The Countries Most (& Least) Satisfied With ‘Democracy’

Across the globe, the spread of right- and left-wing populism and authoritarian politics have shaken the very foundations of democracy.
As Statista’s Niall McCarthy notes, a new survey from Pew Research has found that people across the globe are generally unhappy with the functionality of their political systems, though levels of satisfaction with democracy vary hugely between countries.
As can be seen from the following infographic which shows a selection of countries from the survey, people in India have tremendous faith in democracy. 79 percent of those polled said they are satisfied with the way democracy is working in India compared to 11 percent who are dissatisfied. Germany also recorded a high level (73 percent) of satisfaction with democracy.
In many other developed countries, however, faith is waning.
In the United Kingdom and Japan, 47 percent of people are not satisfied with how democracy is working in their countries while in the U. S., that rises to 51 percent. France, South Korea and Brazil all recorded dissatisfaction levels of 65 percent or higher… but Greece tops the charts with only 21% of its citizenry ‘satisfied’ with the weay democracy is working.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 18, 2017.

US Deploys Special Forces “Decapitation” Team To South Korea

Today, the South Korean and U. S. navies kicked off massive combined drills off the coast of the Korean peninsula amid heightened tensions, a training exercise which North Korea has warned may prompt another ballistic missile launch potentially to coincide with the launch of the Chinese 19th Party Congress on October 18. The two allies plan to continue the Maritime Counter Special Operations Exercise (MCSOFEX) through Friday in the East Sea and the Yellow Sea.
As reported over the weekend, the drill involves the U. S. 7th Fleet’s aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers – the USS Stethem (DDG-63) and the USS Mustin (DDG-89). The carrier strike group will train with South Korean warships and other defense assets, such as the Sejong the Great Aegis ship and P-3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft in the East Sea.
And while details of the drill were well-known in advance, what was reported for the first time overnight from Yonhap is that a unit of U. S. special forces tasked with carrying out “decapitation” operations is also aboard a nuclear-powered submarine in the group, according to a defense source. So far, little else is known about why said decapitation team is on location, or whether it will be put into use, although it presence may explain Trump’s “calm before the storm” comment that beffudled the media two weeks ago.
Among other assets mobilized for the joint drill are F-15K, FA-18 and A-10 fighter jets, as well as AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, Lynx and AW-159 Wild Cat naval choppers. The U. S. has also deployed a Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) plane to closely monitor the North’s ground and naval forces.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 16, 2017.

The True Danger Of The North Korea Crisis: It Could Cost America Its Allies

Tough North Korea rhetoric from the U. S. administration continues. Major South Korean media increasingly talk as if U. S. air strikes are likely, and theexpert community seems increasingly resigned to them as well. Despite constant criticism of his incendiary language, President Donald Trump continues to suggest that major action against North Korea is imminent – most recently by suggesting that we are now in a period of ‘calm before the storm.’
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I have argued in these pages that such strikes would be an enormous risk. We do not know what the North’s redlines for retaliation against such a strike are. We do not know if the strikes would so unnerve the North’s elites that war was next, that they would respond with enormous force, possibly including nuclear weapons. An expert study of this scenario suggests appalling casualty numbers. We also do not know what China’s thresholds are for intervention. China is treaty-bound to help North Korea if it is attacked. It may not, but if a U. S. air strike against North Korea spirals into a major conflict, then the likelihood of Chinese intervention rises.
It is also worth noting that even if the Chinese and North Koreans do not respond to air strikes, North Korea will almost certainly deploy human shields as soon as the bombs start to fall. And the North has so many targets that the United States would like to hit, that any ‘air strike’ would look a lot more like a major air campaign and not a quick ‘surgical strike,’ as in Syria earlier this year. An air campaign against sites with human shields means a high civilian death toll. The North Koreans will not make this easy for us at all.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 16, 2017.

Rocketman May Have Destabilized the Ground in North Korea

Sources in South Korea are reporting that there was another earthquake in North Korea of a 2.7 magnitude near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. This was the fourth earthquake to hit the region since the last underground nuclear test on September 3rd, 2017. The first earthquake was a 6.3 magnitude. The last North Korea test was a hydrogen bomb. U. S. intelligence reportedly determined the blast was 10 times greater than that of the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II.

This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Oct 15, 2017.

