North Korea Is No Rogue Nation

Yes, it’s serious. Damn serious. Not just because a hostile country ruled by an unstable dictator either has, or is on the verge of having, ICBMs and nuclear warheads. But also because North Korea is just one of many tyrannies preparing to do mean things to the United States. And our friends.

Mr. Kim is backing away from the threat to bomb Guam, which gives us a breather to ask some basic questions and craft a winning strategy. Alas, we have neither reliable answers to the basic questions, nor anything approaching a winning strategy.

First up: how did the NORKs get the missiles that now threaten us? The New York Times calls it a mystery:

 ... the mystery of how North Korea began succeeding so suddenly after a string of fiery missile failures, some of which may have been caused by American sabotage of its supply chains and cyberattacks on its launches. After those failures, the North changed designs and suppliers in the past two years, according to a new study by Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The Times’ reporters focus on a factory in Ukraine, implying the Russians are involved. Other stories say no, the NORKs are good enough to have done it by themselves.

Let’s color it mysterious.

Next up: anyone else involved? Well there’s always Iran, which has worked closely with North Korea for years. There was a NORK official, maybe the #2 rogue of Pyongyang, at Rouhani’s presidential confirmation ceremony, and he stayed for ten days. Plenty of time to discuss nuclear matters.

As luck would have it, while the party was on in Tehran, the Germans (!) blew the lid on a secret Russian/Iranian smuggling operation running from Iran to Russia via Syria The story appeared in Die Welt. The Germans thought it was a big deal, threatening the nuclear deal and also Germany’s substantial trade with the Iranians:

Russia and Iran are violating the UN Resolution 2231 that prohibits the delivery of heavy and offensive weapon systems. This was revealed by the Welt am Sonntag, citing Western intelligence agencies. In June, aircrafts flew twice from Iran to Khmeimim airport, the most important Russian military base in Syria, in order to bring military supplies that were destined for further transport to Russia — the reports says. The military equipment was then carried on trucks to the Mediterranean port of Tarsus, and loaded on board the Russian ship Sparta III. After couple of days, the ship sailed to Russian port of Novorossyisk on the Black Sea.

The resolution [passed in] June 15, which replaced existing sanctions and resolutions [against Tehran] as part of the framework of the Nuclear Deal with Iran, obliges [UN] member states to disclose certain weapon deals with Iran to the Security Council till 2023. Thus “supply, sale or transfer [of] … all type of battle tanks, high calibre artillery, fighter planes, attack helicopters, war ships, rockets or rocket systems” require an approval of the UN. This ban also covers the “manufacture or maintenance” of these weapon types.