Russia and China Successful In Efforts to Water Down UN Sanctions on North Korea

As expected the United Nations sanctions in response to North Korea’s nuclear test have been watered down by the Russians and the Chinese.  The cuts in oil imports and ban on textile exports will inconvenience the Kim regime, but I see nothing in these sanctions that will be a game changer in regards to changing the current status quo on the peninsula which is what the Chinese and Russians want to maintain:

Nikki Haley, left, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Liu Jieyi, right, China’s ambassador to the United Nations, vote in favor of a Security Council resolution to impose fresh sanctions on North Korea over its latest nuclear test at the UN headquarters in New York on Monday. [XINHUA/YONHAP]

The UN Security Council on Monday unanimously adopted new sanctions against North Korea following its sixth nuclear test, imposing a cap on exports of crude oil to the country, though it fell short of a complete ban.

The 15-member council based in New York approved Resolution 2375, which imposes a cap on the supply, sales or transfer of crude oil to North Korea to the level of the past 12 months, some 4 million barrels, and limits exports of refined petroleum products to the country to 2 million barrels a year. It also bans the sale of condensates and natural gas liquids to the North.

However, the latest resolution fell short of the complete oil embargo called for in an earlier U.S.-drafted resolution, which would have needed the support of veto-wielding members China and Russia.

The resolution, though considered a watered-down version of the U.S. draft, will reduce oil provided to North Korea by around 30 percent, according to the U.S. mission to the United Nations, and cut off over 55 percent of refined petroleum products going to the country. China is the largest supplier of crude oil to the North.

It also includes a ban on North Korean textile exports, which was the country’s second largest export category in 2016 after coal and other minerals, and is expected to reduce its revenues by up to $800 million.

The latest resolution does not include North Korean leader Kim Jong-un or his sister on its blacklist, as initially proposed.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.

Andrei Lankov Explains Why Russia Will Water Down or Veto UN Sanctions on North Korea

A ROK Drop favorite Andrei Lankov explains why Russia is going to attempt to water down United Nations sanctions on North Korea or veto them all together and it has nothing to do with Putin taking an anti-US position:

Andrei Lankov

Vladimir Putin was right when he recently said that even if North Koreans have to eat grass, they will not surrender nuclear weapons (of course, in North Korea the people who make decisions on nuclear weapons are far removed from the people who would have no choice but to eat grass).

However, there is the probability that a really harsh sanctions regime will eventually provoke a grave political crisis and revolution in North Korea: instead of eating grass, the people will rebel.

For American observers, who will watch enthusiastic TV reports about a North Korean revolution in safety, this development, as long as it does not trigger a region-wide war, will be welcome. After all, regime collapse will bring about the complete solution of the North Korean nuclear issue, the U.S.’s overwhelming concern.

However, Russia and China, inconveniently located on the border with North Korea, have reasons to be unenthusiastic about prospects of a Syria-like or Libya-like situation, anarchy and civil war in a nuclear-armed country nearby. For Moscow – and, for that matter, for Beijing – a collapsing North Korea is a greater threat than a nuclear one, however bad a nuclear North Korea is.  [NK News]

You can read the rest of the analysis at the link.

Putin Advocates for More Negotiations with North Korea

I am sure the irony is lost on few that President Putin is advocating against militarism and provocations and instead for everyone to get together and talk considering how own actions in Ukraine and Georgia in recent years:

(CNN)Russian President Vladimir Putin has weighed into the North Korea crisis, warning the US and others against going down a “dead-end road” and calling for talks to resolve the issue.

“Russia believes that the policy of putting pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear missile program is misguided and futile,” Putin said in an article released Thursday by the Kremlin, ahead of the BRICS summit in Xiamen, China.
“The region’s problems should only be settled through a direct dialogue of all the parties concerned without any preconditions. Provocations, pressure and militarist and insulting rhetoric are a dead-end road,” Putin said.
His comments were published hours after the US and South Korea conducted a mock bombing raid on the Korean Peninsula that was denounced by Pyongyang as a “rash act.”
Russia was a participant in the six-party talks, which took place in the mid-2000s in an attempt to get North Korea to abandon its then burgeoning nuclear program.  [CNN]
You can read the rest at the link.

