Russian Foreign Minister comments on Pence, McMasters statements, and chemical weapon investigation problems

From Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation
April 17, 2017

Excerpts:

Question: Can you comment on rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, taking into account US Vice President Mike Pence’s comment that the era of strategic patience is over in relations with North Korea and that all options are on the table to achieve security in the region?

Sergey Lavrov: I wouldn’t describe relations between North Korea and the Obama administration as an era of strategic patience, because the United States greatly restricted North Korea’s ability to develop the industries that could promote the nuclear or energy sectors. The UN Security Council adopted harsh sanctions against North Korea and condemned its policy.

If the figure of speech used by the US Vice President can be understood as a threat of a unilateral military solution, it is a highly risky path. We condemn Pyongyang’s opportunistic nuclear missile plans, which violate the numerous UN Security Council resolutions. But this does not mean that other countries can violate international law and use military force contrary to the UN Charter. I strongly hope that no unilateral actions will be taken similar to those we have recently seen in Syria, and that the United States will pursue the line President Donald Trump put forth during his election campaign.

Question: Can you comment on the statement by the US National Security Adviser Army Lieutenant General McMaster that “it’s time though, now, to have those tough discussions” with Russia over its support for Syria’s government and its “subversive actions” in Europe?

Sergey Lavrov: This is a complex question. I have no desire to comment on the unsubstantiated accusations made against Russia. First they concerned Ukraine, and now the focus has shifted to Syria. I have seen media reports that US or British officials are saying that they could cooperate with Russia if it [behaved] in Ukraine and, Syria, and now the Korean Peninsula has been added to the list. It appears that we must do something for somebody on the Korean Peninsula too, although we did not create the chaos that is reigning there. ISIS, and before it, al-Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra, are the offspring of opportunistic projects that involved our Western partners, primarily many US administrations, which began by supporting the mujahedeen in Afghanistan and praising them as freedom fighters, and continued this policy in Iraq and Libya. And now that these countries have been ruined, it appears that we must pay for the consequences. This is not how partners act. This approach is not acceptable to us. We will not listen to what President Trump’s adviser has said, but what President Trump himself has said, that he is optimistic when it comes to improving relations with Russia. We are ready for this.

Question: What issues are on the agenda of the upcoming Geneva meeting on the intra-Syrian settlement? Will it be political issues only, or will military issues also be discussed, in light of the recent air strike on the Syrian airfield and the coalition landing operation near Deir Ez-Zor?

Sergey Lavrov: The talks in Geneva will be held after May 3–4, that is, following a regular meeting in Astana. We hope that the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, Mr Staffan de Mistura, will find a suitable date. It has been suggested that since the holy month of Ramadan begins in late May, it would be expedient to postpone the talks until after it ends. We are convinced that we must not lose momentum, especially in a situation when the political process has been brought into question. I am referring to the strike on the Shayrat airfield and the intention of many players in Syria, among the external opposition and in many countries in and outside the region, to use this situation to place the blame squarely on Bashar al-Assad. They seek to deviate from a political settlement through the expression of the will of the Syrian people themselves to conduct unilateral actions to overthrow the Syrian government. It is an alarming trend. As I have said, in pursuit of this goal, they are using the April 4 chemical weapons incident in Idlib, which was followed by the illegal US air strike on the airfield from which planes allegedly carrying chemical weapons took off. I have said repeatedly that we demand that an objective and unbiased investigation be carried out under the auspices of the OPCW with assistance from independent experts, and that this investigation be fully transparent.

I would like to remind you that we have pointed out a very strange coincidence: that the two groups of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on the potential use of chemical weapons in Syria are chaired by UK citizens. We have said that this runs contrary to the principles of an international organisation, the structures of which must be maximally balanced. We have not received any response as yet, but we can regard a recent statement by UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson as an indirect response. He said in an interview that Damascus and Russia and Iran, which support it, are to blame for the chemical attack.  By way of evidence, he said that British scientists have analysed samples from the site of the attack, and that these have tested positive for sarin or a sarin-like substance. That’s an interesting coincidence: British citizens chairing the OPCW FFM don’t tell anyone anything, while British scientists have already analysed samples taken at the site of the incident. I believe we will be sending a request to the OPCW today demanding an explanation. I expect they will have to answer this time.

The situation is not simple at all. We hope that the majority of countries see what is going on. We will not permit anyone to derail the efforts to attain a political settlement in Syria under the UN Security Council resolution.

http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/2729221

South Korea to quadruple reward fee for North Korean defectors to $860,000

From CNN
March 5, 2017

Seoul South Korea is quadrupling its reward fee for defectors from North Korea who are willing to hand over classified information on the reclusive country’s military secrets.

The Ministry of Unification announced Sunday that it would pay up to 1 billion won ($860,000) — eclipsing the previous maximum of 250 million won.
A bill outlining the changes is set to be submitted and would offer substantial financial rewards for those able to provide intelligence and knowledge, which could enhance South Korea’s security, according to the ministry.
The bill will be considered in the National Assembly between February 28 and March 9, a Unification Ministry official said.

