Korea: Let's Make a Deal

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November12, 2006: Czech security service says they stopped three attempts, last year, by North Korean agents, to illegally export industrial equipment needed to produce nuclear weapons. The machine tools the North Koreans were attempting to get would be used to make the precision parts required for a smaller nuclear weapon to work reliably.

Over 9,000 North Koreans have managed to get to South Korea since the war ended in 1953. That number is expected to reach 10,000 by early 2007. Many more, perhaps several hundred thousand, have escaped into northern China in that time. Getting from China to South Korea is difficult, but more North Koreans are doing it.

November 11, 2006: The Indian Coast Guard detained an North Korean merchant ship that wandered in to Indian territorial waters after suffering engine problems. The ship was empty, and the crew said they were taking it to Iran on a shake-down cruise to, sort of, break it in. Indian officials were baffled by this, and let the ship go.

November 10, 2006: North Korean and American officials held meeting over what North Korea is most concerned about; money. The main reason North Korea fired off the ballistic missiles and set off a nuclear bomb, is because the U.S. has cut off North Korean access to the international banking system. This has made it more difficult for the North Koreans to distribute their counterfeit hundred dollar bills, and finance various other illegal activities. Since these operations are a major source of income for the North Korean leadership, there is intense interest in getting access restored. The U.S. will do that if North Korea stops the criminal activity, and halts missile and nuclear weapons research. North Korea wants some kind of compromise.

November 7, 2006: Iran, for the first time, openly admitted that it bought SCUD missiles from North Korea during the 1980s, but no longer needs North Korean missile technology. The latter claim seems unlikely, given the many similarities between current Iranian and North Korean missiles.

November 3, 2006: Although Japan has cut its trade with North Korea, from over a billion dollars a year, to less than $200 million, North Korea has been doing more business with South Korea and China, increasing annual trade to $4 billion (less than five percent what South Korea does). North Korea is letting more foreign businesses in, but this is only because a senior North Korean official will act as a sponsor, and protector, and run interference with a suffocating bureaucracy. The North Korean officials make this worth their while by taking most (over 50 percent) of the wages paid to the workers. This works for now, but the workers are not happy, and their foreign employers are becoming aware of this practice, as is the media back home.

 

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