Don’t Be Fooled: North Korea Is Getting Ready To Provoke

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Zachary Zeck via The Diplomat,

North Korea appears to be laying the groundwork to begin a new round of provocations, which could very well take the form of a missile and/or nuclear test.

Despite its deliberate (and successful, in the U.S. at least) attempts to portray itself as an irrational actor, North Korea’s provocations usually follow a well-worn playbook. This begins with North Korea mounting a charm offensive that is aimed primarily at South Korean audiences. The purpose of this charm offensive is to create hope that Pyongyang could be turning over a new leaf. Amid this charm offensive, North Korea quietly demands that South Korea and/or the United States do something that Pyongyang knows full well they won’t do. When they predictably fail to meet the demand, Pyongyang insists that it is being provoked, and uses this supposed provocation to justify its brazen actions. This allows North Korea to blame its own actions on South Korea and the U.S., which can be convincing to some audiences in China, South Korea, and even the West.

North Korea has carefully put all these pieces into place over the past few weeks.

First, it has launched a huge charm offensive containing more carrots than usual. For example, it has agreed to hold the first family reunions in years between Koreans living on opposite sides of the 38th Parallel. The reunions are scheduled to occur for five days starting on February 20. Important constituent groups in South Korea place a great deal of importance on these reunions, and would be extremely disappointed if they were called off.

Secondly, earlier this month an inter-Korean committee discussing the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) reached an agreement to allow some internet connectivity in the business park in North Korea. It will be the first time any internet has been allowed at KIC in a decade. In announcing the agreement, a Ministry of Unification spokesperson said, “Officials and employees in the North’s border city will be able to use most of the online services now available in South Korea.” The prospect of having the internet at KIC is attractive to the many South Korean businesses that operate there, as well as to those hoping that North Korea will gradually open up to the outside world.

Thirdly, as my colleague Ankit reported, North and South Korean officials held two rounds of talks at the border town of Panmunjom on Wednesday. The talks were held at North Korea’s request. South Korean officials said they were “pleasantly surprised” (in the words of the BBC) to receive the North’s invitation. South Korea’s delegation was led by Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Kyou-hyun, making these the most senior-level talks the two Koreas have held since 2007. Before the meeting began, NSA Kim declared, “This is an opportunity to open a new era of the Korean peninsula. I would like to attend the meeting with ‘open attitude and mind’ to study the opportunity.”

There have also been some less noticed overtures made to Japan and the United States. For example, Kyodo News Agency has reported that Japan and North Korea held talks last month in Vietnam. Tokyo immediately denied the reports, with a Shinzo Abe spokesperson saying that Japan cut off official talks with North Korea after it launched a missile over Japan in 2012. That being said, last May North Korea’s state media announced what was supposed to be a secret trip to Pyongyang by a close Shinzo Abe aide. There have also been reports that the same aide met with North Korean officials last October in northwest China. Thus, the Abe administration’s denial of the meeting in Vietnam last month cannot be taken at face value.

North Korea has been stingier toward the U.S. during this current charm offensive. That being said, it did raise expectations that it might be amenable to releasing the American-Korean prisoner Kenneth Bae, before once again shooting down that possibility. Moreover, Donald Gregg, the former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, is currently leading a delegation to North Korea for talks with government officials. Gregg’s trip came at the invitation of North Korea’s Foreign Ministry.

If all this seems too good to be true, that’s because it almost certainly is. Since at least as far back as the middle of January, North Korea has been quietly demanding that South Korea and the U.S. cancel their annual military exercise, Foal Eagle, which will begin on February 24 and run through April. This demand has grown progressively louder as the exercise’s start date nears, and North Korea has threatened to withdraw from the planned family reunions if the military exercise takes place.

As North Korea well knows, there is virtually no possibility that the U.S. and the ROK will agree to call off the exercise, which is precisely the reason it has made the demand. At most, the allies might agree to forgo some parts of the drill that the North sees as most provocative. Even then, they would only do so quietly with no formal announcement.

