The Rendon Group Snapshot Report – 14 March 2016

by TRG Alerts Admin on March 21, 2016

The Rendon Group


Each week The Rendon Group’s media analysts will focus on a different continent and a different issue affecting that continent. As always, we remain available to answer any questions you may have and to provide additional information upon request. For more information regarding The Rendon Group’s products and services, please contact us at or +1-202-745-4900.

New Sanctions Against North Korea After Nuclear Tests

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets scientists and technicians doing research in nuclear weapons in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency, in Pyongyang on March 9. (Newsweek)

This week’s snapshot focuses on the escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula. After the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea conducted unannounced nuclear tests on 06JAN, the United Nations placed sanctions on North Korea on 02MAR. While China warned against sanctions, the nation is also considering new laws that would block North Korean ships docked in China from returning. China is also pursuing plans for peace talks between North Korea and United States. The United States has dismissed any plans for talks that would legitimize the North Korean government. North Korean officials have responded by upping their rhetoric, including threatening to launch a hydrogen bomb at the United States.

News summary of events during the week of 07MAR16 – 14MAR16

  • 07MAR: The Russian foreign ministry condemned North Korea’s threats to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes against South Korea and the United States as as “totally unacceptable”. (AFP)

  • 08MAR: China’s Foreign Minister said “blind faith” in sanctions and international pressure on North Korea is irresponsible. (Reuters)

  • 08MAR: South Korea unveiled a series of fresh unilateral sanctions against North Korea that includes asking citizens to boycott North Korean restaurants abroad. (AFP)

  • 08MAR: China could soon be blocking the return of North Korean ships in Chinese ports from returning to their country of origin. (UPI)

  • 08MAR: The European Union and Japan have recently drawn up a draft resolution on North Korea’s human rights abuses for submission later this month to a U.N. human rights panel. (Yonhap)

  • 08MAR: Government representatives from 14 South Korean agencies convened for an emergency meeting at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) in Seoul on Tuesday, after reports that dozens of officials’ phones had been hacked. (EFE)

  • 09MAR: The US says it has dispatched three B-2 stealth bombers on a training mission to the Asia-Pacific region amid growing tensions with North Korea. (AP)

  • 10MAR: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is “gravely concerned” about the situation on the Korean Peninsula. (AP)

  • 10MAR:  China called for an end to provocative words and acts in the Korean conflict and called “ on all parties to keep calm, exercise restraint and avoid provoking each other.” (EFE)

  • 11MAR: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi vowed to put forward specific plans in Beijing’s proposal for pursuing peace treaty talks with North Korea in tandem with denuclearization negotiations. (Yonhap)

  • 11MAR: The foreign ministers of China and Russia opposed the possible deployment of an advanced American THAAD missile-defense system in South Korea. (AP)

  • 12MAR: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watched a ballistic missile launch test and ordered the country to improve its nuclear attack capability by conducting more tests. (Reuters)

  • 12MAR: North Korea said its military is ready to pre-emptively attack and “liberate” the South if it saw signs that American and South Korean troops involved in the drills were attempting to invade the North. (AP)

  • 12MAR: A North Korean submarine of unkown class went missing, after it had been reportedly operating off the North Korean coast earlier in the week. (AFP)

  • 13MAR: North Korea claimed that it could wipe out Manhattan by sending a hydrogen bomb on a ballistic missile to the heart of New York, the latest in a string of brazen threats. (WP)

Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about new sanctions against North Korea

  • @annafifield – Anna Fifield, Tokyo bureau chief for the Washington Post, focusing on Japan and the Koreas.

  • @AlastairGale – Alastair Gale, WSJ Korea bureau chief.

  • @BonnieGlaser – Bonnie Glaser, enior Adviser for Asia, Director, China Power Project, CSIS. Studying Chinese foreign and security policies.

  • @pearswick – James Pearson, Reuters correspondent covering North and South Korea. Co-author: North Korea Confidential.

  • @ianbremmer – Ian Bremmer, political scientist, author, professor at NYU, columnist at TIME, President of the Eurasia Group

Sample of Third Party Validators regarding the new sanctions against North Korea

Karl Dewey, Proliferation expert, IHS Jane

“Thermonuclear weapons are multistage devices, and the need to place two separate parts — the primary and secondary — would give a more oblong-like structure. As such, the device on the table is unlikely to be a thermonuclear device. It could be a boosted bomb, but that is not a hydrogen bomb by definition.”

