Showing posts with label Korea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Korea. Show all posts

26 December 2021

North Korea’s Military Capabilities


The United States and its Asian allies see North Korea as a grave security threat. North Korea has one of the world’s largest conventional military forces, which, combined with its missile and nuclear tests and aggressive rhetoric, has aroused concern worldwide. But world powers have been ineffective in slowing its path to acquire nuclear weapons.

While it remains among the poorest countries in the world, North Korea spends nearly a quarter of its gross domestic product (GDP) on its military, according to U.S. State Department estimates. Its brinkmanship will continue to test regional and international partnerships aimed at preserving stability and security. Negotiations on denuclearization have remained stalled since February 2019.

What are North Korea’s nuclear capabilities?

The exact size and strength of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal are unclear. However, analysts say Pyongyang has tested nuclear weapons six times and developed ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States and its allies Japan and South Korea.

19 December 2021

China, Russia, Iran, North Korea? Just How Many Wars Can America Fight?

Doug Bandow

Washington and Seoul are making new war plans to address North Korean force improvements. However, the Pentagon is rather busy right now. Military analysts are talking about possible conflicts involving Russia, China, and Iran. Could Washington handle a fourth conflict, and all at the same time?

According to CNN: “The US and South Korea will develop a new operational war plan to address the threat from North Korea, senior defense officials said Tuesday, as the Pentagon shifts its focus to the Indo-Pacific region following its recently completed global force posture review.” Officials say that the effort does not respond to any one incident but rather to the fact that the current plan is about a decade old.

The review reflects a greater emphasis on the Indo-Pacific. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development Mara Karlin explained: “The Global Posture Review directs additional cooperation with allies and partners across the region to advance initiatives that contribute to regional stability and deter potential military aggression from China and threats from North Korea.” That is, the usual boilerplate.

15 December 2021

Defense, climate and energy markets are inexorably linked. It’s time to acknowledge it.


While the era of thinking the Defense Department has no need to worry about the environment has thankfully ended, too many in Washington still think of climate change, energy markets, and national security as, at best, tangentially linked, and at worst opposites that cannot peacefully coexist.

It’s a view unfortunately shared on each side — climate activists often view defense spending as wasteful and polluting, while defense experts return fire that climate activists are downplaying national security. But with the Biden administration making climate change a priority across the board, the idea that either side can succeed without the other needs to be squashed immediately.

It takes only a quick survey of the state of the world to see why: Moscow’s weaponization of natural gas and Iran’s exploitation of gasoline-starved Beirut are two examples today of how energy and security go hand in hand. And there are less obvious cases to point to as well.

10 December 2021

Microsoft disrupts Chinese hacking group targeting organizations in dozens of countries


Microsoft on Monday announced that a federal court had granted a request to allow the company to seize websites being used by a Chinese based hacking group that were targeting organizations in the United States and 28 other nations.

The hacking group, which Microsoft has dubbed “Nickel,” was observed to be targeting think tanks, human rights organizations, government agencies and diplomatic organizations for intelligence gathering purposes.

The court order unsealed Monday in the Eastern District of Virginia allowed the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit to take control of the websites used by Nickel and redirect the traffic to Microsoft servers. Customers impacted by the hacking efforts have been notified.

“Obtaining control of the malicious websites and redirecting traffic from those sites to Microsoft’s secure servers will help us protect existing and future victims while learning more about Nickel’s activities,” Tom Burt, the corporate vice president of Customer Security and Trust at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post published Monday.

6 December 2021

“Wars” of Influence: Expanding U.S. Unclassified Intelligence Reports on China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea and Investing in Other Major U.S. Official National Security Reports

Anthony H. Cordesman

The shift in U.S. strategy from a focus on terrorist threats to a focus on the potential threats from China and Russia, as well as the lesser threats from Iran and North Korea, means the U.S. must look beyond building up deterrent forces and U.S. options for warfighting. So far, however, the U.S. has done far better in strengthening its military forces to compete with China and Russia, and lesser enemies like Iran and North Korea, than it has done to compete in political and gray area terms. A military response to such threats is critical in meeting the Chinese and Russian challenge, but it is only half the battle.

