said this month.

last October and in January, North Korea unveiled what appeared to be newly developed intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said last month that the country appeared to have restarted a reactor in its main nuclear complex​.

But North Korea has refrained from​ testing an I.C.B.M. or a nuclear device since 2017. Its most recent military parade, held Thursday to mark the government’s 73rd anniversary, did not feature new weapons.

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As Afghan Refugee Crisis Unfolds, Koreans Recall ‘Miracle’ Evacuation

SEOUL — When he watched the scenes of desperate refugees trying to escape Afghanistan during the American withdrawal ㅡ mothers clutching babies, men begging to board airplanes in Kabul — Sohn Yang-young, 70, felt tears welling up in his eyes, his heart aching as if he were there.

His family had lived through a similarly traumatic wartime experience.

Mr. Sohn’s parents were among 91,000 refugees that the American military evacuated from Hungnam, a port on the eastern coast of North Korea, in a frantic retreat from Chinese Communist troops during the Korean War in 1950. They boarded the last ship leaving the port with refugees — the S.S. Meredith Victory, a United States merchant marine cargo freighter.

Mr. Sohn was one of five babies born on the ship.

“When I watched the chaotic scenes at the Afghan airport, I thought of my parents and the same life-or-death situation they had gone through in Hungnam,” Mr. Sohn said in an interview. “I could not fight back tears, especially when I saw those children.”

Mass extrajudicial executions of civilians accused of collaborating with the enemy were rampant during the war.

said Han Geum-suk, a nurse in Hamhung who joined the evacuation. “We rushed through the cross-fire back and forth several times before we could catch a ship. The ground was strewn with people with their luggages who were killed. There was hardly any standing room on the ship.”

Few events of the Korean War have seared the psyche of older South Koreans as deeply as the Hungnam evacuation, which they saw as a symbol of wartime calamity and humanitarian grace. It is memorialized in South Korean textbooks, as well as in one of the country’s most beloved pop songs​​. “Ode to My Father,” a 2014 movie based in part on the evacuation, became one of the highest-grossing films in ​the history of South Korean cinema​​. ​

Mr. Moon’s parents were among the refugees who caught the Meredith Victory. The ship, designed to carry no more than 59 people, left Hungnam on Dec. 23, 1950, with 14,000 refugees. Sailing with no escort, it arrived at Geoje Island, off the south coast of South Korea, on Christmas Day. Mr. Moon, who was born in a refugee camp on Geoje in 1953, said his mother used to tell him about the candies handed out to refugees who were jam-packed into the cargo hull on Christmas Eve.

their origin story and their record as rulers.

The Meredith Victory’s captain, Leonard LaRue, made the decision to abandon weapons and cargo to carry as many refugees as he could in what has been called “the largest evacuation from land by a single ship.” The captain became a Benedictine monk in New Jersey after the war and died in 2001. The U.S. bishops’ conference has recently expressed support for his canonization.

​Since the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Moon’s government has sent millions of face masks as a token of gratitude to Korean War veterans around the world, including three surviving crew members of the Meredith Victory: Robert Lunney, Burley Smith and Merl Smith.

Mr. Sohn, one of the babies born on the ship, met with Mr. Lunney several years ago when the American was invited to South Korea. Together they confirmed that Mr. Sohn was “Kimchi One.” According to Mr. Lunney, the ship’s American crew nicknamed the five babies born on board “Kimchi” because, apparently, it was the Korean word most familiar to them, Mr. Sohn said.

Mr. Lee was “Kimchi Five​.”

Both Mr. Lee and Mr. Sohn said that when they saw the news of a young Afghan soccer player falling off an American plane and of ​babies being born during airlifts from Kabul​, they relived the pain ​of war-torn Korean families.

Before joining the mad rush onto the Meredith Victory, Mr. Sohn’s father and mother entrusted their 9-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter to his brother, who stayed behind. His parents believed the family would be reunited when the tide of the war turned in favor of the United States.

Instead, the war was halted in a cease-fire and the Korean Peninsula remains divided. Mr. Sohn’s parents died without seeing their two children in the North again.

