Opinion | Where the Cold War Never Ended – By Ian Buruma – The New York Times

Japan and South Korea stir up an old, odd rivalry.


Mr. Buruma is a writer and a professor at Bard College.

CreditCreditOleksii Liskonih/iStock, via Getty Images Plus

“In a rational world, South Korea and Japan ought to be the best of friends. Their cultures and languages are closely linked. Their economies are deeply entangled. And as the only liberal democracies in East Asia (along with Taiwan), they have to contend with the threat of North Korean belligerence and Chinese domination.

But the world is not so rational, and so the two American allies have recently become engaged in a flaming economic row, ostensibly sparked by historical wrongs. Late last year, the South Korean Supreme Court ruled that Japanese companies should compensate Koreans who were forced to work in Japanese factories and mines during World War II. Assets of major Japanese companies, such as Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, have been seized in South Korea, and they could soon be sold. The Japanese government protested that this matter had already been resolved in 1965, when the two countries reached an agreement claiming to settle “completely and finally” all colonial-era claims in exchange for financial aid and loans from Japan worth $500 million.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan retaliated last month by slapping controls on vital exports to South Korea. He cited reasons of national security, but few believe that. Demonstrators in Seoul then protested against a Japanese “economic invasion,” and the South Korean government threatened to stop sharing military intelligence with Japan.

This latest spat follows many others to do with history: the alleged lack of sincerity in official Japanese apologies for having subjected Korea to brutal colonial rule between 1910 and 1945; fights over revisions to school textbooks that downplay Japan’s wartime aggression; the refusal of conservative Japanese governments to admit that Korean women were systematically recruited to serve as sex slaves of the Japanese Imperial Army.”

Madeleine Albright: How to Protect the World From North Korea – The New York Times

“Turning Point: North Korea tests advanced ballistic missile technology.

When the two met in the Oval Office soon after the 2016 election, Barack Obama reportedly told Donald Trump that the Democratic Republic of North Korea, or D.P.R.K., would be the most serious national security challenge he would face as president. After a year of provocative missile tests, fiery rhetoric and dangerous brinkmanship, Mr. Obama’s warning has proved prescient.”

via Madeleine Albright: How to Protect the World From North Korea – The New York Times

The World Once Laughed at North Korean Cyberpower. No More. – The New York Times

“When North Korean hackers tried to steal $1 billion from the New York Federal Reserve last year, only a spelling error stopped them. They were digitally looting an account of the Bangladesh Central Bank, when bankers grew suspicious about a withdrawal request that had misspelled “foundation” as “fandation.”

Even so, Kim Jong-un’s minions still got away with $81 million in that heist.Then only sheer luck enabled a 22-year-old British hacker to defuse the biggest North Korean cyberattack to date, a ransomware attack last May that failed to generate much cash but brought down hundreds of thousands of computers across dozens of countries — and briefly crippled Britain’s National Health Service.

Their track record is mixed, but North Korea’s army of more than 6,000 hackers is undeniably persistent, and undeniably improving, according to American and British security officials who have traced these attacks and others back to the North.Amid all the attention on Pyongyang’s progress in developing a nuclear weapon capable of striking the continental United States, the North Koreans have also quietly developed a cyberprogram that is stealing hundreds of millions of dollars and proving capable of unleashing global havoc.”

Scary. Here are three comments I endorsed.

Donald J. Bluff

BLUFF TOWER 6 hours ago

Every password-protected account (email, bank, retail, etc.) should send a text message to the account holder’s smartphone the instant someone logs into the account. It would not stop all hackers, but it would notify account holders if/when something is amiss.

Private companies that discover they have been hacked should be required to notify the FBI within 24 hours, or face a $1 million daily fine. The fine would be split with private whistleblowers, and announced in the press as a warning to customers. Government officials who fail to notify the FBI of a breach of their agency’s computers within 24 hours should be fired and lose their government pension.

Amateur hour for the internet has come to an end. The top infrastructure need of the USA is a secure internet backbone.

Hugh Massengill

Eugene Oregon 6 hours ago

If I wander over to my neighbor’s property and plant a surveillance camera, I have no right to complain if they do the same.
We murdered Iranian scientists who were working on peaceful nuclear devices, just so Israel could be the only power in the Middle East with hundreds of nuclear bombs aimed at its neighbors. Iran has every right to fear the US and to defend itself against its regional enemy, Israel. I have no link to Iran, but have a hunch that one day we will have a documentary series on our fight with them that rivals the latest Ken Burns series outlining the absolute stupidity of American leaders’ actions there.
All this is not done in my name. We now are at war with many countries, including Iran, Russia, and North Korea, and my representatives in Congress never got to vote on these attacks.
We created this horrid cyberwar nightmare, and one day we will reap its whirlwind.
America is as stupid today as it was when we thoughtlessly invaded Vietnam.
Hugh Massengill, Eugene Oregon

NYT Pick


is a trusted commenter Eastern Tn 6 hours ago

Cyber warfare is subtle and devastating.

