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May 20th, 2010

North Korea Threatens ‘All-Out War’

Denies South’s claim that the North torpedoed a warship

Image: Wreckage of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan
Soldiers stand guard near the wreckage of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan, which was sunk on March 26, 2010 near the maritime border with North Korea. (Photo credit: Lee Jae-won / Pool via AP)

By Jean H. Lee

May 20, 2010

SEOUL — North Korea, accused of waging the deadliest attack on the South Korean military since the Korean War, flatly denied sinking a warship Thursday and warned that retaliation would mean “all-out war.”

Evidence presented Thursday to prove North Korea fired a torpedo that sank a South Korean ship was fabricated by Seoul, North Korean naval spokesman Col. Pak In Ho told broadcaster APTN in an exclusive interview in Pyongyang.

He warned that any move to sanction or strike North Korea would be met with force.

“If (South Korea) tries to deal any retaliation or punishment, or if they try sanctions or a strike on us …. we will answer to this with all-out war,” he told APTN.

An international team of civilian and military investigators declared earlier in Seoul that a North Korean submarine fired a homing torpedo at the Cheonan on March 26, ripping the 1,200-ton ship in two.

Fifty-eight sailors were rescued, but 46 died — South Korea’s worst military disaster since a truce ended the three-year Korean War in 1953.

President Lee Myung-bak vowed to take “resolute countermeasures” and called an emergency security meeting for Friday.

The White House called the sinking an unacceptable “act of aggression” that violated international law and the 1953 truce. U.S. troops in and around South Korea remained on the same level of alert, said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. …

However, South Korea’s options for retaliation are limited.

The armistice prevents Seoul from waging a unilateral military attack, and South Korea would not risk any retaliation that could lead to war, said North Korea expert Yoo Ho-yeol at Korea University in Seoul.

“That could lead to a completely uncontrollable situation,” he said, noting that Seoul and its 10 million residents are within striking range of North Korea’s forward-deployed artillery. …

North denies claim

North Korea is accused of waging a slew of attacks on South Korea over the years, including the 1987 downing of a South Korean airliner that killed all 115 people on board. It has never owned up to the attacks, and Seoul has never retaliated militarily.

Since the signing of a nonaggression pact in 1991, clashes between the North and South have focused on the waters off their west coast.

North Korea disputes the maritime border drawn unilaterally by U.N. forces at the close of the Korean War, and the area where the Cheonan sank has been the site of several deadly naval clashes, most recently in November.

Pak, the North Korean naval official, said his country had no reason to sink the Cheonan. …

Investigators from the five-nation team said detailed scientific analysis of the wreckage, as well as fragments recovered from the waters where the Cheonan went down, point to North Korean involvement. …


Related post on this site

Kim Jong-Il Threat Assessment (May 31, 2009)


The Personality Profile
of North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il

Aubrey Immelman
Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics
December 2003

Slide presentation
Image: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il
The Life of Kim Jong Il
A pictorial look at the North Korean leader through the years


A remote psychological assessment of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il was conducted mining open-source data in the public domain. Information concerning Kim was collected from media reports and synthesized into a personality profile using the second edition of the Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria (MIDC), which yields 34 normal and maladaptive personality classifications congruent with Axis II of DSM-IV.

The personality profile yielded by the MIDC was analyzed on the basis of interpretive guidelines provided in the MIDC and Millon Index of Personality Styles manuals. Kim’s primary personality patterns were found to be Ambitious/self-serving (narcissistic) and Outgoing/gregarious (histrionic), with a secondary Dauntless/dissenting (antisocial) pattern. In addition, the personality profile contained subsidiary but relatively unremarkable Dominant/asserting (sadistic), Contentious/resolute (passive-aggressive), and Erratic/unstable (borderline) features.

