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Dismantling North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Program Starts with Understanding Its History

Published with Permission by:
Irajpanah, Katherine, “Dismantling North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Program Starts with Understanding Its History”, In Homeland Security, 04 July 2018, Web, https://inhomelandsecurity.com/nuclear-weapons-program-history/

By Katherine Irajpanah
Writer, Lint Center for National Security Studies, Inc., and Special Contributor, In Homeland Security 

On June 12, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea met in Singapore for a historic summit. During the meeting, the United States and North Korea established the diplomatic foundation for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The Singapore summit followed a year of intensified vitriol between the two countries and decades of unsuccessful attempts at halting North Korea’s quest for nuclear weapons.

The summit and forthcoming diplomatic talks highlight the need to understand the history of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The program, which has developed over the course of approximately six decades, has perplexed the past several presidential administrations. That suggests that the United States must approach the negotiating table cautiously and be prepared for lengthy, technical discussions.

The Beginnings of North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Program

North Korea’s nuclear weapons program dates to the 1950s in the aftermath of the Korean War. The war, which pitted South Korea and the United States against North Korea and China, created a great sense of insecurity in the regime of the DPRK’s founder, Kim Il-sung.

DPRK nuclear ambitions largely grew from those insecurities. Weapons of mass destruction, including biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, presented the Kim regime with a potential guarantor of its security as well as a means of deterring the United States from invading North Korea.

Although North Korea’s nuclear program has largely been indigenous, Pyongyang received external technical assistance during its early years. In the 1960s, for example, the Soviet Union helped the North Koreans develop early nuclear reactors, which can provide a source of fissionable material to make a hydrogen bomb. Moreover, in the 1970s, North Korea modeled its short-range missiles on Soviet Scud missiles it had acquired from Egypt.

By the 1980s, North Korea had developed its own nuclear research institutions, uranium mining facilities, a fuel rod fabrication complex and a five-megawatt nuclear reactor. After signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1985, Kim secured further Soviet assistance to develop light water reactors (LWRs). With these facilities and other projects in place, Kim Il-sung successfully developed a nuclear bomb option and the foundation of North Korea’s current nuclear weapons program.

The Rise and Fall of Diplomatic Agreements

North Korea’s nuclear threat reached a flashpoint in 1994, when the United States and North Korea faced the risk of war as a result of the North’s provocations. After the 1994 crisis abated, Washington and Pyongyang held diplomatic talks that led to the 1994 Agreed Framework.

In that agreement, the United States promised security assurances and proliferation-resistant LWRs to North Korea. Also, North Korea promised to freeze and dismantle its nuclear reactors and submit to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Both parties, however, failed to live up to the agreement. As a result, the Agreed Framework fell apart.

North Korea Gradually Builds Nuclear Bomb Program

By late 2003, under Kim’s son, Kim Jong-Il, North Korea likely had acquired a nuclear bomb. To stem the North’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons, the United States convened a new diplomatic channel, the Six-Party Talks. That channel involved North Korea, South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China.

In 2005, the North Koreans announced that they would abandon their nuclear program. Nonetheless, North Korea reneged on its statement and conducted its first nuclear weapons test in 2006. In April 2009, after much back-and-forth communication over proposed arrangements, North Korea withdrew from the Six-Party talks.

Kim Jong-un and the DPRK Nuclear Program

In 2011, Kim Jong-un succeeded his late father, Kim Jong-Il, as “Supreme Leader” and accelerated the nuclear weapons program. To the young leader’s way of thinking, nuclear weapons would ensure the regime’s security and afford him a level of international prestige.

Under Kim Jong-un, North Korea conducted four new nuclear tests. On September 3, 2017, the official North Korean news agency, KCNA, reported the successful testing of a hydrogen bomb.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, North Korea now has an estimated 15 to 20 nuclear weapons, “while U.S. intelligence believes the number to be between thirty and sixty bombs.” Experts also believe that Kim has a functioning intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Some reports suggest that North Korea has the capability to miniaturize its nuclear weapons and mount them on an ICBM, the final element needed to bring about a nuclear holocaust.

International Community’s Response to North Korea’s Behavior

The international community has responded to North Korea’s behavior with intensified economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation. Even China, which has always served as a key economic and political ally of North Korea across the decades, has joined the international efforts to use sanctions to bring Kim to the negotiating table.

