Tag: North Korea

“Sometimes you have to walk,” Mr. Trump said.

Thursday, 28 February, 2019

The date was 12 October 1986 and the place was Reykjavik. President Ronald Reagan got up and and walked out of a summit with a Communist Party boss, Mikhail Gorbachev, of the Soviet Union. “What appears to have happened in Iceland is this,” the New York Times opined. “Mr. Reagan had the chance to eliminate Soviet and U.S. medium-range nuclear weapons in Europe, to work toward a test ban on his terms, to halve nuclear arsenals in five years and to agree on huge reductions later. He said no.”

The awful Willian Greider of the equally awful Rolling Stone titled it “Reagan Flubs Reykjavik Summit” and claimed that “the President’s obsession with Star Wars allowed Gorbachev to outmaneuver him on arms control.”

And today? The same sour faces, the same ominous predictions and the same visceral instinct of the Left to blame the US for everything.

What appears to have happened in Hanoi that North Korea would not agree to the denuclearization that the US wants, and the US would not agree to the dismantling of all the sanctions it has placed on North Korea. The temptation for President Trump to reach some kind of deal must have been huge and he’d have enjoyed returning from Vietnam with news to to put the Michael Cohen show in the shade, but he walked, as Reagan once did. And we remember who won and who lost the Cold War, don’t we?


Emperor Xi: Sensitive Words

Tuesday, 6 March, 2018 0 Comments

Background: A total of 21 proposed amendments to China’s constitution are expected to be adopted by the National People’s Congress in Beijing, and the one with the greatest impact on the future of national and regional politics deals with paragraph 3 of article 79, which would end the current limit of two five-year terms for the president. Deng Xiaoping introduced the two-term limit to prevent the madness that marked Mao Zedong’s reign, and with its removal, President Xi Jinping will be able to rule for life.

Once news of the impending change became public, China’s censors got to work and they’ve been particularly busy removing “sensitive words” from Sina Weibo, a popular platform with some 400 million users. So what’s being banned? Sample:

  • to board a plane: homophonous with “to ascend the throne”
  • Hongxian: Reign title of the short-lived monarchy led by Yuan Shikai, who declared himself the Hongxian Emperor. After popular disapproval and rebellion, Yuan abandoned the empire after 83 days
  • emigrate: Baidu searches for the word reportedly saw a massive spike
  • Another 500 Years for Heaven: Theme song for the CCTV series Kangxi
  • crooked-neck tree: The tree which the Chongzhen Emperor is believed to have hanged himself from

China Digital Times offers a rolling list of “Sensitive Words” that highlights the ones blocked from Sina Weibo search results. As well, there are links to media coverage of this expansion of Chinese tyranny. Example: Emperor Xi’s censors have no clothes by Fergus Ryan at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute blog.

Once upon a time, John Milton wrote, “With loss of Eden, till one greater Man Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat.” The desire for the “greater Man” will not bring bliss to the people of the People’s Republic, however. A new wave of repression is being enacted by a regime that increasingly resembles the one which now rules North Korea.

The emperor with feet of clay


Execrable Valentine from CNN to Kim Yo-Jong

Sunday, 11 February, 2018 1 Comment

The decline of the press is summed up in one repulsive CNN tweet about Kim Yo-Jong, the sister of the tyrannical, murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. The writers of the CNN puff piece should have asked her if she’s now over her dictator brother’s murder of her other brother, but they didn’t.

CNN depravity

Human Rights Watch: “North Korea remains one of the most repressive authoritarian states in the world, ruled for seven decades by the Kim family and the Worker’s Party of Korea. During his fifth year in power, Kim Jong-Un continued to generate fearful obedience by using public executions, arbitrary detention, and forced labor; tightening travel restrictions to prevent North Koreans from escaping and seeking refuge overseas; and systematically persecuting those with religious contacts inside and outside the country.”