North Korea: The Grand Deception Revealed — Report of the October 2003 National Lawyers Guild/American Association of Jurists Delegation to the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea

From 4th Media

DPRK (aka, “NORTH KOREA”): THE GRAND DECEPTION REVEALED

The Preliminary Report of the October 2003 National Lawyers Guild/American Association of Jurists Delegation to the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea
I. The Delegation and its Purpose
II. First Impressions
III. The Role of Lawyers
IV. War Crimes
V. The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
VI. The Countryside and Hours of Talk
VII. The Circus
VIII. Human Exchanges
IX. Particular Observations
A. The Juche idea of Socialism
B. The Role of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il
C. The Legal System
D. Education
E. Health Care
F. Housing
G. Work Conditions
H. Political System
I. Military Service
J. Reunification
K. The Role of Women
X. War and Peace
XI. Final Observations and Future Activities

I. The Delegation and its Purpose

On September 29th, 2003 four lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild of the United States, Peter Erlinder, Professor of Law at the William Mitchell School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, Neil Berman, Attorney in Boston, Massachusetts and Eric Sirotkin and Jennie Lusk, Attorneys in Albuquerque, New Mexico as well as a member of the American Association of Jurists, Christopher Black, Barrister in Toronto, Canada, traveled to North Korea, formally the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK) at the invitation of the Korean Democratic Lawyers Association (KDLA).

We came to North Korea in order to increase bonds between lawyers in North Korea and the west, as well as to increase understanding between the peoples of North America and North Korea in order to reduce the risk of war between the DPRK and the United States of America.

The visit had several specific purposes: (1) to develop personal and professional relationships with lawyers in North Korea with a view toward understanding their legal system and its role in society, (2) to determine and understand the views of the people of the DPRK with respect to war and peace and its link to the problem of reunification of the “two” Koreas, and (3) to observe as best we could the real situation for the people of the DKRP in the context of the information being propagated in the western press of an Orwellian, totalitarian, impoverished and starving society – allegations which have been used by the United States to justify all its recent wars of aggression. We felt it essential to let the North Koreans know that many Americans and Canadians have a deep desire for peace and oppose the rhetorical “axis of evil” posture announced by the current U.S. administration.

Most of us met in Beijing as virtual strangers, but we parted company days later as friends, transformed by our experience. We came from different backgrounds, different areas of law and represented several political and philosophical points of view. We had one essential thing in common; the real fear of a war between the United States and the DPRK and a deep desire to know the truth.

All felt misled over the years by the U.S. government through its misinformation used to justify wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. We no longer accept bald allegations of “widespread violations of human rights”, the need for a “war on terrorism”, war to destroy “weapons of mass destruction,” or the need to fight wars to preserve and expand our Western way of life. As world citizens we felt obliged to reveal the truth and to take steps to build, rather than destroy, relationships, even with those whom we may disagree.

The delegation met with KDLA members, government officials and military officers, and discussed comparative judicial systems and strategies for building bridges for peace between DPRK and the United States. We toured Pyongyang, traveled hundreds of kilometers into the countryside, visited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the Northern side at the infamous joint use area of Panmunjom, and interviewed U.S. soldiers and business consultants from around the world who, much to our surprise, were discovered working in North Korea,

II. First Impressions

Continue reading

North Korea: The Grand Deception revealed. The people of the DPRK want peace

Global Research, March 15, 2017
New Eastern Outlook 13 March 2017

In 2003 I had, along with some American lawyers, members of the National Lawyers Guild, the good fortune to be able to travel to North Korea, that is the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, in order to experience first hand that nation, its socialist system and its people.

The joint report issued on our return was titled “The Grand Deception Revealed.” [1] That title was chosen because we discovered that the negative western propaganda myth about North Korea is a grand deception designed to blind the peoples of the world to the accomplishments of the Korean people in the north who have successfully created their own circumstances, their own independent socio-economic system, based on socialist principles, free of the domination of the western powers.

At one of our first dinners in Pyongyang our host, Ri Myong Kuk, a lawyer, stated, on behalf of the government, and in passionate terms, that the DPRK’s Nuclear Deterrent Force was necessary in light of US world actions and threats against the DPRK. He stated, and this was repeated to me in a high level meeting with DPRK government officials later on in the trip, that if the Americans would sign a peace treaty and non-aggression agreement with the DPRK, it would de-legitimize the American occupation and lead to reunification. Consequently there would be no need for nuclear weapons.

He stated sincerely that,

“It’s important that lawyers are gathering to talk about this as lawyers regulate the social interactions within society and within the world,”

and added just as sincerely that, “the path to peace requires an open heart.”

It appeared to us then and it is apparent now, in absolute contradiction to the claims of the western media, that the people of the DPRK want peace more than anything else so they can get on with their lives and endeavours without the constant threat of nuclear annihilation by the United States. But annihilation is what they in fact face and whose fault is that? Not theirs.

