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Korea, Fake News, and What’s Really Going On

The North Koreans are no dummies: they know a regime change operation when they see one.

The Duran

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Authored by Justin Raimondo via AntiWar.com:


The media continues to get the President’s North Korean peace initiative all wrong: in some cases this is due to laziness, Washington-centric group-think, and just plain ignorance. In other cases, it is quite deliberate. Take, for example, the recent “news” that Trump canceled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s scheduled trip to Pyongyang due to a “belligerent” letter sent by the North Koreans to the White House. What is the source of this alleged development? A single report in the Washington Post put out there by one Josh Rogin, not a reporter but an opinion columnist with strong neoconservative inclinations. Rogin attributes this information to “two senior administration officials” while admitting that “[t]he exact contents of the message are unclear.”

We don’t know what the letter said, and so we don’t know why Trump canceled the trip. In short, we don’t know anything. That’s the “news,” folks.

So what really happened? Why the cancellation?

We can’t know for certain, of course, since these things are usually kept under wraps, and yet we can speculate if we have the right context, which is something none of these esteemed Korea “experts” and “analysts” – who are often proxies for special interests – provide. What we usually get is either complete misinformation, as in the case of the “belligerent letter,” or else a priori speculation along the lines of “Why would Kim Jong-un give up his nuclear weapons after seeing what happened to Qaddafi?”

A priori arguments are fine in the realm of economics, but they don’t work at all in the foreign policy realm. We need empirical evidence, and to get that it’s necessary to penetrate a famously opaque North Korea and get a handle on what Kim and the rest of the North Korean leadership want to get out of the negotiations. And, more importantly, we have to ask ourselves how well do the lords of Pyongyang understand the dynamics of American politics, which will ultimately determine US policy?

The answer to this last question, it turns out, is pretty damn well, if the North Korean media is any indication. As reported in one of the few reliable news sources that specialize in North Korea, 38north.org, the North Koreans are basically wondering if Trump is in charge back home:

“There are recent signs that Kim sees trouble ahead for the US-part of his initiatives. An extraordinary article in Rodong Sinmun on August 18 absolves not only President Trump, but also Secretary Pompeo and, indeed, the entire US negotiating team from blame for the failure of the July negotiations, suggesting that “oppositional factional forces” in the US were the culprit. That criticism is clearly aimed at John Bolton, though it never mentions him by name. Beyond Bolton, however, the article for the first time raises the larger issue of the president’s embattled overall political position.”

Unlike the “mainstream” media, 38north.org quotes directly from the official voice of the regime, Rodong Sinmun:

Congress is tackling the president’s feet, the judicial branch is grabbing him by the collar, and news media are bashing him. [in the past]…infighting between vested interests inside US politics did more damage than differences of opinions between North Korea and the United States did. We see it as a higher priority to straighten out fragmented and messed-up US politics than a quick improvement in North Korea-US relations, which is important.”

The North Koreans are wondering if Trump can deliver – and if he’ll even be in the Oval Office much longer. “Fragmented and messed-up US politics” is synonymous with the possibility that the President may be impeached by a Democratic-controlled Congress, depending on which way the midterm elections go.

Kim is thinking long-term, and the stakes are high. His new policy of “everything for the economy” is a major turnaround in the “Juche” ideology that has displaced traditional Marxist-Leninist thought in North Korea. Indeed, Kim’s “economy first” program is a complete nullification of the old ideology, which tried to build a communist society in complete isolation from the rest of the world. This project was bound to fail, and now Kim and his supporters see no reason to pretend otherwise: they want to link up to the global economy, the way China has.

However, if a rapprochement with South Korea and peace with the United States is only a temporary phenomenon, to be rolled back by whomever takes Trump’s place (Pence? A Democrat in 2020?) Kim’s reversal of North Korea’s isolationist stance is not sustainable. Which is why Rodong Sinmun is among the President’s most intransigent – and perceptive – defenders. Get a load of this:

President Trump has a ‘dream,’ which is about achieving the epochal cause of improving North Korea-US relations and establishing world peace, but he has too many enemies.

“His administration and even his advisors are sleeping in the same bed with the president but dreaming different dreams. They are speaking and acting in a way that is inconsistent with the president’s wish, and they are misleading facts to blur the president’s eyes and ears and steering him toward making unintended decisions.

