Congressional Research Service issues report on the implications of removing North Korea from the terror sponsor list

Yesterday, a reader and friend was kind enough to forward the entire report to me (thanks!), which I’ve uploaded onto this blog, and which you can access here:

crs-north-korea-terrorism-list-removal.pdf  

Since then,  this has  generated some press attention in South Korea.  The report’s authors are the highly regarded Larry  Niksch and Raphael Perl.  There’s too much valuable information in there for me to graf and do it justice; this one is a must-read.  I’ll limit my comments to a few general bullet points.

  • I thought the background information on the de-listing process and the effects of listing a country were interesting, but  the implications of listing a nation are broader than the report states.  For example, a terror listing strips a nation of the protections of the  Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which theoretically allows lawsuits against North Korean state entities that injure plaintiffs who can establish jurisdiction in U.S. courts.  Mrs. Kim Dong Shik, call your lawyer.
  • The report describes the history of U.S. policy toward removing North Korea from the terror sponsor list in great detail, and it shows just how gobsmackingly inconsistent the Bush  Administration’s approach to the terror list has been.  When you contrast some of the stalwart statements of Bush and his cabinet — and the assurances they gave to Japan in particular — you can certainly see why the Japanese feel so betrayed by us.  State seems to think Japan can’t really do much about it  anyway, because it needs us to help fend off China.  If I were the leader of the world’s most technologically advanced nation, I might be thinking that this is a good time to reduce Japan’s dependency on the United States and rearm.  Indeed, the report concludes that removing North Korea from the list without resolving the Japanese abduction issue will do significant harm to U.S.-Japanese relations.
  • Bush’s policy is in fact much less demanding of the North Koreans to renounce their sponsorship of  terror than Clinton’s policy was.  Say what you will about the diplomacy of the Clinton Administration (I have);  at least their conditions for removing North Korea from the terror sponsor list actually set specific conditions that  had something to do with terror sponsorship.  This is an important point, as the report notes.  If the terror list is simply a diplomatic bargaining chip without any objective meaning, then it loses its  power to actually deter the sponsorship of terrorism.  So why  not remove Cuba, whose terror sponsorship today mainly consists of serving as a tropical retirement home for geriatric terrorists?   De-listing without a convincing North Korean  renunciation of terror would open the entire list up to the criticism that it’s a mere function of politics rather than a deterrent to terrorism. 
  • State likes to claim that North Korea hasn’t carried out a terrorist attack since the 1987 KAL bombing, which is both dishonest and misleading.   It’s dishonest because it’s flatly false, and it’s  misleading because it  intentionally confuses direct, retail terrorism with indirect sponsorship of terrorism — and after all, this is a list of terror sponsors, not designated terrorist entities (which should be listed and sanctioned under Executive Order 13,224).  This ignores the fact that sheltering terrorists and holding abductees are both continuing offenses as long as they are ongoing, and it’s not in serious dispute that North Korea is doing both of those things to this very day.  North Korea hasn’t even engaged in good-faith discussions with Japan about the return of its hostages, and I choose the word “hostages” because North Korea links their release to the payment of reparations.  That is terrorism.
  • Reports that North Korea recently  trained Hezbollah terrorists are interesting and merit further investigation, but I can’t say much about the reputation of the source for that report.  Another recent report that North Korea was caught red-handed arming the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ought to be pretty easy for our intelligence agencies to verify.  The CRS report might have followed State down the path of mixing retail and wholesale terrorism by citing North Korea’s recent use of semi-submersibles and submarines to penetrate South Korean waters and land (or try to land)  commandoes there, presumably for missions that could be defined as terrorism.  And of course, North Korea encourages, sponsors, and controls  groups in South Korea that violently attack American installations — probably personnel, too — but then again, so do our South Korean  “allies.
  • I wish the report had also cited the regular terrorist threats that come directly from North Korea’s state radio.
  • The report’s greatest weakness?  Its citation of Moon Chung-In (see CRS-18), a whooping wackadoodle, some-time Roh Moo Hyun advisor, and generally sloppy thinker  whose hobby is wetting  his bed every time he senses the presence of a Jew under it.   The report cites Moon as evidence for a North Korean-Hezbollah connection; in fact, Moon is really accusing the Mossad of accusing the North Koreans.  If the men in white coats ever receive Moon into their care, they should  jot the word “projection” on his bed chart.   Moon likes to manifest this by  challenging the temerity of Israel for influencing U.S. foreign policy in ways contrary to North Korean interests more effectively than South Korea influences U.S. policy in ways contrary to U.S. interests.  Say what you will about Israel; they get plenty of U.S. aid, but at least  they manage without the presence of tens of thousands of American troops.   Can anyone  really say that  South Korea’s own formidable coterie of lobbyists  has been  any less effective than Israel in persuading Americans to fork over billions in taxpayer dollars for a dubious return on their investment?  Moon may be a fool, but that’s no cause to mischaracterize one of his screeds,  much less rest an issue this weighty on such a slender reed.

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Terrorism, Plain and Simple

If you stick with me for a modest amount of law, I promise you that this post will end with a nice little adventure in participatory democracy.  But to get there, we must begin with how the United States Code defines “international terrorism,” at section 2331 of Title 18:

As used in this chapter –  

    (1) the term “international terrorism” means activities that –  

              (A) involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State;

              (B) appear to be intended –  

                        (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

                        (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

                        (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass  destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

              (C) occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum;

I placed that quotation at the top of this post to give you some context for a new report, via South Korea’s Joongang Ilbo, that our State Department will formally  propose removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism in early December, perhaps two weeks from now.  President Bush’s appeasement-minded North Korea negotiator, Christopher “Kim Jong” Hill, has already gone to Tom Lantos, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to lobby for the deal. 

Lantos’s Republican counterpart, Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, is likely to oppose the move, particularly if there’s a strong public reaction — more on that later —  thus setting the stage for a bizarre partisan role-reversal (wake me up when Clinton isn’t still president). 

