Open Sources, July 14, 2014

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NORTH KOREA FIRED A MASSIVE BARRAGE OF ROCKETS over the weekend, this time in the Sea of Japan,* near the disputed inter-Korean maritime border.

“North Korea fired off about 100 artillery shells in a northeast direction into the East Sea for about 30 minutes from 11:43 a.m. from a place hundreds of meters away from the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Goseong, Gangwon Province,” JCS spokesman Um Hyo-sik said.

“They landed in the sea, some 1 to 8 kilometers north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL),” he said, citing the de facto inter-Korean maritime border.

While it is unknown exactly which launchers the North used to fire the shells, the South Korean military said most of them were likely fired from the North’s 122-meter or 200-meter launchers.

“Some of them flew some 3 kilometers, and others at the maximum of 50 kilometers,” a JCS officer said, requesting anonymity.

“It is not unusual for Pyongyang to carry out such a shelling on its east coast, but it is rare that the North has done that near the military demarcation line,” he noted.

[Update: And also, two SCUDs into the Sea of Japan.] North Korea was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008. Discuss among yourselves.

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I GUESS I’M PLEASED AT HOW FEW media outlets fell for that rather obvious parody story that North Korea had claimed to have won the World Cup. A long-time reader (thank you) alerted me to the story over the weekend, asking me if it could be true. It took about five minutes of investigation for me to note that neither the Rodong Sinmun nor KCNA made a similar claim.

It took less time than that to spot some obvious red flags in the video itself. Anyone even vaguely familiar with North Korean dialects (or the distinctive manner of speech of its news announcers) would have seen a few things amiss with the supposed video of the broadcast, which appears to be an overdub of North Korean news clips by an unconvincing South Korean voice actress.

Also, the reference to South Korean player Jong Tae-Se (the In-min Rooney, because his past connection to North Korea) would have been a dead giveaway to any South Korean soccer fan.*

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CLAUDIA ROSETT:

[L]et’s hope U.S. authorities are keeping a close eye on a North Korean cargo ship called the Mu Du Bong, which late last month called at Cuba, then vanished from the commercial shipping grid for more than a week. This past Thursday, July 10, the Mu Du Bong reappeared at Havana, then began steaming north of Cuba, and as of this writing is cruising the Gulf of Mexico, not all that far from the Mexican port of Tampico — or for that matter, the coast of Texas.

If you were to ask me what North Korea’s most likely nuclear delivery system was, I’d say it’s commercial shipping.

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THOSE REPORTS THAT KIM JONG UN was seen walking with a limp weren’t completely persuasive to me because I couldn’t find any video, but if you’re interested in knowing as much as I know, read this and this. I suppose it’s worth keeping an eye on, but if Baron Harkonnen could rule Geides Prime from the comfort of his suspensors, I suppose the same is true of Kim Jong Un ruling North Korea.

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MAAZEL TOT: Lorin Maazel has died. Maazel, as you recall, attracted the wrath of this site for comparing North Korea’s crimes against humanity to Gitmo, which was an extraordinarily stupid thing for any person to say, regardless of your views about Gitmo. Which is still open for some reason, more than five years after Barack Obama’s inauguration.

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AUSTRALIA IS SAID TO BE CONSIDERING “a bill that may penalize North Korea for its human rights abuses,” but the Korea Herald doesn’t quote any Australian government sources for the report, and politicians are very accomplished at leading people to the conclusions they want those people to draw, without actually articulating those conclusions themselves.

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A MIG-17 CRASH TEMPORARILY GROUNDED North Korea’s entire fleet of 100 aircraft for several weeks, according to the Joongang Ilbo. The article notes the growing maintenance problems this aging fleet is creating for the NKPAF.

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Our Defense Secretary, who concedes that ISIS itself poses an imminent security threat to the United States, must deny that uranium seized by ISIS is a threat, at least for now. I don’t which of these things confounds me more — (a) that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction after all, (b) that a six-year war failed to eliminate them as a threat, or (c) that we stabilized this country only to walk away and let it collapse into anarchy.

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THE AMERICAN INTEREST LOOKS at the money laundering risks associated with the large-scale holding of “big bills” — that is, large-denomination notes for Swiss francs, Canadian dollars, and other secondary “reserve” currencies.

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EUROPE SEEMS TO HAVE FALLEN OUT OF LOVE with President Obama, but in the New York Times, Clemens Wergin, foreign editor of Die Welt, argues that Obama’s foreign policy is too European.

