Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

Tag: North Korea


China’s cyber spies could compromise US defense

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

China has an ingenious way of saving billions in military research and development: Just steal it from other countries, primarily the United States.

The Washington Post reports that Chinese military hackers have accessed data from 37 American weapons programs and 29 other defense-related technologies. Some observers think the stolen information is why China’s J-20 stealth fighters are so similar to the U.S.’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The Post’s report comes on the heels of accusations earlier this month from the Obama administration that China has also hacked into computers of U.S. government

Read more »


America faces rising threat from malware weapons

snakeThis editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

There it is, buried deep in a seemingly routine annual report the Pentagon has just released: The Chinese government has been carrying out cyber-raids on the U.S. government.

They aren’t actual cyber-attacks – attempts to destroy, disable or take over enemy information systems. They sound like sophisticated attempts to scrape this nation’s security secrets. According to the Defense Department’s May 6 update on Chinese military capacity:

“China is using its computer network exploitation capability to support intelligence collection against the U.S. diplomatic, economic and defense industrial base sectors that support U.S. national defense programs.”

The purpose, the Pentagon believes, is to get “a picture of U.S. defense networks, logistics and related military capabilities that could be exploited during a crisis.” What’s more, the techniques used in these penetrations “are similar to those necessary to conduct computer network attacks.”

For reasons of his own, President Barack Obama kept this finding at arm’s length by trickling it out through a Pentagon brief. Still, his administration has crossed a threshold, officially accusing its third-largest trade partner of operating as an enemy in cyberspace.

The important takeaway may be as much about cyberwarfare in general than about China in particular.

Malware attacks on networks are increasingly common and increasingly the work of governments — such as North Korea and Iran — as opposed to criminal syndicates.
Read more »


China should rein in North Korean lunacy

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

As the craziness emanating out of North Korea keeps ratcheting up, one almost longs for the good old days of the Cold War. At least then we knew our adversary and had a certain level of confidence that the Soviet Union had no interest in self-destruction – the inevitable result if it launched its ICBMs at us.

We can’t be so sure that’s the case with the hermit kingdom of Kim Jong Un, which in recent days has done some unusually bizarre things.

A month after North Korea’s third nuclear test, it said it would “exercise the right to a preemptive nuclear attack” on South Korea and the United States. Last week it posted a strange, militaristic video on its YouTube channel, titled Read more »


Dennis Rodman, diplomat?

koreaVirtually all the national commentary and editorial cartoons have ridiculed Dennis Rodman for his trip to North Korea and subsequent pronouncements about what a great guy dictator Kim Jong Un is, how much the people there love him and how President Obama should just give Kim a call.

Yes, “The Worm” comes off as either naive or hopelessly uninformed about the reality of that totalitarian state, especially after Kim proclaimed his willingness to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States. But in Foreign Policy magazine, writers Joel Wit and Jenny Town take a somewhat different view. They write:

“Dennis the Menace” may have unwittingly stumbled onto an important truth about how to deal with Pyongyang. There can be a diplomatic upside to a political system based on one-person, one-family rule. North Korean leaders have a history of issuing “on-the-spot guidance” — pronouncements that instantly set policy. So reaching out directly to Kim Jong Un might not be such a bad idea, particularly since he is still new on the job.

Here’s the entire article. Read more »


Crimes against humanity in North Korea’s hidden gulags

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program is a secondary issue. So is its effort to create intercontinental-range missiles, which flopped spectacularly last week.

The problem with North Korea is North Korea itself – the twisted, pathological nature of its dictatorship, which is what makes its possession of nuclear arms so dangerous. A newly released report, “The Hidden Gulag,” has given the world an unprecedented glimpse of the depravity at the core of the regime.

It’s been common knowledge for many years – though denied by the dictatorship – that North Korea runs a system of slave camps modeled on Josef Stalin’s gulags. “The Hidden Gulag,” published by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, documents that system in astounding and damning detail.

The report gleans a surprising amount of evidence – including satellite imagery – of what’s happening inside the obsessively secretive nation. It relies on extensive interviews with survivors of the camps who escaped and miraculously found their way to asylum in South Korea and elsewhere.

