06/24/2020 News & Commentary – Korea

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News & commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and published by Ahyoung Shin.

1. ‘We can and must do better’: U.S. Forces Korea leads fight against racism in the ranks

2. N. Korean leader suspends military action plans against S. Korea

3.  N. Korea seen removing loudspeakers from border areas: sources

4.  North Korean Escapee, Entrepreneur, and Human Rights Activist Visits HRNK

5. North Korea reportedly threatens ‘new round of the Korean War’ to end US

6. North Korea puts on hold threatening rhetoric against the South

7. N.K. propaganda outlets delete articles critical of S. Korea en masse

8. N. Korea appears to be dialing back on threats amid internal challenges: experts

9. N.Korea ‘Suspends Military Action’ as Spy Planes Fly over

10. Kim Jong Un Hits Pause Button on Threats Against South Korea

11. U.S.’ B-52 bombers are deployed near Korean Peninsula

12. Anti-North activists defy local bans on leaflet campaigns

13. U.S. concerned over North’s nuclear activities in 2019: Report

14. Seoul has to prepare for an era devoid of ROK-U.S. alliance

15. U.S. constantly assessing options to respond to N.K. threats: top general

16. [Korean War Anniversary] ‘Just another day’ still remembered 70 years on

 

1. ‘We can and must do better’: U.S. Forces Korea leads fight against racism in the ranks

washingtontimes.com · by Ben Wolfgang · June 23, 2020

2. N. Korean leader suspends military action plans against S. Korea

en.yna.co.kr · by 고병준 · June 24, 2020

Kim Jong-un and the Kim family regime are bullies. There is only one thing to do with bullies and that is to stand up to them. It is unfortunate that the Moon Administration at first acquiesced to Kim Yo-jong’s demands to halt the leaflet operations by escapees/defectors and that the Minister of Unification resigned. However, the ROK and US have discussed reinvigorating the exercise program, the ROK deployed infantry and armor to the vicinity of the DMZ and the US deployed strategic assets and ISR assets. This is how you respond to North Korean bullying.

That said it ain’t over til it’s over. There will be more. And of course the north is calling the Comprehensive Military Agreement a “dead document.” This is a direct attack/insult toward President Moon.

A couple of points from the article.

The order was supposedly given by video teleconference. (we should be figuring out how to penetrate that network).

What military action plans were suspended? Military occupation of Kaseong and Kumgangsan? Redeployment of forces to the guard posts in the DMZ? Balloon launches (they were probably unable to print the 12 million leaflets they threatened to send to the South). Loudspeaker operations? Something else?

As we surmised Kim Yo-jong was out in front with statements and giving orders, but this provided the opportunity for Kim Jong-un to walk things back. And of course it appears Kim Jong-un is making sure we know he is in charge – but the fact the “order” was given via VTC begs the questions – where was Kim? In Pyongyang? In Isolation? In Wonsan? And of course, this provides no indication of his health but makes you wonder if he is unable to travel for health reasons or is simply hiding out for fear of being exposed to the coronavirus.

And lastly a little humor that we can all perhaps appreciate from doing some many Zoom conferences these days. Bruce Klingner nails it with humor that also seriously explains the nature of the Kim family regime and the sycophants that must surround Kim Jong-un.

3.  N. Korea seen removing loudspeakers from border areas: sources

en.yna.co.kr · by 오석민 · June 24, 2020

The soldiers from the North are getting jerked around. Put them up, take them down. You know what they are thinking and mumbling to themselves. At least the North is now refraining from contributing to noise pollution.

4.  North Korean Escapee, Entrepreneur, and Human Rights Activist Visits HRNK

hrnkinsider.org · by Committee for Human Rights in North Korea · June 22, 2020

Human rights are a moral imperative and a national security issue. The Moon Administration should be doing everything it can to support the work of the escapees. We all have a responsibility to advocate for the human rights of the Korea people living in the North but the people in South Korea have a special responsibility. And the South Korean government even more so. It pains me to read Ms. Ma Young-ae’s pleas.

We should never forget the more we simply talk about the North’s nuclear weapons we make Kim stronger. But when we press for human rights in the North, we undermine his legitimacy, make him weaker and give hope to the Korean people.