“President Trump made the ‘fantastic meeting’ come true, something that no other president in US history was able to do, and earned cheers from the world and great support from the public because, as the president himself said, he acted according to his decision and wish, while standing firm against the opposition factions’ offensives and taking what he hears from his advisors with a grain of salt.”

The North Koreans sound like hard-line Trump supporters who bemoan the President’s seeming inability to fulfill his campaign promises. Next they’ll be retweeting Ann Coulter’s complaints about “Where’s that Wall?” My favorite part of all this is their exhortation to Pompeo to “stick with his principles”!

“Secretary of State Pompeo, for his part, must stick with his principles and guts instead of getting forced into ‘an unfortunate fate,’ sternly smash the opposition factions’ unjust and foolish claims, and exercise wisdom and negotiating skills as the top diplomat of the United States in name and substance to make the president’s wish come true.”

That’s right, Pompeo, make the President’s wish come true – and you better get cracking if you know what’s good for you.

The 38north.org piece raises a number of fascinating questions, one of which is whether we are witnessing the North Korean equivalent of a debate over how to approach the United States. The author contrasts the editorial line of Rodong Sinmum with the recent statements of the Foreign Ministry: the ministry seems to be under the control of the more traditionalist military-oriented faction, if indeed the North can be said to have definable factions (that would be big news). Alongside indications that there is a major shakeup coming in the North Korean leadership, the idea that the North is actually having a public discussion about all this seems to confirm my theory that glasnost is taking hold in Pyongyang.

Now that we’ve filled in the essential background that we almost never get in the “mainstream” media, perhaps I can shed some light on the actual reasons why the Pompeo visit was postponed, and perhaps even on the contents of the North Korean letter.

My best guess – yes, it’s a guess, but at least it’s an educated one – is that the North Koreans are genuinely worried that Trump is not in control of his own government (true) and may soon be on the way out. Did the letter suggest that perhaps it might be best to wait until after the midterm elections to send Pompeo back to Pyongyang? We may never know, but, given the context outlined above, it’s a lot more plausible than the tale of the “belligerent” letter.

Our ignorance of how North Korea works is apparently not matched by their knowledge of American politics, which seems both extensive and perceptive. Not to mention absolutely necessary. The risk Kim Jong-un is taking cannot be exaggerated: he is willing to junk the North Korean system and his nukes if he’s allowed a place at the global table – and Trump is the only person who wants to take him up on his bet. If the President falls, or is so paralyzed politically that he cannot make a deal, Kim would pay an enormous price. If indeed there was a “belligerent letter,” then perhaps this belligerence was directed at the President’s enemies.

The Rogin column averred that a big obstacle to denuclearization is the failure of the United States to agree to a formal end to the Korean war – we only have an armistice, at this point, which South Korea never signed. A peace treaty never happened: technically, the two sides are still at war. Yet the 38north.org piece cites the supremely authoritative Rodong Sinmum as stating that such a declaration is only an unimportant “political” formality. There’s another fake news item debunked.

Trump’s desire to finally end this ancient and lucrative conflict, which keeps the money flowing to the Pentagon and its attendant military contractors, is part of what his enemies in the national security bureaucracy find deeply offensive. Their gravy train is about to come to an end! This is nothing less than “treason”!

The North Koreans are no dummies: they know a regime change operation when they see one. As they watch our Deep State go after a democratically elected President whose hopes for peace complement their own, the North Koreans are waiting to see if Trump survives. I can’t say that I blame them.

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North Korea is right to be concerned. The septic nation can’t seem to be even on the same page at the present time, so how would one know what to expect? Remember Ghaddafi.

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Russia calls on US to put a leash on Petro Poroshenko

The West’s pass for Mr. Poroshenko may blow up in NATO’s and the US’s face if the Ukrainian President tries to start a war with Russia.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Russia called on Washington not to ignore the Poroshenko directives creating an active military buildup along the Ukrainian-Donbass frontier, this buildup consisting of Ukrainian forces and right-wing ultranationalists, lest it “trigger the implementation of a bloody scenario”, according to a Dec 11 report from TASS.

The [Russian] Embassy [to the US] urges the US State Department to recognize the presence of US instructors in the zone of combat actions, who are involved in a command and staff and field training of Ukraine’s assault airborne brigades. “We expect that the US will bring to reason its proteges. Their aggressive plans are not only doomed to failure but also run counter to the statements of the administration on its commitment to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine by political and diplomatic means,” the statement said.

