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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/)

Global Trail of Dead Scientists Price of Illicit Pyongyang-Syria Weapons Collaboration

23 Jun

Global Trail of Dead Scientists Price of Illicit Pyongyang-Syria Weapons Collaboration

Deadly Spy War Erupts When Israel Views the Two Pariah States Have Crossed a ‘Red Line’

BY NATE THAYER

JUNE 20, 2013

NKNews.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. –

In July 2007, an explosion rocked the al-Safir chemical weapons and ballistic missile research  facility buried in cavernous underground tunnels dug under a mountain near Allepo in Northwestern Syria. Under the command of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center,  Syria’s largest and most secret military facility was constructed by North Korean specialists in the 1990’s.

Working in the pre-dawn cool desert temperatures, the blast killed North Korean missile engineers attempting to weaponize North Korean supplied Scud-C missiles with mustard gas chemical warheads  at a North Korean built weapons development base near Allepo.

photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrians walk through the rubble at the scene where multiple explosions hit the center of Aleppo, Syria on October 3, 2012.  Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2012/12/13/Scud-attacks-signal-Syrian-regime-alarm/UPI-97451355420939/#ixzz2X0Vgz6Ru

photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrians walk through the rubble at the scene where multiple explosions hit the center of Aleppo, Syria on October 3, 2012.

The mysterious explosion released VX and Sarin nerve agents and mustard gas into the atmosphere, killing at least 15 Syrian military and chemical warfare specialists, “dozens” of Iranians engineers, and at least three North Korean ballistic missile experts.

Syrian defense sources told Jane’s Defense Weekly that during a 26 July “test to weaponize a 500 km ‘Scud C’ with a mustard gas warhead, an explosion occurred in a laboratory adjacent to a chemical agent storage facility” at the most heavily gaurded military camp in Syria.

While Syrian investigators privately determined the blast was an act of sabotage, one senior Israeli intelligence official told Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman, a top authority on Israeli’s secret services, that it was “a wonderful accident.’

Less than two months later, in September, 2007, Israeli F-16 fighter jets destroyed a North Korean-designed and constructed plutonium nuclear weapons plant in the remote northeastern Syrian Desert. That assault killed an estimated 10 North Korean nuclear scientists working at the secret nuclear facility near the Euphrates river.

North Korean No. 125 Factory, or “Pyongyang Pig Factory” as it is called by North Korea, in Pyongyang, produces surface-to-ship SCUD missiles. This photo was taken by a secret Burmese military delegation. The factory has also hosted missile buyers from the Middle East, including Syria.

North Korean No. 125 Factory, or “Pyongyang Pig Factory” as it is called by North Korea, in Pyongyang, produces surface-to-ship SCUD missiles. This photo was taken by a secret Burmese military delegation. The factory has also hosted missile buyers from the Middle East, including Syria.

But the two incidents were not the first time North Korean and Syrian military scientists had died during the quarter century the two pariah nations have methodically collaborated.

And it would not be the last.

The blast at the al-Safir chemical warfare and ballistic missile development facility which was built with crucial North Korean collaboration in July 2007, and the destruction of the nuclear bomb making plant weeks later by an air assault of Israeli F-16 fighter jets, are just two in a series of occasions when Syrian and North Korean clandestine operatives have died working on Damascus’s illicit WMD arsenal.

The Tirshan military museum in Damascus buily and designed by North Korea. The artist renderings are also created by the North Korean propaganda artists in Pyongyang

The Tirshan military museum in Damascus buily and designed by North Korea. The artist renderings are also created by the North Korean propaganda artists in Pyongyang

The clandestine weapons collaboration between North Korea and Damascus in recent years has left a trail of bodies from Moscow to the Syrian desert to North Korea in a deadly game of spy versus spy hidden in the shadows of the Middle East.

A mysterious blast near the Chinese border in North Korea nine years ago was one of many incidents in which key personnel have met violent ends cooperating with Syria in developing weapons of mass destruction.

