North Korea joins ICBM club —but why now?

North Korea announced Dec. 12 that it had successfully launched a satellite into orbit atop a three-stage rocket. "The launch of the second version of our Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite from the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province by carrier rocket Unha-3 on December 12 was successful," North Korea's news agency, KCNA, reported. "The satellite has entered the orbit as planned." Efforts to launch a satellite last April failed when the rocket exploded moments after lift-off. This time, the effort appears to have succeeded. The US mobilized four warships to track the launch, and Japan's government issued orders to its military to shoot down any rocket debris that entered its territory. The first stage splashed into Yellow Sea, the second into the Philippine Sea  north of Luzon Island; the third remains in orbit. This means North Korea now has the ability to go "exo-atmospheric"—a capacity that could be used in an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM). The US maintains the launch constitutes a test of long-range missile technology banned under UN resolutions.

The success—reportedly met with widespread (compulsory?) rejoicing throughout North Korea—follows numerous past attempts. Current ruler Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, presided over flawed missile launches in 2006 and 2009. The launch seemed timed of the one-year anniversary of the death of Kim Jong Il last December. The launch also falls within the centennial year of the birth of North Korea's founding leader, Kim Il Sung, the incumbent's grandfather. But the launch may also be in response to an agreement by the United States last month allowing South Korea to build ballistic missiles with a range of 800 kilometers—that is, capable of targeting all of North Korea's territory. South Korean missiles, which fall under joint command with the US, were formerly limited to a range of 300 kilometers. South Korea is also developing its own satellite launch capability, with Seoul announcing postponement of its third attempt last month, after two previous failures. (Korea Policy Institute, ABC News, CNN, Quartz, Dec. 12; BBC News, Dec. 7; CNN, Nov. 29; CNN, Oct. 7)

  1. DPRK propaganda vid: sinister or just surreal?

    File under "You can't make this shit up." From the New York Times, Feb. 5:

    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea is not known for its subtlety, famous instead for its soaring patriotic rhetoric and threats to turn the capital of its rival, South Korea, into a "sea of fire."

    But even by those standards, the latest volley of North Korea propaganda is noteworthy. Posted recently on YouTube, a video by one of the North’s propaganda agencies shows an animated version of Manhattan in flames — part of a dream in which a young Korean man envisions a glorious future of rocket launchings and the reunification of the Korean Peninsula. The background music to the scenes of launchings and destruction: an instrumental version of "We Are the World."

    "I see black smoke billowing somewhere in America," the text that scrolls across the screen says in what are, in essence, subtitles of the man’s dream. "It appears that the headquarters of evil, which has had a habit of using force and unilateralism and committing wars of aggression, is going up in flames it itself has ignited."

    By Tuesday afternoon, the video had been removed from YouTube after a copyright complaint from Activision, the maker of the video game "Call of Duty," from which the fiery New York scene was lifted. Copies, however, were up elsewhere on the Web, including on Live Leak.

    The three-and-a-half-minute clip — titled "On Board Unha-9" and posted on YouTube on Saturday by Uriminzokkiri, a North Korean government Web site — is the latest evidence of the propaganda mileage Pyongyang is extracting from its Dec. 12 launching of its Unha-3 rocket, which the West considers North Korea’s first successful test of long-range-missile technology.

    Actually, it does still appear to be on YouTube. See for yourself…

    Shit is cray-cray, yo…

  2. DPRK as surrealist theme park
    An utterly bizarre March 2 CNN report, “5 ways North Korea keeps getting stranger,” lists as number five “Dreaming of annihilating the United States, to the tune of ‘We Are The World'”… But the others are just as weird. 

    1. Kim Jong Un: Dennis Rodman’s new BFF

    If you read the reports about former NBA star Dennis Rodman’s visit to Pyongyang, you might have double-checked whether the story was just another Onion parody.

    Not only did the American basketball star — known for his over-the-top publicity stunts — visit North Korea, but he also was joined by three members of the famed Harlem Globetrotters, who played against North Korea’s “Dream Team” (no surprise, the game ended in a tie). Rodman proclaimed Kim “a friend for life,” and appeared courtside with the North Korean leader.

