any nuclear material was involved.”  But in my roundup of the Orchard story here, you will see that the intelligence community has largely been frozen out of this story, probably to prevent leaks like this one doing further damage to Chris Hill’s shaky sellout. 

Some of the material is believed to have been high-grade metals that could be used in weapons such as missiles or solid-fuel rocket technology.  But “there is concern with shipments going into the region and with their eventual arrival in Syria,” the official said.  The United States is also looking into the possibility material had been shipped from North Korea to Iran and traveled overland into Syria, he said, adding there were indications a ship had docked in Syria recently.

Several of which have apparently already slipped through and unloaded.  Nor is it clear  whether this missile proliferation story has anything to do with Orchard.

Another U.S. official said he has seen satellite imagery of that attack that shows a hole in the center of a building’s roof with the walls still largely intact.  That would strongly indicate a laser guided bomb was used with a fused warhead that exploded after the bomb entered the building roof. The photo is highly classified and not expected to be publicly released.

Axis, shmaxis.

*   More scary news from the axis, via the Hahvahd Crimson:

Most troubling, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a Paris-based Iranian protest group, alleges that North Korea is sharing nuclear technology with Iran. Kim Jong Il equips rogue states with weapons and nuclear know-how, both of which may potentially fall into terrorists’ hands.

*   Three Words:  No Police Protection.

A request by Iran’s president to lay a wreath at the World Trade Center site next week has been turned down by police and blasted by U.S. diplomats as an attempt to turn ground zero into a “photo op.”

That has to be one of the most offensively cynical things I’ve ever heard from the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism.  Here’s a flashback to the 9-11 Commission Report:

In sum, there is strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers. There also is circumstantial evidence that senior Hezbollah operatives were closely tracking the travel of some of these future muscle hijackers into Iran in November 2000.

I’d read that quote aloud in every police and firefighters’ union  hall in Manhattan, pass out mapquests of Ahmedinejad’s itinerary, and watch the fun ensue.  On the grander scale, that seems a  smaller breach of decorum  than letting a pack of whooping loonies take over somebody’s embassy and hold its staff hostage for more than a year.  Not only would  a serious public beating  be a domestic humiliation for Ahmedinejad,  we probably underestimate the value of the impact it would have on Middle Eastern audiences.  Our long-term goals  might be better served by offering more funds, arms, and training to the Iranian guerrillas Michael Totten interviews here

*   Does Air Koryo reuse its sandwich bags and plastic cups?   I have no way of knowing, and I reckon the reporter who wrote this story has no way of knowing, either.  There’s seldom more than a grain of interesting information in a journalist’s traverse of the standard Pyongyang circuit of approved monuments and sites.  Here is that grain:

“Delete the picture!” guide Kim Hyon-choi scolded one man among a small group of foreign journalists. “You mustn’t take pictures of the bad side of our country, ugly things. “¦ We will confiscate them.

On subsequent days, however, the rules changed. No photos of soldiers. No photos of the rickety electric trams in the capital. No photos from the moving tourist bus.  The tour guides seemed more afraid of one another than they were of the foreigners, each one whispering in private that he or she wanted to offer more freedom but feared being ratted out by the others.

That’s a first.  Although it’s tempting to make too much of the remark of one man, I’ve never heard of any of these loyalist selectees privately admitting fear or disagreement.     

12 Comments

  1. First, I about lost it when I misread the first line of your post; my mind put together “list” countries” and “off” and automatically put it into the context of “terrorists sponsoring nations.” Glad I just misread that.

    While I agree that there is no evidence that North Korea isn’t continuing it’s drug trade, and the logic of North Korea’s illicit economy would suggest that they in fact are, there is also new evidence since ~2003 that they are (the recent articles don’t point to any newer busts shown to be NK related). Some of that lack of current news/evidence may be explained by this from Lintner’s article:

    The 2006 US International Narcotics Strategy Control Report says, “There were no seizures of methamphetamines in Japan during 2005 linked to North Korea … It is possible that methamphetamine manufactured in the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – North Korea] is now identified as Chinese-source, because of the involvement of ethnic Chinese criminal elements working with the DPRK abroad, as well as within China, in the narcotics production/trafficking business.”

