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Gordon Cucullu- Contributor

Former Green Beret lieutenant colonel, Gordon Cucullu is now an editorialist, author and a popular speaker. Born into a military family, he lived and served for more than thirteen years in East Asia, including eight years in Korea. For his Special Forces service in Vietnam he was awarded a Bronze Star, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Presidential Unit Commendation. After separation from the Army, he worked on Korea and East Asian affairs at both the Pentagon and Department of State as well as an executive for General Electric in Korea. His first major non-fiction work, Separated at Birth: How North Korea became the Evil Twin, is based in large part on his extensive experience in Korea and East Asia as a governmental insider and businessman. [website] [go to Cucullu index]


Separated at Birth : How North Korea Became the Evil Twin
Gordon Cucullu

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Deadly Connectivity
A global web of terror
[Gordon Cucullu] 7/8/04

Westerners tend to be very binary about organizations: you’re a member or you’re not. For example we are Protestants or Catholics, Republicans or Democrats. Though not fixed in stone, this characteristic is something of an American cultural value. Add our legalistic bent and we find ourselves fretting over irrelevant issues: is Ansar al Islam really an al Qaeda organization? A terrorist is known to be affiliated with Hamas therefore doesn’t that mean he isn’t al Qaeda? Though it might make some sort of twisted sense to us it means nothing to our enemies.

Stretch out to include mixed cultures and long geographical distances and we have even more difficulty perceiving or accepting the linkages. But it is these very combinations that provide the deadly connectivity that our enemies exploit. To ignore them is perilous, even to death. Such is the case with North Korea. Many Americans assumed that when President Bush included North Korea in his famous Axis of Evil speech he was simply defusing a potential ‘America versus the Islamic world’ confrontation. He just tossed in the North Koreans, some suggested, so that we would not polarize the Moslem world more than it already is.

But to believe that ignores one of the most dangerous linkages operating out there today, the North Korean-Syrian connection. And lest you think that this is just hypothetical speculation, be aware that the North Korean-Syrian connection has existed for many years. It is extraordinarily secretive and intimate. Neither side is especially concerned with the other’s politics. This is strictly a money game. The North Koreans need hard currency desperately; the Syrians have it and are willing to spend it for WMD technology. Unfortunately for us all, the only thing the North Koreans have in abundance are missiles and WMD.

The Kim Jong Il regime has been on a long, steady economic slide since the late 1980s. It was accelerated by the fall of the Soviet Union. Pyongyang was once able to play the Peoples Republic of China off against the Soviets for economic and military assistance. Collapse of the Soviets left a single bidder in the auction, a situation hardly designed to elicit the highest price. Returning Chinese largess with spitefulness, regional disharmony and ingratitude, North Korea slid even further down China’s priority list. Contrasted to an expanding, highly profitable bilateral economic relationship between the PRC and South Korea initially stimulated by the Seoul Olympics, and the North’s situation looks bleak indeed.

For the past decade and a half, consequently, North Korea has been relying on illegal arms transfers and massive drug trafficking as primary sources of foreign exchange. Heroin and crystal meth bring in big bucks, but how much cash could it receive from a wealthy terrorist group for a nuclear bomb? Maybe billions. The North Koreans seem willing to find out. They have surreptitiously developed programs to produce WMD including both plutonium based and enriched uranium based nuclear weapons. They have developed large stocks of poison gas including Sarin, blister and VX type nerve agents. We know from North Korean defectors that the regime experiments on humans with these and other lethal agents. Any regime so morally corrupt will not hesitate to sell abroad regardless of the end use. There is mounting evidence that Japanese Aum Shinrikyo and other terrorist groups have trained in North Korea and may have been supplied Sarin gas by them.

Realizing that weapons without delivery systems have limited utility, the North Koreans have proceeded at a frantic pace to develop longer range missiles. Originally manufacturing the Soviet-style SCUD, a rocket without sophisticated guidance systems, the North Koreans have moved up through the intermediate range Nodong series of missiles with improved accuracy and range to what we now suspect is a class of missile, the Taepodong, capable of hitting targets 3,700 miles distant with reasonable accuracy. North Korea can now attack virtually all major Northeast Asian cities and fly east to Alaska. A Middle Eastern country like Syria if armed with Taepodong class missiles could threaten most capitols of Western Europe and the Middle East. Place a warhead of “dirty” explosives, poison chemicals, lethal biologicals or a nuclear device on top of those missiles and suddenly the balance of power is rudely tipped toward the enemy.

We know that Syria has been ordering SCUDs and probably more powerful missiles from North Korea. Recall that when we overran some of Iraq’s weapons sites we found missiles with far more range than the regime supposedly possessed. It would be reasonable to expect that Syria either received some missiles from Iraq or has taken delivery from North Korea. Recall that just prior to the Iraqi war a US Navy vessel intercepted a North Korean freighter delivering missiles marked for Yemen. There is a good chance that they were in fact headed for a buyer farther up the road. We caught that one but how many other shipments could have slipped through the net?