Why North Korea Deserves to Stay on the List

North Korea was originally listed  after Kim Jong Il ordered North Korean agents to plant a bomb on a South Korean airliner, killing all 115 on board.  Other suspected terrorist incidents are listed in this GAO report.  These do not include North  Korea’s frequent threats to transform either  South Korea or Japan into a “sea of fire,” or its missile or nuclear tests which are  patently designed  to reinforce extortionate  demands for political, diplomatic, or financial  concessions. 

You’d think that any nation campaigning to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism would be on its best behavior, but North Korea knows that its friends in the State Department want it off the list no matter how closely its behavior matches the definition of international terrorism.   South Korea will hold a presidential election next month.  Conservative opposition candidate Lee Hoi-Chang, who supports putting conditions on South Korean aid to North Korea, recently entered the race.  North Korea desperately fears Lee Hoi Chang’s policies, so  North Korea’s Korea Central News Agency is publishing a series of statements like these, issued via various pro-Pyongyang front groups abroad:

The General Association of Koreans in China Wednesday issued a statement titled “Let’s decisively eliminate Ri Hoe Chang, a heinous sycophantic traitor and anti-reunification element, in the name of nation.   [KCNA, via The Marmot’s Hole, Andy Jackson]

The Solidarity for Implementing the South-North Joint Declaration reportedly issued a statement on November 20 calling for an all-out struggle against Ri Hoe Chang. . . .  The key to frustrating Ri Hoe Chang’s attempt to seize power is to form the all-people front of the struggle. . . .  [KCNA, via TMH]

The headline of this editorial simply calls on South Koreans to “eliminate” Lee.  You can read  Andy’s full post here

It isn’t possible to  honestly interpret those remarks as anything other than — at best — a threat to Lee, or — at worst — a call for his assassination.  North Korea nearly killed one South Korea head of state, and recently, North Korean-directed thugs may have taken part in the attack on  the  semi-retired “honorary chairman” of a conservative South Korean newspaper, and planned other attacks against conservative politicians and  opinion leaders.  Indeed, a recently exposed North Korean cell operating in the South apparently had a hand in organizing multiple violent protests, including some that were directed against U.S. military installations.  Has North Korea renounced any of that behavior, given its recency?

Another  issue that North Korea will apparently not have to resolve before being de-listed is its kidnapping of dozens of foreign nationals from numerous foreign countries to train its spies (if you count South Koreans, the figures run into the thousands).   The failure to resolve that issue before de-listing North Korea could severely damage our relationship with Japan.  Instead, removal of North Korea from the list appears to have much less to do with terrorism than with nuclear diplomacy, or more specifically, headines creating the illusion of progress on that issue.

At a meeting in Beijing between the chief US and North Korean nuclear negotiators on October 31, Washington gave Pyongyang “concrete terms” for its removal, Yonhap news agency said. 

“The measures for North Korea to take include not only implementing 11 concrete measures aimed at disabling the nuclear facilities by year-end but also clarifying the UEP (uranium enrichment programme) based on more convincing evidence,” a government official told the agency in Boston.  [AFP]

What’s missing from these conditions?   If you guessed, “anything  having to do with terrorism,” you’re absolutely right.   Granted, State will probably  murmur a few  other conditions  that do relate to terrorism, but the fact that this question is under serious consideration already suggests that State is prepared to  pitch them as softballs.

How You Can Help Keep North Korea on the List

The  Federation of American Scientists  provides some useful explanation about the process of being listed, or de-listed, as a state sponsor of terrorism in this paper.  Here’s a money quote:

Paragraph 6(j)(4) of the Export Administration Act prohibits removing a countryfrom the list unless the President first submits a report to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Senate Committees on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and Foreign Relations. When a government changes (i.e., a government is significantly different from that in power at the time of the last determination), the President’s report, submitted before the proposed rescission would take effect, must certify that (1) there has been a fundamental change in the leadership and policies of the government of the country concerned (an actual change of government as a result of an election, coup, or some other means); (2) the new government is not supporting acts of international terrorism; and (3) the new government has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.  [FAS]

Here, I will posit that any abduction not fully resolved is a continuing offense as it affects the victim, and his or her family.

Now for the really  interesting part.  The de-listing process requires  publication in the Federal Register, followed by a 45-day public comment period.  That means you, I, or anyone else could file a petition to request that North Korea remain on the list, documenting specific examples of North Korea’s terrorist behavior.  Several examples come to mind, such as the kidnapping and reported death during interrogation of Rev. Kim Dong Shik, a U.S. lawful permanent resident.  Although the South Koreans caught one of the North Korean kidnappers, North Korea has never accounted for him.

Not only am I tempted to write a petition, I’m inviting you to help me write it.  I know  plenty of smart people, including a number of  congressional staffers,  read this site regularly.  So how can you help?  By (1) reading the definition of “international terrorism” I’ve published above, (2) suggesting specific North Korean activities that meet this definition, and (3) — this part is very important — inserting hyperlinks to reliable sources to back up your assertions.  You may remain anonymous if you choose to do so, but I need to cite published sources, because this petition will need footnotes and a bibliography.

Now, I said yesterday that the State Department is absolutely determined to take North Korea off the list, no matter how many atrocities North Korea commits.  Do I think President Bush has made up his mind to do this?  If Condi Rice says so, yes — and she will say so.  But Congress has a say, too, and  this may be a way to give Congress and opinion leaders some pause and some backbone  to start asking some important and still-unanswered  questions about, say, just what the hell the Israelis bombed in Syria last September, North Korea’s role in inspiring violent attacks against U.S. soldiers in South Korea, or whether  it’s sheer coincidence that when Japan asks for its kidnapped citizens back, North Korea immediately demands “reparations” to resolve the issue.   

Does this behavior sound  like that of a nation that has decided to change its ways?  At worst,  we’ll have helped record the stupidity of this decision for history, thus making the decision easier to reverse the next time North Korea gets caught proliferating, infiltrating, or intimidating.

Or, you can write your own petition.  The more, the better. 