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We were shown American documents captured in the Korean War that are compelling evidence that the US planned an attack on North Korea in 1950. The attack was carried out using American and south Korean forces with the assistance of Japanese Army officers who had invaded and occupied Korea decades before. The North Korean defence and counter-attack was then claimed by the US to be “aggression” which the United States manipulated in the media to get the UN to support a “police operation,” the euphemism they chose to use to carry on what was in fact their war of aggression against North Korea. Three years of war and 3.5 million Korean deaths followed and the US has threatened them with imminent war and annihilation ever since.

The UN vote in favour of a “police action” in 1950 was itself illegal since Russia was absent for the vote in the Security Council. The quorum required for the Security Council under its Rules of Procedure, is all member delegations so that all members must be present or a session cannot proceed. The Americans used a Russian boycott of the Security Council as their opportunity. The Russian boycott took place in defence of the position of the Peoples Republic of China that it should have the China seat at the Security Council table, not the defeated Kuomintang government. The Americans refused to do the right thing, so the Russians refused to sit at the table until the legitimate Chinese government could.

The Americans used this opportunity to carry out a type of coup in the UN, to take over its machinery for its own interests by arranging with the British, French and Kuomintang Chinese to back their actions in Korea by a vote in the absence of the Russians. The allies did as the Americans asked and voted for war with Korea, but the vote was invalid, and the “police action” was not a peace-keeping operation nor justified under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, since article 51states that all nations have the right of self defence against an armed attack, which is what the North Koreans faced and had reacted to. But the Americans have never cared much about legalities and they did not then for the American plan in its entirety was to conquer and occupy North Korea as a step towards the invasions of Manchuria and Siberia and the law was not going to get in their way.

Many in the west have little idea of the destruction carried out in Korea by the Americans and their allies; that Pyongyang was carpet bombed into oblivion, that civilians fleeing the carnage were strafed by American planes. The New York Times stated at the time that 17,000,000 pounds of napalm were used in Korea just in the first 20 months of the war. More bomb tonnage was dropped on Korea by the US than the US dropped on Japan in World War Two.

American forces hunted down and murdered not only communist party members but also their families. At Sinchon we saw the evidence that American soldiers forced 500 civilians into a ditch, doused them with gasoline and set them on fire. We stood in an air raid shelter with walls still blackened with the burnt flesh of 900 civilians, including women and children who had sought safety during an American attack. American soldiers were seen pouring gasoline down the air vents of the shelter and burning them all to death. This is the reality of the American occupation for Koreans. This is the reality they fear still and never want to repeat. Can we blame them?

But even with this history, Koreans are willing to open their hearts to former enemies. Major Kim Myong Hwan, who was then the main negotiator at Panmunjom on the DMZ line, told us that his dream was to be a writer, a poet, a journalist, but said in sombre tones, that he and his five brothers “walk the line” at the DMZ as soldiers because of what happened to his family. He said their struggle was not against the American people but their government. He was lonely for his family lost at Sinchon; his grandfather strung up a pole and tortured, his grandmother bayoneted in the stomach and left to die. He said,

“You see, we have to do it. We have to defend ourselves. We do not oppose the American people. We oppose the American policy of hostility and its efforts to exercise control over the whole world and inflict calamity on people.”

It was the opinion of the delegation that by maintaining instability in Asia, the U.S. can maintain a massive military presence and keep China at bay in its relations with South and North Korea and Japan and use it as a lever against China and Russia. 

With the continuing pressure within Japan to remove the U.S. bases in Okinawa, the Korean military operations and war exercises remain a central point of American efforts to dominate the region

The question is not whether the DPRK has nuclear weapons which it is legally entitled to have, but whether the United States, which has nuclear arms capability on the Korean peninsula, and which is now installing its THADD missile defence system there, a system that threatens the security of Russia and China, is willing to work with the North toward a peace treaty. We found North Koreans avid for peace and not attached to having nuclear weapons if peace can be established. But the American position remains as arrogant, aggressive threatening and dangerous as ever.

In this age of American “regime change,” “pre-emptive war” doctrines, and American efforts to develop low yield nuclear weapons as well as their abandonment and manipulation of international law it was not surprising that the DPRK plays the nuclear card. What choice do the Koreans have since United States threatens nuclear war on a daily basis and the two countries that logic dictates would support them against American aggression, Russia and China, join with the Americans in condemning the Koreans for arming themselves with the only weapon that can act as a deterrent against attack.

The reason for this is unclear since the Russians and Chinese have nuclear weapons and built them to act as a deterrent to an attack by the United States just as North Korea is doing. Some of their government statements indicate that they fear not being in control of the situation and that if North Korea’s acts of defence draw a US attack, they will be attacked as well. One can understand that anxiety. But it begs the question why they cannot support North Korea’s right to self-defence and put more pressure on the Americans to conclude a peace treaty, a non-aggression agreement, and to withdraw their nuclear and armed forces from the Korean peninsula. But the great tragedy is the clear inability of the American people to think for themselves, in the face of continual deceptions, and to demand that their leaders exhaust all avenues of dialogue and peacemaking before even contemplating aggression on the Korean Peninsula.

The fundamental foundation of North Korean policy is to achieve a non-aggression pact and peace treaty with the United States. The North Koreans repeatedly stated that they did not want to attack anyone, hurt anyone or be at war with anyone. But they have seen what has happened to Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and countless other countries and they have no intention of having that happen to them. It is clear that any U.S. invasion would be defended vigorously and that the nation can endure a long, arduous struggle.