Incontrovertibly the links between Syria and North Korea have been expanding. These ties have solidified with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has stepped up to the role as leading regional dictator. A Baathist like Saddam, Assad rules his country with an iron fist. A recent UN weapons investigation report verified pre-war export and relocation of Iraq’s WMD. It is highly probable that Syria was a welcome destination for the heinous devices. The recent foiled terrorist attack on Jordan – intended to be a highly coordinated poison gas/conventional explosive truck bomb attack - certainly used chemicals supplied by Syria. It would be of great interest if US and UK intelligence service scientists conducted detailed analysis of the chemicals discovered so far in Iraq, Jordan and in the Tokyo subways following the Sarin-based terrorist attack there by the Aum Shinriko group. If similarities were discovered it would further illuminate the highly developed relationship among the terrorists and rogue regimes in the world irrespective of nationality or ideology.

Even more revealing are reports of Syrian presence in North Korea. Last April Kim Jong Il took his special train to Beijing to meet with the Chinese. Rumors abounded that Kim acted hysterically and irrationally, no surprise. He demanded increased support from China and threatened more propaganda attacks against the US, Japan and South Korea. The Chinese were said to be upset with him. On April 22 Kim headed back to Pyongyang. Within hours of his train passing through the small North Korean village of Ryongchon near the Chinese border a huge explosion leveled the village, killing an unknown number of inhabitants. The North Koreans waited several days before permitting international relief agencies to enter and assist. Reports are that hundreds of bodies and secret, damming evidence was removed in the interim. Just what could be so secret in a terrible train wreck?

There was more speculation. Was this apparent accident really an assassination attempt against Kim Jong Il? While possible, such an attempt could have been made only by high level, disgruntled members of the regime itself given the tight controls within North Korea. Or the Chinese might have been sending a message. The explosion may have been a warning shot fired across the Dear Leader’s bow that said we can get you any time we wish!

The enormity of the explosion disclosed that highly volatile military cargo was aboard. But the stunner is that reliable reporting both from inside the country and from independent Japanese sources says that 10 Syrians were killed in the explosion. Syrians killed on a munitions-laden train in North Korea! Very suspicious. The 10 bodies were said to have been covertly evacuated on May 1st when a Syrian aircraft delivering emergency assistance flew them out of country.

Most startling in all the reports are details that tell of North Korean workers and soldiers digging through the debris following the explosion wearing bio-chemical protective clothing! Also those loading the Syrian bodies onto the aircraft wore bio-chemical protective clothing. All equipment and debris around the spot where the bodies were recovered was also collected and removed by workers in protective clothing. This work was completed prior to international agencies receiving clearance to come on the scene.

What could this tell us? Probably nothing that would give comfort. Obviously what is most disquieting from the aftermath of the Ryongchon explosion are the reports of bio-chem suits worn by recovery workers and the swift precision with which North Koreans focused attention at one specific portion of the wreck and removed material and bodies from there posthaste. If the reports are correct it follows that Syrian technicians were in North Korea for training and to accept delivery of chemical or biological weapons. If so, we have yet another red flag waving in the War on Terror.

While some on the left in America and Europe like to turn a blind eye toward Saddam Hussein’s terror organization connections, there is absolutely no argument in regard to Assad. Syria has long sponsored Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and has given aid and comfort to al Qaeda. Syria occupies Lebanon and has been a major supporter to Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization. Even more openly than Saddam, Assad supports terrorists. That ought to earn Syria the newly opened spot on the Axis of Evil.

If Syria is allowed to continue to acquire, possess and deploy WMD and missiles without hindrance then we may abruptly find ourselves in a very untenable position in the Middle East. Threats to Israel and NATO allies could be of such a potentially destructive nature that protests from the Euro-left and American appeasers against American intervention could reach hysterical levels, leaving the US with few allies to face a problem of gargantuan proportions. Certainly both the money-hungry North Koreans and the power-mad Syrians are taking advantage of international dissent, and, most especially, of the internal domestic turmoil they perceive in a vitriolic US election cycle. They will push the acquisition and deployment envelope as hard as possible. They are gambling that American leaders will not confront Syria prior to resolving the issues extant in Iraq. They are betting that the American public does not have the stomach to win the anti-terrorist war.

Based on these highly frightening reports from North Korea we dare not ignore the deadly connectivity that binds the terrorist world in its web. These terror sponsors must be destroyed. Just as regime change was necessary in Iraq so is it in Syria and North Korea. For all the same reasons, all the correct reasons: human rights, threats to neighbors, proliferation of WMD, the entire list of crimes. The Baathists must be overthrown and a democratic government put in place. Kim Jong Il’s Stalinist, repressive dictatorship must be replaced. Easy? No, but vital to our survival. Cleaning out Afghanistan and Iraq successfully provides the model. But snarling threats from rogue states frighten the weak of will who desperately want America to cower and shrink before terrorists and madmen. This is a battle for survival. We cannot and will not falter. CRO

[For additional background see Endgame, by Paul Valleley and Tom MacIntyre, and the recently released BBC shocking documentary, Access to Evil, produced by Ewa Ewart.]

copyright Gordon Cucullu 2004




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