Update:   Related thoughts on how  North Korea’s  bellicose threats of war  are used to intimidate  South Korean voters, here.  It’s characteristic of the North Koreans to pull crap like this, but what’s more regrettable is  that one of those echoing the North Korean threats is South Korean ex-president and Nobel laureate Kim Dae Jung.

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Anju Links for 26 April: Who’s Afraid of Victor Cha, and the Sexual Psychology of Military Parades

*   It has now been 13 days since April 13th, the day North Korea was supposed to have shut down the Yongbyon reactor, begun discussions on the full extent of its nuclear weapons and programs, invited in U.N. inspectors, and rejoined six-party talks (to include actually talking).  North Korea has (surprise!) broken every one of those agreements.  Victor Cha has since reportedly warned them that our patience is limited.  So in Pyongyang they ask ….

*   Or Else, What?   There are no consequences attached to North Korea’s noncompliance except  slight delays in the payoff schedule.  Mr. Axis of Evil himself says there’s little we can do to pressure North Korea, since we don’t give them aid.  Tell that to Stuart Levy; indeed, Treasury has exposed so much dirt in North Korea’s finances that it still can’t get its laundered crime money out of the collapsing Banco Delta.

*   U.N. Security Council Resolution 1695, passed last July 15th, said the following:

2. Demands that the DPRK suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile programme, and in this context re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launching;
….

5. Underlines, in particular to the DPRK, the need to show restraint and refrain from any action that might aggravate tension, and to continue to work on the resolution of non-proliferation concerns through political and diplomatic efforts;

Now, here’s a look at some of the ballistic missiles North Korea put on display to add Freudian  zip to its big April 25th military parade. 

*   Bonus for everyone whose name is not Alejandro Cao de Benos:   girls marching in miniskirts, although I’m not seeing the beauty here that I tend to when the ensemble is chosen voluntarily.  Here’s a thought:  can I ever look forward to the day when girls in Pyongyang will wear sun dresses?  Pyongyang doesn’t seem like a sun dress kind of place, does it?

*   Speaking of North Korea and terrorism, the Chosun Ilbo picks up a story about the sole North Korean survivor of the Rangoon bombing plot that killed 21 people, including four South Korean officials, on October 9, 1983.  The bombing was carried out on Kim Jong Il’s personal orders, something we presumably learn from Kang Min-Chul, who saved his own life by talking under Burmese interrogation.  For that reason, Kang can’t go back to North Korea, yet South Korea — you guessed it — won’t take him either:

In a meeting with South Korean officials, Kang apologized for his actions and expressed hope to settle in the South. Former governments considered bringing Kang to Seoul, but the current government is reluctant, according to National Intelligence Service Director Kim Man-bok. In his parliamentary confirmation hearing on Nov. 20 last year, Kim said North Korea had argued that Seoul was behind the bombing and might be handed an opportunity to say, “I told you so” if Kang comes to the South. [Chosun Ilbo]

North Korea denies any role in the bombing, having called the accusation “preposterous and ridiculous.”  Does the denial of known  past terrorism bear on the sincerity of any promise to refrain from future terrorism?

*   Three teenage North Korean refugees South Korea’s embassy in Vientiane tried not to help have arrived in Seoul.

*   For those who can’t wait for mine, Claudia Rosett has published a fine review of Marcus Noland and Stephen Haggard’s “Famine in North Korea.”  Spoiler alert:  what she says about the book’s ending is gravely disappointing, since I’m through most of the pity, analytical part.  I suspect I’ll end up sharing Ms. Rosett’s conclusion.  I also like her title:  “Let Them Eat Nothing.”

*   Remember when I told you about the two kids North Korea abducted from Japan years ago?  Some people think they found the kids’ father … on a list of concentration camp prisoners.

*   Being at war sucks,  and there probably  ends the national consensus.  You’ll get no argument from me on the major premise.  Still,  in light of  the Democrats’ alternative,  here is a list of other possibilities we’re starting to think about that suck even more:  surrender to al-Qaeda, ethnic cleansing,  genocide, a massive refugee crisis spreading conflict to neighboring states, a wider war in Afghanistan, a de facto terrorist-controlled state in Anbar, a nuclear Iran dominating the Middle East, shopping mall bombings and roadside bombs in America, and politicians like Harry Reid, who vote to surrender in the same wars they voted to get us into in the first place.

The political temptation to pander to our urge for peace and comfort at any price, even with willful blindness about the consequences, did not  end with  9/11; it just seemed that way for a while.  But it’s grown much more difficult to harmonize that pandering with truly patriotic statesmanship, which is why the Democratic majority can only support that policy by the thinnest of partisan margins, even when it’s laden with pork and stripped of consequence by a veto threat.

We cannot be safe at home when al-Qaeda has a safe haven anywhere on earth.  We can fight them there or fight them here, and I wish more candidates   — including at least one of the Democratic candidates who voted to get us into this war —  were presenting us with that choice at a time when we need to face it.

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North Korea’s Sponsorship of Terrorist Acts, 1996-2007

As I noted here, at the end of  Update  4/24 to my North Korea Freedom Week post, the State Department is now  rumored to be seriously considering removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.  This conflicts with signals  State had sent earlier, and as I noted here,  would probably trigger a rebellion by  conservatives  in Congress.

With Japan’s Prime Minister set to visit Washington next week, unverified gossip holds that the Bush Administration will put pressure on Japan to  soften its objections to removing from that list until North Korea accounts for all suspected Japanese abductees.  Fresh raids on North Korean-linked Chongyron headquarters in Tokyo suggest that Japan is likely to resist American pressure (ht:  The Marmot).  Those raids could reveal new evidence of significance to this question.

Key House staffer Dennis Halpin, the former U.S. Consul General in Pusan and a Korea expert,  works for Ileana Ros Lehtinen, the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  Yesterday, Halpin brought up the possibility of State de-listing North Korea, and said  that his boss, anticipating such a move,  had asked the Congressional Research service to freshen its research on this issue in light of that possibility.  That report was released yesterday. 

Here is the entire document.