Satellite Footage Shows North Korea Preparing Ballistic Missile Launch Ahead Of US Naval Drills

Echoing a report from earlier this week, when on Wednesday the Seoul-based Asia Business Daily reported that North Korea is preparing to fire multiple short-range rockets around the opening of the Chinese Communist Party’s twice-a-decade congress on Oct. 18 – arguably the year’s most important geopolitical event – on Saturday the South Korean press claimed that “North Korea is believed to be preparing to launch a ballistic missile ahead of an upcoming joint naval drill by the US and South Korea”, according to a government source.
The Donga Ilbo daily said satellite pictures show ballistic missiles mounted on “transporter erector vehicles” and being moved out of hangars near Pyongyang and in the North Phyongan Province. US and South Korean military officials suspect the North might be preparing to launch missiles capable of reaching US territory, the newspaper said.
A defence ministry spokesman declined to comment on the report, saying: “we don’t comment on any matters of military intelligence” but added that “we are keeping a close watch over the North.”
Quoted by AFP, Donga Ilbo said that US and South Korean military officials suspect the North might be preparing to launch missiles capable of reaching US territory, and that this could be the Hwasong-14 inter-continental ballistic missile, whose range could extend to Alaska, or Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missiles which Pyongyang threatened to fire towards the US Pacific territory of Guam in Augus . Another possibility is that the North might be preparing to test a new Hwasong-13 ICBM, it added, that has a longer maximum range than the other two missiles and could potentially reach the US West Coast.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 14, 2017.

Is It Time To Take North Korea’s Cyber Weaponry Seriously?

Analysts say cyber capabilities have become a key asset in North Korea’s war chest. Pyongyang’s increasingly bold attacks in the virtual space have come in tandem with the hermit nation’s rapidly progressing ballistic missile and nuclear programs and some say that it’s time this is taken very seriously.
The rogue regime has used cyber attacks for a wide range of purposes including hacking adversaries like South Korea and pilfering money. North Korea’s hackers have been accused of carrying out some of the most audacious cyber attacks of the past few years, from siphoning millions of dollars to stealing state secrets.
‘North Korea’s cyber weapons are as destructive as its conventional weapons,’ Lim Jong-in, a cybersecurity professor at Korea University, told CNN. ‘Tomahawk missiles can paralyze a major country’s power grid and financial system. So do North Korea’s cyber weapons.’ Lim continued, saying: ‘Cyber experts say North Korea should be ranked among the top 5 in the world. I believe North Korea can steal anything they want through cyber espionage. No country is safe from its cyber espionage.’

This post was published at shtfplan on October 11th, 2017.

North Korea Preparing To Fire Multiple Short-Range Missiles Next Week: Report

North Korea is preparing to fire multiple short-range rockets around the opening of the Chinese Communist Party’s twice-a-decade congress on Oct. 18, the Seoul-based Asia Business Daily reports, citing an unidentified person. According to the newspaper, the U. S. and South Korean militaries have recently spotted about 30 Scud rockets being moved from Hwangju, south of the capital Pyongyang, to a missile maintenance facility in the western coastal city of Nampo.
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More from the report, google translated:
According to the authorities, the ROK-US military intelligence agency captured the process of transferring 30 Scud missiles deployed in the Hwangju area of ??North Hwanghae province to a missile repair facility in Jamsun, West Sea, Nampo, through information assets. It is unusual for North Korea to massively move Scud missiles.
The Jangjin missile factory, which North Korea refers to as the Taesung Machinery Factory, is the most important missile production plant in North Korea, producing a variety of missiles such as scud and labor. Kim Jong-un inspects the Jamsil plant in March last year, when the North Korean Workers’ Party chairman passed a resolution imposing sanctions on the UN Security Council, emphasizing that “the working class should shine forth the immortal achievements of the followers with high productivity.” to be.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 11, 2017.

North Korea Hackers Steal War Plans, Kim Jong-Un Assassination Details

While tensions with North Korea have receded in recent weeks, and especially following the latest uneventful weekend, when markets were on edge that Kim could try another missile test launch to celebrate the country’s national holiday, this could reverse following news from the BBC that North Korea hackers have reportedly stolen a large cache of military documents from South Korea, including a plan to assassinate North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.
According to South Korean lawmaker Rhee Cheol-hee – a member of South Korea’s ruling party who sits on its parliament’s defence committee – the compromised documents, which were stolen from the country’s defense ministry, include wartime contingency plans created by the US and South Korea, and also include reports to the allies’ senior commanders. Plans for the South’s special forces are also said to have been accessed, along with information on significant power plants and military facilities in the South.
Rhee also said some 235 gigabytes of military documents had been stolen from the Defence Integrated Data Centre, and that 80% of them have yet to be identified.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 10, 2017.