Pyongyang and Seoul plan to continue discussions ostensibly aimed at finding a compromise that allows for the family reunions to move forward. These are likely to be futile as North Korea almost certainly doesn’t want to find common ground, but rather wants to use the Foal Eagle exercise to blame Seoul for a breakdown in relations.

It’s possible that it may be content with stopping there. However, given how much effort it has put into the charm offensive in recent weeks, North Korea likely has a larger goal in mind. The best case scenario is that the charm offensive has been a ruse to woo China. Chinese-North Korean relations have continued to deteriorate in recent months, with some of the discord playing itself out in public. Beijing consistently urges all parties on the Peninsula to take measures that improve peace and stability, and North Korea may hope its charm offensive — along with blaming the breakdown on South Korea and the U.S. — will put it back in China’s good graces.

The more troubling scenario is that the charm offensive has been laying the groundwork for another round of provocations. If so, there have been a number of signs that suggest that it will take the form of a missile test, likely to be followed closely by the country’s fourth nuclear test. Last week Johns Hopkins University’s 38 North said satellite imagery showed that upgrades to a launching pad were nearing completion, and when finished would enable the site to launch larger rockets.

Then, on Monday, ROK Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin told the National Assembly that North Korea had finished preparations for a fourth nuclear test, while adding that there were no signs that one was imminent. Still, North Korea’s nuclear tests are almost always preceded by a missile test, which North Korea disingenuously portrays as part of a peaceful space program. It then uses the international community’s “hostile” response to its space exploration to justify a nuclear test.

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william114085's picture

why would this guy instigate anything? He has 2 options: live like a god or die within 5 minutes of starting any shit?  I'm expected to believe that he would choose option 2 ??  Smells like bullshit to me.   

kliguy38's picture

Knock it off with the logic..........the bankers and the MIC need some MOAR

Abi Normal's picture

Paging Denis Rodman to the red courtesy phone!  I guess they are queer for each other...who the FUCK cares about NK?  Do you?  He may just start WWIII, but who really cares, the ayatolla of rock en rolla, could do the same, but the liberal-tarians, think their JUST guys were blowing Putin a few months back too, weren't ya?  LOL...


At least we can all hate Obamao, and the congress and the fed...but that is where were divert...sad really!

A Nanny Moose's picture

KJU reminds me of the chubby kid we use to make fun of  in 5th grade.

Note to  bullying the son of the despot because he went to fat camp. You might become dog food

Skateboarder's picture

He is obsessed with Disney characters.

willwork4food's picture

How can an American travel freely to NK? Can I travel freely to IRAN-the current boogyman of the current admin? I think not.

GetZeeGold's picture



Please no......I can't take another crying attack.

Arius's picture

WORLD WAR I ... remember how it started?  it did not made sense to anybody except the newspapers ...many events follow the same script as Mr. Armstrong would explain it to you is directly related to 1+1 = 2, so everything according to the rules etc.


well, if i may ask why would you expect smt different?

weburke's picture

bingo, why maintain a maniacal sparta unless you plan to use them. I bet they get used to become a real problem for china as they roll across the border and move into those empty cities.

Seb's picture

You think that anyone can travel freely to USA?

Keyser's picture

Not sure where you've been, but the borders in the US are like an open sieve. 

unrulian's picture

by sieve you imply a slight restriction, i'd compare the ease of access of entry to a strippers vagina in Billy Ray Cyrus' remake of achy breaky heart

Lore's picture

How about lifting a finger to find out?

Iran wants American tourists, and a boomlet has begun (LA Times, 30-Dec-2013)

"The U.S. and Iran may have miles to go in their negotiations over curtailing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but the ease in hostility has already produced a boomlet in American travel to Iran.  Three U.S.-based tour operators say they’ve seen a surge of bookings and questions about Iran in recent months. They’ve also heard encouragement from Iranian government officials, who met in New York with several U.S. tour operators during Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to the city in September..."

