Showing posts with label Korea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Korea. Show all posts

16 December 2019

How Much Is the US-South Korea Alliance Worth?

By Kyle Ferrier

The Trump administration’s heightened emphasis on the cost of the U.S.-South Korea alliance is shaking the foundations of the security relationship. To best illustrate what is potentially at stake, this new approach should similarly be met with a shift in how the merits of the alliance are represented, namely by putting in dollar terms what may otherwise be taken for granted.

Washington’s demand for Seoul to increase military cost-sharing contributions by 400 percent has raised questions and concerns about the future of the alliance in South Korea. Renegotiations of the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) – outlining how much South Korea contributes to the non-personnel costs of hosting American troops – have taken place between the two allies every few years since 1991, but have never been as contentious as they have been under Trump. When the previous SMA was set to expire at the end of 2018, the United States initially asked for South Korea to double its 960 billion won ($840 million) contribution – quadruple the highest past increase in 2002. The two sides reached a compromise in February after the deadline, with South Korea agreeing to pay 8.2 percent more, but only in a one-year deal. Washington then revealed its new asking price of $4.7 billion this summer, which has been met with a public backlash in South Korea. The SMA negotiations, however, are not the only area in the alliance where the White House has stressed costs. Trump has questioned joint military exercises and even the presence of U.S. military forces in South Korea over expenses.

15 December 2019

Courting Disaster: How Not to Manage Existential Threats to National Security

by Robert Gallucci
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There are a small number of threats to our nation’s security, involving truly catastrophic consequences, which may be managed by good public policy. Some of these involve uncertainties over scientific or technological developments that could lead to good, as well as very bad outcomes. Think designer biology, quantum computing and artificial intelligence. But two stand out both for the certainty and magnitude of their destructive impact: climate change and nuclear weapons.

Climate change is happening to us now and some of its consequences are evident. Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, and species are being lost to us forever. If we were the frog in that pot, then we would have noticed a warming trend. Indeed, we seem to have improved in recent years in both our awareness of the many ways in which climate change will badly damage our lives and exactly what kinds of things we should be doing now if we want to limit that damage. But we, in the United States, are not doing them, or at least our government is not doing what it should be doing. Our government is behaving as if we had an option to “put America first,” as though we had our own climate and had no need to share the planet. We have approached the Paris Agreement as though it were the Trans-Pacific Partnership, opting out to make a better deal with . . . the climate. We are acting as though we did not have children and grandchildren. We are not pursuing a public policy appropriate to manage the existential threat of climate change.

TrickBot gang is now a malware supplier for North Korean hackers

By Catalin Cimpanu
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A report published today reveals that North Korea's government-backed hacking units are renting access to elite hacking tools and access to hacked networks from the operators of the TrickBot botnet.

The revelation comes to confirm a trend observed in recent years -- namely that the lines between regular cybercrime and nation-state cyber-espionage operations are blurring.

This trend came to light in 2017 when a report revealed how the mastermind behind the GameOver Zeus malware botnet had been helping Russian intelligence gather sensitive documents from the computers he was infecting.

But Bogatchev wasn't an isolated case. Just last week, the US charged the administrator of the Dridex malware botnet, accusing him of the same thing -- of collaborating with Russia's state intelligence in their search for sensitive data.

These two cases show a direct contact between the creators of popular malware and a country's intelligence apparatus.

6 December 2019

Korea Wakes up to the Deadly Consequences of Spy Cams and Cyberbullying

By Jenna Gibson

In the last two years, the Me Too movement sparked tough conversations in South Korea about the role of women in society, and thousands of women took to the streets to protest against leniency for spy cam crimes. Now, three high-profile deaths have highlighted three interconnected problems facing Korean women: assault, online harassment, and hidden spy cameras. These recent tragedies have called attention to the need for serious, societal change to address these problems, which disproportionately affect women, galvanizing a growing movement in South Korea to improve protections for its citizens — especially women.

On November 28, K-pop star Goo Hara was found dead in her home in a suspected suicide. Hara had been in the public eye for over a decade as a member of the popular girl group Kara. Earlier this year, the singer, who went by the stage name Hara, sued her ex-boyfriend for abuse and for blackmailing her with threats to release a sex tape he had taken of the two of them. The man, Choi Jong-bum, was convicted on several charges including assault, threats, and property damage, but found not guilty of sexual assault. He received a suspended sentence of just one year and six months, with three years’ probation. Both sides have appealed the verdict.