At another location on the DMZ we met a Colonel who set up field glasses through which we could see across the divide between north and south. We could see a concrete wall built on the South side, a violation of truce agreements. The major described such a permanent structure as a “disgrace for the Korean people who are a homogenous people.” A loud speaker continuously blared propaganda and music from speakers on the south side. The irritating noise goes on for 22 hours a day, he said. Suddenly, in another surreal moment, the bunker’s loudspeakers began belting out the William Tell overture, better known in America as the theme from the Lone Ranger. The Colonel urged us to help people see what is really going on in the DPRK, instead of basing their opinions on misinformation. He told us “We know that like us the peace loving people in America have children, parents and families.” We told him of our mission to return with a message for peace and that we hope to return someday and “walk with him together freely in these beautiful hills.” He paused and said, “I too believe it is possible.”

So while the people of the DPRK hope for peace and security the United States and its puppet regime in the south of the Korean peninsular wage war, carrying out for the next three months the largest war games ever conducted there, involving air craft carriers, nuclear armed submarines and stealth bombers, aircraft and large numbers of troops, artillery and armour.

The propaganda campaign has been taken to dangerous levels in the media with accusations that the North murdered a relative of the leader of the DPRK in Malaysia, though there is no proof of this, and no motive for the north to do it. The only ones to benefit from the murder are the Americans and their controlled media using it to whip up hysteria about the North and now allegations of the North having chemical weapons of mass destruction. Yes, friends, they think we were all born yesterday and that we haven’t learned a thing or two about the character of the American leadership and the nature of their propaganda. Is it any wonder that the North Koreans fear that any day these on going war “games” can be switched to the real thing, that these “games” are just a cover for an attack, and in the meantime to create an atmosphere of terror for the Korean people?

There is a lot that can be said about the real nature of the DPRK, its people and socio-economic system, its culture. But there is no space for that here. I hope people can visit as our group did and experience for themselves what we experienced. Instead I will close with the concluding paragraph of the joint report made on our return from the DPRK and hope that people take it in, think about it, and act to bring on its call for peace.

The people of the world have to be told the complete story about Korea and our government’s role in fostering imbalance and conflict. Action must be taken by lawyers, community groups, peace activists, and all citizens of the planet, to prevent the U.S. government from successfully generating a propaganda campaign to support aggression in North Korea. The American people have been subjected to a grand deception. There is too much at stake to get fooled again. This peace delegation learned in the DPRK a significant piece of truth essential in international relations. It’s how broader communication, negotiation followed by maintained promises, and a deep commitment to peace can save the world – literally – from a dark nuclear future. Experience and truth free us from the threat of war. Our foray into North Korea, this report and our on-going project are small efforts to make and set us free.

Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto. He is known for a number of high-profile war crimes cases and recently published his novel “Beneath the Clouds. He writes essays on international law, politics and world events, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

U.S. sends drones, assassination squad to South Korea. Massive “war games” directed against DPRK underway

“[T]o practice missions to infiltrate into the North, remove the North’s war command and demolition of its key military facilities”… The joint Foal Eagle drills are the biggest ever, involving more than 320,000 troops backed by a US aircraft carrier strike group, stealth fighters and strategic bombers.

By Peter Symonds
Global Research, March 15, 2017
World Socialist Web Site 14 March 2017

The Trump administration has further exacerbated the extremely tense standoff on the Korean Peninsula by dispatching attack drones to South Korea and sending special forces units to participate in massive war games already underway. The military build-up takes place as the White House considers launching strikes on North Korean nuclear and military sites.

US Forces Korea announced on Monday that the company of Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) will be permanently stationed at Kunsan Air Base, south of Seoul. “The UAS adds significant intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability to US Forces Korea and our [South Korean] partners,” it stated.

While the US announcement emphasized reconnaissance, the Gray Eagle drones can also carry up to four Hellfire missiles that have been used to carry out assassinations and strike military targets. The lethal drones can stay aloft for up to 24 hours.

The South Korean military was in no doubt as to the purpose of the deployment. An unnamed official told the Yonhap news agency: “In case of a war on the Korean Peninsula, the unmanned aircraft could infiltrate into the skies of North Korea and make a precision strike on the war command and other major military facilities.”

The dispatch of attack drones to South Korea coincides with the involvement of US special forces in annual Foal Eagle war games, including SEAL Team 6, the highly-trained assassination squad that killed Osama bin Laden. The SEAL team will take part in the joint exercises in South Korea along with US Army Rangers, Delta Force and Green Berets, according to Yonhap.

A military official told the news agency that bigger numbers and more diverse US special operations forces were taking part, in order “to practice missions to infiltrate into the North, remove the North’s war command and demolition of its key military facilities.” The joint Foal Eagle drills are the biggest ever, involving more than 320,000 troops backed by a US aircraft carrier strike group, stealth fighters and strategic bombers.

Commenting on US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s trip to Japan, South Korea and China later this week, State Department spokesman Mark Toner absurdly claimed that the US military was taking “defensive measures” against “an increasingly worrying, concerning threat from North Korea.”