The CRS report adds much valuable evidence to this discussion.  However, I also found the new CRS report to be both overinclusive and underinclusive.  The majority of the incidents in the CRS report, though useful for providing context,  do not fit my definition of “terrorism,” so I did not quote CRS’s descriptions of  them.  I have quoted only those passages that I believe fit the definition of “terrorism,” at 18 U.S.C. sec. 2331, or acts that fairly contribute to it. 

[A]ctivities that involve violent “¦ or life-threatening acts “¦ that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State and “¦ appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping ….

Since State’s argument, at least as I understood Mr. Halpin to characterize it,  is that “bygones should be bygones,” I included only  incidents occurring since 1996.  For example, I did not consider ordinary border violations to be acts of terrorism, nor did I consider espionage or other non-violent clandestine  means to gather information or spread influence.  I did not include many mentions of WMD programs, except in cases where WMD were proliferated to other known sponsors of terrorism.  Here is what I did include:

  • Assassinations and kidnappings, whenever the original act or the “continuing offense” of abducting or holding the  victim was linked to a political demand;
  • Harboring of terrorists, as  a “continuing offense;” 
  • The provision of WMD technology to  listed sponsors of terrorism or terrorist groups, with the exception of ballistic missiles, which clearly aren’t suitable for terrorist use;
  • Sponsorship or encouragement of others, including South Korean citizens, to commit acts of violence;
  • Penetration of the territory of other nations by armed military personnel under circumstances suggesting that their mission may have included carrying out acts of violence or intimidation;
  • North Korea’s direct terrorist threats through its state media, such as those threatening specific newspapers, political parties, or the people of other countries, when those threats were linked to a particular political motive or goal.  That includes its regular “sea of fire” bellicosity.
  • North Korea’s denial of its previous documented involvement in terrorism, though not in itself a terrorist act,  is a significant factor in the credibility of its decision to renounce terrorism, so I included it in the chronology. 

I note that the CRS missed numerous incidents that merit mention, and I’m going to add updates and links to this post later.  You’ll recognize what I added because those portions will not be blockquoted, and I’ll mark them as “OFK Updates.”  The blockquoted portions that follow are taken directly from the CRS report.

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N. Korea gets a U.S. green light to sell arms, and six months after its unanimous passage, UNSCR 1718 is a dead letter

That resolution may have been the only potentially effective U.N. action in my living memory, and the hand that held the dagger belonged to none other than our own State Department. 

The United States ignored an apparent violation of the international sanctions against North Korea by turning a blind eye to an arms shipment that Pyongyang sent to Ethiopia earlier this year, according to a story in Sunday’s edition of The New York Times.
North Korea has been subject to strict sanctions since it tested a nuclear device last October. An anonymous Pentagon official tells the paper the January shipment was “an unambiguous Security Council violation.”

“The United States allowed the arms delivery to go through in January in part because Ethiopia was in the midst of a military offensive against Islamic militias inside Somalia, a campaign that aided the American policy of combating religious extremists in the Horn of Africa,” the Times reports.

“American officials said that they were still encouraging Ethiopia to wean itself from its longstanding reliance on North Korea for cheap Soviet-era military equipment to supply its armed forces and that Ethiopian officials appeared receptive,” the paper says. “But the arms deal is an example of the compromises that result from the clash of two foreign policy absolutes: the Bush administration’s commitment to fighting Islamic radicalism and its effort to starve the North Korean government of money it could use to build up its nuclear weapons program.”

The Times, which doesn’t identify most of its sources for this story, says Ethiopia has spent about $20 million a year on North Korea’s low-cost weaponry. American officials say they have been urging Ethiopia to find alternative sources for armaments and spare parts. [USA Today]

I realize the Islamists in Ethiopia are bad guys who  need killing, and I can even live with the unsavory compromise of temporarily allying ourselves with the Ethiopians, but would we have just stood by if they’d bought the arms from Iran or Hezbollah?  It’s not as if there aren’t plenty of cheap Soviet arms for sale in  Bozgovakia,  Boratisan, or Zungluwayo.

A spokesman for the State Department declined to comment on the specifics of the arms shipment, but said the United States was “deeply committed to upholding and enforcing U.N. Security Council resolutions,” the newspaper reported….

Washington’s former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who helped push the resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea through the Security Council in October, said the United States should have told Ethiopia to send the weapons back.

“I know they have been helpful in Somalia, but there is a nuclear weapons program in North Korea that is unhelpful for everybody worldwide,” the Times quoted Bolton as saying. 

U.S. intelligence agencies reported in late January that an Ethiopian cargo ship that was probably carrying tank parts and other military equipment had left a North Korean port. The shipment’s value was unclear, the Times said.

After a brief debate in Washington, it was decided not to block the arms deal and to press Ethiopia not to make future purchases, according to the report.  [Reuters]

Let’s  pause to think  about what colossolly incompetent diplomacy this really is.  First, in defiance of decades of international diplomacy, North Korea tests a nuclear weapon.  In advance of this threat, we’d promised that the consequences of the test will be severe.  China goes on trading with North Korea and forking over aid with nary a pause.  Ditto our faithless ex-ally in South Korea, whose entire economy depends on trade with the United States and a massive U.S. defense dependency.  At our encouragement, Japan actually plays a major role in drafting and lobbying for a UN resolution in response.  Together with the Japanese, we expend considerable political capital — capital that we might have spent on Iran or Iraq instead — to get a unanimous vote on this resolution.  Then, for the sake of an arms control agreement with Kim Jong Il, which has to be the most predictably ephemeral legacy prize in all of U.S. history, we throw away the fruits of that capital in a few short months. 

