Saturday, February 01, 2003

In November 2001, when the Bush administration was absorbed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, intelligence analysts at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory completed a highly classified report and sent it to Washington. The report concluded that North Korea had begun construction of a plant to enrich uranium that could be used in nuclear weapons, according to administration and congressional sources.

The findings meant that North Korea was secretly circumventing a 1994 agreement with the United States in which it promised to freeze a nuclear weapons program. Under that deal, the North stopped producing plutonium.

Now, however, there was evidence that the North was embarking on a hidden quest for nuclear weapons down another path, using enriched uranium.

Although the report was hand-delivered to senior Bush administration officials, "no one focused on it because of 9/11," according to an official at Livermore, one of the nation's two nuclear weapons laboratories. An informed member of Congress offered the same conclusion.

If this is true, why did the Bush Administration have Kelly confront the DPRK over the issue when it did?

SPACE SHUTTLE COLUMBIA LOST? It appears to be so. I remember the Challenger explosion. But since then, shuttle flights had become routine, mundane even. Sad.

Ilan Ramon, a colonel in Israel's air force and former fighter pilot, became the first man from his country to fly in space, and his presence resulted in an increase in security, not only for Columbia's Jan. 16 launch, but also for its landing. Space agency officials feared his presence might make the shuttle more of a terrorist target.

On launch day, a piece of insulating foam on the external fuel tank came off during liftoff and was believed to have struck the left wing of the shuttle.

Leroy Cain, the lead flight director in Mission Control, had assured reporters Friday that engineers had concluded that any damage to the wing was considered minor and posed no safety hazard.

Gary Hunziker in Plano said he saw the shuttle flying overhead. "I could see two bright objects flying off each side of it," he told The Associated Press. "I just assumed they were chase jets."

"I was getting read to go out and I heard a big bang and the windows shook in the house," Ferolito told The AP. "I was getting ready to go out and I heard a big bang and the windows shook in the house. I thought it was a sonic boom."

Friday, January 31, 2003

PLAY THE GULF WAR II GAME A rather dismal scenario but not completely out of the realm of possibility I suppose.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

HOW TAXES WORK And how stories about how taxes work circulate around the internet.

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE . . . The DPRK's Korean Central News Agency reports that North Korea's decision to withdraw from the NPT has received support "on a worldwide scale." The specifics?
The Workers' Communist Party of Norway in a statement on Jan. 20 said that just is the DPRK's demand for conclusion of a peace agreement between the DPRK and the U.S. and withdrawal of the U.S. troops from South Korea.

The Palestine Liberation Democratic Front in an information bulletin on Jan. 15 denounced the U.S. for running amuck to weaken the defence capacity of People's Korea while conniving at the nukes of Israel and extended solidarity with People's Korea in its stubborn struggle against the U.S. pressure.

Wolid Hamdoun, member of the leadership of the Syrian Arab Socialist Baath Party and chairman of the Syrian Arab-Korea Friendship Association, and Gaji al Dib, director general of the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), when meeting the DPRK ambassador to Syria, said that Syria and the DPRK are standing in the same trench of the struggle against the u.s. vicious and aggressive offensives and expressed full support to the principled stand and decision of People's Korea.

Meanwhile, meetings supporting the DPRK Government statement were held at the building of the New Left Movement of Peru, the National University of Callao, Peru, and the Maracai branch of the Liberators' University of Experiment and Education of Venezuela from Jan. 15 to 17.

Be afraid, be very afraid: Once that crucial Maracai branch of the Liberators' University of Experiment and Educaiton of Venezuela support is obtained, the game is over!


Interesting anecdote:
North Koreans traveling over the border to Yanji, about 700 miles northeast of Beijing, said an initial wave of hope triggered by the changes announced in July is gone in almost all parts of the country except the capital, Pyongyang. Lee Xiangyu, a North Korean refugee in China, was arrested by Chinese border police and returned to North Korea last summer, when the changes began. After a short stint in jail, the 19-year-old returned to her home town, Musan, along the border with China. By October, she said, the lumberyard where her father worked had stopped paying him and other workers the huge raises they had received as part of the effort to promote some aspects of a free-market economy.

But prices continued to rise. "There was no money in my house, and now the prices are so high," she said. Lee sneaked back into China in December. "It's not like it was in 1997 when people were starving to death," she said, speaking of the famine that cost hundreds of thousands of lives. "But it's worse in a way. Because everybody had hope for a little while and now they are desperate again."

Revolutions don't take place when people are at rock-bottom but when things are beginning to improve but not quickly enough. Can we expect regime change in the DPRK soon?

Bill Clinton, who was President during the last crisis with North Korea over its nuclear arms program, said earlier this week that the United States should negotiate a comprehensive agreement with North Korea, before Pyongyang starts building bombs.

The United States should "give them a nonaggression pact if they want that, because we'd never attack them unless they did something that violated that pact anyway," he told Reuters in Davos, where he was attending the World Economic Forum. "North Korea has greater capacity to produce atomic weapons than Iraq does, and less capacity to feed itself than Iraq does. So for the North Koreans, their `cash crops,' if you will, are missiles and bombs."

"It is urgent that before they, out of economic necessity, get more irresponsible, we do what we can with the South Koreans, the Japanese, the Chinese and the Russians to make a big deal with them, a verifiable deal to end all nuclear programs and their long-range missile sales," he said, hewing to a multilateral approach. "They sometimes think the only way they can get anybody's attention is to misbehave."

"We can't keep going through this endless cycle of rewarding their misbehavior," said Mr. Clinton. whose administration negotiated a nuclear control agreement in 1994. "So we need a comprehensive agreement here, and I think we should do that sooner rather than later because they can make big bombs, and do it well."

