Tuesday, November 23, 2010

23-Nov-10: Korea and us

Today's live-fire clashes in South Korea are alarming for many reasons. Not least, because the North Koreans have been working on a nuclear weapons program for years and have the results to show for it. And Iran and North Korea - each having shown signs of sociopathic behavior - are growing closer in strategic terms.

What our neighbourhood does not need is more lunatics. Lunatics with nukes.

Analyzing the nightmare scenario unfolding in North Korea and its impact on this region right here, the Wall Street Journal's Jay Solomon (North Korea Nuclear Find Raises Fear on Tehran) pulls together some disturbing pieces in yesterday's edition. It makes for ulcer-inducing reading... and that was before today's hostilities.

The WSJ puts flesh on what is more or less known: that the bizarre ruling clique in Pyongyang are engaged in playing a potentially catastrophic role, supplying Iran (and probably others) with ultra-sophisticated war supplies. Some highlights:
  • Tehran and Pyongyang have developed expansive military ties over the past three decades, and are jointly developing missile systems, submarines and small arms.
  • Several Iran-bound North Korean arms shipments, by sea and by air, have been intercepted in recent months and years through the work of U.S. and allied intelligence services.
  • North Korea, desperate for hard currency, seems intent on expanding military ties with Iran's nuclear efforts. The Tehran regime, facing technical challenges, is just as interested.
  • In a well-publicized report on Saturday, Stanford physicist Siegfried Hecker says he saw some 2,000 centrifuges organized in cascades at an "astonishingly modern" North Korean nuclear facility. He called the plant "stunning". Experts say it is a full generation beyond what Iran has. The North Korean plant's design was probably procured from Pakistan.
  • We can assume Iran either has this new generation equipment or is going to get it very soon.
  • We already knew Pyongyang was behind the building of the nuclear reactor in Syria - under the noses of international monitors - that was eliminated by Israeli air force intervention in 2007.
  • There is plenty of evidence that the Iran regime is rapidly expanding its nuclear-fuel production at Natanz, central Iran.
  • International sanctions against Iran are tightening. But they are having no evident effect.
So 200 artillery shells fired into Yeonpyeong, a South Korean island, in a burst of a carefully-orchestrated North Korean tantrum-throwing this afternoon might seem a footnote to more weighty global events. But it's almost certainly not. There are plenty of people around here urgently brushing up on their knowledge of Korean current affairs.

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