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Syria’s Chemical Weapons: The North Korean Connection

27 Aug

Given the current crisis over use of chemical weapons in Syria, here are excerpts from a recent story from NKNews.org on the origins of North Korean Syrian chemical warfare cooperation. (Full story on NKNews.org http://www.nknews.org/2013/06/north-korea-and-syrian-chemical-and-missile-programs/)

North Korea and Syrian chemical and missile programs

North Korean military experts are training Syria how to play with chemicals
Family Ties

Family Ties

BY NATE THAYER , JUNE 19, 2013

WASHINGTON D.C. – North Korean military experts are deployed on the frontlines of the war in Syria, providing key assistance to the Assad government’s chemical weapons and ballistic missile programs, according to foreign intelligence, sources within the Syrian resistance and independent analysts.

North Korean military assistance to Syria is part of a lengthy covert war that has quietly raged for a decade, leaving a trail of dead North Korean and Syrian military scientists.

The North Korean military advisors now in Syria provide components and technical expertise to Damascus to adapt North Korean-supplied ballistic missiles as delivery systems for their chemical weapons arsenal.

Captured chemical weapons equipment from Aleppo | Photo: Syrian Free Army

Captured chemical weapons equipment from Aleppo | Photo: Syrian Free Army

AL-SAFIR : A LONG AND CRITICAL HISTORY

At Syria’s biggest chemical weapons facility and missile base at al-Safir, 20 kilometers southeast of Aleppo in northern Syria, North Koreans have long been crucial to the development of the Syrian military program.

The sprawling ballistic missile and chemical weapons development facility was designed and built by North Korean engineers and specialists in the 1990s, and has since been frequently expanded.

(Full story on NKNews.org http://www.nknews.org/2013/06/north-korea-and-syrian-chemical-and-missile-programs/)

North Korea’s Hall of Mirrors: Fake Global Network of Shell Companies Key to Illicit Arms Exports

31 May

North Korea’s Global Hall of Mirrors: Shadowy front companies crucial to banned Pyongyang arms exports

Investigation reveals complex web of false shell corporations spanning the world enabling DPRK arms exports

By Nate Thayer
NK News
May 30, 2013

(See entire story at NK News http://www.nknews.org/2013/05/the-front-companies-facilitating-north-korean-arms-exports/ )
Four years after an aircraft was seized in Bangkok with a cargo of illicit weapons being sent from North Korea to Iran, the UN and other governments have concluded an investigation revealing new details of a sophisticated worldwide criminal network to circumvent UN sanctions designed to halt the proliferation of nuclear, missile, and other technologies to some of the world’s most volatile conflicts.

Dozens of shell companies involving at least 16 countries were created in the weeks before the aircraft was seized – paper industries designed to disguise the shadowy players behind the 2009 arms shipment that almost evaded international law enforcement.

On the night of December 11, 2009, the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand called the Prime Minister with an important request: U.S. intelligence had information a cargo plane had departed Pyongyang smuggling 35 tons of clandestine arms and was scheduled to land in Bangkok to refuel. The U.S. wanted the Thai army to seize the aircraft and its cargo, banned under international laws mandated by United Nations sanctions.

But when the aircraft was seized at 4.00pm the next day, the international intricate web of shell companies simply vanished into thin air.

In reality, they never existed except on paper.

The companies were all mail drops hurriedly established in obscure offices spanning the globe. They were all creations of other legal companies that exploited loopholes in national laws from New Zealand to Hong Kong to Ukraine to London – established to hide the true identities of the owners.

The officers listed on company registration papers were “nominee” directors with no power or knowledge over company operations. They received their instructions from the real owners whose true identities, nationalities, and locations they did not know.

Like an optical illusion, the complex global network was a hall of mirrors and the real identities of the powers behind the operation vanished immediately when the cargo was seized.

The only people that proved quickly identifiable were the airplane crew:–one Belarusian and four Ukrainians–who had no idea who they were working for, what cargo they were transporting, who their cache of goods was being delivered to, or even to where it was destined.

But the illicit weapons cache did yield a gold mine of documents that paint a vivid portrait of the complex global network used to evade international and national laws.

Leaked UN reports two weeks ago said their four year investigation into the Bangkok seizure had been concluded, and named three individuals who were part of the intricate web of deceit.

AN INTRICATE WEB

The 52-page confidential report by the Panel of Experts on sanctions against the DPRK named two Ukrainian citizens, Yuri Lunov and Igor Karev-Popov, and one citizen of Kazakhstan, Aleksandr Viktorovich Zykov, for their involvement in the North Korea arms cache seized in Bangkok.

Kazakh Aleksandr Viktorovich Zykov was an international arms trafficker whose company, then registered in the United Arab Emirates, owned the Russian made cargo plane until just months prior to it being used to transport the North Korean arms shipment.

Ukrainian Yuriy Lunov owned the Georgian company, Air West, who held the operating license to the aircraft, and hired the crew to fly the cargo plane.

Ukrainian Igor Karev-Popov was the mysterious figure who was “a UK based European” who controlled the New Zealand registered shell company, SP Trading, which from the shadows leased the aircraft from Air West from SP Trading’s shell mail-drop office in Kiev, Ukraine.

Upon leasing the plane, SP Trading signed an agreement with a just created Hong Kong registered front company, Union Top Management (UTM), which chartered the aircraft.

Four days later the aircraft departed Azerbaijan for a circuitous trip around the globe to Pyongyang.

From shell offices that included Kiev, Ukraine, Auckland, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and a mysterious company registered in London, SP Trading and UTM choreographed the operation. The cargo, which included 35 surface-to-air missiles that could theoretically shoot down a passenger plane, originated in Pyongyang and were destined for Hezbollah via distributers in Iran and Syria.

The real beneficial owners of the New Zealand shell company, SP Trading, ltd., and the Hong registered UTM were in real control of getting the weapons from North Korea to Tehran, where they would subsequently have gone to the Palestinian guerrilla army, Hezbollah, via Syria.

The four year UN investigation by the Panel of Experts, in cooperation with a number of law enforcement, aviation, and financial investigators and intelligence agencies, notably New Zealand, uncovered a jigsaw puzzle that has revealed remarkable details of how international criminal syndicated transport illicit commodities under the radar of international and national laws.

A PORTRAIT EMERGES

While North Korea can mask operations within its own borders, there are many national and international laws to abide by in order to operate globally – particularly in shipping, international flight operations, financial systems and company registration. This is compounded within the national borders of countries that are more sensitive to operating within the parameters of international laws and regulations.

Aircraft ownership, operator licenses, safety requirements, cargo manifests, international flight plans, etc, all required documentation – documentation that was found aboard the seized aircraft in 2009, and provided a paper trail that sparked 4 years of international investigation.

“New Zealand authorities investigated the beneficiaries of SP Trading and passed information to the (UN) Sanctions committee,” a New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told NK News, confirming their ongoing investigation into who was behind the New Zealand-registered companies linked to the seized plane.

“New Zealand legislation will shortly be passed that will close the loophole for non-resident directors,” the New Zealand government added.

IGOR KAREV-POPOV

The “non-resident director” and beneficiary of SP Trading was Igor Karev-Popov, – the same Igor Karev-Popov identified as sanctioned by the UN Panel of Experts this May, and said to be the most important power behind the network revealed so far.

But while Karev-Popov had never previously been publicly identified by name, the New Zealand government has been aware of his identity since at least 2010.

He is is the mysterious unnamed “UK based client” who was the person behind the creation of the two key paper companies, SP Trading and UTM, who controlled decisions to lease the aircraft, create the flight plan, pay those involved, and, most importantly, approve the cargo manifest that, ultimately contained the 35 tons of proscribed armaments.

The real and beneficial owners of SP Trading and UTM were in control of getting the weapons from North Korea to Iran.

Those involved in the actual transport of the proscribed cargo and who set up the web of front companies, knew very little, if anything, about the scheme they played various compartmentalized roles in. It is routine, in fact, for flight crews to have no knowledge of the specifics of the cargo they are hauling, arms trafficking investigators say…….(See entire story at NK News http://www.nknews.org/2013/05/the-front-companies-facilitating-north-korean-arms-exports/ )

Has Kim Jong Un Had Plastic Surgery? China Says: No Comment: Pyongyang erupts following reports circulating in Chinese media

24 Jan

Has Kim Jong Un Had Plastic Surgery? China Says: No Comment

Pyongyang erupts following reports circulating in Chinese media
Kim Il Sung and his grandson, current leader Kim Jong-un. Carefully orchestrated propaganda strategies to evoke similarities are alleged to include plastic surgery, which Pyongyang vehemently denies

Kim Il Sung (R) and his grandson, current leader Kim Jong-un (L). Carefully orchestrated propaganda strategies to evoke similarities are alleged to include plastic surgery, which Pyongyang vehemently denies

by Nate Thayer , January 24, 2013
NKNews.org

In the wake of North Korean state media Thursday issuing vitriolic objections of the “sordid hackwork of rubbish media” who alleged their young dictator underwent plastic surgery to look like his grandfather, Chinese government censors have ordered Chinese media to “not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts).”