The amalgam of Ambitious (narcissistic) and Outgoing (histrionic) patterns in Kim’s profile suggests the presence of a syndrome that Theodore Millon has labeled the “amorous narcissist” (relabeled hedonistic narcissist in the context of political leadership studies). These personalities have an indifferent conscience and aloofness to the truth, are facile in the ways of social seduction, feign an air of dignity and confidence, and are skilled in the art of deception.

Characteristically, these personalities fabricate stories to enhance their worth and leave behind a trail of broken promises and outrageous acts, including swindling, sexual indiscretions, pathological lying, and fraud. However, the hedonistic narcissist’s disregard for truth and talents for exploitation and deception are rarely hostile or malicious in intent; fundamentally, they are not malevolent. Having never learned to restrain their fantasies, and unconcerned with matters of social integrity, hedonistic narcissists maintain their beguiling ways through deception, fraud, lying, and by charming others through craft and wit. Instead of applying their talents toward the goals of tangible achievements and genuine relationships, they selfishly devote their energies to the construction of intricate lies, cleverly exploiting others and slyly extracting from them what they believe is their due.

In summary, Kim Jong-Il may be characterized as fraudulent, self-indulgent, and conflict averse — preferring guile, craft, and cunning rather than force or confrontation in extracting or extorting from others what he considers his due; he is not a “malignant narcissist.”

The major political implications of the study are the following: First, although North Korea’s military capability undeniably poses a legitimate threat to regional stability, any claim by Kim Jong-Il with regard to his military capabilities are not to be taken at face value, but should be called into question and verified; second, Kim is relatively conflict averse and unlikely to employ military force without provocation; and third, Kim is relatively open to influence by carefully crafted diplomatic and economic means subjectively perceived as bolstering his self-serving ambitions.


Notable development: North Korea ready to deal?


May 2009 update

My 2003 threat assessment should be read in the context of August 2008 reports that Kim Jong-Il had suffered a stroke.

Although I did not find Kim to be paranoid or delusional in my 2003 assessment, it is possible for stroke patients to undergo personality changes, including an increase in suspiciousness, or to develop psychiatric syndromes such as post-stroke depression or post-stroke dementia, which may impair the patient’s mental state and cognitive functioning.

Should that be the case with Kim Jong-Il, it may exacerbate a prior siege mentality, resulting in increasingly self-defeating, erratic behaviors patterns.

Despite remaining convinced that Kim is fundamentally risk-averse, I do have a heightened concern that a possible recent-onset organic brain syndrome could impair his insight, judgment, and decision-making capacity.

In the event Kim’s medical condition should color his pre-existing, premorbid personality with paranoid ideation or delusional thinking, he is likely to become increasingly mistrustful and vigilant; irritable and thin-skinned (hypersensitive to perceived slights and easily enraged by narcissistic injury); defiant, hostile, belligerent, and vengeful (determined to “balance the books” with respect to what he perceives as past wrongs); dichotomous ( “us versus them” social perception); insular (impervious to corrective action in response to sound advice and new information); self-righteous (arrogant and acting with a sense of entitlement); and self-justifying (viewing his own transgressions either as defensive necessity or as “payback” for the malevolence or wrongs of others).

Finally, no threat assessment would be complete without verifying who is currently “calling the shots” in North Korea, so to speak. Considering Kim’s recent medical history, it could be risky to respond to North Korean provocation under the assumption that Kim Jong-Il is fully in charge.


5/23/10 Update

U.S. Implicates North Korean Leader in Attack

By David E. Sanger

May 23, 2010


WASHINGTON — A new American intelligence analysis of a deadly torpedo attack on a South Korean warship concludes that Kim Jong-il, the ailing leader of North Korea, must have authorized the torpedo assault, according to senior American officials who cautioned that the assessment was based on their sense of the political dynamics there rather than hard evidence.

The officials said they were increasingly convinced that Mr. Kim ordered the sinking of the ship, the Cheonan, to help secure the succession of his youngest son.

