Troll level: Expert


North Korea got in some expert-level trolling today in response to this week’s meteor in Michigan and last week’s incoming missile alert false alarm in Hawaii.

The Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s state-run news service, issued a press release mocking the United States for suffering from a case of “nuclear-phobia” after those events triggered public fears that America was under possible North Korean attack:

Pyongyang, January 19 (KCNA) — Nuclear-phobia by the nuclear force of the DPRK has now caused a tragicomedy in the U.S.

On January 16 a meteor fell from the sky between Ohio and Michigan with a great bang, brightening the sky.

This sparked off the explosive postage of stories about the “fireball in the nocturnal sky” on the U.S. internet websites.

Internet users admitted that they worried the meteor in question could have been a nuclear bomb flown from north Korea.
A twitter user posted words that when meteor brightened the sky between Ohio and Michigan, all internet network users hoped that it would be a meteor, not north Korea’s missile.

Another twitter user wrote that it was sad to have taken the meteor as a bomb flown from north Korea and to have hurried the car in fear.

Lots of people were reported to have greatly worried about it, taking the meteor as an attack from north Korea.

A people said that it was greatly relieving that the meteor did not pass the sky last weekend when there was a misinformation about the flight of a nuclear bomb.

What was all the more irony was the fuss in Hawaii on January 13.

At 08:07 citizens and tourists on Hawaii received all at the same time the ballistic missile threat warning which urged them to evacuate as there was ballistic missile threat and which stressed that it was not just training.

The citizens and tourists in great disarray went busy evacuating amid the heightened fear and delusion of persecution about the nuclear force of the DPRK.

What is all the more ridiculous is that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission put it that the ballistic missile attack evacuation warning which threw the whole of Hawaii in a great chaos was caused by a mistake of a man who pressed the button during shift period.

Good thing the United States knows what to do with cases of nuclear-phobia. Or, as it was diagnosed back in the ’50s, “nuclearosis.”

But don’t worry, there really is nothing to fear. After all, risk is a regular part of life. And your hair will grow back.

Mine’s bigger

missile envy

Somehow, you knew it was eventually going to come to this:

At one level you can, and probably should, dismiss this as more silly posturing and insecure boasting on the part of President Trump. That said, in absolute terms he’s right: the US nuclear arsenal is bigger and more powerful than not just North Korea’s, but pretty much everyone else’s as well. And as I said on the radio this morning, the logic of nuclear deterrence is still operable and neither side seems irrational enough, at least not yet, to purposely initiate a nuclear exchange.

But that doesn’t mean all is well either. As Axios reports this morning, there is fear within Trump’s own administration that the president could blunder into war accidentally:

What they’re saying: “Every war in history was an accident,” said one administration insider. “You just don’t know what’s going to send him over the edge.”

Last year ended with all kinds of dire warnings and predictions of the odds of war (including nuclear war) between the US and North Korea. But to close this post on an optimistic note, North Korea today reactivated the border hotline with South Korea, restoring a direct line of communication between the two governments and gesturing toward a possible thaw in relations.

Let’s hope that has more lasting impact than Trump’s juvenile missile envy tweet.

Straight out of the Cold War

Conrad Schumann's leap to freedom, 1961.
Conrad Schumann’s leap to freedom, 1961.


A drama unfolded 10 days ago along the tense border that separates North and South Korea, reminiscent of East German soldier Conrad Schumann’s leap to freedom in West Berlin in 1961.

North Korean soldier runs for the border. (AP)
North Korean soldier runs for the border. (AP)

As recounted by the Associated Press, on Nov. 13, a lone North Korean soldier made a daring escape into South Korea, racing a dark olive-green jeep at high speed past his startled comrades before crashing it just short of the border.

He covers the last few yards on foot, as North Korean troops open fire with automatic weapons and handguns. Hit, the defector slumps wounded against a wall on the South Korean side of the border and is eventually dragged to safety as heavily armed North Korean soldiers gather nearby.

All of this was captured on video, which you can watch below.

The defector, whose name has not been released, is now recovering from surgeries to treat his wounds and to deal with other serious health issues, including parasites that infested his intestines, assumed to be a consequence of the poor nutrition and health that plagues members of the North Korean military.

The AP story ends with this:

About 30,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea, mostly across the porous border with China, since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. Now add one more to that tally — a man in uniform, fleeing gunfire toward a new life one overcast afternoon across the world’s most uneasy border.

Conrad Schumann’s life in the West was a difficult one. He was unprepared for and ultimately unable to cope with the public attention and adulation that came from being a living symbol of freedom for his new countrymen. Here’s hoping this North Korean defector has an easier time of it.

China knows the game

(NYTimes cartoon)
(NYTimes cartoon)


While President Trump’s bombastic and alliterative threats against North Korea appear to be credibility-free bloviating, and North Korea’s are specific enough to be worrying even if doubt remains about their capability, there’s one player in this escalating exchange of warnings who seems to really understand how its done.

That would be China.

The marker was laid down in an editorial published yesterday in China’s state-run newspaper the Global Times:

[I]f North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral. If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.

I will admit answering with decided skepticism when others have asked me whether I think China would enter a new Korean War on the side of Pyongyang. But as in so much of international affairs, context and circumstance matter.

As much as China might want to shake up the East Asian regional order to tilt the balance away from the United States and more in its favor, when it comes to the Korean Peninsula, China is a decidedly status quo power.

As national security analyst John Schindler reminds us in his latest column at the Observer:

Beijing regards Pyongyang as a troublesome client whose antics cause annoyances and worse. However, for Beijing, the continuing existence of North Korea—as long as they don’t cause an atomic holocaust in Northeast Asia—is better than all the other options. A bumptious client state across the Yalu river beats having a united Republic of Korea, a close U.S. ally, on China’s border.

Hence the very clear warning issued to both Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un.

Kim is on notice that if he starts something he’s on his own. China will not have his back.  And Trump is on notice that China will go to war, just like it did in 1950, to ensure the survival of its client if the US makes the first move unprovoked.

The threats are in. I know which one I believe.