UN Security Council approves new North Korea sanctions

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on Monday to impose a new set of sanctions against North Korea after the United States compromised with Russia and China who opposed an even harder line sought by the Trump administration.

The new sanctions set a cap on crude and refined oil exports to North Korea at 8.5 million barrels per year, which represents a 30 percent reduction. The sale of natural gas will be prohibited and refined petroleum sales will be capped at 2 million barrels annually. The Security Council resolution also bans all North Korea textile exports, worth an average of $760 million over the past three years. The sanctions also prohibit nations from authorizing new work permits to North Korean citizens around the world. More than 90,000 North Korean workers employed abroad bring the regime about a half billion dollars a year.

But these measures fall short of the stronger sanctions the U.S. called for after the Pyongyang regime detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear device last week. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley had pressed for a total oil embargo. She also called for direct penalties, such as an asset freeze and global travel ban, against North Korean leader Kim Young Un. But that proposal was a hard sell to the Russians and Chinese, who hold veto power in the Security Council.

China, North Korea’s top trading partner, is not eager to endorse sanctions that could undermine Pyongyang stability and cause millions of refugees to cross its border.

[NPR]

US sanctions resolution on North Korea watered down before UN vote

North Korea has said it will inflict “the greatest pain and suffering” on the US if it continues to call for fresh sanctions in response to the regime’s sixth nuclear test last week.

As the UN security council prepared to meet later on Monday, the US reportedly watered down its sanctions resolution in the hope of winning support from China and Russia, which have voiced doubts over tougher measures.

The US had initially called for a halt to oil exports to North Korea and a freeze on the assets of its leader, Kim Jong-un.

On Monday, diplomats said the assets freeze had been dropped from the revised draft resolution, and the oil embargo replaced with a proposal to gradually reduce oil exports.

[The Guardian]

Kim Jong Un’s power is growing say North Korea defectors

More and more North Korean defectors in the South think Kim Jong Un is strengthening his grip on power, and more than a quarter of those surveyed think Kim’s rule will continue for at least 30 years.

According to the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University, a recent survey indicates more defectors are less confident the Kim regime is weakening, South Korean newspaper Munhwa Ilbo reported.

At the same time, nearly 70 percent of those surveyed said they think Kim is doing his job poorly, an indication the North Korean ruler has been able to consolidate his position without necessarily gaining the approval of the people.

But Suh Bo-hyuk, the South Korean researcher who oversaw the survey, said Kim had proved himself by growing the economy despite his pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The survey also shows more defectors are less confident about prospects for unification. More than half of the respondents, or 55.7 percent, said they “believed unification to be impossible” when they lived in the North. Only 26 percent said they think unification is possible “within 10 years,” significantly down from 45 percent in 2016, according to the research.

[UPI]

Trump’s plan to starve North Korea of oil

The U.S. wants the U.N. Security Council to approve a range of new sanctions, including a full ban on exports of oil to North Korea. Experts say an oil embargo would be a major shift in international efforts to squeeze Kim’s regime.

“Something like this has not been tried before,” said Kent Boydston, a research analyst at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “It would be a different kind of sanction that would have broader impact on the economy.”

A prolonged halt in oil supplies could eventually bring the North Korean economy to its knees. But it would need the support of China, North Korea’s main trading partner, and Russia — both of which can veto the measure at the U.N.

The escalating crisis over North Korea is a thorny problem for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is trying to project strength and stability ahead of a key meeting of the Communist Party next month. That makes experts skeptical that he will take drastic measures at this point against Kim Jong Un.

Global Times, a Chinese state-run tabloid that often expresses nationalistic views, suggested in April that Beijing might cut off North Korea’s oil supply if it carried out another nuclear test. But after Pyongyang went ahead with the test, the newspaper poured cold water on the idea of an oil ban.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is also opposed to an oil embargo, telling South Korean President Moon Jae-in that he’s concerned it may harm civilians, according to a spokesman for Moon.

[CNN]

Vladimir Putin warns world faces ‘global catastrophe’ over North Korea

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the escalating crisis over North Korea’s weapons program risks developing into a “global catastrophe” with mass casualties. Putin, speaking in China on Tuesday at the closure of the BRICs summit, cautioned against “military hysteria” and said that the only way to resolve the crisis was through diplomacy.

He warned that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has calculated that the survival of his regime depends on its development of nuclear weapons. Kim had seen how western intervention in Iraq had ended in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein after which the country was ravaged by war, Putin warned, and Kim was determined not to suffer the same fate.

“Saddam Hussein rejected the production of weapons of mass destruction, but even under that pretense, he was destroyed and members of his family were killed,” Putin said. “The country was demolished and Saddam Hussein was hanged. Everyone knows that and everyone in North Korea knows that.”

Putin said that while Russia condemned North Korea’s latest actions, imposing any kind of sanctions would be “useless and ineffective.” Kim would rather starve his people than see his regime overthrown, he said. “They will eat grass but they will not turn away from the path that will provide for their security,” he said.

[CNN]

Life on the other side for North Korean defectors

While life in Seoul sounds like heaven compared to life under a brutal dictator in Pyongyang, North Korean defectors know firsthand, life isn’t all sweet and rosy on the other side.

“When I first moved to South Korea, I had spare time, I didn’t know what to do with it” James said. We never had that in North Korea.”

“I found it difficult to identify,” he said. “In North Korea most communication is face-to-face, in South Korea it’s done over the internet.”

James is one of five students studying English in Sydney as part of a scholarship program at the University of Technology Sydney, specifically aimed at former North Koreans. He is the first to admit he doesn’t miss the day to day life in North Korea, but he does long to see friends and family he left behind.