    Not everyone was cheering this so-called “basketball diplomacy.” A commentary in Canada’s National Post outlined North Korea’s “monstrous gulag system that Dennis Rodman will never see.”

    2. Google executive urges country with barely any electricity to embrace the Internet

    You’ve probably seen that NASA satellite photo of the Korean peninsula at night, the one that shows the northern half completely dark while the southern half and the Chinese coast are fully alight. Electricity is still a luxury in North Korea, where cold winds from nearby Siberia can plunge temperatures below freezing. But that didn’t stop Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt from visiting North Korea in January as part of a delegation urging North Korea to “make it possible for people to use the Internet.”

    While many North Koreans might be more interested in having a heated home, Schmidt and his Google colleague Jared Cohen have advocated about the Internet’s ability to empower citizens living under oppressive regimes.

    3. Famous Americans apparently aren’t the only ones heading to Pyongyang

    In the wake of the Schmidt and Rodman visits, Bloomberg Businessweek looked at just how many Westerners are heading to North Korea for its closely monitored, government-run tours. Surprisingly, it found a nearly 20% increase in visits since 2011.

    4. Get your North Korean education ... in Tokyo

    The United States isn’t the only outside country that has a love-hate relationship with North Korea. Until the end of World War II, Korea was a Japanese colony, and many Koreans were brought to Japan — many against their will — before Korea was divided between north and south. More recently, North Korea admitted to kidnapping Japanese citizens from Japanese soil in the 1970s and 1980s, something Tokyo has demanded more answers about.

    Despite this tense history, Japan hosts a number of North Korean-funded schools — complete with portraits of North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung and previous leader Kim Jong Il on its walls. Students, who are mostly Japanese, say they are learning Korean culture and language, and laugh off suggestions that they’re training to be spies.

    How long before even such bizarre embraces of globalization as these open up internal contradictions for North Korea’s rulers, as they have for China’s? We can only hope…

  3. Cold War nostalgia in DPRK

    Of course it is Fox News that is most aggressively waving this metaphorical bloody shirt. March 7:

    North Korea amplified its threatening rhetoric as the U.N. Security Council approved new sweeping sanctions, vowing to launch a first-strike nuclear attack against the United States and threatening to engulf Washington in a "sea of fire."

    An unidentified spokesman for Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry said the North will exercise its right for "a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors" because Washington is pushing to start a nuclear war against the North.

    At a mass rally in Pyongyang on Thursday, Army Gen. Kang Pyo Yong told the crowd that North Korea is ready to fire long-range nuclear-armed missiles at Washington.

    "Intercontinental ballistic missiles and various other missiles, which have already set their striking targets, are now armed with lighter, smaller and diversified nuclear warheads and are placed on a standby status," Kang said. "When we shell (the missiles), Washington, which is the stronghold of evils, …. will be engulfed in a sea of fire."

    Note incorrect use of parentheses (they should be brackets) and sloppy use of ellipses (three dots would have been sufficient).  Meanwhile Fox's opposite numbers in the idiot-left International Action Center defend the DPRK against the unfavorable portrayal in the Red Dawn remake:

    It would hardly be necessary to answer such a ridiculous fiction were it not for the fact that the corporate media are constantly coming up with alarming stories about the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, picturing it as irrational, aggressive and ready to attack.

    I wonder if Kang Pyo Yong and the makers of the Red Dawn remake are in league? We could think of less likely hypotheses…

    Of course the bellicose outburst comes just as the UN Security Council voted to approve harsh new sanctions against North Korea in response to the recent nuclear test. (NYT, March 7) Around it goes…

    1. Korean War nostalgia in DPRK
      North Korea says it is scrapping all non-aggression pacts with South Korea, closing its hotline with Seoul, and shutting down the crossing point between the two countries, BBC reports.

      There is a “crossing point”?