North Korea erupted after months of silence over repeated news reports that Kim Jong Un had undergone plastic surgery to look like his grandfather Kim Il Sung, with official media denouncing “sordid” and “false reports… released by enemies… which the party, state, army and people can never tolerate.”

But what seemed to set Pyongyang off in a particularly virulent tizzy was not months of speculative South Korean rumor suggesting the young Kim had undergone plastic surgery, but rather a Chinese report posted last week by Shenzhen TV, which cited a diplomatic source who had spoken to a North Korean official while on a private visit to Pyongyang and confirmed the plastic surgery rumors.

KCNA referenced the Chinese report today, “Those hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the nation should not expect any mercy or leniency.” And reacting to a diplomatic demarche from Pyongyang to Beijing, China’s central propaganda authorities subsequently issued a directive to their journalists on January 24 reading:

Central Propaganda Department: Strictly observe propaganda and reporting regulations concerning foreign affairs. Do not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts).

The previous day, on January 23, the provincial government state censors of Guangdong province issued another directive saying:

Guangdong Propaganda Department: North Korea objects to Shenzhen Satellite TV’s report that Kim Jong-un had a face-lift. Do not report this incident, including Xinhua’s clarification. (January 23, 2013)

What was particularly noteworthy was that the Chinese censors had specifically ordered their media to censor their country’s own state media report from Xinhua in a bid to prevent Chinese citizens from reading their own governments official propaganda, which had in this case been written for consumption by a foreign audience.

It is not unusual for both North Korean and Chinese state media to issue reports only in foreign languages and not in native Korean or Chinese, targeting and limiting the audience who is able to access it.

The January 24 Chinese censor’s directive reference to “Strictly observe propaganda and reporting regulations concerning foreign affairs” comes on the same day that Pyongyang released a blistering rejection of a new UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions and condemning the north for its December rocket launch.

That statement issued today by the supreme power body of the regime, the National Defense Commission (NDC), vowed that North Korea would launch  “a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched…one after another and a nuclear test of higher level” in an “upcoming all-out action.” The NDC went on to dismiss “all the illegal resolutions adopted by the “United Nations Security Council.

The NDC statement is significant as is targets Beijing, as much as the U.S. or ROK.

“The keynote of the resolution was worked out through backstage dealing with the U.S. as a main player and it was adopted at the UNSC with blind hand-raising by its member nations,” said KCNA in a clear reference to Pyongyang’s only significant ally, Beijing.  “This shows, at the same time, that those big countries, which are obliged to take the lead in building a fair world order, are abandoning without hesitation even elementary principle, under the influence of the U.S. arbitrary and high-handed practices, failing to come to their senses.”

Regarding the report on Kim Jong Un’s plastic surgery, apparently Pyongyang communicated their grievances to Beijing and China’s ruling party instructed the official party media organ, Xinhua, to debunk the stories.  As such, this Tuesday Xinhua issued a report that cited two of its correspondents in Pyongyang who denied the plastic surgery rumors.

The rumours of Kim Jong Un having a face lift have been fed by Pyongyang’s propaganda apparatus for months who have carefully crafted a meticulous written and pictorial narrative trying to evoke similarities between Kim Jong Un and his grandfather, including through his dress, haircut, gestures and public appearances.

Following the new censorship directive, Xinhua said that “there have been no news reports in North Korea about Kim Jong Un’s plastic surgery” and that there was “nothing suspicious” about Kim resembling his grandfather since they carry the same genes. While Kim tries to dress, walk and smile like his grandfather, together this just aims to give the impression that he “holds the people dear,” Xinhua reported.

The official Chinese censorship directives were first reported by China Digital Times, a Berkeley California based website that monitors Chinese censorship of news reports. “Chinese state media does make a distinction for news coverage intended for domestic consumption,” said Anne Henochowicz, translation coordinator for China Digital Times. Chinese journalists and bloggers often refer to these official censorship instructions as “Directives from the Ministry of Truth.”

The Chinese censorship comes at a particularly sensitive time due to internal Chinese press freedom issues and relations between Pyongyang and Beijing.

The order by Beijing to all media and bloggers to “refrain from writing on the personal lives of North Korean leaders” also came just two days after Beijing took an unusually adversarial position against Pyongyang by signing the unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution that imposed new sanctions on North Korea for their December launch of a long range ballistic rocket.

Aside from the UNSC resolution, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said China does not support North Korea’s nuclear weapons program at a meeting with a delegation sent by South Korea’s President-elect to Beijing. “I believe South Korea under Park’s leadership will achieve its growth targets of the new era,” Yang was quoted by the official South Korean news agency, Yonhap, as saying during a meeting with the delegation. “South Korea is very important to China, and our strategic relations will develop into a new stage and take a big leap down the road.”

For those with an unhealthy need for detail, here is the longer version submitted before legitimate length and style requirements required editing and cutbacks:

China issues Censorship Order on North Korea Reporting After Pyongyang Erupts at “sordid hackwork by rubbish media”

Chinese Official Directive Orders Press “not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts)”

By Nate Thayer

In the wake of North Korean state media issuing Thursday particularly vitriolic objections of the “sordid hackwork of rubbish media” who have alleged their young dictator has undergone plastic surgery to look like his grandfather, Chinese government censors have ordered Chinese media to “not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts).”

North Korea has erupted after months of silence over repeated news reports that Kim Jong-Un had plastic surgery to look like his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, with official media denouncing ”sordid” and “false reports… released by enemies is a hideous criminal act which the party, state, army and people can never tolerate,” said Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday, calling it “sordid hackwork by rubbish media.”

But what seemed to set Pyongyang off in a particularly virulent tizzy was not months of speculative South Korean news reports suggesting the young Kim had undergone plastic surgery, but rather a Chinese report last week by China’s Shenzhen TV who cited a diplomatic source who, on a private visit to Pyongyang, had spoken to a North Korean official who confirmed the plastic surgery rumours. KCNA referenced the Chinese report,

“Those hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the nation should not expect any mercy or leniency,” said the KCNA.

Apparently reacting to a diplomatic demarche from Pyongyang to Beijing, the Beijing central authorities issued a directive January 24 reading: “Central Propaganda Department: Strictly observe propaganda and reporting regulations concerning foreign affairs. Do not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts).”

中宣部:严格遵守有关涉外宣传报道规定,对朝鲜领导人个人生活(如整容)不报道、不评论、不转载。

The previous day, on January 23, the provincial government state censors of Guangdong province issued another directive saying: “Guangdong Propaganda Department: North Korea objects to Shenzhen Satellite TV’s report that Kim Jong-un had a face-lift. Do not report this incident, including Xinhua’s clarification. (January 23, 2013)” 广东省委宣传部:深圳卫视报道了金正恩整容引发了朝鲜外交抗议,此事不要报道,包括新华社的澄清也不要报道。

What was particularly noteworthy was Chinese censors had specifically ordered Chinese media to censor China’s own state media report from Xinhua, in a bid to prevent Chinese citizens from reading their own governments official propaganda, which in this case was written for consumption by a foreign audience.

It is not unusual for both North Korean and Chinese state media to issue reports only in foreign languages and not in native Korean or Chinese, targeting and limiting the audience who is able to access it.

Apparently, Pyongyang issued a demarche to Beijing, and the Chinese ruling party instructed the official Chinese party media organ, Xinhua, to debunk the stories, and Xinhua issued a report Tuesday, citing two of its correspondents in Pyongyang who denying the plastic surgery rumours. Xinhua had its correspondents in Seoul and Pyongyang write a detailed background of the story which has circulated in the often gossip fueled and unverifiable rumor filled South Korean media, concluding that media stories that Kim Jong-un has had plastic surgery six times to resemble his grandfather. The story has been reported for months in South Korean, Japanese, and other foreign media, but was reported recently on a Chinese news website, and then reported as fact on Shenzhen Satellite TV in recent days.

The official Chinese censorship directives were first reported by Chinese Digital Times, a Berkeley California based website that monitors Chinese censorship of news reports and issues that strictly control what Chinese media can report on and filter news or online discussion on issues the ruling Chinese party deems sensitive. “Chinese state media does make a distinction for news coverage intended for domestic consumption,” said Anne Henochowicz, translation coordinator for China Digital Times. “This Xinhua report was likely made for foreign consumption, including Taiwan and Hong Kong, which wold explain why it was written in both Chinese and English.’

