News & commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and published by Daniel Riggs.

1. ‘US to ratchet up pressure on SMA talks’

2. First U.N. report on N. Korea’s miniaturization of nuclear warheads

3. Seoul responds to report that Pyongyang ‘probably’ has miniaturized nukes

4. North Korea increases illegal coal exports, satellite imagery suggests

5.  Nampo: A Tale of Two Ports (north Korea)

6. Top U.S. defense official refers to N.K., Iran as ‘rogue nations’

7. S. Korea calls on N.K to cooperate in giving notification of release of dam water

8. N.K. continues to pursue nuclear weapons, missile systems: U.S. commander

9. Two-star general relieved of command over defector’s border crossing

10. ‘GSOMIA termination may face US backlash’

11. Source: Restrictions on movements nationwide have intensified (north Korea)

12. Life in Pyongyang through the perspective of those who live there

13. Six N. Koreans injured in Hyesan explosions die in hospital

14. Chinese Fishing Near North Korea Is a Symptom of a Bigger Problem

15. GUNTER: The big problem with a nuclear North Korea

16. World War 3: US strike on North Korea to trigger ‘worst mass killing in history’

17. Talk of US troop cut reemerges, puts Seoul on edge

1. ‘US to ratchet up pressure on SMA talks’

The Korea Times · by Kang-Seung-woo · August 4, 2020

The buried lede: A ROK Government official says they are seeking to reach an agreement after the election.  That is the first I have heard of that.  

While I am sure the President would like to make a deal prior to the election and have the ROK fork over a large sum of money so he can say he made the Koreans pay up I think he will be with simply saying he stood his ground and did not give in to Korea’s “low ball” demands.  The sad irony is whether there is a deal or not and if there is a deal with a large ROK contribution or a small one, it will have no impact on the election.  Sure we will see it in campaign ads but whether there is no deal, a big deal, or a small deal will not change the outcome of the election and will not change any votes.

I think the Korean side is reading a little too much into these personnel moves.

2. First U.N. report on N. Korea’s miniaturization of nuclear warheads

donga.com· August 5, 2020

Again, this really should not be a surprise to anyone.  This is obviously one of the most important objectives of the north’s nuclear weapons programs.  But it will be interesting to see if we get to see the leaked report or if it will be released to the public.

3. Seoul responds to report that Pyongyang ‘probably’ has miniaturized nukes

koreajoongangdaily.joins.com· by Shim Kyu-Seok · August 4, 2020

Again, we should not be surprised. We also should not be over alarmed as that only plays right into the regime’s propaganda narrative.  But we also should not down play this either.  A strong statement of a declaratory policy might be in order.  Not fire and fury rhetoric, just a strong statement of US strategic resolve.

4. North Korea increases illegal coal exports, satellite imagery suggests

Financial Times · by Edward White · August 4, 2020

Have to make money for the Royal Court Economy of the Kim family regime.

5. Nampo: A Tale of Two Ports (north Korea)

38north.org · by Peter Makowsky · August 4, 2020

Submarines and coal – no they are not transporting coal by submarines.  I also think the NONGO class ship described below is a surface effects ship versus a special effects ship.

6. Top U.S. defense official refers to N.K., Iran as ‘rogue nations’

en.yna.co.kr · by 이해아 · August 5, 2020

I would expect the Korean press to have paid closer attention. The Admiral is using the terminology in our national security and defense strategies.  The US (and its allies) face the two revisionist powers (China and Russia) the two rogue powers (Iran and north Korea) and the threat from violent extremist organizations.  This terminology is nothing new.  As I have mentioned many times I cannot recall a period in the last 4 decades where senior leaders have referenced the national security and defense strategies more than most all our senior leaders do today.  The Korean press should be well aware of this and the Admiral’s use of rogue nation should be no surprise. And more to the point Iran and north Korea fit the definition of a rogue state because they do not behave as responsible members of the international community.  I suppose the Moon administration does not like this terminology since would appear to undercut the peace strategy and engagement desires.  And of course Kim Yo-jong and the regime do not like it either.  But we have to deal with north Korea as it really is and not as we would wish it to be.  This is a rogue nation (and a mafia like crime family cult that seeks to dominate the entire Korean peninsula under the rule of the Guerrilla Dynasty and Gulag State – I know Kim Yo-jong will not like me for using those descriptors).