Let’s pause to keep score here.  Six months after the nuclear test and two months after Agreed Framework 2.0, here’s a list of Kim Jong Il’s diplomatic accomplishments:

  • Partially breaking the financial sanctions that showed signs of bankrupting his regime,  and regaining $25 million in criminal proceeds with our specific assent and in obvious violation of UNSCR 1718;
  • Declaring his intention — despite the express words of AF 2.0  — to hang on to his existing nuclear arsenal, with the answer being mere token words of protest from the State Department (despite the fact that 1718  required North Korea to  “abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner”);
  • Continuing to deny having a uranium enrichment program (ditto);
  • Within a week or so, the “shut down and seal” deadline will pass and the Yongbyon will be fully operational.  The only question is whether anyone will actually bother to stick a piece of  yellow “caution” tape  over the door (same-same);
  • Securing his access to South Korean and Chinese largesse by removing all U.S. and Japanese pressure to restrict or end it;
  • In tandem with a dubious free-trade agreement, a  major political boost to his close ally, and our ex-ally,  in Seoul;
  • The potential for significant infusions of energy aid, and even the restoration of trade and diplomatic relations with the United States and numerous other nations.  And does anyone really believe that Kim Jong Il’s  Japanese or South Korean hostages, his concentration camps, or his mass starvation of his own people will interfere with any of this?
  • And now, reestablished himself as a legitimate arms trader, also in violation of UNSCR 1718;

Of course, Kim Jong Il couldn’t have done any of this without our help.  I cannot, for the life of me, make any sense of that whatsoever.  I cannot see how we have gained a single thing from this, or that anyone can seriously argue that the potential exists for us to gain anything from this.  I’m operating under a working theory that Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale have seized the reins of power in a secret coup.

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‘Abduction’ Film Updates

This beautifully produced film, created by two National Geographic alumni, will air on BBC 4’s “Storyville” series  on March 22nd at 10:30 p.m.  I’d add that since absolutely nothing is open at that time in Britain, there’s no excuse not to watch.

The film is also coming to DVD in May, with digitally remastered sound and subtitles in eight languages.  More at AbductionFilm.com.

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Al-Qaeda Planned USFK Attacks

From the confession of the Ron Jeremy look-alike known as  Khalid Sheikh Mohammad:

23. I was responsible for planning and surveying to hit American targets in South Korea, such as American military bases and a few night clubs frequented by American soldiers.

The thought occurred to me almost every post-9/11 day I was assigned to Korea.  The “Hooker Hill” district  of Itaewon mixes very uneasily with the nearby Korea Islam Mosque, a congregation that includes a  high percentage of conversative Pushtuns from the Northwest Frontier Province.  It’s pure speculation of me to say so, but I’ll do it anyway:  the attackers would have used the mosque as cover for their presence, and  the King Club would have been their target. 

Any guesses on how various segments of the South Korean population would have reacted?  We may get some idea when this story hits Naver. 

Update:   Or not.  Some “officials” claim that KSM is a BS artist.

Update 2:   And then again,  on the other hand:

According to Mr. Chung, a group of Islamic fundamentalists from the Middle East was raided last year by the National Intelligence Service while planning an attack on South Korean soil. They were reportedly a mix of persons residing in South Korea and those entering on tourist visas.

In addition, news reports have revealed that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a senior Al-Qaeda leader, has several years ago come to Seoul to gather intelligence on South Korea’s airport security. In 1999, Nizar Nawar, who is allegedly responsible for a 2002 terrorist attack in Tunisia, stayed illegally in Pocheon, Gyeonggi province, for more than six months while collecting intelligence.

Both mens’ visits went undetected.

A common mission of terrorist operatives has been to scan U.S. military bases. “The National Intelligence Service has told us a package was sent overseas last April from Korea, which contained a disc with maps of U.S. military bases in South Korea and methodologies to be used in an attack,” a government official told the JoongAng Ilbo last week.

Thanks to Mingi for sending.

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State: No quick removal of N. Korea from the terror list

I can imagine that the pressure from Japan has been intense, particularly in light of North Korea’s increasingly  brazen claims  about just what  the U.S. had agreed to lift, and when.  The North Koreans forced us to correct the record:

North Korea will not be easily removed from the U.S. list of states that sponskor terrorism. U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said that taking North Korea off the terrorism blacklist is a process that will require a lot of time and careful reviews. He also made it clear that the process to normalize diplomatic ties between the U.S. and North Korea can move forward only when the North takes steps to make the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free.

Casey, seemingly wanting to dampen expectations that the North will be taken off the list quickly, said that Pyongyang should answer questions about why it had been put on the list. North Korea’s top nuclear envoy Kim Kye-kwan said recently that the U.S. promised to de-list North Korea.  [Chosun Ilbo]

I guess this is why lawyers write clauses into even the most ordinary agreements that no term not appearing in the  contract has been agreed by the parties.  How long until we can expect to see a Selig Harrison article claiming that the U.S. really did promise the North Koreas that we’d lift all sanctions, or should?

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Peace in Our Time! Financial Edition

North Korea’s top nuclear negotiator Kim Kye Gwan said Thursday that Pyongyang’s decision to halt nuclear facilities, as outlined in initial steps included in the Feb. 13 six-way agreement, will depend on the U.S. lifting of financial sanctions against North Korea.  [Kyodo News; ht Richardson]

The U.S. negotiator at the six-party talks, Chris Hill, once said that “[l]ife is too short to overreact to every statement coming out of Pyongyang.”  It’s true that the North Koreans do more than their share of alimentary vocalization, but it’s also true that there’s a difference between what the North Koreans say in propaganda mouthpieces like the Rodong Sinmun and KCNA, and what their diplomats declare to be national policy.  Hill may have perfectly sensible reasons not to react to this statement in public if he really believes that he can — and should —  smooth over this first of many controlled eruptions.  But there’s no pretending that we can accomodate this North Korean demand, or that it’s consistent with what we’ve agreed.

What Was Agreed

What did we actually agree to do?  Richardson has already cited the appropriate provisions, to  which I need add little else.  The agreement — I appended the complete text to this post  — is silent on any action by Treasury or on the  lifting of sanctions or financial measures.   The only thing that vaguely  hints at  North Korea’s new demand is this language:

5. Recalling Section 1 and 3 of the Joint Statement of 19 September 2005, the Parties agreed to cooperate in economic, energy and humanitarian assistance to the DPRK. In this regard, the Parties agreed to the provision of emergency energy assistance to the DPRK in the initial phase. The initial shipment of emergency energy assistance equivalent to 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil (HFO) will commence within next 60 days. 