The tone of US-Iran relations shifted notably in January, coinciding with a similar change in the pulse and direction of world markets.

Keyser's picture

Contrary to popular belief, traveling to Iran is not restricted for Americans. It may not be the brightest idea, but no one will stop you... 


Abi Normal's picture

Ya, go travel to Iran, they just LOVE Americans...especially when they have blindfolds over their eyes and hoods over their heads...

The Persian people, some like us, some don't....just like EVERYONE else!  Hell there are Americans on ZH who hate keep up the generalizations dolts, everything is black and white for you, in a world the shade of gray.

I shake my head in disbelief that so many on this board see no problems with Iran, or Putin for that matter, party on meds do ya?

dontknowcrapabouteconomy's picture

"Ya, go travel to Iran, they just LOVE Americans"

They actually do. Anything western is very popular, especially among the young. You are confusing government rhetoric with what Iranian people really want. One of the best examples is how profusely young Iranian men apologize to you if you catch them unshaven. The last thing they want to be mistaken for are the bearded religious lunatics, they despise them.

Oh, and if you ever want to go to a great rave party first choice would be Beirut, second would be Teheran.

Abi Normal's picture

LOL, see there ya go, black and white, that is all you guys know...but the world is a shade of gray!  Why don't you just move to either of those two places and see the real deal, instead of spouting what you read off the internet fella?

damn, you folks are nieve as hell...

Lore's picture

Fascinating, that you keep repeating a mantra that appears to fit yourself better than anyone. You completely missed the point of the other poster.  "YOU KNOW IT ALL."

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

Like Br'er Rabbit, sometimes  you just can't help but kick a tard baby.

When you juxtapose

Ya, go travel to Iran, they just LOVE Americans...especially when they have blindfolds over their eyes and hoods over their heads...


so keep up the generalizations dolts, everything is black and white for you, in a world the shade of gray

you're left with something more ironic than a ferrous wheel.

But hey, I guess I'm just being nieve [sic].

Abi Normal's picture

U stooge, taking me out of context is your way of funny or are you just a dumb ass, dont answer I know...I remember 444 days of capture, and they all cheered, wanted fuck you!

DutchR's picture

Just do, don't think.


I'ts funny how polite they are at the Iraian customs.


You will be followed, sometimes, but hey its like nsa 1.0, lol.

FMR Bankster's picture

Another way of saying "instigating things" is I want some more free sh*t from you guys. Why not stir the pot when every time you do it somebody gives you a bribe?

wee-weed up's picture

Yep, the Norks learned well from pulling the wool...

Over the eyes of the Clintons and their bitch, Madeline HalfBright.

SilverDOG's picture

Who cares....?

The IMF you dolt.

North Korea is the one of the TWO (2) countries in the world 


Iran is the other.

The previous ten were invaded, by UAssA over the last 13 yrs and banks moved right in.

Wake The F%$K UP.

Indentured worldwide slavery coming to the planet you are on.

Iam_Silverman's picture

"Indentured worldwide slavery coming to the planet you are on."

Yes, because the North Koreans certainly do enjoy their current "freedom".


The IMF couldn't care less about NK.  In order for that country to be useful to them they must first be "liberated".  Then, once they have been conditioned to perform for rewards, they can later to be coaxed to perform for the benefit of the bankers.  That is still a long ways down the timeline.  If they marched in and took over now they would still have a starved workforce that is used to making half-assed attempts at production using decades old tools and methods.  It would end up being a money pit for them.  better to let the MIC surgically remove the main impediment to their goals and then the caring and loving western nations will rush in and modernize them, and make NK just like their country - indebted.

SilverDOG's picture

IMF does not hesitate to utilize fear and ignorance through media misinformation, to utilize NK for WAR preparing insentives.

The Military Industrial Complex.

USA's #1 export.... WAR GEAR.

Assuming otherwise is crazy.

USS Maine, Gulf of Tonkin, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Chemical Attacks on Citizens... North Korea ohhhh NOOOO! 