South Korea’s New “Blackout Bomb” Can Paralyze The North’s Power Grid

US and South Korean officials are nervously watching to see if North Korea follows through with its threats to carry out another nuclear test – or to fire a rumored long-range missile capable of accurately striking the west coast of the US into the Pacific – in celebration of the Oct. 10 anniversary of the Communist Party’s creation. Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports that South Korea has developed a new weapon to hobble the North’s infrastructure should an armed conflict erupt on the peninsula. Given that it’s almost daybreak in North Korea, such a test could happen as soon as Monday night, Eastern Time.
The weapon is a graphite bomb – otherwise known as a ‘blackout bomb’ – which South Korean officials say will be capable of shutting down North Korea’s entire power grid. Blackout bombs were first used by the US in Iraq in the 1990 Gulf War and work by releasing a cloud of extremely fine, chemically treated carbon filaments over electrical components. The filaments are so fine that they act like a cloud, but cause short circuits in electrical equipment.
As News.com.au points out, North Korea tends to celebrate the Oct. 10 holiday with military parades and aggressive rhetoric. But this year’s festivities could include new provocative weapons tests.
‘The Kim regime usually uses these sorts of occasions to demonstrate some show of strength – in this current climate a missile test is a likely result,’ says Dr Genevieve Hohnen, lecturer in politics and international relations at Edith Cowan University.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 9, 2017.

What Would A North Korean Nuclear Attack Look Like?

Reports that North Korea is planning to test an ICBM capable of reaching the US west coast opened a trapdoor under stocks this morning, suggesting that investors are taking president’s ominous warnings about ‘the calm before the storm’ seriously.
But in the unlikely event that you’re not sufficiently terrified already, researchers at Johns Hopkins have sought to quantify the horrifying consequences of a North Korean nuclear strike in a new research report published by the university’s 38th Parallel project.
The US carrying out any military option raises a significant risk of military escalation by the North, including the use of nuclear weapons against South Korea and Japan. According to the calculations presented below, if the ‘unthinkable’ happened, nuclear detonations over Seoul and Tokyo with North Korea’s current estimated weapon yields could result in as many as 2.1 million fatalities and 7.7 million injuries.
In the report, author Michael Zagurek calculates that an all-out nuclear strike launched by North Korea against Tokyo or Seoul could kill as many as 2.1 million people and injure another 8 million. Combined, the number of dead and injured would equal 10% of the South Korean population – affirming that a nuclear strike by the North would be – by a considerable margin – the single deadliest attack in human history. By comparison, the US killed a combined 120,000 Japanese civilians when dropped nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 6, 2017.

South Korea Braces For Possible EMP From North Korea

South Korea is raising concerns that North Korea could harm vital institutions with an electromagnetic pulse over their nation. But that isn’t all. South Korea also fears that the EMP would be centered over their nuclear power stations, airlines, and government ministries taking the country down for good.
North Korea has been successful at hacking into South Korea’s systems in the past. The fears also swirl around a potential attack on the banking institutions leaving the economy in the south crippled. According to End Time Headlines, an EMP attack sparked by a nuclear blast or a pulse weapon would quickly bring the South’s financial institutions to their knees. Now, the national banks are looking into establishing data centers overseas, while others are looking to build reinforced repositories designed to withstand the blast of a powerful EMP weapon.

This post was published at shtfplan on October 2nd, 2017.

North Korea Seen Moving Missiles As US Admits For First Time It Is In “Direct Contact” With Pyongyang

North Korea has again been observed moving several missiles from a rocket facility in the capital Pyongyang, according to a report late on Friday by South Korea’s Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) rising speculation that the North is preparing to take more provocative actions. The last time a similar report emerged was at the start of September, which was followed just days later by a ballistic missile launch which flew over Japan.
Officials did not say where the missiles were being moved, nor the make: according to Reuters, the missiles could be either intermediate range Hwasong-12 or intercontinental ballistic Hwasong-14 missiles, according to the report, though the missile facility at Sanum-dong has been dedicated to the production of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
As previously reported, South Korean official have speculated that the North could launch another nuclear or missile test to coincide with the anniversary of the founding of its communist party on Oct. 10, or possibly when China holds its Communist Party Congress on Oct. 18. Meanwhile, US Pacific Command revealed on Friday that the US and South Korea had recently completed their first joint short range air defense training exercise in South Korea, though it did not say when or exactly where the exercises had taken place.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 30, 2017.

