Friday, December 26, 2014

North Korea’s nukes are much scarier than its hacks

Conclusion:

Albright and Wit said the administration should come up with terms for a resumption of dialogue that the North Koreans and the U.S. can both accept. U.S. officials have said repeatedly they are open to talks, but they are demanding several preconditions that Pyongyang has repeatedly rejected.
“The North Koreans are more than happy to make concessions to start things up again, but the U.S. has shown no flexibility in addressing North Korea’s position to arrive at a starting point that both sides can be happy with,” said Albright.
“We have this reactive approach and it’s ad hoc,” Wit added. “The North Koreans aren’t taking us seriously. They feel they are in the driver’s seat here. It’s wrong to assume they are taking these steps like this Sony hack out of weakness. They are taking these steps because they feel there’s nothing we can do to them.”
And this raises an uncomfortable question for the White House. Why does a targeted cyber-hack draw a tougher response from Obama than the amassing of a small nuclear arsenal? The message it sends to Pyongyang is that they can threaten their entire region with nuclear weapons, just so long as they don’t touch Hollywood.
Unreciprocated removal of US nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula in 1992, The north-South Agreement of Reconciliation, Non-aggression, and Exchanges (ARNE) (1992) (never implemented by the north), the Agreed Framework 1994, heavy fuel oil and food aid through the Arduous March 1994-1996 and beyond, the Perry Policy review and proposal 1999, the Albright visit in 2000, the Sunshine Policy, visits to the north by Kim Dae-jung (Nobel Peace Prize at the cost of millions of dollars) and Roh Moo-hyun, Four party Talks in late 1990's Six Party talks in the 2000's, removal from the state sponsored terrorism list and more are examples of efforts to engage and deal with the north Korea.  But to what end?  What good has become of any of this? Continued north Korean provocations to gain political and economic concessions and blackmail diplomacy, development of nuclear weapons, missile delivery systems, increase in asymmetric offensive military capabilities (to include not on SOF and cyber but allso Chemical weapons), while sustaining and even increasing capabilities (e.g., 300mm MRL)  of  the world's fourth largest conventional military force?  yes let's find common ground but would someone please tell me what that common ground is because what is non-negotiable for the Kim Family Regime are its vital national interests and its long term strategic aims and objectives:

Vital Interest: Survival of the Kim Family Regime at all costs (therefore it can do nothing that will undercut the legitimacy of the regime domestically which includes real economic reforms that will counter its ideology)
Strategic Aim:  reunification under Kim Family Regime control to ensure regime survival.
Strategic Objective: Split the ROK/US alliance and get US forces off the peninsula to ensure attainment of the strategic aim and vital national interest.

How does it achieve the above? - nuclear program for blackmail diplomacy and deterrence, proliferation of weapons and global illicit activities to obtain hard currency to ensure the loyalty of the elite members of the Kim Family Regime, provocations (primarily against the South) to gain political and economic concessions and as Dr. Bruce Bechtol has emphasized to us time and again:

"Provocations have had four things in common: 1) they are intentionally initiated at moments when they have the likelihood of garnering the greatest attention on the regional and perhaps even the world stage; 2) they initially appear to be incidents that are relatively small, easily contained, and quickly “resolved;” 3) they involve continuously changing tactics and techniques; and 4) North Korea denies responsibility for the event."

And Bruce has this to say about the Sony hacking incident 

With two key differences:
1.        It is carried out against an entity in the USA, NOT South Korea.
2.       It is using a new, offensive capability – thinking out of the box if you will – that North Korea’s military and intelligence services are likely to utilize on a larger scale in the future
If the north Koreans did the Sony hack then we should consider it a "confidence target" to test its capabilities and gauge the reaction of the US and international community.  From the reactions I think north Korea and other state and non-state actors see great potential in hacking US businesses (even if they are owned by a foreign company, i.e., Sony).  And other targets probably loom large especially as tensions rise or conflict erupts.