Chinese journalists and bloggers often refer to these official censorship instructions as “Directives from the Ministry of Truth.”

“Those hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the nation should not expect any mercy or leniency,” official North Korean central News Agency said Thursday. “Time will clearly show what dear price the human scum and media in the service of traitors of South Korea, slaves of capital, will have to pay,” it said.

“Time will clearly show what dear price the human scum and media in the service of traitors of South Korea, slaves of capital, will have to pay,” the Korean Central news Agency said Wednesday.

The rumours of Kim Jong-un having a facelift have been fed by Pyongyang’s propaganda apparatus who for months carefully crafted a meticulous written and pictorial narrative trying to evoke similarities between Kim Jong-Un and his grandfather, including through his dress, haircut, gestures and public appearances.

Xinhua cited as evidence of the stories falsehood that “There have been no news reports in North Korea about Kim Jong-un’s plastic surgery” and that there was “nothing suspicious” about Kim resembling his grandfather since they carry same genes.

While Kim tries to dress, walk and smile like his grandfather, this just aims to give the impression that he “holds the people dear,” Xinhua said.

The Chinese censorship comes at a particularly sensitive time for both internal Chinese press freedom issues and relations between Pyongyang and Beijing.

Earlier this month, Chinese Journalists in the Southern province of XXX publicly refused to follow orders to censor reports on corruption, with the staff of the Southern Weekly holding public demonstrations.

On January 7, state censors from the central Beijing government“Ministry of Truth” issued the following: “Central Propaganda Department: Urgent Notice Concerning the Southern Weekly New Year’s Message Publication Incident: Responsible Party committees and media at all levels must be clear on three points related to this matter: (1) Party control of the media is an unwavering basic principle; (2) This mishap at Southern Weekly has nothing to do with Guangdong Propaganda Department Head Tuo Zhen; (3) External hostile forces are involved in the development of the situation. Every responsible work unit must demand that its department’s editors, reporters, and staff discontinue voicing their support for Southern Weekly online. Starting tomorrow, media and websites in all locales must prominently republish the Global Times editorial “Southern Weekly’s ‘Message to Readers’ Is Food for Thought Indeed.” (January 7, 2013).”中宣部:关于南方周末新年献辞出版事件的紧急通知,各级主管党委和媒体,对于此次事件,必须明确以下三点:一,党管媒体是不可动摇的基本原则;二, 南方周末此次出版事故与广东省委宣传部长庹震同志无关;三,此事的发展有境外敌对势力介入。各主管单位必须严格要求其部门的编辑,记者和员工不得继续在网 络上发言支持南方周末。各地媒体、网站明天起以显著版面转发《环球时报》的社评《南方周末“致读者”实在令人深思》。

The order by Beijing to all media and bloggers to ‘refrain from writing on the personal lives of North Korean leaders” comes two days after Beijing on Tuesday took an unusually adversarial position against Pyongyang in signing a unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution that imposed new sanctions on North Korea for their December launch of a long range ballistic rocket, which most analysts say was testing the rocket delivery system for nuclear warheads designed to reach the United States.

“China maintains that the Security Council’s reaction should be prudent and moderate, and that it should work for the peace and stability of the (Korean) Peninsula and avoid the progressive escalation of tensions,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily press briefing on Monday.

The U.S. and China hashed out a carefully worded agreement in private negotiations over the last month to win Beijing’s approval of the UN sanctions. “China and the US have many differences in principles over dealing with the satellite launch. That’s why the UN negotiations have lasted for more than a month,”Shi Yuanhua, a researcher on Korean studies at the Shanghai-based Fudan University, was quoted as saying.

Diplomats say the U.S. circulated a draft resolution to the 15-member U.N. Security Council condemning the launch and expand existing sanctions.

Aside from the UNSC resolution, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said China does not support North Korea’s nuclear weapons program at a meeting with a delegation sent by South Korea’s President-elect to Beijing. “I believe South Korea under Park’s leadership will achieve its growth targets of the new era,” Yang was quoted by the official South Korean news agency, Yonhap, as saying during a meeting with the delegation. “South Korea is very important to China, and our strategic relations will develop into a new stage and take a big leap down the road.”

North Korean state media just released a statement by the supreme power body of the regime, the National Defense Commission Thursday January 24 vowing “ a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level” in an “upcoming all-out action.” The NDC dismissed “all the illegal resolutions adopted by the “United Nations Security Council.

The NDC built on Wednesday January 23 KCNA official reaction to the UN security Council condemnation and sanctions taken after last month’s launch of a ballistic missile rocket designed as a delivery system for nuclear weapons, “that only when the denuclearization of the world is realized on a perfect and preferential basis including the denuclearization of the U.S., will it be possible to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace and security of the DPRK.”

The NDC statement is significant as is targets Beijing, as much as the US or ROK.

The National Defense Commission statement, according to KCNA said : “Our successful launch of satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2 was a great jubilee in the history of the nation as it placed the nation’s dignity and honor on the highest plane and a spectacular success made in the efforts to develop space for peaceful purposes recognized by the world.

This being a hard reality, the U.S. at the outset of the year termed our satellite launch “long-range missile launch,” “wanton violation” of the UN resolutions and “blatant challenge” to world peace and security in a bid to build up public opinion on this. Finally, it prodded the UNSC into cooking up a new resolution on tightening sanctions against the DPRK.

The keynote of the resolution was worked out through backstage dealing with the U.S. as a main player and it was adopted at the UNSC with blind hand-raising by its member nations. This goes to clearly prove that the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK has entered a new dangerous phase.
This shows, at the same time, that those big countries, which are obliged to take the lead in building a fair world order, are abandoning without hesitation even elementary principle, under the influence of the U.S. arbitrary and high-handed practices, failing to come to their senses.

Moreover, this also indicates that the UNSC, which should regard it as its mission to guarantee sovereign rights and security of its member nations, has turned into a defunct marionette international body on which no hope can be pinned.

The DPRK National Defence Commission solemnly declares as follows as regards the adoption of the entirely unreasonable resolution on the DPRK:

We totally reject all the illegal resolutions on the DPRK adopted by the UNSC.

We have never recognized all forms of base resolutions tightening sanctions cooked up by the hostile forces to encroach upon the DPRK’s sovereignty.

Sovereignty is what keeps a country and nation alive.

The country and the nation without sovereignty are more dead than alive.

The U.S. should clearly know that the times have changed and so have the army and the people of the DPRK.

  1. Along with the nationwide efforts to defend the sovereignty, the DPRK will continue launching peaceful satellites to outer space one after another.
    2. As the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK has entered more dangerous phase, overall efforts should be directed to denuclearizing big powers including the U.S. rather than the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
    The army and people of the DPRK drew a final conclusion that only when the denuclearization of the world is realized on a perfect and preferential basis including the denuclearization of the U.S., will it be possible to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace and security of the DPRK.
    “Under this situation the DPRK can not but declare that there will no longer exist the six-party talks and the September 19 joint statement.”
    No dialogue on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will be possible in the future even though there may be dialogues and negotiations on ensuring peace and security in the region including the Korean Peninsula.
    3. We will launch an all-out action to foil the hostile policy toward the DPRK being pursued by the U.S. and those dishonest forces following the U.S., and safeguard the sovereignty of the country and the nation.
    The UN Security Council resolution on expanding sanctions against the DPRK, which was adopted on the initiative of the U.S., represents the most dangerous phase of the hostile policy toward the DPRK.

Under the prevailing situation, the army and people of the DPRK will turn out in an all-out action to defend its sovereignty which is more precious than their own lives and frustrate the moves of the U.S. and its allies to isolate and stifle the DPRK.

We do not hide that a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level which will be carried out by it in the upcoming all-out action, a new phase of the anti-U.S. struggle that has lasted century after century, will target against the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people.

Settling accounts with the U.S. needs to be done with force, not with words as it regards jungle law as the rule of its survival.

The world will clearly see how the army and people of the DPRK punish all kinds of hostile forces and emerge as a final victor while following the just road of defending its sovereignty, convinced of the justice of its cause.”

North Korean Rocket Launch to Test Capability to Reach U.S. imminent in Coming Days

10 Dec

North Korea plans Testing Nuclear Bomb Delivery System Capable of Reaching Continental United States in Coming Days

If there are any illusions that North Korea, arguably the single biggest threat to global stability, continues to march unimpeded forward toward a fully operational  nuclear weapons state to further strengthen what is already the fourth largest standing army in the world with policies that could spark an outbreak of open military conflict with the potential of wreaking regional and global economic, political and military havoc, it can only be because the implications of this reality are too unpleasant o even contemplate.

