Archive for December, 2011

IRAN TEST-FIRES LONG RANGE MISSILES IN GULF

December 31, 2011

BBC News reported on December 31, 2011, that Iran has test-fired long-range missiles during military exercises in the Gulf according to the semi-official Fars news agency. Excerpts below:

This comes days after Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil export route, if new sanctions are imposed over its nuclear programme.

The latest round of naval exercises began last week amid rising tensions over the country’s nuclear programme.

The exercises are taking place in international waters to the east of the Strait of Hormuz and are set to last 10 days. The missiles were fired from land into the sea.

Western nations recently unveiled new sanctions against Tehran following a UN report in November that said Iran had carried out tests related to “development of a nuclear device”.

Reports that further measures were being considered to target Iran’s oil and financial sectors drew a furious response from Tehran.

Iran’s vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi on Tuesday warned that “not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz” if sanctions are widened.

Iran’s navy chief has said that closing the strait would be easy.

The Strait of Hormuz links the Gulf – and the oil-producing states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – to the Indian Ocean. About 40% of the world’s tanker-borne oil passes through it.

The US also maintains a naval presence in the Gulf, largely to ensure the transport of oil remains open.

In 2009, Iran test-fired its Sajjil and Shahab missiles which could travel 2,000km (1,243 miles), drawing condemnation from the international community.

Those tests were also carried out amid heightened tensions over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, coming just weeks after Iran revealed the existence of a previously secret nuclear facility in the mountains.

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THE COMING WAR WITH IRAN

December 31, 2011

The Washington Times on December 29, 2011, in a commentary said that Iran’s tyrannical leaders, determined to make the Islamic regime a nuclear-armed state, are preparing for war. That’s exactly what the United States and Israel might have to deliver, and soon. Excerpts below from the article by Reza Kahlili, a pseudonym, who teaches at the U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Counterintelligence Training.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the Revolutionary Guards in May to speed up the regime’s nuclear-bomb program and arm its missiles with nuclear warheads. Now, sources reveal, Ayatollah Khamenei has ordered the guards to prepare for war.

In a recent meeting of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, it was decided that the possibility of an attack by Israel or America in 2012 is real and that the country’s forces need to prepare several contingencies for war. It also was concluded that in case of war, the regime could be victorious, though the cost would be high, but it would emerge as the one and only champion of the Islamic cause in the world.

The radicals ruling Iran have long believed that obtaining the nuclear bomb will make them untouchable and will facilitate the expansion of the Islamic movement in the region and the world in bringing the West to its knees. They also have concluded that because of the troubles in the world’s economy and financial troubles in America, even a limited confrontation with America would benefit the Islamic regime.

The guards in their preparations have mapped out several options. One would be to disrupt the oil flow from the Persian Gulf. They know that about 40 percent of the world’s oil and the majority of oil exports of eight countries in the Persian Gulf pass through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway that could be blocked by the regime’s forces.

The guards’ navy of speedboats armed with cruise missiles, Iran’s submarines and, most important, the guards’ missiles of various kinds could be launched from deep within Iran and still target the narrow strait.

The guards also have mapped out an extensive list of U.S. bases in the Middle East to attack with their missiles, disrupting the movement of U.S. forces and the operation of the Air Force, which the guards believe will be the main thrust of any attack by America.

For that purpose, several U.S. bases have been identified that could be attacked either by short-range rockets with a range of up to 140 miles or with ballistic missiles with a range of more than 1,250 miles. The two air bases in Kuwait, Ali Al Salem and Ahmed Al Jaber, are less than 85 miles from Iran.

In Kuwait, the U.S. camps of Buehring, Spearhead, Patriot and Arifjan, with distances of 65 to 80 miles, are all within reach of the guards’ various missiles.

The guards also are targeting four U.S. air bases in Afghanistan as the main launching pads for any attacks on Iran. The Bagram Air Base, home to most of the U.S. Air Force presence in Afghanistan, is just 450 miles from the Iranian borders and within range of all of Iran’s ballistic missiles. Other air bases in Afghanistan that would be attacked by the guards in case of war are in Kandahar, Shindand and Herat.

The super U.S. base, Al Adid in Qatar, which is home to a variety of U.S. bombers and fighters, is within 175 miles of Iran and a prime target for the guards, though because of favorable relations of the Islamic regime with the government in Qatar, the guards are not sure America can use that air base for its attack and therefore will be much more likely to use its other superbase at Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates, also within range of various Iranian missiles. Other U.S. targets of the guards are the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain and Thumrait Air Base in Oman.

