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]

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: “Recognize our nuclear program”

Commentary in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the official mouthpiece of North Korea, called on the United States to recognize the North as a nuclear power if it wants future diplomatic efforts to make headway.

“The situation is turning unfavorable for the US day by day. There is no proper way out. The US should make a switchover in its policy on the basis of recognizing the fundamentally changed DPRK strategic position and geographical influence,” it said, using North Korea’s acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“As the US escalates the confrontation with the DPRK and wastes time to find out a solution, the striking capabilities of the DPRK’s strategic forces which put the whole US mainland in their strike range will rapidly increase.”

A day earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the United States and others against going down a “dead-end road” on North Korea and called for talks to resolve the issue, saying “putting pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear missile program is misguided and futile.”

[CNN]

Russia’s top diplomat urges US to deal with North Korea to avert war

Russia’s foreign minister is urging the United States to negotiate a deal with North Korea to avert war, voicing concern that tensions might spiral out of control.

Referring to the U.S., Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that “the one who is smarter and stronger must take the first step” in diplomatic efforts.

Lavrov says Moscow has asked Washington in confidential conversations if it realizes that U.S. allies South Korea and Japan would suffer the most if the North’s nuclear missile tests provoke a military conflict.

He says the U.S. response was that certain developments would leave military intervention as the only option. Lavrov didn’t offer further details, but said Russia would do all it can to prevent “such horrible developments.”

[AP]

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]

Malnutrition in the North Korean military

In a video from South Korean Digitalsoju TV, women defectors who formerly served in North Korea’s military sit down with a South Korean host.

One defector explained that all North Korean women must serve in the military for six years, in addition to all men being required to serve for 11 years.

During her time in the military, one of the female defectors said she was fed only three spoonfuls of rice at mealtimes. “I weighed just around 81 pounds and was about 5’2,” said the defector. Her Body Mass Index, though not a perfect indicator of health, works out to about 15, whereas a healthy body is considered to have a BMI of about 19-25.

Unsurprisingly, malnutrition is widespread across all sectors of North Korea. And the defector still said that is even the case within the military. Soldiers are poorly paid, and withhold or steal each other’s state-issued goods like military uniforms.

A second defector said that the officers in charge of uniform and ration distribution would often leverage their position to coerce sex from female soldiers.   Read more

Sexual abuse by superior North Korean officers

A female defector speaks of her time in the North Korean military: “The Major General was this man who was around 45 years old and I was only 18 years old at the time,” she said. “So one day he tells everyone else to leave except for me. Then he abruptly tells me to take off all my clothes,” she said. The officer told her he was inspecting her for malnutrition, possibly to send her off to a hospital where undernourished soldiers are treated.

“So since I didn’t have much of a choice, I thought, well, it’s the Major General. Surely there’s a good reason for this. I never could have imagined he’d try something,” she said. But the Major General then asks her to remove her underwear and “then out of nowhere, he comes at me,” she said.

[When she resisted] the Major General then proceeded to beat her. When she screamed, he covered her mouth. She said he hit her so hard in the left ear that blood came out of her right ear. She said the beating was so severe her teeth were loose afterwards.

“How do you think this is going to make me look?” the Major General asked her after the beating. He then instructs her to get dressed and tell no one what happened or he would “make [her] life a living hell.”

“There wasn’t really anyone I could tell or report this too,” she said. “Many other women have gone through something similar.”

“I don’t know whether he’s dead or alive, but if Korea ever gets reunified, I’m going to find him and even if I can’t make him feel ten times the pain I felt, I want to at least smack him on the right side of his face the same way he did to me,” she said.

[Business Insider]

South Korea holds live-fire drills hours after North Korea launches missile near Japan

South Korea’s air force has staged a live-fire drill simulating the destruction of North Korea’s leadership, hours after Pyongyang launched a missile over Japan.

North Korea first fired an unidentified missile from near the capital Pyongyang, which flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, making it the first North Korean projectile to successfully pass over Japanese territory since 1998. It subsequently broke up and fell into the Pacific Ocean.

Just hours after the North Korean launch, South Korea’s Presidential Office announced four F-15K jetfighters had dropped eight MK84 bombs on a simulated target at the Taebaek Pilsung Firing Range in the country’s northeastern Gangwon province.

An official with the South Korean Defense Ministry told CNN the one-ton bombs had all landed on target. “The drill reconfirmed South Korea Air Force capability to destroy the enemy’s leadership in cases of emergency,” the official said.

In a press conference, presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan said South Korean leader Moon Jae-in had wanted “to showcase a strong punishment capability against the North.”

South Korea joined with the United States and Japan in calling for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the North Korea launch.

[CNN]

Restraint appears to be over as North Korea launches missile test

North Korea launched three short-range ballistic missiles from its east coast into the sea, beginning at 5:40 p.m. EST Friday over a period lasting an hour, according to the U.S. Pacific Command.

Two of the missiles flew about 150 miles while the other one appears to have blown up almost instantly.

The missiles did not pose a threat to North America nor to the U.S. territory of Guam, said the Pacific Command. But the distance of 150 miles was far enough to reach major South Korean and American military bases, reports The New York Times. The test “shows an advance in capability,” says The Times because the “missiles were 300-millimeter rockets fired from a multiple-tube launcher.”

North Korea’s latest test comes at the same time as U.S. and South Korean forces participate in joint military exercises on the Korean Peninsula.

[NPR]