Neither the drones nor the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system to which Toner was referring are “defensive” in character. The drones, along with the special forces units, are rehearsing for pre-emptive attacks on North Korean military sites and “decapitation raids” to kill North Korean leaders. This is in line with an aggressive new joint operational plan, OPLAN 5015, agreed to between the US and South Korea in late 2015.

The THAAD deployment is part of the Pentagon’s broader build-up of anti-ballistic missile systems and military forces in Asia, primarily for war against China. Beijing has repeatedly voiced strenuous objections to the THAAD installation in South Korea, which has a powerful radar system capable of peering deep into the Chinese mainland and giving the US military much greater advance warning of Chinese missile launches in the event of war.

The Trump administration, which is currently reviewing US strategy towards North Korea, is exploiting North Korea’s test launch of four ballistic missiles last week to advance longstanding military preparations on the Korean Peninsula. According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House is actively considering “regime change” in Pyongyang and military strikes on North Korea.

“We have to look at new ideas, new ways of dealing with North Korea,” US State Department spokesman Toner blandly declared. “China understands that threat. They’re not oblivious to what’s happening in North Korea.”

The reference to China underscores the aims of Tillerson’s upcoming trip. Firstly, he intends to brief Washington’s Japanese and South Korean allies on US plans and to encourage closer military cooperation in the event of conflict. Then he will fly to Beijing, where he will attempt to bully the Chinese government into taking tougher punitive action against Pyongyang.

The mounting US threats towards North Korea are also directed against China, which the Trump administration is targeting as the chief obstacle to maintaining US dominance in Asia and internationally. Tillerson has provocatively declared that the US should block Chinese access to islets under Beijing’s administration in the South China Sea. The only way to carry out such a reckless plan would be through a US military blockade—an act of war that could provoke conflict between the two nuclear-armed powers.

Tensions in the South China Sea have been further strained by the decision of the Japanese military to dispatch its largest warship, the JS Izumo, for three months of operations, including in disputed waters. According to Reuters, the Izumo will make stops in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka before joining the Malabar joint naval exercise with Indian and US naval vessels in the Indian Ocean in July. It will also train with the US navy in the South China Sea.

Over the eight years of the Obama administration and its “pivot to Asia,” the US has engaged in a systematic military expansion throughout the Asia Pacific, strengthened alliances and strategic partnerships and greatly aggravated dangerous regional flashpoints, including the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea. The Trump administration, which has been critical of the “pivot” for not being sufficiently aggressive, is now embarking on a course that greatly heightens the danger of war.

The response of the North Korean regime to Washington’s actions is reactionary through and through. Its nuclear and missile tests, along with its bloodcurdling threats and Korean chauvinism, in no way defend the Korean people, but do provide the US with a pretext for its military build-up in North East Asia. According to the 38north.org web site, affiliated with John Hopkins University, commercial satellite imagery indicates that Pyongyang could be preparing for another nuclear test.

Confronted with an intense political crisis in Washington, the Trump administration is not simply considering, but actively preparing for reckless provocations and military moves against North Korea that have the potential to trigger a cataclysmic war that draws in the entire world.

Washington considers military action against North Korea to force “regime change”

Global Research, March 12, 2017
What’s Left 7 March 2017

The White House is considering “possible military action to force regime change” in North Korea, another in a long succession of threats Washington has issued against Pyongyang, piled atop unremitting aggression the United States has directed at the country from the very moment of its birth in 1948.

In addition to direct military action from 1950 to 1953 against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the country’s official name), US aggression has included multiple threats of nuclear annihilation, and the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons into South Korea until 1991. Re-deployment is now under consideration in Washington.

Most US nuclear threats against Pyongyang were made before North Korea embarked upon its own nuclear weapons program, and constitute one of the principal reasons it did so. The country’s being declared an original member of the Bush administration’s Axis of Evil, along with Iraq and Iran, provided an additional impetus.

US aggression against Gaddafi’s Libya, after the Arab and African nationalist leader abandoned his country’s nuclear weapons program in a failed effort at an entente with the West, only affirmed Pyongyang’s view that its decision to acquire a nuclear deterrent was sound and imperative. To make Gaddafi’s blunder would be to commit suicide.

North Korea has additionally been menaced by annual US-directed war games involving hundreds of thousands of troops, carried out along North Korea’s borders. While US officials describe the twice yearly assembling of significant military forces within striking range of the DPRK as routine and defensive, it is never clear to the North Korean military whether the US–directed maneuvers are defensive exercises or preparations for an invasion. Accordingly, the exercises are objectively minatory.

US officials have described Russian war games along Russia’s western border as “provocations” and as a sign of Russian “aggression.” One US official said, “The Russians have been doing a lot of snap exercises right up against the borders, with a lot of troops. From our perspective, we could argue this is extraordinarily provocative behavior.” And yet when US and South Korean troops do the same, right up against North Korea’s borders, their actions are deemed routine and defensive. (Threats made routinely, it should be noted, do not become non-threats simply because they are routine.)