The guards also have drawn up plans to confront any uprising from within should one occur after the breakout of war and have mobilized tens of thousands of Basijis ready to put down any unrest against the regime.

The Islamic regime in Iran also counts on Russia and China, with which it has close relations, to come to its help and facilitate an end to war in time to save the regime. China, which holds billions of dollars in contracts and is said to have more than 11,000 contractors, mostly of a military nature, in Iran, has the most to lose in the downfall of the Islamic regime, and its officials already have stated openly that China will aid the Iranian regime in case of war.

Though the Islamic regime never should have been allowed to continue with its suppression of its people, its terrorist activities worldwide and its continuation of its missile and nuclear programs despite U.N. sanctions, one cannot imagine a world with nuclear arms in the hands of the jihadists in Iran.

With officials from both Israel and the U.S. calling a nuclear-armed Iran a red line, leaving the possibility of a military option on the table, we must realize that the only possible solution to this dilemma is a regime change in Iran, which a majority of Iranians support. The price we pay today to save world peace and security will be minuscule to what the world will pay in the not-so-distant future.

U.S. FINALIZES SALE OF F-15S TO SAUDI ARABIA

December 30, 2011

Fox News on December 29, 2011, published an AP report on the sale of $30 billion worth of F-15SA fighter jets to Saudi Arabia boosting the military strength of a key U.S. ally in the Middle East to help counter Iran, the Obama administration announced. Excerpts below:

Under the agreement, the U.S. will send Saudi Arabia 84 new fighter jets and upgrades for 70 more. Production of the aircrafts, which will be manufactured by Boeing Co., will support 50,000 jobs and have a $3.5 billion annual economic impact in the U.S., the White House said.

The sale is part of a larger U.S. effort to realign its defense policies in the Persian Gulf to keep Iran in check. The announcement came as U.S. officials weighed a fresh threat from Tehran.

Tehran warned this week it could disrupt traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital Persian Gulf oil transport route, if Washington levies new sanctions targeting Iran’s crude exports.

The fighter jet sale is part of a larger 10-year, $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia that also includes helicopters, a broad array of missiles, bombs and delivery systems, as well as radar warning systems and night-vision goggles. Congress gave the deal the go-ahead about a year ago.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are bitter regional rivals. Tensions between them were further stoked earlier this year after the U.S. accused Iran of plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in Washington earlier this year.

Saudi Arabia is already the most militarily advanced of the Arab Gulf states, one of the richest countries in the world, and central to American policy in the Middle East. It is also vital to U.S. energy security, with Saudi Arabia ranking as the third-largest source of U.S. oil imports.

BEIJING HAS BEGUN OPERATING HOMEGROWN SATELLITE NAVIGATION SERVICE

December 28, 2011

Wall Street Journal on December 28, 2011, reported that China has begun operating a homegrown satellite navigation service that is designed to provide an alternative to the U.S. Global Positioning System and, according to defense experts, could help the Chinese military to identify, track and strike U.S. ships in the region in the event of armed conflict. Excerpts below:

The Beidou Navigation Satellite System started providing initial positioning, navigation and timing services to China and its “surrounding areas” on Tuesday, Ran Chengqi, a spokesman for the system, told a news conference.

He said China had so far launched 10 satellites for the Beidou system, including one this month, and planned to put six more in orbit in 2012 to enhance the system’s accuracy and expand its service to cover most of the Asia Pacific region.

The system isn’t as believed to be as accurate as the U.S. GPS. Nonetheless, China has made significant advances in the field thanks to a spate of satellite launches since 2009, according to a paper by Eric Hagt and Matthew Durnin published in the Journal of Strategic Studies in October.

“Although China still has a long way to go before it has continuous real-time tactical coverage, even of a regional maritime environment, it now has frequent and dependable coverage of stationary targets and at least a basic ability to identify, track and target vessels at sea,” they wrote.

“Based purely on capabilities, with a space-based reconnaissance system as the backbone, China is clearly acquiring greater ability not only to defend against intruding aircraft carriers but to project force as well.”

Beidou—which means Big Dipper in Mandarin—is run by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., one of the main state-owned contractors for the Chinese space program, which is largely controlled by the Chinese military.