This warning came after Eduard Basurin, the deputy defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic noted that the Ukrainian army was massing troops and materiel for a possible large-scale offensive at the Mariupol section of the contact line in Donbass. According to Basurin, this action is expected to take place on 14 December. TASS offered more details:

According to the DPR’s reconnaissance data, Ukrainian troops plan to seize the DPR’s Novoazovsky and Temanovsky districts and take control over the border section with Russia. The main attack force of over 12,000 servicemen has been deployed along the contact line near the settlements of Novotroitskoye, Shirokino, and Rovnopol. Moreover, more than 50 tanks, 40 multiple missile launcher systems, 180 artillery systems and mortars have been reportedly pulled to the area, Basurin added. Besides, 12 BM-30 Smerch heavy multiple rocket launchers have been sent near Volodarsky.

The DPR has warned about possible provocations plotted by Ukrainian troops several times. Thus, in early December, the DPR’s defense ministry cited reconnaissance data indicating that the Ukrainian military was planning to stage an offensive and deliver an airstrike. At a Contact Group meeting on December 5, DPR’s Foreign Minister Natalia Nikonorova raised the issue of Kiev’s possible use of chemical weapons in the conflict area.

This is a continuation of the reported buildup The Duran reported in this article linked here, and it is a continuation of the full-scale drama that started with the Kerch Strait incident, which itself appears to have been staged by Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko. Following that incident, the president was able to get about half of Ukraine placed under a 30-day period of martial law, citing “imminent Russian aggression.”

President Poroshenko is arguably a dangerous man. He appears to be desperate to maintain a hold on power, though his approval numbers and support is abysmally low in Ukraine. While he presents himself as a hero, agitating for armed conflict with Russia and simultaneously interfering in the affairs of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church, he is actually one of the most dangerous leaders the world has to contend with, precisely because he is unfit to lead.

Such men and women are dangerous because their desperation makes them short-sighted, only concerned about their power and standing.

An irony about this matter is that President Poroshenko appears to be exactly what the EuroMaidan was “supposed” to free Ukraine of; that is, a stooge puppet leader that marches to orders from a foreign power and does nothing for the improvement of the nation and its citizens.

The ouster of Viktor Yanukovich was seen as the sure ticket to “freedom from Russia” for Ukraine, and it may well have been that Mr. Yanukovich was an incompetent leader. However, his removal resulted in a tryannical regíme coming into power, that resulting in the secession of two Ukrainian regions into independent republics and a third secession of strategically super-important Crimea, who voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia.

While this activity was used by the West to try to bolster its own narrative that Russia remains the evil henchman in Europe, the reality of life in Ukraine doesn’t match this allegation at all. A nation that demonstrates such behavior shows that there are many problems, and the nature of these secessions points at a great deal of fear from Russian-speaking Ukrainian people about the government that is supposed to be their own.

President Poroshenko presents a face to the world that the West is apparently willing to support, but the in-country approval of this man as leader speaks volumes. The West’s blind support of him “against Russia” may be one of the most tragic errors yet in Western foreign policy.

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Second Canadian Citizen Disappears In China

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea.

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Via Zerohedge…


For a trade war that was supposed to be between the US and China, Canada has found itself increasingly in the middle of the crossfire. And so after the arrest of a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing in retaliation for the detention of the Huawei CFO in Vancouver, Canada said a second person has been questioned by Chinese authorities, further heightening tensions between the two countries.

The second person reached out to the Canadian government after being questioned by Chinese officials, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said, at which point Canada lost contact with him. His whereabouts are currently unknown and Global Affairs Canada said they are in contact with his family.

“We haven’t been able to make contact with him since he let us know about this,” Freeland told reporters Wednesday in Ottawa. “We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we have also raised this case with Chinese authorities.”

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea. He gained fame for helping arrange a visit to Pyongyang by former NBA player Dennis Rodman, and he met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on that trip, the newspaper reported. Attempts to reach Spavor on his contact number either in China, or North Korean went straight to voicemail.

Spavor’s personal Facebook page contains several images of him with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un including one of him with both Jong-un and former Dennis Rodman at an undisclosed location.

Michael P. Spavor, right, pictured here with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, second from right, and Dennis Rodman.

Another image shows the two sharing a drink on a boat.