    North Korea’s links with Chinese-organized crime networks outside Asia were discovered during two US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) operations code-named “Smoking Dragon” and “Royal Charm”, which were launched in August 2005.

    This card was uselessly played, basically just thrown away. Not a good sign for that other list that comes to mind.

    I’m still waiting to see what happens with the terrorist list and HEU declarations before I’m protesting in the street (perhaps even in the literal sense, btw).

    – – – – –

    As for Orchard, I would be very surprised it the North Korean involvement was anything other than missile and/or chemical weapons related, which is bad enough but I find it highly unlikely that it would be nuclear related; that could come after they get more oil/aid/concession/etc.




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  2. The report floored me as well. It is like put the head in the sand and pretend nothing is going on. Common sense tells me North Korea needs all the money it can get, and that has to include drugs. Time and time again I read about defectors making the stuff. For it to just stop seems downright silly to me.

    Is this to set up the upcoming taking North Korea off the sponsors of terror list? I sure hope not considering the possibility of the Syrian connection. I hope they look into that a little closer.

    In other words, the whole thing stinks to high heaven.




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  3. Bloomberg made a complete mistake with that story. I was there when the question that yielded the quote they used was asked and Bloomberg, writing from Seoul, misinterpreted the answer.

    The 20 countries on that list are countries defined by statute as producing more than 1,000 hectares of coca or opium or 5,000 hectares of cannibas. It was unchanged from the previous year and includes a few countries, such as India (which has a legal opium industry for medicine) that are not trouble makers but that prompt concerns. Another criteria is that the drug flows impact the United States as a DRUG problem. So, for example, Morocco, a major source of Europe’s hashish, is not on the list, nor is Holland. Canada, a source of (WICKED, I’m told ;-D) hydroponic weed for the US, is mentioned as a concern in the text, but is not on the list. Other new trends (like Guinea Bissau becoming a transit point for trans-Atlantic cocaine) are given brief mention. But in no way does failure to mention a country mentioned in the past imply a change of suspicions.

    I think Bloomberg’s mistake, which might have stemmed from trying to match a sloppy report in the Korean media, was assuming this drug report is a catalog of the whole world like STATE’s annual human rights report.

    I am the last one to cut North Korea — or any Stockhom Syndrome-afflicted US diplomats — any slack. And whether State pulled punches to grease diplomatic wheels with North Korea (they didn’t with their religious repression or human rights reports) is a very legitimate angle to pursue. But Bloomberg discredits the effort here.




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  4. “North Korea is not affecting the United States as much as the requirements on the list”

    I’ve heard more clearly worded English from Miss USA pageant contestants.




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  5. I checked and also linked the State Department transcript of the press conference above, and it seemed to confirm the basic facts of the report, but I’ll check again.




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  6. Again, we’re not talking here about a compendium of world drug producers as determined by the State Dept — in contrast to State’s annual survey of worldwide human rights. This (arguably too) narrow survey looks at “big league” drug-producers and traffickers that affect the United States and which receive drug eradication aid from the U.S. The U.S. Congress requires a report card on how they are doing, with those that fail facing a cutoff in non-humanitarian aid (in theory; in practice, the Bush has waived this in the case of Venezuela because it wants to continue programs to support civil society in the face of Chavezation.)

    There is no way to determine North Korea’s counternarcotic performance, or State’s evaluation of that performance, based on this brief State Department report because, essentially, North Korea has no counternarcotic performance to evaluate, under the Congressionally set parameters of this report.

    This situation by no means makes incorrect Joshua’s suspicions (about North Korea and about State), which I wholeheartedly share. However, and I hate to be clinical, it represents a complete misrepresentation by Bloomberg’s Bomi Lim of what’s being measured here.




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