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.
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:
- Bertil Lintner on North Korea’s heroin trade, and its Burma connection.
- Japanese sources identify possible North Korean methamphetamine factories.
- A North Korean official caught skimming off production and selling dope to North Koreans.
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.
* 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.
* 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.
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.