5 December 2019

What Hides Behind South Korean Cryptocurrency Regulation Policy?

By Valentin Voloshchak
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South Korea has achieved a high level of national informatization in recent years. The country is a world leader in internet access speed, some 92 percent of population is internet users, and, in 2005, South Korea was the first nation to complete the transition from dial-up to broadband internet access. The government is pursuing an active ICT development policy by adopting master-plans for national informatization and initiating the establishment of various institutions in the field of cybersecurity and internet regulation.

One could assume that South Korea should be at the vanguard of cryptocurrency introduction as well, and to some degree, this is correct, inasmuch as South Korea is the world’s third largest bitcoin trade market and therefore has a great potential to attract digital currency investment. However, since 2017 the Korean government maintains an ICO (Initial Coin Offering) ban policy, i.e. it prohibits any forms of receiving investments in exchange for cryptocurrency sale from domestic companies. Many consider such a stance counterproductive and say it seriously affects cryptocurrency trade by making prices volatile and thus undermining the market. 

4 December 2019

What South Korea, Japan, and Germany Think of American Troop Demands


U.S. demands for huge payment increases from three of its major allies, South Korea, Japan and Germany, for basing military forces on their territory could cause significant shifts in the global U.S. military footprint. The centrality of the United States and its military to South Korea's and Japan's security strategies means Washington is in a strong position to extract more money. But the effort could push Germany further away from the United States.

Reports emerged this month that U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration have demanded that South Korea pay $4.7 billion next year — or 400 percent more than what it currently pays — for continued U.S. military protection. Then a report emerged that in July, the United States had requested that Japan increase its own share of military cost-sharing fourfold to $8 billion after their bilateral Special Measures Agreement expires in March 2021. These reports came as the United States was already preparing to press its NATO allies in Europe, in particular Germany, to pay more for the presence of U.S. troops on the Continent.

2 December 2019

Why China Would Never Help North Korea Make a Deal with Trump

by Anny Boc
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With every new North Korean missile – such as the one launched on Tuesday November 28 – or nuclear test, all eyes are on China. Like previous American presidents, Donald Trump believes that the road to a diplomatic solution on North Korea runs through Beijing. He holds the view that, of any country, China has the most leverage over North Korea and therefore could “quickly and easily” solve the problem with the Kim Jung-un regime – but is just not willing to do so.

For Washington, North Korea has become a top national security priority, in particular because of Pyongyang’s unexpectedly fast progress in developing intercontinental nuclear capabilities that may be able to reach the US mainland. Since assuming office, Trump has made North Korea the main focus of US-China relations. His main strategy has been to use trade issues as a bargaining chip to pressure China on North Korea, convinced that exerting enough economic pressure on Beijing will eventually force China to do what he wants.

28 November 2019

Why North Korea Denuclearization Is Such a Long Shot


North Korea denuclearization efforts have been at the forefront of the international agenda for more than two years, but there is little progress so far. Critics say the Trump administration has a flawed approach to the negotiations—and the U.S. trade war with China isn't helping. Meanwhile, North Koreans continue to suffer.

Ending North Korea’s nuclearization efforts has been at the forefront of the international agenda for more than two years now. But despite improved relations between North and South Korea and two unprecedented face-to-face meetings between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, there has been no clear progress toward North Korea denuclearization.

Trump has framed the meetings and his personal relationship with Kim as a promising start to a potential breakthrough, but critics point to the lack of headway so far, which they blame on the Trump administration’s flawed approach to the negotiations. For his part, Kim refuses to even begin drawing down the program that is essentially his regime’s only bargaining chip unless the international community drops its sanctions. Hard-liners in Washington, on the other hand, would like to see meaningful steps toward denuclearization before they lift any restrictions.

27 November 2019

Assessing North Korea’s Cyber Evolution

By Ali Crawford

Ali Crawford has an M.A. from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce where she focused on diplomacy, intelligence, cyber policy, and cyber warfare. She tweets at @ali_craw. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Author and / or Article Point of View: The author believes that the international community’s focus on addressing North Korea’s nuclear capability sets the conditions whereby their cyber capabilities can evolve unchecked.

