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US-North Korea: Why rapprochement is the only solution

US policy of isolating North Korea has led to the US consistently underestimating North Korea’s capabilities and the determination of its leadership. A change of approach is urgently necessary. The US should engage fully with North Korea and establish diplomatic relations with it.

Alexander Mercouris

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Though it is rarely reported in that way, the story of North Korea’s bomb provides another case study of how the US and the US media report claims about US adversaries that are simply wrong.

The US has in the past simultaneously exaggerated the threat from North Korea whilst underestimating North Korean capabilities. If that sounds contradictory, the answer is that it is, but it is what the historical record shows the US has done.

Rumours in the US of a North Korean nuclear weapons programme extend far back into the 1960s.   By the 1980s they were being reported in the US as a fact.  In fact already at that time reports would sometimes appear in the US and Western media claiming that North Korea was actually already in possession of nuclear bombs.

These reports were simply untrue.  North Korea did not have nuclear bombs before its first nuclear test in 2006.  It did ask the USSR and China for help to develop nuclear weapons in the 1960s after the US deployed nuclear weapons to South Korea. 

Both the USSR and China however refused, with the USSR however agreeing to help North Korea develop a civilian nuclear programme and offering North Korea a Soviet security guarantee, which North Korea accepted.

North Korea had no option but to accept the Soviet offers, which led to Soviet help in setting up the now infamous Yongbyon nuclear research facility, which was originally created with Soviet help in 1962.  Yongbyon’s first reactor – a Soviet IRT2000 research reactor – was supplied at around this time.

Not only did North Korea lack the capability in the 1960s to develop a nuclear weapons programme of its own, but until 1991 in was in all essentials a Soviet satellite state. 

The extent to which behind the facade of Kim Il-sung’s juche ideology North Korea was dependent on Soviet support only became fully clear in the 1990s when that Soviet support was withdrawn.  Quite simply, despite its odd displays of independence, before 1989 North Korea was tightly integrated into the Soviet economy and was heavily dependent upon the USSR for supplies of military goods, advanced technology and machinery, fertilisers for its farmlands, and above all for political support.  Soviet economic planners during this period apparently even set targets for specific North Korean factories. 

Before 1989 North Korea could not have pursued its own nuclear weapons programme because Moscow would not have allowed it to.

The North Korean nuclear programme in fact began in 1989 in response to the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, which understandably enough caused the North Korean leadership to lose faith in the USSR’s security guarantee.  

An important secondary factor in getting the North Korean nuclear weapons programme going after 1989 was however almost certainly and paradoxically the rumours in the West that it already possessed such weapons.

As the North Koreans were increasingly pressed by the US and Western diplomats after 1989 to give up a nuclear weapons capability which at that point they didn’t have, it would not have escaped their notice that US and NATO behaviour showed that by acquiring such weapons North Korea would not only increase its security but would acquire an importance and a status – and a degree of diplomatic leverage – which up to then it didn’t have.

In other words one effect of the false stories before 1989 of North Korea having the bomb was that it put into the North Koreans’ heads the idea of acquiring it.

In the 1990s the North Korean nuclear programme was however a fitful affair.  In the first few years following the collapse of the USSR the North Korean leadership had no option but to focus nearly all its energies on crisis management, as it struggled to cope with the massive disruption to its economy caused by the loss of Soviet economic support. This left little time or resources for an ambitious nuclear weapons programme, and there is little evidence of anything very much being achieved at this time.

In 1994, at a time when the economic crisis was at its peak, with tens of thousands of North Koreans dying every year of malnutrition, the North Koreans agreed to put their nuclear weapons programme – such it was – on ice as part of the so-called Agreed Framework agreement it agreed with the US.  This was in return for a US promise to provide North Korea with two modern pressurised water reactors.

This was a rational trade-off from the North Korean point of view: freezing a nuclear weapons programme which at the time North Korea lacked the resources to see through for a promise of economic support and normalisation of its relations with the West.

The US reactors were never delivered and the Agreed Framework agreement collapsed amidst mutual recriminations in 2003, with North Korea openly targeted for regime change by the Bush II administration at the time of the invasion of Iraq as part of the “axis of evil”.  The North Korean nuclear weapons programme appears to have been restarted in earnest from around this time, which not coincidentally is around the time when North Korea appears to have finally got on top of its post-Soviet economic crisis.

If North Korea did not have a nuclear weapons programme before 1989, and did not – contrary to numerous claims – have nuclear weapons before or indeed for some time after its first nuclear test in 2006, it is quite clear that the US was taken completely by surprise by the speed with which North Korea developed nuclear weapons after the nuclear weapons programme resumed in 2003.

