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China Backs New Sanctions on North Korea

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

China-US-North Korea: A US-China draft resolution to tighten sanctions against North Korea for its 12 February nuclear detonation would impose some of the toughest sanctions ever ordered by the United Nations, US Ambassador Susan Rice said on 5 March.


Six new provisions are intended to make it harder for North Korea to move money and supplies for nuclear and missile activity.

The new sanctions would target the "illicit" activities of North Korean diplomats and the country's banking relationships for the first time.

Existing sanctions authorize nations to inspect for nuclear or missile-related contraband cargos in transit. One new provision would require states to inspect cargos on their territory. Ships that refused inspection would be prohibited from entering any port. Landing rights for aircraft suspected of transporting banned cargo would also be denied.

The import of luxury items has been banned, but the new sanctions itemize them. Prohibited goods include yachts, jewelry, luxury automobiles and racing cars.

The resolution would also target North Korean diplomats who support nuclear and missile-related activities abroad. Nations would be called on to monitor North Korean diplomats on their territory and prevent them from acting as couriers carrying, literally, suitcases stuffed with cash both to and from North Korea.

Comment: The draft took three weeks to negotiate, according to Ambassador Rice. It was sent to other Security Council members Tuesday.

The new sanctions are important for their specificity and for Chinese support. Specificity makes it harder for North Korean sympathizers to avoid getting caught.

However, China's support is highly significant because all of the transit-related sanctions directly affect China's relations with North Korea. As long as China served as an outlet for North Korean trade and transit, the North could never be quarantined or embargoed. It is impossible to enforce an embargo against a country with land borders unless all its neighbors agree.

This is the first time China has agreed, even for a limited selection of goods. Chinese airports, airspace, rail roads, seaports and territorial waters are essential to North Korea's ability to import contraband and to export weapons. Flights to Iran, for example, always use Chinese airspace, and have often used Chinese airports for en route stops. The primary serviceable rail line from Pyongyang only goes to the border town of Dandong, China, where it links to the well-developed Chinese rail road system in the northeast.


Finally, North Korea has been using its diplomatic pouches to finance sanctioned activities for years and to supply luxury goods to the Kim family. Additionally, diplomats usually are required to finance their own diplomatic posts by whatever means they can contrive. This usually means some form of smuggling. This resolution is the first to attempt to disrupt these longstanding North Korean practices.

Chinese backing for this unprecedented set of sanctions is a measure of its displeasure with North Korea's nuclear and missile activities.

North Korea-US: On 5 March, Korean People's Army (KPA) General Kim Yo'ng-ch'o'l, who is the Director of the KPA General Reconnaissance Bureau read a the statement on behalf of the Korean People's Army Supreme Command. General Kim was not identified by name or position by the North Korean media

The Korean Central Broadcast Service (KCBS), the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Korean Central TV and the party daily Rodong Sinmun carried the statement. General Kim cites the start of US and South Korean military exercises as the impetus for the statement.

(Note: the General Reconnaissance Bureau is a component of the General Staff that performs strategic military intelligence and elite special forces missions against South Korea. It operates an English language school for North Korean spies.)

Excerpts follow:

"Final victory is for our army and people who have risen up to safeguard sovereignty. We will now carry a statement by a spokesperson for the Korean People's Army Supreme Command. In reality, the United States, the South Korean puppets, and all sorts of hostile forces' act of violating sovereignty is now spreading into a dangerous military provocation aimed at igniting the fuse of war. Concerning the menacing situation created, I am authorized to declare to the nation and the world the following important measures that the KPA Supreme Command will take:"

"First, the KPA Supreme Command, as we already declared, will successively take even more powerful and real second and third countermeasures against the high-handed hostile act of the United States and all other sorts of hostile forces. Our army and people never bluff…."


"The United States, the South Korean puppets, and all other hostile forces should not be heedless to this warning given by us. The groups of our forces on the front, ground and naval units, air and anti-air units, strategic rocket units, Worker-Peasant Red Guards, and Young Red Guards do not conceal the fact that they are already in the state of having launched an all-out war of confrontation according to the operations plan finally signed by our respected and beloved comrade supreme commander."

"Furthermore, as the US imperialists are falling upon us, wielding even nuclear weapons and as the puppets are even babbling about preemptive strikes, we, too, will carry out counterstrikes with our own style of diversified, precision nuclear strike means. They are bound to be fired when the button is pressed, and they are bound to spread into a sea of fire when they are fired. This land is neither the Balkan Peninsula nor Iraq and Libya. Unlike in the past, our army and people, too, are fully prepared with everything."

"Second, the KPA Supreme Command will completely scrap the Korean Armistice Agreement. The war exercise racket that the United States and the South Korean puppets are kicking up this time is also an intensive manifestation of the act of the systematic violation of the Korean Armistice Agreement. Accordingly, beginning from 11 March -- the day when the war exercises staged this time will enter into a full-dress stage, the KPA Supreme Command will completely and totally nullify the enforcement of the Korean Armistice Agreement that has existed at least for form's sake."

"Third, the KPA Supreme Command will completely stop the activities of the KPA P'anmunjo'm mission as well, which our army established and has operated as a negotiating body for the establishment of a peace regime on the Korean peninsula."

"In this regard, the KPA Supreme Command will simultaneously make a decision to cut off the DPRK-US military telephone line in P'anmunjo'm as well."