SYRIA AND THE RYONGCHON ‘BOMB’

In early 2004, the United States National Security Agency detected a curious, unusually high cluster of sustained electronic communications traffic between a remote location in the northeast Syrian Desert and Pyongyang. The NSA shared the information with Israel’s military signals intelligence and cypher department, Unit 8200, which designated the information for priority monitoring.

A few months later, on April 22, 2004, an explosion destroyed a train and decimated the small northwestern North Korean town of Ryongchon, in the heart of North Korea’s missile, chemical warfare, and nuclear weapons industrial production infrastructure, as the freight train headed to the coastal shipping port of Nampo with its highly secret cargo.

The explosion, measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale and detected at international earthquake monitoring stations in Russia, Japan and the United States, was so devastating that Pyongyang appealed for emergency international humanitarian aid to address the crisis–a highly unusual public action by the secretive regime. The International Committee of the Red Cross was allowed to visit the area and reported 40% of the town had been flattened, more than 160 people killed and 1,300 injured, destroying thousands of buildings and leaving a crater 72 meters deep at the Ryongchon railway station.

Photo of crater after explosion, Ryongchon 2004 | Picture credit: David Hill, ECHO

Photo of crater after explosion, Ryongchon 2004 | Picture credit: David Hill, ECHO

Nine hours earlier, Kim Jong-il, the ruler of the world’s most closed and destabilizing nation, had passed through the station in his private rail-car on the return from a visit to his allies in Beijing.

Pyongyang officially said a train carrying fertilizer containing ammonium nitrate and petroleum accidentally came into contact with electrical wires and exploded, but in the years since a clearer portrait of intrigue has emerged suggesting intentional sabotage was responsible for the massive explosion.

In fact, the train was destroyed by a mobile telephone remote control device activated by unknown persons nearby, intelligence agencies have since concluded.

Never acknowledged is that more than a dozen Syrian ballistic missile weapons scientists and technicians employed by the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, the agency in charge of Syria’s covert weapons of mass destruction development program, were killed in the mysterious blast.

The Syrian weapons specialists were accompanying a highly clandestine cargo of missile and other components to the North Korean port of Nampo, destined for Syria’s weapons of mass destruction development program operated by the SSRC.

Destroyed train where 12 Syrian missile scientists were killed in Ryongchon, North Korea April 22, 2004

Destroyed train where 12 Syrian missile scientists were killed in Ryongchon, North Korea April 22, 2004

North Korean military wearing chemical hazard protective suits removed debris and the Syrian bodies from the scene. Within days, Syrian military aircraft arrived under the auspices of delivering humanitarian aid to the civilian blast victims, and on May 1 departed with the bodies of the dead Syrian SSRC employees.

The approximately one dozen dead Syrians were claimed by the SSRC, and the Syrian and North Korean military personnel who transported the bodies to the Syrian aircraft were also wearing hazardous protective suits.

By mid-May, North Korean security officials had found a damaged cellphone still wrapped in duct tape near the explosion and abruptly halted the countries entire nascent mobile phone system, confiscating the 10,000 mobile devices in use in the first national cellphone network, established only months before.

North Korea did not allow mobile phone use in the country for another five years.

Chemical weapons site in Syria where North Korean technical advisers are based ( Map by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies

Chemical weapons site in Syria where North Korean technical advisers are based ( Map by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies

In the period after the blast, Israeli and other intelligence services noted more than a dozen trips to Pyongyang by senior officials of the SSRC involved in their missile, chemical warfare and nuclear weapons development program.

On May 4, Sankei Sinbun newspaper in Japan first hinted at the blast not being an accident, reporting ten Syrians working for the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center were killed “accompanying ‘large equipment’ and that the damage from the explosion was greatest in the portion of the train they occupied.”

The paper reported that North Korean military wearing protective suits responded and “removed material only from the Syrians’ section of the train.”

But the paper offered no speculation as to the cause of the blast, saying it was “not known whether the cargo was the source of the explosion or whether it had exploded following a separate explosion on another section of the train.”

The bodies of the Syrians were “taken home on May 1 by a Syrian aircraft, which had come to Pyongyang to deliver aid supplies.”

Within weeks several foreign governments had privately confirmed the Syrian plane transporting the bodies back to Damascus.