  4. Kim Il Schwag
    “North Korea to U.S: We Will Turn You Into A Sea of Fire But First Buy One of Our Groovy Organic US-Made Propaganda T-Shirts” reads the smart-alecky headline on Common Dreams. Click on the link for images of T-shirts and baseball caps with idealized socialist-realist portrayals of AK-wiedling soldiers against red-star flag backgrounds. Text:

    The UN may be passing new sanctions against North Korea for its latest nuclear test and North Korea in turn may be calling those sanctions “an act of war” and subsequently threatening to obliterate South Korea, the United States and the world as we know it, but capitalism, lest we forget, stops for no man or megalomaniac. Thus does the official DPRK websiteor at least a part of the website run by a possibly quasi-independent Special Delegate of the Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, High Ministry in the Government of the DPRK – include a Cafe Press online store offering an impressive array of Propaganda t-shirts, hoodies, baseball caps and jerseys, and messenger bags, with other sites offering other stuff. Some items on the DPRK site are specifically identified as made by American companies, Thermos and American Apparel among them. Others don’t say, but sure sound it: “Look cool without breaking the bank (in) our durable, high-quality, pre-shrunk 100% cotton tank top,” “Stay cool & dry while running, biking, hiking or exercising in this great-looking Dry Fit shirt…(It) comes with a custom printed design to show your passion,” and “Be the envy of your tailgate party with this insulated can holder….(burrrrr).” Buy now, going—‚along with any modicum of limit, reason, taste or political coherence in the global marketplace—fast.

    Sales: 1% annoying true believers of the International Action Center variety; 99% annoying ironic hipsters of the Williamsburg variety.

    (Tip o’ the propaganda baseball cap to Michelle Chen for pointing this out on Facebook.)

  5. World War 4 Report prognosis on North Korea
    We have determined: There will not be war on the Korean peninsula. Our reading of the facts tells us that all the saber-rattling is for show, creating a sense of realism for North Korea’s rulers to turn the country into a Cold War nostalgia theme park and rake in tourism dollars. This isn’t a joke, we’re absolutely serious.

  6. Realism on Korean peninsula
    We don’t mean political “realism.” We mean it in the artistic sense.

    North Korea announced March 11 that it had officially “scrapped” the 1953 armistice agreement, with a military spokesman calling the new sanctions a “declaration of war and an act of war against the DPRK.” The North Korean leadership also failed to answer a hotline call from the South, and have apparently cut the line. The announcement comes as military drills involving South Korea and the United States are underway. The maneuvers, called Key Resolve, are in conjunction with the Foal Eagle joint exercises that began March 1 and are scheduled to last two months. More than 3,000 US troops are taking part in Key Resolve. (CNN, NYT, March 11)

    Extravagent theater.

  7. More realistic theater on Korean penninsula
    Wow, is this cool or what? From Yonhap news agency, March 21:

    North Korea issued air raid alerts and ordered its military to take immediate action, the country’s state media outlet said Thursday.

       Korean Central Television, a TV and radio broadcaster, said the alert was issued at 9:32 a.m. with military units and civilians told to take cover. It added that authorities called on the armed forces to take countermeasures to reduce damage.

       The broadcaster did not say if an attack is under way or expected, indicating it may be a drill. The North has carried out similar air raid drills in the past, and ordered blackouts during nighttime exercises.

       Related to the air raid alert, South Korea’s military confirmed the North carried out a drill.

       “The drill may be in response to the earlier deployment of a U.S. B-52 bomber over South Korea,” an official said. He added that the alert is similar to civil defense air raid drills carried out by Seoul.