Summary: Despite displaying a growing and capable cadre of cyber warriors, North Korean cyber prowess has been overshadowed by threats of nuclear proliferation. While North Korea remains extremely isolated from the global community, it has conducted increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks over a short span of time. In a relatively short period of time, North Korea has cultivated a cyber acumen worth recognizing as threatening as its nuclear program.

26 November 2019

South Korea and America Do Not Share the Same Interests

by Olivia Schieber

The United States has 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the Korean War and a deterrent to North Korea. The costs of that deployment are shared by both the US and the ROK, with Seoul carrying close to $1 billion annually, roughly 40 percent of the total cost. But Donald Trump wants South Korea to pay more. Specifically, 400 percent more. That’s unlikely to happen.

While policymakers and defense experts generally agree that South Korea can and should shoulder more of the burden, Seoul reacted with anger to the $5 billion ask US Defense Secretary Mark Esper relayed during a surly meeting earlier this week. Not only that, but the same day talks dissolved with the US, South Korea signed a defense agreement with China. A $5 billion request is certainly a shock to the system, but the larger issue is that increasingly, South Koreans don’t believe their interests align with those of the US.

This week, they took to the streets to protest US demands. Some argue that Washington is using South Korea as part of its plan to contain China. The notion seems bizarre after nearly seven decades of American commitment to peace and security in the South. But for many South Koreans, even the threat of the North is not enough of a convincing justification when it comes to the US-ROK alliance. President Moon Jae-in has placed peace and inter-Korea relations at the forefront of his North Korea policy, at times putting South Korea at odds with the US and Japan, who favor sanctions and pressure over engagement. Moon Chung-in, a close senior adviser of President Moon, expressed frustration that South Korea had “sacrificed” North-South Korea relations in favor of the US-South Korea alliance, concluding that the US position on these matters has been “harmful.”

25 November 2019

Newly Declassified Documents Reveal the Story of Why America Sent Nuclear Weapons to South Korea

by Daniel R. DePetris

"The deliberations within the U.S. national security bureaucracy leading up to Eisenhower's final call, however, was far more spirited than previously understood. The State Department may have lost the battle to the Pentagon, but not without a fight."

The day was January 17, 1957, and Assistant Secretary of State Walter Robertson had a nagging worry that his boss, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, wouldn’t go toe-to-toe with the Pentagon on the subject of introducing nuclear weapons into South Korea. The State Department, Robertson wrote in a memo to Dulles, remained unequivocally opposed to deploying atomic weapons on the Korean Peninsula. “In my opinion the introduction of atomic weapons into Korea, whether accompanied by nuclear components or not, in this time of world tension would have serious adverse repercussions throughout the Far East...,” Robertson opined. The military benefit was simply not worth the political costs.

The next day, Secretary Dulles met with Defense Secretary Charles Wilson and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Arthur Radford and delivered some of those same points. Dulles, no Cold War peacenik, told his colleagues that it would be very difficult to convince Washington’s allies that sending U.S. nuclear weapons into the South was an appropriate response to perceived North Korean violations of the Armistice Agreement. The Joint Chiefs didn’t buy the argument: Pyongyang, Radford claimed, was throwing the military balance off-kilter. The only way the United States could mitigate the situation was by flying in strategic weapons on the other side of the Armistice line. 

22 November 2019

South Korea Faces Major Decision Over Military Pact With Japan


A look at the General Security of Military Intelligence Agreement, or GSOMIA, which expires on Saturday unless Seoul renews it.

Squeezed between a growing North Korean threat and a shaky alliance with the United States, South Korea must decide this week whether its national pride and deep frustrations with Japan are worth killing a major symbol of their security cooperation with Washington.

After exchanging haymakers with Japan over history and trade, South Korea expanded the feud to military matters in August when it gave three-months’ notice on its plans to terminate a 2016 bilateral military intelligence-sharing agreement it signed after years of prodding by the United States.

The announcement drew unusually blunt criticism from Washington, which described Seoul’s decision to end the pact as detrimental to the security of its Asian allies and increasing risk to U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.

Seoul has since said it could keep the agreement if Tokyo reverses a decision to downgrade South Korea’s status as a trade partner.

Japan and South Korea: Headaches and Headlines

By Duncan Bartlett

The media in Japan show great enthusiasm in covering their country’s dispute with South Korea – but not all reports are credible.