“Syrian and DPRK medical and military personnel who were involved in transporting [the Syrians and other victims] were also reportedly wearing protective suits similar to those worn by the DPRK military personnel who arrived on the scene immediately after the accident.”

According to KCNA “in connection with the explosion at Ryongchon Railway Station…Emergency relief goods came to the DPRK from China, Russia and Syria at the end of April.”

North Korean officers visit Syrian government wounded soldiers in Damascus hospital in 2012 (Photo: SANA/North Korean Leadership Watch/Michael Madden)

North Korean officers visit Syrian government wounded soldiers in Damascus hospital in 2012 (Photo: SANA/North Korean Leadership Watch/Michael Madden)

Three weeks after the accident, North Korea cut all telephone lines to the rest of the world, likely to either to prevent foreign reporting or to shield their own population from learning news about the accident

On May 18, MiddleEastNewsline reported that a “North Korean missile shipment to Syria was halted when a train collision in that Asian country destroyed the missile cargo and killed about a dozen Syrian technicians,” citing U.S. government sources. “The officials said the technicians were accompanying a train car full of missile components and other equipment from a facility near the Chinese border to a North Korea port.”

“The way it was supposed work was that the train car full of missiles and components would have arrived at the port and some would have been shipped to Syria while others would have been transported by air,” an U.S. official was quoted by MiddleEastNewsline.

The source stated that the plane came to bring the relief supply from Syria and returned with the bodies. The bodies were claimed by Syrian Technical Research Center(Centre d’Etudes et de Recherche Scientific: CERS)

The US official said the North Korean train cargo was also believed to have contained tools for the production of ballistic missiles.  North Korea has sold Syria the extended-range Scud C and Scud D missiles, according to reports by Middle East Newsline.

Officials said the North Korean shipment to Syria was not meant to have contained chemical or biological weapons.  Foreign relief workers from the International Committee for the Red Cross and the United Nations who surveyed the scene at Ryongchon the day after the blast did not report any chemical contamination.

“Syrians were wearing protective suits at the time of the accident and in the middle of transporting large packaged equipment. At the explosion, a lot of N. Korean Scud-D missiles and (rocket) propellant went off.”

Foreign intelligence sources have confirmed to NKNews that the missiles were assembled at ‘Shin-eum-ri Factory’ near Pyongyang, the rocket engines were made at ‘January 8th Factory’ in Kaechon, the missile bodies were manufactured at ‘No. 26 Factory’ in Namchondong, and chemical warheads at ‘Namheung Chemical Factory’. These components were being transported on the train at the time of the explosion.

The Tae-sung Machine Factory (a.k.a., Chamjin Missile Factory) is North Korea's primary manufacturer of ballistic missiles, conducting final assembly of components and sub-systems it has produced or from those supplied to it from other facilities and sources. While the primary responsibility for the development of the Taepodong and Unha systems lies with the No. 7 Factory of the Second Academy of Natural Sciences (SANS), the Tae-sung Machine Factory has been associated with the production phase of these systems. Includes satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe's Analysis Center. (KPA Journal/Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.)

The Tae-sung Machine Factory (a.k.a., Chamjin Missile Factory) is North Korea’s primary manufacturer of ballistic missiles, conducting final assembly of components and sub-systems it has produced or from those supplied to it from other facilities and sources. While the primary responsibility for the development of the Taepodong and Unha systems lies with the No. 7 Factory of the Second Academy of Natural Sciences (SANS), the Tae-sung Machine Factory has been associated with the production phase of these systems. Includes satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe’s Analysis Center. (KPA Journal/Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.)

But other officials said the North Korean shipment did not include chemical weapons, noting foreign rescue crews and humanitarian aid workers at the train explosion site did not report any chemical contamination.

Japan’s Kyodo News cited diplomatic sources in Vienna saying the explosion measured 3.6 on the Richter scale, a blast equaling about 800 tons of TNT — eight times that announced by North Korea. The blast statistics were compiled by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization. Korean Central News Agency had reported that the power of the blast was that of 100 tons of dynamite.

The CTBTO said the explosion was observed using seismological observation stations built to detect nuclear tests in Korea, Japan, the United States and Russia.