It is far more likely to affect each one of us than any physical terrorist event. Yet we are still reactionary to such attacks, versus being pro-active to protect against them. I suppose this is an American trait with blinders on until something horrible happens.

NK is not the only country or even entity we should be concerned with either.

Inside North Korea- and Feeling the Drums of War – by NIcholas Kristof – NYT

Nicholas Kristof reports on his five days in North Korea.

“Ultimately, the best hope that is realistic may be a variant of what’s called a “freeze for a freeze,” with North Korea halting its nuclear and missile tests in exchange for a reduction in sanctions and in U.S.-South Korean military exercises — as an interim step, preserving the long-term goal of denuclearization. Unfortunately, both sides resist this approach; I was disappointed in the lack of North Korean interest.”


Tom Ray

St. Louis 3 hours ago

One has to wonder what Beijing’s leaders are thinking. A ticking time bomb on their border, and a bellicose president in the White House. “Minutes to go” seems an applicable phrase for all parties involved, and will China ever consider their client state/buffer not worth the price? It is especially dangerous for the region how the respective leaders of NK and this nation do not instill any impression of enlightened leadership. Minutes to go…brinksmanship on display.

In Reply to the above comment:

David Lindsay

Hamden, CT

What are the Chinese thinking, good question. My guess is that some of them are pleased that we are so preoccupied with the little dictator of North Korea, that we are distracted from our roles of world leadership, and the slow military take over by China of the South China Sea.

Here are the two leading comments to date, which I endorsed:


Upstate NY 3 hours ago

In six decades, I’ve never felt more helpless about the state of the world. We elected a president with the demeanor of a elementary school bully who appears to be eager to either push the red button or goad North Korea to do it first so he has an excuse to retaliate. I implore Republicans to do their patriotic duty and somehow remove Trump from the Oval office. I deplore everything Mike Pence stands for, but at a minimum, I believe he does not have the temperament to taunt both world leaders and his own cabinet. For Trump to deride our Secretary of State for attempting diplomatic talks is – in a legion of impulsive tweets – the most frightening act of recklessness yet.


Vermont 4 hours ago

A stunning article. Thank you, Mr. Kristof. As in most interpersonal relationships, the only thing we can control is ourselves. We must figure out how we can control our significantly flawed president, who has considerable power to defuse this situation, but who seems totally uninterested in doing so.

Snapshots Along the River Where China Meets North Korea – by Chris Buckley – NYT


“A narrow ribbon of river, and in many spots barbed wire, separates China from North Korea. But politically the two countries are further and further apart.”



DL:  Buckley takes a picture of North Korea from the Chinese side of the Yalu River, which is populated by modern looking high rise office and apartment buildings.

Trump should stop the tweets on Twitter, and go silent on North Korea. North Korea is China’s backyard, not ours, and China will stop the North Korean nuclear arms buildup, when they decide it is in their interest to do so.

China absolutely will not do so, if it makes them appear like they have been ordered or bullied by the United States.  If we said we supported a fully nuclear armed North Korea, the Chinese would be more likely to stop the North Koreans from improving their nuclear weapons.

North Korea’s Threat Pushes Japan to Reassess Its Might and Rights – by Motoko Rich – NYT

“TOKYO — When North Korea launched a missile that flew over Japan on Friday morning, prompting the authorities to broadcast an alert on cellphones and television, many people wondered: Why didn’t the Japanese military shoot it down?The government quickly judged that the missile was not targeting Japan, and it landed in the Pacific Ocean, about 1,370 miles east of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island.But officials in Japan who may have considered intercepting the missile faced two immediate constraints — the country’s missile defenses are limited, and the Constitution limits military action only to instances of self-defense.

Those same constraints have weighed heavily on the debate in recent weeks over how Japan should be responding to the North’s rapidly advancing nuclear program, including what role it should play as an American ally and to what extent it should upgrade its armed forces.Though Japan provided rear support for the United States during the Vietnam and Korean Wars, its alliance with America has never been tested as it would be in a conflict with North Korea.”

Excellent article. Here is a comment I enjoyed and endorse, because it acknowledges that we should look to the giant China to take care of their little neighbor North Korea.