Now he tells us.

H CON RES. 18 (How's that for inside the beltway jargon), sponsored, as far as I can tell, by Alcee Hastings (D-Florida), calls for the following:
Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress--

(1) calls on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), in an interim demonstration of good faith, to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to return to North Korea, reinstall surveillance cameras, and reseal the aforementioned plutonium
reprocessing plant while a more comprehensive and mutually acceptable agreement can be negotiated with the United States;

(2) calls on the United States, in an interim demonstration of good faith, to resume monthly fuel oil shipments to North Korea while a more comprehensive and mutually acceptable agreement can be negotiated with that nation;

(3) commends the IAEA for its efforts and calls on that organization to continue its separate and independent negotiations with North Korea to allow its inspectors to return to the country;

(4) calls on North Korea and the United States to immediately begin diplomatic talks and negotiations until a mutually acceptable binding treaty to resolve the current crisis has been agreed to by both parties; and

(5) calls on the members of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), and the Russian Federation, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Canada, and other concerned nations to support this interim solution and all diplomatic attempts by the United States and North Korea to achieve a peaceful resolution to the current crisis.

Don't hold your breath

A large reason is that we simply do not understand North Korea very well. As Ambassador Donald Gregg has said, "North Korea is the longest running intelligence failure in U.S. history." We simply do not have a very good understanding of how decisions are made, who makes them and why.
Amen! Of course this doesn't give most of the pundits, politicians, and others in this town even the slightest bit of pause.
President Bush was correct in his judgment that the North Korean regime is part of an "axis of evil" and that Kim Jong-il eminently deserves to be loathed for his despicable treatment of his people. North Korea is a very sad place and we would all be much better off if the regime did not exist.

Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen tomorrow or anytime soon. Disliking North Korea is an attitude, not a policy. As William Perry stated in his report, "We need to treat North Korea as it is, not as we would like it to be." That means we need to put aside an ideological approach, determine our most pressing national security concerns, and then try to capture them by engaging with North Korea.
This is easier said than done, particularly when given the caveat noted above.

DJ MAKES IT OFFICIAL: The ROK President did facilitate some $200 being sent to North Korea in advance of the Nobel Prize securing historic 2000 Kim-Kim summit in P'yongyang. DJ's defense:
President Kim, through a spokeswoman, defended the funds transfer as justified "for inter-Korean economic projects and sustained development of inter-Korean friendship."

For that reason, President Kim said, "legal punishment" for the secret transaction would be "inappropriate." The case, he went on, should not stop efforts at reconciliation or "damage relations" between North and South Korea.

And this understatement sums it up:
"This is just the beginning of this whole investigation," the Unification Ministry official said. "It's a big burden for the outgoing president. It's like a Pandora's box. Nobody wants to open it."

Will this make continuing the sunshine policy toward the DPRK more difficult for Roh Moo-hyun? Probably not.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

BOOTLEGGING HAS ITS COSTS: It is well known that bootleg copies of popular movies can be easily obtained in certain parts of Asia well before the official version comes out on VHS or DVD. I was in Taiwan earlier this month and saw DVD versions of Star Trek: Nemesis and Eight-Mile at a night market there. While getting the goods before everyone else may have its advantages (and make the folks at big media pull their hair out in frustration), going bootleg has its down-sides too. Note the interesting "Engrish" subtitles for a bootleg DVD of The Two Towers available here. I like "Its old frog food" and "now for rat."

ANTI-AMERICANISM VS. CRITICISM OF U.S. POLICIES. A scholar of Korean literature makes this interesting and useful point:
Not as someone living in the ROK, but as an attendee at a recent conference at the East West Center, University of Hawaii, where the demonstrations were a frequent topic, I would note that a number of scholars at the conference, Korean and American, urged that a distinction be drawn between "anti-American" (ban-mi) and critical of American policies (bi-mi). Because the demonstrations are reported as if they were anti-American, they cause anxiety among those thinking of travelling to Seoul, or huffy suggestions that, "if they're against us over there, maybe we should just leave," as Victor Cha observed of several then-recent op ed pieces. But in fact the demonstrations are an expression of engagement with such issues as concerns regarding North Korea, or dissatisfaction with the outcome of the trial of the miltary personnel whose vehicle killed the two Korean girls.. .; in other words, specific, understandable, and not threatening harm.

Monday, January 27, 2003

For me, this is a natural and welcome development. Having said that, I don't know that the PRC in its present incarnation will prove to be as accommodating a neo-colonial overseer as the United States, for all its flaws and faults, has been.

THE VAGARIES OF HISTORY: For the first time, Kim Il-sung's resistance to the Japanese is being acknowledged in South Korean history textbooks
What the new textbooks illustrate most clearly, South Korean intellectuals say, is how the strategy of engagement with North Korea, the so-called sunshine policy begun by departing President Kim Dae Jung, has transformed South Korea — even more than its target, North Korea — in important and often unexpected ways.

For decades, it was illegal here to say anything positive about Kim Il Sung, just as it was forbidden to display a North Korean flag. The revised history textbooks, which will be introduced next month, reflect a broad overturning of taboos here recently that has seen everything from South Korean tourists traveling to North Korea, to the president-elect, Roh Moo Hyun, openly questioning the nature of the longstanding alliance with the United States.


U.S. SPY PLANE GOES DOWN IN KOREA (South Korea that is).
Korean news reports said the plane hit a house and a motor vehicle repair center, setting off an explosion that burned down the buildings while the owner of the garage was on a break.

A Korean defense ministry spokesman said four Koreans were taken to a nearby hospital and treated for injuries that he described as "not serious."

The crash came at a time of increasing tensions over North Korea's weapons program, and disputes between the United States and South Korea over policy toward the North.

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