Tweet of the Day: Lankov on When A Russian Defected in the JSA

Putin Says Global Strike to Disarm North Korea Possible, But Outcome Would Be Uncertain

Here is the latest on what Russian strongman President Vladimir Putin had to say about the current crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program:

Vladimir Putin

A global strike to disarm North Korea would be possible, yet its outcome uncertain, as it is a “closed state,” Russian President Vladimir Putin stated.

“Let us speak to the point, after all – can someone launch a global disarming strike? Indeed. Will it reach its targets? It’s unclear because no one knows for sure what is where,” Putin said while addressing the 2017 International Forum on Energy Efficiency on Wednesday.

He added there is no “100 percent knowledge” about North Korea’s objects as it is “a closed country.”

Meanwhile, Putin said, coercive rhetoric against Pyongyang and attempts “to speak from a position of strength” only give more power to the North Korean leadership.

The Russian leader urged all sides to cool down their rhetoric and engage in dialogue.

“All sides must ease rhetoric and find ways for face-to-face dialogue between the United States and North Korea, as well as between North Korea and countries in the region,” he said.

“Only this would help find balanced and reasonable decisions.”

“At any rate, it is not my cup of tea to define and assess policies of the United States president,” Putin added.  [Russia Today]

You can read more at the link.  Of course no one knows exactly where every strategic military asset the North Koreans have is located at.  However, we do know where the Yonbyong nuclear facility, their test launch site, SLBM barge, and missile manufacturing facilities are located at.  Taking those out would not end their nuclear or missile programs, but would set them back.

Russian Online Disinformation Targeting Veterans Has No Proven Effect

This sounds like much to do about nothing:

Russian trolls and others aligned with the Kremlin are injecting disinformation into streams of online content flowing to American military personnel and veterans on Twitter and Facebook, according to an Oxford University study released Monday.

The researchers found fake or slanted news from Russian-controlled accounts are mixing with a wide range of legitimate content consumed by veterans and active-duty personnel in their Facebook and Twitter news feeds. These groups were found to be reading and sharing articles on conservative political thought, articles on right-wing politics in Europe and writing touting various conspiracy theories.  [Washington Post]

Sounds scary right that the US military is being influenced by Russian misinformation?  Here is what the study really found out:

The kind of information shared by and with veterans and active-duty personnel span a wide range, with liberal political content also common, though not as common as conservative political content. The online military community, the researchers found, also shared links about sustainable agriculture, mental health issues such as addiction, and conspiracy theories.

No one subject dominated the online content flowing among these communities, but the largest individual categories dealt with military or veteran matters. Russian disinformation was a smaller but significant and persistent part of the overall information flow.

So basically the Russian disinformation was irrelevant.  This article could not even cite one piece of disinformation that had any effect on veterans.  The Washington Post even headlines this story with “Russian operatives used Twitter and Facebook to target veterans and military personnel, study says”.  The Washington Post could have more accurately titled this article “Study Finds Veterans Follow Military and Veterans Matters Online; Russian Disinformation Has No Proven Effect”.

The bottom line is that the Internet is filled with disinformation and people need to use critical thinking to sift through what is real and what is not.

American and Russian Analysts Expect North Korea to Test ICBM Soon

I found it interesting in the below article how the North Koreans have pretty much told the Russians they plan to conduct a ICBM test in the near term.  If so it will be additionally interesting to see what trajectory they use to test its full capability because if it lands too close to Hawaii or Alaska it could give the Trump administration the excuse it needs to conduct an attack to destroy their nuclear and missile programs:

The next rocket launch by North Korea could be another Hwasong-12 (HS-12), which is a mobile, solid-fueled, nuclear-capable medium-range ballistic missile, or the Hwasong-14 (HS-14), first tested in July, which is believed to be a two-staged version of the HS-12, giving it a longer and intercontinental range.

“I think they are not done with testing the HS-12 into the Pacific. They also have yet to start testing the HS-14 at anything like its full range,” said Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

“Once they have done that a couple of times, I would be concerned about the potential for an atmospheric nuclear test over the Pacific,” Pollack, also editor of the Nonproliferation Review, told VOA.

Russian media on Friday quoted a lawmaker in Moscow as saying North Korea is preparing to test a long-range missile able to reach the West Coast of the United States.

The comment was made by Anton Morozov, a member of the Russian Duma’s international affairs committee, who was among lawmakers who returned home Friday after a four-day visit to Pyongyang for “high-level meetings.”

“They are preparing for new tests of a long-range missile. They even gave us mathematical calculations that they believe prove that their missile can hit the West Coast of the United States,” Russian media quoted Morozov, a member of a right-wing populist party, as saying.

“As far as we understand, they intend to launch one more long-range missile in the near future,” Morozov explained. “And in general, their mood is rather belligerent.”  [VOA News]

You can read more at the link.

Russia Opens New Internet Line to North Korea After US Cyberattack

The Russians are at it again:

A major Russian telecommunications company appears to have begun providing an Internet connection to North Korea. The new link supplements one from China and will provide back-up to Pyongyang at a time the US government is reportedly attacking its Internet infrastructure and pressuring China to end all business with North Korea.

The connection, from TransTeleCom, began appearing in Internet routing databases at 09:08 UTC on Sunday, or around 17:38 Pyongyang time on Sunday evening. Internet routing databases map the thousands of connections between telecom providers and enable computers to figure out the best route to a destination.  (…….)

On Saturday, The Washington Post reported that US Cyber Command has been carrying out denial of service attacks against North Korean hackers affiliated with the Reconnaissance General Bureau. The attacks attempt to overwhelm their computers and the Internet connection with traffic making them slow or impossible to use.

The US cyber attack was due to end on Saturday, reported the Post. That means the new Russian connection went online just after the US Cyber Command attack ended.  [38 North]

You can read more at the link.

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.