Ukraine Denies They Helped North Korea Master Rocket Technology

I think someone is definitely helping the North Koreans with their missile technology, but blaming Ukraine sounds like a Russian information operation:

Ukraine’s top diplomat in Seoul on Thursday denied allegations that North Korea might have obtained rocket engines used in its recently tested long-range missiles from Ukraine.

Charge d’Affaires Taras Fedunkiv, the acting Ukrainian ambassador to Seoul, still suspected that North Korea could not have been able to advance its missile technology “without outside help,” calling for an international probe to find “who was responsible.”

“The production lines for building these types of rockets in Ukraine were decommissioned in 1992. The expertise cannot be carried in the heads of rogue scientists. The instructions are included in complex manuals locked in top-security facilities guarded by our security forces,” he said in a written interview with Yonhap News Agency, citing Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin’s recent op-ed in The New York Times.

“Not only would it be virtually impossible for criminals to access these manuals, but also any effort could not go unnoticed by our government,” he added.

Citing a study by Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the New York Times reported on Aug. 14 that North Korea could have got its hands on technology needed for the success of the recent missile launches through black market purchases of rocket engines from Ukraine.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but I would not be surprised if it was the Russians helping the North Koreans master their long range rocket technology.

Experts Surprised By Chinese and Russian Coordination on North Korea Policy

I can’t understand why anyone is surprised by the synchronization of China and Russia’s North Korea strategy?  China and Russia have long had the common goal of weakening the United States’ commitment to alliances in Northeast Asia:

The proposal, and the strategic alignment between the two one-time rivals, raised some eyebrows amongst regional watchers. Russia has often backed China in U.N. Security Council negotiations, but during the Obama administration it was far less engaged on North Korea than China was. Xi’s government, meanwhile, had appeared prepared to begin taking a more assertive stance on the reclusive nation.

The recalibration serves a common goal that regional experts say is central to both Russian and Chinese foreign policy — loosening American alliances around the globe.

Former diplomats are split over the significance of the sudden chumminess. Robert Gallucci, the chief U.S. negotiator during the North Korean nuclear crisis of 1994, called it “unsettling” but “not catastrophic in any way.” He characterized the surprise sync as two nations seizing an opportunity to undercut the U.S.-Japan-South Korea alliance — not a herald of a new era of coordinated policy against the United States.

But some regional policy experts fear that a united Sino-Russian front on North Korea could make it more difficult for the U.S. to rein in Pyongyang’s burgeoning nuclear program.

“The fact that Moscow and Beijing are using virtually identical language and are very united at this time I think will provide great comfort to Kim Jong Un,” said David Pressman, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations for political affairs who now works at the Boies Schiller Flexner law firm.  [The Hill]

You can read more at the link, but as I had previously mentioned this whole approach plays into the slow motion surrender of South Korea to North Korean hegemony and the end of the US-ROK alliance. Is it any wonder why China and Russia continue to enable the Kim regime?

North Korea Claims to Have Tested an ICBM While Russia and China Call for a Freeze Deal

I predicted that the North Koreans would commit a provocation in response to the Trump-Moon summit in Washington, DC and the Kim regime of course delivered:

A North Korean Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile is launched in this photo released by the North’s state-run Korean Central TV, Tuesday. The launch took place near Banghyon, North Pyongan Province, at 9:40 a.m. / Yonhap

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday warned North Korea not to cross a “red line” after it claimed a successful test of its first intercontinental ballistic missile.

Moon urged the North to immediately halt its provocations, saying he is not sure what kind of consequence the communist state will have to face if it crosses the “red line.”

“I hope North Korea will not cross the point of no return,” the South Korean leader said in a meeting with former British Prime Minister David Cameron, according to his chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan.

