News & commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and published by Duncan Moore.

1. US to blame for new freeze on Korean peninsula

2. U.S. Congress moves to keep restrictions on removing troops from S. Korea

3. The reassuring context of Korea tensions

4. U.S. calls out N.K. regime for torture in detention facilities

5.  North Korea and Trump: is it back to square one, only worse?

6.  S. Korea reports 51 more coronavirus cases amid cluster infections at Seoul church

7. Hundreds of Korean soldier remains to return home some 70 years later

8. South Korea’s digital New Deal

9.  90% of S. Koreans say NK won’t give up nukes: poll

10.  North Korea defector offices raided, funding ‘under investigation’

11. Project Force: where could North Korea’s missiles strike?

12. Amb. Harris says S. Korea-U.S. alliance will thrive as linchpin of regional security

13. Kim Jong-Un: revolting way North Korean leaders are ‘kept alive’ exposed

14. An irresistible target: North Korea’s use of cryptocurrency to fund the regime

 

1. US to blame for new freeze on Korean peninsula

Asia Times · by Andrew Salmon · June 26, 2020

Moon Chung-In blames the US. He is wrong. Kim Jong-Un is to blame. It is the nature of the Kim family and its zero sum relationship with the South and its sole objective to dominate the peninsula that is the fundamental and intractable problem.

And I think that, as sought after as Professor Moon is as a speaker, we should realize he is no friend of the ROK/US alliance.

 

2. U.S. Congress moves to keep restrictions on removing troops from S. Korea

Yonhap News Agency · by Lee Haye-Ah · June 27, 2020

Here is the language in the HASC summary and the SASC bill. Note the differences. The HASC requires a reduction in North Korean threat and the SACS does not.

The other point is South Korea must be capable of deterring a conflict. The staffers who wrote this language should have said South Korea is capable of defending itself. Deterrence is a function of Kim Jong-Un’s perception and decision-making. From what we know from the regime, it is the presence of US forces that deters an attack because the regime believes (and knows) it cannot win a war if the South has US support. But the bottom line is you cannot measure deterrence with any certainty. But you can measure the defensive capability with somewhat more precision. The SECDEF could logically assess the ROK is capable of defending itself (and it is, in my opinion), but he cannot effectively assess that Kim is deterred by South Korean capabilities. But the key point is the US provides the deterrent capability (as Hwang Jong-Yop told us in 1997). The North is an existential threat to the South. But it is a US national interest to prevent war on the Korean peninsula because of the catastrophic effects a war will have on the region, the US, and the world because Korea is at the nexus of the 2d, 3d, and 11th largest economies of the world, two nuclear powers, a rogue nuclear regime, and some of the largest armies in the world (the NKPA is the fourth largest).

HASC summary: prohibits the use of funds to reduce the total number of active duty service members deployed to South Korea below 28,500 until 180 days after the Secretary certifies: 1) doing so is in the national security interest of the United States and will not significantly undermine the security of U.S. allies in the region, 2) is commensurate with a reduction in the threat posed by North Korea, 3) that South Korea is capable of deterring a conflict, and 4) U.S. allies – including South Korea and Japan – have been appropriately consulted.

SASC: SEC. 1260. LIMITATION ON USE OF FUNDS TO REDUCE TOTAL NUMBER OF MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES SERVING ON ACTIVE DUTY WHO ARE DEPLOYED TO THE REPUBLIC OFKOREA. None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act may be obligated or expended to reduce the total number of members of the Armed Forces serving on active duty and deployed to the Republic of Korea to fewer than 28,500 such members of the Armed Forces until 90 days after the date on which the Secretary of Defense certifies to the congressional defense committees that- (1) such a reduction-(A) is in the national security interest of the United States; and (B) will not significantly undermine the security of United States allies in the region; and (2) the Secretary has appropriately consulted with allies of the United States, including the Re public of Korea and Japan, regarding such a reduction.

(I will return to my recommendation over the stalemate in the SMA/burden sharing talks. We should immediately agree to the current (2019) level of funding for two years. We should go back to the negotiating table and redo the SOFA and legal framework to cover the mutually agreed upon categories of support (right now the ROK can only legally fund land and facilities and cannot legally fund all the other demands from the US). Once we have resolved the legal framework we can then negotiate the specific funding levels for the specific categories of support which should be incremental costs over and above the costs of stationing and sustaining the force in CONUS. My recommendation is here: Competing Crises: A Failed ROK-U.S. Burden Sharing Agreement and the Coronavirus in North Korea

 

3. The reassuring context of Korea tensions

Chicago Tribune · by Arthur I. Cyr · June 26, 2020

The article does not meet the title’s statement. I am not reassured by this op-ed. A point: the South’s transition to democracy was cemented in 1993 with the election of Kim Young Sam as the first civilian elected President. And he was one of the “Three Kim’s” as was Kim Dae Jung who was elected 5 years later. Also yes, in 1950 Truman supported the UN decision to defend South Korea from the North’s attack, but the UN Security Council Resolutions were pushed by the US and Truman’s desire to have the UN as “top over” as well as to legitimize the UN.