If the U.S. and its strategic partners are to compete successfully with Russia, China, and other major threats, they must also succeed in winning gray area conflicts and “white area” political, diplomatic, and economic competition.

As was the case in the Cold War, U.S. grand strategy must look beyond deterrence and warfighting. It must focus on finding areas of cooperation that reduce tension and the risk of war; on strengthening deterrence by competing for allies and economic partners; and on using diplomacy, trade, investment, and political influence to both support U.S. interests and counter hostile actions and influence building by its major competitors.

26 November 2021

How Useful Is North Korea’s Railroad Missile Launching System?

Alan Cunningham

In September of 2021, North Korea “successfully launched ballistic missiles from a train for the first time,” with the country’s official news agency stating “the missiles were launched during a drill of a ‘railway-borne missile regiment’ that transported the weapons system along rail tracks in the country’s mountainous central region and accurately struck a sea target 500 miles away.”

These ballistic missiles entered Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In a meeting of the United Nations Security Council after North Korea’s missile launch, the French ambassador to the U.N., Nicolas de Riviere, was quoted as saying the Council had agreed to condemn the test and perceived it as a “major threat,” as it was “a clear violation of the Council’s resolutions.”

Initial outside estimates by the North Korean analysis website 38 North, determined the missiles launched were KN-23 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs). According to Vann Van Diepen, a career intelligence analyst and former assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, “The 800-km range demonstrated in the latest launches is substantially greater than the 600-km range claimed by the North Koreans in March, much less than the 450 km demonstrated by the original KN-23.” Van Diepen further stated that this new method of missile delivery would “certainly diversify the force” as the rail-mobile delivery is more “survivable than fixed-based ones” in addition to the fact that this launch system would “bolster the size of the SRBM force.”

21 November 2021

North Korea’s Push for Reunification Isn’t Just Empty Rhetoric

Benjamin R. Young

In the final months of his single term in office, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is making a strong push to formally end the Korean War. As part of his efforts, Moon is reportedly seeking a summit between the leaders of the four main participants in the conflict—the United States, China and the two Koreas—to coincide with the Winter Olympics in Beijing. In response, the North has signaled its openness to the proposal, provided its conditions are met.

Setting aside for a moment the policy debate over whether that would be a good idea, it is worth considering the logical end of such a peace treaty: Korean reunification. While many in the West assume reunification of the two Koreas would occur on Seoul’s terms, history and recent developments on the peninsula suggest that might not be the case. Since the Korean War ended with a truce in 1953, North Korea has never given up its goal of reunifying the peninsula on its own terms.

12 November 2021

A last security option

Kim Min-seok

In early 2015, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) head entered the defense minister’s office at the Ministry of National Defense in Seoul to brief the minister about an advanced SLBM and submarine being developed by North Korea. A few years later, North Korea identified the SLBM and submarine as the “Bukguksong missile” and the “8.24 Yongung” submarine. North Korea recently said it fired an SLBM capable of carrying nuclear warheads from the submarine. If the announcement is correct, North Korea completed the development of the SLBM and submarine seven years after the move was first detected by South Korea-U.S. intelligence authorities — and about 10 years after North Korea started to develop them.

After the briefing, the defense minister was deeply concerned about the possibility of the missile and submarine. At that time, one of the attendees at the briefing gallantly proposed to just “sink them into the deep East Sea by sending our subs before their deployment for a real battle.” The attendee went on to say, “If you were the defense minister of Israel, you would have done that just as the Israeli Air Force raided the Osirak nuclear reactor being built by Iraq to develop nuclear weapons.” As the minister mulled for a second, the official added, “North Korea does not have the ability to find out the reason for the sinking of the sub or salvage it from the deep sea bed.”

11 November 2021

Twilight of the Kims?