On May 19 all cell phones were confiscated in Pyongyang, and the next day the ban was imposed nationwide.

In secret U.S. embassy in Seoul cables from 2009 released by WikiLeaks, U.S. diplomats reported Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, who met North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang in 2007, told U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens in 2009, “Kim believed that the explosion at Ryongchon Station was a failed attempt to assassinate him.”

Hyun was quoted in the U.S. embassy documents saying the explosion “was revealed through mobile phones” and “the introduction of mobile phones in the North was markedly delayed.”

The Chinese Chongqing Evening News in Szechuan province reported “analysts believe that the catastrophic consequences of this North Korean train explosion followed from an attempted plan to target North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il for assassination” saying “clues collected along the tracks indicated that unhealthy elements had used mobile phones. For fear that internal information would leak [to the outside], the mobile phone business would be stopped.”

The order to halt mobile phone service came “directly from the Korean National Defense Committee” ordering “that previously held mobile phones confiscated.”

By 2008, diplomats had concluded that the reports of dead Syrian scientists were true. The London Sunday times reported that “Diplomats based in Pyongyang have said they now believe reports that about a dozen Syrian technicians were killed” in the blast.

“Their bodies were flown home by a Syrian military cargo aircraft which was spotted on May 1, 2004 at Pyongyang.”

The Times said “Diplomats said the Sankei Shimbun report was now believed to be accurate.”

Large portrait of founders of Syria and North Korea at the North Korean constructed and designed Tirshan War memorial museum in Damascus

Large portrait of founders of Syria and North Korea at the North Korean constructed and designed Tirshan War memorial museum in Damascus

On May 24, the South Korean paper Chosun Ilbo reported that North Korean security police believed the explosion was an assassination attempt against leader Kim Jong Il, quoting a North Korean businessman on a visit to China as saying “The North Korean National Security Agency has investigated the incident since it took place and concluded that rebellious forces had plotted the explosions targeting the exclusive train of Kim Jong-il.  The security agency, in particular, gained evidence that cell phones had been used in triggering the explosion and reported to the North Korean leader that the use of cell phones should be banned for the sake of the leader’s safety.”

The paper quoted a defector in China saying  “It doesn’t seem to be a temporary measure, because even handsets have been conscripted following the cell phone use ban.”

Several years later, British author Gordon Thomas, in a book on the history of the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, wrote that Israel was aware “that dozens of Syrian nuclear technicians were in a compartment adjoining a sealed wagon” and that “the Syrians had arrived in North Korea to collect the fissionable material stored in the wagon.”

He wrote that “all of the technicians were killed in the train explosion” and “their bodies were flown to Syria in lead-encased coffins aboard a Syrian military plane” and that Mossad believed that “North Korean soldiers in anti-contamination suits (who) collected wreckage and sprayed the area…were trying to recover weapons-grade plutonium.”

In the wake of the explosion, Thomas wrote, “Mossad tracked about a dozen trips by Syrian military officers and scientists to Pyongyang, where they met with high-ranking North Korean officials.”

Western intelligence officials, who say they do not know what caused the massive blast, do confirm that the Syrian military technicians were working for the SSRC, and were in North Korea carrying out the purchase of ballistic missile systems designed to be equipped with chemical warheads.

“DPRK military-related personnel wearing protective suits arrived on the scene immediately after the explosion and removed debris only from that section of the train where the Syrian group had been aboard,” according to the Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun on May 4, 2004.

Syrian military aircraft arrived within days under the auspices of delivering humanitarian aid to the civilian blast victims, but departed on May 1 with the bodies of the dead Syrian SSRC employees. The Syrian and North Korean military and specialists who transported the bodies to the Syrian aircraft also were wearing hazardous protective suits like those of the first North Korean responders to the blast scene.

NUCLEAR COOPERATION

While North Korean-Syrian military cooperation was known to Western intelligence services since the 1990s, North Korean-Syrian nuclear cooperation was not identified until early 2007, only months before an Israeli airstrike destroyed Syria’s nuclear reactor in a remote desert region near al-Kibar in northeast Syria.

