Archive for Terrorism (NK)

POE Part 2: Terrorist rockets that landed in Israel may have had N. Korean fuses

When the Syria collapsed into civil war in 2011, Hamas and other Sunni Palestinians broke with their sponsors in Damascus for sectarian reasons, while Hezbollah sent troops to defend the Assad regime. But in 2009, before the civil war, Assad and his own backers in Iran armed both Hamas and Hezbollah.

The year 2009 was a big one for interceptions of North Korean weapons bound for Iran and its terrorist clients. The UAE found rocket propelled grenades and explosives inside a container aboard the ANL Australia, and authorities in Bangkok seized a massive shipment of arms, including man-portable surface-to-air missiles, from the hold of a chartered Il-76 cargo plane in Bangkok.

Now, we learn from last week’s POE report that the Israelis also intercepted a third shipment on its way to Syria that year:

108. The Panel recently obtained information indicating that some items found in a large arms consignment (500 tons) shipped by the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Syrian Arab Republic in November 2009 may have originated from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. This consignment was found by the Israeli Navy inside containers onboard the vessel Francop when en route from Damietta, Egypt, to Lattakia, Syrian Arab Republic.62 It was considered to be a violation by the Islamic Republic of Iran of resolution 1747 (2007) prohibiting it from exporting any arms or related materiel.

The rockets and their markings bore strong similarities to the weapons seized at Bangkok and Abu Dhabi, leading the POE to conclude that it was “highly likely” that the weapons found aboard the Francop were produced in North Korea, too.

Israel’s Foreign Minister had previously said that the arms in the Bangkok and Abu Dhabi shipments were bound for Hamas or Hezbollah. The Francop shipment fits the same M.O. and looks like a glimpse of the same pipeline, further down the line. It’s curious that the Israelis didn’t report their interception at the time, given that both Thailand and the UAE were transparent about the shipments they seized. That’s particularly true in light of this newly revealed evidence that some North Korean weapons made it into the hands of Hamas, and were actually fired into Israel.

111. The Panel recently also obtained a photograph of remnants of a 333 mm FAJAR rocket launched at Israel in November 2012. It notes that the remnants of the rocket’s fuse present some similarities with fuses produced in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea previously seized.65 Here again, because the date of its transfer and the chain of custody are unknown, the Panel cannot determine whether there could be a violation of the arms embargo.

President Bush removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008. Discuss among yourselves.

You can find a photo of a Fajar (a/k/a Fajr) at this Flickr page, and as you’ll see, it’s a big rocket. Among the many things I’ve never understood about the pro-Israel groups that exercise substantial political influence on the Hill is why they’ve never backed North Korea sanctions as a core security interest of Israel. There’s little question that North Korea tried to give Syria a nuclear bomb, or that it has contributed to Syria’s development and use of chemical weapons. It gave both Iran and Syria the capability to hit Israel with ballistic missiles. There are growing suspicions that it has given assistance to Iran’s nuclear program.

In a way, the revelation that North Korea has assisted terrorists with the relatively primitive Fajr-5 is less shocking than what we already know. But the fact that this technology has been used to strike Israeli territory certainly highlights both the threat to Israel and North Korea’s recklessness about the end uses of the weapons it proliferates.

N. Korea threatens S. Korean media over Ri Sol Ju sex tape report

As Kim Jong Un’s reign approaches its second anniversary, it’s becoming more difficult to draw the line between truth and parody. Radio Australia offers some tantalizing details about that dubious-sounding, thinly sourced report that a North Korea executed a group of entertainers for making sex tapes:

Asahi said the rare execution of state performers, including a singer rumoured to be Kim’s ex-girlfriend, had been ordered to squash rumours of Ri’s decadent lifestyle while she was an entertainer.

It said police had secretly recorded conversations between the entertainers, who said “Ri Sol-Ju used to play around in the same manner as we did”. The source for the Asahi report was a “high-ranking North Korean government official who recently defected”.

[....]

The North’s state news agency KCNA said the reports were the work of “psychopaths” and “confrontation maniacs” in the South Korean government and media.

“This is an unpardonable, hideous provocation hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership,” KCNA said in a commentary. “Those who commit such a hideous crime…will have to pay a very high price,” it warned.

North Korea was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008. Discuss among yourselves.