5. North Korea reportedly threatens ‘new round of the Korean War’ to end US

New York Post · by Emily Jacobs · June 23, 2020

Looks like Kim Yo-jong has been trumped by her brother with the announcement today that he is suspending “military action plans.” We are seeing good cop/bad cop or Kim Jong-un pulled the rug out from under her or most likely she provided some plausible deniability so he could rescind her decisions. But we should make no mistake. She was not acting on her own and everything she did and said was approved by Kim Jong-un.

6. North Korea puts on hold threatening rhetoric against the South

The Washington Post · by Min Joo Kim · June 24, 2020

This will be dominating the Korean news cycle for the next day or so as we all speculate as to the meaning. The removal of articles from North Korean web sites that criticize the South is something that is unusual.

7. N.K. propaganda outlets delete articles critical of S. Korea en masse

en.yna.co.kr · by 고병준 · June 24, 2020

This is a very interesting development. Is this somehow a restart of a new charm offensive? Was Kim Yo-jong acting out and acting out with Kim Jong-un’s authorization? Was Kim Jong-un somehow incapacitated over the past couple of weeks and Kim Yo-jong took a little too much initiative?

But I do not recall anything like this happening before.The regime has always stood by its rhetoric or simply moved on seemingly without explanation. It has never had trouble going to increase tensions (built on hostile rhetoric) to violent provocations to negotiations to some kind of “equilibrium” for a while especially if it obtained some kind of concession and then when the time was right it would ratchet up tension again and get to the tension/provocation/negotiation cycle. Rinse and repeat.  

But taking down articles that are critical of the South is not something I recall seeing. However, this action like all others (to include the publication of the original articles) would have to have Kim Jong-un’s approval.  

This begs the question of what is Kim thinking and what is he about to do?

I am reminded of 1950 after months and years of north-South tensions and border skirmishes and infiltration and subversion and sabotage the North abruptly called for negotiations at the city of Kaesong (which at the time was in South Korea since it is South of the 38th parallel). At the end of May 1950, the North ceased all hostile propaganda and with the call for negotiations analysts believed the North wanted to seek a political solution to the differences between North and South.

Of course, tomorrow is the 70th anniversary of what happened next. We should beware of the North ceasing its hostile rhetoric. If Kim embarks on a charm offensive, we had better be ready.

That said we need to continue to observe for indications inside the North and especially of Pyongyang of pressure on the regime, instability. The regime may very well be stressed with the self-inflicted economic breakdown and with a potential coronavirus crisis.

There is a lot to parse here.

8. N. Korea appears to be dialing back on threats amid internal challenges: experts

en.yna.co.kr · by 이원주 · June 24, 2020

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Of course, I provided the historical example of the North dialing back propaganda, calling for negotiations and then attacking the south.

I think there is also merit to the assessment the regime may be under too much internal pressure to generate the external tensions it usually does when it is stressed.

We need to be especially watchful for the indicators or internal regime stability.

I think it is useful to review Robert Collins’ seven phases of regime collapse. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/10/when-north-korea-falls/305228/

Phase One: resource depletion;

Phase Two: the failure to maintain infrastructure around the country because of resource depletion;

Phase Three: the rise of independent fiefs informally controlled by local party apparatchiks or warlords, along with widespread corruption to circumvent a failing central government;

Phase Four: the attempted suppression of these fiefs by the KFR once it feels that they have become powerful enough;

Phase Five: active resistance against the central government;

Phase Six: the fracture of the regime; and

Phase Seven: the formation of new national leadership.

We have long observed phases 1 through 4.

I think it is also important to recall our definition of regime collapse from our first contingency planning efforts in the 1990s. Collapse will occur when the regime cannot govern from the center and the military loses coherency. If the Kim family regime cannot govern the entire territory of the north from Pyongyang and the military chains of control break down so that the regime no longer as support of the military the regime will be unable to rule and survive.

But we should keep in mind the conditions that could lead to instability and regime collapse could also lead Kim Jong-un to execute his campaign plan to attack the South to unify the peninsula under North’s domination to ensure regime collapse. Instability and regime collapse will not be a benign event.

 

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9. N.Korea ‘Suspends Military Action’ as Spy Planes Fly over

english.chosun.com · June 24, 2020

It is imperative to demonstrate readiness, strength, and resolve to maintain deterrence. Despite everything that is happening on the peninsula, the number one priority must be to deter an attack by Kim Jong-un. And of course, an ISR surge across the intelligence disciplines and with multiple platforms and capabilities is an absolute necessity at this time. We cannot be complacent just because the regime has given the appearance of somehow stepping back from the rhetorical brink.