His remarks came shortly after he ordered his top security officials to seek “UN Security Council measures” in close cooperation with the country’s allies, including the United States in an emergency meeting of the National Security Council.

North Korea launched what initially appeared to be an intermediate range missile at 9:40 a.m.

Later, the North’s official media said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed an order to test launch a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) the day before, also claiming the success of its launch.

Moon earlier noted the North may develop an ICBM in the “not too distant future.”

The North Korean reports said the new ICBM, Hwasong-14, reached an altitude of 2,802 kilometers, and flew 933 kilometers.

When launched at the right angle, the missile could reach up to 8,000 km, experts have noted.

Moon, even prior to the North Korean reports, told his security officials to handle the latest provocation as if it were an ICBM.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but the Korea Times is reporting the missile could have up to a 10,000 kilometer range.  However, USFK reported in the same article that the missile was an intermediate range ballistic missile with a range of 5,000 kilometers.  US Pacific Command is reporting a range from 3,000 to 5,500 kilometers.

North Korea’s state-run Korean Central TV released photos of launching a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday. From left; North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watches the missile test through binoculars; a transporter erector launcher (TEL) sets up the missile to launch; the missile blasts off. [YONHAP]

These ranges are important because if it is an 8,000 kilometer range than Hawaii and Alaska are within range.  If it is a 10,000 kilometer range than the US mainland is within range.  Not that Hawaii and Alaska are less important than the US mainland, but I think being able to credibly strike the US mainland does make a difference in regards to US response options.  If the range is 5,000 kilometers then strategically nothing has really changed.  It just means that Guam remains within range of North Korea’s missile threat which is why a THAAD battery is deployed to protect the island.

Google Earth image showing estimated distances from North Korea to US targets

In response to this latest test China and Russia are calling for North Korea to freeze their weapons program in exchange for the US and the ROK scaling down their bilateral military exercises:

Russia and China have proposed that North Korea declare a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests while the United States and South Korea refrain from large-scale military exercises.

The call was issued in a joint statement by the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministries on Tuesday following talks between President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.  [Daily Mail]

This is something the Trump administration is going to hear more and more to do.  I hope President Trump does not get suckered into this without severe measures for non-compliance.  Like I have said before, a freeze deal may be something for the Trump administration to pursue if non-compliance by the Kim regime authorizes a pre-emptive strike against North Korea.  Language in the deal would also make it quite clear the pre-emptive strike is not for regime removal, but to target the Kim regime’s weapons programs.  The Kim regime cheated on all the past deals and will assuredly cheat on a freeze deal without the credible threat of force.

Reality Winner Accused of Leaking Top Secret NSA Documents to the Media

When I first read this article I was wondering if it was a Duffel Blog entry, but the person who leaked Top Secret information really is named Reality Winner:

Accused NSA leaker Reality Winner.

The alleged leaker accused of feeding a classified report to an online news site has a colorful history on social media that lays bare her political leanings as an environmentalist who wanted to “resist” President Trump.

Reality Winner, 25, is a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation assigned to a federal facility in Georgia, where she allegedly leaked a classified intelligence report containing “Top Secret Level” information. The report, according to the Department of Justice, contained classified defense information from an intelligence community agency.

While the DOJ did not say which site published the information, the charges were announced just as The Intercept published details of a National Security Agency report on Russian hacking efforts during the 2016 presidential election.

According to the Justice Department, Winner admitted to printing a classified intelligence document despite not having a “need to know,” and with knowledge the report was classified. Winner further admitted removing the report from her office space and mailing it to the news outlet, according to the criminal complaint.  [Fox News]

You can read more at the link, but it appears she was motivated by politics because of her anti-Trump Facebook postings.  What is clear though is that she needs to receive the maximum sentence possible for leaking Top Secret information to the media because this leak is absolutely ridiculous.

What makes this even more pathetic is that this information was already known to the media.  CNN reported back in October 2016 that federal officials told them that Russia may have compromised the personal information of Florida, Illinois, and Arizona voters.  This leaked document is just the source for the information that federal officials already briefed the media.  So Reality Winner has likely thrown her life away for providing information the media already knows and did not change one vote during last year’s election.

