The Bizarrely Mundane Reasons Why North Korea Stopped Testing Missiles

Alex Ward
                                        © KNS / KCNA / AFP 

Tensions between North Korea and the United States reached a boiling point this year, with President Donald Trump threatening to unleash “fire and fury” against Pyongyang, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un saying he would “surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire.”

But North Korea hasn’t launched a missile since September 15, when a projectile flew over Japan and landed harmlessly in the ocean. US Special Envoy for North Korea Joseph Yun speculated that a testing break this long could be a sign that Pyongyang was ready to start negotiations over its nuclear program.

a screen shot of Kim Jong-un                        © Provided by

The problem is that focusing on this relative period of calm shifts attention away from a more troubling possibility: that North Korea may be preparing to launch missiles in early 2018 during the Olympics in neighboring South Korea.

“There would be no better time for North Korea to test a more fearsome three-stage intercontinental ballistic missile, big hydrogen bomb, or even try to launch a cyberattack on the Olympics themselves,” Harry Kazianis, an Asia security expert at the Center for the National Interest, told me.

He noted that Kim might be holding on to his arsenal to make a splash during the two-week event that will take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea — only 60 miles from the Korean border.

                                © STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

But experts say there are also mundane reasons why North Korea isn’t launching right now: the weather in North Korea is hostile during the winter, which makes it harder to test missiles, and North Korean troops are too busy harvesting food to eat.

All of which means North Korea’s decision not to launch any missiles in recent weeks isn’t a sign of a sudden change of heart in Pyongyang. Instead, it could be sign that Kim is prepared to move closer to the brink of all-out confrontation with the US.

“This is all just the calm before the storm”

Many experts bluntly believe that the current lull likely won’t last.

“If North Korea follows the usual cycle, I’d expect testing to pick back up again next year,” Sheena Greitens, a North Korea expert at the University of Missouri, told me.

Here’s what she means by that: North Korea usually stops testing around September, as the Forbes chart below shows.

a screenshot of a computer                            © Provided by

But in February 2018, the world’s best athletes will be in Pyeongchang, South Korea. That may be too good an opportunity to showcase North Korean prowess for Kim to pass up.

“If I was a betting man I would tell anyone who watches North Korea for a living to make sure their calendar is open from February 5th to the 22nd,” Kazianis told me, referring the competition’s dates. “This is all just the calm before the storm.”

It’s worth noting that North Korea could still launch a missile this year. On November 20, President Donald Trump put North Korea back on the state sponsors of terrorism list — which slaps even more sanctions on the country — and Pyongyang may want to respond quickly and forcefully.

But if history is a guide, there are reasons to believe North Korea may not test a weapon again in 2017.

North Korea has other priorities right now

Missile launches require good weather. Even NASA delays rocket launches sometimes because of storms.

                                         © AFP PHOTO

That poses a problem for North Korea, which suffers from brutally cold and blustery winter weather. The country is sometimes called the “frozen land,” and the temperature can drop well below zero. Its capital city, Pyongyang, sees an average of 37 snowfall days per year. It’s therefore pretty hard to plan a missile launch when conditions are so poor.

At the same time, North Korea’s harvest season takes place during the last three months of the year. Instead of preparing missile launches, North Korean troops travel to rural areas to perform mundane agricultural chores, according to Jeffrey Lewis, an expert on North Korea’s missile program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies

And distributing harvested crops around the country doesn’t just require manpower, it also requires fuel — the same fuel Pyongyang would use to propel its missiles. But North Korea has a limited supply of it, and the amount is likely dwindling because of harsh sanctions slapped on it by the US, China, and Europe. So come winter time, Pyongyang prioritizes food transportation over missile launches.

Many of North Korea’s 25 million citizens are starving, and the poor weather conditions exacerbate that problem. North Koreansusually eat about 1,640 calories each day, while US health officials recommend consuming around 2,000 per day.

“Life is little more than a daily struggle to find enough food to stay alive,” Alf Evans, a British aid worker who spent time in rural North Korea, told the Telegraph in 2013. “Every scrap of earth that can be used to grow something is being used.”