On top of military aggression, the United States has added economic aggression to its decades-long quest to bring about regime change in North Korea. For almost seven decades Washington has led a campaign of economic warfare against the DPRK, designed to do what economic sieges are always intended to do: make the lives of ordinary people sufficiently straitened and miserable that they rise in revolt against their own government.

While the United States struts around the globe as the self-proclaimed champion of democracy, while counting kings, emirs, sultans and military dictators among its closest allies, it has imposed sanctions on North Korea for the most profoundly undemocratic reason. A US Congressional Research Service 2016 report, “North Korea: Economic Sanctions,” enumerates a detailed list of economic penalties imposed on North Korea for having the temerity to operate a “Marxist-Leninist” economy contrary to Washington’s Wall Street-approved economic prescriptions. Hence, the United States wages economic warfare on people in other lands because it doesn’t like the decisions they make about how to organize their own economic lives (and more to the point, because those decisions fail to comport with the profit-making interests of corporate America, the only sector of the United States whose voice matters in US policy.) What could be more hostile to democracy—and more imperialist—than that?

The US decision to consider military action against North Korea to force regime change may be considered a response to Pyongyang’s “threats,” but the DPRK, regardless of its bluster, has never posed a threat to the physical safety of the United States. It is far too small (its population is only 25 million) and too weak militarily (its annual defense spending is less than $10 billion, swamped by the Himalayan military outlays of its adversaries, from South Korea’s $36 billion to Japan’s $41 billion to the United States’ $603 billion), to pose a significant threat, or even a derisory one. Moreover, it is totally devoid of the means to convey a military force to US soil, lacking long range bombers and a capable navy.

To be sure, Pyongyang may have developed ICBMs capable of reaching the United States, and it may have acquired the know-how to miniaturize nuclear warheads that can be carried atop them, but the notion that Pyongyang would undertake an offensive strike against the United States is risible. Doing so would be tantamount to a porcupine tangling with a mountain lion. Since porcupines have no hope of defeating mountain lions, and would be mangled in the attempt, they avoid confrontations with them. They do, however, have self-defensive quills—the equivalent of North Korea’s nuclear arms and ballistic missile programs—to deter mountain lions, and other predators, from tangling with them.

North Korea is often criticized for being a garrison state, closed off to the outside world, yet its insularity can be understood as an imperative of surviving as an independent, sovereign state, in a world in which the United States insists on exercising global “leadership” (i.e., denying other countries their sovereignty) and using its military supremacy to coerce the world to fall into step behind its leadership of the global economy.

Washington has been waging a cyber-war against North Korea, which it is speculated may be responsible for a string of missile test launch failures which recently plagued the DPRK’s missile program, and additionally explains why the country’s leadership is chary about openness. You don’t facilitate sabotage of your own country by opening up to a hostile government that is committed to your demise. And should there be any illusions about what Washington’s intentions are, consider the words of John R. Bolton. In 2003, Bolton was the US under secretary of state for arms control. Asked by New York Times’ reporter Christopher Marquis what Washington’s policy on North Korea was, Bolton “strode over to a bookshelf, pulled off a volume and slapped it on the table. It was called ‘The End of North Korea.’” “‘That,’ he said, ‘is our policy.’” North Korea’s nuclear arms and missile programs have nothing whatever to do with Washington’s desire to bring about the end of North Korea, since this has been US policy since 1948, the year the DPRK was founded, long before Pyongyang embarked on developing nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. Instead, the reasons for Washington’s hostility lie in economics and Pyongyang’s refusal to submit to US leadership.

Next month, South Korea will significantly increase the rewards it pays to defectors from the north who treasonously disclose state secrets or surrender military equipment. High-ranking North Korean officials will receive $860,000 for defecting and selling out their compatriots, while pilots will be offered the same to fly their warplanes to South Korea. Sailors who surrender their warships to Seoul will also receive $860,000. At the same time, payouts from $43,000 to $260,000 will be handed to North Korean military personnel who defect, if they bring with them lesser weapons, such as tanks or machine guns.

South Korea, in contrast to the much-threatened North, is a US neo-colonial appendage which hosts tens of thousands of US troops on its soil, ostensibly for protection against the DPRK, even though North Korea is weaker militarily than its peninsular counterpart, has less advanced equipment and weapons systems, and its military outlays are only one-quarter of Seoul’s. South Korea denies itself sovereign control of its own military, yielding to de jure US command in times of emergency, and de facto US control otherwise. This reflects the history of the country. It began as a regime of collaborators with the Japanese, who shifted their collaboration to their new American overlords at the end of the Second World War. Meanwhile, to the north, it was guerrillas who fought Japanese colonization, and committed their lives to the manumission of Korea from foreign control, who founded the government in Pyongyang. Then as now, one half of the Korean peninsula exhibited a prickly independence, while the elite of the other half kow-towed to an imperialist behemoth (in contradistinction to a grassroots guerilla movement in the south that sought, unsuccessfully, to throw off the yoke of oppression by collaborationist governments and their US suzerain.)