The unexplained disappearance takes place after China’s spy agency detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing on Monday, who was on leave from the foreign service. The arrest came nine days after Canada arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of U.S. DOJ. While Canada has asked to see the former envoy after it was informed by fax of his arrest, Canada is unaware of Kovrig current whereabouts or the charges he faces.

“Michael did not engage in illegal activities nor did he do anything that endangered Chinese national security,” Rob Malley, chief executive officer of the ICG, said in a written statement. “He was doing what all Crisis Group analysts do: undertaking objective and impartial research.”

One possibility is that Kovrig may have been caught up in recent rule changes in China that affect non-governmental organizations, according to Bloomberg. The ICG wasn’t authorized to do work in China, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing in Beijing Wednesday.

“We welcome foreign travelers. But if they engage in activities that clearly violate Chinese laws and regulations, then it is totally another story,” he said, adding he had no information on Kovrig specifically.

As Bloomberg further notes, foreign non-governmental organizations are now required to register with the Chinese authorities under a 2017 law that subjects them to stringent reporting requirements. Under the law, organizations without a representative office in China must have a government sponsor and a local cooperative partner before conducting activities. ICG said this is the first time they’ve heard such an accusation from the Chinese authorities in a decade of working with the country. The company closed its Beijing operations in December 2016 because of the new Chinese law, according to a statement. Kovrig was working out of the Hong Kong office.

Meanwhile, realizing that it is increasingly bearing the brunt of China’s retaliatory anger, Trudeau’s government distanced itself from Meng’s case, saying it can’t interfere with the courts, but is closely involved in advocating on Kovrig’s behalf.

So far Canada has declined to speculate on whether there was a connection between the Kovrig and Meng cases, with neither Freeland nor Canadian Trade Minister Jim Carr saying Wednesday that there is any indication the cases are related. Then again, it is rather obvious they are. Indeed, Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016 and worked with Kovrig, says the link is clear. “There’s no coincidence with China.”

“In this case, they couldn’t grab a Canadian diplomat because this would have created a major diplomatic incident,” he said. “Going after him I think was their way to send a message to the Canadian government and to put pressure.”

Even though Meng was granted bail late Tuesday, that did not placate China, whose foreign ministry spokesman said that “The Canadian side should correct its mistakes and release Ms. Meng Wanzhou immediately.”

The tension, according to Bloomberg,  may force Canadian companies to reconsider travel to China, and executives traveling to the Asian country will need to exercise extra caution, said Andy Chan, managing partner at Miller Thomson LLP in Vaughan, Ontario.

“Canadian business needs to look at and balance the reasons for the travel’’ between the business case and the “current political environment,’’ Chan said by email. Chinese officials subject business travelers to extra screening and in some case reject them from entering, he said.

Earlier in the day, SCMP reported that Chinese high-tech researchers were told “not to travel to the US unless it’s essential.”

And so, with Meng unlikely to be released from Canada any time soon, expect even more “Chinese (non) coincidences”, until eventually China does detain someone that the US does care about.

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Multipolar World Order in the Making: Qatar Dumps OPEC

Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The decision by Qatar to abandon OPEC threatens to redefine the global energy market, especially in light of Saudi Arabia’s growing difficulties and the growing influence of the Russian Federation in the OPEC+ mechanism.

In a surprising statement, Qatari energy minister Saad al-Kaabi warned OPEC on Monday December 3 that his country had sent all the necessary documentation to start the country’s withdrawal from the oil organization in January 2019. Al-Kaabi stressed that the decision had nothing to do with recent conflicts with Riyadh but was rather a strategic choice by Doha to focus on the production of LNG, which Qatar, together with the Russian Federation, is one of the largest global exporters of. Despite an annual oil extraction rate of only 1.8% of the total of OPEC countries (about 600,000 barrels a day), Qatar is one of the founding members of the organization and has always had a strong political influence on the governance of the organization. In a global context where international relations are entering a multipolar phase, things like cooperation and development become fundamental; so it should not surprise that Doha has decide to abandon OPEC. OPEC is one of the few unipolar organizations that no longer has a meaningful purpose in 2018, given the new realities governing international relations and the importance of the Russian Federation in the oil market.

