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Archive for November 30th, 2010

Exclusive: WikiLeaks Will Unveil Major Bank Scandal

Posted by Admin on November 30, 2010

First WikiLeaks spilled the guts of government. Next up: The private sector, starting with one major American bank.

In an exclusive interview earlier this month, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Forbes that his whistleblower site will release tens of thousands of documents from a major U.S. financial firm in early 2011. Assange wouldn’t say exactly what date, what bank, or what documents, but he compared the coming release to the emails that emerged in the Enron trial, a comprehensive look at a corporation’s bad behavior.

“It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume,” he told me.

Read Forbes’ full interview with Assange and our cover storyon what he and WikiLeaks means for business here.

“You could call it the ecosystem of corruption,” Assange added. “But it’s also all the regular decision making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that’s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they’re fulfilling their own self-interest.”

WikiLeaks recent priority has clearly been the publication of hundreds of thousands of government documents: 76,000 classified documents from the war in Afghanistan, another 392,000 from Iraq, and on Sunday, the first piece of an ongoing exposure of what will likely be millions of diplomatic messages sent between the U.S. State Department and its embassies.

But that government focus doesn’t mean WikiLeaks won’t embarass corporations, too. Since October, WikiLeaks has closed its submissions channel; Assange says the site was receiving more documents than it could find resources to publish. And half those unpublished submissions, Assange says, relate to the private sector. He confirmed that WikiLeaks has damaging, unpublished material from pharmaceutical companies, finance firms (aside from the upcoming bank release), and energy companies, just to name a few industries.

Whether and when those secrets come out is solely a matter of Assange’s discretion. “We’re in a position where we have to prioritize our resources so that the biggest impact stuff gets released first.”

For more, read our cover story on Assange’s plans, how a legendary hacker is working with the Pentagon to stop him, and how Iceland hopes to spring a flood of leaks worldwide.

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China knows less about NKorea than thought

Posted by Admin on November 30, 2010

Logo used by Wikileaks

BEIJINGChina knows less about and has less influence over its close ally North Korea than is usually presumed and is likely to eventually accept a reunified peninsula under South Korean rule, according to U.S. diplomatic files leaked to the WikiLeaks website.

The memos — called cables, though they were mostly encrypted e-mails — paint a picture of three countries struggling to understand an isolated, hard-line regime in the face of a dearth of information and indicate American and South Korean diplomats’ reliance on China’s analysis and interpretation.

The release of the documents, which included discussions of contingency plans for the regime’s collapse and speculation about when that might come, follows new tensions in the region. North Korea unleashed a fiery artillery barrage on a South Korean island that killed four people a week ago and has since warned that joint U.S.-South Korean naval drills this week are pushing the peninsula to the “brink of war.”

The shelling comes on the heels of a slew of other provocative acts: An illegal nuclear test and several missile tests, the torpedoing of a SouthKorean warship and, most recently, an announcement that in addition to its plutonium program, it may also be pursuing the uranium path to a nuclear bomb.

The memos give a window into a period prior to the latest tensions, but they paint a picture of three countries struggling to understand isolated and unpredictable North Korea.

In the cables, China sometimes seems unaware of or uncertain about issues ranging from who will succeed North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to the regime’s uranium enrichment plans and its nuclear test, suggesting that the North plays its cards close to its chest even with its most important ally.

Questioned about the enriched uranium program in June last year, Chinese officials said they believed that was program was “only in an initial phase” — a characterization that now appears to have been a gross underestimate.

China is Pyongyang’s closest ally — Beijing fought on the northern side of the Korean War and its aid props up the current regime — and its actions have often served to insulate North Korea from foreign pressure. It has repeatedly opposed harsh economic sanctions and responded to the latest crises by repeating calls for a return to long-stalled, six-nation denuclearization talks that the North has rejected.