Autocrats have a very high friend in Brussels

Wednesday, 10 January, 2018 0 Comments

“If @FedericaMog didn’t exist, the world’s autocrats would be trying to invent her.” So tweeted @EliLake yesterday. Background:

“As the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs, she is a tireless advocate for engaging rogue states. Few diplomats though have pursued this kind of engagement with such moralizing puffery. In Mogherini’s world, diplomacy with dictators should not aim to transition these countries to open societies, but rather to prevent conflicts at all costs.”

That’s from Europe’s High Representative for Appeasement, in which Lake highlights the disgraceful conduct of Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Snippet:

“Just consider her trip last week to Cuba, a plantation masquerading as a nation-state. Did Mogherini use her visit to call attention to the struggle of human rights activists or to comfort the families of political prisoners? No, Mogherini was in Cuba to reassure a regime that Europe will not go along with America’s trade embargo.”

Shabby and all as Mogherini’s behaviour in Cuba was, her position on Iran is horrifying:

“Mogherini’s ideology is a particular tragedy in the case of Iran. The West can help aid Iran’s freedom movement by linking the regime’s treatment of its people, and particularly its political prisoners, to economic and political engagement. The U.S. has some leverage here, but Europe — because so many of its businesses want a piece of Iran’s economy — has far more.

As Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert at the Brookings Institution, told me this week: ‘This is the European moment on Iran.’ Europe’s response to the regime’s violent suppression of protests after the stolen election of 2009 was firm. The EU should send the same message today: ‘We are not going to sustain political and economic engagement with a country engaged in the suppression of peaceful protests,’ she said.

So far Mogherini and the Europeans have delivered the opposite message. On Monday, the high representative invited Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, to Brussels next week for more discussions on the Iran nuclear deal. Alireza Nader, an Iran expert at the RAND Corporation, told me this week that Mogherini’s statement on Iran was ‘saying both sides are equal, when it’s Iranian security forces that are shooting and killing people.'”

Iran, Cuba, Russia and North Korea have a friend in very high places in Brussels. That’s bad news for everyone, apart from autocrats, of course.

Federica Mogherini


Hitchens on the North Korean necrocracy

Wednesday, 9 August, 2017 0 Comments

When North Korean media declared Kim Jong-il to be the reincarnation of Kim Il Sung, the late, great, greatly-missed Christopher Hitchens said there never had been “such a blatant attempt to create a necrocracy, or perhaps mausolocracy, in which a living claimant assumes the fleshly mantle of the departed.” In Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays, Hitchens was typically acerbic about the hideous Kim cult:

“The fervor and single-mindedness of this deification probably have no precedent in history. It’s not like Duvalier or Assad passing the torch to the son and heir. It surpasses anything I have read about the Roman or Babylonian or even Pharaonic excesses. An estimated $2.68 billion was spent on ceremonies and monuments in the aftermath of Kim Il Sung’s death. The concept is not that his son is his successor, but that his son is his reincarnation. North Korea has an equivalent of Mount Fuji — a mountain sacred to all Koreans. It’s called Mount Paekdu, a beautiful peak with a deep blue lake, on the Chinese border. Here, according to the new mythology, Kim Jong Il was born on February 16, 1942. His birth was attended by a double rainbow and by songs of praise (in human voice) uttered by the local birds. In fact, in February 1942 his father and mother were hiding under Stalin’s protection in the dank Russian city of Khabarovsk, but as with all miraculous births it’s considered best not to allow the facts to get in the way of a good story.”

Where now? Well, we know that sanctions have never brought down a single tyrant in the history of their use. In fact, as Cuba demonstrates, they provide a substantial prop for power based on impoverishment. On the other hand, the idea that no North Korean provocation, however outrageous, can be confronted, lest it provide a pretext for the “Mount Paektu Bloodline” to do something truly insane cannot be tolerated much longer. “Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last,” Churchill said about a different, but similar, madman.


Ending the North Korean horror show

Monday, 17 April, 2017 0 Comments

It is, said the late Christopher Hitchens in 2010, “the world’s most hysterical and operatic leader-cult.” He was speaking about North Korea, and he was doing so after reading The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters by B.R. Myers. It matters more than ever because Pyongyang threatens regional security more than ever and a generation of world leaders that has dared not watch this ghastly horror show must now face up to the final act. Today, US Vice-President Mike Pence said that America’s “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over. Good.