Within three years of the nuclear programme resuming in 2003 the North Koreans carried out their first test.  A succession of tests have followed, with the largest now suggesting that they not only have a serviceable bomb, but that they are close to developing warheads that can be placed on ballistic missiles.

Whilst the nuclear weapons programme has proceeded apace, North Korea’s ballistic missile programme has also moved forward rapidly.  Rocket technology is complicated and many ballistic missile tests have ended in failure, but North Korea has now demonstrated that it has the capability to place objects in space and to launch missiles from submarines.

Obviously we are not talking here of a capability that remotely approaches that of the great nuclear powers – the US and Russia – but it is an impressive capability nonetheless and one which is developing rapidly.

The North Koreans apparently obtained some of their nuclear weapons technology from Pakistan, which in turn seems to have originally sourced technology and equipment from the Netherlands, and they allegedly have used certain medium range Soviet ballistic missiles in their possession as a starting point in their own ballistic missile programme.

The fact nonetheless remains that the North Koreans could not have developed a nuclear weapons and ballistics missile capability of the sort they now have without a technological and industrial base of their own, and one which given the speed of both programmes is clearly bigger and more sophisticated than the US suspected.

This illustrates a further problem in the US’s whole approach to North Korea.  Since the US refuses to engage with North Korea it is profoundly ignorant about it.  It has little knowledge of the extent of North Korea’s industrial and technological capabilities, and no understanding of the thinking of its leadership.  North Korean leaders like Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un are treated in the US as comic strip villains.  Not only is remarkably little known about them, but there is almost no understanding of what sort of institutions or administrative structures they work within or who the important people they have around them and consult are.

In place of proper information obtained through regular contacts with North Korea and its leadership, far too much credence is given to stories which regularly circulate in the South Korean media, which look at times to be little more than ill-informed gossip. 

Thus Kim Jong-il during his lifetime was regularly and it seems inaccurately portrayed as an alcoholic sybarite, whilst lurid accounts which regularly appear in the South Korean media of murders and executions supposedly taking place in North Korea are not only unverified but on occasion demonstrably untrue.  A good recent example is the case of General Ri Yong Gil who the South Korean media claimed had been executed only for him to turn up alive and well and occupying an important post at the recent North Korean party congress.

The result of all this ignorance is that the US has consistently underestimated North Korean determination and capabilities, repeatedly getting North Korea wrong, and now finds itself in a nuclear arms race in the eastern Pacific against a country it knows almost nothing about.

This is a disastrous record by any measure, and it is time it was brought to an end. The time is long overdue for the US to engage properly with the North Koreans and to open an embassy in Pyongyang. 

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EU leaders dictate Brexit terms to Theresa May (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 115.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how EU leaders have agreed on a plan to delay the the Article 50 process which effectively postpones Brexit beyond the 29 March deadline.

The UK will now be offered a delay until the 22nd of May, only if MPs approve Theresa May’s withdrawal deal next week. If MPs do not approve May’s negotiated deal, then the EU will support a short delay until the 12th of April, allowing the UK extra time to get the deal passed or to “indicate a way forward”.

UK PM Theresa May said there was now a “clear choice” facing MPs, who could vote for a third time on her deal next week.

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Theresa May outlines four Brexit options, via Politico

In a letter to MPs, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May set out the four options she believes the country has in light of Thursday’s decision by EU leaders to extend the Brexit deadline beyond next Friday.

The U.K. is faced with a four-way choice, May wrote late Friday.

The government could revoke Article 50 — which May called a betrayal of the Brexit vote; leave without a deal on April 12; pass her deal in a vote next week; or, “if it appears that there is not sufficient support” for a vote on her deal in parliament next week or if it is rejected for a third time, she could ask for an extension beyond April 12.

But this would require for the U.K. taking part in European elections in May, which the prime minister said “would be wrong.”

May wrote that she’s hoping for the deal to pass, allowing the U.K. to leave the EU “in an orderly way,” adding “I still believe there is a majority in the House for that course of action.”

“I hope we can all agree that we are now at the moment of decision,” she wrote.

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US media suffers panic attack after Mueller fails to deliver on much-anticipated Trump indictment

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom said it all: “Mueller – The name that ended all mainstream media credibility.”

RT

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Via RT


Important pundits and news networks have served up an impressive display of denials, evasions and on-air strokes after learning that Robert Mueller has ended his probe without issuing a single collusion-related indictment.

The Special Counsel delivered his final report to Attorney General William Barr for review on Friday, with the Justice Department confirming that there will be no further indictments related to the probe. The news dealt a devastating blow to the sensational prophesies of journalists, analysts and entire news networks, who for nearly two years reported ad nauseam that President Donald Trump and his inner circle were just days away from being carted off to prison for conspiring with the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Showing true integrity, journalists and television anchors took to Twitter and the airwaves on Friday night to acknowledge that the media severely misreported Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, as well as what Mueller’s probe was likely to find. They are, after all, true professionals.