  8. High theatrics on Korean Peninsula

    South Korea signed a new military plan with the US March 25, to counter what officials call North Korean “provocations.” The plan provides for a joint response in the event of an incursion or a limited attack from the North, such as that in 2010 when a border island was shelled. (BBC News, March 25)

    While blame has not been definitievely fixed in the synchronized cyberattack on South Korea that paralyzed media and banking last week, unnamed Seoul “security experts” say the DPRK is preparing an army of “cyber-warriors” to target the South. (AP, March 24)

  9. Korea drama a touch overheated
     The US military on March 28 carried out a rare long-range mission over the Korean Peninsula, sending two nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers on a practice bombing sortie over the South Korea, and dropping dummy munitions on an island range. (NYT, AP) The Korean Central News Agency, mouthpiece of the DPRK, said the North Korean people were “burning with hatred” over the flights.  (AP) Pyongyang said it has put its long-range missiles on stand-by, and threatened to “mercilessly strike” US bases in South Korea, Guam, Hawaii and the US mainland. (AFP, BBC World Service)

  10. We saw this movie in 1950. Do we really need a remake?
    North Korea said on March 30 it was entering a “state of war” with South Korea, and threatened to close a border industrial zone, the last remaining example of inter-Korean cooperation which gives the impoverished North access to $2 billion in trade a year. The US said it took Pyongyang’s threats seriously but cautioned that the North had a history of “bellicose rhetoric.” (Reuters)

  11. Korea drama borders on histrionic
    Could you guys please tone it down a little? From The Telegraph, April 3:

    Pledging a “measured” response to Pyongyang’s aggression, Chuck Hagel, the US defence secretary, deployed anti-missile systems to Guam, the tiny western Pacific island and American military outpost.

    “Some of the actions they’ve taken over the last few weeks present a real and clear danger,” Mr Hagel said of North Korea, in remarks delivered at the National Defense University in Washington.

    The $800m Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, which was slated to be installed in 2015, will now be sent within weeks, following warnings that Guam, Hawaii or the US west coast could be hit.

    Yes, very “measured.” As if North Korea stands any chance of hitting Guam (other than maybe by accident). From CBS, April 2:

    North Korea vowed Tuesday to restart a nuclear reactor that can make one bomb’s worth of plutonium a year, escalating tensions already raised by near daily warlike threats against the United States and South Korea.

    The North’s plutonium reactor was shut down and partially destroyed in 2007 as part of international nuclear disarmament talks that have since stalled. The declaration of a resumption of plutonium production — the most common fuel in nuclear weapons — and other facilities at the main Yongbyon (also spelled Nyongbyon) nuclear complex would boost fears in Washington and among its allies about North Korea’s timetable for building a nuclear-tipped missile that can reach the United States, technology it is not currently believed to have.

    “Not believed to have.” Really hedging our bets, aren’t we. More from CTV, April 3:

    Ratcheting up the rhetoric, North Korea warned early Thursday that its military has been cleared to wage an attack on the U.S. using “smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear” weapons.

    Which of course it doesn’t actually have. And from CNN, April 3:

     The United States will not accept North Korea as a “nuclear state,” Secretary of State John Kerry warned on Tuesday, just hours after Pyongyang announced plans to restart a nuclear reactor it shut down five years ago…

    “The bottom line is simply that what Kim Jong Un is choosing to do is provocative. It is dangerous, reckless. The United States will not accept the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) as a nuclear state,” Kerry said during a joint briefing in Washington with South Korea Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.

    Not to loan any support to the idiot left factions shilling for the DPRK (really) but why does the US get to decide who gets to be a “nuclear state” and who doesnt? I mean, the US is massively subsidizing nuclear Israel and Pakistan, and is not living up to its own responsibilities to seek disarmament under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But we’re not supposed to talk about that. 

    Theater, for the moment. Let’s hope life doesn’t start imitating art.

  12. Obama flips the script on Kim Jong Un …for the moment
    OK, giving credit where it is due… From California’s Lompoc Record, April 7:

    DoD postpones Vandenberg missile test
    Pentagon leaders have postponed Tuesday’s routine test of an unarmed Minuteman 3 missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base, citing concerns it could be misinterpreted amid escalating tensions with North Korea.

    A senior military official said Saturday that the test likely will be rescheduled for next month, giving time for the current crisis to calm before conducting the Minuteman 3 launch.