As a probable consequence of the mounting economic pressure of these sanctions and the rogue nation’s increasing international isolation, Kim Jong-un has turned away from bombastic rhetoric to diplomatic overtures. At the recent Singapore summit, Kim affirmed “his firm and unwavering commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Beyond the Singapore Summit

The history of North Korea’s nuclear program suggests that the diplomats involved in the forthcoming negotiations must now proceed deliberately and in a clear-eyed manner. To work toward the dismantlement of the North’s nuclear arsenal, the United States will need to consider some form of security reassurance for the Kim regime.

Furthermore, many details about North Korea’s nuclear program remain unknown, and North Korea has reneged on agreements in the past. Any agreement with North Korea will need to emphasize intrusive, on-the-ground verification to both monitor its progress on denuclearization and close the information gap on DPRK nuclear assets.

Finally, the world at large must understand that, as nuclear expert Siegfried S. Hecker estimated, DPRK disarmament could take over a decade to complete due to the technical demands of dismantling its nuclear complex.

Overall, the best path forward in addressing the North Korean nuclear threat is one that emphasizes diplomacy and recognizes the historical challenges associated with Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

About the Author

Katherine Irajpanah is an intern and writer at the Lint Center for National Security Studies. She is currently studying for her bachelor’s degree in international relations at Stanford University and works as a research assistant at the Center for International Security and Cooperation.

North Korea’s June 25 Surprise Attack: An Important Lesson in Battle Preparation

Published with Permission by:
Lint, James R., “North Korea’s June 25 Surprise Attack: An Important Lesson in Battle Preparation”, In Homeland Security, 23 June 2016, Web, https://inhomelandsecurity.com/north-koreas-june-25-surprise-attack-important-lesson-battle-preparation/

By James Lint
Faculty Member, American Public University System

June 25 is a day that all military planners and intelligence professionals should remember as a lesson in proper battle preparation. On that date in 1950, North Korea surprised the U.S. military with an attack that swept U.S. and South Korean forces into the Pusan Perimeter and almost off the Korean peninsula. Defeat appeared quick and sudden.

It was only nine years after the devastation at Pearl Harbor and no one believed that a surprise attack could happen to U.S. forces ever again. But it did.

For the United States, intelligence focus on a former small Japanese-occupied territory was a low priority. The mistake was missing the buildup of Communist support and the large amount of combat equipment in North Korea compared to South Korea, obvious indicators of battle preparation that we can see in hindsight. Because the U.S. overlooked these signs of impending combat, North Korea’s invasion led to a long, bloody civil war.

How Did This Surprise Attack Happen?

There are several reasons why North Korea’s invasion came as a surprise to the U.S. military:

  • The U.S. was a budding world power and had many places to focus. For example, there were Cold War activities in Europe and Africa. The U.S. had a small intelligence force, with the CIA’s founding in September 1947. By 1950, the CIA was still prioritizing areas to watch and spend assets.
  • The U.S. had won World War II, creating a sense of false confidence that no country would have the audacity to attack the U.S. America was the strong victor who had beaten the Germans, Italians and Japanese. But the U.S. did not take into account that other countries saw the massive drawdown and shrinkage of our active military after WWII.
  • Military and government leaders did not rigorously review intelligence collection management or intelligence collection requirements. The Army was otherwise occupied with disarming former WWII foes. Korea ended the war as occupied Japanese territory and later broke up into North and South Korea. Russia gained influence in North Korea after this division.
  • U.S. military and civilian intelligence services were unprepared for an imminent battle. There was a prevailing sense among intelligence leaders that “a new battle cannot happen,” which proved to be wrong. Even during peacetime, it is wise to be aware of potential combat possibilities and probabilities.

Insufficient Military Forces and Logistics Failure Contributed to US Failure to Anticipate Invasion

Military planners should remember that the military manning the Korean peninsula was insufficient to quickly deploy and logistics had degraded. The 1st Marine Division was not fully prepared to deploy from California and newly recruited Marines had to do their training on the ships that conveyed them to the battlefield. Also, combat personnel had inappropriate footwear for the climate; there were stories of people with dress shoes in wintertime combat.

History shows that most drawdowns go too far. Often, enemies see the possibility for them to advance due to a recent drawdown, especially during the early period of a new war.

Constant Vigilance Against Enemies is Always Vital

This invasion was also an important lesson to intelligence professionals, especially in the military. They must always be energetic and alert for the next December 7 or June 25. Being in the military is not an easy profession. No one hears about the minor successes, but everyone knows mistakes can be costly.

South Korean Post-War Economy Recovers with US Support

U.S. troops have been in Korea since 1945, when they accepted the surrender of Japanese troops at the end of WWII. Many people wonder if remaining in Korea is worth it.