There may also be a third reason for the lack ofrecentmissile tests: The North Korean military usually trains in the winter, Van Jackson, an Asia security expert at Victoria University of Wellington, told Bloomberg. Preparations for the exercises require resources like fuel and money, which means there are fewer of each to launch missiles. The drills usually begin in December and sometimes continue into April.

So all signs for now point to a quieter end of the year. That means it’s worth enjoying the break in the action — because it may soon get much worse.    (

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U.S. Will Defend Allies From North Korea With ‘Full Range Of Unmatched Military Capability’ – Donald Trump

President Donald Trump gestures during a joint press conference with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in at the presidential Blue House in Seoul© AFP President Donald Trump gestures during a joint press conference with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in at the presidential Blue House in Seoul  

Donald Trump has said the US will defend its allies against North Korea using the “full range of our unmatched military capabilities, if need be”.

The US President raised the spectre of nuclear war during a visit to Seoul, South Korea.

At a press conference alongside President Moon Jae-in, Mr Trump said Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes were threatening “millions” of people.

Trump wants £3m to ‘detect, defeat, and defend’ against North Korea

“It’s time to act with urgency and great determination,” he said.

While the US was trying to talk Kim Jong-un down from his nuclear ambitions using “all available tools short of military action”, Mr Trump said that “the US stands prepared to defend itself and its allies using the full range of our unmatched military capabilities, if need be”.

He made similar comments earlier in his tour of the Asia-Pacific region, when he told troops at Yokota air base near Tokyo: “Together with our allies, America’s warriors are prepared to defend our nation using the full range of our unmatched capabilities.”

Mr Moon said he and Mr Trump had finalised an earlier agreement to allow South Korea to possess more powerful missiles in the face of growing North Korean threats.

He said the two had agreed to lift the warhead payload limits on South Korean ballistic missiles and that the allies are also cooperating on strengthening South Korea’s defence capabilities through the acquisition or development of advanced weapons systems.      (The Independent)

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North Korea Nucleaar Tests ‘Leading To Deformed Babies, Turning Province Into Wasteland’

Samuel Osborne

 North Korea’s  nuclear test site has been turned into a wasteland where babies are born with defects, defectors have reported
Defectors from Kilju county, where the Punggye-ri underground nuclear test facility is located, have said 80 per cent of trees that are planted die and underground wells have run dry.

The witness accounts come from a group of 21 defectors who used to live in the region who were interviewed by the Research Association of Vision of North Korea, according to the South Korean Chosun

Ilbo newspaper.

a group of people posing for the camera                  © Provided by Independent Print Limited

One defector said people in the region are worried about contamination from radiation.

“I heard from a relative in Kilju that deformed babies were born in hospitals there,” another said.

Another former resident, referring to the regime’s most recent nuclear test, said: “I spoke on the phone with family members I left behind there and they told me that all of the underground wells dried up after the sixth nuclear test.”

The defectors, which include one person who claimed to have experienced two nuclear tests in October 2006 and May 2009, said locals were not warned in advance.

Kim Jong-un                   © Getty Kim Jong-un  

“Only family members of soldiers were evacuated to underground shafts,” they said. “Ordinary people were completely unaware of the tests.”

Other sources said residents from Kilju have been banned from making hospital appointments in the capital, Pyongyang, since the most recent nuclear test.

Officials are reportedly attempting to contain leaks from the area by arresting anyone caught bording trains from Kilju with samples of soil, water or leaves, and sending them to prison camps.   (The Independent)

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Meet The Millennial Women Behind North Korea’s Kim Jong Un |RN

Anna Fifield
a group of people standing in front of a building: An undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, in Pyongyang.© Uncredited/AP An undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, in Pyongyang.  

When Kim Jong Un visited the newly renovated Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory in North Korea this month, smiling broadly as he admired the lotions and potions and their fancy packaging, he was accompanied by two women. They were on the sidelines, but they were there.

One, in a stylish black suit with a floral pattern, a clutch purse under her arm, was Kim’s wife of seven years, Ri Sol Ju. She stood beside her husband as he checked on the production process, according to photos published Sunday.

The other, dressed in the functional black outfit of a Communist Party apparatchik and carrying a notebook, was his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong.