China began building Beidou in 2000 with the goal of creating its own global system—called Compass—with 35 satellites, by 2020. The only other operational global system apart from GPS is Russia’s Glonass, although the European Union’s Galileo system is due to be completed by 2020.

Beidou, like GPS, will provide free civilian services that can be used in conjunction with commercially developed applications for use by drivers in private cars, monitor commercial trucks and ships and assist in natural disasters. It has the added advantage of supporting SMS messages, according to Mr. Ran.

…the system will also give the Chinese military an alternative to GPS, which was developed by the Pentagon and is still controlled by the U.S. government. The U.S. could, in theory, disable or deny access to the system by others in the event of a conflict, although it says it never has done so in the past.

Military experts see Beidou as part of China’s efforts over the last 15 years to develop capabilities designed to deny or hinder U.S. naval access to waters around its shores in case Washington tries to intervene in a conflict—over Taiwan, for example, which Beijing sees as a rebel province.

The South China Sea is another potential flashpoint as tensions have been rising this year between China and neighboring countries that also claim territorial waters there. Beijing has repeatedly accused the U.S. of meddling in the issue and has warned it to cease surveillance operations in the area.

This year, China confirmed for the first time that it was developing an antiship ballistic missile that the Pentagon says may already be basically operational and eventually capable of hitting a moving aircraft carrier up to 1,700 miles, or 2,700 kilometers, from China’s shores.

Beidou could be used in conjunction with other satellites, drones and related technology to help track U.S. ships, position its own submarines and other vessels, and guide antiship ballistic missiles towards their targets, according to military experts.

It also gives China a significant tactical advantage over neighbors with whom it has territorial disputes, including India, which is developing its own regional satellite navigation system but doesn’t expect to complete it for several years.

China still lags behind the U.S in terms of how long, and how accurately, it can monitor any part of the globe from space: GPS, which was launched for civilian use in 1995, now consists of 30 satellites and can be accurate to within less than 10 meters, or 33 feet, although the U.S. military has access to more precise readings.

Mr. Ran said Beidou was accurate to within 25 meters and would reduce that to 10 meters by the end of next year. The Chinese military may also have access to more accurate data, but because China has fewer satellites, it cannot monitor the same spot for as long as the U.S.

China’s plans to develop a satellite positioning system are thought to date back to 1983 when Ronald Reagan announced plans to build space-based missile-defense systems in what became known as his “Star Wars” speech.


China launched the first two satellites of an experimental system called Beidou-1 in 2000 and made it available to civilians in 2004, but the service wasn’t popular as its associated devices used to access the system—called terminals—were relatively large and much more expensive than GPS ones.

The system has been used, however, to coordinate the movement of Chinese troops, to help border guards patrol in remote areas, and to track fishing vessels in the South China Sea, according to Chinese state media.

In 2007, China launched the first satellite of its second-generation system, called Beidou-2, which is thought to use cheaper terminals and, unlike its predecessor, doesn’t require a ground station.

Mr. Ran said Beidou was now being used by more than 100,000 clients in China and had been used to help track government vehicles in the southern province of Guangdong, and to assist disaster-relief work after an earthquake in the western province of Sichuan in 2008.

He said it was compatible with the world’s other major global satellite navigation systems, and encouraged Chinese and foreign enterprises to help develop terminals that could use the Chinese network.

A preliminary version of the system’s Interface Control Document, which allows foreign and Chinese entities access to its basic technical data, was made available on the system’s website, beidou.gov.cn.

CHINESE COURT SENTENCES DISSIDENT

December 27, 2011

Wall Street Journal on December 26, 2011, reported that China sentenced a second dissident to a 10-year prison term just days after sentencing one to a nine-year term, a move analysts said reflects continued fears in Beijing that the unrest that shook authoritarian regimes across the Arab world could spread. Excerpts below:

Chen Xi, a writer and veteran dissident, was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a court in the southwestern city of Guiyang on Monday. The decision came three days after another human-rights advocate, Chen Wei, was sentenced to nine years in a court in the city of Suining in Sichuan province, according to rights groups. The men, both surnamed Chen, aren’t related.

A Guiyang court official who provided only her surname Liu confirmed the decision against Chen Xi but declined to comment further.

China has doled out harsh decisions to political dissidents previously around Christmas. Democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Dec. 25, 2009. Mr. Liu subsequently won the Nobel Peace Prize.

