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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

Slave to the Blog: Iran, Missiles, Nukes, Drones, and Hallyu in Analog

by | December 28th, 2012 | 05:15 am
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Teach a man to fish: Joongang Ilbo is reporting that “North Korea used construction equipment and materials from South Korea to aid with the latest launch of the ballistic rocket Unha-3.” The unnamed South Korean government source went on to claim that “The U.S. and South Korean intelligence authorities spotted the North using cranes, forklifts and dump trucks when they were constructing the new rocket launch station in Tongchang-ri. We confirmed that the equipment was offered to the North for the purposes of flood recovery or building light water reactors in the area around Sinpo.” The New York Times had previously reported that equipment associated with the Agreed Framework light-water reactor project had been looted, and may have even been used in the 2006 nuclear test.

In a BBC interview following the recent missile test I was asked which was worse the North Korean missile program or the Iranian missile program.  The interviewer was surprised when I responded that it really was not an either/or proposition. But what it is worth (probably very little the way the rial has been tanking) Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi called a press conference to solemnly declare “ain’t nobody here but us chickens.” This news was promptly disseminated by China’s Xinhua news agency.

Speaking of missiles, if you missed the video of the Israeli Iron Dome in action, take a look.  But the Israelis aren’t the only ones trying to sell military hardware to South Korea. Local Yonhap reporter Lee Chi-dong reports that the US is gearing up to sell $1.2 billion of Global Hawk surveillance drones to South Korea.  The drones, successors to the famed U2, are used for surveillance purposes, not predation. According to Lee’s report, the Pentagon has been reluctant to sell the long-sought drones, but budgetary pressures imply fewer future Pentagon purchases increasing the financial incentive for exports.

The UNSC seems to be taking its sweet time when it comes to action in response to North Korea’s violation of  UNSC resolutions 1718 and 1874.  Part of the problem is that as long as China, North Korea’s largest trade partner, remains unwilling to implement sanctions they will be largely ineffective.  So the timing of a recent KBS report citing an unnamed South Korean “senior official” to the effect that North Korea is operating more than 70 sanctions-busting smuggling companies out of China may not be entirely coincidental.

Finally, in an earlier post I observed that North Korean access to South Korean soap operas news was an unintended casualty from the South Korean decision to switch over from analog to digital television broadcasts.  Well, all those angry cards and letters from viewers in Kaesong must have moved some minds in Seoul because Yonhap is reporting that “A government official, who did not want to be identified, said a meeting of related agencies was held recently, with participants agreeing to maintain an analog system for TV transmissions across the border.”