Thousands of refugees were stranded in Hungnam after the last ship departed. The American military bombarded the harbor to destroy its equipment and supplies so that the Communists could not use them. Mr. Lee, 70, said he ​has ​heard from North Korean defectors who say that many refugees left behind at the port died during the bombing, and that others were sent to prison camps. ​

​After resettling in South Korea, Mr. Lee’s father ran a photo studio and his mother a grocery store. Mr. Lee became a veterinarian. They all named their shops “Peace,” he said. “My father didn’t want another war ​in Korea.”

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How China Transformed Into a Prime Cyber Threat to the U.S.

Nearly a decade ago, the United States began naming and shaming China for an onslaught of online espionage, the bulk of it conducted using low-level phishing emails against American companies for intellectual property theft.

On Monday, the United States again accused China of cyberattacks. But these attacks were highly aggressive, and they reveal that China has transformed into a far more sophisticated and mature digital adversary than the one that flummoxed U.S. officials a decade ago.

The Biden administration’s indictment for the cyberattacks, along with interviews with dozens of current and former American officials, shows that China has reorganized its hacking operations in the intervening years. While it once conducted relatively unsophisticated hacks of foreign companies, think tanks and government agencies, China is now perpetrating stealthy, decentralized digital assaults of American companies and interests around the world.

Hacks that were conducted via sloppily worded spearphishing emails by units of the People’s Liberation Army are now carried out by an elite satellite network of contractors at front companies and universities that work at the direction of China’s Ministry of State Security, according to U.S. officials and the indictment.

like Microsoft’s Exchange email service and Pulse VPN security devices, which are harder to defend against and allow China’s hackers to operate undetected for longer periods.

“What we’ve seen over the past two or three years is an upleveling” by China, said George Kurtz, the chief executive of the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike. “They operate more like a professional intelligence service than the smash-and-grab operators we saw in the past.”

China has long been one of the biggest digital threats to the United States. In a 2009 classified National Intelligence Estimate, a document that represents the consensus of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, China and Russia topped the list of America’s online adversaries. But China was deemed the more immediate threat because of the volume of its industrial trade theft.

But that threat is even more troubling now because of China’s revamping of its hacking operations. Furthermore, the Biden administration has turned cyberattacks — including ransomware attacks — into a major diplomatic front with superpowers like Russia, and U.S. relations with China have steadily deteriorated over issues including trade and tech supremacy.

China’s prominence in hacking first came to the fore in 2010 with attacks on Google and RSA, the security company, and again in 2013 with a hack of The New York Times.

breach of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. In that attack, Chinese hackers made off with sensitive personal information, including more than 20 million fingerprints, for Americans who had been granted a security clearance.

White House officials soon struck a deal that China would cease its hacking of American companies and interests for its industrial benefit. For 18 months during the Obama administration, security researchers and intelligence officials observed a notable drop in Chinese hacking.

After President Donald J. Trump took office and accelerated trade conflicts and other tensions with China, the hacking resumed. By 2018, U.S. intelligence officials had noted a shift: People’s Liberation Army hackers had stood down and been replaced by operatives working at the behest of the Ministry of State Security, which handles China’s intelligence, security and secret police.

Hacks of intellectual property, that benefited China’s economic plans, originated not from the P.L.A. but from a looser network of front companies and contractors, including engineers who worked for some of the country’s leading technology companies, according to intelligence officials and researchers.

It was unclear how exactly China worked with these loosely affiliated hackers. Some cybersecurity experts speculated that the engineers were paid cash to moonlight for the state, while others said those in the network had no choice but to do whatever the state asked. In 2013, a classified U.S. National Security Agency memo said, “The exact affiliation with Chinese government entities is not known, but their activities indicate a probable intelligence requirement feed from China’s Ministry of State Security.”

announced a new policy requiring Chinese security researchers to notify the state within two days when they found security holes, such as the “zero-days” that the country relied on in the breach of Microsoft Exchange systems.

arrested its founder. Two years later, Chinese police announced that they would start enforcing laws banning the “unauthorized disclosure” of vulnerabilities. That same year, Chinese hackers, who were a regular presence at big Western hacking conventions, stopped showing up, on state orders.