Seoul is a noteworthy story of economic recovery and success after a devastating war. It is an economic power and a member of a vibrant, international business community. The American military assisted in that growth by providing military protection and support. Early on, U.S. support fed a starving population in South Korea. Later, the U.S. helped South Korea to create a strong military for defending the country.

American military support, the Peace Corps and foreign aid all built Korea into a strong country that is now a world-recognized economic power. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranks South Korea as the 11th most powerful economy in the world.

The United States took over 200 years to get to our strong economic position. Korea did it in 60 years, going from abject poverty to economic strength with U.S. support.

Strategic Lessons to Be Learned From Korean War

We rarely talk about North Korea’s surprise attack at the start of the Korean War. But it is important to remember our failures and avoid repeating our mistakes. We should remember, that in an attack, the enemy has a vote in the outcome of a battle. Adequate battle preparation can be a decisive factor in combat and can defeat unexpected invasions.

About the Author

James Lint recently retired as the (GG-15) civilian director for intelligence and security, G2, U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command. He is an adjunct professor at AMU. Additionally, James started the Lint Center for National Security Studies, a nonprofit charity that recently awarded the 40th scholarship for national security students and professionals. He has 38 years of experience in military intelligence within the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, contractor, and civil service. James was also elected as the 2015 national vice president for the Military Intelligence Corps Association. He has served in the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis and at the Department of Energy’s S&S Security Office. James had an active military career in the Marine Corps for seven years and also served 14 years in the Army. His military assignments include South Korea, Germany and Cuba in addition to numerous CONUS locations. James has authored a book published in 2013, “Leadership and Management Lessons Learned,” and a new book “8 Eyes on Korea, A Travel Perspective of Seoul, Korea.”

Potential Worst-Case Scenarios from North Korea’s Nuclear Threat

Published with Permission by:
Lint, James R., “Potential Worst-Case Scenarios from North Korea’s Nuclear Threat”, In Homeland Security, 06 Sept. 2017, Web, http://inhomelandsecurity.com/worst-case-scenarios-north-korea/

By James Lint
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Military University
Senior Editor for
 InCyberDefense and Contributor, In Homeland Security

There are many reasons to be worried about North Korea. It seems that we actually have not been concerned enough about this rogue nation for the past few decades. We kept our head in the sand and levied small economic sanctions on a country whose motto is “Juche,” the Korean term for self-reliance.

Most of North Korea believes Juche is a reason to make sacrifices during food shortages or to tolerate other economic problems. Others believe Juche is a tool of the leadership to suppress the population.

The Realities of Juche in North Korea

An NKNews.org article on a new book by B.R. Myers, a North Korean scholar at Dongseo University in South Korea, challenges the notion that Juche is the ruling ideology of Pyongyang or was ever central to the North Korean leadership’s policymaking.

Myers argues that “the West’s misunderstanding of Juche has been harmful to our interpretation of North Korean actions. Instead of viewing the DPRK as a state focused on unification of the Korean race, Westerners have interpreted North Korea as a failed communist state that desperately clings to self-reliance in an age of globalization. Myers sees this misunderstanding of Juche as not only harmful but dangerous, as it results in the West’s misguided hope for reform in the DPRK or a thaw in relations between the DPRK and the United States.”

With the help of a people who believe they should expect hardships and that Juche is honorable, it is easy to see how North Korea – often unable to feed its people without United Nations and South Korean food donations – can focus on an expensive weapons program. That cost is one-fifth to one-quarter of its gross domestic product (GDP), estimated at about $30 billion to $40 billion.

Imagine the chaos that would ensue if any Western democracy focused on a weapons system of that amount while not feeding its people. By comparison, the United States spends 3.5 percent of GDP on the military.

North Korea has a long history of generating funds through nuclear and missile proliferation. It has also used  global racketeering in counterfeit currency, narcotics and even counterfeit U.S. postage stamps to earn funds.

North Korea’s Possible Nuclear Threat Arises from Sale of Nuclear and Missile Technology

The number one threat from North Korea is NOT the use of nuclear weapons against the United States. Unlike the U.S., North Korea does not have a large stockpile of nuclear weapons. Pyongyang cannot last long launching its nukes because it takes much more time to resupply or construct new weapons than it does for North Korea to launch them. Obviously, the U.S. can outlast North Korea in any exchange of nuclear strikes.

The more probable threat will come from the sale of nuclear and missile technology abroad, which helps feed North Korea’s population. These sales generate income for a country that is under severe economic sanctions.

