A few links covering developments across Japan and the Korean peninsula before the weekend:
38 North’s satellite imagery expert and North Korea watcher Nick Hansen has a new report out that purportedly identifies facilities to manufacture reactor fuel at the Yongbyon nuclear complex. Head on over to read the full report which includes snippets of satellite images substantiating the claims. The report claims that “satellite imagery has identified facilities at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center that may produce fuel for North Korea’s recently restarted 5 MW plutonium production reactor and the Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR) still under construction.” Hansen’s report comes on the heels of a previous examination of the state of missile launch facilities at the Tonghae launch site (also known as a Musudan-ri). These signs taken together confirm that Kim Jong-un shows no signs of giving up or slowing down North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Japan and the United States resolved a major issue today when Okinawa’s newly elected governor Hirokazu Nakaima gave his approval to move a controversial U.S. Marine base to a new location, away from major population centers. According to the New York Times, the United States is amenable to the new arrangement, with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel noting “that the realignment ‘will reduce our footprint in the most populated part of Okinawa,’ even as it allows for ‘sustaining U.S. military capabilities vital to the peace and security of the region.’”
Erstwhile NBA Star and now a sort of U.S. unofficial special representative to North Korea, Dennis Rodman, did not meet Kim Jong-un during his latest visit to the Hermit Kingdom. He does expect to return for Kim’s birthday celebrations.
Kim Jong-un may have demonstrated the extent of his power consolidation by executing his uncle, but an ancillary objective was to elevate his personality cult to the level enjoyed by his father and grandfather. In a sign that he may have succeeded, DailyNK cites reports that following Jang’s execution regular North Korea civilians have taken to writing “letters of devotion” to Kim. Additionally, a report by DailyNK cites a regime press conference with re-defectors (a rare genre of North Korean who defected to South Korea and back) who praise Kim and the regime. One re-defector notes: “I was treated as subhuman from the moment I arrived in South Chosun. [South Korea] is a heartless society.”
Bitcoin watchers should note that South Korea’s central bank issued a cautionary signal that it might not accept the currency as a valid means of exchange in the long-term. Yonhap covers the BOK report, noting that “While Bitcoin is seen as having merits in terms of efficiency and convenience in payment and settlement, it is very unclear that it could develop into a formal tool of payment, the report said, adding the government needs to draw up regulations on Bitcoin as transactions of the money can be exposed to risks of hacking attacks and money laundering.”