June 20, 2012:
South Korean defense officials are advising the government to halt the program of reducing army strength over the next few years. Sharp reduction in American military spending indicates that U.S. reinforcements might not arrive as quickly as expected. Moreover, a collapse in the north would require more troops to maintain order up there. The situation up north is becoming increasingly unstable and the South Korean generals feel that South Korea will have to handle the mess largely by itself, especially in the first few days of a crisis.
North Korea announced that a drought in key food producing areas would mean major food shortages. UN observers in the north agreed, but South Korean experts called the claims exaggerated. South Korea believes North Korea is trying to obtain more free food, not to feed its hungry population but to sell to raise cash for weapons programs and goodies for the ruling class. Most food aid donors will no longer give to North Korea because so often in the past the food was sold rather than distributed to the needy. North Korea refuses to let foreigners supervise the distribution of food aid. North Korea has become more open this year about its food shortages, publicly urging farmers to make greater efforts to produce food. There are definitely shortages in the north, and foreigners report malnutrition in many parts of the country. South Korea and the West is offering food and fuel if the north will halt nuclear weapons programs and allow inspection of that and the distribution of food. The North Korean government continues to refuse those terms.
China is ignoring another round of news stories detailing Chinese firms ignoring sanctions against North Korea and secretly exporting military equipment. China just denies it all and continues to sell to North Korea, for cash in advance.
China is allowing the North Korean secret police to expand their activities on the Chinese side of the border. China is looking the other way as the North Koreans have established a network of informants to report on the activities of smugglers and anti-North Korea groups. Chinese police will make arrests if provided with proof that Chinese laws are being broken. North Korea obtains the informants by offering freedom to Chinese smugglers (usually ethnic Koreans) arrested inside North Korea. There are about three million ethnic Koreans living in northeastern China, along the Korean border. Many of these Chinese-Koreans have gone into business dealing with North Korean smugglers.
China has some compelling reasons for helping the North Korean secret police to halt the slow the flow of refugees and North Korean smugglers across the border. This is becoming an issue because a growing number of these North Koreans are committing violent crimes in China and giving the local Chinese government a reputation for losing control of crime in the area. The media and Internet has picked up on this and local officials are getting angry calls from the big shots in the capital. The central government is doing its part by sending more troops and sensors to guard the 1,400 kilometer long border with North Korea. Most of that border is in rural areas and difficult to seal off.
The commander of U.S. forces in South Korea revealed that he had requested more PAC 3 anti-missile missiles and more Apache helicopter gunships.
June 11, 2012: A South Korea newspaper reported that its web site was attacked a week after North Korea threatened retaliation for stories that cast North Korea in a negative light. South Korean Cyber War officials believe North Korea is using such attacks to shut down or damage web sites to intimidate critics. North Korea has minimal Internet activity, so there's nothing up there to retaliate against.
Iran announced that it would buy food and medical supplies in China and ship them to North Korea. Iran has long been a customer for North Korean weapons and weapons technology.
June 9, 2012: Two North Korean government officials, under arrest in Ukraine, were sentenced to eight years in prison for spying. The two were seeking rocket motor technology.