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16 May 2017


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Red Cloud

It's easy to say the North Koreans are acting irrationally while I sit on the other side of the world sipping tea. If I were them I would be building as many functional nuclear weapons as possible.


In the most stable state of the world, US and NoKo should have nothing to do with each other, as neither a friend nor an enemy, but complete strangers who have nothing with each other that can be turned into leverage for one side or the other. NoKo is not innocent: they have the attitude of a pirate or a bandit, turning any leverage they have to a source of blackmail. Giving in to their threats is pointless, for they will keep trying to extract more concessions. Beating them up will not change their habits. Destroying them runs the risk of escalation to a global nuclear war. We should just disengage from East Asia and leave it to the locals to sort things out.

Bill Herschel

The United States is signatory to the armistice that governs relations between the two Koreas. If we attack North Korea we break the armistice and the North will immediately attack the South. In other words, any military action at all by the United States against North Korea will be trigger the renewal of the Korean war. The air campaign that you envision will not be sufficient to prevent that, and, what is more, North Korea is fully prepared to respond to such an attack with an attack on the South.

The only thing that such an attack might succeed in accomplishing would be the preservation of the Trump Presidency: Wartime President. The Bush technique. Unfortunately, the number of American troops needed to fight that war would be considerable and victory would not be guaranteed, much less the cooperation of the other signatory to the armistice: China.

Such an attack would be foolhardy in the extreme.


One of the most fascinating since focused debates. I wondered if you showed up, especially about your response to PA.

There are two large and influential factions--misleading called "pro-reform" and "conservative" factions, but I think they are really just tribal factions like the Lebanese ones, even if not organized around "religion."

Could you explain, what's on your mind. Organized around politics?

What specific time in space and related history you have in mind here: "The Koreans are a deeply divided people aligned along 'tribal' lines".

Korea's post WWII history?


ah yes, perhaps you're right and people, from intelligence services included, all the time murder other people a lot. In writing that you're utterly missing the point I made.

The HOW and WHY is an interesting, essential point there. You choose to ignore that. So what about the HOW and WHY here? Well, let's get real for you:

If Un just had wanted his half brother Nam to die then he could just have sent some minions to kill, bomb, strangle or beat him to death. Arguably, in such ways Nam would end up just as dead as when poisoned with VX. But Un didn't order that.

Apparently, Nam's mere death was not seen as sufficient, and 'ordinary killing' would have had chances of failure: They could have missed him, miss him, mis-shoot, misplace a bomb or Nam could have survived or escaped.

So, instead of just having the man killed with simple and ordinary murder the NoKo's chose to rather train two murderesses to use a 'reliable approach':

Using two substance (binary?) VX (that would react on the victim's skin to the poison VX?). That created at least one certainty: Once poisoned there was very little that could have been done for Nam.

There's a lot of effort needed for that approach, much more training for the killers to survive their murder, and the poison. It certainly is much more training than what's needed for just shooting Nam or something like that.

Also, VX is a truly nasty stuff and the death you get from it is a truly nasty one. Just one drop can get you die, brutally (with strong cramps and pain), within few minutes. The murdering apparently achieved that. I read the last words of Nam was something like '... oh the pain'.

So, why all that effort? What was the purpose? IMO it went beyond just killing. IMO that final suffering was the part of the PURPOSE.

Nam shouldn't just die, he should die suffering, to make some point.

That is the point I made. It wasn't for Un it just about getting his half brother Nam killed. Killing was not the only point. No, Nam should die in a particularly reliable and brutal way, as I said, to make some point.

Perhaps, and here I am speculating, the idea was that Nam should serve as an example warning to NoKos and SoKos, or whoever else?

In any way the way chosen is peculiar, and the murder the way it was done, and why it was done, was the result of sick thinking at work. That is why I called it 'clear indications of a psychologically unstable mind in Un's rotten head'.



"people, from intelligence services included, all the time murder other people a lot" Do you have any evidence of that with regard to the US IC or have you just seen a lot of movies? pl


Hi LeaNder,

Tribalism in Korea is predominantly regional historically, with a transition towards somewhat of cultism around "personalities" that builds off of regional ties--in part because of population mobility in recent decades. In terms of the substantive "policy" they propose, the difference between the alleged right and left is fairly small. Most of the "big" differences are symbolic (i.e. how controversial past events are depicted in history textbooks) and they are often tied with roles played by controversial past leaders to whom many in the present are linked with.

The history of this goes back pretty far back: some claim that its roots can be found among tribal confederations of the era centuries before the common era. But the historical tribal confederations occupied the same river valleys that are separated by rugged mountain ranges that impede population movement--somewhat the same situation as I imagine places like Lebanon or parts of the Balkans. Add on to top of this fairly weak central government, and you have a recipe where most of the "real" politics revolve at the regional level, centered around localized power centers.