“If they continue to maintain this level of access, with the control that they have, their intelligence community is going to benefit,” Mr. Kurtz said of China. “It’s an arms race in cyber.”

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Three Months After Coup, Myanmar Returns to the ‘Bad Old Days’

Every night at 8, the stern-faced newscaster on Myanmar military T.V. announces the day’s hunted. The mug shots of those charged with political crimes appear onscreen. Among them are doctors, students, beauty queens, actors, reporters, even a pair of makeup bloggers.

Some of the faces look puffy and bruised, the likely result of interrogations. They are a warning not to oppose the military junta that seized power in a Feb. 1 coup and imprisoned the country’s civilian leaders.

As the midnight insects trill, the hunt intensifies. Military censors sever the internet across most of Myanmar, matching the darkness outside with an information blackout. Soldiers sweep through the cities, arresting, abducting and assaulting with slingshots and rifles.

The nightly banging on doors, as arbitrary as it is dreaded, galvanizes a frenzy of self-preservation. Residents delete their Facebook accounts, destroy incriminating mobile phone cards and erase traces of support for Myanmar’s elected government. As sleep proves elusive, it’s as if much of the nation is suffering a collective insomnia.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi or an unregistered cellphone or a single note of foreign currency — could mean a prison sentence. Some of the military’s Orwellian diktats rivaled those of North Korea.

among them dozens of children.

rule by fear, it is also holding hostage a changed country. The groundswell of opposition to the coup, which has sustained protests in hundreds of cities and towns, was surely not in the military’s game plan, making its crackdown all the riskier. Neither the outcome of the putsch nor the fate of the resistance is preordained.

Myanmar’s full emergence from isolation — economic, political and social — only came five years ago when the military began sharing power with an elected government headed by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi. A population that barely had any connection to the internet quickly made up for lost time. Today, its citizenry is well versed in social media and the power of protests tethered to global movements. They know how to spot a good political meme on the internet.

Their resistance to the coup has included a national strike and a civil disobedience movement, which have paralyzed the economy and roiled the government. Banks and hospitals are all but shut. Although the United Nations has warned that half the country could be living in poverty by next year because of the pandemic and the political crisis, the democratic opposition’s resolve shows no sign of weakening.

National Unity Government, a civilian authority set up after the elected leadership was expelled by the military. A popular tactic is to affix an image of Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the coup leader, on the sole of a shoe, smashing his face into the ground with each step. During spot checks, the police now demand that people show their soles.

Ms. Thuzar Nwe says she wears her hair down to cover her tattoo, hoping the police won’t be too inquisitive.

“In Myanmar culture, if a woman has a tattoo, she’s a bad girl,” she said. “I broke the rules of culture. This revolution is a rare chance to eradicate dictatorship from the country.”

But the Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is known, has built an entire infrastructure dedicated to one purpose: perpetuating its power for power’s sake.

Its bureaucracy of oppression is formidable. An army of informers, known as “dalan,” has reappeared, monitoring whispers and neighbors’ movements.

The blandly named General Administration Department, a vast apparatus that remained under military control even after the army had started sharing authority with the civilian government, is once again pressuring administrators to keep tabs on everyone’s political views. And local officials have taken to banging on doors and peering in homes, as a dreaded system of household registration is reintroduced.

revoked the publishing licenses of major private newspapers. Democracy will return soon, the military’s headlines insist. Banking services are running “as usual.” Health care with “modern machinery” is available. Government ministries are enjoying English-proficiency courses. Soft-shell crab cultivation is “thriving” and penetrating the foreign market.

acquiring Chinese-made weapons and Russian fighter jets. But its propaganda is stuck in a time warp from back when few challenged its narrative. There is no mention in its media of the military’s killing spree, the broken economy or the growing armed resistance. On Wednesday, the State Administration Council, as the junta calls itself, banned satellite T.V.

