In recent weeks it has been Japanese demand (and notable premia) that has driven the exponential rise in Bitcoin, but recently, as CoinTelegraph reports, it has been South Korea. Overenight saw Bitcoin prices explode once again, smashing through $2500, $2600, and $2700 for the first time…
As CoinTelegraph.com reports, South Korean Bitcoin traders are facing asking prices of $4,500 as the virtual currency’s price continues to surge.
Order books from domestic exchange Coinone list a current price of 4,254,000 won ($3805), with a 24-hour high of 5,025,000 ($4494).
Apparently not, because the same plot line is being re-run all over again.
Two of the world’s largest anti-virus companies said they are “looking into clues” that suggest a North Korea-linked group may be behind last week’s cyberattack. According to Reuters, Symantec and Kaspersky are investigating whether hackers from the Lazarus Group were responsible for infecting an estimated 300,000 machines in 150 countries. The two companies have said that “some code in an earlier version of the WannaCry ransomware had also appeared in programs used by the Lazarus Group, which researchers from many companies said is run by North Korea.”
While we reserve judgment at the amusing possibility that North Korea could have brought a substantial portion of the world’s computer infrastructure to a halt until there is some actual evidence, it is worth noting that said inquiries emerged shortly after the White House said that paying ransom money to unlock files encrypted by the global cyberattack does not work. It was not clear how North Korean hackers planned to convert bitcoin into any practical currency in a nation whose major banks have been barred from SWIFT.
In any case, speaking to reporters on Monday afternoon, Homeland security adviser Tom Bossett told reporters he is not aware of a case where transferring $300 in Bitcoin – the amount demanded from victims of last week’s attack – has “led to any data recovery”. The Trump administration estimated that less than $70,000 has been paid to the criminals behind the ransomware so far.
During the White House briefing, Bossert also said no federal systems in the US had been affected by the malicious software, known as WannaCry. He told reporters that he had spoken with his British counterparts, who said they now had a “feeling of control” after the attack struck 47 NHS organisations.
To the extent that Donald Trump had a case for becoming America’s president and commander-in-chief, it was that his business success would position him to make better international deals for his country. The argument was that Trump as a master negotiator would drive a harder bargain with adversaries than his conflict-averse predecessor, Barack Obama, by bringing more credibility and unpredictability to the table, while using his leverage and deal-making skills to gain concessions.
Where North Korea was concerned, this meant putting down a marker that Obama’s failed policy of “strategic patience” had ended, that the U.S. would not tolerate the further development of Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear capability, and that if China did not join the U.S. in pressuring North Korea, it would also pay a major price.
The approach sounds good in theory, but it is highly unlikely to work in reality. By proclaiming ambitious goals he is almost certainly unable to reach, making threats he is almost certainly unwilling to carry out, and signaling to China and others how badly he wants their help, Trump is setting himself up for an embarrassing climb down — one that will undermine his credibility not only with North Korea but with other global powers. Pyongyang further upped the ante with its latest missile test, on May 14, by launching what it claims is a new type of rocket capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead.
In a rare comment on the deteriorating North Korean situation, outspoken Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte urged the US to show restraint after North Korea’s latest missile test and to avoid playing into the hands of leader Kim Jong Un, who “wants to end the world“. The notoriously blunt Duterte said on Saturday that the Southeast Asia region was extremely worried about tensions between the United States and North Korea, and said one misstep would be a “catastrophe” and Asia would be the first victim of a nuclear war.
“There seems to be two countries playing with their toys and those toys are not really to entertain,” the president said quoted by Reuters during a news conference after the ASEAN summit in Manila, referring to Washington and Pyongyang. “One miscalculation of a missile, whether or not a nuclear warhead or an ordinary bomb, one explosion there that would hit somebody would cause a catastrophe.”
Duterte also warned the United States, Japan, South Korea and China that they are sparring with a man who was excited about the prospect of firing missiles. Duterte’s speech, which was delivered in his capacity as chairman of ASEAN, was due to speak by telephone to U.S. President Donald Trump later on Saturday. He said he would urge Trump not to get into a confrontation with Kim.