10. Kim Jong Un Hits Pause Button on Threats Against South Korea

WSJ · by Andrew Jeong · June 24, 2020

The title is a good one. This may only be a pause. I have made points about the possibility of conflict and instability and regime collapse. But the pause button concept is important as well. We should never forget the regime is masterful at denial and deception. If we are seeing indicators in the North it may be what the regime wants us to see. The questions we have to keep in mind are always these:

Do we believe that Kim Jong-un has abandoned the seven decades old strategy of subversion, coercion-extortion (blackmail diplomacy), and use of force to achieve unification dominated by the Guerrilla Dynasty and Gulag State in order to ensure the survival of the mafia like crime family cult known as Kim family regime?

In support of that strategy do we believe that Kim Jong-un has abandoned the objective to split the ROK/US Alliance and get US forces off the peninsula? Has KJU given up his divide to conquer strategy – divide the alliance to conquer the ROK?

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We need to be vigilant for the North’s deception.

11. U.S.’ B-52 bombers are deployed near Korean Peninsula

donga.com · June 24, 2020

Strength and resolve.

12. Anti-North activists defy local bans on leaflet campaigns

koreajoongangdaily · by Shim Kyu-seok · June 23, 2020

Part of the regime’s plan may be to continue to exploit the work of the escapees/defectors and say the South is allowing hostile actions from its territory. We should keep in mind the work of these groups is in support of human rights in the North. Recall the 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry that stated among the many human rights abuses and crimes against humanity the Korean people were denied information from the outside world and one of the recommendations was to provide information to the Korean people living in the North. The ROK and the ROK/US Alliance needs to stand up to the North’s rhetoric against information operations and never again give into its threats.

13. U.S. concerned over North’s nuclear activities in 2019: Report

koreajoongangdaily · by Sarah Kim · June 24, 2020

I have not read the report (but I just skimmed the North Kora section – link below). But we should remember that with everything happening on the Korean peninsula the regime is sitting on the proverbial powder keg.

Here is the link to the entire report:  https://www.state.gov/2020-adherence-to-and-compliance-with-arms-control-nonproliferation-and-disarmament-agreements-and-commitments-compliance-report-2/

Here is the link to the North Korean section: https://www.state.gov/2020-adherence-to-and-compliance-with-arms-control-nonproliferation-and-disarmament-agreements-and-commitments-compliance-report-2/#_Toc43298154

14. Seoul has to prepare for an era devoid of ROK-U.S. alliance

donga.com · June 24, 2020

This pains me to read. It does not have to be this way.

15. U.S. constantly assessing options to respond to N.K. threats: top general

en.yna.co.kr · by 이해아 · June 24, 2020

The right message from the General. And as the PACAF commander he certainly provides critical airpower options to the ROK/US alliance.

16. [Korean War Anniversary] ‘Just another day’ still remembered 70 years on

koreaherald.com · by Choi He-suk · June 24, 2020

Tomorrow is the 70th Anniversary.

But June 24, 1950 is another important day. It is the anniversary of the grand opening of the ROK Army Officer’s Club in Seoul. Most of the ROK military leadership was present that day (and night). I recall listening to General Paik Sun Yip, who was the young commander of the 1st ROK Division defending the Kaesong-Munsan approach. He tells of learning of the attack in the early morning hours of June 25th and getting in his jeep wearing his dress uniform and driving to the front line to command his division.
Surely the North Koreans were well aware of the grand opening and where all the ROK military leadership would be especially after they lulled the ROK and US into a sense of complacency as they halted their propaganda operations and called for negotiations in Kaesong.

———–

“A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” 

– James Madison, from a letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822

 

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“The responsibility of great states is to serve and not to dominate the world.”  

– Harry S. Truman, Message to Congress, April 16, 1945

 

“A trained and disciplined guerrilla is much more than a patriotic peasant, workman, or student armed with an antiquated fowling-piece and home-made bomb.  His endoctrination begins even before he is taught to shoot accurately, and it is unceasing.  The end product is an intensely loyal and politically alert fighting man.” 

– Brig Gen S.B. Griffith in the Introduction to Mao’s On Guerrilla Warfare, 1961.

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