For all the fear percolating in Myanmar, the resistance has only hardened. On Wednesday, the National Unity Government said it was forming a “people’s defense force” to counter the Tatmadaw. Two days before, ethnic insurgents fighting in the borderlands shot down a Tatmadaw helicopter.

convince the military ranks that the coup was necessary, Tatmadaw insiders said. Sequestered in military compounds without good internet access, soldiers have little ability to tap into the outrage of fellow citizens. Their information diet is composed of military T.V., military newspapers and the echo chambers of military-dominated Facebook on the rare occasions they can get online.

Still, news does filter in, and some officers have broken rank. In recent weeks, about 80 Myanmar Air Force officers have deserted and are now in hiding, according to fellow military personnel.

“Politics are not the business of soldiers,” said an air force captain who is now in hiding and does not want his name used because his family might be punished for his desertion. “Now the Tatmadaw have become the terrorists, and I don’t want to be part of it.”

In the cities, almost everyone seems to know someone who has been arrested or beaten or forced to pay a bribe to the security forces in exchange for freedom.

Last month, Ma May Thaw Zin, a 19-year-old law student, joined a flash mob protest in Yangon, the country’s biggest city. The police, she said, detained several young women and crammed them into an interrogation center cell so small they barely had room to sit on the floor.

For a whole day, there was no food. Ms. May Thaw Zin said she resorted to drinking from the toilet. The interrogations were just her and a clutch of men. They rubbed against her and kicked her breasts and face with their boots, she said. On the fourth day, after men shoved the barrel of a pistol against the black hood over her head, she was released. The bruises remain.

Since she returned home, some family members have refused to have anything to do with her because she was caught protesting, Ms. May Thaw Zin said. Even if they hate the coup, even if they know their futures have been blunted, the instincts of survival have kicked in.

“They are afraid,” she said, but “I can’t accept that my country will go back to the old dark age.”

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They Were Promised a Socialist Paradise, and Ended Up in ‘Hell’

SEOUL — On a bright August morning in 1960, after two days of sailing from Japan, hundreds of passengers rushed on deck as someone shouted, “I see the fatherland!”

The ship pulled into Chongjin, a port city in North Korea, where a crowd of people waved paper flowers and sang welcome songs. But Lee Tae-kyung felt something dreadfully amiss in the “paradise” he had been promised.

“The people gathered were expressionless,” Mr. Lee recalled. “I was only a child of 8, but I knew we were in the wrong place.”

Mr. Lee’s and his family were among 93,000 people who migrated from Japan to North Korea from 1959 to 1984 under a repatriation program sponsored by both governments and their Red Cross societies. When they arrived, they saw destitute villages and people living in poverty, but were forced to stay. Some ended up in prison camps.

renewed interest in North Korean human rights violations, and when leaders in Japan and South Korea remain particularly sensitive about opening old wounds between the two countries.

“It was my mother who urged my father to take our family to the North,” Mr. Lee said. “And it was her endless source of regret until she died at age 74.”

The Lees were among two million Koreans who moved to Japan during Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945. Some went there looking for work, others were taken for forced labor in Japan’s World War II effort. Lacking citizenship and financial opportunities, most returned to Korea after the Japanese surrender.

Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights.

Japan approved of the migration despite the fact that most Koreans in the country were from the South, which was mired in political unrest. While Japanese authorities said ethnic Koreans chose to relocate to North Korea, human rights groups have accused the country of aiding and abetting the deception by ignoring the circumstances the migrants would face in the communist country.

Japanese women married to Korean men and thousands of biracial children. Among them was a young woman named Ko Yong-hee, who would later become a dancer and give birth to Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, and grandson of its founder.

When Mr. Lee’s family boarded the ship in 1960, his parents thought Korea would soon be reunited. Mr. Lee’s mother gave him and his four siblings cash and told them to enjoy their last days in Japan. Mr. Lee bought a mini pinball-game machine. His younger sister brought home a baby doll that closed its eyes when it lay on the bed.

“It was the last freedom we would taste,” he said.