    Before the postponement, one nuclear analyst expressed concern that the test, although part of a regular program, could easily be misconstrued by North Korea’s highly paranoid dictator.

    The launch date had been scheduled for months and wasn’t in response to any international incidents, Air Force officials said Friday.

    “This is something we do regularly to test our systems,” said Carla Pampe, a spokeswoman for Air Force Global Strike Command in Louisiana.

  13. North Korea: USA is “boiled pumpkin”

    You've got to admit, this is pretty cool. From Bloomberg, April 10:

    If the US starts a nuclear war, the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency said in an April 8 statement, North Korea “will set fire to the dens of crimes and bases of aggression with its powerful and sophisticated nuclear strike means and completely wipe them out on the earth.”

    …While North Korea has for years threatened to turn Seoul, which is within range of its artillery, into a "sea of fire," it more recently has taken aim at the distant US.

    "The US mainland is similar to a boiled pumpkin," the state news agency said, quoting an official of Kim Il-Sung Military University. "This vast territory will inevitably turn into a living hell of appalling disasters by the annihilating strikes to be dealt by the Korean People’s Army."

    …The Korean Central News Agency also has resorted to doctoring photos to exaggerate the regime’s military prowess.

    A photo released by the state agency last month shows hovercraft storming a beach during a training exercise. The picture had been altered to paste additional vessels into the scene, with two of them kicking up an identical fierce spray in otherwise calm waters. Agence France-Presse later killed the photo's distribution, saying an analysis showed unmistakable signs of manipulation.

    Another set of photos that appeared in the official newspaper of the Korean Workers' Party show a seated Kim, surrounded by military advisers, reviewing his "US mainland strike plan." A map on the wall behind him shows targets that include Hawaii, San Diego, Washington and a Texas city that may be Austin.

    Texas Governor Rick Perry used the occasion to promote Austin. "The individuals in North Korea understand that Austin, Texas, is now a very important city in America, as do corporate CEOs and other people who are moving here in record numbers," the Republican governor told CBS News.

    See, a regular love-fest. You don't think they're throwing each other a wink? One more:

    North Korean propaganda often takes an especially dismissive view of women who oppose the regime, as in a March 13 attack on the new president of South Korea, Park Geun-Hye, saying her "swish of skirt" was to blame for rising tensions on the Korean peninsula.

    We especially love that one. If any US politician had made such a comment,  the idiot left factions shilling for the DPRK  would be screaming "sexist!" But of course when North Korea does it, it is good Communist sexism, not evil capitalist sexism!

    Enjoy the show, folks!

  14. Oppa Pyongyang style!
    The DPRK continues to send the surreal-o-meter into tilt. The NY Daily News May 29 reported on the latest K-pop sensation… from Pyongyang.

    Though South Korea has been enjoying the warm glow of the spotlight with international sensation Psy, it was only a matter of time before its mortal enemy North Korea fired back — at least in a pop sense.

    Enter The Moranbong Music Band, a musical group of five North Korean ladies who were hand-selected by the country’s communist leader, Kim Jong Un.

    The Supreme Leader formed the band — comprised of slim, attractive musicians — in 2012 to sing state-sanctioned pop songs as part of a larger initiative to bring together citizens of the secretive nation.

    They have already performed for the Supreme Leader on several occassions, including last year’s New Year extravaganza.

    The surprisingly hip formation of the band is part of a new century of the DPRK’s “Juche Korea,” according to a release earlier this year by the state-controlled North Korean media.

    The five women prance around onstage in glitzy, sequined costumes, singing songs like “Let’s Study!” and “Our Dear Leader!”

    With synthesizer, strings, guitar, and some impressive five-part harmonies, the Band is an amalgamation of classical, light rock, 80s pop, with a dash of 60s girl band choreography.

    The text does not make clear what an accompanying Reuters photo reveals: the band performed at their inaugural gig last July against a giant screen backdrop with images from… Walt Disney! Specifically Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

    Right, we’ll nuke Anaheim, but not before emulating the globalist Borg! What did we say about North Korea being a giant theme park?