John Everard

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Amazingly, North Korea is making itself even less popular

Malaysia has announced that Kim Jong Nam was killed by VX -- a powerful nerve agent, a small drop of which can kill in minutes.

Despite North Korea's strong denial, it now seems almost certain that North Korea was indeed behind the killing. VX is very difficult to obtain -- but North Korea is known to manufacture it, according to organization Nuclear Threat Initiative.

This was a horrible thing to do -- and also very stupid.

It was stupid because, just as it seemed that nothing could make North Korea's international position any worse, Pyongyang may have found an action that did exactly that.…  Seguir leyendo »

The impeachment by the South Korean national assembly of President Park Geun-hye has not only sent shockwaves through Korea and its neighbors, but also caused great confusion. Nothing quite like this has ever happened in South Korea before.

The scandal that toppled her is the stuff of B-movie plots. President Park Geun-hye, daughter of the strongman who presided over much of South Korea's economic miracle, had formed a close bond with Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of one of Korea's most senior shamans The friendship began apparently at a moment of stress soon after Park's father's assassination in 1979.

Breaking many security rules, she shared state secrets with Choi, who seems to have had a hand in writing some of President Park's speeches.…  Seguir leyendo »

When Sony Pictures last week cancelled the Christmas launch of their film “The Interview” there were howls of anger and anguish around America. Many saw this as a craven collapse in the face of pressure from North Korea and an assault on American values. So it was no surprise that President Obama on Friday stated his view that Sony Pictures had made a mistake. Following the FBI's conclusion that North Korea was behind the hacks on Sony Pictures' networks it was no surprise either that he announced a “proportionate” response by the USA.

But the situation is now dangerous. This quarrel is no longer just between Sony Pictures and North Korea, but between the government of the United States of America – at the highest level – and North Korea.…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korea is an astonishing survival into the 21st century of 19th century traditions of oriental despotism. Just as the old kings of Korea were demigods, beyond mortal criticism and revered as infallible by their awed subjects, so the present-day rulers of North Korea are presented as geniuses who can make no mistakes. Moreover, in this tradition, the monarch personifies the nation – to mock Kim Jong-un is to mock the proud North Korean people.

So when Sony Pictures trailed their new comedy The Interview (see video below), in which two American journalists are asked by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-un, Pyongyang was bound to react with fury.…  Seguir leyendo »

East Asia is a global economic powerhouse, but its economic progress has not been mirrored by progress in relationships between the countries in the region. These are mired in ancient and modern rivalries that are sometimes made toxic by strident nationalisms.

The parallels with Europe a hundred years ago are uncomfortable. Worse, unlike most parts of the world, there is no adequate regional machinery in East Asia to promote the peaceful resolution of increasingly rancorous disputes between neighbours.

Two recent articles in The Daily Telegraph – one by the Chinese ambassador to the UK, and one by his Japanese colleague – set out opposing views of one of these disputes.…  Seguir leyendo »