Totalitarian governments have routinely subjected their victims to unspeakable misery; that’s hardly news. Stalin, Adolf Hitler and their imitators almost inured the world to arbitrary arrests, mass enslavement, starvation, torture and systematic murder.

Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have suffered the same fates for such crimes as having the wrong ideas or knowing too much about South Korea.
Read more »


Kim Jong Il, Vaclav Havel: A study in contrasts

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord is where the phone rings if the American troops deployed in South Korea call 911. Big troubles in North Korea always threaten to strike close to home here.

Is trouble brewing there with the sudden death of dictator Kim Jong Il? One of the many scary things about Kim-ruled North Korea is that no one ever quite knows what’s going on inside its halls of power.

Kim’s son and announced successor, Kim Jong Un, is only in his 20s and was only anointed heir to the dictatorship about a year ago. Who is he? Will his succession stick? Will one of his father’s military barons muscle him off the throne? Will there be political turmoil and chest-beating that could trigger military attacks on South Korea?

We not only know nothing about what’s happening with the world’s most secretive regime, we have no idea who we ought to be rooting for.

In the absence of knowledge, we can hope for the best. If this were a game of chance, the odds would overwhelmingly favor the rise of a better North Korean ruler – just because it would be so hard to find a worse one than Kim Jong Il.
Read more »


The Iran of WikiLeaks is a scary country indeed

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Julian Assange, the chief of WikiLeaks, is a pirate willing to endanger people’s lives with mass releases of secret U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic documents.

But he’s no worse than whoever stole those documents in the first place. Suspicion has settled on Pfc. Bradley Manning, an unhappy 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst, who’s been arrested and charged with downloading thousands of highly sensitive and classified messages while deployed in Iraq.

Does the U.S. Army really give low-ranking soldiers in their early 20s access to secret communiqués whose exposure could threaten American foreign policy? The Defense Department now promises to track users of its information systems the same way credit card companies track card-users to detect fraud. It seems that MasterCard has a better handle on computer security than the Pentagon.

So far, news accounts of the leaked diplomatic messages suggest there are no outright bombshells among them. Like previously leaked dispatches and reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they mostly filled in the details of a larger picture already known to the public.

It comes as no surprise, for example, that Hamid Karzai’s brother is corrupt, Arab leaders are terrified of Iran’s nuclear program, America has been unable to keep Iranian weapons from reaching Hezbollah in Lebanan and al-Qaida continues to receive enormous funds from Saudi donors.

Some of the messages are downright comical. The Obama administration is depicted as begging and bribing foreign countries to take Guantanamo detainees of its hands. Slovenia was offered a visit with Obama. Belgium was told that taking more prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.”
Read more »


China still abets North Korea’s acts of war

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

As of this writing, a second Korean war hasn’t broken out. Thank heaven for small mercies.

The exchange of artillery bombardments between North Korea and South Korea is the kind of skirmish that leads to big conflicts. The casualties could be high. This follows North Korea’s sinking of a South Korean warship in disputed waters last March, and its recent revelation of a major expansion to its nuclear weapons program.

A private group acting like North Korea would be called a terrorist network. The difference is that North Korea has an army, a navy, the beginning of a nuclear arsenal and countless big guns and rockets within range of Seoul.

America has every reason to worry about bombardments and ship sinkings. Given its close alliance to South Korea, the United States would almost automatically be drawn into a north-south conflict.

What’s going on behind closed doors in Pyongyang? There’s no telling, really, though one theory points to political maneuvering as dictator Kim Jong Il prepares to pass off power to his youngest son, Kim Jong Un.

To outsiders, the North Korean dictatorship remains a black box. As Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday, “I don’t know the answer to any question about North Korea that begins with the word ‘why.’”

Blaming the dictatorship is an exercise in futility. Condemn it, threaten it with sanctions, it acts belligerent. Make nice to it, send it assistance, it acts belligerent. Every variation of American and international diplomacy produces the same results.
Read more »