The images of South Korea that appear in the Japanese media can be either friendly or frightening, depending on which articles you read. One of the most sensational recent stories suggested that, in the event of a war, a majority of South Koreans would side with North Korea in attacking Japan.

This wild claim was based on a completely unscientific survey, yet it nevertheless generated plenty of coverage – especially on social media, which cares little for credibility.

By contrast, South Korean pop stars, such as Twice, are wining positive press as they undertake a musical charm offensive. Next year, the girl group will play the Tokyo Dome, Japan’s largest venue. Tickets on secondary markets are already selling for the equivalent of $500.

The media coverage enjoyed by even most successful K-Pop stars, however, pales into comparison to the headlines generated by South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in.

Does South Korea Still Need U.S. Troops? In Short, Yes

by David Axe

Trump’s demand for a few billion dollars could achieve what decades of military posturing by North Korea has failed to do: deeply undermine South Korea’s defenses.

Mutual-defense talks between the United States and South Korea abruptly broke down on Nov. 19, 2019 when the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump demanded that the government in Seoul increase, from $1 billion to $5 billion annually, what it pays to support the roughly 29,000 U.S. troops in the country.

The diplomatic row follows several years of increasing tensions between Trump and the South Koreans as Trump repeatedly has tried to secure a deal with North Korea whereby the North would give up its growing nuclear arsenal.

In a concession to North Korea, Trump ordered U.S. forces in South Korea to suspend major training exercises with their South Korean counterparts. With the six-decade U.S.-South Korean alliance seemingly on the verge of collapse, it’s worth asking just how much South Korea, the world’s 12th-largest economy, needs U.S. troops.

21 November 2019

Lips and teeth: Repairing China-North Korea relations


China has reset its ties with North Korea and repaired a relationship that had suffered its most severe downturn ever. The Beijing-Pyongyang relationship, long called as “close as lips and teeth,” took a decidedly negative turn in 2017 as Pyongyang’s confrontation with the United States appeared to be pushing the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war. Through its actions, North Korea seemed to willfully ignore China’s interests. Beijing responded with stark warnings and support for tougher U.N. Security Council sanctions.

The year 2018 brought a remarkable turnabout on the peninsula, including historic new U.S. and South Korean dialogues with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But as diplomacy accelerated, concern was mounting in Beijing that China was being left out of the game and North Korea was drifting out of its orbit. China moved decisively to reassert itself and repair relations with North Korea through an unprecedented series of summits between President Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un, the first visit by a Chinese leader to North Korea in 14 years, and renewed contacts between party and military officials.

Trump and North Korea: Why 2020 Could Look Like 2017

by Daniel L. Davis

The key thing for Trump and his senior advisors to recognize is that peace with North Korea is possible and a reduction of the threat from Kim is attainable. Here is how to achieve it.

President Donald Trump has boasted he alone was able to bring reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table and has often cited the cessation of long-range missile and nuclear warhead testing as evidence of his success. North Korea, however, says it has been “betrayed” by Trump due to the lack of negotiations progress—and if there is no change in U.S. policy by the end of the year, then the Hermit Kingdom will no longer feel bound to its moratorium on testing. 

In other words, if Trump doesn’t quickly reengage with North Korea diplomatically, then the year 2020 could end up looking a lot like the days of “fire and fury” in 2017 and the risk of destructive war will again rear its ugly head.

There is still time, however, to avoid unnecessary escalation. Last Thursday, North Korean state media announced that the United States has proposed a new round of working-level negotiations in December. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper followed up on Friday saying the United States would be “flexible” on future joint military exercises with South Korea—exercises the North views as antagonistic—if that facilitates the diplomatic track. 

20 November 2019

Solving the Mystery: Where Did North Korea Get Its Missiles?

by Kyle Mizokami

A foreign government, or a nonstate actor?

In the quarter century since the end of the Cold War, much of North Korea’s conventional-weapons capability has quietly aged into obsolescence. Abandoned by the now-defunct Soviet Union and China, Pyongyang’s arsenal of tanks, ships, planes and artillery appears trapped in the 1980s—or earlier. A few weapons, however, including a new antiship missile fired just last week, are fairly new, prompting questions as to exactly where they came from.