La Jolla, CA 2 hours ago

“There are times to be a pacifist and times to take action. Note Albert Einstein’s change of heart as he watched the rise of Hitler. Perhaps the biggest mistake in history was allowing the Germans (Nazis) to rearm. However, this was complicated by the fact that a lot of war materiel production was done in secret underground, BUT NOT THE WARSHIPS!

As an old Vietnam War protestor, there is only one solution to this North Korean problem. The little Hitler/Stalin will not be giving up his nuclear capabilities or ambitions. Anyone who thinks so is remarkably naive.

The USA cannot do this preemptively because Seoul will get hammered with hardened artillery (and short range missiles). Therefore, only China can behead the regime. This should be straightforward. Amass about 200,000 troops on the border between China and NK. Tell NK, in particular the general staff, that they can either turn over the little punk to them and cooperate or they too will be removed. They will quickly turn on the punk. He will either have to go into exile (China can offer that to him) or the generals will have to kill him. China takes over NK. And, the whole thing can be done with an offer for the US to remove troops from SK. This is the only solution. Sanctions will not work against a megalomaniac like the little Hitler/Stalin. This just isn’t the same as Iran. He just won’t give up those nukes.”

An Incoherent Strategy on North Korea – The New York Times

“The North Korean nuclear threat is worsening by the day. Tougher economic sanctions have not accomplished much, if anything. Nor has President Trump’s bellicosity. Sunday’s nuclear test was the North’s most powerful blast in the 11 years it has been detonating nuclear weapons. There are signs of another test soon.

Mr. Trump’s approach has so far consisted of sanctions, pressure on China — North Korea’s chief ally — and taunts against the government in Pyongyang. These messages have not only produced zero positive results but they have also sowed confusion about his intentions. The president and his team seem unable or unwilling to put together a realistic and coherent strategy that goes beyond pressure tactics and harsh rhetoric to include a serious effort to engage the North Koreans.

There have been some inexplicable errors along the way. The latest was to pick a fight with South Korea, an ally whose cooperation is vital to resolving the North Korea crisis. At a moment when South Korea needs to be able to trust America’s commitments, Mr. Trump has unwisely hinted at abrogating an important bilateral trade deal, thus potentially ceding more economic ground to China, and accused its new president, Moon Jae-in, of “appeasement” toward North Korea. The South Koreans are so upset, there is talk among some of developing their own nuclear weapons, which would compound the present insanity.”

Get a grip Trump Administration, it is not our backyard. We need to quietly go about listening to China, Japan, and South Korea, and support them in managing the North Korean Government.

Here are too well recommended comments I endorse:

Bruce Rozenblit

is a trusted commenter Kansas City, MO 6 hours ago

There is no way North Korea will give up its development of nuclear weapons. Their dear leader cares nothing for his people. Millions live in squalor. He has prison camps like we have cities. All he cares about is the power of his regime.

KIm understands that the bomb gives his threats instant credibility. Don’t mess with me or else. He cares for nothing else.

China can’t stop him. They understand that. The only way to stop Kim is to get rid of Kim and China won’t do that.

I see three primary obstacles to a resolution. One is that we are operating in the dark. No one know for sure what Kim wants. We keep second guessing him. Maybe it’s time we asked him.

The second is that China views a unified Korea as a threat. A militarized, US ally at their border bothers them and bothers them a lot. If Korea was unified, we could withdraw our military presence. But unless unification takes place, we can’t. Stalemate results.

The third problem is our dear leader. Right in the middle of a crisis, he threatens South Korea with trade sanctions. This is beyond stupid. It shows that Trump is out of his mind. How is South Korea supposed to respond? They have a lunatic next door pointing atomic weapons at them and a lunatic for their protector. If anything would drive them to create their own bomb, that should do it.

NYT Pick


USA 6 hours ago

Nikki Haley is wrong. Vladimir Putin is right. Gulp! Kim isn’t “begging for war,” he’s insuring the security of his country. As Putin stated, North Koreans will “eat grass” before Kim will turn away from the path that will provide for his security. And Kim regards nuclear weapons his only guarantee of survival in the face of what he perceives as American hostility.

Also, while Kim might be a megalomaniac, he’s also human. And when any human, especially a paranoid one, feels threatened, they go into survival mode. That means fight or flight. Kim’s fighting back.

In addition, It’s important to keep in mind that one’s psychology, even Kim’s. is the basis for one’s behavior. And when an insecure autocrat like Kim is in survival mode the last thing they need to hear from the superpower they most fear, is threats of “fire and fury.” That’s only made Kim ramp up his efforts at being able to defend himself. He’s on a roll that nothing will stop, except war. And that would be too catastrophic to contemplate.

Thus, in my view, once Kim feels he and his country are safe and can protect itself, he will be more amenable to discussions regarding containment. I truly believe, that’s all we can reasonably expect.