The Cleanest Race One can, of course, understand why the world has looked the other way. Who wants to pay the price of battling a death cult? B.R. Myers points out that many of the slogans displayed by the North Korean state are borrowed directly from the evil kamikaze ideology of Japanese imperialism and every North Korean child is told every day of the magnificent possibility of death in the service of the motherland and taught not to fear the idea of nuclear war.

Along with perpetual militarism, North Korean totalitarianism is particularly frightening because its racist nationalism is expressed in gigantic mausoleums and mass parades that blend pure Stalinism with perverted Confucianism. The state’s permanent mobilization is maintained by slave labour and is based on a dogma of xenophobia. There can be little doubt that the regime believes its own propaganda and this suggests that the endless peace talks and disarmament negotiations are an utter and dangerous waste of time.

Since its creation, North Korea has kept its wretched subjects in ignorance and fear and has brainwashed them in the hatred of others. The world can no longer tolerate this repudiation of civilization. The show must end.


The axis of cyber evil

Thursday, 15 September, 2016 0 Comments

On Monday, Ciaran Martin, the Director-General Cyber at GCHQ, outlined the British approach to cyber security at the Billington Cyber Security Summit in Washington DC. Very topically, he addressed email. Snippet:

“We need to make sure UK Government email is trusted, so we need to stop people spoofing our .gov.uk domain. To do that we’ve set a DMARC policy as a trial to stop emails from the wrong IP sets, or with the wrong key, from being delivered purporting to come from .gov.uk. Well they do get delivered, but they get delivered to us, not the recipient — usually members of the public. And when we first trialled it, whoever was sending 58,000 malicious emails per day from the delightfully named [email protected] isn’t doing it anymore.”

In an increasingly digitized economy, security is a critical currency. When Colin Powell wakes up and finds his hacked emails on the front pages of global media outlets, overall confidence in cyber security is greatly diminished and while his comments on Clinton and Trump might make for great merriment, we should condemn these intrusions because the cyber bell may toll for us one day, too. Just as it has done for the tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, the gymnast Simone Biles, and the Tour de France winning cyclists Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins. Because when Ciaran Martin was speaking, the World Anti-Doping Agency was confirming that a Russian cyber espionage group known as Fancy Bear had accessed its Anti-Doping Administration and Management System database. The stolen information is now being broadcast 24/7.

People, businesses and institutions will be reluctant to share information in a digital environment they feel is fundamentally unsafe, and Ciaran Martin accepted this when he said that the internet may have transformed the way we live, “but it hasn’t completely changed our nature fostered over thousands of years. And nor are the groups who pose us harm particularly new.” They are stealing secrets, stealing money, stealing intellectual property, and they are pumping out propaganda that’s crafted to confuse and intimidate. Without naming Russia, China and North Korea specifically, he said:

We’ve got hostile states. Some of them are great powers, using cyber attacks to spy, gain major commercial and economic advantage or to pre-position for destructive attack. Others are smaller states, looking to exploit the relatively immature rules of the road in cyberspace to tweak the nose of those they see as bigger powers in a way they would and could never contemplate by traditional military means.”

Tomorrow, here, we’ll name the most hostile of these states.


The Mediterranean: The world’s most dangerous sea

Thursday, 11 December, 2014 0 Comments

More than 207,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean since 1 January this year seeking refuge in Europe. Of these, 3,419 perished in the sea — making it the world’s deadliest migration route. Last week, 17 African migrants died from hypothermia when they tried to travel from Libya to Italy in a small boat.

the Mediterranean

Many of the refugees are from Syria, where war has raged for nearly four years, but an increasing number are from Eritrea, where national service, in the form of indefinite conscription, amounts to forced labour. How bad are things in Eritrea? In its 2014 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked the county’s media environment at the very bottom of a list of 178 countries, just below North Korea. It’s high time for the EU to get tough with the brutal regime in Asmara. The root causes of why its people are fleeing and drowning in the Mediterranean have to be addressed, otherwise the numbers at the end of 2015 will be even more grim.


