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Archive for the ‘North Korea’ Category

U.S. Teasury Goes After North Korea’s Proliferation Funds

Posted by K.E. White on July 1, 2009

Yesterday the U.S. Treasury Department clamped down on two firms suspected of funneling funds North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs: Iranian-based Hong Kong Electronics and North Korean-based Namchongang Trading Corporation.

From Michael O’Brien’s blog at

The Treasury Department took aim at North Korea’s nuclear weapons program on Tuesday, freezing the assets of an Iranian firm suspected of financing the Korean regime’s [proliferation] efforts.

The Treasury targeted Hong Kong Electronics — an Iranian firm — for funneling money to a North Korean bank and mining company suspected of facilitating the country’s nuclear weapons program.

The State Department also targeted a North Korean trading company under Executive Order 13382, which reezes the assets of designated proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters and prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in any transactions with them.

“North Korea uses front companies like Hong Kong Electronics and a range of other deceptive practices to obscure the true nature of its financial dealings, making it nearly impossible for responsible banks and governments to distinguish legitimate from illegitimate North Korean transactions,” said Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

Jay Soloman delves a little deeper in today’s Wall Street Journal:

The U.S.’s sanctioning Tuesday of Namchongang Trading Corp. and Iran-based Hong Kong Electronics is intended to choke off funds for two firms charged with being at the center of Pyongyang’s attempts to export its nuclear and long-range missile technologies, said U.S. officials.

The U.S. sanctions bar any American firms from conducting business with Namchongang and Hong Kong Electronics. The designations also freeze any assets the firms may have in the U.S. Treasury Department officials intend these actions to cause non-American companies to also scrutinize any dealings with these North Korean-linked firms.

U.S. officials say Namchongang played a direct role in helping Syria start construction of a nuclear reactor near the Euphrates River that Israeli jets destroyed in 2007. Syria denied it is developing a nuclear program.

The company has also aided Myanmar’s arms industry and was importing centrifuge equipment that North Korea is using to develop a uranium-enrichment capability, U.S. officials say. Uranium, when enriched to a weapons grade, can be used to build atomic weapons.

Namchongang is headed by Yun Ho Jin, a former senior North Korea diplomat who served at Pyongyang’s mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s atomic watchdog. He’s also believed to be closely aligned with senior members of North Korea leader Kim Jong Il’s government. Mr. Yun and Namchongang couldn’t be reached for comment.

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Containing North Korea: Gordon Chang Calls for Interdiction Now

Posted by K.E. White on July 1, 2009

Today’s Wall Street Journal features Gordon G. Chang’s call for the United States to start interdicting suspected North Korean weapons shipments now. Instead of seeking accommodation with China and obtaining a new U.N. resolution on the matter, Chang argues America already has full authority to stop, inspect and seize North Korean weapons exports.

Yesterday, the North Korean ship Kang Nam–suspected of carrying weapons and thus bringing the interdiction issue to the forefront–turned around. Whether this event reflects the effectiveness of current sanctions, or merely a delaying tactic on the part of North Korea has yet to been seen.

(Backgrounder: The latest UN Security Resolution, passed June 12th after North Korea’s second nuclear test, requires permission of the “flag state” [i.e. the nation that exercises regulatory control of a commercial vessel] for any inspection. Chang gets around this by pointing out that Kim Jong-Il has withdrawn from the Korean War Armistice Agreement on May 29th, returning America and North Korea back to a state of war.)

North Korea is yet again testing the international community’s resolve. Should America go it alone, as Chang suggests? Or is Chinese support required for any North Korean interdiction policy to be effective?

Below is a section of Chang’s editorial, followed by David Sanger’s June 7th New York Times report exploring Obamaland’s weighing of the interdiction option—highlighting China’s thorny middle-ground position of wishing to contain North Korea proliferation, but not destabilizing the North Korean regime.

From Chang’s editorial How To Stop North Korea’s Weapons Proliferation:

Furthermore, there has never been a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War. This means the U.S., a combatant in the conflict, as leader of the U.N. Command, is free to use force against Pyongyang. On legal grounds, the U.S. Navy therefore has every right to seize the Kang Nam, treat the crew as prisoners of war, and confiscate its cargo, even if the ship is carrying nothing more dangerous than melons. Because the Navy has the right to torpedo the vessel, which proudly flies the flag of another combatant in the war, it of course has the right to board her.