Comment: It is rare for a full general to serve as the spokesman for the Supreme Command. It is probably unprecedented for the military intelligence chief to deliver a statement.

The statement was written before the latest draft resolution surfaced. The impact of the new sanctions on strategic military programs would have compelled some mention. This statement is not a reaction to the UN. The references to South Korean preemptive strikes and to countries in which the US has conducted operations of interest to North Korea indicate this is an explanation of last month's threat of "an all-out war of confrontation."

The first important measure repeats earlier threats of second and third steps. They mean it and have shown they have the capability to conduct more missile launches and nuclear detonations.

The second important measure is new and in the style of the new leadership. It is crisp and unconditional. During Kim Chong-il's rule, the North withdrew from the UN armistice architecture and restructured/renamed its contingent at Panmunjom as the KPA presence at Panmunjom. The changes were juridical and mostly matters of form.

Kim Jong Un is scrapping the substance of the armistice architecture itself, apparently beginning next week, on the 11th. Again the language is unconditional.

The third important measures wraps the second in credibility because it is specific in identifying armistice mechanisms that will no longer be operational - the termination of meetings and the direct hotline which is often critical for crisis management.

A few other points are significant. The General Reconnaissance Bureau has the mission of studying US operations in areas of interest to North Korea. They include the Balkans, Iraq and Libya. North Korean security personnel have been in all three, but not in Afghanistan which is not mentioned.

After the first Gulf War -Operation Desert Storm - North Korea sent a large delegation to Baghdad to study US tactics. They provided security advice to the Serbs and to the Libyans under Qadhafi. General Kim can speak with authority and weight.


The idea of scrapping the armistice contains a double meaning. North Korea wants a final peace treaty. Under Kim Chong-il, the goal of a peace treaty was to undermine the justification for US forces in South Korea.

Under Kim Jong Un, the goal is to give the US no alternative but to negotiate directly with North Korea without using the UN mechanism or military channels, as well as to remove the justification for a US force presence.

Kim Chong-il denounced the armistice as outdated and irrelevant because it did not prevent incidents, but dared not scrap it unilaterally. Kim Jong Un has just done away with it. Mind, the armistice is military business in North Korea, not foreign ministry business, which explains why a General made the announcement.

Thus, this statement is not bombast, as some Western reporters described it. It portends a basic change in how the US must conduct business with North Korea, assuming the North terminates its activities at Panmunjom as threatened. The UN Command will have no negotiating partner. The North will have effectively driven a wedge between the US and South Korea on the issue of peace negotiations.

The absence of an armistice need not necessarily lead to a return to violent encounters and provocations, but it does make them more likely and difficult to manage. In the North's view, exchanges of fire along the Demilitarized Zone, naval actions along the Northern Limit Line, a surge in infiltration operations and even air incidents would serve to showcase the danger and make more urgent direct peace talks in Washington or Pyongyang.

Readers should expect shooting incidents this year to prove that the armistice no longer exists. Kim Jong Un does not seem reluctant to use force to make his points. The North Koreans ascribe to the genius of Kim Jong Un the plan the led to the sinking of the South Korean patrol ship Cheonan on 26 March 2010.

Readers also should expect an eruption of anti-Chinese, anti-UN and anti-US statements this week.


China-India: Chinese media reported that India and China have agreed to start a dialogue on Afghanistan. An "in-principle" agreement on official-level dialogue has been reached and dates for the first meeting are being worked out.

Earlier this week, Indian National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon travelled to Moscow for the first three-way dialogue between India, Russia and China on Afghanistan in an effort to build on common security concerns. At present, India has an institutionalized dialogue on Afghanistan only with the US.

Comment: The news commentary noted that China first offered India a wider dialogue on South Asia in general. India declined to hold talks about what it considers its sphere of influence with its primary competitor.

Afghanistan is different because India and China share an interest in preventing the return of the Taliban or another extremist Islamist regime. India was a primary backer of the Northern Alliance tribes that fought the Pashtun Taliban before the US intervention in late 2001.

As for China, Mullah Omar's Taliban regime allowed terrorism training for Uighur Islamic separatists from Xinjiang, China, and rejected Chinese inducements to terminate it. China is Pakistan's most important ally, but Pakistan also did nothing to stop the Uighur training by the very Taliban regime that Pakistan supported.

Syria: Syrian rebels claim to have captured most of Raqqa, a city in northeastern Syria, located on the upper reaches of the Euphrates River. The jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra reportedly led the fighting.

Comment: NightWatch has stressed that violent internal instability is centripetal, meaning it begins on the periphery and moves to the center of power. The significance of the seizure of Aleppo and Raqqa, if confirmed, is that both are on the northern periphery. The government forces have a hard time maintaining military power in these towns and the opposition supply system operating from Turkey is strongest.

Opposition consolidation of control in both towns would signify the start of a coherent rebellion and a civil war, along the lines of the Libya fight, that could move against Damascus. For that to happen, however, the region must be consolidated into a base that the opposition can defend. At this time, it is not clear that the opposition fighters can defend the towns against Asad's forces, especially the air force.


Venezuela: With the death of Hugo Chavez on 5 March, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro will assume power temporarily until Venezuelans vote for a new president in the next 30 days, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said on 5 March.

End of NightWatch ###

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