ATLANTA – Nearly three years after his failed bromance with Donald Trump, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is once again angling for US attention. North Korea has tested a new, high-tech missile and hinted that it may agree to restart talks with South Korea, where President Moon Jae-in desperately wants to resuscitate his moribund outreach to the North. But if Kim is expecting a positive reaction from US President Joe Biden, he shouldn’t hold his breath. With issues like China and the rebuilding of US alliances topping Biden’s agenda, overtures to Kim are unlikely.

Kim’s dog-eared script is not helping his cause. The latest drama has unfolded all too predictably. In Act One, Kim Yo-jong, Kim’s sister and the North’s spokesperson on North-South affairs, averred that the regime might be interested in discussing a peace treaty with South Korea – an idea that Moon himself had proposed in September. She hastened to add, however, that South Korea will have to distance itself from US demands for nuclear disarmament and end joint military exercises with US forces.

The predictable saber-rattling came a few days later, in Act Two. Following the announcement that the regime had launched a new hypersonic missile and carried out a half-dozen other tests, Kim took to the podium (with his missilery in the background) to tout the North’s “world class defense capability.” Although the Biden administration had sent “signals that it is not hostile,” he declared that the North has “no reason to believe it.” By challenging US credibility, Kim was all but asking the United States to respond, ideally by following its Korean ally’s lead and publicly throwing a bone his way.

If America Can Have Cutting Edge Weapons Why Not North Korea?

Doug Bandow

Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly’s Sixth Committee, which contemplates legal matters involving the United Nations, North Korea’s Ambassador Kim In-chol denounced the United States and double standards. He accused America and the world of demonstrating rank hypocrisy.

He noted that America was seeking to develop hypersonic missiles, without the criticism leveled at the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and that North and South Korea were treated very differently when both recently tested missiles. Even sharper was his assault on Washington’s deal with Australia over nuclear submarines. “The United States, with a permanent seat in the Council, has laid bare its double-dealing attitude as ringleader of nuclear proliferation through its decision to transfer technology for building a nuclear-powered submarine to Australia,” Kim Jong-un complained.

2 November 2021

‘You Live With a Degree of Paranoia’

Colum Lynch

Aaron Arnold, an American investigating sanctions violations for the United Nations in North Korea, received what seemed to be an innocuous email last October. James Sutterlin, a U.N. official in the office that manages sanctions experts, ostensibly forwarded a link to what was described as the U.N. Security Council’s forecast of its activities for the month, according to a copy of the email reviewed by Foreign Policy. Only, Sutterlin had not written the email, and the link, they would later discover, was part of a phishing attempt by the North Korean government.

Over the past decade, North Korea has developed an elaborate system for evading U.N. sanctions, deploying an army of front companies, secret bank accounts, and ransomware attacks to evade scrutiny and amass billions of dollars in cash revenue. But North Korea’s premier intelligence agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, has also taken a particular interest in snooping on U.N. sanctions experts and the U.N. bureaucrats and diplomats who oversee their work.

Sanctions have never been more popular, but the system for enforcing them at the United Nations is breaking down. In this two-week series, FP looks at why that is and what can still be done to fix it.

28 October 2021

The Two Koreas’ Recent Arms Displays Are Sending Very Different Messages

Duyeon Kim

North Korea has announced that it successfully tested a new, smaller submarine-launched ballistic missile, or SLBM, on Tuesday. State media claimed the missile—launched from the same submarine from which Pyongyang tested its first Pukguksong-1 SLBM in August 2016—has “advanced control guidance technologies, including flank mobility and gliding skip mobility,” designed to make it harder to track and intercept. The name of the submarine used for the launch—the “8.24 Yongung”—also seems noteworthy, as a reflection of the importance Pyongyang puts on this vessel: It means “hero” and apparently signifies the Aug. 24 date of the 2016 SLBM launch.

The test is another sign that Pyongyang is trying to secure a second-strike capability—the ability to respond to a nuclear attack with its own nuclear weapons. The aim would be to protect the regime and perhaps even cause Washington to hesitate in defending Seoul in the event of an attack, for fear of possible North Korean SLBM strikes.