“You know that they are playing with somebody who relishes letting go of missiles and everything. I would not want to go into his (Kim’s) mind because I really do not know what’s inside but he’s putting mother earth, the planet to an edge.“
Earlier today, Vladimir Putin warned that “the situation in Korea is deteriorating” and joined China in urging all sides to “avoid belligerent rhetoric.” It was not clear what spooked the Russian president to escalate the rhetoric over North Korea, however in a move that will hardly help deescalate tensions, a North Korean propaganda outlet released a video clip on Thursday, which showed a simulated attack on the White House and declaring that “the enemy to be destroyed is in our sights.”
The video was released just days after North Korea conducted large-scale artillery drills, showing off conventional weaponry that can easily reach South Korea’s capital, Seoul. It also comes one day after the entire Senate was gathered at the White House to receive a briefing from Trump’s top generals on the situation in North Korea. At the same time, the US sub, USS Michigan, which carries Tomahawk cruise missiles, docked in the South Korean port of Busan this week. The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier, along with the destroyers and cruiser that make up its strike group, will arrive in the Korean Peninsula area this weekend.
The clip was released by a North Korean website (Meari, or Echo) showing photos of the White House and aircraft carriers with a target on them, as if they are in the crosshair, the WaPo reported earlier. It then showed simulated footage of an aircraft carrier exploding into flames, with the caption: “When the enemy takes the first step toward provocation and invasion.”
The 2½ -minute video included scenes from the huge military parade that North Korea organized April 15 to mark the anniversary of the birth of the state’s founder, Kim Il Sung. It also showed footage of North Korean artillery and missile launches.
Against the backdrop of missile launches, the caption read: “We will show you what a strong country that leads the world in nuclear and missile technology is capable of.”
A similar video, showing missiles arcing over the Pacific and leaving a U.S. city in flames, followed by images of a burning American flag and a cemetery filled with white crosses, was shown during a concert held April 16 and attended by Kim.
While North Korea is best known for its bombastic rhetoric and exaggerated propaganda, in recent weeks it has ramped up its output as tensions have risen. On the other hand, the country has abstained from engaging in more missiles tests (either successful or otherwise) or nuclear bomb tests, prompting some to speculate whether the recent intervention by China may have impacted Kim’s behavior.
On the other hand, if indeed the US has managed to sabotage North Korea’s missile technology as the NYT alleged several months ago, and has launch control, what Kim wants may no longer be relevant and the only variable is having all key US military assets in place before a simulated war with North Korea becomes all too real.
North Korea is a “peaceful state” but it is determined to respond to the US threat with pre-emptive strikes and other methods, North Korean Foreign Ministry officials said on Saturday.
“North Korea is a peaceful socialist state, but it is not afraid of war and does not try to avoid it… North Korea has a strong desire to go to the bitter end, if the United States intends to continue its confrontation policy. The North Korean army has clearly indicated that its countermeasures will include sudden pre-emptive strikes and other methods,” the representatives of the ministry said in a statement, as quoted by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
According to the statement, Pyongyang would respond with “nuclear strikes on nuclear war” and would definitely win in this confrontation.
North Korea carried out a number of missile launches and nuclear tests, with one of the latest constituting a launch of a ballistic missile from Sinpo, South Hamgyong province, in the direction of the Sea of Japan on April 5 and a missile test on Sunday which was unsuccessful, according to South Korean defense officials. The launches are considered to be in violation with the UN Security Council resolution.
In response to the tensions in the region, the United States sent a naval group led by US aircraft carrier Carl Vinson to the Korean Peninsula. On April 14, US media reported that US President Donald Trump might order a strike against North Korea should Pyongyang decide to carry out another nuclear weapon test.
While US and North Korean officials have traded verbal missiles in the past few days, China has been noticably quiet. However, that just changed as a prominent Chinese expert told The Nikkei that China likely will halt crude oil exports to North Korea should Pyongyang conduct its sixth nuclear test, signaling a tougher attitude by Beijing toward its rogue neighbor.
North Korea relies almost entirely on China for oil. The Asian giant shipped about 500,000 tons of crude to the North each year until 2013, according to the Chinese customs agency. Bilateral ties cooled that year after Pyongyang carried out its third nuclear test, and exports officially have remained at zero since 2014. But China is believed to still provide crude to North Korea off the books. A complete freeze would impact the North Korean economy.