Top Russian Defense Official Claims THAAD is an Offensive Weapon System

It looks like the propaganda goons over in Russia are busy spreading disinformation for Korean leftists to point to in order to claim THAAD is an offensive weapon system:

A top Russian defense official on Sunday accused South Korea and the U.S. of escalating tensions in Northeast Asia by deploying the powerful Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) on the Korean Peninsula.

Deputy Defense Minster Lt. Gen. Alexander Fomin claimed the missile system can be used for launching “long-distance attack missiles,” and should not be viewed exclusively as a defensive system.

“That’s why we are alarmed. It’s a direct threat to Russia,” he said, speaking at a plenary session of the 16th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

He pointed out the deployment of the THAAD system in South Korea has already begun.

“We are convinced that (the) ongoing (move) in the region under the auspices of the United States to deploy elements of a global missile defense (system) will not only not solve the existing problems on the Korean Peninsula, but, on the contrary, will only exacerbate them,” he said in English.

He added THAAD in Korea would also trigger a regional arms race and provoke the North to attack its enemies.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but to claim THAAD is an offensive system would be the same as claiming the Patriot missile defense batteries spread throughout South Korea are offensive systems well.  They are of course not offensive systems, they just for missile defense.  Why would the US military need these as offensive systems when there is already plenty of offensive strike capability in and around the peninsula?  The Russians know THAAD is not an offensive system, but they want leftists in South Korea to believe it is in order to stoke civil discontent against the deployment of the system.

Russia does not see the US-ROK alliance as being in their interest and are using the THAAD issue to drive a wedge in the alliance especially with the left wing President Moon Jae-in now in power.

Russia Warns the United States Against Intimidating North Korea After Missile Test

Like I said before I did not think Putin would care much about the North Korean missile test:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has condemned North Korea’s latest missile launch as “dangerous” but warned against “intimidating” Pyongyang.

Speaking in China, Putin called for a peaceful solution to the ongoing tensions on the Korean peninsula, Russia’s Sputnik news agency reported.
“I would like to confirm that we are categorically against the expansion of the club of nuclear states, including through the Korean Peninsula,” Putin told reporters. “We are against it and consider it counterproductive, damaging, dangerous,” he said.
But in comments that appeared aimed at the US, he said that “intimidating (North Korea) is unacceptable.”  [CNN]
You can read more at the link, but Russia could see the North Korea issue as a potential bargaining chip with the US and thus the current mixed signals being sent after this latest missile test.

Russia Allegedly Pushing for Closer Ties with North Korea as Chinese Increase Pressure on Kim Regime

It looks like the Kim regime is once again playing the Russians against the Chinese like they did during the Cold War:

Moscow may be looking to take advantage of the nuclear standoff between Pyongyang and the international community . As cracks deepen in the decades-old friendship between China and North Korea amid increasing U.S. pressure, Russian President Vladimir Putin stands ready to fill Beijing’s shoes.

Russia (has) begun quietly laying the groundwork that would strengthen its ties to North Korea, thus increasing its global political leverage should it need it,” analysts at political intelligence firm Stratfor explained in a May 5 report, referring to Putin’s strained ties with the West.

Both countries share a long history of ideological and economic relations — in 2014, Moscow wrote off 90 percent of Pyongyang’s $11 billion debt from the Soviet-era — but recent projects indicate an even cozier relationship.

A new ferry service between Rajin and Vladivostok is due to begin on May 8 that’s expected to carry up to 200 passengers and 1,000 ton of cargo six times a month. Meanwhile in April, Russian military hardware was seen transported to the country’s border with North Korea but the Kremlin claimed the action was part of pre-planned military exercises, Reuters reported.  [CNBC]

You can read the rest at the link, but expect the North Koreans to also play the new ROK government against the United States as well in order to secure aid and political support while they continue their nuclear weapons development just like during the Sunshine Policy years.