South Korea’s hostility to its pro-independence northern neighbor, along with the United States’ nearly seven full decades of overt aggression against the DPRK, is directly responsible for the North Korean state’s closed, garrisoned, and authoritarian character. The country’s anti-liberal democratic orientation is not an expression of an ideological preference for police state rule, but an adaptation to a geopolitical reality. The nature of the North Korean state, its military strategy, and its nuclear weapons and missile programs, are consequences of its ideological commitment to independence intersecting with the difficulties of charting an independent course in the midst of hostile and much stronger neighbors whose US patron insists on North Korean submission.

When the infant Bolshevik state was surrounded by enemies who were stronger than the Bolsheviks by many orders of magnitude, Lenin argued that allowing the revolution’s enemies freedom of political organization would be self-defeating. “We do not wish to do away with ourselves by suicide and therefore will not do this,” the Bolshevik leader averred. North Korea’s voluntarily making over itself into an unrestricted liberal democracy—an open society—would likewise imperil the Korean nationalist project and amount to a self-engineered demise.

The DPRK is also criticized for being an economic basket-case, though its economic travails are almost invariably exaggerated. Nevertheless, nearly seven full decades of economic warfare and the imperatives of maintaining a military strong enough to deter the aggression of hostile neighbors and their imperialist patron must necessarily take a toll. Trying to bankrupt the DPRK by imposing on it trade sanctions, working to cut Pyongyang off from the world financial system, and maneuvering the country into a position where it has been forced to spend heavily on self-defense to survive (Pyongyang allocates an estimated 15%-24% of its GDP to defense compared to South Korea’s 2.6% and the United States’ 3.3%), and then attributing its economic difficulties to its “non-market” economy, as Washington has done, is dishonest in the extreme.

Perhaps it’s a measure of how bellicose the United States is that its threats of war are treated as sufficiently routine that they can be casually mentioned in the press without arousing much attention or protest. According to one calculation, the United States has been at war for 224 of its 241 years of existence. Against the background of its unceasing and devoted worship of Mars, Washington’s review of the merits of becoming embroiled in yet another war makes the latest eruption of belligerence an accustomed spectacle. This may explain the quietude with which the possibility of US military action against North Korea has been met. Contributing to the quiescence is the reality that war with the DPRK would require no direct participation from the vast majority of US citizens, short of their applauding from the sidelines. This, combined with North Korea’s total demonization, makes military action (should it be carried out) easy for the US public to accept, or at least to push it to the margins of its awareness.

The revelation that the White House is considering military action against its long-standing victim was casually tucked away in a Wall Street Journal article, and was thought so inconsequential as not to merit inclusion in the headline. Instead, the article’s headline mentioned that North Korea had fired “four ballistic missiles into waters off coast, South Korea says,” in keeping with the portrayal of the DPRK as a signal menace. Accordingly, the announcement of a considered US military strike on North Korea could be positioned as a legitimate response to an alleged North Korean provocation, rather than North Korea’s test firing of ballistic missiles being presented more reasonably as a legitimate reaction to nearly seven full decades of US belligerence.

Some liberals, worried by the increased tempo of US saber-rattling against Pyongyang, adjure Washington to negotiate a peace treaty with the DPRK, in exchange for North Korea undertaking Gaddafi’s folly and dismantling its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. The idea that the United States reciprocate is never considered and is seen as Quixotic. The preferred arrangement is one of a nuclear weapons apartheid where the United States and its subalterns keep their nuclear arms as a “self-evident” necessity of self-defense and a bulwark against “nuclear blackmail,” while the rest of the world is expected to voluntarily submit to the nuclear weapons blackmail of the United States and the established members of the nuclear weapons club.

However, almost equally Quixotic is the idea that the DPRK will relinquish its nuclear arms and the means of delivering them. The United States has unintentionally created conditions which make a North Korean nuclear weapons program almost inevitable, and perfectly sound from Pyongyang’s point of view. For a nuclear deterrent not only forces Washington to exercise extreme circumspection in the deployment of its military assets against the DPRK, it also allows Pyongyang to reduce its expenditures on conventional deterrence, freeing up resources for its civilian economy. Nuclear weapons are cost-effective. This thinking is implicit in North Korea’s “Byungjin policy, “the “two-track program’ of building the economy and nuclear weapons, defined in the resolution adopted by the 7th Congress of the Korean Workers’ Party in May as its ‘permanent strategic course.’”

James Clapper, the former head of US intelligence, told the Wall Street-directed foreign policy think tank, The Council on Foreign Relations, to forget about negotiating a nuclear deal with Pyongyang. “I think the notion of getting the North Koreans to denuclearize is probably a lost cause,” said Clapper last October. “They are not going to do that. That is their ticket to survival. And I got a good taste of that when I was there about how the world looks from their vantage. And they are under siege…So the notion of giving up their nuclear capability, whatever it is, is a nonstarter with them.

“So an Iranian kind of negotiation that would put a cap or suspend is not—your experience in diplomacy is that it’s not likely to happen,” he was asked.

Clapper replied; “I don’t think so.”

