South Korea Has Upcoming Decision After the Olympics On Whether to Conduct Joint Military Exercise

The upcoming decision to me is pretty clear, what does the Moon administration value more, continued appeasement of the Kim regime or maintaining the readiness of US and ROK military forces?:

President Moon Jae-in is facing a growing dilemma over South Korea’s planned military exercises with the United States, with North Korea offering a rare gesture for warmer inter-Korean relations.

On Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in a meeting with its highest-ranking delegation which returned to Pyongyang Sunday after ending their three-day trip to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, ordered the regime to elevate the ongoing peaceful bilateral relationship with the South,.

The uncommon sign for reconciliation is raising the likelihood for a possible inter-Korean summit this year.

This is in line with President Moon’s North Korean policy under which he has underlined the need for holding enough dialogue to stop Pyongyang’s provocative military threats.

However, the South Korean government is likely to face a bumpy road ahead on the matter, as Seoul and Washington plan to resume their annual joint military exercise sometime in April. They delayed the drills – which normally take place around late February to early March – until after the Winter Olympics.

The South Korea-U.S. drills have for years drawn a strong backlash from North Korea. The Pentagon has in recent weeks reaffirmed its willingness to stage the drills right after the closing of the PyeongChang Paralympics in mid-March.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but either way Kim Jong-un has set him self up to win because if the joint exercise is cancelled he advances his agenda of separating the US from the ROK.  If the joint exercise is executed he then uses that as an excuse to continue missile and maybe even nuclear testing.

Regardless of the decision I would expect that Pyongyang will still push for the inter-Korea summit with the South just likely on different timetables.  The Kim regime needs the inter-Korean summit in order to get their payday of reopening the Kaesong Industrial Park and the joint tourism ventures in North Korea.  These ventures will help them skirt international sanctions to maintain revenue flowing into the regime.

South Korea Attempts to Get Exemption on Travel Sanctions for North Korean Officials to Attend Winter Olympics

It is pretty clear that the Kim regime is using the Winter Olympics to set a precedent for other countries to point to in order violate United Nations sanctions:

Both Kim Yo-jung and Choe Hwi are sanctioned by the United States for human rights abuses. Kim because she is “part of the agency in North Korea who’s responsible for propaganda, for censorship, controlling information so that the people of the country do not know about the rest of the world,” says the Treasury Department. Choe is subject to United Nations sanctions, as well, which actually bar him from leaving his country.

Choe is “First Vice Director of the Workers’ Party of Korea Propaganda and Agitation Department, which controls all Democratic People’s Republic of Korea media and is used by the government to control the public,” the United Nations says. The South Korean government is reportedly trying to get an exemption to the travel ban for the Olympics from the UN Security Council.  [Weekly Standard]

You can read more at the link.

Bill for North Korean Attendance at Winter Olympics Continues to Grow for South Korea

Here is the cost so far of paying off the Kim regime to attend the Winter Olympics:

The government had already diverted more than W250 million from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund as of Thursday to help North Korea take part in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang (US$1=W1,072).

That is expected to snowball once all 500 members of a massive cheerleading squad, an orchestra, and a Taekwondo demonstration team arrive here around the time the Olympics open.

The government is not saying what the money has been spent on, despite fears that its support could violate UN and U.S. sanctions against the North Korean regime.  [Chosun Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but this is likely just the tip of the iceberg of the money spent on the Kim regime to attend the Winter Olympics to essentially prevent them for causing provocations during the games.

I guess if Apartheid South Africa had moved forward with developing a nuclear program and threatened to nuke everyone they could have not only attended the Olympics, but had the red carpet rolled out for them and had someone else pay to compete in the games.

North Korea Earned an Estimated $200 Million from Banned Exports

For me there is absolutely nothing surprising about this news:

North Korea violated United Nations sanctions to earn nearly $200 million in 2017 from banned commodity exports, according to a confidential report by independent U.N. monitors, which also accused Pyongyang of supplying weapons to Syria and Myanmar.

The report to a U.N. Security Council sanctions committee, seen by Reuters on Friday, said North Korea had shipped coal to ports, including in Russia, China, South Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam, mainly using false paperwork that showed countries such as Russia and China as the coal origin, instead of North Korea.

The 15-member council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

“The DPRK (North Korea) is already flouting the most recent resolutions by exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system,” the U.N. monitors wrote in the 213-page report.  [Reuters]

You can read more at the link, but announcing that North Korea is violating UN sanctions is like saying the sky is blue.

North Korean Athletes Will Fly Chartered South Korean Plane to Winter Olympics

This is how the Kim regime has made the South Korean government pay for their athletes’ travel to the Winter Olympics:

In this Joint Press Corps photo, South Korean skiers wave onboard a plane bound for North Korea on Jan. 31, 2018. (Yonhap)

Ten North Korean Olympic athletes will board a South Korean chartered airplane on Thursday when it carries a South Korean delegation home after two days of joint ski training in the North ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Games, according to South Korean pool reporters on Wednesday.