The lesson of the last few years is that the U.N. is not capable of stopping North Korean proliferation. No nation can stop it except the U.S. Of course, ending North Korea’s sales of dangerous technologies to hostile regimes will anger Pyongyang. This month, for instance, the North said that interception of the Kang Nam would constitute an “act of war.”

Yet, as much as the international community would like to avoid a confrontation, the world cannot let Kim Jong Il continue to proliferate weapons. Moreover, it is unlikely that he will carry through on his blustery threats. The North Koreans did not in fact start a war when, at America’s request, Spain’s special forces intercepted an unflagged North Korean freighter carrying Scud missiles bound for Yemen in December 2002. Even though the Spanish risked lives to board the vessel, Washington soon asked Madrid to release it. At the time, the Bush administration explained there was no legal justification to seize the missiles.

Now, the Obama administration has no such excuse. There is definitely a legal justification to seize the Kang Nam. North Korea, after all, has resumed the Korean War.

And from David Sanger’s June 7th NYTimes report:

In conducting any interdictions, the United States could risk open confrontation with North Korea. That prospect — and the likelihood of escalating conflict if the North resisted an inspection — is why China has balked at American proposals for a resolution by the United Nations Security Council that would explicitly allow interceptions at sea. A previous Security Council resolution, passed after the North’s first nuclear test, in 2006, allowed interdictions “consistent with international law.” But that term was never defined, and few of the provisions were enforced.

North Korea has repeatedly said it would regard any interdiction as an act of war, and officials in Washington have been trying to find ways to stop the shipments without a conflict. Late last week, James B. Steinberg, the deputy secretary of state, visited Beijing with a delegation of American officials, seeking ideas from China about sanctions, including financial pressure, that might force North Korea to change direction.

“The Chinese face a dilemma that they have always faced,” a senior administration official said. “They don’t want North Korea to become a full nuclear weapons state. But they don’t want to cause the state to collapse.” They have been walking a fine line, the official said, taking a tough position against the North of late, but unwilling to publicly embrace steps that would put China in America’s camp.

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North Korea Update: Clinton Expected to Name Stephen Bosworth As U.S. Special Envoy

Posted by proliferationpr on February 12, 2009

Reuters reports that Stephen Bosworth will be named U.S. envoy to the six-party talks, taking the role Christopher Hill played in the Bush administration from 2005-2008. 

Learn more about Stephen Bosworth, and check out Reaching Out to Pyongyang—a May 12th, 2008 Newsweek article Bosworth co-authored with Morton Abramowitz.  (Update: In Reaching Out to Pyongyang, Bosworth & Abramowitz call for a long-term strategy towards North Korea that looks beyond soley denuclearization–and push for gradual steps towards diplomatic normalization with the Kim Jong-il regime. While this perscription may not seem trailblazing, it takes regime change  off the table.)

Bosworth’s appointment would fill-out Obama’s team for the nuclear-charged Korean peninsula—where previous diplomatic breakthroughs have hit snags.

Stephen Bosworth now works as Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and previously served as ambassador to the Republic from Korea under the Clinton administration.

Notes: Sum Kim currently serves as Special Envoy to the Six Party talks, taking the post in July 2008. And Christopher Hill has been slated as Obama’s ambassador to Iraq

Posted in North Korea, Six Party Talks | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

North Korea Marks Nuclear Anniversary and Kim Jong Il is published…in Syria

Posted by K.E. White on October 9, 2007

From the Associated Press:

“Never forgettable are acclamations of October, 2006, when we shouted hurrah again and again at the top of our voices in admiration of General Kim Jong Il who unfolded an eternally clear sky of peace, prosperity and hope above the heads of the 70 million people,” the state-controlled paper said, referring to both North and South Koreans.

The nuclear test was a “truly great miracle,” the paper said, sending the North “soaring as a powerful and great nation” at a time of hardship.

The country is believed to have conducted the underground test explosion at an unknown location in its northeast. The size of the blast was relatively small, with the U.S. government estimating its yield at less than a kiloton. Each kiloton is equal to the force produced by 1,000 tons of TNT.