The group explained that they not only found discrimination in the competitive South Korean world, but also faced the challenge of having to catch up on years of education.  James said most students not only study during the day, but also take up extra tutorial in the evenings just to get ahead.

Enormous difficulties adjusting to their lives in the south including how to use the internet and things like using the train service or topping up a travel card. These simple life skills are all learned during a three-month stay at the Hana Foundation, a defector mentoring program.

 [news.com.au]

Kim Jong Un’s third child born February 2017

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has a third child, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) has learned.

Kim Jong Un’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, is believed to have given birth in February. “The gender of their new child is unknown,” a South Korean lawmaker said.

Little is known about the North Korean first family, but opposition lawmaker Yi Wan-yong confirmed “Kim’s first child is a son [born in 2010] and the second child is a daughter[born in 2013],” noting he learned this information from non-NIS sources.

In 2013, former NBA star Dennis Rodman revealed the name and gender of one of Kim and Ri’s children, a daughter called Ju Ae. “I held their baby Ju Ae and spoke with Ms. Ri as well,” he said, describing Kim as “a good dad.”

There was speculation that Ri was pregnant late last year, when she disappeared from public view for several months, a time frame that would seem to line up with a February birth.

Little is known about Ri, Kim Jong Un’s wife, who accompanied him to his father’s funeral in late 2011, sparking widespread speculation about the couple. It wasn’t until the following year that South Korean intelligence confirmed they had been married since 2009.

Ri was partially educated in China and visited South Korea in 2005 for the Asian Athletic Championships “as a member of North Korea’s cheering squad,” a South Korean lawmaker told CNN in 2012. She is believed to be around 30 years old.

[CNN]

North Korea tests most powerful nuclear bomb yet

North Korea carried out its most powerful nuclear test to date on Sunday, claiming to have developed an advanced hydrogen bomb that could sit atop an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The bomb used in the country’s sixth-ever nuclear test sent tremors across the region that were 10 times more powerful than Pyongyang’s previous test a year ago, Japanese officials said.

While the type of bomb used and its size have not been independently verified, if true, the pariah state is a significant step closer to being able to fire a nuclear warhead to the US mainland, as it has repeatedly threatened it could if provoked.

The test came just hours after North Korea released images of leader Kim Jong Un inspecting what it said was a hydrogen bomb ready to be put on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the type of weapon the country would need to use to deliver a nuclear warhead to far-away locations.

Based on the tremors that followed the test, NORSAR, a Norway-based group that monitors nuclear tests, estimated it had an explosive yield of 120 kilotons. Hiroshima’s had 15 kilotons. But South Korean officials gave a more modest estimation, saying that Sunday’s bomb had a yield of 50 kilotons.

North Korea has for years worked on nuclear miniaturization, which means creating a nuclear warhead small and light enough to be fired over long distances.

[CNN]

North Korea’s latest launch designed to cause maximum mayhem with minimal blowback

North Korea’s latest missile launch over Japan seemed, as Stephan Haggard of the University of California at San Diego described it, “perfectly calibrated to create political mischief.” This enabled it to send a strong political signal without overtly crossing a “red line” and spurring the United States into action, analysts said.

The launch also seemed designed to drive a wedge between North Korea’s neighbors.

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called it “an unprecedented, grave and serious threat.” Abe wants to beef up Japan’s military capabilities, and missile launches like this provide ammunition for his controversial cause.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s liberal president Moon Jae-in, who has promoted engagement with Pyongyang, immediately denounced the launch and sent his fighter jets to drop bombs on a shooting range near the border with North Korea, a show of South Korean might.

Both reactions will have rattled Beijing, which Tuesday called on all sides to take a step back. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying characterized the North Korea situation as “at a tipping point, approaching a crisis.” She repeated China’s call for talks between North Korea and the United States.

China doesn’t want Japan increasing its military capabilities and rivaling it in the region, and it doesn’t want South Korea sticking to its agreement to host an American antimissile battery that it fears could be used to keep China in check.

Most of all, analysts say, Kim Jong Un is showing that he won’t be cowed by President Trump’s tough talk.

 [Washington Post]

Trump’s director of national intelligence: “Kim Jong-Un is not crazy.”

North Korea’s 33-year-old dictator Kim Jong-un is not crazy, said Dan Coats, President Trump’s director of national intelligence, at the recent Aspen Security Forum. In fact, Kim Jong-un has “some rationale backing his actions” regarding the country’s nuclear weapons. That rationale is the way the U.S. has demonstrated that North Korea must keep them to ensure “survival for his regime, survival for his country.”

Kim, according to Coats, “has watched, I think, what has happened around the world relative to nations that possess nuclear capabilities and the leverage they have and seen that having the nuclear card in your pocket results in a lot of deterrence capability.” In particular, “The lessons that we learned out of Libya giving up its nukes … is, unfortunately: If you had nukes, never give them up. If you don’t have them, get them.”

In December 2003, Libya announced that it would surrender its biological and chemical weapons stockpiles, as well as its rudimentary nuclear weapons program. In celebrating Libya’s decision, President George W. Bush declared that “leaders who abandon the pursuit of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and the means to deliver them, will find an open path to better relations with the United States and other free nations.”

In 2011, the U.S. and NATO conducted a bombing campaign to assist Libyan rebels in overthrowing the Gaddafi government. Gaddafi himself was captured by one rebel faction, who apparently sodomized him with a bayonet and then killed him.

Indeed, North Korea’s foreign ministry said this explicitly at the time: “The Libyan crisis is teaching the international community a grave lesson,” which was that the deal to rid Libya of weapons of mass destruction had been “an invasion tactic to disarm the country.”

[Aspen Security Forum 2017]