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

1. FDD | Kim Jong Un Seeks to Bully Biden on the Diplomatic Stage

2. Kim Jong-un Uses Party Congress to Double Down on Nuclear Program

3. Kim Jong-un’s Shot Across Biden’s Bow

4. James Carafano: North Korea could spell trouble for Biden – here’s what he needs to do

5. An Incremental Approach to the DPRK

6, Kim Yo Jong Steals the Spotlight at Big Brother’s Coronation

7. Time to shift focus on arms control with North Korea: experts

8. What to Expect from a Neglected North Korea: Starting Small

9. Top court upholds 20-year prison term for ex-President Park

10. South’s missiles are keeping up with North’s

11. Kim Yo Jong slams S. Korea with harsh comments

12. Seoul is in a dilemma between inter-Korean relations and OPCON transfer

13. Musan County residents asked to provide their best winter clothes to soldiers (north Korea)

14. At least 30 suspected COVID-19 cases emerge after New Year’s performance (north Korea)

15. Kim promotes self, demotes sister in Pyongyang power puzzle

16. Iran spurns South Korea request for release of tanker after meetings

17. South Korea Working on $360,000 Video Room for North Korea Talks

18. North Korea continues to erect disease control stations at local markets, police stations

19. Is North Korea finally getting 4G?

 

1. FDD | Kim Jong Un Seeks to Bully Biden on the Diplomatic Stage

fdd.org · by David Maxwell Senior Fellow · January 13, 2021

The latest analysis from my colleague Mathew Ha and me.

 

2. Kim Jong-un Uses Party Congress to Double Down on Nuclear Program

The New York Times · by Choe Sang-Hun · January 13, 2021

My comments in the article.

 

3. Kim Jong-un’s Shot Across Biden’s Bow

defenseone.com · by Bruce Klingner

Excerpts:

“In the meantime, Biden should maintain America’s strong alliance with South Korea, explore missile defense options for the U.S. and its allies, and respond firmly to any violations of UN resolutions. The U.S. did not respond to any of North Korea’s missile violations in 2019 and 2020.

Kim Jong-un has signaled that he has no intention of treating the new U.S. president any better than his predecessors. As Pyongyang tries to force its way higher on Biden’s foreign policy agenda, it will continue to augment its ability to threaten the United States, South Korea, and Japan with nuclear weapons. Last year was relatively quiet in U.S.-North Korean relations. That is likely to change.”

 

4. James Carafano: North Korea could spell trouble for Biden – here’s what he needs to do

foxnews.com · by James Jay Carafano | Fox News

Yes, we all assume Kim will test the new Biden administration with some kind of threat, increased tension, or provocation to conduct his blackmail diplomacy In discussing Kim’s possible courses of action one thing a good friend pointed out to me recently is that because of COVID Kim may not want to drive negotiations at this time.  He must know that he is certainly not going to have a summit with anyone because of the COVID threat and it is likely that working level negotiations are too dangerous because it could become a spreader event.  Therefore, we have to consider what would be the objective of a provocation?  What would be Kim’s objective if not to try to bring the US to the negotiating table to make concessions and provide sanctions relief?  Therefore, because of COVID we may see Kim have a strategic patience stance at least in the near term while COVID is such a threat.

As an aside, since face to face meetings are unlikely perhaps we should offer working level talks via Zoom.  Perhaps we could establish a routine electronic channel among working level negotiators.  Make something useful come from COVID.

 

5. An Incremental Approach to the DPRK

realcleardefense.com · by Matt Abbott

An incremental approach has been the hallmark of almost every agreement and attempted policy from the Agreed Framework to the Perry Policy Proposal to the September 2005 to the Leap Day Agreement and even the Panmunjom Declaration and the Singapore summit agreement.  It is the conventional negotiating process.

However, progress is possible should Biden and his team make incremental, though steady, attempts to further reduce tensions while simultaneously building trust with the North Koreans. The new administration could prove successful in laying the groundwork for a fundamental shift over time in what has been a perennially acrimonious relationship. Unchanged from the analysis offered four decades ago, the direction of movement will matter more than the pace when ultimately resolving this conflict.

