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The estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been killed in Malaysia

Asia @en/BreakingNews @en/Far East di

The estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been killed in Malaysia, a South Korean government source told Reuters on Tuesday. Kim Jong Nam, the older half brother of the North Korean leader, was known to be based mostly outside of his home country. Police in Malaysia told Reuters on Tuesday an unidentified North Korean man had died en route to hospital from Kuala Lumpur airport on Monday. Abdul Aziz Ali, police chief for the Sepang district, said the man’s identity had not been verified.

North Korea conducted a missile test today landed in the waters between Japan and South Korea

North Korea conducted a missile test today, according to the South Korean government the rocket launched from the city of Banghyon, certainly there is only that the missile landed in the waters between Japan and South Korea. The reactions of Seoul and Tokyo have been very strong, both prime ministers have spoken of “unacceptable action” on the topic is also addressed by President Trump who assured full support to Japan, speaking before the press conference of Prime Minister Abe who is visiting the United States. According to analysts of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul the test has been done by the North Koreans with the objective to gain further knowledge to develop intercontinental rockets capable of striking the United States.

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe condemned the North’s missile launch

Americas/Asia @en/BreakingNews @en di

North Korea fired a ballistic missile into waters off its east coast on sunday, the first provocation since the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). The JCS said the missile was believed to be an ungraded version of the Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), considering its speed. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is currently visiting the U.S., condemned the North’s missile launch in a hurriedly arranged joint news conference with Trump hours after the surprise provocation. Trump said he fully sides with Shinzo Abe in condemnation of the North, but fell short of disclosing how he would react to the North’s provocations.

Japan wants to strenghten unilteral sanctions against North Korea

BreakingNews @en/Defence di

On Friday, the government decided to strengthen unilateral sanctions against North Korea using measures such as expanding the range of entities and individuals subject to asset freezes. The decision follows North Korea’s repeated nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches. The new measures, which are in line with the unilateral sanctions introduced in February, include expanding a reentry ban to include people who have traveled to North Korea. The government intends to urge Pyongyang to change its position by stringently blocking the departure and entry of people linked to North Korea’s nuclear and missile developments and flow of funds, according to sources.

North Korea tests a new ballistic missile

Asia @en di

North Korea has taken another step towards one of its priority objectives: to create an inter-continental missile that is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and hit accurately the enemy, even thousands of kilometers away.

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In the last hours in fact, the state media have spread the news that North Korea has successfully tested a new solid-fuel engine that can significantly increase the power of its missile arsenal. The test is part of a larger project, aimed at developing a long-range ballistic missile (ICBM, InterContinental Ballistic Missile), which appears to progress rapidly despite UN sanctions and the numerous warnings issued by South Korea.

After the recent nuclear tests in January, North Korea, therefore, continues to move recklessly on the ridge that divides the bellicose rhetoric against the enemies of the South and the United States and the actual developments in terms of military technology.

The national news agency, KCNA, has proudly hailed the success of the new test, which “has  helped boost the power of ballistic rockets,” adding that North Korean engineers will soon be able to test new weapons “capable of striking mercilessly hostile forces “.

Even President Kim Yong-Un attended the demonstration launch, celebrating immediately its success. “This is a historic and memorable day,” he said in front of the microphones and notebooks of regime’s information.

The test actually strengthens the position of Pyongyang after that last week, according to reports by local media, launch and re-entry into the atmosphere of a ballistic missile, that could sooner or later be equipped to carry a miniaturized nuclear warhead, have been tested successfully.

The military tests, once again, was alternated by the rhetoric of provocation. On Wednesday the North has threatened to strike the presidential office of the South with a battery of large caliber rockets, adding that special army units are ready to go into action. South Korean President Park Geun-hye has decided to answer to the attempt at intimidation, ordering to increase the alert level and asking the army to be ready to respond to the “reckless provocations” by Pyongyang.

The tension on the Korean Peninsula therefore backs to rise dangerously, in a time when the Northern regime feels caught between the new sanctions imposed by the UN after the last nuclear tests, and joint military drills that the South and the US are conducting, as every year, at a short distance.

Drills that obviously alarmed Pyongyang, which considers them as “nuclear war moves” to which it must respond decisively.

Despite progress in terms of solid fuel engines, experts believe that North Korea will not be able, for many years, to threaten the United States with ICBMs. Probably part of the verbal and propagandistic escalation of Pyongyang can be connected to internal reasons. Soon it should be held the first congress of the Workers Party of North Korea after 35 years and the current leadership, represented by President Kim Yong-Un, the last of the Kim’s dynasty, needs to bring to the table some important success on the military field to reassert its legitimacy as supreme leader.

 

Luca Marchesini

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North Korea, and now?

Asia @en di

The day after the triumphant announcement of Pyongyang, which said it had successfully tested the first hydrogen bomb made in the nuclear facilities of North Korea, a demand bounces between the United Nations and the chancelleries of the major global powers: what to do now?

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For now, it must be said, skepticism prevails about the actual extent of the nuclear detonation obtained by the technicians of Pyongyang. The explosion occurred in the north of the country, near the Chinese border, was recorded by seismographs with a power between 4.8 and 5.1 on the Richter scale. According to South Korean experts, such a seismic response could correspond with a power of six kilotons, about a third of that given off by the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 and substantially incompatible with what would have been produced by a thermonuclear device, whose power is calculated generally in hundreds of kilotons. For comparison, the thermonuclear test conducted by the United States, in 1971, on the island of Amchitka in Alaska, produced an earthquake of magnitude 6.8, exponentially higher than that recorded yesterday.