  • “North Korea claims to have nuclear warheads that can fit on missiles,” CNN, 10MAR16

Bonnie Glaser, Senior adviser for Asia, Center for Strategic and International Studies

“They don’t have a proven ICBM capability and a warhead that could survive re-entry as I understand it. So there are probably some technical difficulties there for hitting the United States. The point here is that with every test, the North Koreans are going to learn something and they’re going to make progress. And we probably should not underestimate their capability … if not today, then tomorrow.”

  • “North Korea claims to have nuclear warheads that can fit on missiles,” CNN, 10MAR16

Cheong Seong-chang, Senior analyst, Sejong Institute (Seoul)

“South Korea and the surrounding nations are imposing the highest pressure on North Korea at the moment. Even China has stepped up its level of sanctions against North Korea compared to the past.”

  • “North Korea’s making a lot of threats these days. How worried should we be?” Washington Post, 11MAR2016

Koh Yoo-hwan, Professor of North Korean Studies and director of the Institute of North Korea, Dongkuk University (Seoul)

“We have dismissed North Korea’s ‘bluffing’ about being able to make highly enriched uranium in the past, but it turned out to be true, so North Korea’s nuclear capability should not be underestimated.”

  • “North Korea’s making a lot of threats these days. How worried should we be?” Washington Post, 11MAR2016

Jeffrey Lewis, Director, East Asia nonproliferation program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
“It does not look like US devices, to be sure, but it is hard to know if aspects of the model are truly implausible or simply that North Korean nuclear weapons look different than their Soviet and American cousins. The size, however, is consistent with my expectations for North Korea.”

  • “North Korea claims it could wipe out Manhattan with a hydrogen bomb,” Washington Post, 13MAR16

Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to the new sanctions against North Korea

1. North Korea fires missiles, to ‘liquidate’ South Korean assets

Media: Reuters

Byline: Jack Kim and Ju-min Park

Date: 10 March 2016

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea on Thursday in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, as South Korean and U.S. forces conducted massive war games.

The North also announced it had scrapped all agreements with the South on commercial exchange projects and would “liquidate” South Korean assets left behind in its territory.

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2. North Korea submarine ‘missing’ as US-South Korea drills continue

Media: BBC

Byline: N/A

Date: 12 March 2016

A North Korean submarine is missing and presumed sunk, according to reports in the US media.

The vessel was operating off the North Korean coast for several days when it disappeared, a paper with close links to the US military says.

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3. N. Korea threatens nuclear strikes over South-US military drills

Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Byline: N/A

Date: 13 March 2016

North Korea threatened pre-emptive and “indiscriminate” nuclear strikes against South Korea and the United States on Monday, as the two allies kicked off their annual, large-scale military exercises.

The drills always raise tensions on the divided Korean peninsula and the situation is particularly volatile this year, given the North’s recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch and its fury over tough UN sanctions imposed in response.

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4. Seoul: NKorea fires short-range missiles amid war games

Media: Associated Press

Byline: Foster Klug

Date: 09 March 2016

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea on Thursday, South Korea’s military said, a likely show of anger at continuing springtime war games by rivals Washington and Seoul and another ratcheting up of hostility on the already anxious Korean Peninsula.

The South Korean Defense Ministry says the missiles were fired from North Hwanghae Province, flew about 500 kilometers (310 miles) and fell into the water off the country’s east coast.

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5. Talk of ‘beheading’ strike option heightens Koreas tension

Media: Associated Press


Date: 08 March 2016

TOKYO (AP) — Massive joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises are a spring ritual on the Korean Peninsula guaranteed to draw a lot of threat-laced venom from Pyongyang. This time, not only are the war games the biggest ever, but the troops now massed south of the Demilitarized Zone have reportedly incorporated a new hypothetical into their training: a “beheading mission” against Kim Jong Un himself.

It’s the kind of option military planners tend to consider but almost never use. Neither the U.S. military nor South Korea’s defense ministry has actually said it is part of the Key Resolve-Foal Eagle exercises that began this week and will go on for about two months.

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