The Challenge of a Nuclear North Korea

Though North Korea’s nuclearization efforts have faded from the headlines, the country has continued to improve its capabilities. North Korea can now plausibly reach any location in the continental United States with a nuclear weapon, even as Pyongyang has diversified its delivery systems for launching long-range missiles, making its arsenals more likely to survive attack. In the absence of a deal to curb its nuclear and missile programs, North Korea’s arsenal will only grow more lethal.

Striking that deal was at the forefront of former President Donald Trump’s early foreign policy agenda. But despite a period of improved relations between North and South Korea and two unprecedented face-to-face meetings between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, no clear progress was made toward denuclearization. Instead of scoring his own foreign policy win, Trump handed Kim a monumental victory. In engaging with Trump, the North Korean leader not only avoided a military confrontation, but also won concessions—including the suspension of some joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises—and international legitimacy.

Israel and South Korea to boost collaboration on loitering munitions

Brian Kim

SEOUL – Major aerospace companies from Israel and South Korea have agreed to expand their partnership on deadly drone technology.

Israel Aerospace Industries, or IAI, and Korea Aerospace Industries, or KAI, signed a memorandum of understanding on Oct. 20 on a loitering munitions program for maximizing the effectiveness of strike missions against enemy air defenses, according to an IAI statement.

The agreement was made during the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition 2021 (ADEX 2021) running Oct. 19-23 at an airbase in Seongnam, just south of Seoul.

“IAI is proud to continue expanding our collaboration with KAI, and share our combat-proven capabilities in the field of loitering munitions,” Yehuda (Hudi) Lahav, executive vice president of marketing at IAI, said. “IAI is happy to partner with one of Korean’s leading companies, and to continue growing our collaboration with the local defense market and Korean industry leaders.”

26 October 2021

The Two Koreas’ Recent Arms Displays Are Sending Very Different Messages

Duyeon Kim

North Korea has announced that it successfully tested a new, smaller submarine-launched ballistic missile, or SLBM, on Tuesday. State media claimed the missile—launched from the same submarine from which Pyongyang tested its first Pukguksong-1 SLBM in August 2016—has “advanced control guidance technologies, including flank mobility and gliding skip mobility,” designed to make it harder to track and intercept. The name of the submarine used for the launch—the “8.24 Yongung”—also seems noteworthy, as a reflection of the importance Pyongyang puts on this vessel: It means “hero” and apparently signifies the Aug. 24 date of the 2016 SLBM launch.

The test is another sign that Pyongyang is trying to secure a second-strike capability—the ability to respond to a nuclear attack with its own nuclear weapons. The aim would be to protect the regime and perhaps even cause Washington to hesitate in defending Seoul in the event of an attack, for fear of possible North Korean SLBM strikes.

The launch came on the heels of an extravagant display of force the previous week. Pyongyang showed off some of its new weapons and military hardware on Oct. 11, to mark the 76th anniversary of its ruling Workers’ Party the day before. It’s a common ritual in the insular one-party state, but this year, the format was different. For the first time, new additions to the country’s arsenal were on display at a museum-style exhibition rather than a military parade or other major celebration.

26 September 2021

From the Kabul airlift to BTS at the UN: South Korea’s middle power role

Andrew Yeo

Lost in the flurry of media coverage on Afghanistan last month was a bright piece of news featuring Afghan families, including dozens of children clutching pink or white teddy bears, exiting South Korea’s Incheon International Airport on August 26. They were part of the 391 Afghans airlifted out of Kabul by the South Korean military following the city’s fall to the Taliban. Deemed as “persons of special merit,” many of the Afghans had worked as translators, medical assistants, vocational trainers, and engineers with the South Korean government. What does the U.S. withdrawal mean for allies such as South Korea who offered support for U.S. missions in Afghanistan (and also Iraq), and more significantly, what should South Korea’s broader role be in an increasingly “multiplex world”?