It was an atomic bomb, therefore, and not an hydrogen one, that would require a technology that the regime of President Kim Yong-A probably still does not have. However, yesterday’s is the fourth test of North Korea, after those of 2006, 2009 and 2013; an explicit provocation against the American enemy, South Korea, Japan, Chinese ally, increasingly frustrated by the actions of the regime and, in general, of the international community. One answer seems inevitable, while studying new strategies to contain the North Korean threat in the medium term.

The Security Council of the United Nations immediately expressed its strong condemnation, saying that ” a clear threat to international peace and security continues to exist “, and announced new measures against Pyongyang for which is expected, in short, a resolution.

Among the most determined, the Japanese ambassador to the UN, Motohide Yoshikawa, who has called for a quick and vigorous resolution. ” The authority and credibility of the Security Council – he said – will be put in question if it does not take these measures.” It is not clear yet what kind of sanctions should be adopted and in what timeframe, while Russia pulls the brake, through his ambassador, not guaranteeing Moscow’s support for the adoption of additional sanctions. Indeed Pyongyang seems determined to go forward on the path of nuclear power, despite international condemnation and sanctions triggered by previous nuclear tests. Why should it be different this time?

A question that is not so relevant for the historical opponents of the regime. US, South Korea and Japan said they are prepared for a unified response against Pyongyang. President Obama has spoken with South Korean Prime Minister Park Geun-Hye and with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and then he has declared that three leaders agreed to ” agreed to work together to forge a united and strong international response to North Korea’s latest reckless behaviour”. He was echoed by President Abe: ” We agreed that the provocative act by North Korea is unacceptable… We will deal with this situation in a firm manner through the cooperation with the United Nations Security Council “, but added that Japan intends, if it will consider it necessary, to take unilateral measures. Seoul has finally released an official statement, asking the international community to ensure that “North Korea pays the corresponding price ” for its nuclear tests. In parallel, it has restricted access to the industrial park in Kaesong, managed jointly by the North and South and announced the restoration of propaganda broadcasts across the North Korean borders, interrupted in 2015 to ease tensions with the neighbor.

After this phase of hot reactions and new sanctions organization, it will be necessary to understand how to deal with a country that has a nuclear arsenal consisting of twenty devices (atomic or hydrogen they may be) and that might be able today, or in the short term, to mount a nuclear warhead on a medium-range missile, capable of threatening the South, Japan, the US troops stationed in the area and, perhaps, even the western coasts of the United States.

UN sanctions never had appreciable effects and the strategy of “strategic patience”, adopted by the US, could be tinged with excessive optimism. The idea that the sanctions could oblige the North Korean regime to yield and accept nuclear disarmament looks less and less convincing. To date, the US has refused to negotiate, if not on their terms, with North Korea, then choosing a different strategy from the one adopted for Iran, which has led to the recent negotiations and the subsequent agreement with Tehran.

As argued recently by Stephen W. Bosworth, the first Obama’s special envoy for North Korea, ” Whatever risks might be associated with new talks, they are less than those that come with doing nothing.” Since no power seems really willing to challenge militarily a dangerous enemy as North Korea, the game will have to be played on the field of diplomacy, before Pyongyang’s arsenal will be strengthened further and its missiles pointing technology taken to an higher level.

The strategy of Kim Yong-A is clear: the nuclear arsenal is a life insurance for the country and its enemies have only to lose, in front of the prospect of a dramatic conflict. Whether they like it or not, they will have to accept to sit at the negotiating table and recognize to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea the status of nuclear power. It is too early to say whether the facts will give him reason but the wind caused by the explosion, for now, seems to blow in his favor.

 

Luca Marchesini

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North Korea announces the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party

Asia @en di

North Korea announced that the next year it will be hold the seventh unitary Congress of the Workers’s Party. The event is meaningful, in consideration of two elements: the last congress organized by the Communist Party of North Korea dates back to 1980, over 35 years ago; on this occasion, Kim Jong-Il, father of current President Kim Jong-un, made his political debut with an appearance that marked his preeminent position on the succession line. The transfer of power was realized only a few years later, in 1994, with the death of the Eternal President Kim Il Sung.

The seventh congress should take place in May 2016, as reported last Thursday by KCNA, the regime’s news agency. Officially, the plenary meeting has been called to reflect “the demand of the party and the developing revolution.”, in the aftermath of the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the Communist Party of North Korea, with magnificent military parades that took place a few weeks ago. In fact, the news has generated a wave of speculation on the part of international and South Korean analysts about the real implications of the event.

The Congress could reaffirm the central role of President Kim Jong-Un in the management of power, and serve as a stage to announce economic reforms or new diplomatic relations, to reduce the country’s isolation on the international scene. It could also lead to a reshuffle in the party, with the replacement of some officials with others closer to the dictator. A second hypothesis concerns a possible shift in the internal balance, with a transfer of power by the army in favor of the Party, in a country always marked by a military-political dualism in which the

Socialist armed forces have the fundamental role of economic engine. In this case, the President may decide to eliminate the system of “National Defense Commission,” which has always played a key role in state affairs, transferring its functions from the Army to the Worker’s Party.

In any case, it is possible to speculate about significant changes that could even affect the theoretical physiognomy of Juche, the self-sufficiency and nationalism based theory on which the north Korean communism has built its specificity, In opposition to Marxist-Leninist internationalism.

Luca Marchesini
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