Monday, June 8, 2009

The Old Axis of Evil Awakens for Obama - North Korea

FD: It is Time for New, Bad-side of Obama to appear...
from The Wall Street Journal
North Korea's top court has convicted two U.S. journalists, and sentenced them to 12 years in labor prison, the country's state news agency reported.

The Central Court tried American TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee and confirmed their unspecified "grave crime" against the nation, and of illegally crossing into North Korea.

FD: I thought I would pick a different journalist each time to cover the news. Here is Richard Prince...

Choice of Venue Indicates There Will Be No Appeal
"Two U.S. journalists arrested near North Korea's border with China on accusations of illegal entry and "hostile acts" will be tried by Pyongyang in early June, state media said Thursday," Jae-Soon Chang reported for the Associated Press.

In custody in Pyongyang: Euna Lee, left, and Laura Ling"Laura Ling and Euna Lee, reporters for former Vice President Al Gore's San Francisco-based Current TV media venture, were detained March 17 while reporting on North Korean refugees living in China.

"A brief dispatch by Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency did not say what charges they will face June 4. But state media previously said they stand accused of illegal entry and unspecified 'hostile acts' — charges that could carry up to 10 years in prison.

"The detention of the two Americans comes at a time of mounting tensions between Pyongyang and Washington, and there are concerns the North could use the women as bargaining chips in an effort to position itself for talks with the Obama administration about its weapons programs.
"The women will be tried in North Korea's Central Court — the country's top court — the statement said, in a sign of the seriousness of the case and an indication the regime will not allow any appeal of the verdict.

"The Central Court normally deals with appeals but has the right to hear some 'special' cases first, said Seoul lawyer Han Myung-sub, an expert on North Korean law.

"The U.S. does not have diplomatic ties with the North and has relied on the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang to negotiate on its behalf. A Swedish envoy met with each journalist on March 30, but the North has since refused access to them, U.S. officials said.

"'I'm not aware of any kind of reasons that have been given to us as to why they're denying the consular access, which, of course, is contrary to the Vienna Convention,' State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters in Washington on Monday."


FD: Now for a seedy, trashy, yellow report from this...

which I found on the Internet under the title...

Excerpted from: ERRI DAILY INTELLIGENCE REPORT-ERRI Risk Assessment Services-Tuesday, June 30, 1998 Vol. 4 - 181

By Steve Macko, ERRI Crime Analyst
When police opened a shipment at Bangkok's airport earlier this year they found 2 1/2 tons of ephedrine, a key ingredient in the illegal drug methamphetamine. But it wasn't headed for one of the clandestine jungle labs that make narcotics for the Thai black market.
The destination was North Korea.
Thai officials diplomatically explain they seized the chemical, which came from India, because the shipping agent failed to register it as a controlled substance, although papers were otherwise in order. But other law enforcement officers applaud the seizure. They say the quantity would have lasted North Korea a year if used legitimately, to make nasal decongestants. But air freight, they note, is an expensive shipping option for a country that cannot even afford food.
Law enforcement officials believe the shipment was another piece of evidence showing that as North Korea's economy has gone from bad to worse, the hard-line communist state is becoming more deeply enmeshed in smuggling and drugs to pay its bills. In the past year, North Korean diplomats have been caught smuggling money, gold, narcotics, ivory and pirated CDs.
But analysts believe the shenanigans by diplomats are just the tip of the iceberg.
North Korea has long been considered a rogue state by many countries for its missile sales to unstable regions, efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and terrorism against its rival, South Korea. Now, experts say, organized crime is another North Korean interest.
Frank J. Cilluffo of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, said, "Unlike Latin America or Europe, where organized crime attempts to penetrate the state -- by bribery, influencing decisions, etcetera -- North Korea ... is penetrating organized crime."
Investigators say the closed society has opened itself in the 1990s to partnerships with criminal gangs, whose operations there are virtually untouchable. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one former law enforcement official said these include producing counterfeit cigarettes and offering safe harbor for hijacked ships.
The unnamed source said that a 1995 seizure by Taiwan police of 20 ship containers loaded with counterfeit cigarette packaging destined for North Korea proved its involvement with a Southeast Asian crime syndicate. One of the tobacco companies whose products were being counterfeited said the seized materials could have been used to make cigarettes with a retail value of US$1 billion.
The United Nations International Narcotics Control Board said in its latest report that it "has received disquieting reports on the drug control situation" in North Korea. In April 1997, police in Japan found 130 pounds of methamphetamine hidden in 12 cans of honey unloaded from a North Korean freighter. It was the biggest drug seizure ever in Japan.
Those charged included three trading company officials identified in the Japanese press as ethnic Korean businessman with ties to North Korea's government. Investigators believe one of them had been connected with the North Korean military since the early 1990s and had also smuggled weapons and amphetamines into Japan to sell to gangsters.
The amphetamine trafficking echoed earlier allegations of North Korean involvement in the production and trade of opium and its derivative, heroin.
Until recently, these charges came mostly from South Korea's government, which has a vested interest in discrediting its rival. Anecdotal evidence has been provided by defectors, usually sponsored by South Korea's intelligence agency, that North Korea has opium farms run with the aim of exporting for hard currency.