A nuclear test or the launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles would violate United Nations Security Council resolutions, and China is certain to respond with additional sanctions, said Zhang Liangui, a professor at the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Party School and noted authority on North Korea.
The option to cut off the North’s crude supply will be put on the table, Zhang said, while stressing that the Chinese government will ultimately decide its course of action.
Diplomatic sources have also suggested a halt to crude exports and financial exchanges. The Global Times, an affiliate of Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily, recently published editorials arguing that North Korea’s nuclear experiments must be stopped, and that China should make clear that it will cut off crude exports in response to further tests.
However, even if China says it has stopped all crude exports to North Korea, such a claim cannot not be verified, given that past shipments have not been reflected in official data. Some also argue that it is technologically difficult to completely shut off the pipeline between China and the North. It remains unclear just how serious Beijing has become toward handling Pyongyang’s threat.
A U.N. Security Council statement condemning North Korea’s latest attempted missile launch was obstructed Wednesday following Russian objections to its tough stance.
The statement would have demanded an immediate end to violations of Security Council resolutions sanctioning the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and underscored the “vital importance” of Pyongyang “immediately showing sincere commitment to denuclearization.”
Russia objected to the removal of language promoting a settlement “through dialogue,” according to diplomatic sources.
North Korea’s failed test of a ballistic missile Sunday came the day after a major military parade in celebration of the birth anniversary of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung. The missile exploded shortly after launch.
A previous Security Council statement, released two days after Pyongyang’s April 4 missile test launch, noted the commitment of council members to “a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the situation and welcomed efforts by council members, as well as other states, to facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive solution through dialogue.”
The current statement was drafted by the U.S. — which is presiding over the council for the month of April — and takes a stronger position than previous council statements.
Just when a few hours had passed without any escalation around the Korean Peninsula, The Guardian reports that the US military is considering shooting down North Korean missile tests as a show of strength to Pyongyang according to two sources briefed on the plans.
As the USS Carl Vinson heads towards the peninsula, along with two oither carriers, the Pentagon is looking for ways short of war to pressure North Korea into denuclearization, particularly if Pyongyang goes forward with an anticipated sixth nuclear test.
The option, which defense secretary James Mattis has briefed to Congress, has, as The Guardian reports, yet to mature into a decision by the military to intercept a tested missile. One US official said the prospective shoot-down strategy would be aimed at occurring after a nuclear test, with the objective being to signal Pyongyang that the US can impose military consequences for a transgression Donald Trump has said is unacceptable. But experts and former officials said shooting down a North Korean missile during a test risks an escalation that Washington may not be able to control, one that risks war on the Korean peninsula and potentially devastating consequences to allies South Korea and Japan.
In its first official comments on Sunday morning’s failed missile launch, South Korea said the latest North Korean provocation threatens the entire world, and warned of a punitive action if it leads to further actions such as a nuclear test or a long-range missile launch.
“North Korea showing a variety of offensive missiles at yesterday’s military parade and daring to fire a ballistic missile today is a show of force that threatens the whole world,” South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We have to warn again that if this leads to a strategic provocation of a nuclear or ICBM test, the North will face strong punitive measures that it will find hard to endure.”
Shortly after the failed test, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence touched down in South Korea Sunday for his first visit in a five-leg trip to the Asia-Pacific region, being the highest-level official from the Donald Trump administration yet to arrive here amid escalating tensions with the North. The arrival marked Pence’s first-ever visit to the South, and was nine hours after North Korea conducted its fifth ballistic missile test this year earlier in the morning, though it ended in failure.
Pence arrived at the Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, at 3:30 p.m. but has yet to make any public remarks. A joint statement between him and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who concurrently serves as acting president, is expected to come this afternoon after the two leaders discuss North Korean issues at Hwang’s office in central Seoul.
“This morning’s provocation from the North is just the latest reminder of the risks each one of you face every day,” Pence told a fellowship of U.S. soldiers and Koreans at a dinner in Seoul.