North Korea’s Failed Unha-3 Missile Test: Implications for Pyongyang and Northeast Asia

BY BEN HABIB. The technical aspects of the failed Unha-3 rocket launch are less interesting than the political undercurrents swirling around this event. The rocket’s explosion has spared the United States and its regional allies some loss of face while for North Korea, it represents a missed opportunity for Pyongyang to maximise its diplomatic and strategic leverage, over and above any threat to Kim Jong-un’s legitimacy as leader.

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The Lessons of Kwangmyongsong-3: Satellite Lauch, Missile Test, Leadership Badge or Bargaining Chip?

BY BEN HABIB. The North’s Kwangmyongsong-3 rocket launch is likely to yield important insights in three areas of interest to North Korea watchers. First, the relative success of North Korea’s rocket launch is likely to yield insights into the operability of the North’s overall nuclear weapons capability and specifically its ability to deliver a nuclear payload to targets at distances beyond 1,000 kilometres. Second, it would appear to fit with a longer trend of provocations dating back to the Cheonan incident in 2010 that have been linked to the legitimisation of Kim Jong-un’s leadership credentials. Finally, with the potential restart of negotiations with Washington in the offing, the launch indicates that coercive bargaining is likely to remain Pyongyang’s modus operandi in international negotiations under the new leadership.

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Peering into the Hermit Kingdom: My Experiences on the Fringes of North Korea — Presentation to the Albury Rotary Club

BY BEN HABIB. On Wednesday 7th March 2012 I made a presentation to the Rotary Club of Albury entitled Peering into the Hermit Kingdom: My Experiences on the Fringes of North Korea. In this presentation I gave a brief chronology of my experiences in and around Korea, touching on some of the interesting things I learnt along the way about Korean history, culture and the North Korean state.

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The China-Korea Frontier — Yánjí and the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture

BY BEN HABIB. All North Korea watchers inevitably get to Yánjí at some point in their careers. Yánjí is a small frontier city of approximately 400,000 people, capital of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin Province, China. It is like a “little Seoul” in northeast China, with a large ethnic Korean (Zhonguo Chaoxian minzu) population navigate dual identities as Chinese citizens of Korean heritage. Many Chaoxian minzu have relatives living in North Korea. Yanbian is nestled in the important strategic border region where the Chinese, North Korean and Russian frontiers meet.

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What Now? North Korea after the death of Kim Jong-il

BY BEN HABIB. The death of North Korea’s ‘Dear Leader’ Kim Jong-il casts a cloud over the future of the already weak North Korean state and the stability of Northeast Asian security environment. Speculation about the future of a post-Kim Jong-il North Korea has been mounting since reports about Kim’s ill-health surfaced in 2008, raising questions about leadership succession, the viability of North Korea’s unique political system and political stability on the Korean peninsula. With Kim’s passing, those questions will be answered in short order.

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South Korea: Land of the Long White Cloud

BY BEN HABIB. South Korea, what an interesting country! I have had the opportunity to visit fascinating nation on three occasions between 2002 and 2008, spending most of my time in Daegu, South Korea’s third largest city, as well as the capital Seoul and the southern port city of Busan. The following is a photographic documentary of my travels in the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’.

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Tension in Korea — The Artillery Exchange at Yeonpyeong

BY BEN HABIB. The exchange of shell fire overnight between North and South Korea is symptomatic of the tense new dynamic on the Korean peninsula, stemming from the North’s muscular new stance as a nuclear weapons power. This comes only months after the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan, another serious provocation widely blamed on Pyongyang.

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Getting to Know the Neighbourhood — Understanding East Asia

BY BEN HABIB. During the past week, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been in Vietnam representing Australia at the East Asia Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam. East Asia—comprising China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Russia, Taiwan and the United States as a vested external player—is a complex strategic environment characterised by ongoing rivalry and historic animosity. It is a region vital to Australia’s economic and security interests. Because of these broad economic and security interests, it is important that we in Australia come to a better understanding of the dynamics of international politics in the East Asian region.

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