While Mr. Obama’s new style of diplomacy — soft power and nonintervention — was at first seen as a welcome break with the Bush years, five years later a dismal realization has set in. It turns out that soft power cannot replace hard power. On the contrary, soft power is merely a complementary foreign policy tool that can yield results only when it is backed up by real might and the political will to employ it if necessary. [....]

Barack Obama wanted America to learn from Europe’s soft-power approach. But while Europeans are loath to admit it, they know that European soft power often doesn’t work either — and that it is a luxury that they could afford only because America’s hard power always loomed in the background. And when they dropped the ball, America would pick it up.

And therein lies the lesson to our American friends who seemingly want to become less involved and more European: There is no second America to back you up when you drop the ball.

Read the whole thing. I also thought this piece in MacLean’s was well-written and well-reasoned.

* Earlier versions of this post misspelled Jong’s name, and incorrectly stated that North Korea’s shells fell into the Yellow Sea. They actually fell in the Sea of Japan. Thanks to Yang for the correction. 

13 comments

  1. oldnuke says:

    I think that you mean 122-millimeter, not 122-meter. Not even Herr Krupp attempted to build a 122-meter bore artillery piece! (Although Kim Junior probably dreams of such things…)

  2. gwern says:

    > I don’t which of these things confounds me more — (a) that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction after all, (b) that a six-year war failed to eliminate them as a threat, or (c) that we stabilized this country only to walk away and let it collapse into anarchy.

    Some ‘uranium compounds’ is not ‘weapons of mass destruction’, unless a fair number of universities the world around with research reactors & the like joined the nuclear club while no one was looking.

  3. Joshua says:

    Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s what Yonhap meant. It’s a direct quote from their report.

  4. Glans says:

    Chemical weapons in Iraq? Tiny Revolution discusses that question. Bunkers 13 and 41 of Al Muthanna had traces of chemicals because the UN Chemical Destruction Group destroyed Iraq’s weapons there. The bunkers were then sealed. That was before Bush’s 2003 invasion.

    President Obama has not closed the Guantanamo Bay detention camp because Congress won’t let him, as you know very well, Joshua.

  5. kcr says:

    as an aside, cracked has a refreshingly not-flippant NK article up today:

    http://www.cracked.com/article_21373_5-things-you-learn-growing-up-in-and-escaping-north-korea.html

  6. Joshua says:

    Funny, Glans, but I recall that the President’s party once had a supermajority in the Senate (hence Obamacare and the Stimulus) and a majority in the House. Might the President’s failure to close Gitmo also have something to do with many congressional Democrats also recognizing the lack of better alternatives for the prisoners there — both the extremely dangerous ones and the ones who, though not dangerous, no one else will accept?

  7. Glans says:

    Joshua, look closely. I didn’t say Republicans, I said Congress. IMHO the prisoners should be transferred to the US and not only the detention facility but the whole Guantanamo Bay naval station should be closed.

    Moving right along, here’s something you’re sure to like. Ibrahim Khreisheh, Palestinian representative at the UN Human Rights Council, admits that the missiles being launched into civilian areas of Israel without warning constitute crimes against humanity. Hear him on Youtube.

  8. GI Korea says:

    I liked the NY Times editorial about US foreign policy becoming too European. However, I think something missed was how specific foreign policy goals are being set that require hard power, but only soft power is being used. For example in Syria by setting the goal of replacing Assad with a more inclusive government this was sure to take hard power considering Assad’s military resources and the backing of his Russian, Iranian, and North Korean allies. It took outside intervention to topple Gaddifi and he had no where near the resources that Assad does.

    If the foreign policy goal had been set to end the violence and get Assad to stop being brutal to his political opposition than soft power would have worked. Now the conflict has gone on for so long and the hate grown so much that there is no way soft power can end the violence there that is spilling into other countries.

  9. Yang says:

    The shells fell on the eastern part of NLL, which is on the Sea of Japan; they did not fire at the direction of the Yellow Sea.

  10. Joshua says:

    Thank you for catching that, Yang. I must be too accustomed to thinking “West” when I read “NLL.”

  11. […] But then, at the height of the Syria conflict and just after yet another of Barack Obama’s speeches, I suddenly understood the problem with this American president and his foreign policy. He sounded just like a German politician: all moral outrage, but little else to help end one of the most devastating civil wars of our age. President Obama, I thought with a sigh, has become European.  [New York Times via One Free Korea] […]

  12. Glans says:

    This is odd. Bolivia, which has a generally leftist foreign policy, but which is about to legalize child labor, has diplomatic relations with South Korea but not North Korea.

  13. Glans says:

    Sorry, I meant to link to the entire list of Bolivia’s bilateral relations. South Korea is there, but North Korea isn’t.

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