But the good news is that South Korea is politely telling the North to shut it:

“Recent attacks by the North on South Korean news reports, though not new, is not a desirable development and must be stopped if inter-Korean relations are to move forward,” said South Korea’s unification ministry spokesman, Kim Eyi-do. [Yonhap]

The only way Kim Jong Un’s reign could become even more of a tragic self-parody would be if a Ri Sol Ju sex tape found its way to the internet. (Just imagine the North’s reaction to that!) Highly respected scholars and intelligence analysts from Farragut West to Chong-ro would lock themselves in their offices and emerge 30 minutes later, after clearing their browser histories.

Someone needs to track down that tape to prove or disprove this story once and for all. You know, for peace or something.

A hero, buried in the State Department’s memory hole

In case you were wondering, no, I’m still not over that whole North Korea / state-sponsor-of-terrorism thing.  The Weekly Standard has helped me nurse this old grudge by printing my fisking of the State Department’s latest annual country reports on terrorism.  I’ll give you the first paragraph and let you read the rest on your own:

Even after a year of North Korean nuclear and missile tests, this year’s State Department “Country Reports on Terrorism” makes the risible claim that North Korea is “not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since the bombing of a Korean Airlines flight in 1987.” It would appear that State’s definition of “acts of terrorism” no longer includes international assassinations, threats against foreign media, or arms sales to terrorists—all of which North Korea has done during Barack Obama’s presidency.  Indeed, no one has refuted State’s assertion more convincingly than Obama himself.

Kim Dong Shik 2Regular OFK readers will remember that President Obama preemptively refuted State’s obtuse assertion–one so ignorant of the facts that it must be willfully so–when he signed this letter in 2005 protesting North Korea’s disappearance of the Rev. Kim Dong Shik.  The shelf life of Senator Obama’s promise was just three years, but let’s be fair about this–Obama’s predecessor didn’t perform any better at keeping his promise to another abductee’s family; he was just more careful to make his promise less explicit.

Sadly, the Kim family’s pursuit of justice suffered another setback recently.  A District Court judge has dismissed a suit by his family against the government of North Korea for his abduction and disappearance (hat tip).

The result is disappointing but understandable.  Courts must impose rigorous standards of evidence to render judgments, particularly when other nations will be expected to honor those judgments.  Ordinarily, the courts lack jurisdiction to hear tort claims against foreign countries, but after 9/11, Congress created an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act for acts of terrorism and torture.  In Rev. Kim’s case, there would have been sufficient evidence of North Korea’s responsibility for the abduction; after all, two North Korean agents were convicted for it in South Korean courts (opens in pdf).  After that, however, the evidence that Rev. Kim was actually tortured fades behind North Korea’s walls of night, fog, and fear, and we must rely on hearsay accounts from defectors.  I can understand why a court might demand more. One hopes that if more reliable evidence ever arises, the action can be revived.

Of course, none of this gets State off the hook, because the evidence of North Korea’s involvement in Rev. Kim’s kidnapping is more than sufficient for State’s purposes, and transnational kidnapping of a political opponent is about as clear an example of terrorism as you could think of for purposes of this definition.  Yet the finest minds in your State Department would have you believe that North Korea hasn’t sponsored any acts of terrorism since 1987.

Rev. Kim, Hwang Jang YopPark Sang-Hak, and Patrick Kim were not available for comment.

Recent history has made me deeply uncomfortable with the very idea of martyrdom–and particularly religious martyrdom–but Rev. Kim’s quiet, selfless, peaceful, and principled self-sacrifice was heroic.  It deserves to be remembered by Koreans and Americans alike.  It deserves better than the burial in a shallow, unmarked memory hole it got from our State Department and our last two presidents.

You’re gonna need a bigger boat.

So the news today is that North Korea–which President Bush removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008 for agreeing to give up its nuclear weapons programs–has warned the civilian populations of Baengnyeong-do, Yeonpyeong-do, and other islands in the Yellow Sea to evacuate now. The instrument this time is the quasi-official Uriminzokkiri, which is hosted in China, a nation that embraces the sacred principle that all speech, no matter how threatening or objectionable, has a protected place in the marketplace of ideas.

Yes, children, there is a word for this sort of thing.

Some sources are also alleging that during a visit to some of the artillery units with their guns trained on the islands, Kim Jong Un threatened to “wipe out” Baengnyeong-do, population 5,000, although the curious thing about that is I can’t find a KCNA report quoting His Porcine Majesty as saying quite what Sky News and Al Jazeera say he said.

kim_jong_un_boat_west_sea_yellow_sea

(KNS/AFP/Getty Images)

You can see more pictures of the budding Western-oriented reformer here, posing with one of North Korea’s 170 millimeter koksan guns, which, from forward placements, can range parts of Seoul.  I can hardly wait to hear how he reacts to this statement, by Rep. Mike Rogers:

“You have a 28-year-old leader who is trying to prove himself to the military, and the military is eager to have a saber-rattling for their own self-interest,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “And the combination of that is proving to be very, very deadly.”  [....] “This is very, very concerning, as we just don’t know the stability of their leader — again, 28 years old,” Rogers said. “We’re just not confident that we know he wouldn’t take those steps.” [CNN]

Keep the good people of the Yellow Sea islands in your thoughts.  These must be pretty scary times for them.