That doesn’t support North Korea’s position.  Although otherwise lacking in hard deadlines or benchmarks — really, it’s  hardly an agreement at all — the agreement does have  a few hard deadlines within the first 60 days, which the quasi-agreement calls the “initial phase.”  One is that the North Koreans must  “shut down and seal [Yongbyon and its reprocessing facility]  for the purpose of eventual abandonment;” within the same period, the United States  must deliver the first 50,000 of up to 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil.   

By the way, have a look at the facilities themselves:  an area overview, the reactor, the nearby reprocessing facility nearby, a palace I presume to be for the use of you-know-who,  the perimeter defenses, and a SAM site.  Click thumbnails  to enlarge; as always, coordinates are on the bottom of the screen.

yongbyon6.jpg   yongbyon1.jpg   yongbyon2.jpg   yongbyon3.jpg   yongbyon4.jpg   yongbyon5.jpg

Here is  a prediction:  If the North Koreans don’t shut down Yongbyon within 60 days, it will be politically difficult, perhaps impossible, for the United States to deliver the first shipment of fuel oil.   Note that the steps taken in the initial phase are to be “coordinated,” which is diplospeak for “reciprocal.”  Another prediction:  the South Koreans will want to deliver  it anyway  to preserve the appearance that the agreement survives; the U.S. side may not object for the very same reason.  This will be a very important test of the Administration’s will.

What Hill  Told Congress  About U.S. Financial Measures

On February 28, 2007, Chris Hill testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  As is customary for senior officials, he presented a written statement with his testimony.   Hill’s statement, which  was undoubtedly very carefully vetted by the State Department,  restated U.S. policy  on financial restrictions on North Korea in considerable detail:

The Banco Delta Asia (BDA) issue is being discussed on a separate track from the Six-Party Talks, managed by experts from the Treasury Department.  In December and January, Treasury had two rounds of useful discussions with DPRK authorities, where the North Koreans provided information about BDA account holders.  This week Treasury officials were in Macau and Hong Kong to discuss details of the BDA case.  We are hopeful that this will help in bringing about a rapid resolution of the BDA case.  Treasury advised the DPRK about steps it could take to avoid future problems, be less isolated in the international financial system, and eventually join international financial institutions.

The measures the U.S. Treasury Department has taken with respect to North Korean finances, specifically the designation of Banco Delta Asia in Macau as an “institution of primary money laundering concern,” clearly had a significant impact on the regime.  These actions affected Pyongyang’s ability to access the international financial system and conduct international transactions as banks everywhere began to ask themselves whether doing business with North Korean entities was worth the risk.

Treasury is now prepared to resolve the Banco Delta Asia matter.  But this will not solve all of North Korea’s problems with the international financial system.  It must stop its illicit conduct and improve its international financial reputation in order to do that.

Once Treasury has concluded its regulatory action with respect to BDA, the disposition of the bank and of the funds that were frozen by the Macau Monetary Authority will be the responsibility of Macau, in accordance with its domestic laws and international obligations.

Note also Treasury’s assessments of North Korea’s, and BDA’s, involvement in counterfeiting of U.S. currency and laundering of the proceeds.  It’s not as if we can just let those things slide.

I was also present for the members’ questioning of Hill.  In response to questions from Rep. Ed Royce, R., Cal., Hill said that “law enforcement will not be compromised.”  A few days later, the New York Times published a story (now walled off as premium content), citing unnamed U.S. government sources, on the outlines of just what the Treasury would be prepared to do regarding Banco Delta.  Although Hill had stated in his testimony that it was difficult to distinguish the proceeds of North Korea’s legal and illegal activities, according to the story, Treasury would release up to $12 million, less than half of the $25 million in frozen North Korean assets. 

Even the larger sum isn’t that much.  The real problem for North Korea  is the upstream effect on its finances at Banco Delta and other banks.  Banks  saw what happened to BDA, meaning that their directors, officers, and shareholders  don’t  want to touch North Korean business, which means that North Korea’s shadowy “trading companies” can’t send money to the accounts where the regime can access them.  That problem is much greater than simply  unfreezing $12 million.  It will persist as long as Treasury considers North Korea’s income sources to be suspect.  The definition of “suspect” gained new breadth and clarity with the passage of two U.N. resolutions in 2006, and now includes weapons, missiles, and luxury items for Kim Jong Il and his loyalists.

The fact that this agreement probably represents only a slight short-term  relaxation of financial pressure on North Korea is the single most comforting thing about it.  In the longer term, however, it threatens to set back U.S. efforts to secure the compliance of other nations like China, Russia, and South Korea.

U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1695 and 1718

Finally, the United States lobbied other Security Council members very hard to get two unanimous resolutions after North Korea’s missile test in July 2006 and its nuclear test in October 2006.  Since Resolution 1695 was a functional subset of 1718, I will focus on the terms of 1718 as they apply to restrictions on North Korean finances.  First, another excerpt from Hill’s February 28, 2007 statement to Congress:

North Korea is well aware that it remains under Chapter VII UN sanctions.  Today, UNSCR 1718 remains in effect, and North Korea understands that the international community will continue to fully and effectively implement the resolution.  North Korea continues to face a basic strategic choice.  There are political and material incentives on offer to North Korea, but it must fully denuclearize to realize the full benefits of those incentives.  North Korea understands that it must abide by its commitments to receive these benefits.

Second, the relevant excerpt from UNSCR 1718, specifically, Paragraph 8(d):

(d)     all Member States shall, in accordance with their respective legal processes, freeze immediately the funds, other financial assets and economic resources which are on their territories at the date of the adoption of this resolution or at any time thereafter, that are owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by the persons or entities designated by the Committee or by the Security Council as being engaged in or providing support for, including through other illicit means, DPRK’s nuclear-related, other weapons of mass destruction-related and ballistic missile-related programmes, or by persons or entities acting on their behalf or at their direction, and ensure that any funds, financial assets or economic resources are prevented from being made available by their nationals or by any persons or entities within their territories, to or for the benefit of such persons or entities;

Notwithstanding China’s own spotty compliance with 1718, or South Korea’s  blatant  violation of it, it’s difficult to imagine that we could simply unlimber all financial restrictions on North Korea while its nuclear programs just keep humming along. 