The South’s 45-member delegation, including two dozen skiers, arrived at the Masikryong Ski Resort in North Korea on the Asiana Airlines jet for the training session.

The aircraft will carry 32 North Koreans, including 10 athletes in the disciplines of alpine and cross-country skiing and figure and short-track skating, when it returns to South Korea on Thursday, officials from the unification ministry said.

A total of 22 North Koreans will compete at the Feb. 9-25 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Twelve ice hockey players have already come to the South.

Earlier in the day, the plane landed at Kalma Airport in the North’s eastern city of Wonsan about one hour after it left Yangyang International Airport in Gangwon Province, according to officials here.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but the flight is in violation of sanctions on North Korea, but South Korea was able to get the Trump administration to agree to waive the sanctions as a special exemption.

North Korea Asks South Korea to Circumvent UN Fuel Oil Sanctions

We all knew that the Kim regime was going to use the Winter Olympics as a means to circumvent United Nations sanctions and they are not even trying to hide it:

The government is agonizing over whether it should send refined petroleum products to North Korea for upcoming joint cultural events in the midst of tough international sanctions over Pyongyang’s missile tests, officials said Sunday.

“We told the North to take charge of supplying the electricity necessary to hold the joint cultural events but received an answer that it is difficult to stably supply power to the facility built by the South Korean side,” a senior government official said, requesting not to be named. “In the end, we are the ones who should solve the electricity problem.”

The official noted that it is more difficult than ever to ship refined petroleum products to North Korea because of new sanctions that have been imposed by the United Nations and the United States.

The two Koreas agreed last week to hold cultural events at Mount Kumgang on the North’s east coast before the Winter Olympics opens in South Korea’s alpine city of PyeongChang on Feb. 9. The joint events are most likely to be held at a 620-person cultural hall in the mountain resort.

The likelihood is that a diesel-fueled electric generator will be in use for the events, as that is what Hyundai Asan, the South Korean company that operated the long-suspended package tours to the scenic North Korean mountain, did in the past.

The United Nations resolution adopted in December, however, imposes a cap of 500,000 barrels of refined petroleum that can be shipped to the isolated communist country.

Officials expect that 10,000 liters (2641.7 gallons) of diesel oil will be needed for the upcoming events.

“We believe it won’t be a problem if we send the diesel oil to the North and report this to the UN Security Council later,” a government official said.   [Joong Ang Ilbo via a reader tip]

No matter how little the use of the oil is this will set a precedent that can be followed to continue to circumvent sanctions.  When the Moon administration likely comes back later to reopen Mt. Gumgang tours, start tours to the Masiki Ski Resort, or reopen the Kaesong Industrial complex in North Korea they can power all these projects using oil brought in from the South.  This bringing in the oil for the cultural performance in North Korea is almost like a proof of concept of how the Moon administration, if it wants to, can circumvent sanctions to start these inter-Korean projects.

Japanese Reports to UN Another Violation of UN Sanctions By North Korean Ship

Via a reader tip comes yet another example of how North Korea continues to violate sanctions:

Japan has told the United Nations about a North Korean tanker spotted in the East China Sea that it suspects was engaged in a transfer of goods with another tanker in defiance of U.N. sanctions, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles capable of hitting the United States has spurred deepening U.N. Security Council sanctions and stoked fears of a military conflict.

According to a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry, the North Korean-flagged tanker “Rye Song Gang 1” – blacklisted by the United Nations last month for carrying banned cargo – was spotted by a Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force patrol plane with the Dominican-flagged tanker “Yuk Tung” tied up beside it in the East China Sea on Saturday.

The two boats were lit up and some kind of activity was taking place, the Foreign Ministry said, adding that the Japanese government strongly suspected them of transferring goods in violation of the U.N. sanctions.  [Reuters]

You can read more at the link, but at some point it seems something has to be done to stop this activity instead of just watching it happen.

President Trump Says Russia Helping North Korea Evade UN Sanctions

In the least surprising news of the day the Russians are busy helping the North Koreans avoid sanctions:

President Donald Trump speaks during an interview with Reuters at the White House in Washington, D.C. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. President Donald Trump complained on Wednesday that Russia was helping North Korea to evade international sanctions, signaling frustration with a country he had hoped to forge friendly relations with after his 2016 election win.

“Russia is not helping us at all with North Korea,” Trump said during an Oval Office interview with Reuters. “What China is helping us with, Russia is denting. In other words, Russia is making up for some of what China is doing.”

China and Russia both signed onto the latest rounds of United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea imposed last year. There was no immediate comment from the Russian embassy in Washington on Trump’s remarks.  [Reuters]

I would not be surprised at all if this is all coordinated between the Chinese and the Russians.  The Chinese can increase their sanctions efforts to relieve pressure the Trump administration is putting on them while fully knowing the Russians will pick up the slack of aiding the Kim regime.