But one defector has pointed out that North Korea legitimately needs opium for medical uses because it cannot afford to import modern medicines.
Arnaud de Borchgrave, director of the Global Organized Crime Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Western intelligence agencies have confirmed North Korea has large-scale opium production for export.
De Borchgrave said, "Information was obtained by recon satellites, ground observation and defectors."
A private French organization, Geopolitical Drugs Watch, said some of North Korea's pharmaceutical production "seems to be diverted for sale to raise money for arms purchases."
Accounts of North Korean opium and heroin smuggling also have come from Russia, once the Pyongyang regime's communist ally. In late 1996, a senior Russian military intelligence official was quoted by the ITAR-Tass news agency as saying North Korea began smuggling illegal drugs in the 1970s.
The officer said North Korean timber workers in Russia's Far East are given drugs to smuggle for sale in Russia or transshipment to western Europe. The amount is a trickle compared to the flood of narcotics crossing Russia's southern frontier, but Moscow is still concerned. In one case, two captured smugglers were reported to be North Korean intelligence agents.

North Korea's trafficking in counterfeit dollars is well-established, because its diplomats have been caught with the goods. What remains open to debate is where the high-quality, fake $100 bills are printed. Conventional wisdom holds that the counterfeits are obtained from the Middle East -- as has been reported by ERRI in the past -- perhaps in exchange for weapons.

But defectors have said counterfeits are produced in North Korea. Investigators say evidence exists backing the reports, including a purported videotape of the printing plant. [didn't I hear this on NPR?]

North Korea's alleged crime involvement isn't limited to counterfeiting and drugs.
In Romania, customs officials stopped two North Korean diplomats on 27 March carrying 12,000 pirated CDs. It was the third time in recent months the Romanians had seized fake CDs from North Korean diplomats.
North Korea's most farcical criminal foul-up came in a country that rarely nabs wrongdoers -- Cambodia, where law enforcement is a mess after decades of civil war. In early 1996, Cambodian police and U.S. Secret Service agents were tipped that a man had 1,238 counterfeit $100 bills at his office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital. The tip came from his business partner, who had been arrested in Thailand for passing fake currency.
The suspect escaped the raid on his office, but he was traced a month later to the North Korean Embassy. One morning, as Cambodian and U.S. agents watched, an embassy car carrying a driver, two diplomats and the suspect left the compound and headed for the Vietnamese border.
Cambodian border guards, alerted to be on the lookout, stopped the car. A standoff ensued. The suspect refused to get out. The guards turned down offers of substantial bribes to let the car pass. A second North Korean diplomatic car arrived and further offers and threats were rebuffed.
When the Koreans threatened to ram through the gates, a gathering crowd of Cambodian and U.S. Embassy officials took cover as border guards readied their rifles and grenade launchers. The Koreans relented and drove back to Phnom Penh. There they turned the suspect over, who had to be dragged from the car. He was deported to Thailand, where his real identity was discovered. Authorities said the suspect was really an alleged Red Army Faction terrorist involved in hijacking a Japanese jetliner to North Korea in 1970. He remains on trial in Thailand on counterfeiting charges, which he denies, and is still wanted in Japan for hijacking.

The ERRI DAILY INTELLIGENCE REPORT is a subscription publication of the EmergencyNet NEWS Service, which is a part of the Chicago-based Emergency Response and Research Institute. This publication specializes in Security/Terrorism/ Intelligence/Military and National Security issues.

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