“The timing of the announcements is very carefully calculated,” said Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group. “What it tells me is the government itself knows its sentences have very little legitimacy.”

Dissidents are routinely locked away for two- and three-year sentences, but prison terms of a decade were until recently reserved for the country’s most serious cases. In March, another writer and activist from the southwestern province of Sichuan, Liu Xianbin, was sentenced to a decade in prison, according to rights groups.

The punishments underscore the harshest crackdown on political dissent in China in more than 10 years. The arrests coincide with continuing efforts by Beijing to quell an increasingly raucous online conversation, which plays out on popular microblogs such as Sina Corp.’s Weibo and presents a counter-narrative to China’s state-run media.

The clampdown and silencing of political dissent began in February 2011 following anonymous online calls for a Jasmine Revolution, a reference to the uprising that swept away long-entrenched leaders in places such as Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. There’s little to suggest nationwide discontent with the ruling Communist Party, but leaders fear potential economic softening and myriad other concerns—from choking pollution to land disputes with local officials—could pose a threat to its monopoly on power.

Residents from Wukan village in southern Guangdong province highlighted those concerns in recent weeks when they chased local officials and police out of town following accusations of crooked land development deals by the village government. Residents subsequently elected their own leaders in a case that drew high-level Communist Party attention.

The crackdown reflects the growing power of China’s security forces, who routinely rise above courts and other legal mechanisms to detain outside the law those seen as threats to the state. Dozens of lawyers, writers, artists and other political activists have been held informally by security forces in recent months, including artist Ai Weiwei, who was held without charges for 81 days earlier this year.

The state-run Xinhua news agency reported Monday that China’s legislature was reviewing an amendment to its criminal procedure law that would give police and prosecutors expanded power to freeze more assets of criminal suspects, including bonds, shares and funds. Separately, the Xinhua news agency reported the legislature was discussing a draft law that would block people deemed a threat to national security from leaving the country. Dissidents are already routinely denied passports to travel overseas.

HACKERS TARGET U.S. STRATFOR THINK TANK

December 26, 2011

AP reported on Fox News on December 25, 2011, that a loose-knit hacking movement “Anonymous” claimed to have stolen thousands of credit card numbers and other personal information belonging to clients of U.S.-based security think tank Stratfor. One hacker said the goal was to pilfer funds from individuals’ accounts to give away as Christmas donations, and some victims confirmed unauthorized transactions linked to their credit cards. Excerpts below:

Anonymous boasted of stealing Stratfor’s confidential client list, which includes entities ranging from Apple to the U.S. Air Force to the Miami Police Department, and mining it for more than 4,000 credit card numbers, passwords and home addresses.

“Not so private and secret anymore?” the group taunted in a message on Twitter, promising that the attack on Stratfor was just the beginning of a Christmas-inspired assault on a long list of targets.

Anonymous said the client list it posted was a small slice of the 200 gigabytes worth of plunder it stole from Stratfor and promised more leaks. It said it was able to get the credit details in part because Stratfor didn’t bother encrypting them — an easy-to-avoid blunder which, if true, would be a major embarrassment for any security-related company.

Austin, Texas-based Stratfor provides geopolitical, economic and military analysis to help clients reduce risk, according to a description on its YouTube page. It charges subscribers for its reports and analysis, delivered through the web, emails and videos.

It soon became clear that proprietary information about the companies and government agencies that subscribe to Stratfor’s newsletters did not appear to be at any significant risk, and that the main threat was posed to individual employees.

Hours after publishing what it claimed was Stratfor’s client list, Anonymous tweeted a link to encrypted files online with the names, addresses and account details.

Stratfor said in an email to members that it had suspended its servers and email after learning that its website had been hacked.

“We have reason to believe that the names of our corporate subscribers have been posted on other web sites,” said the email, passed on to The Associated

Press by subscribers. “We are diligently investigating the extent to which subscriber information may have been obtained.”

The email, signed by Stratfor Chief Executive George Friedman, said the company is “working closely with law enforcement to identify who is behind the breach.”

“Stratfor’s relationship with its members and, in particular, the confidentiality of their subscriber information, are very important to Stratfor and me,” Friedman wrote.

RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY REMEMBERS VACLAV HAVEL

December 23, 2011

RFE/RL President Steven W. Korn on December 18, 2011, made the following statement on the death of Vaclav Havel:

“Friends of democracy, free media and the fundamental dignity of all people have lost a great friend today, with the passing of Vaclav Havel. In everything that he did as an artist, campaigner and statesman, he championed the rights of the powerless and of all who believed as he did that, ‘Truth and love must prevail over lies and hate.’ RFE and its Czechoslovak Service were honored to air Havel’s works during the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s, and gratified when he invited RFE/RL to move its operations to Prague in the early 1990’s, after the “Velvet Revolution” he did so much to spark and lead. Havel embodied the principles that guide our organization, and we hope that, in return, we represent to our audiences the values that guided his life and work. We will miss him deeply.”

For more information on the life and impact of playwright, dissident and former president Vaclav Havel, please visit the RFE/RL website.

THE NORTH KOREA FREEDOM COALITION – TO BRING HUMAN RIGHTS AND DIGNITY TO THE NORTH KOREAN PEOPLE

December 23, 2011

The North Korea Freedom Coalition is a nonpartisan coalition founded in June, 2003 to work for the freedom, human rights, and dignity of the North Korea people. The Coalition currently has over 70 public member organizations representing millions of American, South and North Korean, and Japanese citizens as well as other nations, along with many individual members. The Coalition also has private members that provide humanitarian relief inside North Korea and members in China and other nations that feed, shelter, and rescue North Korean refugees.

Members are from all political parties and religious faiths and have many different views about North Korea, but share one thing in common: all believe that promoting human rights for North Korea must be the central focus of any and all policy towards North Korea.

The Coalition works closely with elected officials, other non-governmental organizations, and governments to achieve its goals.

The Coalition is most proud of the fact that all the major NGOs in the USA, Japan, and South Korea, and especially the North Korean defectors’ organizations, are either members of the Coalition or work as partners with the Coalition on its many activities.

Goals of the North Korea Freedom Coalition

1) Make Human Rights the key policy of all governments in dealing with North Korea

2) Save Lives by helping rescue refugees and pressuring China to to end its brutal repatriation policy

3) Close down political prison camps in North Korea

4) Pressure the DPRK to Release all abductees including Korean War POWs

5) Promote information into North Korea through all means

6) Get food aid directly to the North Korean people and end all food aid distribution controlled by the regime

7) Bring freedom, human rights, and dignity to the North Korean people

Significant Achievements

North Korea Freedom Day was first established in 2004 as a single day to galvanize public support in the United States for the North Korea Human Rights Act of 2004 and to raise public awareness about the tragic human rights violations carried out against North Koreans. The day included many events including a press conference, demonstration at the U.S. Capitol, Congressional hearing, visits to members of Congress, prayer vigil, and the largest rally in support of North Korean human rights that had ever been held outside the Korean peninsula. Members of Congress credited North Korea Freedom Day with leading to the successful passage of the North Korea Human Rights Act.

“The pivotal efforts of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, a group of more than 40 nonpartisan NGOs, deserves particular attention.” Congressman Jim Leach, author and sponsor of the North Korea Human Rights Act of 2004, on the day of its passage: The Congressional Record.

“I want to commend the efforts as well of the North Korea Freedom Coalition which sponsored, as many Members know, the historic North Korea Freedom Day rally in Washington on April 28.” Congressman Chris Smith: sponsor of the North Korea Human Rights Act of 2004, on the day of its passage: The Congressional Record.

It was expanded to a week long event in 2005 and each year North Korea Freedom Week has brought together people of many faiths and nationalities and political parties, with the defectors who have escaped from North Korea, to proclaim in one voice that North Koreans are deserving of the same freedoms and human rights as all free people enjoy. In addition to raising awareness of the suffering in North Korea and giving defectors the opportunity to speak out, the annual North Korea Freedom Week events have also resulted in meetings with the President of the United States with North Korean defectors and family members of abductees, as well as the first ever Congressional hearings to focus on the South Korean and Japanese abductee and POW issues and to expose the involvement of the North Korean regime in counterfeiting and drug trafficking and other illicit activities.

THE WORLD’S MOST REPRESSIVE STATE

December 21, 2011

On December 20, 2011, Wall Street Journal published an article on what is the world’s most repressive state, North Korea. Excerpts below:

A few minutes after the news of the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il flashed across computer screens on December 18 I received an email from a North Korean defector. The man, who is now living in Seoul and is a Christian, was exultant: “God blesses all of us,” he wrote. The defector’s sentiments will be shared by many, especially his long-suffering countrymen.