North Korea’s cash-for-summit demands put 2010 attacks in a new light

WERE THE 2010 ATTACKS North Korea’s way of making good on extortion?  Stephan Haggard, not widely know for his hard-line views, cites an article in the Chosun Ilbo revealing that Kim Jong Il wanted a summit with Lee Myung Bak, but at a price.

The sticking point was money. How much? According to the Chosun Ilbo, $500-600 million in rice and fertilizer aid, which had effectively been cut from the first of the year, and perhaps some cash too; that was about the price that Kim Dae Jung paid for the first summit. Negotiations continued through November at Kaesong, when the North Korean delegation even presented a draft summit declaration including a resumption of aid.  [Stephan Haggard, Witness to Transformation]

The Chosun Ilbo story adds this important piece of evidence:

In January 2010, after the secret contacts ended and North Korea realized that it was impossible to extract any aid from Seoul, it vowed to launch a “holy retaliatory war” against the South and fired multiple artillery rounds at the Northern Limit Line, a de facto maritime border on the West Sea.  [Chosun Ilbo]

Haggard makes a compelling (if circumstantial) argument that the attacks were meant to demonstrate that North Korea’s extortion should be taken seriously. We now know that two months after Lee refused to pay up, North Korea sank the Cheonan.

Wondering if I could make this case a bit less circumstantial, I decided to consult my archives and see what else North Korea said and did in the months between Lee’s refusal to pay and the Cheonan attack. I didn’t find what I expected.  Although there were certainly some menacing acts and words by North Korea, the threats were nowhere near as extravagant or as frequent as those issued in early 2009, after President Lee cut off aid, and as President Obama warmed up his chair.  What’s interesting, however, is that in early 2010, North Korea was facing a severe popular backlash against The Great Confiscation.

In November, of course, North Korea followed up with the Yeonpyeong attack.

Let me take Haggard’s point a step further:  if he’s correct in his inference, this course of conduct would be a good fit for the legal definition of “international terrorism.”  Some commenters have suggested that the 2010 attacks — particularly the Cheonan attack — are not a basis (not that another is needed) to re-list North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, but fresh evidence of a motive to extort merits reconsideration. The key element is that the violent act must have been intended to influence South Korean government policy, and some of North Korea’s statements from 2009 provide additional evidence of North Korea’s intent.  The evidence is circumstantial, but somewhere in North Korea are people with direct evidence, and one of them is probably thinking about defecting.

Done Your Christmas Shopping Yet?

Here’s the perfect gift for that hard-to-please someone who needs to assassinate a few meddlesome dissidents, defectors, and human rights activists. Made in North Korea, and probably not available on Amazon:

Background on North Korea’s poison needle attacks here and here. (But really, they just want to be loved.)

North Korea was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008. Discuss among yourselves.

Journo-Terrorism Gives Us a Reason to Take KCNA Seriously

On October 11, 2008, President Bush removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism as a preemptive reward for North Korea’s agreement to give up its nuclear weapons programs. Since that date, North Korea has steadily escalated its use of words and actions that are — to quote the statutory definition of “international terrorism” — “intended … to intimidate or coerce a civilian population [or] to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.” A few months after North Korea’s removal from that list, it embarked on a long series of threats, acts of terrorism, and acts of sponsorship of other terrorists.  The list that follows is just a selection of North Korea’s recent actions:

* Mar. 2009: North Korea threatens civilian air traffic to and from South Korea.
* June 2009: KCNA issues threat to “wipe [U.S.] aggressors off the globe.”
* Aug. 2009: A cargo container is intercepted in Dubai, loaded with rocket-propelled grenades in transit from North Korea to Iran.
* Dec. 2009: An Il-76 cargo plane loaded with weapons — reportedly including man-portable surface-to-air missiles — is intercepted on the way to Iran, apparently for the use of its terrorist clients.
* Mar. 2010: North Korea sinks the South Korean warship Cheonan, killing 46 South Koreans. The State Department later claims that the action is against a military target, and thus does not qualify as an act of terrorism.
* Mar. 2010: North Korea threatens U.S. and South Korea with “unprecedented nuclear strikes.”
* Nov. 2010: North Korea shells a village on Yeongpyeong Island, South Korea, killing four civilians.
* Nov. 2011: North Korea threatens to turn the South Korean presidential palace (The “Blue House”) into a “Sea of Fire.”
* Feb. 2012: North Korea threatens the Daily NK, a South Korean newspaper.
* April 2012: A North Korean agent is sentenced to prison for attempting to assassinate defector-activist Park Sang-Hak in South Korea. It is the latest in a series of attempted and executed poisoned-needle assassination plots against defectors and activists in South Korea or China, leading to multiple arrests and convictions of North Korean government agents.
* April 2012: North Korea reacts to a perceived slight by South Korea by threatening to destroy Seoul and reduce its elected government “‘to ashes’ in three or four minutes.”

Yesterday, North Korea added to that list with a chillingly specific threat against South Korean newspapers that have published criticism of the North Korean regime. I don’t usually print quotations this long, but I this time, an exception is appropriate (See “General Staff of KPA Sends Open Ultimatum to S. Korean Group of Traitors,” June 4, 2012):

Officers and men of the army corps, divisions and regiments on the front and strategic rocket forces in the depth of the country are loudly calling for the issue of order to mete out punishment, declaring that they have already targeted Chosun Ilbo at coordinates of 37 degrees 56 minutes 83 seconds North Latitude and 126 degrees 97 minutes 65 seconds East Longitude in the Central District, Seoul, Choongang Ilbo at coordinates of 37 degrees 33 minutes 45 seconds North Latitude and 126 degrees 58 minutes 14 seconds East Longitude in the Central District, Seoul, the Dong-A Ilbo at coordinates of 37 degrees 57 minutes 10 seconds North Latitude and 126 degrees 97 minutes 81 seconds East Longitude in Jongro District, Seoul, KBS, CBS, MBC and SBS, the strongholds of the Lee group orchestrating the new vicious smear campaign.

In view of this grave situation the KPA General Staff sends the following ultimatum to the Lee group of traitors:

The revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK are the army of the supreme commander and the people’s army which is devotedly defending the supreme commander and protecting his idea and the people and children whom he values and loves so much.

It is the iron will of the army of the DPRK that the dens of heinous provocateurs hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK and desecrating its idea, system and people should not be allowed to exist as they are.

We would like ask the Lee group if it wants leave all this to be struck by the DPRK or opt for apologizing and putting the situation under control, though belatedly.

It should take a final choice by itself.

Now it is impossible for the officers and men of the KPA three services to keep back their towering resentment any longer. In case dens of monstrous crimes are blown up one after another, the Lee group will be entirely held responsible for this.

If the Lee group recklessly challenges our army’s eruption of resentment, it will retaliate against it with a merciless sacred war of its own style as it has already declared.

We are fully ready for everything.

Time is running out. -0-

Since KCNA’s publication of this latest threat, Evan Ramstad has picked up on this post by Martyn Williams, noting something odd about the targeted coordinates — in some cases, they list a number of minutes or seconds exceeding 60. It was immediately obvious to me where the error was — the North Koreans had taken a set of decimal degree coordinates and written them down in degree-minute-second format. It’s an easy mistake to make in Google Earth. Take the same digits and plug them in as decimal degrees, and you get a direct hit on the Chosun Ilbo:

The North Koreans’ coordinates — again, using decimal degrees — would have missed the Joongang Ilbo, barely, but would have shelled the Australian Embassy across the street. In the case of the “Choongang Ilbo,” their impact zone would be a big splash off the coast of Incheon. I’m not sure where they went wrong there — decimal minutes, maybe? Either way, two out of three targets are in downtown Seoul, and in either case, the North Korean gunners would have to chew their way through a lot of office workers to get to their actual targets. In other words, it’s about as indiscriminate as you’d expect North Korea to be. Since at least 2010, this kind of thing hasn’t been unthinkable.