Yes, almost everyone ignores U.N. resolutions, but someone made the United States an exception to that rule.  Even U.N. Resolutions have shelf lives, and this one isn’t even a year old.  Finally, the proponent of a resolution will have much more trouble ignoring it than those who were pressured into voting for it.

Related post:   Peace in Our Time!   Abductions Edition

Update:   One well-informed reader e-mailed to question whether Kyodo misunderstood the North Korean delegate, but now, the Yomiuri Shimbun is reporting the same thing:

A top North Korean official said the U.S. must lift sanctions against his country before it will shut down its nuclear reactor as part of an international disarmament deal, news reports said Friday.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, making a brief, surprise stopover at Tokyo’s main international airport late Thursday en route to Beijing from New York, said Pyongyang would be watching Washington’s moves closely, the mass-circulation Yomiuri newspaper reported.

“The United States promised to resolve the problem of sanctions against our country within 30 days. If this promise is kept, then we will shut down our nuclear facilities in 60 days,” said Kim, the chief negotiator to the disarmament talks.

That would suggest that it’s the North Koreans themselves who are either misunderstanding or reinterpreting.  Meanwhile, the news site AsiaNews.it is reporting that the U.S. has already agreed to remove it from the terror-sponsor list by this coming April.  I think that’s something that requires a public response from the United States.  If it’s true, I certainly wonder just what the North Koreans have promised to do in exchange.

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Take the OFK Statesmanship Quiz

You are a  major political leader of one of the world’s major industrialized democracies.  An actor-turned-author publishes a book in which he photoshops the name of the country’s top newspaper into a picture of the World Trade Center on 9-11.  Just to make sure there’s no room for ambiguity, he says,

“I want to become a terrorist ….  The newspaper is the sole monolithic monster remaining in [this] society.”

As a statesman, your response is to:

a.  Jail the man for inciting violence and exile his family to Tongduchon.

b.  Quietly intercede with the book’s publisher, but avoid giving the man any free publicity.

c.  Explain that the author, one of your long-standing supporters, will enter a rehab program.

d.  Be sure all of your biggest supporters, including at least one  senior presidential secretary and three lawmakers,  show up for the launch of his book tour.

(click for answer)

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Bomb Kills U.S. Soldier, S. Korean Soldier in Afghanistan

Still not  many confirmed details yet, but it was a suicide bomber at Bagram, and he was trying to get Dick Cheney:

There were conflicting reports on the death toll. Provincial Gov. Abdul Jabar Taqwa said 20 people were killed, but NATO said initial reports indicated only three were killed, including a U.S. soldier, a South Korean coalition soldier and a U.S. government contractor whose nationality wasn’t immediately known. NATO said 27 people were also wounded….

Associated Press reporters at the scene said they had seen at least eight dead bodies carried in black body bags and wooden coffins from the base area and into the market area, where hundreds of Afghans had gathered to mourn.  [AP]

And me, not even knowing there were South Koreans in Afghanistan:

The JCS identified  [the soldier]  as 27-year-old Army Sgt. Yoon Jang-ho, who was on duty around a gate of a military base in Bagram, about 60 kilometers north of Kabul, when a suicide bomber attacked. The bomber was believed to have been targeting U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who had spent the night at the base, the JCS said.  [Yonhap]

May God comfort their families.

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Definitely Not Gitmo

Chinese authorities in the far-west city of Urumqi today executed an ethnic Uyghur man for allegedly attempting to “split the [Chinese] motherland.

“The execution was carried out at 9 a.m.,” Ismail Semed’s widow, Buhejer, told RFA’s Uyghur service. “They gave his body to us at the cemetery. Some of his relatives and friends joined us. When the body was transferred to us at the cemetery I saw only one bullet hole in his heart.

Semed, a Uyghur political activist deported to China from Pakistan in 2003, was sentenced to death Oct. 31, 2005, by the Urumqi City Intermediate People’s Court for “attempting to split the motherland” and “possessing firearms and explosives,” according to Uyghur sources.  [Radio Free Asia]

I’m not about to launch into a condemnation of China, because I lack sufficient information to judge the most relevant fact — whether this man was in fact a terrorist.  I believe that any government has a right to carry out any sentence, including the death sentence, against a person a competent tribunal convicts of targeting noncombatants.  I also believe that people denied any democratic, nonviolent means of dissent have a right to resist the state, provided they do not target noncombatants and take all reasonable precautions to avoid harming them.  Those principles may be in some tension here.  Maybe some occasional tension of that kind is a fact of modern life.

In this particular case, color me dubious.  I don’t accept the veracity of ChiCom government accusations as fact.  It sounds like the ChiCom police  beat the confessions out of the witnesses against Semed, and then shot them, too.  I’m especially doubtful that the  East Turkestan Information Center, among the groups listed as “terrorist” by China, is a really a terrorist organization.  The organization  operates openly in Washington, D.C. and  eschews violence.   The East Turkestan Islamic Movement is a different matter.  Some of its members  were captured in Afghanistan  shortly after 9/11, where they were training in AQ camps.  I presume that the gentle  jaws of the  Taliban weren’t cradling many aspiring pro-democracy activists.

Instead, I just wanted to note that this execution attracted little or no  attention from the Human Rights Industry, the Soft Reich (a/k/a the European Union), the media, or the U.N.  What attention it does  receive will be solely over China’s use of the death penalty, meaning that these parties have abandoned all moral distinctions between political dissidents, rest stop serial killers, and school bus bombers.