When Bashar Assad took power in 2000 after his father died, Israel began updating its intelligence file on the young leader who had just assumed power upon the death of his father.

Analysts noted a stream of high-level Syrian and North Korean officials responsible for, according to the Israeli investigative journalist Ronen Bergman.

But the information was dismissed by the Mossad, Israeli’s legendary intelligence service, as implausible.

In the annual CIA briefings to Congress on WMD proliferation, the CIA did not list North Korea as a supplier of nuclear technology between 2001 and 2006.

But intelligence had begun to mount after 2001 that nuclear cooperation between North Korea and Syria had in fact begun “probably as early as 1997”,according to later CIA conclusions reported to congress.

Mounting evidence in the following years, in addition to the interception of an unusual amount of electronic communication between a remote Syrian desert location and Pyongyang and numerous reciprocal visits of high level nuclear officials and scientists between Syria and North Korea, was a stream of North Korean procurement of nuclear technology which they delivered to Syria, and materials gathered by Israeli intelligence in break-ins to a Syrian official’s London hotel room, where the contents of his computers were seized.

North Korean  Chon Chibu, nuclear engineer in charge of the Yongbyan nuclear processing plant with the head of Syrian Atomic Energy Agency in Syria. Note Syrian license plates on vehicle in background (Photo CIA)

North Korean Chon Chibu, nuclear engineer in charge of the Yongbyan nuclear processing plant with the head of Syrian Atomic Energy Agency in Syria. Note Syrian license plates on vehicle in background (Photo CIA)

This took place in December 2006, when a senior Syrian intelligence official came to London under a false name. Mossad agents broke into his hotel room and copied the contents of his computer.

What they found astonished them.

There were blueprints of a nuclear facility and scores of photographs of the nuclear plant under construction, apparently in the Syrian Desert.

One picture showed North Korea’s top nuclear scientist, Chon Chibu, who was in charge of North Korea’s plutonium nuclear fuel processing site at Yongybon, posing with Syria’s Atomic Energy Agency director, Ibrahim Othman. The license plates of the vehicles in the background of the two men clearly showed the rendezvous took place in Syria.

In February of 2007, a senior Iranian general attached to the Republican Guard Command defected to the west. He proved a goldmine of information. Deputy Defense Minister Gen. Ali-Reza Asgari revealed to the CIA and Mossad agents who debriefed him a bombshell of alarming information: Iran was financing a nuclear facility near completion in Syria that was designed and constructed by North Korea.

The defection was top secret and Asgari soon disappeared. Iran announced he had been “kidnapped by the Mossad and probably killed.” In fact, Asgari was whisked to a U.S. military base in Germany where he provided key details before being given political asylum.

ISRAELI STRIKE

In August 2007, Israeli commandos dressed as Syrian soldiers were inserted by helicopter into the remote northeastern Syrian Desert to the purported nuclear site near the Euphrates River. They collected samples which were brought back to Israel. Tests confirmed not only the presence of nuclear material, but the signature showed that it originated in North Korea.

Both Israel and Washington knew that there were North Korean specialists working at the site. “There are North Korean people there. There’s no question about that,” U.S. State Department official Andrew Semmel was quoted as saying in the aftermath of the attack.

That September 3, a North Korean ship, the Al Hamed, arrived at the Syrian port of Tartus with a cargo manifest claiming to be carrying cement. An Israeli agent was monitoring the ship and took photographs of the cargo. Israel contends the vessel was delivering key nuclear material for the plutonium weapons plant.

Three days later, and two months after the deadly blast at the Aleppo chemical weapons site, eight Israeli F-16 fighter jets mounted the stealth air strike on a top secret plutonium production nuclear weapons facility being built under contract by North Korea near al-Kibar .

Ten more North Korean nuclear scientists and technicians were killed in the Israeli assault.

The nearly completed North Korean-designed and built nuclear facility was the result of a secret pact signed by senior North Korean government officials with Assad in June 2002.

The estimated $2 billion nuclear weapons facility in Syria was partially financed by Iran.

North Korea was additionally paid with five annual deliveries of 100,000 tons of Syrian wheat, in a $120 million-deal personally signed by Assad, documents in the Syrian president’s handwriting show.

