Top MHI-NK Stories from around the web:
Nearly 3,800 S. Koreans died of old age last year without reuniting with families in the North (Yonhap News)
A total of 131,447 South Koreans, mostly old people, have registered as separated families, hoping to reunite with their North Korean kin since 1988, according to an online system jointly run by the unification ministry and Red Cross.The data showed 72,762 of them have passed away in the past 30 years as of 2018, including 3,795 who died in 2017.
Another 455 registered separated families died last month alone, leaving 58,685 survivors in the South as of the end of January. Nearly 65 percent of the living separated families in the North are aged 80 or higher, a number that highlights the urgency of reuniting the families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.
Despite a growing detente between the two Koreas following the North’s surprise participation in the on-going PyeongChang Olympics, they have not been able to agree on a family reunion event for the Lunar New Year holiday season. The two Koreas have hosted 21 rounds of family reunions since 1985, which enabled nearly 20,000 family members from the two sides to reunite for the first time since the Korean War. The Koreas had also arrange seven video reunions of separated families, but no such reunions have been held since October 2015.
All Eyes on North Korea (Foreign Policy)
Intelligence agencies are surging resources to focus on the Korean Peninsula. “As North Korean leader Kim Jong Un flaunts his nation’s strides in missile development, the U.S. government for the past six months has covertly begun laying the groundwork for possible cyberattacks on North Korea in countries including South Korea and Japan. This process involves installing fiber cables as bridges into the region and setting up remote bases and listening posts, where hackers may attempt to gain access to a North Korean internet that’s largely walled off from external connections.
Preparations for a cyberattack reflect a larger issue: America’s spies are pivoting the magnifying glass, funneling much of the weight of billions of dollars in technical infrastructure and trained professionals toward Pyongyang, current and former intelligence officials told Foreign Policy.
“The national technical focus is being switched,” one former intelligence official with knowledge of the developments told FP.
There are “wholesale” shifts worth billions of dollars redirecting signals intelligence, overhead imagery, geospatial intelligence, and other technical capabilities, toward Pyongyang.Regional analysts are also getting reassigned. “If you’re an Africa analyst, you’re fucked,” the former official said.
Southeast Asia shuns North Korea, but loopholes remain (Nikkei Asian Review)
The assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother in Malaysia a year ago has turned previously friendly Southeast Asian nations against the rogue state, though the region still provides loopholes that let Pyongyang evade international sanctions.
In a statement from a foreign ministers’ meeting on Feb. 6, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations reiterated its demand that North Korea “immediately and fully comply with its obligations under all relevant [United Nations] Security Council Resolutions.”
North Korea is said to resort to tanker-to-tanker exchanges of cargo in Southeast Asian seas to obtain goods banned under international sanctions. If the region becomes united in blocking Pyongyang’s effort, the country will suffer a major blow.
General: ‘100 percent confident’ in North Korea missile defense (The Hill)
The military official in charge of the command that defends the United States from missile threats says she’s “100 percent confident” in her ability to protect the country from a North Korean ballistic missile attack, while also calling for more improvements to U.S. missile defense.
“I want to assure this committee today that I am confident that I can defend the United States,” Gen. Lori Robinson told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.“While I’m confident that we can defeat this threat today, it is critical that we continue to improve the ballistic missile defense enterprise, with emphasis on the development of improved sensor networks combined with interceptor capability and capacity in reliability.”
Robinson noted that budget predictability is key to being able to continue to protect the nation.“To me predictability is everything. … Today I can defend the United States of America when it comes to ballistic missile defense … but we have to allow the services to be able to plan, because they’re the ones that provide us that readiness.”
The Trump administration is requesting $12.9 billion for missile defense in fiscal 2019, according to budget documents released Monday.
The Pyeongchang Olympics is North Korea’s winter offensive (American Enterprise Institute)
“By sending the South a high-level DPRK delegation…Pyongyang is gambling that it can mastermind a diplomatic process that will entice the Moon administration to break ranks on sanctions, punch a hole in the US-ROK alliance, and grant the DPRK the “breathing space” it sorely needs to complete its nuke-missile quest , the necessary precondition before moving on to the next and perhaps even more consequential level of its contest against America and the ROK.”
Just to be clear: these forensics do not mean that the Moon government is tethered to the youthful views of some of its key players; a person’s worldview can, and typically does, evolve and mature with age and experience. Furthermore, President Moon has thus far demonstrated considerable pragmatism and practicality in his handling to of international affairs: not the least of these accomplishments being the burnishing of the US-ROK alliance in the era of Donald Trump.
But this South Korean backstory helps explain why North Korean strategists may hope that they can tempt the current ROK government to stray away from the “maximum pressure” campaign, and manipulate it into helping enable the North’s own strategic objectives—just as North Korea attempted, with some success, to traduce two previous Presidencies in Seoul during the “Sunshine” era of 1998–2008.
The consequence Pyongyang assigns to its current winter offensive in the South is indicated by its provenance. The North’s proposal for participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics—and for North and South to strive anew “to improve relations between themselves and take measures for achieving a decisive breakthrough”—was issued not by some faceless spokesman for the Kim family regime. It was uttered by Dear Respected himself, and in his annual New Year address. In the North Korean system, no suggestion—or demand—can come with higher priority. Add to this the remarkable gesture of sending the Royal Sister to the South, with a personal letter of invitation from Kim Jong-un to President Moon for a summit in Pyongyang, and we can see the immense import the Kim family regime places on this initiative.