The frantic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and the recent passing of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 have put spotlights on the wisdom of U.S. intervention and on America’s role in the world in the 21st century thus far. This in turn has spurred further debate about the best course of action for U.S. foreign policy going forward. Whether one advocates for greater restraint or greater activism on the global stage, however, most experts seem to agree that U.S. allies can do more to support regional stability and global order.

23 September 2021

Brief: North Korea Tests a Missile and Biden

Background: North Korea has been relatively quiet for the past year or so while it deals with pandemic pressures and other internal matters, which means it was late in its tradition of testing new U.S. presidents during their first few months in office. But a challenge was only a matter of time. Nothing has fundamentally changed about Pyongyang’s geopolitical situation: It has been in desperate need of sanctions relief for years, and it is perpetually upset about major annual U.S.-South Korean joint exercises that, from the North’s vantage point, are nearly indistinguishable from preparations for an invasion. Given enduring Western concerns about its nuclear and missile arsenals, Pyongyang feels like it has the upper hand.

What Happened: North Korea said it test-launched a pair of new long-range cruise missiles over the weekend. According to North Korean state media, the missiles hit targets around 1,500 miles away, ostensibly giving them the range to reach Japan. The missiles were described as a “strategic weapon,” implying that they’re capable of carrying nuclear payloads, though this has not been confirmed.

4 September 2021

Debating North Korea: US and Chinese perspectives

Susan A. Thornton, Li Nan and Juliet Lee

The deteriorating U.S.-China relationship is hindering prospects for meaningful cooperation on persistent security challenges, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) nuclear issue. The threat perception gap, different long-term objectives and increasing mutual suspicion between the two major powers continue to widen despite mutual interest in ensuring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. Both countries view the other as an obstacle to progress—China is seen as prioritizing DPRK regime security over the nuclear nonproliferation regime and nuclear threats, while the U.S. is seen as a destabilizer plotting to contain China. As the region waits to see if and when North Korea will reengage, the U.S. and China should engage now on overcoming obstacles to cooperation and on a possible road map for sustained denuclearization negotiations.

The following exchange of views between Susan Thornton, Project Director of the Forum on Asia-Pacific Security at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, and Li Nan, Senior Fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, highlights the differing perspectives, mutual suspicions and lingering contradictions between the U.S. and China on North Korea policy and the prospects for future negotiations.

6 August 2021

South Korea: A Middle Power in the Making?

Andrei Lankov

Is South Korea a middle power? This question might be difficult to answer—not least because the term ‘middle power’ is rather nebulous and poorly defined. However, there is little doubt that South Koreans now clearly see themselves as a middle power—and try to act accordingly.

Indeed, in recent few years a sense of triumphalism is in the Seoul’s air—especially among the numerous supporters of the left-leaning Moon Jae-in’s administration. The media writes about Korea’s new global reach, and the book titled The Era of Overtaking has become a major bestseller. Among other things, the book insists that Korea is not catching up with the developed world any more, but is overtaking some major international players.

Thus, let’s follow the triumphalist zeitgeist and agree that Republic of Korea (ROK) is now a middle power indeed. After all, both the size of its GDP (roughly equal to that of Russia) and the power of its military clearly position it high at the international pecking order. If this is the case, what is special about it? How can we compare it with such indisputable middle powers as Sweden, Australia or Poland?

29 July 2021

North, South Korea Agree to Reopen Communication Channels

Mitch Shin

South Korea announced Tuesday morning that it has agreed to restore stalled communication channels with the North and improve ties between the two Koreas. It has been 13 months since Pyongyang shut down all communication channels in June of last year as a protest against the distribution of leaflets by North Korean defectors. The North even blew up the inter-Korean joint liaison office located in Kaesong, showing the extent of its dissatisfaction with the South’s stance on the U.N.-led economic sanctions, South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises, and the “no-deal” Hanoi summit between North Korea and the United States.

South Korea’s National Assembly passed the bill to ban the distribution of leaflets in the North, but Kim Yo Jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, kept insisting that the North will not re-engage in dialogues with the United States or South Korea unless both countries halt the hostile acts against the North.