Kim Yo Jong

Each has a job to do in Kim Jong Un’s North Korea — one to be glamorous and aspirational, the other to represent the importance of hard work — and each offers clues about the running of the opaque regime.

“His wife enables Kim Jong Un to present a softer side of himself. They are a modern, young, virile couple on the go,” said Jung H. Pak, a former Korea analyst at the CIA who is now at the Brookings Institution. “This new generation of North Koreans growing up in a nuclear North Korea now associates being assertive with being glamorous. I think it inspires hope.”

Kim’s sister, who is about 30, is one of his closest aides. This month, he elevated her to the powerful political bureau of the ruling Workers’ Party, moving her closer to the center of the leadership.

“She’s supporting him. You know she’s not a leader in her own right,” Pak said.

Women soldiers march across Kim Il Sung Square during a military parade  © AP Women soldiers march across Kim Il Sung Square during a military parade

Women’s status in North Korea varies widely. Under communism, women are more integrated into the workforce than in neighboring South Korea. And it’s the women who are earning most of the money in North Korea these days.

While their husbands show up for duty at dilapidated state factories or farms to earn pitiful wages, married women go to the burgeoning markets to sell everything from homemade rice cakes to imported rice cookers, often making many times what their husbands earn.

But in other ways, the hierarchical Confucian ideals that have endured for centuries on the Korean Peninsula are still very much in place, with women viewed as second-class citizens whose primary purpose is to raise the next generation of soldiers.

The concept of motherhood is strong in North Korea, with the state often referred to in propaganda as the all-encompassing, caring “motherland.” Kim Jong Il, the second leader of North Korea and father of the current ruler, had a signature song called “No Motherland Without You.”

Almost all of the women who are elevated to senior positions in North Korea get there through family relations — such as Choe Son Hui, the regime’s top interlocutor with the United States. She’s the daughter of a former prime minister and is thought to have a direct line to Kim.

The most famous woman in North Korea is Kim Jong Suk, who was the wife of founding president Kim Il Sung and mother of Kim Jong Il. She is revered as an anti-imperialist fighter.

Kim Jong Il never appeared in public with any of his five consorts, but since his son became the country’s leader in 2011, the regime has started to idolize Ko Yong Hui, Kim Jong Il’s second wife and Kim Jong Un’s mother.

Kim Jong Il’s sister, Kim Kyong Hui, was also prominent in the Workers’ Party, serving in a raft of influential positions and previously occupying the Politburo seat that her niece, Kim Yo Jong, now holds. She and her husband groomed Kim Yo Jong for the role she would play, said Michael Madden, who writes the North Korea Leadership Watch website.

But she hasn’t been seen in public since Kim Jong Un had her husband — his uncle — executed in 2013 for apparently building up too much of his own power.

Kim Yo Jong first appeared in public at her father’s funeral, at the end of 2011, and is now clearly in charge of promoting her brother’s image, he said.

She runs the Workers’ Party propaganda and agitation department — a position that led the U.S. Treasury Department to sanction her by name this year — and has been seen organizing papers and logistics at several marquee events, including a military parade.

“Kim Yo Jong is always in the background, kind of lurking in behind her brother somewhere. She’s not important in her own right, but she’s part of this dynastic rule,” Brookings’ Pak said.

In North Korea, blood is definitely thicker than water. The Kim family has retained power for more than seven decades by relying on the loyalty of an inner circle and claiming a kind of heaven-ordained birthright.

North Korean men and women participate in a mass dance© AP North Korean men and women participate in a mass dance Kim’s wife comes from this inner circle of loyal cadres.

Ri, who is thought to be a few years younger than her 33-year-old husband, is from an elite family that has helped keep the Kims in power. Ri Pyong Chol, a former top air force general who is always at Kim’s side during missile launches, is either her grandfather or great-uncle, ­Madden said.

She is reported to have been a singer with the Unhasu Orchestra, part of the regime’s propaganda efforts, and to have traveled to South Korea in 2005 as a member of a cheering team at an athletic competition.

Kim and Ri Sol Ju are thought to have been set up by Kim’s aunt and now-executed uncle, and to have married in 2009 or 2010 with Kim Jong Il’s blessing. They are thought to have two or three children, although only one birth has been confirmed — by basketball player Dennis Rodman.