And, just in case you were interested, Kim Jong Il is now an internationally published author:

Kim Jong Il’s famous work “The Workers’ Party of Korea Organizes and Guides All the Victories of Our People” was brought out in booklet by the Dar Damascus Publishing House of Syria on October 1.

This work, published on October 3, Juche 79 (1990), expounds the idea that the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea is the decisive guarantee for the victory of the cause of socialism and the issue of developing the WPK into the Juche-type revolutionary party and fundamental ways to carry out the mission and duty of the party as the leading political organization.

Posted in Kim Jong Il, North Korea, nuclear test, The Workers' Party of Korea Organizes and Guides All th | Leave a Comment »

North Korea Diplomacy Rolls Forward

Posted by K.E. White on October 3, 2007


North Korea has signed onto the second-phase of six party negotiations, possibly disabling their nuclear facilities by December 2007.

But this success is still partial: with Christopher Hill making it clear that North Korea’s “complete, full denuclearization” a 2008 goal.

From Reuters:

North Korea could disable its nuclear facilities by the end of this year under a tentative accord reached in six-party negotiations over its atomic programmes, diplomatic sources said on Monday.

Talks in Beijing between the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia ended on Sunday to allow delegates to discuss a joint statement, which includes details on the next phase of the denuclearisation plan, with their governments.

Under the draft agreement, North Korea would disable three facilities at its Yongbyon nuclear complex and declare its nuclear programmes — including its uranium enrichment plans — by the end of the year, diplomatic sources in Tokyo told Reuters.

Read the full text of the agreement here.

The Guardian gives great coverage the story, focusing on US Envoy Christopher Hill’s view of the agreement:

Christopher HillOnce there is a six-party agreement, Hill said on Tuesday in New York, the U.S. expects the process of disabling the reactor to get under way “in a matter of weeks.” The U.S. wants the dismantling process so thorough that a nuclear facility could not be made operational for at least 12 months.

“We will then be able to move to what we hope will be a final phase,” Hill said. “That is in the calendar year 2008 which will deal with the actual abandonment of the fissile material.”

Hill said the North – officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK – has about 110 pounds of fissile material harvested from the nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, and will have to declare exactly how much. The U.S. also wants to resolve concerns about the North’s uranium enrichment program, he said.

Posted in Christopher Hill, North Korea, Second phase, Six Party Talks | 2 Comments »

Cat’s Out of the Bag: Sources Confirm Israel’s Syrian Air Raid Sought Out Suspected Nuclear Site

Posted by K.E. White on September 21, 2007

Condensed form: The Israel air-force struck a suspected Syrian nuclear site thought to be constructed with North Korean aid earlier this month.

Thought of the day: Times have changed at the White House. Regime change in North Korea has morphed to quiet, but firm diplomacy in regards to North Korea. (Read Bush’s muted response to questions yesterday.) But does it signify a change of heart or merely differing priorities, with the White House squarely focused on Iran?

From WaPo:

Israel’s decision to attack Syria on Sept. 6, bombing a suspected nuclear site set up in apparent collaboration with North Korea, came after Israel shared intelligence with President Bush this summer indicating that North Korean nuclear personnel were in Syria, U.S. government sources said.

The Bush administration has not commented on the Israeli raid or the underlying intelligence. Although the administration was deeply troubled by Israel’s assertion that North Korea was assisting the nuclear ambitions of a country closely linked with Iran, sources said, the White House opted against an immediate response because of concerns it would undermine long-running negotiations aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

Ultimately, however, the United States is believed to have provided Israel with some corroboration of the original intelligence before Israel proceeded with the raid, which hit the Syrian facility in the dead of night to minimize possible casualties, the sources said.

The target of Israel’s attack was said to be in northern Syria, near the Turkish border. A Middle East expert who interviewed one of the pilots involved said they operated under such strict operational security that the airmen flying air cover for the attack aircraft did not know the details of the mission. The pilots who conducted the attack were briefed only after they were in the air, he said. Syrian authorities said there were no casualties.

Posted in air strike, Bush, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Nuclear, September 6, Syria, White House | Leave a Comment »

Bush on Israel’s Syrian Strike: “I’m not going to comment on the matter.”