One difference is that local "warlords" and chieftains did not emerge in Korea the way they did in the Balkans or parts of the Middle East. Or, rather, they did, but were squished flat by an accident of history that temporarily gave the central government unusually powerful for a short period of time. During the Mongol era, being the "son-in-law country" meant that Korean kings could use Mongol troops to break the back of the feudal aristocracy--which took place in the 13th century. But, once the Mongol Empire collapsed, the regional tribalism reasserted itself, even if with a more diffuse distribution of power. And this, in a broad sense, continues even today. Supporters of one faction or another in Korea are no more or no less "democratic," as I see it, than supporters of Hizbullah or the Hariris in Lebanon, except the object of their loyalty, without the obvious warlords and chieftains, who the Korean Nasrallahs and Hariris may not be obvious--except in the North, where one warlord family has firmly become that focal point.


I don't think that is what cp wanted to suggest. Bandit maybe?

The scenario definitively was 'colorful', to say the least. Vaguely reminiscent of the London case David Habbakuk struggled with.

Bandid on the other case seems to assume that North Koreans cannot act outside their country. But can we be sure?


Thanks, I had two girlfriends one with a Korean background. On the surface their stories looked pretty similar, only the details were different. Both were meant to be married by their families and fled their countries.

Keith Harbaugh

Two comments:
First, WaPo has a recent survey of the NoKo/US relationship:
“Why does North Korea hate the United States?
Let’s go back to the Korean War.”

By Anna Fifield, 2017-05-17
Anybody care to comment on that?

Second, some thoughts of my own:
Are proposals for a "military solution",
involving some sort of U.S. strike against NoKo targets that could threaten the U.S.,
not failing to adequately address the next, political, consequences?
Suppose we do take out their nuclear capability and their missiles.
Does this not just lead to an enraged North Korean population
which will, for all time,
lust for vengeance against the power which so damaged them?
Is it not just sowing the seeds for permanent hostilities between those who identify with the current NoKo regime and the U.S.?
I think the answer to each of those questions is “Yes”.

I think the correct solution is to leave the Korean people
to settle their differences on their own.
The U.S. has no need, IMO, for a military presence on the Asian continent.
If Korea should turn out to be another Vietnam, going totally communist,
well, so what?
It's not up to us to determine their political and economic system.

For a similar proposal, see
“Why Is Kim Jong Un Our Problem?”
by Patrick Buchanan, 2017-04-03


I was being sarcastic. The reference to murdering happening all the time may be wrong (which would be ambarassing), or true (which would be saddening). I don't know.

To me it was about this: So Bandit told me that in the real world murder happens all the time, ever day, that Kim Jong Il is just one of many dudes in world at work, that life is like that and that I 'should get real' etc. pp.? Well, that's unconvinving to me.

Sadly, Bandit missed the WHY and HOW question totally, and was happy about it. Well, sadly the WHY and HOW question are the key, and are quite relevant to understand what happened.

I think that Bandit's reference to 'murder happens all the time' hardly can explain or to allow to understand what Kim Jong Il did to his half brother, HOW he had it done and WHY he had it done.

The murdering of Nam's wasn't 'just another murder'. The deed deserves a clear view at it, and that view to me suggests that it was something 'special'.

So, rather obviously, Kim Jong Il wanted Kim Jong Nam dead and had Kim Jong Nam getting murdered, in that peculiar way. Well, if he had just want him dead, he could have had it done in the 'old fashioned ways of murderous brutality'. But he didnt.

Instead he made a choice: It needed to be 'special'. But WHY? It was done for some reason in the chosen particular way. So, why VX and not just a shot, stab or bomb? Why the effort? Why so special? I write that because to me the HOW, and the likely reason, the WHY, are the point and key. It's what I tried to get at.

So Kim Jong Il must have had some reason. He didn't order the murder of of boredom or by accident. The relevant question is what WHY it was, and that would explain the odd choice made for the HOW.

My hunch tells me that Nam's death, beyond just killing Nam, was intended to serve as an example case and as a threat for Kim Jong Il opponents and/or neighbours.

This wasn't just 'yet another murder'. It was Kim Jong Il showing off with brutality, and showing off NoKo's long arm. As I wrote, that are to me 'clear indications of a psychologically unstable mind in Il's rotten head'.

For that, it is utterly irrelevant whether or if murder is common, or not, in todays bad world. But leaving it at 'this happens all the time' is self blinding. It means not seeing Kim Jong Il as what he is.



"The reference to murdering happening all the time may be wrong (which would be embarrassing), or true (which would be saddening). I don't know" If you don't know shut your mouth rather than accuse people of murder from the point of view of someone who knows nothing about this. pl


cp, to be honest: When I read your reference to the murder of his brother above, it triggered a vague whodunnit line of thought too.

But then I realized: Am I really interested in the Kim Jong's family matters, or the bios of either brother. Thus maybe your emphasis on this specific event led to Bandit's response somewhat.

In any case Kim Jung-un seems to suggest it was either the CIA or South Korea:


This is interesting:


In late September 2010, his younger half-brother Kim Jong-un was made heir-apparent.[28][29] Kim Jong-un was declared Supreme Leader of North Korea on 24 December 2011 after the death of Kim Jong-il. The two half-brothers never met, because of the ancient practice of raising potential successors separately.[30][31]

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