The former Chicago Bulls player held the baby, a girl called Ju Ae, during a visit to North Korea in 2013. “I held their baby Ju Ae and spoke with Ms. Ri, as well. He’s a good dad and has a beautiful family,” Rodman told reporters after the visit.

When Ri is seen in public, playing the role of devoted wife, she is often wearing chic Chanel-type suits and was once spotted with a Christian Dior purse — or at least a knockoff.

<p> North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has as been the source of much international scrutiny.</p><p> Lately, he's been in the news because of his regime's <a href=""> growing nuclear weapons capabilities</a> and the case of American student Otto Warmbier, <a href="">who died just days after he was released from a DPRK prison</a>.</p><p> Information about life inside "Hermit Kingdom" is somewhat scarce, as are details about the daily routine of the country's self-styled "Supreme Leader."</p><p> However, some information has slipped through.</p><p> In 2016, North Korea scored a 28.6 on the <a href="">Global Hunger Index</a>, meaning that the situation in the country is in "serious" trouble - an "extremely alarming" food situation would be denoted by a score of over 50. <a href=""> The World Food Programme has reported</a> that 70% of the country's 25.1 million population is "food insecure" and chronic malnutrition is endemic.</p><p> One thing is clear to see: Kim Jong Un's life of private islands, imported liquor, and wealth is worlds apart from the lives of the people he rules. </p>

In today’s North Korea, the Kim family is supposed to represent a new kind of socialist ideal: a modern country that has style and nuclear weapons.

But that ideal could pose problems for the regime.

“It raises expectations,” Pak said. “If you’re an ordinary North Korean and you’re constantly toiling but your expectations are not met, you can’t live this consumerist dream.”         (The Washington Post)

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US Preparing To Put Nuclear Bombers On 24-hour Ready Alert Amid Rising Tensions With North Korea

Chris kitching
a airplane that is flying in the air: Credits: PAP  © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: PAP

The US Air Force is preparing to put nuclear bombers back on 24-hour ready alert for the first time since the Cold War.

B-52 planes loaded with nuclear weapons would be positioned to take off at any moment, with crews on standby at a base in Louisiana.

The move comes amid rising tensions between the US and North Korea, with President Donald Trump saying that Washington is “prepared for anything” when it comes to Kim Jong-un’s regime.

There are fears that a new war could break out as the hermit state tries to develop a nuclear warhead capable of hitting the US mainland.

Gen David Goldfein, the US Air Force chief of staff, told Defense One that his branch was preparing to put the B-52 bombers back on 24-hour ready alert for the first time since the Cold War ended in 1991.

He downplayed any suggestion that it was due to any particular conflict, such as tensions with North Korea.

The general said: “This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared.

“I look at it more as not planning for any specific event, but more for the reality of the global situation we find ourselves in and how we ensure we’re prepared going forward.”

a large passenger jet flying through a blue sky: Credits: Daily Post Wales © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Daily Post Wales  

Gen Goldfein, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff which advises Trump, added that the alert order had not been given, but that the US Air Force was preparing for it.

Efforts are already underway to prepare Barksdale Air Force Base, outside Shreveport, Louisiana, for the new status, Defense One editor Marcus Weisgerber reported after touring the site.

They include a refurbished building to house more than 100 crew members.

Introduced in 1955, the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress was built to carry nuclear weapons and serve as a deterrent during the Cold War.

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: Credits: Getty Images North America© Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty Images North America  

The long-range strategic bomber can carry 70,000lbs of nuclear and conventional weapons, including bombs, smart weapons, mines and missiles.

With eight turbojet engines, it has a top speed of 650mph and a range of 8,800 miles.

It has been hailed by manufacturer Boeing as the “most combat capable bomber” in the US forces’ arsenal.

Meanwhile, North Korea has warned Trump that he is “taking the US into ruin” and “playing with fire” by moving combat assets to the region.

The president was called a “lunatic” and “hooligan” with “war fever” as a propaganda newspaper fired the latest salvo in the war of words between Pyongyang and Washington.

Kim Jong-un sitting at a table in front of a window: Credits: Reuters© Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Reuters  

The Pyongyang Times, a state-owned weekly newspaper, responded after the US moved the USS Ronald Reagan nuclear aircraft carrier and fighter jets to South Korea.