 

4. U.S. calls out N.K. regime for torture in detention facilities

Yonhap News Agency · by Lee Haye-Ah · June 27, 2020

As we should. The North Korean gulags are brutal and inhumane and constitute crimes against humanity. I do not know how anyone could sympathize with the regime or blame anyone other than Kim Jong-Un (and the Peaktu bloodline) for all tragic suffering that has occurred on the Korean peninsula since 1950 and continues to occur in the North to this day. Human rights is a national security issue as well as a moral imperative.

 

5. North Korea and Trump: Is it back to square one, only worse?

The Christian Science Monitor · by Howard LaFranchi · June 26, 2020

I do not think Kim Jong-un ever left square one. Both the ROK and the US jumped steps ahead, but the regime never took the real first step to hold substantive working level negotiations.

 

6. S. Korea reports 51 more coronavirus cases amid cluster infections at Seoul church

Yonhap News Agency · by lcd@yna.co.kr · June 27, 2020

While this seems bad, I think you have to assess this in the overall context of how the South is responding and then look at the causes of these cluster outbreaks for lessons. Note also the imported cases. International travel will likely allow the virus to persist.

 

7. Hundreds of Korean soldier remains to return home some 70 years later

Hawaii News Now · by Ashley Nagaoka · June 22, 2020

Video at the link. This is one of the best illustrations of ROK/US shared values. Both our countries honor our dead and missing and seek to bring closure to friends and families for their lost loved ones.

Here is a note I received from a friend and former colleague. It includes additional links to photos and video.

On 23 June, the DPAA hosted a ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam to turn over the remains of 147 ROK soldiers from the Korean War.  The 4-star Commander of USINDOPACOM and the ROK Vice Minister of Defense were part of that ceremony.  As the ROK Air Force transport on which the repatriated remains departed, it was escorted by two flights of USAF fighters. https://www.facebook.com/dodpaa/

Today, on the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, there was a ceremony in Seoul to receive those repatriated remains, and to turn over the remains of 6 U.S. servicemembers which had been identified by the ROK equivalent of DPAA (called MAKRI).  The ROK President officiated at the ceremony.  The Commander UN Command Korea was present, as were the heads of all four branches of the Korean armed forces.  Video comments by the US President, Queen Elizabeth and UK PM, Canadian PM, Turkish President, Dutch King, Belgian PM, Australian PM, Philippine President, Thai King, etc.  The Koreans put on a pretty good ceremony, though I’m afraid I don’t speak Korean and there are no subtitles in English (interesting choices of music – lots by American composers): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bpABygz9Hk&t=4198s

In June 2018, the DPRK had returned boxes of remains.  DPAA in Hawaii has been working to identify the U.S. remains, as well as those of ROK soldiers that were comingled.  This week’s ceremony was the largest repatriation ceremony.

Here is a behind-the-scenes view of what went into making that happen.  RADM Banaji is the Deputy Director of DPAA (he works in Hawaii; the Director is an SES and works in Crystal City): https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/2020/06/22/remains-nearly-south-korean-soldiers-be-returned-home-us-historic-ceremony/

 

8. South Korea’s digital New Deal

The Diplomat · by Troy Stangarone · June 25, 2020

Korea will remain competitive with its digital new deal.

 

9. 90% of S. Koreans say NK won’t give up nukes: poll

The Korea Herald · by Kim So-Hyun · June 26, 2020

I wonder what is wrong with the other 10%?

 

10. North Korea defector offices raided, funding ‘under investigation’

UPI · by Elizabeth Shim · June 26, 2020

This is shameful.  Escapees (defectors) should be protected and not harassed. And their humanitarian work should be supported and applauded.

 

11. Project force: where could North Korea’s missiles strike?

Al Jazeera · by Alex Gatopoulus · June 25, 2020

Video at the link. I will stand by for comments from missile experts who have an in-depth understanding of North Korean capabilities. I worry when analyses say they have a long way to go. I know there are differences of opinion on the North’s possible re-entry capabilities. But when we down play the regime’s capabilities we generally get surprised.

 

12. Amb. Harris says S. Korea-U.S. alliance will thrive as linchpin of regional security

Yonhap News Agency · by sshluck@yna.cokr · June 25, 2020

Yes, it can and must endure and thrive, and it will because of the relationships between the Korean and American people. And those who have a long-term strategic vision for the region know it must remain the linchpin of the US alliance structure.

 

13. Kim Jong-un: revolting way North Korean leaders are ‘kept alive’ exposed

Express · by Josh Saunders · June 26, 2020

More rumors on Kim Jong-Un’s health. There are some outrageous excerpts from the book, My Favorite Dictator, that include eating certain parts of certain animals for medicinal purposes.

 

14. An irresistible target: North Korea’s use of cryptocurrency to fund the regime

NK Hidden Gulag · by Lauren Jackson · June 23, 2020

A long but very well researched piece.  I will leave it to the cyber and financial experts to enjoy.

 

 “No man has the right to be ignorant. In a country like this, ignorance is a crime.”

– Louis L’Amour

“Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”

– Sun Tzu

“No one starts a war—or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so—without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.”

– Clausewitz

“If there is not struggle, there is no progress.”

– Frederick Douglass

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