North Korea Claims 5 Million New Soldiers Enlisted Ahead Of “Imminent Provocation”

In what is probably a “slightly” exaggerated figure, North Korea claimed on Thursday that some 4.7 million students and workers have volunteered to join or re-enlist in the North Korean army since Kim Jong Un called Donald Trump a ‘dotard’ and vowed to retaliate against the US for President Donald Trump’s threats to “destroy” North Korea. If accurate, that figure would represent nearly 20% of the North’s population (the country is believed to be home to 25 million people, making it about half the size, population-wise as South Korea).
Furthermore, according to the Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s biggest newspaper among the volunteers were 1.2 million women, which was cited by South Korean news agency Yonhap.
Of course, North Korea has made similar claims in the past when tensions with the US have intensified. Pyongyang usually claims that its young citizens voluntarily enlisted in the military in its propaganda campaigns aimed at bolstering national solidarity – even as recently as last month.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 28, 2017.

McMaster Says US Has “Four or Five” North Korea Scenarios, “Some Are Uglier Than Others”

As tensions between North Korea and the U. S. continue to escalate with every Trump tweet and subsequent response by Kim Jong-Un, National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster said that the U. S. has prepared “four or five different scenarios” for how the crisis with North Korea will be resolved, adding ominously that ‘some are uglier than others.”
McMaster declined to comment on the extent to which North Korea’s deeply-buried nuclear program was vulnerable to U. S. military strikes — an assessment made of Iran before the 2015 framework agreement designed to stop its nuclear program.
He acknowledged that every military option assumed a reaction from North Korea that endangered South Korean citizens, adding it’s ‘foremost in our minds.’ That danger ‘is certainly taken into consideration in all our planning and war gaming, table-top exercise efforts,’ McMaster said.
Still, while McMaster said the threat from Pyongyang is ‘much further advanced’ than anticipated and the Pentagon said the president has a ‘deep arsenal’ to draw upon if needed, Bloomberg quoted U. S. officials who dismissed North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho’s comment that President Donald Trump’s warnings to Pyongyang at the United Nations amounted to a declaration of war.
That said, both governments have said ‘all options’ are on the table in dealing with the tensions. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, speaking in India on Tuesday, said the U. S. wants to keep engagement with North Korea in the diplomatic realm as long as possible. But on Monday Ri escalated tensions with his remark that North Korea would be within its rights to shoot down U. S. warplanes flying in international airspace. That startled markets, coming just days after the Pentagon sent planes near North Korea’s border.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 26, 2017.

U.S. B-1B Bombers Fly Just Off Coast Of North Korea: 4 Reasons Why This Time It’s Different

#USAF bombers, fighters fly in international airspace east of #NorthKorea, farthest north of the DMZ in 21st century pic.twitter.com/fsFx4Q1oKE
— U. S. Pacific Command (@PacificCommand) September 23, 2017

Just before North Korea’s foreign minister was due to address the United Nations, the Pentagon announced that U. S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers escorted by fighter jets flew in international airspace over waters east of North Korea on Saturday, in a show of force which “demonstrated the range of military options available to President Donald Trump.” The flight was the farthest north of the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea that any U. S. fighter jet or bomber has flown in the 21st century, the Pentagon added.
According to Reuters, the B-1B Lancer bombers came from Guam and the U. S. Air Force F-15C Eagle fighter escorts came from Okinawa, Japan. The Pentagon saod the operation showed the seriousness with which it took North Korea’s ‘reckless behavior.’
‘This mission is a demonstration of U. S. resolve and a clear message that the President has many military options to defeat any threat,’ said Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White, calling North Korea’s weapons program ‘a grave threat” adding that ‘we are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the U. S. homeland and our allies.’

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 23, 2017.