The Kim family’s tyranny

Friday, 3 May, 2013 0 Comments

Pae Jun-ho, known in the US as Kenneth Bae, was arrested last year after entering North Korea as a tourist. Earlier this week, he was sentenced to 15 years hard labour for alleged anti-government crimes. His real “crime”? Taking pictures of starving children, say his supporters. On the face of it, then, we have what seems like another provocation, but the harsh sentencing might actually be an attempt to draw US negotiators to Pyongyang, which would give North Korea a propaganda victory, and an occasion for talks on the wider issues.

North Korean poster

But for talks to achieve something, the parties have to be rational, and that’s not the case with the North Koreans, as Ian Buruma points out in a Project Syndicate piece titled The Trouble With North Korea. Snippet: “North Korea is essentially a theocracy. Some elements are borrowed from Stalinism and Maoism, but much of the Kim cult owes more to indigenous forms of shamanism: human gods who promise salvation (it is no accident that the Reverend Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church came from Korea, too).”

Buruma’s conclusion is not exactly uplifting, either:

The tragedy of Korea is that no one really wishes to change the status quo: China wants to keep North Korea as a buffer state, and fears millions of refugees in the event of a North Korean collapse; the South Koreans could never afford to absorb North Korea in the way that West Germany absorbed the broken German Democratic Republic; and neither Japan nor the US would relish paying to clean up after a North Korean implosion, either.

And so an explosive situation will remain explosive, North Korea’s population will continue to suffer famines and tyranny, and words of war will continue to fly back and forth across the 38th parallel. So far, they are just words. But small things — a shot in Sarajevo, as it were — can trigger a catastrophe. And North Korea still has those nuclear bombs.

Still, we mustn’t get depressed. Over at Foreign Policy, they’re taking a wry look, in the style of BuzzFeed, at the Kim family racket with 7 Things North Korea Is Really Good At.


The Manchurian Candidate in London

Thursday, 4 April, 2013 0 Comments

“The escalating tension over North Korea, which has led to nuclear tests by the regime, is a product of a long term increase in sanctions and other measures against the North Korea, and a recent surge of US and South Korean military activity in the area.” So speaks Pyongyang, right? Wrong! That’s, actually, a London-based […]

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When corruption is the only hope

Thursday, 28 March, 2013 0 Comments

What would the late, lamented Christopher Hitchens have made of the latest dispatches from North Korea in which the mad dictator and his minions are photoshopping hovercraft and cutting the military hotline with the South? In Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays he had this to say:

“Playing pool with Korean officials one evening in the Koryo Hotel, which has become the nightspot for foreign businessmen and an increasing number of diplomats (to say nothing of the burgeoning number of spies and journalists traveling under second identities), I was handed that day’s edition of the Pyongyang Times. At first glance it seemed too laughable for words: endless pictures of the ‘Dear Leader’ — Little Boy’s exalted title — as he was garlanded by adoring schoolchildren and heroic tractor drivers. Yet even in these turgid pages there were nuggets: a telegram congratulating the winner of the Serbian elections; a candid reference to the ‘hardship period’ through which the country had been passing; an assurance that a certain nuclear power plant would be closed as part of a deal with Washington. Tiny cracks, to be sure. But a complete and rigid edifice cannot afford fissures, however small. There appear to be no hookers, as yet, in Pyongyang. Yet if casinos come, can working girls be far behind? One perhaps ought not to wish for hookers, but there are circumstances when corruption is the only hope.”

Putting the past and the present into perspective, Walter Russel Mead observes: “It’s becoming increasingly clear that under Kim III the Norks have become even wackier and more obstreperous than before. Little has changed on the US or South Korean side to provoke the latest wave of theatrics. The biggest changes are in the region itself: Japan has embraced a tougher foreign policy, and China has begun to grouse very publicly over its wayward ally’s behavior. In fact, the main target of the latest tantrum is probably Beijing, not Seoul or Washington. North Korea is trying to remind its ally that it can make Beijing’s life very unpleasant if it doesn’t get all the support it wants.”