Parting irony:   The U.S. Army captured a number of those Chinese Uygurs who were either  fighting on the side of al-Qaeda, or who just “happened” to be in AQ camps when the Northern Alliance rolled them up.  Eventually, the Army sorted out the terrorists from the strap-hangers.  It wanted to release the latter.  We realized, however, that if we sent them back to China, they would meet the same fate as Ismail Semed.   After many months of  head-scratching,  they were all sent to Albania.  As a direct result of our compliance with the Convention Against Torture, we were stuck feeding these people and fending off legal challenges to their detention.  Some of those challenges  were based on intentionally spurious accusations  of torture, including a few that sound a lot like things I actually paid money for in my misspent youth (but not the blood thing — that would be icky).  They also delayed the very day in court that so many have (rightly) said these detainees ought to have.  Yet The Cause will be those who are still held in Gitmo, not those who  died in front of  ChiCom firing squads.

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Negotiating With Terror

I normally don’t really give a rat’s ass what al-Qaeda says in its videotapes, but this does seem more than mildly newsworthy:

And in yet another gambit that smacks of desperation, [al-Qaeda in Iraq leader  Abu Omar] al-Baghdadi tries to rile up the French and the Chinese against American global hegemony, and addresses those nations as “the freemen of the world.” Not only that, but he adopts a scolding tone with North Korea, essentially invoking the “sharing is caring” line, when he says, “And let North Korea know that it owes its nuclear tests to the mujaheddin in Iraq.” Translation: ” Al Qaeda’s actions distracted America from dealing with your evil, and the least you can do is share a nuclear device with us.”

I don’t know what’s sadder:  that the news media don’t report this, or that we no longer need wonder why.  Incidentally, the  interest in proliferation  is mutual:

The United States should consider the danger that we could transfer nuclear weapons to terrorists, that we have the ability to do so.

““ North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye-Gwan, April 2005

Last month, Mr. Kim’s boss,  Foreign Minister  Paek Nam Sun,  went off to present his credentials to Saddam, so Kim Gye-Gwan is now  the de facto Foreign Minister of North Korea.  Richardson informs us that Kim, with whom we’re negotiating in  Beijing this very day,  is known as “the smiling assassin.”  I’m sure to the South Koreans who gave him that name, and to the media who won’t report his crude threat, that’s a term of endearment.   I submit, however, that when  those who have the duty to inform us shield us  from such mortal threats to our safety, they do not make our world safer.

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MUST READ: Deterring the Arsenal of Terror

Writing in the Washington Post, David Ignatius squarely confronts what may be the greatest challenge to the security of the United States:  finding a way to deter a mass attack.  Ignatius concludes, correctly, that one must deter the sponsors and suppliers:

Allison believes that the world must focus on what he calls “the principle of nuclear accountability.” The biggest danger posed by North Korea isn’t that it would launch a nuclear missile but that this desperately poor country would sell a bomb to al-Qaeda or another terrorist group. Accountability, in Allison’s terms, means that if a bomb explodes in Manhattan that contains North Korean fissile material, the United States will act as if the strike came from North Korea itself — and retaliate accordingly, with devastating force. To make this accountability principle work, the United States needs a crash program to create the “nuclear forensics” that can identify the signature of fissile material of every potential nuclear state. Arms control expert Robert Gallucci describes this approach as “expanded deterrence” in his article in the September Annals.

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One Man’s Freedom Fighter…

“Congratulations! You are in a cage, Saddam,” witness Ghafour Hassan Abdullah said as he stared at the ousted president.

Saddam listened silently but lost his temper when a lawyer described Iraqi Kurdish rebels as freedom fighters. “You are agents of Iran and Zionism! We will crush your heads!” he shouted.

We will crush your heads! Remind you of anyone? Incidentally, none of my trials featured exchanges like that.

Meanwhile, Havana, Cuba is hosting a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, the world’s second-most inaptly named entity, just below the “Democratic Peoples’ Republic” of Korea. Both entities are asking to redefine a term on which they speak with some authority, but not the moral kind:

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A 9/11 Demurrer

Every year, I have the same debate with myself: whether the ferocity of my thoughts about this day renders them unfit for public consumption. This year, absent the time or desire to write, save, and then delete my true thoughts, there is just one original thought I will add to so many others today — that for me, 9/11 is at least half the reason I began blogging about this topic. Since then, my greatest fear has been that Kim Jong Il is building the arsenal of terror while the world looks away. I have come to believe that directly or indirectly, North Korea is the single most likely source for the means terrorists will use to execute an unimaginably ghastly attack on the country and people I unreservedly love.

The other half is my knowledge that all of history’s mass murderers began their work on a smaller scale and graduated to ever lower depths of depravity. What moral restraint stands between the murder of “impure” infants, the gassing of families, or the starvation of expendable millions and the next hellish crime? This, I perceive with absolute clarity: Kim Jong Il’s survival as a tyrant is incompatible with the safety of the world. Nothing I have observed since has offered faintly persuasive evidence to the contrary. Kim Jong Il must go. It is simply a question of how to accomplish it at the lowest possible cost in human suffering.

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I refer you to Christopher Hitchens, who has done so far better than I could, and very probably with much more restraint than I can muster even now.

Anyone who lost their “innocence” on September 11 was too naïve by far, or too stupid to begin with. On that day, we learned what we ought to have known already, which is that clerical fanaticism means to fight a war which can only have one victor. Afghans, Kurds, Kashmiris, Timorese and many others could have told us this from experience, and for nothing (and did warn us, especially in the person of Ahmad Shah Massoud, leader of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance). Does anyone suppose that an ideology that slaughters and enslaves them will ever be amenable to “us”? The first duty, therefore, is one of solidarity with bin-Ladenism’s other victims and targets, from India to Kurdistan.

Don’t miss Hitchens’s next point, either. It’s one learned with only great difficulty by free societies that must come to terms with preserving their own existence.

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Legal wonks may be interested in this discussion of the legal rights of detainees. Reading it, it’s important to keep in mind that an ordinary court-martial offers the accused much higher protections than a federal or state criminal proceeding. The ordinary court-martial procedure, with its prohibitions on hearsay, coerced confessions, and rules against unlawful command influence, won’t work here. We need something specifically adapted to the war we face, and that adaptation must not reward those who intentionally target noncombatants.

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