As with most of North Korea’s threats that meet the legal definition of “international terrorism,” today’s threat is communicated by the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s official “news” agency and the business partner of the Associated Press. KCNA is better known for its fake photographs and its reliance on a 19th Century Korean-English dictionary, but let’s not overlook this side of KCNA’s function, either:

I have to suspect, based on the reduced volume of the AP’s reporting from North Korea lately, that it was already feeling embarrassed by its association, and I have to think they’re more embarrassed than ever today. The AP had to report this threat, of course, although the tone of its article makes for an interesting contrast to that of the AFP’s report on the same incident.  While the AFP’s report focuses on the North Korean threat and quotes extensively from the statement KCNA printed; the AP’s devotes several paragraphs to the criticism that set the North Koreans off — a comparison between its children’s festival and a Hitler Youth rally. The AP’s corporate leadership may be unprincipled, but they aren’t oblivious or stupid. Having tried without much success to sell KCNA as a legitimate news agency, they must now answer the charge that they’ve partnered with an organization that issues terrorist threats against fellow journalists in Seoul. If the AP was looking for an excuse to walk away from its collaboration with KCNA — and even if it wasn’t — KCNA’s latest action makes that collaboration more difficult than ever to justify.

Who else have the North Koreans embarrassed today?  Everyone in the State Department who continues to oppose restoring North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism.  That decision never rested on solid ground legally, and the list of examples of North Korea’s sponsorship of terrorism continues to grow longer and more flagrant with the passage of time. This incident calls for reconsideration of that decision.

Understandably enough, the South Korean government is upset about this.

Seoul’s unification ministry, which handles cross-border affairs, said Pyongyang’s latest threat was “completely out of line”. This…is a significant challenge and provocation to free democracy,” said a ministry spokesman. “We are taking this very seriously and urging the North to stop such threats to our media immediately.” [AFP]

But what are they prepared to do about it? The usual nothing? The government of South Korea sees this threat for what it is — an attempt to intimidate its free press and civil democratic form of government. If they’re still not prepared to wind down their financial subsidy to North Korea via the Kaesong Industrial Park, then maybe they should ask the U.S. government to return North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism now.

Sticks and Stones

Sure, it’s creepy when North Korea teaches children to torment effigies of your president, but that’s the kind of insult a mature society learns to ignore.  The next time the North erupts in contrived outrage about some perceived slight to its leaders, just put that into perspective.  Words are just words, unless they’re threats. When North Korea communicates threats, we need to treat those like acts of terrorism and sanction them accordingly.

North Korea’s jamming of GPS used by airliners, of course, is more than just words — it has caused “four close calls where passenger jets approaching Incheon and Gimpo airports abruptly shifted course when their GPS malfunctioned and landed only after circling the airports.” I can see why South Koreans would call that terrorism, too.

North Korea was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008.

So is it terrorism this time?

North Korea threatens to destroy Seoul and reduce its elected government “‘to ashes’ in three or four minutes,” apparently for “defaming” its menacing Kim Il Sung birthday parade:

North Korea’s military Monday threatened “special actions” soon to turn parts of the South Korean capital to ashes, accusing Seoul’s conservative government of defaming its leadership.

The North has for months been criticising the South’s President Lee Myung-Bak in extreme terms and threatening “sacred war” over perceived insults. There have been no incidents but the language has become increasingly vitriolic. Some analysts said they believe a military provocation is likely.

“The special actions of our revolutionary armed forces will start soon to meet the reckless challenge of the group of traitors,” said a statement on the official news agency. The North said its targets are “the Lee Myung-Bak group of traitors, the arch criminals, and the group of rat-like elements including conservative media destroying the mainstay of the fair public opinion”. [AFP]

Note well that none of the AP’s Pyongyang-based staff are listed on the byline for this story, about a threat that originates from Pyongyang. Is there really nothing newsworthy going on there?

President Bush removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008. Discuss among yourselves.

Bad assassin! Bad, bad, bad!

The man at the center of a Cold War-style plot to kill a prominent defector with a poisoned needle was jailed for four years by a South Korean court today.

The man, a defector named Ahn, was found guilty of plotting to murder a second defector, Park Sang Hak, in September last year. Park, who heads Fighters for Free North Korea, is one of the leading lights in the floating of anti-Kim regime leaflets across the DMZ by balloon.

“Severe punishment is needed for crimes that can threaten the safety and very existence of the Republic of Korea,” the judge from Seoul Central District Court commented in the ruling.

Does anyone know what the maximum punishment is for breaking out in uncontrollable laughter in a South Korean courtroom? Because if I ever do that for any reason, I want to be sentenced by this guy.

Ahn was also ordered to pay in fines approximately the amount he received from North Korea, $10,400.

Ahn, who originally defected to South Korea in 1995, allegedly came into contact with a North Korean agent in 2010 while working on inter-Korean economic projects in Mongolia, and it was then that he was ordered to carry out the killing of Park. [Daily NK]

North Korea was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008. Discuss among yourselves.