Pentagon To Probe “Evacuation Hoax” Messages Sent To US Soldiers In South Korea

The Pentagon announced Friday that it would be launching an investigation into a series of fake messages sent to US soldiers stationed in South Korea and their family members on Thursday. In what probably sent a temporary chill down the spines of recipients, the messages warned that all “non-essential” (i.e. non-combat) personnel must evacuate the Korean Peninusla – suggesting that the long-dormant Korean War was about to explode once again into violence, Reuters reports.
The hoax, which was spread via fake SMS messages and Facebook posts, was carried out during a particularly tense period in the ongoing standoff between the US and North Korea over the latter’s insistence on developing a nuclear weapon capable of striking the US. Also on Thursday, the North’s foreign minister warned that the regime was considering a test of a nuclear weapon over the Pacific – something that would represent an unprecedented escalation and possibly force the US to respond with a military strike. A military spokesman said there was no way of knowing how many soldiers or family members received the messages, but said the chain of command quickly acted to shut down the hoax.
‘We have no accurate way to know how many people received it,’ the spokesman said. ‘Incidents were ‘self-reported’ and many people claimed the message disappeared as soon as they unlocked their phone.’ The spokesman added that the ‘good news here’ is that the hoaxer’s attempt to create an outbreak of chaos was foiled.
‘The good news here is: informed, savvy family members plus an engaged chain of command means no panic or over-reaction,’ he added. ‘We had no reports of anyone acting on message other than notifying the appropriate authorities.’

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 23, 2017.

Trump To Impose More Sanctions On North Korea Today

Update: According to Bloomberg, Trump won’t be declaring war (yet), and instead the announcement is sanctions related.
TRUMP’S N. KOREA ANNOUNCEMENT TO BE SANCTIONS-RELATED: OFFICIAL TRUMP SAYS `WE WILL BE PUTTING MORE SANCTIONS ON NORTH KOREA” * * *
Following yesterday’s anticlimatic Rex Tillerson press conference in which the Secretary of State was expected, by some, to make an important announcement only to disappoint, moments ago National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster said on CNN that “the president will make an important announcement today about the continuation of our efforts to resolve this problem with North Korea short of war.”
McMaster added that Trump will “make that announcement as he meets with our very close allies South Korea and Japan.’
As Bloomberg reminds us, President Trump is set to meet with South Korea President Moon Jae-inat 11:30am and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at 12:15pm in New York.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 21, 2017.

US Jets Dropped Live Bombs On Korean Peninsula In Massive Show Of Force

It’s becoming apparent that the United States is getting frustrated with the continued nuclear tests done by North Korea. And to prove it, they dropped live bombs on the Korean Peninsula.
The Pentagon deployed a formation of 14 bombers and fighters over the Korean Peninsula on Sunday. This blatant show of force also included South Korean and Japanese aircraft. This most recent deployment of jets was in response to a missile launched over Japan on Thursday. The missile was the cause for much concern in Japan, and warnings were sent out to those who live on the island.
The warplanes were dispatched after North Korea launched a ballistic missile over northern Japan on Thursday, triggering a widespread emergency alert for those who call the region home. Two Air Force B-1B bombers from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and four Marine Corps F-35B fighters from Iwakuni, Japan, combined with four South Korean F-15K fighters and four F-2 Japanese fighters, U. S. defense officials said. -Washington Post

This post was published at shtfplan on September 19th, 2017.

US Jets Dropped Live Bombs On North Korea In Massive Show Of Force

It’s becoming apparent that the United States is getting frustrated with the continued nuclear tests done by North Korea. And to prove it, they dropped live bombs on the Korean Peninsula.
The Pentagon deployed a formation of 14 bombers and fighters over the Korean Peninsula on Sunday. This blatant show of force also included South Korean and Japanese aircraft. This most recent deployment of jets was in response to a missile launched over Japan on Thursday. The missile was the cause for much concern in Japan, and warnings were sent out to those who live on the island.
The warplanes were dispatched after North Korea launched a ballistic missile over northern Japan on Thursday, triggering a widespread emergency alert for those who call the region home. Two Air Force B-1B bombers from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and four Marine Corps F-35B fighters from Iwakuni, Japan, combined with four South Korean F-15K fighters and four F-2 Japanese fighters, U. S. defense officials said. -Washington Post

This post was published at shtfplan on September 19th, 2017.

US Is Sending Another Aircraft Carrier To Korea: Yonhap

After carrying out bombing drills over the Korean peninsula on Monday following North Korea’s firing of an intermediate-range missile over the Japanese island of Hokkaido, US and South Korean forces are planning to continue their displays of military might early next month, according to a report from Yonhap, the South Korean news agency. However, in a move that is sure to provoke a barrage of threats from North Korea, the US is reportedly sending a nuclear-armed aircraft carrier to the waters off the Korean peninsula, where it will take part in an upcoming round of military drills.
Earlier this year, the US sent three aircraft carriers to waters near North Korea in an unprecedented show of force. However, it’s unclear if any of those carriers are still positioned so closely to the peninsula. Here’s the latest map of US naval strike groups, which was compiled by Stratfor using publicly-available information. Deployments considered “sensitive” would not be included on this map.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 18, 2017.