“We can’t say it is established fact,” said one senior American official who was involved in the highly classified assessment, based on information collected by many of the country’s 16 intelligence agencies. “But there is very little doubt, based on what we know about the current state of the North Korean leadership and the military.” […]

Under the leading theory of the American intelligence agencies, Mr. Kim ordered the attack to re-establish both his control and his credentials after a debilitating stroke two years ago, and by extension reinforcing his right to name his son Kim Jong-un as his successor. […]

Although the American officials who spoke about the intelligence assessment would not reveal much about what led them to conclude that Mr. Kim was directly involved, one factor appeared to be intelligence that he appeared on April 25, the anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army, with a military unit that intelligence agencies believe to have been responsible for the attack.

Mr. Kim used the event to praise the group, Unit 586, the officials said, and around that time a fourth star appears to have been given to Gen. Kim Myong-guk, who officials believe may have played a crucial role in executing the attack. General Kim is believed to have been demoted to a three-star general last year, perhaps in response to the humiliation that took place after a North Korean ship ventured into South Korean waters. The North Korean ship was all but destroyed, and some analysts believe the attack on the Cheonan, which was in South Korean waters, was planned as retribution.

“Nobody is going to take overt credit for the sinking,” said Jonathan Pollack, a professor at the Naval War College and an expert on North Korea’s military. “But Kim’s visit to this unit has all the hallmarks of congratulating them for a job well done.” […]

Victor Cha, a North Korea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and a former official in the National Security Council during President George W. Bush’s second term in office, noted that when Mr. Kim was on the rise three decades ago, “there were similar incidents designed to build his credibility” as a leader. […]

Like the South Koreans, American officials fear that any military retaliation against the North could quickly escalate, leading to rocket attacks on Seoul, major casualties and a panic among investors in South Korea. At the same time, they worry that if North Korea gets through the episode without paying a price — one that American officials decline to define — it could embolden the North Korean military.

The North Korean defense commission, which rarely issues public statements, turned out a fiery-sounding warning last week, saying it would respond to any military retaliation with “all-out war.”


6/7/10 update

Kim Jong-il Consolidates Power

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (center) participates in the Supreme People’s Assembly at the Mansudae assembly hall in Pyongyang June 7, 2010, in this picture released by the North’s official news agency KCNA. (Photo credit: KCNA / Reuters)

By Jack Kim

June 7, 2010

SEOUL — North Korea named a brother-in-law of leader Kim Jong-il to a powerful military post on Monday and sacked its premier in moves seen as consolidating Kim’s grip on power and paving the way for his youngest son to succeed him.

Kim attended a rare session of the rubberstamp parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly, to personally name Jang Song-thaek as vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, the North’s KCNA news agency said.

The commission, headed by the “Dear Leader” himself, represents the pinnacle of power in the hermit state. …

Jang, who had once fallen out of Kim’s favor but has since returned to his inner circle, is the husband of the leader’s sister, and is viewed as the key figure for ensuring a smooth transfer of power from Kim to one of his sons.

“Jang would be the most trustworthy person to Kim who can establish the foundation for succession to Jong-un,” said Park Young-ho of the Korea Institute for National Analysis. …

The parliament also sacked the country’s premier, who is considered the top economic official, and replaced him with Choe Yong-rim, a member of the old guard and another confidant of Kim’s family who has been in key economic posts.

The dismissal of premier Kim Yong-il is likely linked to a currency revaluation late last year that, according to some media reports, incited widespread public discontent. …

Kim, who suffered a stroke in 2008, missed the previous session of the Supreme People’s Assembly in April, which amended the country’s constitution to strengthen his power. …


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — May 20, 2009

Bachmann Bats for End Times

Pastor Jan Markell of Olive Tree Ministries and Rep. Michele Bachmann

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that Rep. Michele Bachmann appeared on talk radio with end-times pastor Jan Markell to discuss the “Criminalization of Christianity,” where in the past she held forth on topics ranging from homosexuality to the Second Coming; but this time, her topic was the labeling of Christians as terrorists.

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