He realized his family had been duped, he said, when he saw the people at Chongjin, who “all looked poor and ashen.” In the rural North Korean county where his family was ordered to resettle, they were shocked to see people go without shoes or umbrellas in the rain.

In 1960 alone, 49,000 people migrated from Japan to North Korea, but the number sharply declined as word spread of the true conditions in the country. Despite the watchful eye of censors, families devised ways to warn their relatives. One man wrote a message on the back of a postage stamp:

“We are not able to leave the village,” he wrote in the tiny space, urging his brother in Japan not to come.

Mr. Lee’s aunt ​sent her mother​ a letter​ telling her to consider immigrating to North Korea when her nephew was old enough to marry. The message was clear: The nephew was only 3.

To survive, the migrants often relied on cash and packages sent by relatives still in Japan. In school, Mr. Lee said, children called him “ban-jjokbari,” an insulting term for Koreans from Japan. Everyone lived under constant fear of being called disloyal and banished to prison camps.

refugees, spending two and a half years in prison in Myanmar when he and his smuggler were detained for human trafficking. After arriving in Seoul in 2009, Mr. Lee helped smuggle his wife and daughter out of North Korea. But he still has ​relatives, including a son, stuck in the country, he said.

His wife died in 2013, and now Mr. Lee lives alone in a small rented apartment in Seoul. “But I have freedom,” he said. “I would have sacrificed everything else for it.”

Mr. Lee has formed an association with 50 ethnic Koreans from Japan who migrated to North Korea and escaped to the South. Every December, the group meets to mark the anniversary of the beginning of the mass migration in 1959. His memoir is nearly complete. His generation is the last to have firsthand experience of what happened to those 93,000 migrants, he said.

“It’s sad that our stories will be buried when we die,” Mr. Lee said.

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North Korea Warns Biden Against ‘Hostile Policy’

SEOUL — North Korea said on Sunday that President Biden had made “a big blunder” by calling its nuclear arsenal a threat last week, and it warned that the United States would face “a very grave situation” if it maintained what it called a “hostile policy” toward Pyongyang.

The statement, attributed to a senior official, was one of three that the North released on Sunday directed at the United States and its ally South Korea. They included warnings that the North might respond to the Biden administration’s recent statements about the country with unspecified “corresponding measures.”

Mr. Biden made a brief reference to North Korea in his speech before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, saying that its nuclear program and Iran’s presented “serious threats to American security and the security of the world.” He said the United States and its allies would deal with them “through diplomacy as well as stern deterrence.”

“It is certain that the U.S. chief executive made a big blunder,” Kwon Jong-gun, a senior official at North Korea’s Foreign Ministry​, said in a statement published by the North’s state news media. He said Mr. Biden’s remark “clearly reflects his intent to keep enforcing the hostile policy toward” North Korea.

ended in 2019 with no agreement on dismantling the North’s nuclear weapons facilities or easing American-led sanctions imposed on the North.

On March 25, North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles, its first such test in a year. Analysts have since warned that the North could carry out more tests or other provocations in an attempt to bolster its leverage in any talks with the Biden administration.

The administration, which has been conducting a North Korea policy review, recently indicated that it would pursue a strategy somewhere between Mr. Trump’s direct outreach to Mr. Kim, in which he strove for a single, sweeping deal, and the “strategic patience” approach of former President Barack Obama, which sought to compel the North to negotiate through sanctions and other forms of pressure. Both approaches failed​, and North Korea has kept expanding its arsenal.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said on Friday that the administration “will not focus on achieving a grand bargain, nor will it rely on strategic patience.” She said it would seek “a calibrated, practical approach that is open to and will explore diplomacy” with North Korea and would try to “make practical progress that increases the security​”​ of the United States and its allies.

a statement ​last week ​by Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, who called North Korea “one of the most repressive and totalitarian states in the world.” Mr. Price cited “shoot-to-kill orders at the North Korea-China border” that American officials say the North has imposed since the emergence of Covid-19.