Posted by K.E. White on September 20, 2007

Just watched this enlightening response from President George W. Bush to NBC’s David Gregory.

Should the public know what was behind Israel’s air-strike on Syria? And when should they know it?


Bush on North Korea-Syria link: “We expect them not to be proliferating.”

More from the response:


“We have made it clear and we will continue to make it clear to the North Koreans through the six party talks that we expect them to honor their commitment to give up weapons and weapons programs. And to the extent that they are proliferating, we expect them to stop proliferating.”

“It matters whether they are, but the concept of proliferation is equally as important as getting rid of programs and weapons.”

“We expect them not to be proliferating.”


Posted in Bush, Israel, North Korea, strike, Syria, White House | Leave a Comment »

North Korea-Syria Connection: All Neo-Con Hype?

Posted by K.E. White on September 18, 2007

Recent reports have suggested Syria may have received nuclear technology from North Korea. Such a development 1) has been a blow to administration dealings with North Korea and 2) a worrisome sign that Syria might come under quite literal fire.

The source for these concerns lays chiefly with John Bolton. From the World Tribune:

Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, said Syria has long sought nuclear and other WMD capabilities. Bolton said Syria might have agreed to provide uranium enrichment facilities to Iran and North Korea, both of whom have been under international pressure to end their nuclear weapons programs. On Monday, North Korea delayed talks scheduled for Sept. 19 for an end to the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

“Syria is very aggressive in pursuing WMD capability,” Bolton told the Israeli daily, Jerusalem Post. “It’s a diversion game — to carry on even when you are supposed to have halted, as in the case of North Korea. And I’d be surprised if Syria would do anything with North Korea without Iranian acquiescence.”

But there’s another spin of this story. From BBC News:

Joseph Cirincione, director for nuclear policy at the Washington-based Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank, has gone so far as to describe the story as “nonsense”.

Selective leaks are being used to play up the Syria-North Korea connection, he writes on the online site of the journal Foreign Policy.

“This appears to be the work of a small group of officials leaking cherry-picked, unvetted ‘intelligence’ to key reporters in order to promote a pre-existing political agenda. If this sounds like the run-up to the war with Iraq, then it should,” he writes.

Neocon hype to derail positive developments with North Korea? Or proof that negotiation with North Korea–and by extension Iran–is pointless?

Posted in Diplomacy, John Bolton, Joseph Cirincione, North Korea, Nuclear, Syria | Leave a Comment »

Even More North Korea Buzz: Campus Progress Interview with Charles Pritchard & Stimson Center Chimes In

Posted by K.E. White on June 11, 2007

Campus Progress is carrying an interview with former Special Envoy for the Six-Party Talks Charles Pritchard. Ambassador Pritchard discusses the current North Korean nuclear crisis, how it got their, and shines light onto the Bush administration’s evolving approach to this profound diplomatic challenge.

(Full disclosure: Proliferation Press contributor K. Edmund White conducted the interview)

Update: And for even more coverage of the North Korea issue, read this Stimson Center article by Alan D. Romberg.

From Romberg’s piece:

Finally, as everyone acknowledges, the 13 February “Initial Actions” agreement is just that, an initial set of steps that still leave one short of implementing the heart of the 19 September 2005 Joint Statement: the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. At a minimum, success in that endeavor is viewed skeptically by many people as inconsistent with the North’s conception of its nuclear weapons as the ultimate guarantee of the DPRK regime’s survival. At a very minimum, it would require a total transformation of the relationship with the United States to a degree that would convince the North Korean leadership it no longer faced a threat from America (and hence did not need a nuclear deterrent). For the military leaders who now feel they have a “proven” nuclear deterrent, it will be a hard sell to trade such a physical capability for the ephemeral benefits of normalization of relations with Washington. Especially if “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il is incapacitated, as some Western media are reporting, the role of the military—already extremely strong—will be decisive.

This is not the moment to review why we never needed to get to this point with the North and how the Bush Administration drove us here by pushing things in the wrong direction during its first six years in office. But at some point it will be important to review that history in order to avoid repeating it when things get tough in the current negotiations, as they inevitably will.

