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Right Intention: North Korea Being Strangled

Monday, November 22, 2004

North Korea Being Strangled

Junkyard Blog describes a strategy of strangling North Korea.

Most North Korean weapons-narcotics contraband is exported in an aging but seaworthy fleet of merchant vessels flying the North Korean flag. Other ships sailing under flags of convenience are North Korean owned. Many of these ships transit Japan, particularly the port region of Osaka-Kobe. In this largely industrial region of western Japan resides a huge Korean-Japanese population. They are generational descendants of workers imported from Korea during the 1910-1945 colonial period. Many are part of the yakuza, or gangster element. The Kim Jong Il regime has deep ties within this criminal community.

For years North Korean shipping was given a pass by Japanese customs and port inspectors rather than upset the always delicate bilateral relationship. Since 9-11 Japan has actively supported American efforts to combat terrorism worldwide. A large part of this effort has been refocused attention on North Korean shipping. While not engaged in anything resembling a blockade, of course, Japanese inspectors are extremely concerned with safety violations on some of these ships, often requiring repairs and re-inspection that keep them tied to the wharfs for an extended time. Customs and narcotics investigators, meanwhile, sift through cargo to detect the narcotics and weaponry banned by international agreement.

Farther to the south US, Australian, Singaporean and Philippine naval and customs authorities are intercepting, boarding and on occasion seizing North Korean ships. One such freighter loaded with heroin was stopped en route to Sydney. Others have been nabbed by the highly professional Singaporean authorities. US Navy vessels, alerted by intelligence sources, possibly Japanese, not long ago intercepted a North Korean ship loaded with missiles that were listed under bills of lading for Yemen but were destined for Syria.

This quiet strategy is paying off. Even if some shipments slip through, as we realistically know that they must, more contraband is being taken out of circulation than ever before. This means less sorely needed foreign currency reaches the desperate North Korean regime, and the weaker it becomes. The strategy reminds of the anaconda, a snake that is mistakenly thought to kill its prey by crushing it. Rather the anaconda wraps tightly across the chest of the victim tightening its deadly coils to take up slack when the prey exhales. Eventually the prey suffocates. So too the Anaconda Strategy is slowly, inexorably tightening pressure across the most vital economic airway of the North Korean regime. It is too soon to predict accurately demise of the loathsome Kim Jong Il regime but it is reassuring that proper steps are underway to make that happen.

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