The bodies of the 10 North Korean nuclear advisers killed in the Israeli bombings were returned to North Korea in October.

In a secret April 2008 U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, then U.S. Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice wrote to State Department officials that Israel had destroyed the reactor that “Syria was clandestinely constructing, we judge with North Korean assistance.”

 http://www.fas.org/irp/news/2008/04/odni042408.pdf

Rice spoke of the fear that Washington had of publicizing the information: “We have delayed sharing this information with you, because our first concern was to prevent conflict. “We believe -based on strong evidence- that North Korea assisted Syria with the reactor,” Rice wrote. “The U.S. intelligence community conducted an intensive, months-long effort to confirm and corroborate the information Israel provided us on the reactor and to gather more details from our own sources and methods…our intelligence experts are confident that the facility the Israelis targeted was in fact a nuclear reactor of the same type North Korea built indigenously at its Yongbyon nuclear facility” and “we have good reason to believe this reactor was not intended for peaceful purposes.”

 <iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/yj62GRd0Te8?rel=0&#8243; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

OVERCOMING SETBACK

Undeterred by either the military strike on the Syrian nuclear facility in September or the July explosions at the chemical weapons facility, North Korea and Syria exchanged high-level weapons delegations for urgent meetings immediately in September,  October, and November.

On September 10, 2007, four days after the Israeli bombing of the Syrian facility, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il sent a message to Assad reaffirming that “the excellent friendly and co-operative relations between the two countries are steadily growing stronger even under the complicated international situation.”€ A more strident message was sent the following day condemning the Israeli air assault as “illegal” and a “very dangerous provocation.”€

North Korean top envoy meeting Syrian head of state Assad in Damascus in 2006

North Korean top envoy meeting Syrian head of state Assad in Damascus in 2006

On September 22 2007, a delegation of Syrian diplomats, led by leading Ba’ath party figure Saaeed Eleia Dawood, was met by Kim Yong Nam, head of the Supreme People’s Assembly.

On September 24 of the same year North Korea’s official party newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, said, “Israeli warplanes’ intrusion into the territorial airspace of Syria and bomb-dropping are an outright violation of Syria’s sovereignty and a grave crime that destroys regional peace and security,” and that the United States supported this “brazen behavior.”

In November 2007, North Korean ground-to-ground missile engineers secretly returned to Syria to hold talks on how to resume tests to arm with chemical warheads the ballistic missiles Pyongyang provided to Damascus. The objective was to extend the range and accuracy of Syrian missiles to be able to reach the entirety Israeli territory.

ASSASSINATIONS

In February 2008, Hezbollah” chief of security”  Imad Mughniyah was assassinated in downtown Damascus.

He was also Hezbollah’s chief liaison with Pyongyang

Mughniyah had made several trips to Pyongyang and coordinated North Korean assistance to Hezbollah, which included a variety of conventional weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, training by Pyongyang of their guerrilla fighters, and the sophisticated construction of a North Korean-designed and built underground tunnel network in southern Syria along the Lebanese border.

North Korea’s connection to Hezbollah, Imad Mughniyah | Picture: Wikipedia

North Korea’s connection to Hezbollah, Imad Mughniyah | Picture: Wikipedia

Mughniyah was also one of the most-wanted terrorists and bomb-makers in the Middle East, widely recognized as the mastermind of the bombings at the U.S. Marine barracks and embassy in Beirut that killed hundreds of American troops and diplomats in the 1980s.

Israeli intelligence had information that Mughniyah was plotting a military attack in retaliation for the Israeli strike against the North Korean-built plutonium weapons facility, according to a detailed report by Der Spiegel in 2009.

On the night of February 12, 2008, Imad Mughniyah attended a party at the Iranian embassy in Damascus where other guests included the Hamas leader Khaled Mashal and the Syrian official in charge of coordinating covert weapons projects with Pyongyang, Gen. Mohammed Suleiman. After leaving the reception, Mughniyah was killed when a bomb placed in the headrest of the driver’s seat of his Pajero exploded.