That said there will have to be some “incremental steps.” One question is whether they will be small steps or “big bites.”  Small steps support Kim’s political warfare and long con. “Big bites” can force Kim to take substantive actions that actually can support actions that might lead to denuclearization or at least reduce capabilities and threats to some degree.  But we must make the correct assumptions about the nature and strategy of the Kim family regime before we devise and execute a new strategy.

 

6. Kim Yo Jong Steals the Spotlight at Big Brother’s Coronation

The Daily Beast· by Donald Kirk · January 13, 2021

There should be no doubt that she remains powerful and in the good graces of KJU.  She is one of the very, if not only, people whom KJU trusts.

 

7. Time to shift focus on arms control with North Korea: experts

The Korea Times · January 14, 2021

Of course, this is what KJU has long wanted.  In his mind (and in nK propaganda) this will put nK on an “equal footing” with the US.  For those who advocate arms control talks what concessions are we willing to make as part of arms control talks?  How many nuclear weapons are we willing to give up? Are we going to sacrifice extended deterrence and our nuclear umbrella over the ROK and Japan?  Will we be willing to reduce missile defenses in Korea and Japan?  Certainly, these are just some of the demands that KJU will be making as part of arms control talks.

We should assume that arms control talks supports KJU’s political warfare strategy and long con.  We should only adopt this approach if we are ready to execute a superior political warfare strategy that focuses on achieving objectives beyond denuclearization: an acceptable durable political arrangement in Northeast Asia that will serve, protect, and advance US and ROK.US alliance interests.

 

 8. What to Expect from a Neglected North Korea: Starting Small

19fortyfive.com · by ByEli Fuhrman · January 13, 2021

Yes, you eat an elephant one bite at a time.

However, I would not count on China to rein in north Korea.

Conclusion: “Even if Kim should feel compelled to action in an effort to refocus U.S. attention on North Korea, it is unlikely that he will do so with a highly-escalatory action such as an ICBM test. Indeed, Kim’s command of the tools at his disposal and his skill in calibrating provocative actions – as well as his understanding of the risks involved with escalating tensions with the United States – means he is far more likely to test and probe the limits of the new administration’s patience rather than jumping right into another saga of fire-and-fury. This will only be reinforced by the importance of North Korea’s relationship with China, which will serve as a brake on any overly escalatory behavior. It will also be important to consider that provocations by North Korea may not be solely motivated by a desire to attract attention from the United States, but may also be the result of Kim’s efforts to shore up domestic support and legitimacy; in such a case, risking war with the United States may not prove necessary. Rather than expecting a major demonstration from the off, policymakers should prepare themselves for a smaller-scale, and gradually escalating, set of North Korean actions.”

Since this webpage will not format please go to his link to read the entire essay.  

 

9. Top court upholds 20-year prison term for ex-President Park

en.yna.co.kr · by 우재연 · January 14, 2021

This is a sad and tragic event in Korean history. Many Koreans I know do not believe that the impeachment, charges, and trial were in any way justified. They feel it was a coup engineered by the current ruling party.

 

10. South’s missiles are keeping up with North’s

koreajoongangdaily.joins.com· by Shim Kyu-Seok

I think the reporter is confused here.  I do not think Hyunmoo 2B is derived form the Russian Isaknder or perhaps I am misreading this excerpt.

Excerpts:

The Hyunmoo-2B, fully deployed in 2015 as a surface-to-surface missile, is a short- to medium-range ballistic missile believed to be derived from the Russian-made Iskander missile.

Its conversion into an SLBM is notable given that a missile tested by North Korea in a series of high-profile launches in 2019 resembled the Iskander. Named KN-23 by the U.S. Department of Defense, the missile is believed to have a similar range to the Hyunmoo-2B at around 450 to 700 meters (1,476 to 2,297 feet).”