After the Korean War, the Korean People’s Army was rebuilt with Soviet and Chinese weapons. Wartime T-34 tanks were replaced with Soviet-built T-62 and T-55 tanks in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and a large fleet of seventy-seven Romeo-class submarines was purchased from China. Pyongyang bought from both countries, favoring one over the other as the political winds blew. One of the country’s last major purchases was a fleet of seventeen MiG-29 “Fulcrum” multirole fighters and thirty-six Su-25 Frogfoot attack jets.

The breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 left the East Asian dictatorship without a patron that dispensed weapons on easy credit terms, and the lack of modern gear is telling. North Korea’s latest tanks are still based on the T-62, and Romeo-class submarines, one of which Kim Jong-un famously took for a ride in 2014, are still in active service. Occasional upgrades, such as the addition of Bulsae (“Firebird”) antitank missiles to the Chonma-ho main battle tank, do little to upgrade the combat effectiveness of what is in reality an obsolete tank.

19 November 2019

While Impeachment Mania Consumes Washington, a New North Korea Crisis Is Brewing.

by Daniel R. DePetris

If President Trump doesn’t want to ring in the New Year with the first North Korean ICBM launch in over two years, then it would behoove him to look in the mirror and ask himself what his administration can do to prevent dialogue from crumbling. 

With every day that ticks off the calendar, the Trump administration is that much closer to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s ominous end-of-year deadline. North Korean officials and spokespeople are making increasingly strident statements about Washington‘s negotiating position and approach, all of which suggest that Kim is indeed serious when he told the world earlier this year that he was running out of patience. Back in Washington, the White House resembles a headless chicken with no direction, running around every which way, too consumed with the impeachment battle dominating every waking moment of their lives to care very much about salvaging Trump’s signature foreign policy initiative.

In the weeks since working-level talks in Stockholm, Sweden broke down after a single day, Pyongyang has been registering its contempt in the typical North Korean way: with fire and flare. This week has been no exception. On November 13, the spokesman of the State Affairs Commission delivered a not-so-subtle hint that the North is very close to breaking its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and ICBM tests. In the words of the spokesman, “At present when one party backpedals on its commitments and unilaterally takes hostile steps, there is neither reason nor any excuse for the other party to keep itself bound to its commitments.” One day later, chief North Korean negotiator Kim Myong Gil released his own set of comments, where he again expressed sincere doubts about whether Washington is truly committed to finding a way forward. 

17 November 2019

Kim Jong Un’s Warning for Trump


Earlier this year, as talks between North Korea and the United States broke down, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un set a deadline—the end of 2019—for getting thing back on track. With that deadline nearing, and with the Trump administration set to continue joint air drills with South Korea, Kim issued a warning. “The U.S. had better behave itself with prudence,” an official statement from the regime read. Noting the “betrayal” of the joint drills, the regime threatened to escalate tensions.

A transcript of the statement, attributed to a North Korean spokesman, is below. It has been lightly edited for clarity.

We explicitly defined the joint military drill being planned by the U.S. and South Korea as a main factor of screwing up tensions of the Korean Peninsula and the region out of control, and have expressed deep concern over it and repeatedly warned them to stop it.

Despite our repeated warnings, the U.S. and the South Korean side decided to push ahead with the military drill hostile to the DPRK at the most sensitive time. This has further enraged our people, making it hard for them to keep the patience they have so far exercised.

US Defense Secretary: US Could Alter Military Drills to Boost North Korea Talks


Mark Esper said that he is open to the possibility of altering U.S. military activities in South Korea if it would help advance a diplomatic deal with North Korea.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday that he is open to the possibility of altering American military activities in South Korea if it would help advance a diplomatic deal with North Korea to eliminate its nuclear program.

In an interview with reporters flying with him to Seoul, Esper said any changes in military exercises or training would be done in ways that did not jeopardize troops’ combat preparedness. And he said they would be done in consultation with the South Korean government.

He would not say what specific adjustments might be contemplated. The United States and South Korea already scaled back their 2018 and 2019 military exercises in the hope that it would help move North Korea toward agreement to give up its nuclear weapons. So far that has not worked.

“We will adjust our exercise posture, either more or less, depending on what diplomacy may require,” Esper said, adding, “We have to be open to all those things that empower and enable our diplomats” in the nuclear talks.