Also, Kim’s not suicidal. He loves power too much for that. And he certainly isn’t a martyr. Thus, he’s smart enough to know that his country would be annihilated if he should use any weapons he already has or will ever get. And that’s the greatest deterrent.

North Korea Nuclear Test Puts Pressure on China and Undercuts Xi – Jane Perlez – NYT news

“BEIJING — It was supposed to be Xi Jinping’s moment to bask in global prestige, as the Chinese president hosted the leaders of some of the world’s most dynamic economies at a summit meeting just weeks before a Communist Party leadership conference.But just hours before Mr. Xi was set to address the carefully choreographed meeting on Sunday, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, detonated his sixth nuclear bomb.Mr. Kim has timed his nuclear tests and missile launches with exquisite precision, apparently trying to create maximum embarrassment for China. And on Sunday, a gathering in southeast China of leaders from Russia, Brazil, India and South Africa, members of the so-called BRICS group, was immediately overshadowed by news of the test, which shook dwellings in China and revived fears of nuclear contamination in the country’s northeast region.”

I really like this article, more than the other one in todays NYT, since it makes clear that the North Koreans, and the Chinese, are deeply involved in their relationship, and it has very little to do with us. I wonder at the claim that the North Koreans carefully try to always embarrass the Chinese premier as much as possible. First, I think that they just are going full steam ahead with their nuclear bomb development. Second, I do not yet understand it. They can never go too far in antagonizing the giant to their north and west, since the Chinese control 80% of their oil, and much of their fresh water.

Be Strategic- Not Impulsive- on North Korea – Thomas Friedman – NYT


“Bader, who has served multiple administrations in diplomatic and policy jobs related to China and is now a private consultant, begins by asking the best question any American strategist could ask when thinking about how to deter a nuclear-armed foe: What would George Kennan do?

Kennan was the architect of America’s successful containment of the Soviet Union, which had tens of thousands of nuclear missiles aimed at us for roughly half a century.

Kennan, argues Bader, would grasp that “while some situations may be unacceptable, they do not lend themselves to short-term fixes. The North Korean challenge is one of them.” ”

David Lindsay Hamden, CT Pending Approval at NYT comments.

Great column Thomas Friedman. I loved your proposal. “What should the American proposal say? It should tell the North Koreans, says Bader, that in return for their complete denuclearization and dismantling of their missile program, we would establish full…

View original post 213 more words

It’s Not Too Late on North Korea – by Susan Rice – NYT

“We carefully studied this contingency. “Preventive war” would result in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of casualties. Metropolitan Seoul’s 26 million people are only 35 miles from the border, within easy range of the North’s missiles and artillery. About 23,000 United States troops, plus their families, live between Seoul and the Demilitarized Zone; in total, at least 200,000 Americans reside in South Korea.

Japan, and almost 40,000 United States military personnel there, would also be in the cross hairs. The risk to American territory cannot be discounted, nor the prospect of China being drawn into a direct conflict with the United States. Then there would be the devastating impact of war on the global economy.”

“. . . By most assessments, Mr. Kim is vicious and impetuous, but not irrational. Thus, while we quietly continue to refine our military options, we can rely on traditional deterrence by making crystal clear that any use of nuclear weapons against the United States or its allies would result in annihilation of North Korea. Defense Secretary James Mattis struck this tone on Wednesday. The same red line must apply to any proof that North Korea has transferred nuclear weapons to another state or nonstate actor.

Second, to avoid blundering into a costly war, the United States needs to immediately halt the reckless rhetoric. John Kelly, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, must assert control over the White House, including his boss, and curb the Trump surrogates whipping up Cuban missile crisis fears.

Third, we must enhance our antimissile systems and other defenses, and those of our allies, which need our reassurances more than ever.”

I posted the following at the NYT:

David Lindsay

Hamden, CT Pending Approval

Excellent analysis and reporting by Susan Rice. I would add, I read a good idea by a commentator at the NYT who suggested, the US should woo North Korea into a de-escalation. We could, for example. offer to pull our military forces out of South Korea in exchange for their giving up their nuclear weapons program. It would be useful if talks could start, aimed at giving both countries what they want or need. I add to the commentators idea, it might be necessary to let the North Koreans keep the nuclear weapons that they have. This might be acceptable, if we could get them to allow verification that they stop all further development. I continue to be depressed by most of the discussion. It is arrogance for the US to think that it has to be in charge of North Korea, when they are China’s neighbor and vassal state. We should remind ourselves continually, that this part of the world is not our backyard, but China’s.

David Lindsay is about to publish his book, The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam.

via It’s Not Too Late on North Korea – The New York Times