Also on Sunday, Mr. Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, denounced South Korea for failing to stop a group of activists from using balloons to send propaganda leaflets across the countries’ border into the North.

Such launches, a tactic often used by defectors from North Korea campaigning against the Kim regime, were banned by South Korea in March, on the grounds that they needlessly provoked Pyongyang and endangered South Koreans living near the border. The North cited the propaganda launches last year when it blew up an office building on its soil where officials from both Koreas had worked together.

Park Sang-hak, who leads a defectors’ group in Seoul, said on Friday that his organization had defied the launch ban earlier in the week, releasing 10 large balloons carrying a half million leaflets. He accused ​the South Korean government of “gagging” the defectors and denying North Koreans the right to know how their leaders were seen by the outside world.

Ms. Kim, who serves as her brother’s spokeswoman on inter-Korean issues, called the defectors “human wastes” in her statement Sunday, characterizing the launch as “a serious provocation” and warning that the North would “look into corresponding action.”

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Biden Invites South Korea’s President to White House in May

President Biden will meet with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea in Washington on May 21, the White House announced on Thursday.

“President Moon’s visit will highlight the ironclad alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea, and the broad and deep ties between our governments, people, and economies,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement. “President Biden looks forward to working with President Moon to further strengthen our alliance and expand our close cooperation.”

In an interview with The New York Times published last week, Mr. Moon urged Mr. Biden to sit down with North Korea and kick-start negotiations, calling denuclearization a “matter of survival” for South Korea.

Mr. Biden’s predecessor, Donald J. Trump, left office without removing a single North Korean nuclear warhead. Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, has resumed weapons tests.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan at the White House on April 16, marking the first in-person visit of a foreign leader during his presidency.

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For Indonesian Submarine, Oxygen and Time Are Running Out

A steel-hulled submarine can hold only a certain amount of breathable air. It goes faster when 53 people are crammed into the tight space.

At some point early on Saturday morning, the life force for the sailors onboard the KRI Nanggala-402, an Indonesian Navy submarine that has been missing since Wednesday, could run out.

Search crews from the United States, India, Malaysia, Australia and Singapore, along with the Indonesian Navy, have been desperately converging on the waters north of the Indonesian island of Bali, in hopes of locating the submarine and rescuing its crew.

So far, the Nanggala is nowhere to be found.

“If the rescue takes longer, the chances get smaller,” said Susaningtyas Nefo Handayani Kertopati, an Indonesian military and intelligence analyst. “The chance of survival is very small. The hope gets thinner.”

seven sailors on board a Russian Navy submarine that had gotten tangled in a fishing net were rescued just a few hours before their oxygen would have dissipated.

Russian Navy submarine, the Kursk, sank to the seabed after an explosion on board. All 118 people died after rescue teams took days to gain access to the submarine, and oxygen ran out for the 23 sailors who had survived the blast.

On Monday, an Indian ship, which is outfitted with a mini submersible that can conduct underwater rescues, should arrive in the Bali Sea to help with the search effort. If the backup air filtration system is fully operational, Indonesian defense experts said that any surviving sailors may be able to last until then.

“I am optimistic,” said Ms. Bakrie, who is friends with some of the crew on board the Nanggala. “But, again, if it’s 700 meters, forget it. Nothing can help.”

John Ismay contributed reporting.

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South Korean Leader Urges Biden to Negotiate With North Korea

SEOUL — ​President Moon Jae-in of South Korea has a message for the United States: President Biden needs to engage now with North Korea.

In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Moon pushed the American leader to kick-start negotiations with the government of Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, after two years in which diplomatic progress stalled, even reversed. Denuclearization, the South Korean president said, was a “matter of survival” for his country.

He also urged the United States to cooperate with China on North Korea and other issues of global concern, including climate change. The deteriorating relations between the superpowers, he said, could undermine any negotiations over denuclearization.

“If tensions between the United States and China intensify, North Korea can take advantage of it and capitalize on it,” Mr. Moon said.

work to achieve denuclearization and ​peace on the Korean Peninsula has since unraveled.