The best-known aspect of Kim Jong Il’s legacy is a nuclear North Korea. During his rule, which began in 1994 after the death of his father Kim Il Sung, the younger Kim accelerated the nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs initiated by the elder Kim. He went on to proliferate both technologies to Iran, which today would not be on the brink of being a nuclear power if it were not for his assistance.

Kim Jong Il will also be remembered as a master manipulator of the Western powers, especially the U.S. The history of the failed denuclearization agreements says it all. On Pyongyang’s part, it is a history marked by lies, broken promises, and clandestine programs. On the part of the U.S., the history is marked by gullibility and wishful thinking. North Korea’s path to developing nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them would have been far more arduous had Bill Clinton and George W. Bush not accepted Kim Jong Il’s promises of future good behavior in return for economic benefits.

The late dictator leaves another legacy too: presiding over the world’s most repressive modern state. Kim Jong Il’s name belongs on the list of the most evil tyrants of our time.

In the decade since 2002, there has been a flood of escapees. From these men, women and children we have a glimpse of Kim’s human legacy: a brutalized and starving people, whose access to food is controlled by the state and dependent upon their perceived political reliability; the world’s most corrupt society, where the rule of law is nonexistent; and a gulag-like system of prison camps, where some 200,000 people are incarcerated, often with three generations of their families, for such “crimes” as listening to a foreign radio broadcast, reading a Bible, or disrespecting a portrait of Kim Jong Il or Kim Il Sung. Refugees frequently use the word “hell” to describe their country, and it is impossible to disagree.

Here are just two examples of Kim Jong Il’s reign of terror—one monumental in its impact on human suffering. First is the famine of the mid-to-late 1990s, which killed two million to three million North Koreans. This blood belongs on the hands of the dictator himself, who diverted resources to military programs rather than buy food for his hungry people, and who refused to introduce agricultural reforms that would make possible better and sustainable food production. He was only too willing to let millions of his countrymen die in order to pursue his nuclear ambitions.

The other example has to do with the defection, in 1997, of a high-ranking official, Hwang Jong-yop. Kim Jong Il’s initial response was to round up 3,000 of Hwang’s relatives—including people who had no idea they were related to the defector—and ship them off to the gulag. But his obsession with retribution did not stop at North Korea’s borders. He spent the next 13 years—until Hwang’s death from natural causes in 2010—dispatching a series of assassins to Seoul to attempt to murder him.

There is one more notable aspect to Kim’s human legacy, and while it would be overly optimistic to make too much of it, it is nevertheless a hopeful one. In recent years, according to testimonies by refugees, more and more North Koreans have started to question Kim’s rule. The discontent doesn’t yet reach the level of organized dissent, but refugees report that there is a growing hatred of the Kim family dynasty. The hatred is more widespread than one would suppose in a state where most sources of information are controlled and where the regime propagates a cult of Kim family worship.

In dealing with the new dictator of North Korea, however, the Western democracies would do well to reconsider the policies that failed to move the now-dead dictator. In this, they should heed the advice of the late Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright and democrat.

In the last decade of his life, Havel took up the cause of the North Korean people and urged the world’s democracies to make respect for human rights an integral part of any discussions with Pyongyang. He wrote in 2004: “Decisiveness, perseverance and negotiations from a position of strength are the only things that Kim Jong Il and those like him understand.”

These qualities, absent from the West’s dealings with Kim Jong Il, deserve to be paramount in its dealings with his heir.

Ms. Melanie Kirkpatrick who wrote the article, is a former deputy editor of the Journal’s editorial page and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Her book on North Koreans who escape and the people who help them will be published in 2012.

JAPAN TO BUY U.S. F-35 FIGHTERS FOR A STRONGER AIR FORCE

December 20, 2011

AP on Fox News on December 19, 2011, reported that Japan’s government says it has selected the Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter to bolster its aging air force:

A Cabinet spokesman says the defense ministry will buy a total of 42 fighters starting next fiscal year, which begins in April 2012.

Japan wrangled for years over whether to buy the F-35, Boeing F-18 or the Eurofighter Typhoon. Japanese officials took into account the quality of the plane as well as close U.S.-Japan military ties, said Noriyuki Shikata, deputy Cabinet secretary for public relations.

The F-35, also called the Joint Strike Fighter, is the Pentagon’s biggest weapons procurement program and has support from allies including Britain, Australia, Canada, Israel and several others.