Six months later, on August 2, 2008, on the coast near the Syrian city of Tartus, Suleiman was relaxing at his weekend home. Suleiman was Assad’s top military and security aide in charge of Syria’s covert weapons, including their missile, chemical and nuclear weapons-development program.

Suleiman was also Damascus’s chief liaison with North Korea.

Charged with ensuring the security of the North Korean scientists, military advisors and technicians stationed in and visiting Syria, Suleiman had made numerous trips to North Korea to personally oversee the procurement of nuclear and, chemical weapons, as well as ballistic missile components.

Suleiman was in charge of “development of missiles, chemical and biological weapons and nuclear research and development. He coordinated the transfer of the reactor’s parts to Syria and was in charge of security arrangements for the North Korean scientists and technicians involved in its construction,” wrote Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal in their 2010 book “Mossad:  The Great Operations.”€

After the Israeli bombing destroyed the plutonium production site, Suleiman began plans to build a replacement nuclear facility, but “Suleiman’s new mission was much more complex and difficult than before, since he was now aware that he was on the Israeli and American intelligence agencies radars.”€

Accounts of what happened next vary depending on what sources are cited, but agree that Suleiman was in his vacation home when assassins’  bullets killed him while he was eating at his dinner table with family and friends.

A yacht with Israeli navy scuba divers and snipers was two kilometers off the Syrian coast.

According to the London Sunday Times, two scuba divers with guns in water-proof cases swam to shore, identified Suleiman and both fired one shot, hitting the chief of Syria’s missile, chemical and nuclear weapons program in the head. Other reports suggest Israeli snipers firing from the sea vessel.

Several days after the killing, Syria’s official media released a short statement: “Syria is holding an investigation to find those responsible for this crime.”

Secret U.S. diplomatic documents, released by WikiLeaks, quote U.S. officials saying Syria believed Israel was responsible for the assassination of Suleiman, who “enjoyed a reputation… as having special status and proximity to Assad.”

“As in other recent assassinations in Syria, speculation about who could have done it will likely be rampant,” read the classified August 2008 cable from the U.S. embassy in Damascus. “The most obvious suspects are the Israelis.”

RUSSIAN CONNECTION

In the 1990s, the commander of the Russian Military Academy for Chemical Warfare, Gen. Anatoly Kuntsevich, was also the top adviser on chemical weapons disarmament for then-Russian president Boris Yeltsin. But, as the former Soviet Union disintegrated, Kuntsevich secretly took on lucrative freelancing opportunities on the international chemical weapons black market.

In 1993, through a front company Kuntsevich created, he provided Syria 800 kilograms of key chemicals, smuggled from the Russian Military Academy for chemical warfare, to produce a sophisticated version of VX nerve gas which was adapted into chemical warheads.

Kuntsevich worked secretly for Damascus in exchange for large amounts of money to build their chemical weapons programs until 2002, when he was said to have died mysteriously on a flight from Damascus to Moscow. But Israeli investigative journalist Ronen Bergman notes that his headstone in a Moscow cemetery lists his date of death as three days before the flight’s departure.

His death came after several high level demarches from Israel to the Kremlin to force Kuntsevich to cease his chemical weapons activities went unaddressed.

And in 2010, the Russian deputy head of the GRU, the military intelligence agency, died in a purported swimming accident in Damascus.

Israeli agents are suspected of being responsible for both deaths.

HOME TERRITORY

In July 2012, the core leadership of Syria’s military and security services were killed or injured in a bomb attack at the headquarters of the National Security Bureau in Damascus. Asef Shawkat, head of military intelligence; Rajha Daud, Minister of Defence; Hesham Bakhtiar, head of the National Security Service; and Tourkmani Hassan, Chief of Staff, were killed in the blast.

What went largely unnoticed was the assassination four days later of Dr. Nabil Zougheib, Syria’s top missile scientist and head of the missile development program for the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center.

A trained missile engineer, Brig. Gen. Nabil Zougheib was a frequent visitor to Pyongyang. He had directly supervised North Korean missile engineers weaponizing North Korean supplied ballistic missile with chemical warheads.