These strategies, concepts, and tactics are the foundation for everything that north Korea does and it is unlikely to deviate from its interests, aims, objectives, and tactics (though as we are seeing it will adapt the tactics).  So yes, I am all for finding common ground and would rather "jaw jaw than war war" but we had better try to understand the position of the Kim Family Regime.

As an aside one of the best deterrents of the north is this (change Kim Jong-il to the Kim Family Regime):

 Given the dangers of regime collapse and the potential for war the first imperative of the
strategy is to sustain the illusion for Kim Jong Il that his regime can survive.30 As
long as Kim Jong Il believes he will survive and have the possibility at some time
in the future to achieve reunification under his terms he will in effect be deterred
from attacking. 

30 Credit for coining the phrase “sustaining the illusion that Kim Jong Il will survive” goes
to COL Rick Gribling, Chief of UNC/CFC/USFK CJ3 Plans Division during crisis action planning
session in June 1997.

The entire paper on a long term strategy for the Korean Peninsula can be downloaded here: http://bit.ly/1CWA5vm

The key to the future of the peninsula lies among the people in north Korea.  Can they change their own regime and have a leadership emerge that will seek peaceful unification with the South?  While sustaining the illusion that the regime will survive in order to deter its attacks perhaps we can try to engage the north while at the same time providing support to the nascent but emerging resistance potential among the population and 2d tier leadership in the north.  But that would require a coherent ROK/US alliance strategy and a classified one at that.

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North Korea’s nukes are much scarier than its hacks

BY JOSH ROGIN AND ELI LAKE
BLOOMBERG
DEC 26, 2014

NEW YORK – While the world’s attention focuses on North Korea’s cyberwar with Sony Pictures, the Hermit Kingdom is rapidly increasing its stockpile of nuclear weapons material, with real little pushback from the United States.
A new analysis of North Korea’s nuclear program by a group of top U.S. experts, led by David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, estimates that North Korea could have enough material for 79 nuclear weapons by 2020.
The analysis, part of a larger project called “North Korea’s Nuclear Futures” being run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced and International Studies, has not been previously published.
Albright said the North Korean government is ramping up its production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium, speeding toward an amount that would allow it to build enough nuclear weapons to rival other nuclear states including India, Pakistan and Israel.
“North Korea is on the verge of being able to scale up its nuclear weapons program to the level of the other major players, so it’s critical to head this off,” Albright said in an interview.
He added, “It is on the verge of deploying a nuclear arsenal that would pose not only a threat to the United States and its allies but also to China.”
According to the analysis, which included the input of a team of former government officials, nuclear experts and North Korea-watchers, the regime now has as many as four separate facilities churning out nuclear weapons material or preparing to do so.
The best-known one, at Yongbyon, has a functioning 5-megawatt plutonium reactor, a uranium enrichment grid with thousands of centrifuges and a light-water reactor that could be used for either military or civilian purposes.
The U.S. intelligence community also believes the North Koreans have a second centrifuge facility they have never acknowledged. Even if that second uranium facility is taken out of the equation, Albright’s team projects that North Korea will have enough material for 67 bombs in five years time.
The light-water reactor at Yongyon is not online yet, but it should be soon. Even if that reactor is never turned on or limited to civilian purposes, North Korea could still have 45 bombs by the time the next U.S. president is finishing up his (or her) first term.
North Korea is estimated to have 30 to 34 kg of weapons-grade plutonium now, enough for around nine nuclear weapons, depending on the size of each bomb. Last year it conducted its third nuclear weapons test.
Albright acknowledged that the secrecy of the North Korean program makes exact projections impossible and therefore his estimates all have a range to account for known unknowns, such as secret facilities. According to the detailed intelligence community budget leaked to the Washington Post in 2013 by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, North Korea’s nuclear program remains one of the hardest targets for U.S. spies as well.
But there’s no doubt about the North Korean government’s intentions, Albright said, to produce as much nuclear-weapons material as possible before it is forced to stop either by coercion or the resumption of a diplomatic negotiations with the West.
(Continued at the link below)

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