In an interview with Fox News, Trump boasted that the US is “prepared for anything” amid the North Korea nuclear crisis.

The president added: “We’ll see what happens. We are so prepared, like you wouldn’t believe.”

Amid calls for all sides to back down, ex-US President Jimmy Carter has said he would be willing to travel to North Korea on behalf of the Trump administration to help diffuse the situation.

Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2002, told the New York Times: “I would go, yes.” (Mirror)

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North Korea Could Collpase Within A Year, Says Pyongyang Official |RN

Tom Embury-Dennis


North Korea could collapse within a year due to US sanctions, a defector and former Pyongyang official has said.

Ri Jong-ho, who ran an international network of North Korean businesses which funnelled money into the hermit kingdom, said the country “desperately wants relations with the US”.

“The sanctions that the White House has imposed on North Korea are of a historic level,” Mr Ri told an Asia Society event in New York.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.                   © AP Photo North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“Never before has the country faced such tough sanctions. I don’t know if North Korea will survive a year with these sanctions. People will die,” he said.

Mr Ri believes North Korea’s increasing provocations and Kim Jong-un’s rhetoric are an attempt to force the US into a diplomatic dialogue which does not involve South Korea.

He added: “Right now the leadership of North Korea have deployed missiles aimed at the US and are doing these provocations, but they desperately want relations with the US.”

The former official also said North Korea and China were currently at “the very worst point of their relationship” following Mr Kim’s purge of officials close to Beijing and Chinese President Xi’s decision to visit Seoul before Pyongyang on his first trip to the Korean peninsula in 2014.

Mr Kim branded Mr Xi a “son of a b—-” during a subsequent meeting of high ranking officials, according to Mr Ri.

Mr Ri served as chief of the Korea Daehung Trading Corporation, which is managed by a clandestine organisation under direct control of the Kim family, according to the South China Morning Post.

He told The Washington Post he was in charge of North Korean tactics to circumvent UN sanctions, before defecting with his family in 2014.

North Korea remains one the world’s most secretive countries. Run by the third supreme leader in the Kim dynasty, Kim Jong-un, the country has a population of around 25 million, with one of the world’s largest standing military forces. Take a look at the nation’s military might in pictures.            (The Independent)

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War With North Korea ‘Dangerous, Short-Sighted’, Says Hillary Clinton |RN

Former US presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, on Wednesday, said “cavalier” threats to start war on the Korean peninsula were “dangerous and short-sighted”.
Clinton, however, urged the US to get all parties to the negotiation table.
Clinton also called on China to take a “more out-front role” in enforcing sanctions against North Korea aimed at curbing its missile and nuclear development.
“There is no need for us to be bellicose and aggressive over North Korea,” Clinton told the World Knowledge Forum in Seoul, stressing the need for more pressure on North Korea and diplomacy to bring Pyongyang to talks.
Tension between Pyongyang and Washington has soared following series of weapons tests by North Korea and a string of increasingly bellicose exchanges between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“Picking fights with Kim Jong Un puts a smile on his face,” Clinton said, without mentioning Trump by name.
Clinton also indirectly referred to Trump’s social media comments on North Korea, saying, “the insults on Twitter have benefited North Korea, I don’t think they’ve benefited the United States”.
The war of words has seen Trump call the North Korean leader “little rocket man” on a suicide mission, and vow to destroy the country if it threatens the US or its allies.
In turn, the North called Trump “mentally deranged” and a “mad dog”.
Talks between the adversaries have long been urged by China in particular, but Washington and its ally, Japan have been reluctant while Pyongyang continues to pursue a goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile to hit the U.S.

On Tuesday, Deputy Secretary of State, John J. Sullivan, said the U.S. did not rule out the eventual possibility of direct talks with North Korea.
The situation on the Korean peninsula was now touch-and-go point and a nuclear war may break out any moment”, North Korea’s Deputy UN Amb. Kim In Ryong had told a UN General Assembly committee, on Monday.
In Seoul, the vice foreign minister said South Korea was considering levying its own sanctions on the North, although no decision had yet been made. (NAN)

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