 

11. Kim Yo Jong slams S. Korea with harsh comments

donga.com· January 14, 2021

Her bad cop comments are quite entertaining.

Excerpt: 

“If the North refuses to talk and strengthens nuclear power, the only way to respond is strategic patience, which means even stricter sanctions. North Korea should be willing to talk first before the Biden administration has enough. Harsh comments will only make future dialogues more difficult. The North should stop reducing its own window of opportunities.

Strategic patience is not the way ahead. A long-term approach to solving the Korea question is the only way to end the nuclear threat and the human rights abuses and crimes against humanity.”

 

12. Seoul is in a dilemma between inter-Korean relations and OPCON transfer

donga.com· January 14, 2021

We need to get this right.  This has the potential to do significant damage to the alliance if we do not.  First, we need both the ROK and US to recommit to a conditions based approach with a further commitment that we will execute the transition as expeditiously as possible by meeting the conditions.  Second, we need an effective information program to explain the OPCON transition process, why it is so important to the interests of both countries, and sufficient transparency illustrating the progress toward the completion of transition.  Third, we need to get on with business to make this happen.  Fourth, we have to do all this while maintaining the highest state of readiness to deter the north, sustain the ability to defend the South and defeat the nKPA, and to be able to react to any of the contingencies in the north to include internal instability and potential regime collapse.

 

13. Musan County residents asked to provide their best winter clothes to soldiers (north Korea)

dailynk.com· by Lee Chae Un · January 14, 2021

Yes, this is an indicator of the poor state of the nKPA as well as the demands made on the Korean people in the north that certainly undermines the legitimacy of the regime and could lead to low-level resistance that could spread once the suppression mechanisms are sufficiently weakened.  And if the military loses coherency and support for the regime all bets are off.

 

14. At least 30 suspected COVID-19 cases emerge after New Year’s performance (north Korea)

dailynk.com · by Ha Yoon Ah · January 14, 2021

Will this prove to have been a super spreader event? In addition, not to beat the horse too dead -are we ready to see a significant outbreak in the north that could impact the military as well as the elite and general population?

 

15. Kim promotes self, demotes sister in Pyongyang power puzzle

asiatimes.com · by Andrew Salmon · January 13, 2021

I do not think Kim Yo-jong has been really “demoted.”

But I do agree this buried lede is important:

Experts suggest that a less visible and more important reshuffle was the removal of economic czar Pak Bong Ju from the party’s Executive Committee.

Given that Pak was the key individual behind North Korea’s marketization over the last decade, and given the heavy verbiage paid in the Congress toward “self-sufficiency” – essentially, a pivot away from Chinese imports – this suggests Pyongyang is turning the economic clock backward to a more centrally controlled model.

Market activities are a threat to the regime. In addition, we are unlikely to see any kind of “Chinese-style economic reforms” that people have longed for as the solution to the regime’s economic failures.

 

16. Iran spurns South Korea request for release of tanker after meetings

upi.com· by Elizabeth Shim · January 13, 2021

 

17.  South Korea Working on $360,000 Video Room for North Korea Talks

The National Interest · by Stephen Silver · January 13, 2021

Perhaps this could be used for working level talks between north and South as well.

 

18. North Korea continues to erect disease control stations at local markets, police stations

dailynk.com· by Lee Chae Un · January 13, 2021

Another indicator of possible COVID outbreaks in north Korea.

 

19. Is North Korea finally getting 4G?

northkoreatech.org · by Martyn Williams · January 13, 2021

Can we exploit this for a number of purposes to include for information and influence activities?

————–

 

“Everybody feels the evil, but no one has courage or energy enough to seek the cure.” 

– Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

 

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”

“The one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is unchangeable or certain.”

-John F. Kennedy

 

“To sit home, read one’s favorite paper, and scoff at the misdeeds of the men who do things is easy, but it is markedly ineffective. It is what evil men count upon the good men’s doing.”

– Teddy Roosevelt

 

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