Ominous developments in recent weeks have oddly seemed to have garnered little international attention. This can be for only a very few reasons: That no one is paying attention; that no believes them despite their uninterrupted track record of doing what they say they will do; their monitored preparatory actions as a run up to demonstrating that this time is somehow different than the numerous times that have proven otherwise in recent decades; that the world is distracted by international crisis’s elsewhere such as the multi faceted intractable middle east where the connected but independent events in Syria, Iran, and Gaza threaten to ignite and spread; or that world policy makers are wholly incapable, unwilling, or totally flummoxed in formulating a new strategy to replace the series of previous failed  efforts of formulating an effective North Korean policy strategy to prevent such an eventuality.

North Korea has been crystal clear in its public declarations and concomitant military preparations and internal political reorganizations that their top priority is their race to create an operational arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

As the now one year old government has consolidated its hold on power, they continue to threaten to use their nuclear and ballistic missile program against those who object to their domestic or foreign policy objectives. Any illusions that the “new” government under the titular leadership of Kim Jong-un, the 20 something year old heir to the family dynastic dictatorship, would be a kinder gentler Orwellian purgatory, can now be fully dispatched to the waste bin of wishful thinking.

While there has been some purges and reorganization within the North Korean regime and military since April, the nuclear and ballistic missile program has been consolidated.

The timing of this launch is not coincidentally coming as the one year anniversary of the death of former leader Kim Jong-il

Official North Korean media on December 1 announced that it would launch a “satellite” test launch between today, December 10 and December 22.giving the dates of the launch taking place sometime between December 10 and December 22. On December 8, they said the  dates might be postponed because of an unspecified “technical difficulty.” On December 10, they reaffirmed their intention to proceed with the launch the potential time window extended by one week to sometime between December 10 and Dec. 29 with KCNA reporting technicians had “found technical deficiency in the first-stage control engine module of the rocket,” citing a spokesman for the Korean Committee of Space Technology.

As a result, they have decided to extend the launch period until December 29,

Satellite photos confirmed steadily throughout November until today that the first two stages of constructing the missile on the launch pad had been completed by last Thursday. Satellite images showed that a new third-stage booster was delivered to the launch pad on Saturday. The final stage of the fueling was confirmed by imagery to have begun on Sunday December 9.

Official state media clarified with more specifics the earlier unspecified reason for an extension of the potential dates of the launch on December 10.

The missile launch is designed to test the capability of its secret intensive efforts to fit nuclear bombs on a delivery system—which is the long range missile being tested– that can effectively target much of the planet including the continental United States, as well as those countries who publicly criticize their repressive domestic policies or object to their foreign policy demands which they use threats of military attacks against those who object, primarily Japan, South Korea, and the United States.

 The fact that all of the primary nations involved in efforts to avoid a worst case scenario descent into open conflict, Washington, Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing, are distracted by leadership transitions within their own countries, offers Pyongyang the chance to move quickly while their most important adversaries are otherwise occupied.

This is the second missile launch this year by North Korea

Official media has vowed to launch a long range ballistic rocket named after its late leader into orbit by year’s end. A rocket carrying a Kwangmyongsong satellite exploded in April shortly after takeoff. The mishap embarrassed Mr. Kim before the foreign journalists his government had invited to witness the launching. It also scuttled hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid shipments.

This is an article I wrote days before their April missile launch. Another article outlining how internal North Korean developments since then have only reinforced and confirmed Pyongyang’s commitment to a fully operational nuclear weapons program that can reach the United States.

All of Kim Jong-un’s Men

By Nate Thayer

Asia Times

April 4, 2012

WASHINGTON – The top managers of North Korea’s clandestine nuclear and ballistic missile program have been methodically promoted and now dominate the inner circle of Kim Jong-eun’s new government, confidential foreign government documents and official media reports from Pyongyang show.

The shadowy group of power brokers in the world’s most secretive nation emerged in the first military promotions prominently unveiled during recent high-profile ceremonies as the official mourning period for the death of former dictator Kim Jong-il concluded last week.

These same senior officials are known to be behind Pyongyang’s missile test launch – scheduled for the middle of April – which has rattled regional nerves and sabotaged a short-lived agreement with Washington designed to slow North Korea’s steady march towards a nuclear weaponized state. The United Nations and United States have charged the “earth observation satellite” launch is a thinly disguised cover for testing capabilities for a nuclear armed long-range ballistic missile.

At least 10 senior North Korean officials, now prominent at the core of power behind 29-year-old hereditary successor Kim Jong-eun, have been named by several foreign intelligence services as in charge of Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile development and export program, including enrichment of uranium to weapons grade strength.

They have also been implicated in selling nuclear and missile technology to Iran and Syria, dispatching special operation teams to attack South Korea and assassinate political opponents, coordinating an international criminal network involved in drug trafficking, counterfeit money laundering, and establishing front companies and banks to raise more than a billion US dollars per year to bankroll the privileged lifestyles of the regime’s elite.

The 10 are among North Korean officials and government agencies named by at least 31 governments as part of a network that has imported, sold and developed components and technology for weapons of mass destruction (WMD). They have had their assets frozen, been banned from travel outside of North Korea and forbidden from engaging in business with the countries’ nationals or companies, according to official documents.

In the first leadership reshuffle following Kim Jong-il’s death and in one of his first public acts as the Korean People’s Army Supreme Commander, Kim Jong-eun promoted four key officials to the rank of general at ceremonies marking his deceased father’s 70th birthday on February 15.

Pak To-chun, Ju Kyu-chang and Paek Se-bong, previously seen only in civilian dress, were never known to have military rank before being made senior generals. Pyongyang’s top spy, Kim Yong-chol, was also recently promoted to four-star general rank. In January, another key powerbroker, Kim Jong-eun’s uncle Jang Song-thaek, who appeared for the first time in military uniform at the December funeral ceremonies for Kim Jong-il, was appointed to the rank of four-star general.

All five men are named by the United Nations, the US, the European Union (EU) and other government documents as key managers of Pyongyang’s illicit ballistic and nuclear development and export programs.

Nuclear aides
Ju Kyu-chang has been at the center of Pyongyang’s clandestine nuclear and missile development policies for more than two decades. He “oversees the development of North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs”, according to a December 19, 2011 EU document listing North Korean officials designated on its sanction list.

Ju Kyu-chang is also director of the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) Machine-Building Industry Department, former head of the KWP Second Economic Committee and past head of the National Academy of Natural Sciences. All three government agencies are named by US, UN, EU and other governments as deeply involved in covert nuclear and ballistic missile production, research and export.

According to a May 2010 confidential report to the United Nations Security Council, “Ju served as the overall supervisor for North Korea’s missile development, including oversight of the April 5, 2009 Taepo Dong-2 (TD-2) missile launch and the failed July 2006 TD-2 launch.”

Those two missile launches were the predecessors to the upcoming launch this month of an “earth observation satellite”. Both ballistic missile launches immediately preceded Pyongyang’s two underground nuclear explosions.

Daniel Pinkston, an analyst with the International Crisis Group (ICG), said Ju Kyu-chang has “technical expertise regarding the SLV [space launch vehicle] and satellite programs and the nuclear weapons program”. In its June 2009 report “North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs”, ICG said Ju Kyu-chang “is believed to be in charge of an independent entity with custody of North Korea’s nuclear bombs” and “was in charge of the August 1998 attempted satellite launch and the 2009 launch”.

“I would equate Ju with General Leslie Groves, who headed the US Manhattan Project that produced atomic bombs during World War II,” said Larry Niksch, a senior associate with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies and former Asian affairs specialist for 43 years with the non-partisan Congressional Research Service. “Ju runs the day-to-day programs to develop missiles and probably nuclear weapons,” he said in an e-mail this week.

Niksch wrote that Pyongyang reacted to international sanctions by “fashioning an alternative based on illicit programs: counterfeiting of US currency and products, narcotics smuggling, and selling missiles and other weapons to other ‘rogue’ nations like Syria, Pakistan, and Iran, and terrorist groups like Hezbollah … I estimate that North Korean earnings from various forms of collaboration with Iran earns Pyongyang upwards of $2 billion annually. Kim Jong-il distributed much of these earnings to his military and communist elite to keep them satisfied and loyal.”

Paek Se-bong is chairman of the government’s Second Economic Committee (SEC). A classified May 2010 UN “Report to the Security Council from the Panel of Experts” said, “It is broadly believed that the Second Economic Committee of the National Defense Commission plays the largest and most prominent role in nuclear, other WMD and missile-related development programs as well as in arranging and conducting arms-related exports.”