We all are gonna DIE !

Iam_Silverman's picture

"IMF does not hesitate to utilize fear and ignorance through media misinformation, to utilize NK for WAR preparing insentives."

That is what I was alluding to in my statement.  In their present state though, they are useless to the IMF.  They need to be converted to a country striving to become middle class citizens - and thusly addicted to debt.

tickhound's picture

Don't Be Fooled: The Article is Bullshit.. as per more and more lately

LOL "tyler durden"

More like ed norton

OMG wit should we do? Weez so skurrd!

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

Just another weekend KlownKar article from The Diplomat.

socalbeach's picture

I could tell from the headline, without even clicking on the link, that it was another article from The "Diplomat".

Wait What's picture

if I saw Kim Jong Un on the street i would slap the s--t out of him just for looking like an fat-little-daddy-s-boy. his provocations are the kinds of things real men laugh at, like that little guy at the bar trying to get attention from the big guys by throwing his weight around when it's crowded. ironically enough, they are the easiest to co-opt.

Race Car Driver's picture

> Don't Be Fooled: The Article is Bullshit.. as per more and more lately


The best propaganda is 99% truth - and 1% agenda. ZH is pushing the limits.

Who is Tyler Durden?

Who is John Deere?

Same ol' shit.

random shots's picture

ZH also needs more page views. This place has really gone downhill.

Winston Churchill's picture

Know thy enemy.
Tyler is doing us a favor , the collective groupthink here would stop anyone here from visiting the Diplomat website,
where they at least openly give out their bullshit justifications prior to general release.
I despise Bolton ,but always listen closely to all his appearances.

Yenbot's picture

A diplomat is failed militarism.

DutchR's picture


Don’t Be Fooled: North Korea Is Getting Ready To Provoke"


so what







small blue marble




runningman18's picture

North Korea is always on the verge of internal conflict due to ever present famine caused by trade embargo.  They've tried to hide this fact, but in the end, the NK government will have to expand, grab up resources, distract the population with war, or end up with a rebellion on their hands.  The frustrations in diplomacy between China and NK are likely all staged.  China has been pulling the strings in that country since the Korean War, and of course, the Banksters control China.  NK would be a pretty good option as a catalyst for a Pacific regional conflict.  China would never allow the U.S. to occupy NK soil.  It's all just dominos, folks.  The Banksters set them up - sometimes they knock them down, and sometimes they don't. 

Rukeysers Ghost's picture

I'm supposed to give a shit about a backward country that uses 70's Lincoln Town Cars as Presidential limos and think Dennis Rodman is still relevant to the US culture? These never ending conflicts with NK are always a distraction from real issue.

willwork4food's picture

THAT'S THE POINT. Until they tire of their play toy.

SilverDOG's picture

State your pov on "real issue".

Rukeysers Ghost's picture

State your pov on "real issue".


The lack of pillows in Sochi and Justin Bieber being deported. You know, the important stuff.

DFCtomm's picture

You should know about bullshit, because what you said is complete bullshit. What do you call 28 thousand soldiers on the border of an insane nuclear dictatorship? Hostages. As long as NK demands are "reasonable" we'll pay the tribute because we just don't want to deal with the problem.

unbeing's picture

Dear Mr Durden,

    Please stop posting this shit.  You are better than that. And so are your readers.

Best Regards,


rotagen's picture

Puffer-Faced Homogenized Clowns.

shutdown's picture

North Korea is an absolute Godsend for the military industrial complex. The occasional lobbed shells and harmless rants sprayed out by that poverty stricken little nation provides sufficient hype to justify trillions in additional projects. It's almost like the US military wants them, no, NEEDS them, to stay just the way they are.  

NoDebt's picture

"It's almost like the US military wants them, no, NEEDS them, to stay just the way they are."

More to the point, so does China.

willwork4food's picture

Umm. Why would China want them except to have the industrial complex make millions to spread out to the workers who buy Chinese goods?