President Donald J. Trump left office without removing a single North Korean nuclear warhead. Mr. Kim has resumed weapons tests. ​

“He beat around the bush and failed to pull it through,” Mr. Moon said of Mr. Trump’s efforts on North Korea. “The most important starting point for both governments is to have the will for dialogue and to sit down face to face at an early date.”

Now in his final year in office, Mr. Moon is determined to start all over again​ — and knows he faces a very different leader in Mr. Biden.

annual threat assessment released last week, the United States’ director of national intelligence said Mr. Kim “believes that over time he will gain international acceptance and respect as a nuclear power.”

But Mr. Moon’s team argues that the phased approach is the most realistic, even if it is imperfect. As his administration sees it, North Korea would never give up its arsenal in one quick deal, lest the regime lose its only bargaining chip with Washington.

The key​​, Mr. Moon said, is for the United States and North Korea to work out a “mutually trusted road map.”

American negotiators under Mr. Trump never made it to that point. Both sides could not even agree on a first step for the North and what reward Washington would provide in return.

real-estate and other scandals. This month, angry voters delivered crushing defeats to his Democratic Party in the mayoral elections in South Korea’s two largest cities.

That is a sharp turn of fortune from the start of his administration, when Mr. Moon parlayed a hair-raising geopolitical crisis into a signature policy initiative.

“When I took office back in 2017, we were really concerned about the possibility of war breaking out once again on the Korean Peninsula,” he said.

Four days into his tenure, North Korea launched its Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile that it said could target Hawaii and Alaska. Then the North tested a hydrogen bomb and three intercontinental ballistic missiles. In response, Mr. Trump threatened “fire and fury,” as American Navy carrier groups steamed toward the peninsula.

there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” When Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump met again in 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam, the negotiations went nowhere, and the men left without an agreement on how to move forward with the Singapore deal.

While Mr. Moon was careful to dole out praise for Mr. Trump, he also seemed frustrated by the former president’s erratic behavior and Twitter diplomacy. Mr. Trump canceled or downsized the annual joint military drills that the United States conducts with the South and demanded what Mr. Moon called an “excessive amount” to keep 28,500 American troops in South Korea.

strike a deal within 46 days of Mr. Biden’s inauguration was a “clear testament to the importance President Biden attaches to” the alliance.

Mr. Moon is hopeful about the progress the new American leader can make on North Korea, although any significant breakthrough may be unrealistic, given the deep mistrust between Washington and Pyongyang.

Mr. Biden said last month that he was “prepared for some form of diplomacy” with North Korea, but that “it has to be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization.”

North Korea has offered ideas on a phased approach starting with the demolition of its only-known nuclear test site, followed by the dismantling of a rocket engine test facility and the nuclear complex in Yongbyon north of Pyongyang.

Mr. Moon said he believed such steps, if matched with American concessions, could lead to the removal of the North’s more prized assets, like I.C.B.M.s. In that scenario, he said, the move toward complete denuclearization becomes “irreversible.”

“This dialogue and diplomacy can lead to denuclearization,” he said. “If both sides learn from the failure in Hanoi and put their heads together for more realistic ideas, I am confident that they can find a solution.”

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A Quiet Arms Race Is Rapidly Heating Up Between the Two Koreas

SEOUL — Pride and jealousy have driven North and South Korea to engage in propaganda shouting matches and compete over who could build a taller flagpole on their border. Now that one-upmanship is intensifying a much more dangerous side of their rivalry: the arms race.

Earlier this month, South Korea’s dream of building its own supersonic fighter jet was realized when it unveiled the KF-21, developed at a cost of $7.8 billion. The country also recently revealed plans to acquire dozens of new American combat helicopters. When President Moon Jae-in visited the Defense Ministry’s Agency for Defense Development last year, he said South Korea had “developed a short-range ballistic missile with one of the largest warheads in the world.”

Unlike North Korea, the South lacks nuclear weapons. But in recent years the country has revved up its military spending, procuring American stealth jets and building increasingly powerful conventional missiles capable of targeting North Korean missile facilities and war bunkers.