According to 2010 US government documents “The US has reason to believe … [the Second Economic Committee] has been used for North Korea-Iran proliferation-related transactions.” A 2009 UN report to the Security Council said the SEC “is a national-level organization responsible for research and development of North Korea’s advanced weapons systems, including missiles and probably nuclear weapons”. The same UN report said, “Paek is the chief operating officer of the DPRK’s [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s] military industry, the country’s largest employer and economic consumer.”

Paek Se-bong personifies the mysterious grouping of figures in charge of North Korea’s illicit weapons program. Very little biographical data exists on Paek Se-bong, who emerged from obscurity in 2003 when he was appointed to head the SEC and made a member of the National Defense Commission (NDC), the supreme ruling body of the DPRK.

After 2003, Paek Se-bong did not appear for eight years in official North Korean media until April 9, 2009 – four days after the highly publicized launch of the last North Korean “satellite”. He was at that time reappointed publicly to his position as head of the SEC and a member of the NDC.

That long-range rocket test scuttled ongoing talks over its nuclear program and was followed weeks later by an underground explosion testing a nuclear bomb, which resulted in harsh UN sanctions. It was shortly thereafter that Paek Se-bong’s name was placed on international sanction lists.

His name translates to the “Three peaks of Mt Paektu”, a term used in official propaganda to refer to Kim Jong-il and his parents. (It is purported to be the mythical birthplace of Kim Jong-il, but he is known to have been born in a village in Siberia where his parents were in exile during World War II.)

Illicit exports
Pak To-chun was placed under international sanction on December 19, 2011, the same day Kim Jong-il’s death was announced. According to the EU, “He is in charge of the arms industry. It is reported that he commands the office for nuclear energy. This institution is decisive for [North Korea’s] nuclear and rocket launcher program.”

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An image of a national report meeting held on February 15, 2012, highlighted are Pak To-chun (2nd row, left), Ju Kyu-chang (2nd row, 2nd left) and Kim Yong-chol (3rd row, right), all of whom were given military promotions on the occasion of Kim Jong-il’s recent birthday celebration. (Photo: KBS screen grab)

Pak To-chun, also a member of the powerful NDC, is director of the Military Arms Production Department. According to the May 2010 UN report to the Security Council: “The Military Arms Production Department of the Korea Workers’ Party oversees the matters related to the Yongbyon nuclear plant and its nuclear weapons programs.”

He succeeded Jon Pyong-ho as head of North Korea’s military industries in 2010. Jon Pyong-ho was the primary manager since the 1980s of North Korea’s clandestine international network tasked with covertly acquiring components and technology to build a nuclear bomb. He was in charge of trading ballistic missile and nuclear technology with Pakistan’s Abdul Qadeer Khan network to build Pyongyang’s nuclear and other weapons arsenal.

In 2008, a secret delegation of Myanmar military generals traveled to North Korea on a weapons and technology purchasing trip. A leaked detailed report, complete with pictures, showed Jon Pyong-ho hosting Myanmar military officials, including on a tour of a missile factory.

Jon Pyong-ho continues to serve on the powerful NDC and is named on international sanction lists for running a worldwide network trafficking in nuclear material with Iran, Libya, Pakistan and Syria.

“[He] is in charge of nuclear weapons development,” according to a 2009 UN report issued after Pyongyang detonated a second underground nuclear explosion. According to a December 21, 2011 EU report ordering new sanctions, the Machine Building

Industries Department he headed is “responsible for overseeing activities of North Korea’s military industries” including “the development of North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs”.

In April 2009, Jon Pyong-ho was one of only two officials named as accompanying Kim Jong-il to witness the purported peaceful “space launch” that scuttled earlier bilateral agreements to halt ballistic and nuclear testing, according to photographs and statements from the official Korean Central News Agency archives. The other was Ju Kyu Chang, who was promoted to four-star general during this year’s February ceremonies for the deceased Kim Jong-il. Jon Pyong-ho was given special prominence at the recent mourning period closing ceremonies on 25 March.

Kim Yong-chol, a former bodyguard turned head of North Korea’s spy agency, also received his fourth star during the recent Kim Jong-il birthday celebrations. Kim heads the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB). Both he and the RGB are named in UN, US, EU and other international sanctions for their involvement in banned sales of sophisticated weapons systems, including to Iran and Syria, and have been implicated in launching recent military attacks on South Korea.

Kim Yong-chol and the RGB “specializes in the production of maritime military craft and armaments, such as submarines, military boats and missile systems, and has exported torpedoes and technical assistance to Iranian defense-related firms”, according to December 2011 United Kingdom and EU sanctions documents.

The same documents name the RGB as “responsible for approximately half of the arms and related material exported by North Korea” and name RGB front companies that in 2007 and 2008 “facilitated transactions involving … designated Iranian financial institutions, including Bank Melli and Bank Sepah … for the benefit of North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau’s (RGB) weapons program.”

Kim Yong-chol was first implicated by intelligence agencies in 2010. In August 2010, US President Barack Obama cited the “unprovoked attack that resulted in the sinking of the Republic of Korea Navy ship Cheonan and the deaths of 46 sailors in March 2010″ when issuing Executive Order 13551 that placed US sanctions on a single North Korean official, General Kim Yong-chol, the RGB he commanded, and the Green Pine Associated Corporation, a North Korean front company the US and others have identified as acting on the RGB’s behalf to sell prohibited arms, including to Iran and Syria.

The day before Kim Yong-chol was promoted to full general, Pyongyang announced the creation of a new medal, the “Order of Kim Jong-il,” awarded for services in building a “thriving socialist nation” and for the military defense of the country. The first recipients of the award included Kim Yong-chol.

Kim Yong-chol’s direct superior, General O Kuk-ryol, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, is another prominent figure in the new regime’s inner circle. The UN described O Kuk-ryol as “supervising the acquisition abroad of advanced technology for nuclear and ballistics programs” in a list of sanctioned North Korean officials he was placed on in 2009. The EU added him to its list in December of last year.

At this year’s March 25 ceremonies closing Kim Jong-il’s 100-day mourning period, Minister of People’s Armed Forces and Vice-Marshal Kim Yong-chun delivered the keynote speech which said that Kim Jong-eun “has turned North Korea into an invincible country which nobody dares to attack”.

United Nations and US documents from 2011 placed Kim Yong-chun, identified as “special adviser to Kim Jong-il on nuclear strategy” on a sanction list that froze his assets and imposed a travel ban. He currently serves as Pyongyang’s de facto defense minister and was one of only eight leaders to walk with Kim Jong-eun alongside the hearse during Kim Jong-il’s recent funeral procession.

Analysts say that the decision to name Kim Jong-eun as successor to his father was made by early 2009 and subsequent reshuffles made within the party and military have paved the way for a smooth transition. In February 2009, O Kuk-ryol was appointed vice chairman of the NDC and Kim Yong-chun was appointed minister of the People’s Armed Forces.

Top commanders
In April 2009, Kim Yong-chun, O Kuk-ryol, Jon Pyong-ho, Paek Se-bong, Jang Song-thaek and Ju Kyu-chang were all elected to North Korea’s highest body, the National Defense Commission. All six are also named as key figures in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile program by the UN, US and other governments, and have all been prominent in public appearances with Kim Jong-eun in recent weeks.

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Second Economy Commission chairman Paek Se-bong (circled) applauds at the start of a national report meeting for Kim Jong-il’s birthday on February 15, 2012. He was given the rank of colonel general (sangjang) in a military promotions list issued on the occasion of Kim Jong-il’s 70th birthday. At past national events, Paek Se-bong had been observed wearing business suits (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

Prior to the current diplomatic scuffle over the upcoming supposed satellite launch, North Korea was accused of creating nearly identical crises in 2009 when it launched a long-range, multi-stage rocket it referred to as a space satellite. The move was in defiance of a UN ban, broke off then six-nation nuclear disarmament talks and set the stage for a new underground nuclear test, the country’s second.

The following year saw North Korea launch an artillery attack on South Korea that claimed the lives of 46 South Koreans and stoked international fears that the Koreas were near war.

In recent weeks, the same North Korean officials known to command these provocative events have been given high-profile promotions as Pyongyang unveils the new core of leaders behind Kim Jong-eun’s new regime. In addition to the 10, other senior officials have also been named as key figures in North Korea’s illicit nuclear and ballistic missile program.

Pak Jae-gyong and Hyon Chol-hae, both of the Korean People’s Army’s political department, are named as “military adviser to Kim Jong-il” in UN and other sanctions lists. Head of the Academy of Science, Pyon Yong-rip, is also named as “involved in WMD-related biological research”. All three played prominent roles in the ceremonies that followed the death of Kim Jong-il in the carefully orchestrated succession process to crown Kim Jong-eun as North Korea’s new dictator.

