North Korea - South Korea
Chronology from Jan 2017 to May 2017
: US and South Korea conclude their Foal Eagle military exercises.
: Contra outside expectations, no fresh nuclear or ballistic missile test marks North Korea’s second big holiday this month: the (fictitious) 85th anniversary of the KPA’s founding in 1932 (in reality under Soviet auspices on Feb. 8, 1948, the date celebrated until 1971). Kim Jong Un inspects a live-fire drill off Wonsan on the east coast.
: North Korea fires an unidentified ballistic missile, which explodes (or is deliberately aborted) almost immediately after launch.
: DPRK marks the 105th birthday of its founding leader and ‘eternal president’ Kim Il Sung with a large military parade in Pyongyang, featuring several types of new missile not previously seen.
: South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) reports that from Jan. 2016 through Feb. 2017 a total of 2,039,898 North Korean wind-borne propaganda leaflets were found in the South, almost all in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province.
: The two Koreas’ women’s teams play the first inter-Korean soccer match in Pyongyang since 1990. The final score is a 1-1 draw.
: MND announces that alongside Foal Eagle the allies will stage Integrated Firepower Exercise 2017, “a set of massive joint artillery drills” (open to the public), at Pocheon near the DMZ on April 13, 21, and 26. This had been held nine times since 1977.
: ROK women’s ice hockey team beats the DPRK’s 3-0 in Gangneung.
: Hundreds of South Koreans cheer on the North Korean team participating in the women’s ice hockey world championships in Gangneung, ROK.
: ROK women’s soccer team flies to Pyongyang via Beijing for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women’s Asian Cup Group B qualifying tournament.
: MOU says it has approved a visit by North Korea’s women’s ice hockey team, to compete in the world championships at Gangneung April 1-9.
: ROK government announces May 9 as the date of a snap election to pick Park Geun-hye’s successor as president. Under the Constitution this election must take place within 60 days of impeachment being confirmed. The victor will take office at once on May 10, forgoing the two-month transition period prescribed in normal circumstances.
: As part of Foal Eagle, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer arrive in Busan, ROK.
: Yonhap reports that US special operations forces will participate in Foal Eagle, including for the first time US Navy SEAL Team Six, which killed Osama bin Laden, “to practice incapacitating (sic) North Korean leadership in the case of conflict.”
: In a unanimous 8-0 vote, the ROK Constitutional Court upholds Park Geun-hye’s impeachment, thus terminating her presidency almost a year early. Two Park supporters die in ensuing protests. (Park nonetheless remains in the Blue House until March 12.) The Prime Minister, Hwang Kyo-Ahn, continues as acting President, which he has been since Dec. 9, when the National Assembly voted to impeach Park.
: With rare rapidity when covering domestic ROK politics, and fewer insults than often, DPRK media report Park’s defenestration within three hours of the event.
: DPRK test-fires four ballistic missiles simultaneously. Three land in Japanese waters, one only 350 km northwest of Akihita Prefecture.
: South Korea and the US begin their annual large-scale Foal Eagle military maneuvers, lasting two months. Key Resolve, the accompanying smaller computer-based command and control exercise, begins a week later on March 8 and ends on March 23. As usual North Korea fiercely and repeatedly attacks both, even after they are over.
: Yonhap reports that in recent days 34 South Korean loudspeakers along the DMZ informed North Koreans that Kim Jong Un had his half-brother murdered.
: South Korea’s Unification Ministry says, a propos Kim Jong Nam’s death: “We believe the North Korean regime is behind this incident.”
: Kim Jong Nam, older half-brother of Kim Jong Un, is killed at Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia by two young women who smear his face with a cloth laced with the nerve agent VX.
: In its first such act since Donald Trump took office, North Korea fires a mid-range Pukguksong-2 ballistic missile while Trump is entertaining Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo in Florida. Both leaders condemn the launch, which falls short of Japanese waters, landing 500 km east of the peninsula after reaching an impressive height of 550 km.
: KCNA publishes a commentary headlined: “Park Geun Hye Group Is Bound to Perish”; noting (presciently) that “the time to oust Park from Chongwadae is close at hand.” (DPRK media regularly carry much else in similar vein throughout the period under review.)
: Thae Yong-ho tells a conference in Seoul that “a significant number of [North Korean] diplomats came to South Korea” and more are waiting to do so, even though his is the only such recent case to have been publicized.
: ROK Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo tells the Wall Street Journal that North Koreans increasingly defect for political reasons, “not just because they are starving, but for a better life, and for freedom and for their children’s education.”
: Thae Yong-ho, former minister at the DPRK Embassy in London who defected to the ROK last year, tells Yonhap that, “North Korea has set the goal of developing miniaturized nuclear weapons that can fit atop a missile capable of reaching the US by the end of 2017 or early 2018 as it takes into account political transitions in South Korea and the US.”
: Ahead of Kim Jong Un’s 33rd birthday on Jan. 8, MOU says there are no signs of imminent provocations by North Korea.
: Citing an unnamed defense ministry (MND) source, CNN claims the ROK is speeding up the creation of a “decapitation unit” which in the event of hostilities would take out the top DPRK military leadership, including Kim Jong Un. Originally slated for 2019, it will now be ready this year.
: Rodong Sinmun carries a signed article, moderate in tone and general in scope, headlined “Improvement of North-south Relations Is Starting Point of Peace and Reunification.”
: Citing an unnamed defense ministry (MND) source, CNN claims the ROK is speeding up the creation of a “decapitation unit,” which, in the event of hostilities would be tasked with taking out the top DPRK military leadership, including Kim Jong Un. Originally slated for 2019, it will now be ready this year.
: Rodong Sinmun, the daily paper of North Korea’s Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), carries a signed article, moderate in tone and general in scope, headlined “Improvement of North-south Relations Is Starting Point of Peace and Reunification.” (Pieces of this tenor, however, remain outnumbered by diatribes and insults.)
: Quoting an anonymous ROK government source, Yonhap reports that from next week the Center for North Korean Human Rights Records, launched in September, will interview newly arrived defectors to collect evidence of human rights violations. This will be used to craft government policy as well as potentially to “hold violators responsible for their crimes.” Violators will be listed and their “mug shots” compiled (one wonders how), but the list and photographs will not be published.