7. S. Korea calls on N.K to cooperate in giving notification of release of dam water

en.yna.co.kr · by 이원주 · August 5, 2020

See, this is north Korea acting as a rogue nation.  A responsible member of the international community would have provided a warning before opening the flood gates.

8. N.K. continues to pursue nuclear weapons, missile systems: U.S. commander

en.yna.co.kr · by 이해아 · August 4, 2020

And neither he nor anyone else in the US military and intelligence community are surprised by this. So no one else should be either.

9. Two-star general relieved of command over defector’s border crossing

koreajoongangdaily.joins.com

No surprise here.  This is the burden of command – you are responsible for all your unit does or fails to do.  And per the article there are likely to be more – probably the entire chain of command down to the company commander and platoon leader.

10. ‘GSOMIA termination may face US backlash’

The Korea Times · August 5, 2020

It is back to the future or deja vu all over again.  As noted in the article, this provides South Korea no leverage in relations with Japan. All this does is harm South Korea’s reputation and worse, its national security. There is no leverage in cutting off your nose to spite your face.  Backlash from the US? I am sure there are those who will argue if South Korea is uncensored about its national security then why should the US be concerned.  I am sure there will be American officials who will now say, yes let’s withdraw some troops since not only won’t Korea pay for them they are willing to put South Korean security and those of American forces at risk by withdrawing from the GSOMIA.

11. Source: Restrictions on movements nationwide have intensified (north Korea)

dailynk.com · by Kang Mi Jin · August 5, 2020

More indications of a possible outbreak in the north.

12. Life in Pyongyang through the perspective of those who live there

dailynk.com · by Lee Sang Yong · August 5, 2020

Some interesting insights mostly concerning the coronavirus but some interesting information from three very different types of Koreans from the north.

13.  Six N. Koreans injured in Hyesan explosions die in hospital

dailynk.com · by Lee Sang Yong · August 5, 2020

Note the concluding paragraph.  They just cannot resist the opportunity to turn every event into a propaganda message – comparing the damage to US bombing during the Korean War.

14. Chinese Fishing Near North Korea Is a Symptom of a Bigger Problem

thediplomat.com · by Jenny Town and Sally Yozell · July 31, 2020

Yes, China is complicit in helping the north circumvent sanctions. What incentive does it have to maintain pressure?  Surely it does not want to support the US.  And probably most importantly it does not want to destabilize the Kim regime and allow instability and regime collapse (or war) on the peninsula.

15. GUNTER: The big problem with a nuclear North Korea

Toronto Sun· by Lorne Gunter · August 4, 2020

A Canadian perspective.

I think Kim Jong-un is rational from a north Korean perspective.  I think he is faithfully executing the strategy and vision of the Kim family regime and he is going to act accordingly.  That may seem irrational to us but from the regime perspective it is very rational.  We just have to understand his strategy and vision (he seeks to dominate the entire Korean peninsula).

16. World War 3: US strike on North Korea to trigger ‘worst mass killing in history’

Express · by Joel Day · August 4, 2020

That may be the conventional wisdom. But if we assess the north has miniaturized a nuclear warhead, has perfected re-entry capability, and has sufficiently developed missile capabilities to reach the America, the US is going to be faced with a stark choice.  If we have indications and warnings that a miniaturized nuclear warhead is being mated to an ICBM we will only have two options.  One is to hope our ground based intercept system will destroy the ICBM before it reaches the US.  The second is to decide to act self defense and conduct a preventative strike to destroy the missile before it can be launched. Of course people will argue that we cannot know if it is going to be a test launch or an actual strike.  And we will assess it with all the other indications and warnings surrounding it.  But any US president will face a complex dilemma if we observe such a situation.

17. Talk of US troop cut reemerges, puts Seoul on edge

americanmilitarynews.com · by Asia News Network · August 4, 2020

Yes of course Seoul is on edge (perhaps some in Seoul but certainly not all – such as Moon Chung-in and Im Jong-seok).  But not mentioned in the article Korea is unlike Germany in that Congress has imposed restrictions on a drawdown (which can be overcome should the SECDEF consult with our allies and certify to Congress that there will be no harm to US or allied national security in reducing or withdrawing troops).

—————-

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, 

which is the bitterest.” 

– Confucius

 

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.”

– Plato

 

“A man begins cutting his wisdom teeth the first time he bites off more than he can chew.” 

– Herb Caen

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