Korea Institute for National Unification, a government-funded research group.

The two Koreas have long been locked in a perpetual arms race. But Pyongyang’s growing nuclear capabilities, coupled with the fear of a withdrawal of American troops from South Korea under President Donald J. Trump, added to those tensions.

While in office, Mr. Moon has increased South Korea’s annual military spending by an average of 7 percent, compared with the 4.1 percent average of his predecessor. After diplomacy failed to eliminate the North’s nuclear arsenal, Mr. Moon had to reassure South Koreans that their country was not a “sitting duck,” said Yoon Suk-joon, a researcher at the Korea Institute for Military Affairs.

Soon after Mr. Moon’s visit to the Agency for Defense Development, South Korean media reported that the weapon he referred to was the Hyunmoo-4, a missile tested last year. According to missile experts, the Hyunmoo-4 can fly 497 miles, enough to target all of North Korea. Its two-ton payload — unusually large for a short-range missile — could destroy the North’s underground missile bases.

launched a new ballistic missile of its own and said the weapon flew 372 miles with a 2.5-ton warhead. The test prompted Mr. Moon to claim the following day that South Korea had “world-class missile capabilities, enough to defend ourselves while abiding by our commitment to make the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.”

attacked a South Korean island with a rocket barrage in 2010, South Korea demanded that Washington ease the restrictions so it could build more powerful missiles.

“We hinted that we might scrap the missile guidelines unilaterally,” said Chun Yung-woo, the national security adviser at the time. “We told the Americans that if we didn’t address concern over the North’s growing nuclear and missile threat, more and more South Koreans would call for building nuclear bombs for ourselves.”

In 2012, Washington agreed to let South Korea deploy ballistic missiles with a range of up to 497 miles as long as it abided by the 1,100-pound warhead limit. It also said South Korea could exceed the payload limit by several times on missiles with shorter ranges.

South Korea has since tested missiles with growing ranges and bigger warheads, including the Hyunmoo-2A, Hyunmoo-2B and Hyunmoo-2C. Once North Korea launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile in 2017, Mr. Trump lifted the payload limit entirely, making way for the Hyunmoo-4.

short-range nuclear missiles aimed at South Korea and vowed to improve them by making the warheads “smaller, lighter and tactical.” South Korea’s strategy of deterrence has been based on the belief that the best chance it has against the North without nuclear weapons of its own is to build up a conventional missile defense and deploy ever more powerful “bunker busters” to make Mr. Kim fear for his life.

When North Korea tested its intercontinental ballistic missile in 2017, the United States and South Korea responded by launching their own ballistic missiles to demonstrate their “deep-strike precision” capabilities. In his book “Rage,” the journalist Bob Woodward wrote that the American missile traveled the exact distance between its launching point and the location from which Mr. Kim watched his I.C.B.M. launch.

collapsed, North Korea resumed tests in 2019, rolling out three short-range ballistic missiles that were designed to counter the allies’ antimissile capabilities.

North Korea’s old fleet of Scud and Rodong missiles used liquid fuel and lacked precision. The country’s new generation of missiles uses solid propellants, making them quicker to launch, easier to transport and more difficult to target. They also have greater accuracy and evasive maneuvering power that could confound the South’s missile defense systems.

The new solid-fuel ballistic missile North Korea tested in March likely evaded the allies’ radar during its low-altitude maneuvering, leading the South Korean military to estimate its range at 280 miles, not the 372 miles the North claimed, said Chang Young-keun, a missile expert at Korea Aerospace University. Mr. Chang said the missile could also likely increase range and warhead weight because it was powered by “the largest solid-fuel rocket motor developed and tested in North Korea so far.”

The North’s ICBMs still use liquid fuel, which takes hours to load before launching, making them vulnerable to American pre-emptive strikes. But in his January speech, Mr. Kim vowed to build solid-fuel ICBMs, presenting an even bigger challenge for American missile defenses. Such prospects deepen the fear among some South Koreans that Washington would be less likely to intervene if it, too, faced a possible North Korean nuclear attack.

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