Besides that, Saudi Arabia requires the organization to maintain a high level of oil production due to pressure coming from Washington to achieve a very low cost per barrel of oil. The US energy strategy targets Iranian and Russian revenue from oil exports, but it also aims to give the US a speedy economic boost. Trump often talks about the price of oil falling as his personal victory. The US imports about 10 million barrels of oil a day, which is why Trump wrongly believes that a decrease in the cost per barrel could favor a boost to the US economy. The economic reality shows a strong correlation between the price of oil and the financial growth of a country, with low prices of crude oil often synonymous of a slowing down in the economy.

It must be remembered that to keep oil prices low, OPEC countries are required to maintain a high rate of production, doubling the damage to themselves. Firstly, they take less income than expected and, secondly, they deplete their oil reserves to favor the strategy imposed by Saudi Arabia on OPEC to please the White House. It is clearly a strategy that for a country like Qatar (and perhaps Venezuela and Iran in the near future) makes little sense, given the diplomatic and commercial rupture with Riyadh stemming from tensions between the Gulf countries.

In contrast, the OPEC+ organization, which also includes other countries like the Russian Federation, Mexico and Kazakhstan, seems to now to determine oil and its cost per barrel. At the moment, OPEC and Russia have agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day, contradicting Trump’s desire for high oil output.

With this last choice Qatar sends a clear signal to the region and to traditional allies, moving to the side of OPEC+ and bringing its interests closer in line with those of the Russian Federation and its all-encompassing oil and gas strategy, two sectors in which Qatar and Russia dominate market share.

In addition, Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey (a future energy hub connecting east and west as well as north and south) and Venezuela. In this sense, the meeting between Maduro and Erdogan seems to be a prelude to further reorganization of OPEC and its members.

The declining leadership role of Saudi Arabia in the oil and financial market goes hand in hand with the increase of power that countries like Qatar and Russia in the energy sectors are enjoying. The realignment of energy and finance signals the evident decline of the Israel-US-Saudi Arabia partnership. Not a day goes by without corruption scandals in Israel, accusations against the Saudis over Khashoggi or Yemen, and Trump’s unsuccessful strategies in the commercial, financial or energy arenas. The path this doomed

trio is taking will only procure less influence and power, isolating them more and more from their opponents and even historical allies.

Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi, the Eurasian powerhouses, seem to have every intention, as seen at the trilateral summit in Buenos Aires, of developing the ideal multipolar frameworks to avoid continued US dominance of the oil market through shale revenues or submissive allies as Saudi Arabia, even though the latest spike in production is a clear signal from Riyadh to the USA. In this sense, Qatar’s decision to abandon OPEC and start a complex and historical discussion with Moscow on LNG in the format of an enlarged OPEC marks the definitive decline of Saudi Arabia as a global energy power, to be replaced by Moscow and Doha as the main players in the energy market.

Qatar’s decision is, officially speaking, unconnected to the feud triggered by Saudi Arabia against the small emirate. However, it is evident that a host of factors has led to this historic decision. The unsuccessful military campaign in Yemen has weakened Saudi Arabia on all fronts, especially militarily and economically. The self-inflicted fall in the price of oil is rapidly consuming Saudi currency reserves, now at a new low of less than 500 billion dollars. Events related to Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) have de-legitimized the role of Riyadh in the world as a reliable diplomatic interlocutor. The internal and external repression by the Kingdom has provoked NGOs and governments like Canada’s to issue public rebukes that have done little to help MBS’s precarious position.

In Syria, the victory of Damascus and her allies has consolidated the role of Moscow in the region, increased Iranian influence, and brought Turkey and Qatar to the multipolar side, with Tehran and Moscow now the main players in the Middle East. In terms of military dominance, there has been a clear regional shift from Washington to Moscow; and from an energy perspective, Doha and Moscow are turning out to be the winners, with Riyadh once again on the losing side.

As long as the Saudi royal family continues to please Donald Trump, who is prone to catering to Israeli interests in the region, the situation of the Kingdom will only get worse. The latest agreement on oil production between Moscow and Riyad signals that someone in the Saudi royal family has probably figured this out.

Countries like Turkey, India, China, Russia and Iran understand the advantages of belonging to a multipolar world, thereby providing a collective geopolitical ballast that is mutually beneficial. The energy alignment between Qatar and the Russian Federation seems to support this general direction, a sort of G2 of LNG gas that will only strengthen the position of Moscow on the global chessboard, while guaranteeing a formidable military umbrella for Doha in case of a further worsening of relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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