Posted in Alan D. Romberg, Alan Romberg, Campus Progress, Charles Pritchard, North Korea, Stimson Center | 1 Comment »

Dealing With North North Korea: The Case for the Kaesong Industrial Complex

Posted by K.E. White on June 10, 2007

by K. Edmund White

Does the solution to menacing North Korean regime rest in a North Korean industrial complex?

No. But a large part of that solution just might.

The Kaesong Industrial Facility represents a joint North and South Korean business venture. Here’s a good, if slightly out-of-date, description of the site:

The KIC opened in June 2004 under a contract between North Korea and South Korea’s Hyundai Asan Corporation and South Korea’s state-owned Korea Land Corporation. The complex is located between the North Korean city of Kaesong and the western border between the two Koreas. The workers produce goods mostly for the South Korean market, including watches, shoes, clothes, kitchenware, plastic containers, electrical cords and car parts, among other items. As of August, more than 8,000 [note: now closer to 13,000] North Korean workers were employed by 13 South Korean companies.

In essence it’s a grand bargain. North Korea gets tax revenue it desperately needs to survive. Meanwhile, South Korea gets cheap labor that speaks the same language. And both sides can push it as proof-positive of the natural connection between the two Koreas.

But this site may also play a role within the Korean Korean nuclear crisis. It may serve, in the short term, as a carrot (that can be dangled) to force North Korea to give up their WMD program.

And, in the long term, it could yield the following outcomes:

1) The Kaesong Complex, reflecting South Korean economic standards, will show North Koreans first-hand the backwardness of their economic system

2) Any eventual reunification plan—which could see America lose influence in Korea—will come at a steep price: the disparity between the two Koreas is extreme. But joint ventures such as Kaesong can, if properly implemented, help dull the profound economic divide between North and South.

Making Kaesong a sucess reflects good policy and reaffirms America’s message to the world: dovetailing economic and political freedom (i.e. free market, liberal governing principles) not only reflect a more humane belief system, but provide all peoples greater material rewards.

Charles Pritchard, author of Failed Diplomacy, worked the North Korea problem in both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations—as special assistant to the president for national security affairs and as U.S. Ambassador and special envoy for negotiations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, respectively. We discussed Kaesong, and the Bush administration’s refusal to view these products as South Korean (thereby making them less marketable):

Pritchard: It’s a paradox. Even if the Bush administration desired the downfall of North Korea, if that were policy of the President, and he really wanted to see that, then he should then tell the South Koreans to make Kaesong bigger, better, faster now. Hire many more North Koreans. Have 100,000 workers there. Because the more North Koreans are exposed to work conditions and state of the art equipment—the welfare, the food, all of that stuff in stark contrast to what they have in North Korea—the faster there will be a public unease about the nature of their own regime.

That’s the silliness of the Bush administration. They ought to be promoting Kaesong even if they don’t like the regime, for those very reasons. And if you want to enhance US-South Korea relationship, you ought to be promoting joint ventures between the Koreas.

And in the long-term, providing larger-scale opportunities for North Koreans to see the benefits of something that’s close to market economy is a minimum to reinforcing the economic reforms of July 2002. That reform has since gone sputtering along. So Kaesong, from a negative and positive view, is a good deal and we’re just no making enough out of it.” (June 8th interview)

But critics of Kaesong point to troublesome workers’ rights record. From a October 2006 Human Rights Watch article:

Human Rights Watch also found that South Korean companies are violating the existing KIC Labor Law, which stipulates that employers should pay workers directly in cash. An employers’ representative told Human Rights Watch that the South Korean companies have been asked instead to pay workers’ wages in U.S. dollars directly to the North Korean government, which in turn pays the workers in North Korean won after deducting a mandatory 30 percent contribution to a social welfare fund.

“The fact that North Korea has already managed to get South Korean companies to violate worker’s rights on wage payments is not only an embarrassment, but also raises concerns about other violations at Kaesong,” said Richardson.

Any abuses to workers’ rights must be addressed. History has shown any joint-project with North Korea must be closely scrutinized.

But a successful–and well regulated–Kaesong facility helps the average North Korean. Stimultaneously it saps the opaque, illiberal and now nuclear-charged Kim Jong Il regime of legitmacy in the eyes of it’s own citizens.

Posted in Charles Pritchard, Kaesong, Kaesong Industrial Complex, Kim Jong Il, North Korea | 2 Comments »