Several other powerful figures who are not named in international sanctions also play key roles in the new inner power circle. Korean People’s Army chief of staff Ri Yong-ho and two NDC members, Generals U Dong-guk and Kim Jong-gak, are also known to be in Kim Jong-eun’s inner circle.

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Vice Marshal Kim Jong-gak (2nd right) seen at a March 25, 2012, rally ending the 100 days of mourning Kim Jong-il’s death. He nominated Kim Jong-eun as one of the Korean People’s Army’s delegates to the 4th Party Conference in April 2012. Ministry of State Security’s General U Tong-chuk (3rd right).

U Dong-guk heads the State Security Department responsible for domestic intelligence while Kim Jong-gak is in charge of ensuring loyalty to the new leader within the armed forces and party. Kim Ki-nam, meanwhile, leads the formidable propaganda operation in charge of molding Kim Jong-eun’s image. Another prominent figure is Choe Tae-bok who is involved in Pyongyang’s scientific and technological development which concentrates mainly on efforts to build a sophisticated military state.

The coming weeks will see the further unveiling of top advisers who hold the real power in the new regime, say analysts. The 100th anniversary of the birth of the founder of the North Korean state, Kim Il-sung, will take place on April 15. State media have touted the date for several years as a major national turning point, marking the regime’s promise to create “a mighty and prosperous nation”.

The official Korean Central News Agency said on Monday that a rare Workers’ Party conference will be held on April 11, shortly before Kim Il-sung’s birthday celebration. At that event, his grandson, Kim Jong-eun, is expected to be named the secretary general of the KWP, the title previously held by his father Kim Jong-il. Kim Il-sung still retains the title of president in death.

North Korea’s parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly, is set to hold its annual session on April 13. It is expected Kim Jong-eun will also be promoted to chairman of the NDC, another post held by his now deceased father. Coincident with these transitional events, Pyongyang informed international maritime and space organizations that it will launch its ballistic missile into orbit between April 12 and 16.

Nate Thayer, former Southeast Asia correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review, is an investigative reporter specializing in conflict, transnational crime, and Asian affairs. He is currently based in Washington DC and may be reached at thayernate0007@gmail.com

North Korean Officials Implicated in Scores of Drug Trafficking Incidents

23 Sep

North Korean Officials Implicated in Scores of Drug Trafficking Incidents

By Nate Thayer

North Korea has categorically denied state sponsored criminal syndicates of drug trafficking, trafficking of counterfeit U.S. currency, and other smuggling-for- profit activities by North Korean military, intelligence, and diplomatic officials since 1976.

But the evidence solidly suggests otherwise. The Kim family dynastic government has been linked to hundreds of verifiable incidents involving drug seizures in at least 30 countries involving arrest or detention of North Korean diplomats or officials.

For example, in May 1976, 400 kg hashish were seized from a North Korean (DPRK) diplomat in Egypt.

In July94, Chinese officials arrested a Chinese national on charges of smuggling

6 kg. of North Korean produced heroin through the DPRK Embassy in China

In August 1994, a DPRK intelligence agent was arrested by Russian authorities for trying to sell heroin to Russian mafia group

In January 1995, Chinese officials in Shanghai seize 6 kg. of heroin and

arrested two DPRK nationals, one with a diplomatic passport

In July, 1998, a DPRK. Diplomat was arrested in Egypt with 500,000 tablets of rohypnol — the “date rape” drug.

In January 1998, Russian officials arrested two DPRK diplomats in Moscow with 35 kg. of cocaine smuggled through Mexico.

In October 1998, German officials arrested a DPRK diplomat in Berlin seizing heroin made in North Korea.

On February 12, 1999, an employee of the DPRK consulate in Shenyang, China, was caught attempting to illicitly sell 9 kilograms of opium.

On April 3, 1999, Japanese police caught Yakuza gang members attempting to smuggle 100 kilograms of methamphetamine into Japan on a Chinese ship.\

In April 1999, authorities at the Prague airport detained a DPRK diplomat stationed in Bulgaria attempting to smuggle 55 kilograms of the “date rape” drug rohypnol from Bulgaria.

On May 3, 1999, Taiwanese police apprehended four members of a Taiwanese drug organization attempting to smuggle 157 kilograms of DPRK produced methamphetamine.

On October 3, 1999, Japanese authorities seized 564 kilograms of DPRK methamphetamine from the Taiwanese ship “Xin Sheng Ho”; 250 kilograms of DPRK made methamphetamine were also seized by Japanese authorities on February 5, 2000 leading to arrests of members of a Japanese Crime group and members of a North Korean run trading company.

During October through November 2001, Filipino authorities detained a ship twice in their territorial waters which had received first 500 kilograms and then 300 kilograms of methamphetamine from a North Korean ship.

On December 22, 2001, Japanese patrol boats, in a skirmish, sank a North Korean vessel believed to be carrying drugs to Japan —the same vessel had been photographed in 1998 smuggling drugs into Japan.

On January 6, 2002, Japanese authorities seized 150 kilograms of DPRK methamphetamine from a Chinese ship in Japanese territorial waters that had earlier rendezvoused with a DPRK vessel for the drug transfer.

In July 2002, Taiwanese authorities confiscated 79 kilograms of heroin which a local crime group had received from a North Korean battleship.

In November and December 2002, packages containing 500 pounds of methamphetamine from the DPRK floated ashore in Japan.

On April 20, 2003, Australian police seized the DPRK ship, the “Pong Su”, which had attempted to smuggle 125 kilograms of heroin through Singapore into the territorial waters of Australia. Arrested North Koreans included a Korean Workers Party “political officer.” The ship had no other cargo.

In June 2004, two North Korean diplomats working at the North Korean Embassy in Egypt were detained for smuggling 150,000 tablets of Clonazipam, an anti-anxiety drug.

In December 2004, Turkish authorities arrested two North Korean diplomats suspected of smuggling the synthetic drug Captagon to Arab markets. The diplomats, assigned to North Korea’s Embassy in Bulgaria, were found to be carrying over half a million Captagon tablets, with an estimated street value of over $7 million.

And that is only a cursory sampling of the arrest, detention, or expulsion of North Korean officials for smuggling narcotics.

In April 1998 Russian police reported arresting Kil Chae Kyong, the personal secretary in charge of secret funds for Kim Jong Il on charges of trying to sell $30,000 in counterfeit U.S. currency, but that is another story.

A similar litany of official North Korean government officials detained or arrested for trying to smuggle and launder counterfeit U.S. dollars requires another article.

 

North Korea: The World’s Only Mafia Crime State

9 Sep

North Korea: The World’s Only Mafia Crime State

How North Korea Funds their Army, Nuclear Weapons Programme. and Small Group of Elite Cadre in Control

(Excerpts from an unpublished study of the criminal syndicates run by Kim Jong Il as central State policy)

(Copyright Nate Thayer. No republication in full or in part without express written permission of the author)

By Nate Thayer

North Korea is the only nation where it is central government policy to operate as a systematic criminal syndicate through a myriad of state controlled illicit activities. According to evidence compiled over a recent six month investigation, the North Korean government has, since at least 1974, run a worldwide network of diplomats, intelligence operatives, military, and other government officials, as well as state controlled front companies that use the rights and powers of a sovereign state to manage illegal operations worldwide.

North Korean government operatives have intentionally violated laws in at least 106 countries in over 500 incidents as it has repeatedly evaded and ignored a series of  multi lateral agreements and increasingly stricter sanctions imposed by the United Nations, as well as the laws of sovereign nations around the world.

Together these criminal activities, strictly controlled and coordinated by the ruling Korean Workers Party of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK), have used thousands of North Koreans from school children to some of an estimated 200,000 political prisoners as forced labor in the opium poppy fields, to workers in the manufacturing plants processing heroin, methamphetamine, fake pharmaceuticals, counterfeit US currency, counterfeit foreign cigarettes, as well as a sophisticated secret weapons systems and nuclear weapons development program. To oversee the production, manufacture, transport, and export of these products, they have employed the full apparatus of state institutions. These have included the use of military vessels, intelligence officials, diplomats, their foreign embassies, and a complex web of more than a hundred state controlled front companies with networks around the world,

Increasingly, after years of international scrutiny of North Korean officials abroad and hundreds of seizures in dozens of countries, they are partnering with established international criminal syndicates in China, other Asian countries, Russia, the Middle East, Europe, and the United States to distribute these illicit commodities around the globe. Since at least 1976, dozens of government operatives on official missions out of North Korea, many travelling on formal diplomatic status, have  been apprehended for possession and smuggling of counterfeit cigarettes, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, counterfeit U.S. dollars, narcotics including heroin, hashish, opium, methamphetamine, and cocaine, and large quantities of controlled pharmaceuticals. In addition North Korean diplomats have been arrested, detained, or expelled from numerous countries for other lucrative crimes such as smuggling of endangered species parts, African ivory, counterfeit CD’s, and large amounts of untaxed alcohol and cigarettes hidden in diplomatic pouches, among other illicit goods. The products and their proceeds from these global operations have often moved around the world using officials travelling with diplomatic passports, who, under the Geneva accords of 1961, enjoy immunity from search, arrest, or prosecution.