“We have seen assassinations to people who hold key positions in research programs where the aim was to stop these research programs as with Doctor Nabil Zougheib,” Damascus based Syrian journalist Alaa Ebrahim said in media interviews.

Other Syrian scientists assassinated include a nuclear engineer and researcher, Aws Abdel Karim Khalil, and Brigadier General and chemical engineer Na elDakhil from the Department of Chemical Engineering.”

Dr. Ali Mohamad, editor-in-chief of the Syria Tribune, a pro Assad Damascus based media organization, said in a media interview “Let’s remember that the Syrian official who was responsible for all military research projects has been assassinated in Damascus by the rebels,” he said. “Let’s also remember that the person who orchestrated the Syrian long-range missile project colonel Dawoud Rajiha, was also assassinated in Damascus. This is about stopping the Syrian scientific military research projects and is about breaking the link that will help [Israel] overcome the Lebanese resistance and the Palestinians.”€

They were only the latest in a long list of dead scientists who have worked on Syria’s weapons of mass destruction development program over the last decade.

Oops….Sorry About that Austin, Texas

31 Mar

Oops….Sorry About that Austin, Texas: An Otherwise Excellent Example of Great Journalism was Also a Tad Off

The Korean Central News Agency Friday sent out one of the thousands of meticulously staged propaganda photographs they do each year, this one with a caption which included the description of an “urgent operation meeting on the Korean People’s Army Strategic Rocket Force’s performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang.”

The picture showed Kim Jong Un sitting at a table with military commanders standing behind him. In the upper left, on the wall, was world map obscured in the background with some barely visible Korean language characters and several arrows pointing to different parts of an unmarked global map.

NKNews reporter James Pearson, with the eagle-eyed attention for out of the box details and curiosity which makes for a great reporter, didn’t focus on the staged people in the photo but on the aspects not designed by the propagandists who produced it to draw attention. One was the map in the top left hand portion of the photo. He translated the writing on the map which turned out to read “U.S. Mainland Strike Plan”.

NKNews.org annotated photo titled "U.S. Mainland Strike Plan." Original photo by KCNA. Translations and analysis by James Pearson NKNews.org

NKNews.org annotated photo titled “U.S. Mainland Strike Plan.” Original photo by KCNA. Translations and analysis by James Pearson NKNews.org

While this photo was released on the English language service of KCNA, whose target audience is enemy foreigners, it originally had appeared in the main North Korean Worker’s party organ, Rodong Sinbun, which targets North Korean citizens, and which often includes entirely different messages that the ruling party wants to send to its own population. What propaganda that appears in the North Korean language domestic press is very different than the propaganda meant for foreign consumption. Niether the map nor caption was either translated or highlighted in the KCNA English language broadcast photo.
Pearson said: “Shortly after breakfast, I called my NK NEWS colleague in D.C. to tell him I’d spotted a KCNA picture that showed Kim Jong Un and his generals studying a not-so-subtle map with the title ‘US MAINLAND ATTACK PLAN’ crudely printed on it. It could’ve been satire but, knowing how most (if not all) NK propaganda is very much intended for an internal audience, it made sense given reports on the ground in North Korea that the state was trying to create a ‘war-like’ atmosphere domestically.”

Pearson, who is in Seoul, also noted three blurry arrows pointing to spots on an unmarked outline of a world map. He, in coordination with NKNews journalists in Washington, superimposed a Google map of the U.S. on the KCNA unmarked map and located where exactly the arrows were pointing to. One pointed at Hawaii; one at San Diego, California; one at Washington, D.C.; and one at Austin, Texas.

Original March 29 KCNA official photo where Kim Jong-un signed off on the order at a midnight meeting of top generals to put its rocket units on standby to attack U.S. military bases and "judged the time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation", the official KCNA news agency said. Note map has no markings or translations

Original March 29 KCNA official photo where Kim Jong-un signed off on the order at a midnight meeting of top generals to put its rocket units on standby to attack U.S. military bases and “judged the time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation”, the official KCNA news agency said. Note map has no markings or translations

Austin Texas? The home of Willie Nelson, hipsters, the South by Southwest music and cultural festival, and great barbecue?

Yep, that Austin. Continue reading

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

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