“How could they let Trump off the hook?” an inconsolable Chris Matthews asked NBC reporter Ken Dilanian during a segment on CNN’s ‘Hardball’.

Dilanian tried to comfort the CNN host with some of his signature NBC punditry.

“My only conclusion is that the president transmitted to Mueller that he would take the Fifth. He would never talk to him and therefore, Mueller decided it wasn’t worth the subpoena fight,” he expertly mused.

Actually, there were several Serious Journalists who used their unsurpassed analytical abilities to conjure up a reason why Mueller didn’t throw the book at Trump, even though the president is clearly a Putin puppet.

“It’s certainly possible that Trump may emerge from this better than many anticipated. However! Consensus has been that Mueller would follow DOJ rules and not indict a sitting president. I.e. it’s also possible his report could be very bad for Trump, despite ‘no more indictments,'” concluded Mark Follman, national affairs editor at Mother Jones, who presumably, and very sadly, was not being facetious.

Revered news organs were quick to artfully modify their expectations regarding Mueller’s findings.

“What is collusion and why is Robert Mueller unlikely to mention it in his report on Trump and Russia?” a Newsweek headline asked following Friday’s tragic announcement.

Three months earlier, Newsweek had meticulously documented all the terrible “collusion” committed by Donald Trump and his inner circle.

But perhaps the most sobering reactions to the no-indictment news came from those who seemed completely unfazed by the fact that Mueller’s investigation, aimed at uncovering a criminal conspiracy between Trump and the Kremlin, ended without digging up a single case of “collusion.”

The denials, evasions and bizarre hot takes are made even more poignant by the fact that just days ago, there was still serious talk about Trump’s entire family being hauled off to prison.

“You can’t blame MSNBC viewers for being confused. They largely kept dissenters from their Trump/Russia spy tale off the air for 2 years. As recently as 2 weeks ago, they had @JohnBrennan strongly suggesting Mueller would indict Trump family members on collusion as his last act,” journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted.

While the Mueller report has yet to be released to the public, the lack of indictments makes it clear that whatever was found, nothing came close to the vast criminal conspiracy alleged by virtually the entire American media establishment.

“You have been lied to for 2 years by the MSM. No Russian collusion by Trump or anyone else. Who lied? Head of the CIA, NSA,FBI,DOJ, every pundit every anchor. All lies,” wrote conservative activist Chuck Woolery.

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom was more blunt, but said it all: “Mueller – The name that ended all mainstream media credibility.”

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Canadian Lawmaker Accuses Trudeau Of Being A “Fake Feminist” (Video)

Rempel segued to Trudeau’s push to quash an investigation into allegations that he once groped a young journalist early in his political career

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Via Zerohedge

Canada’s feminist-in-chief Justin Trudeau wants to support and empower women…but his support stops at the point where said women start creating problems for his political agenda.

That was the criticism levied against the prime minister on Friday by a conservative lawmaker, who took the PM to task for “muzzling strong, principled women” during a debate in the House of Commons.

“He asked for strong women, and this is what they look like!” said conservative MP Michelle Rempel, referring to the former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, who has accused Trudeau and his cronies of pushing her out of the cabinet after she refused to grant a deferred prosecution agreement to a Quebec-based engineering firm.

She then accused Trudeau of being a “fake feminist”.

“That’s not what a feminist looks like…Every day that he refuses to allow the attorney general to testify and tell her story is another day he’s a fake feminist!”

Trudeau was so taken aback by Rempel’s tirade, that he apparently forgot which language he should respond in.

But Rempel wasn’t finished. She then segued to Trudeau’s push to quash an investigation into allegations that he once groped a young journalist early in his political career. This from a man who once objected to the continued use of the word “mankind” (suggesting we use “peoplekind” instead).

The conservative opposition then tried to summon Wilson-Raybould to appear before the Commons for another hearing (during her last appearance, she shared her account of how the PM and employees in the PM’s office and privy council barraged her with demands that she quash the government’s pursuit of SNC-Lavalin over charges that the firm bribed Libyan government officials). Wilson-Raybould left the Trudeau cabinet after she was abruptly moved to a different ministerial post – a move that was widely seen as a demotion.

Trudeau has acknowledged that he put in a good word on the firm’s behalf with Wilson-Raybould, but insists that he always maintained the final decision on the case was hers and hers alone.

Fortunately for Canadians who agree with Rempel, it’s very possible that Trudeau – who has so far resisted calls to resign – won’t be in power much longer, as the scandal has cost Trudeau’s liberals the lead in the polls for the October election.

 

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