As well, North Korean officials, and government controlled front corporations who operate internationally, and international crime syndicates working with the DPRK government, have been implicated in many countries as they  distribute the goods and try to launder the proceeds from their illicit syndicates through international banking systems. Dozens of diplomats have been detained and expelled, some quietly, from countries in Africa, Asia, Russia, China, Europe, and South America. The activities of these state sponsored criminal enterprises have been identified in at least 106 countries on all continents except Antarctica, from 1976 through 2011, according to data compiled.

Revenue from this network in turn funds the elite of the Korean Workers Party, a repressive regime at home that defies U.S. and UN sanctions as it pursues a hostile foreign policy producing and exporting nuclear and sophisticated military technology that destabilizes countries and regions worldwide.

North Korea has been formally rebuked repeatedly by unanimous votes of the United Nations Security Council, the United States, and other affected countries for covertly evading a number of international prohibitions imposed on the isolated and secretive nation for developing and exporting sophisticated ballistic missile systems and nuclear technology. Some of the recipient nations, which are also banned from receiving such military technology, include Burma, Libya, Iran, and Syria. As well, North Korea has been exposed for violating repeated U.N sanctions prohibiting them from importing products for use in their programs of developing long range ballistic missiles, and weapons of mass destruction including the purchase of components for building chemical, biological and nuclear weapons systems.

It is believed that a substantial amount of the proceeds from their state sponsored criminal syndicates, which are under the direct control of the ruling Korean Workers Party and do not get distributed through the formal government budget, are used to covertly fund their nuclear and military programs . Since the late 1980’s, they denied pursueing or possessing such technology, but more recently flaunt these capabilities, threatening to use them against declared enemies such as South Korea and the United States.

The proceeds from these illicit activities are estimated to equal 35-40% of the total revenue earned by the DPRK. Some estimate the illicit revenue to exceed 1 billion dollars a year. A significant portion of the revenue is  suspected to fund the regimes banned nuclear weapons production and a sophisticated ballistic weapons systems.  It is suspected that the proceeds, which by now may exceed $5 billion in reserves, have been variously shifted between banks in China, Singapore, Macau, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Austria, among other international accounts.

The criminal enterprises and the North Korean government agencies and officials who carry them out are coordinated by a highly secret unit, Bureau 39, (sometimes translated as ‘Office’ or ‘Room’ 39)  under the authority of the ruling Korean Workers Party that reports directly to Kim Jung Il.  The Bureau was created in 1974 specifically to raise hard currency to fund covert activities and as a source to reward elite party loyalists for continuing allegiance. It has offices throughout North Korea and more than 120 international front companies. It has 17 offices outside the DPRK, including China, Moscow, Macau, and Hong Kong. It’s primary purpose is to coordinate production and distribution of a worldwide network of illegal products and collect the revenue for Kim Jung Il.

In recent years international organizations and sovereign states, particularly the United Nations and the U.S., have passed resolutions, laws, and executive orders to try to undermine the ability of North Korea to operate its global criminal enterprise, but to little avail.

It has been argued that aggressively confronting North Korea for it’s criminal conduct as a mafia-like state, while trying to balance the pursuit of the higher international priorities of eliminating their capabilities to become a nuclear weapons power and supplier of nuclear technology, as well as exporter of sophisticated long range missile systems to dubious regimes around the globe, has created a conundrum for international negotiators, who fear that focusing on North Korean criminal enterprises will undermine the greater priority of securing military stability in one of the worlds most volatile and certainly most isolated and impenetrable nations.

For nearly two decades a series of established negotiating bodies served as a diplomatic forum engaging North Korea with other affected and concerned  nations to provide a diplomatic solution to the threat of nuclear and sophisticated weapons development and proliferation. Although they were repeatedly met with broken promises and slow progress over a myriad of contentious issues, they maintained a dialogue and resulted in channels of verification that many analysts saw as essential in thwarting North Korea’s desires for a nuclear weaponized military capability.

Those diplomatic efforts came to an abrupt halt in 2001, as the Bush adminstration chose a new course in confronting and pressuring the North Korean government.

In April 2005, North Korean Vice Minister Kim Kye-gwan warned, “[The United States] should consider the danger that we could transfer nuclear weapons to terrorists, that we have the ability to do so.”  Formal diplomatic talks deteriorated since 2001, coming to a complete halt in 2009. Diplomatic negotiations have been dormant  since, the parties engaged in increasingly hostile and aggressive actions towards each other.

By 2011, international law enforcement in scores of nations, key affected countries such as the United States, Japan and South Korea, and International bodies such as the United Nations have repeatedly imposed sanctions, held diplomatic negotiations, and passed laws and mandated resolutions attempting to halt North Korea’s role as a destabilizing force in the region and the world. The DPRK reaction has been to continue its illicit covert schemes and ratchet up an aggressive military posture. But the threat of a rogue state, now possessing nuclear weapons capability as well as an aggressive manufacturer and exporter of sophisticated ballistic missile technology, funded by a vast network of covert production and export of illegal goods, has only expanded.

Overview of Illegal Activities

Among the oldest, key criminal activities controlled by Bureau 39 is the production distribution and laundering of the world’s highest quality counterfeit United States currency. In addition the bureau has managed the production and distribution of opium, heroin, and methamphetamine, billions of counterfeit brand name cigarettes, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, long range ballistic missiles, and the transfer of nuclear technology and expertise to other regimes, and building a nuclear weapons arsenal. Other illicit activities include state sponsored insurance fraud, money laundering, gold smuggling, taxable items smuggled through diplomatic officials, and the trade in protected species such as elephant ivory and Rhinoceros tusks.

On more than 100 occasions, all of these materials have been seized in the possession of North Korean diplomats or shown to have occurred. They are facilitated by government officials, government controlled ships, planes, and international trading companies that are front organizations controlled by North Korean government clandestine offices. They have resulted in the seizure, detention, expulsion, or arrest of North Korean government officials, or their associates, often using diplomatic passports, or these activities have been verified as occurring in at least 106 countries from 1976 through 2011.

Revenues from illicit state sponsored organized crime are, by their very nature, speculative at best. Annual revenues from counterfeit US currency are estimated at between 15 and 100 million US dollars, illegal drug manufacture and sale of heroin, opium, and methamphetamine have carried estimates as high as between 100 million to one billion dollars, counterfeit cigarette manufacture and sale at between 560 and 720 million dollars, and weapons, military components, nuclear technology, and missile sales at as much as 560 million dollars.

In 1976, two years after the creation of  Bureau  39,  North Korean officials began being apprehended around the world for engaging in criminal activity. Sweden, Norway, and Denmark expelled 17 North Korean diplomats, including the entire Norwegian diplomatic staff and two ambassadors, for the sale of drugs, untaxed alcohol and cigarettes.

In North Korea, where virtually all economic activity is controlled by the state, Bureau 39 handles all hard currency transactions, including some legal projects such as export of mushrooms, ginseng and proceeds from the handful of hotels where foreign visitors must stay in Pyongyang.

Travelling mainly under diplomatic passports, their illicit cargo has been seized in dozens of countries at an escalating rate that peaked in the late 1990’s.  Scores of North Korean government  officials have been arrested, detained and expelled, illicit  goods seized

in hundreds of incidents, occurring on every continent except Antartica for the last 35 years. Such criminal activity directly linked to the North Korean government has been documented in at least 57 countries since 1976.

Reports from numerous cases of North Korean state sponsored involvement in production, manufacture and distribution of illicit products began in the mid 1970’s and gained momentum into an overwhelming pattern of a DPRK controlled government criminal conspiracy by the late 1990’s. Arguably the most isolated, secretive, and impenetrable nation in the world, firm evidence has proven difficult to gather and more difficult to prove.

Operating outside the formal government structure, Bureau 39 is an office technically under the structure of the ruling Korean Workers Party Secretariat, which reports to the Central Committee of the Party. Its establishment to operate illicit activities included the purpose of funding the cash starved nation’s military and nuclear development programs.

“ North Korea’s Central Committee Bureau 39 is an active participant in the criminal economy of the region with tentacles extending well beyond Asia,” according to a study published in March 2010 by the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College. The PDRK operates what “is essentially criminal sovereignty whereby it organizes its illegitimate activities behind the shield of non-intervention while using the tools of the state to perpetrate these schemes abroad.”