In a January 5, 2015, article in the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, journalist Claudia Rosett notes: “We do know that North Korea has a long and enterprising history of illicit activities, and has done plenty of business with countries that are becoming increasingly notorious for their cyber-warfare capabilities. These include China, Russia, and, most disturbingly, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism—Iran.” North Korea’s cyberattacks generate funds, as do most of Pyongyang’s illicit activities.

North Korea and Iran have openly signed agreements such as the Scientific Cooperation Agreement at meetings like a summit of the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in September 2012. North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) described this agreement as “covering cooperation in science, technology and education.”

“Indeed, the recent Scientific Cooperation Agreement between North Korea and Iran bears an alarming resemblance not only to North Korea’s 2002 nuclear deal with Syria, but to a 1993 missiles-for-nuclear-technology bargain between North Korea and Pakistan….”

There is no doubt that nuclear proliferation will continue to be a problem. North Korea has the technology in weapons, nuclear technology and missiles, as well as a long history of operating clandestine organizations to acquire funds.

WMDs: Everyone Forgets North Korea’s Chemical and Biologic Weapons

Kevin Loria, writing in the July 26, 2017, issue of Business Insider, reported, “It’s likely that North Korea has been developing such weapons since the 1960s, according to most experts. Defectors and South Korean reports have suggested that North Korean researchers have worked with biological agents the U.S. government considers serious threats, including plague, anthrax, viral hemorrhagic fevers and potentially smallpox.”

In a June 2017 report by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, North Korea expert Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. suggests that, “North Korea has deliberately built its NBC [nuclear, biological, chemical] infrastructures in extreme secrecy; undertaken camouflage, concealment and deception operations to mask the NBC infrastructure; made extensive use of legitimate defensive or civilian industrial and research infrastructures; and dispersed NBC facilities around the country.”

According to Kyle Mizokami, a journalist writing for The National Interest magazine, North Korea’s chemical weapons should be taken seriously. In an August 10, 2017, article, Mizokami writes, “North Korea’s chemical weapons threat is real and the likelihood of their use in wartime is high.”

Mizokami goes on to say, “Chemical weapons will be used to create a local, tactical advantage on the front lines and neutralize some advantages, such as air power. Thanks to North Korea’s prodigious missiles and artillery, they can be employed beyond the battlefield as well. North Korea will likely attack South Korea (ROK) through its depth with chemical weapons, from the Demilitarized Zone to Busan [current spelling of Pusan].”

The attacker always has the element of surprise. The United States, South Korea and Japan always say they will not attack first, but will only respond to North Korea aggression.

However, North Korea has the ability to hold Seoul’s 11 million people hostage. If the U.S. does anything, Pyongyang will use its 15,000 North Korean cannons and rocket launchers, which, according to David Wood in the Huffington Post “are aimed at the glass skyscrapers, traffic-choked highways and blocks of apartment buildings 35 miles away in Seoul ― and the U.S. military bases beyond.”

Only Solution to North Korea Might Be a Preemptive Strike

The only solution would be a quick attack with new weapons like the recent “Mother of All Bombs,” the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb that the U.S. dropped on an ISIS target in Afghanistan in April 2017. Another option would be other newly created weapons targeting the artillery weapons near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to break North Korea’s stranglehold over Seoul. Neutralizing that hostage threat before the North can fire is key to winning any battle with North Korea.

Giving North Korea the opportunity to decide when to start the next Korean War could result in a situation similar to the last Korean War. That would be a stalemate or a drive that pushes most of the Allied military forces into a small area in the south near Busan. No one wants that history repeated, especially the survivors of the last Korean War.

About the Author

James R. Lint recently retired as the (GG-15) civilian director for intelligence and security, G2, U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command. He is an adjunct professor at AMU. James has been involved in cyberespionage events from just after the turn of the century in Korea supporting 1st Signal Brigade to the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis as the first government cyber intelligence analyst. He has 38 years of experience in military intelligence with the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, government contracting and civil service.

Additionally, James started the Lint Center for National Security Studies, a nonprofit charity that recently awarded its 45th scholarship for national security students and professionals. James was also elected as the 2015 national vice president for the Military Intelligence Corps Association. He has also served in the Department of Energy’s S&S Security Office after his active military career in the Marine Corps for seven years and 14 years in the Army. His military assignments include South Korea, Germany and Cuba, in addition to numerous CONUS locations. In 2017, he was appointed to the position of Adjutant for The American Legion, China Post 1. James has authored a book published in 2013, “Leadership and Management Lessons Learned,” a book published in 2016 “8 Eyes on Korea, A Travel Perspective of Seoul, Korea,” and a new book in 2017 Secrets to Getting a Federal Government Job.”