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova briefing, February 15 — Obama, U.S. use of depleted uranium in Syria, ‘Russian hackers’, Ukraine’s information campaign

From Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
February 15, 2017

Excerpts:

The situation in Syria

 

The ceasefire regime in Syria introduced December 30, 2016, is being observed. Its zone continues to expand with units of the Southern Front armed opposition joining the ceasefire. The ceasefire is guaranteed by Russia, Turkey and Iran, with Jordan making a substantial contribution to it.

The fight continues against ISIS and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, terrorists. The Syrian Army and militia units, supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces, are methodically pushing terrorist elements out of the country. About 1,400 square kilometres of territory have been liberated since January 1, 2017. It became possible to force ISIS terrorists out of a fortified outpost in the village of Tadef near the city of al-Bab, to establish a bridgehead near the city and to gain control of the Raqqa−al-Bab motorway. Over 650 terrorists were eliminated in Tadef, and a route for supplying ISIS with reinforcements, equipment and financial assistance was cut off.

Government forces continue to advance on Palmyra. The Russian Defence Ministry has published drone footage showing the barbaric destruction of UNESCO World Heritage Sites by ISIS militants in this city. Unfortunately, it is already clear that little remains of these ancient architectural and cultural landmarks. The terrorists have razed the façade of an ancient Roman amphitheatre, as well as Tetrapylon columns, to the ground. They are also highly likely to blow up the remnants of the historical architectural complex and nearby residential areas. The jihadists have shelled the Homs refinery with mortars, and they also set fire to natural gas fields while retreating.

As you know, Astana will host the second international meeting on Syria over the next few days. The Russian delegation that has already arrived in the capital of Kazakhstan will hold working consultations today. We hope that the upcoming meeting in the capital of Kazakhstan will provide an additional boost to the inclusive intra-Syrian dialogue under UN auspices in Geneva. Hopefully, it will become possible to resume this dialogue on February 20.

Against this backdrop, we note the attempts to aggravate the intra-Syrian conflict still further and to exacerbate contradictions between the warring parties. This is the only way to interpret the media leaks by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Atlantic Council of the United States, via CNN, about the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces in Aleppo, mass executions at Sednaya military prison near Damascus, and the methodical destruction of Syrian socioeconomic infrastructure by the Russian Aerospace Forces. The evidence backing up these so-called “sensations” leaves a lot to be desired, but, as we can see, their authors don’t seem to care. Their purpose is to torpedo any chance for launching a political peace settlement that has appeared largely through Russian efforts and to thwart emerging prospects for broad, equitable and mutually respectful international cooperation in the interests of eradicating a terrorist hotbed in the Middle East and stabilising the region.

 

Media response to the United States using depleted uranium in Syria
Given how many sensationalistic stories are planted in the media, as I mentioned earlier, it’s fun to watch world media juggernauts and institutions dealing with freedom of speech get busy with creating websites to oppose the spread of “fake news,” which has become a widespread practice. On the one hand, they say it’s imperative to not just counter it, but to do all it takes to prevent the spread of “fake news,” while they themselves engage in spreading precisely such news.

Against the background of this data, the information provided by the United States Central Command, whose operational responsibility includes, primarily, the Middle East, to the effect that the US Air Force used munitions with depleted uranium in air strikes on ISIS positions in Syria, came as a shock to many who did not believe us when we said so. As you may be aware, such a statement was made by an official representative on Tuesday when he spoke about the US air operations with the use of toxic substances which cause cancer and birth defects.

As you may recall, Russia has stated this more than once. Back in October 2016, citing independent experts, we presented such information and called on the public to pay attention to it. At that time, our American partners denied all the accusations against them. A couple of months later, these accusations were not merely confirmed, but confirmed by the United States itself. The only difference is that we provided this information a few months ago, when the previous team led by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was at the helm. Clearly, he was the one to give the go-ahead to using these weapons − any other scenario is unlikely, since such things must be approved at the highest level. I would like to say that the goal pursued by US officials was noble, that is to fight terrorists. But the point is that the traces of these weapons will remain in Syria forever. You can find out more about it if you read some professional literature. The number of missiles that were used is simply devastating. I would like to quote the same US official, who said that out of 1,790 missiles fired on November 16, 2016, 1,490 contained toxic materials, and 3,775 missiles of 4,530 fired on November 22, 2016 contained toxic materials. Thus, there were five rounds with depleted uranium for every conventional missile. Each operation involved four A-10 jet aircraft. You can look up these numbers.

I would like to remind you that earlier the United States, particularly the Pentagon, claimed that the United States has never used ammo with depleted uranium during the international anti-terrorist operation in Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile, in 2003, these munitions were used during the US invasion of Iraq. I reiterate, it is better to read up on this subject in specialised literature, make inquiries, perhaps, even with independent expert institutes, and ask the experts specialising in this area to provide their opinion. They will tell you what the use of weapons with depleted uranium is all about, and what its implications are for the lives and livelihoods of the local people.

I mentioned this with regard to fake news and the role of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s team in resolving international conflicts. Incidentally, people live in Syria. The scary thing is that the focus was on isolated cases which were clearly propaganda shams where individual Syrian citizens, unfortunately, were propelled to the status of international stars, and the information campaign regarding these people was used as a front to cover up what was really happening in that country.

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