While outside the government structure Bureau 39 fully uses the state apparatus including the diplomatic services, intelligence agencies, military, shipping vessels and aircraft, and an estimated 120 foreign front companies, which themselves are constantly renamed or dissolved and their function replaced by another shell company. These companies are used to covertly launder the proceeds from illicit transactions through foreign bank accounts variously reported to be located in China, Macau, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, and Singapore, according to several studies, including Congressional testimony in March 2011.

Its most powerful entity is the Deasung General Bureau, which controls scores of foreign trading front companies and banks, and reports to the ruling KWP Organization and Guidance Department. They, in turn, report to Bureau 39.

In November 2010 the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Deasung General Bureau stating it “was owned or controlled by Office 39 of the Korean Workers Party. Office 39 is a secretive Branch of the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that provides critical support to North Korean leadership through engaging in illicit economic activities and managing slush funds and generating revenue for the leadership.”

The U.S. Department of Treasury Department determined that the Korean Daesong General Trading Corporation was “ facilitating North Korean trafficking in arms and related materiel; procurement of luxury goods; and engagement in certain illicit economic activities, such as money laundering, the counterfeiting of goods and currency, bulk cash smuggling and narcotics trafficking.”

A confidential November 2010 UN Security Council Panel of Experts report, ordered to study North Korean compliance with UN Security Council resolutions responding to North Korean long range ballistic missile and nuclear bomb testing, had banned, among other things, North Korea from the export or import of nuclear technology and any weapons systems. The secret report was leaked in December 2010.

The 47 page document said  “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea maintains a wide network of trade offices that work in close conjunction with its diplomatic missions overseas. These offices are charged with both procurement and developing select trade opportunities of interest to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s leadership, including arranging and handling its illicit trade and covert acquisitions,” said the UN confidential report dated 10 November 2010. It continued: “While much of the country’s illicit or covert acquisition activities are handled by these offices, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has also established links with overseas criminal networks to carry out these activities, including the transportation and distribution of illicit and smuggled cargoes. This may also include weapons of mass destruction, sensitive goods and arms and related materiel smuggling.”

All figures and statistics on the DPRK are highly speculative and are often derived from teams of international and US law enforcement and intelligence analysts and technology. Some information comes from North Korean defectors. Other data has been compiled through the seizure of illicit goods in dozens of countries around the world. And still more evidence is provided by anecdotal press reports from various incidents involving law enforcement in nations spanning the globe. The United States and South Korea have taken the most active role in deciphering what transpires in what is arguably the most isolated, secretive, and impenetrable nation in the world. It is reported to use proceeds of the state sponsored criminal syndicate in its nuclear development program.

The North Korean government, through Bureau 39, are increasingly assisted and coordinate with established organized crime syndicates from China, Japan, and Russia, elsewhere in Asia, the United States, and Europe. They have cooperated with non-state terrorist organizations including the IRA, Hezbollah, and insurgencies in Sri Lanka and Nepal. And they have laundered proceeds from illicit activities through banking systems worldwide, including  Macau, China, Switzerland, Austria, Hong Kong, Luxembourg and Singapore, according to US government, United Nations, other governments, and press reports.

In 2011, North Korea again faces severe food shortages. An estimated more than one million people died from famine in the 1990’s. United Nations humanitarian agencies report that millions are suffering from malnutrition in 2011. The government provides minimal services to the population, controls all sectors of the economy and is ranked 179th in the world—dead last—in the Index of Economic Freedom, and regularly ranked as having one of the world’s most egregious human rights records. It has refused to meet long standing international debt obligations, and together with sanctions imposed by the United Nations, finds it difficult to meet minimal standards to trade through normal international financial structures. While publicly appealing for international funds to stem another famine, with a population of only 23.9 million people, North Korea finances and maintains the 4th largest standing army in the world, with more than one million active duty soldiers and 4.6 million in reserve.

Throughout the 1990’s until the US began imposing increasingly harsh sanctions in 2005, Macau served as a hub of laundering criminal proceeds through a series of North Korean front companies and cooperative banks and lax financial security in the gambling Mecca.

Counterfeit U.S. Money

In 1994, officials from a North Korean front company, Zokwang trading company, a direct subsidiary of  Bureau 39,  travelling on diplomatic passports, attempted to deposit 250,000 dollars in fake US dollars in a Macau bank and were arrested and expelled. It was one of many incidents that led to a September 2005 US Treasury Department action naming and freezing the assets of North Korean front companies, Macau banks, and North Korean officials.

Kim Jung Il, in his capacity as head of Bureau 39, first ordered counterfeit 100 dollar bills be produced in the 1970’s through bleaching U.S. one dollar bills. The first counterfeit notes paid for covert terror campaigns against South Korea, such as the bomb explosion on a South Korean commercial  plane killing all 155 civilian passengers  in 1987 and the bombing of senior officials of  South Korea, including President Chun Doo-Hwan in Burma in 1983 that killed four cabinet members and 13 other South Koreans .

The first detection of the North Korean “super note” was by a suspicious bank teller in the Philippines in 1989.

Since then hundreds of millions of dollars of the bills have appeared in dozens of countries around the world. Many North Korean officials have been seized in possession of the bills.

In South Korea counterfeit bills have increased there since North Korean fake U.S. dollars appeared in Hong Kong in early 2006.  Days later China ordered banks to “increase vigilance” for fake U.S. bills.

By the late 1980’s, as the economic crisis in the communist states imploded with the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea increased the production and sophistication of its counterfeit dollars.

Since the first counterfeit bills were manufactured, US government officials have documented 19 versions of the “super note”, all they allege are improvements that are produced in the PDRK.  It was in the late 1970’s that North Korea purchased its intaglio printing presses from a Swiss company that sells strictly to governments.

They also bought special ink from the same Swiss company used by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing nearly exactly the same color used by the US . As well, paper with a nearly identical percentage of cotton fiber as that used on U.S. notes is used in North Korean supernotes.

In 2004, a North Korean defector, interviewed by the BBC in South Korea, said.  “We bought the best of everything – the best equipment and the best ink. But we also had the very best people, people who had real expertise and knowledge in the field. ….When government officials or diplomats travelled to south-east Asia they distributed the counterfeit notes mixed in with the real one’s, at a ratio of about 50-50.”

In October that year the FBI seizure of 300,000 dollars in super notes hidden among cargo on a ship originating in China arrived at the Newark, New Jersey port, marked the first evidence of US fake dollars from North Korea smuggled into the United States.

In 2005, the US launched a series of countermeasures against North Korea targeting the counterfeit program, money laundering related to drug trafficking and other illicit activities, including criminal indictments in the U.S. and sanctions against North Korean front companies and foreign banks operating in other countries.

It signified a change in US policy to avoid public condemnation of North Korea’s government operated criminal syndicates for fear it would thwart the larger national interests of negotiating with the DPRK to halt it’s production, distribution, and export of nuclear technology and sophisticated weaponry that was the ongoing focus priority of US foreign policy for more than a decade.

In September of 2005, the US imposed sanctions against North Korean front companies, individuals, and a bank in Macau for laundering counterfeit dollars and other proceeds from North Korean criminal enterprises.

A March 2006 study by the independent Congressional Research Service made a connection between revenues from counterfeit money and other illicit proceeds and the fueling of nuclear proliferation. “The earnings from counterfeiting also could be significant to Pyongyang, and may be used to purchase weapons technology….or even underwrite the DPRK’s nuclear program.”

The next month, April 2006, the U.S State Department made public accusations against the DPRK regime that their illicit trade was operating increasingly with networks of international organized crime. North Korean’s “have been apprehended trafficking in narcotics and engaged in other forms of criminal behavior,” concluded the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report released in March 2006, “including passing counterfeit U.S. currency.”

That same month a Congressional Research Services report on North Korean Counterfeiting stated: ”These have been carried out in league with criminal organizations around the world.”

It added that revenue from criminal syndicates were essential to keeping the regime in power.

The United Nations and both the Bush and Obama administrations have shifted to a more confrontational policy regarding the PDRK,  from negotiations on stopping the North Korean program for nuclear and missile development programs, to increased confrontation over their state sponsored criminal activity and financial sanctions directed to punish the North Koreans for weapons development .

Since President Clinton left office in January 2001 until the present, there has been a marked escalation of hostility between the two sides that has reached a complete breakdown in diplomatic negotiations over the development of the PDRK nuclear and other military program. The U.S. and the United Nations have since created laws, resolutions, and Presidential Executive Orders to mitigate the effectiveness of some of the North Korean international criminal network and its military programs of acquiring nuclear weapons and exporting sophisticated weapons……TO BE CONTINUED

(Copyright Nate Thayer. No republication in full or in part without express written permission of the author)

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