But China would appear to have little ability to stop a collapse and less influence over the authorities in Pyongyang than is widely believed, South Korea’s then-vice foreign minister, Chun Yung-woo, is quoted telling American Ambassador Kathleen Stephens in February.

China lacks the will to push Pyongyang to change its behavior, according to Chun, but Beijing will not necessarily oppose the U.S. and South Korea in the case of a North Korean collapse.

China “would be comfortable with a reunified Korea controlled by Seoul and anchored to the US in a ‘benign alliance’ as long as Korea was not hostile towards China,” Chun said.

Economic opportunities in a reunified Korea could further induce Chinese acquiescence, he said.

The diplomatic cables warn, however, that China would not accept the presence of U.S. troops north of the demilitarized zone that currently forms the North-South border.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China would not comment specifically on the cables.

“China consistently supports dialogue between the North and South sides of the Korean peninsula to improve their relations,” Hong said at a regularly scheduled news conference.

In the leaked cable, Chun predicts the government in Pyongyang would last no more than three years following the death of ailing leader Kim Jong Il, who is seeking to transfer power to his youngest son Kim JongUn, a political ingenue in his 20s.

Chun also dismisses the possibility of Chinese military intervention if North Korea descended into chaos.

Despite that, China is preparing to handle any outbreaks of unrest along the border that could follow a collapse of the regime. Chinese officials say they could deal with up to 300,000 refugees, but might have to seal the border to maintain order, the memos say, citing an unidentified representative of an international aid group.

Chinese officials are also quoted using mocking language in reference to North Korea, pointing to tensions between the two neighbors in contrast to official statements underscoring strong historical ties.

Then-Deputy Foreign Minister He Yafei is quoted as telling a U.S. official in April 2009 that Pyongyang was acting like a “spoiled child” by staging a missile test in an attempt to achieve its demand of bilateral talks with Washington.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that WikiLeaks acted illegally in posting the leaked documents. Officials around the world have said the disclosure jeopardizes national security, diplomats, intelligence assets and relationships between foreign governments.

Five international media organizations, including The New York Times and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, were among those to receive the documents in advance. WikiLeaks is also slowly posting all the material on its own site.

 

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Signs of diplomacy in NKorea crisis

Posted by Admin on November 30, 2010

Coat of Arms of North Korea

Coat of Arms - North Korea

SEOUL, South Korea – A supercarrier sent jets into overcast skies Tuesday in U.S.-South Korean military drills that North Korea warned could spark war, but signs of diplomacy emerged alongside the tensions over last week’s deadly North Korean attack.

The North’s only major ally, China, hosted a top North Korean officialfor talks, and Japan also planned to send an envoy to China. The U.S., South Korea and Japan agreed to talk next week in Washington about the North’s nuclear weapons and its Nov. 23 artillery barrage that killed four South Koreans.

It was unclear if the Beijing visit by North Korea’s Choe Thae Bok, chairman of the North’s Parliament, would lead to any diplomatic solution. China, under pressure to rein in its ally, proposed emergency regional talks earlier this week, but South Korea, the United States and Japan gave a cool response.

Even as diplomats scrambled, leaked U.S. diplomatic cables revealed signs of a rift in the relationship between China and North Korea, a striking contrast from official statements underscoring their strong historical ties.

Documents from the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks showed China’s frustration with the North and speculated that Beijing would accept a future Korean peninsula unified under South Korean rule.

The North, meanwhile, reminded the world it was forging ahead with its nuclear efforts. Pyongyang said Tuesday that it’s operating a modern uranium enrichment plant equipped with thousands of centrifuges. The main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in an editorial that the North is also building a light-water reactor.

The North first revealed the uranium program in early November to a visiting American scientist. A light-water nuclear power reactor is ostensibly for civilian energy purposes, but it gives the North a reason to enrich uranium. Uranium enrichment would give the North a second way to make nuclear bombs, in addition to its known plutonium-based program.

North Korea has pushed for renewed international talks on receiving much-needed aid in return for commitments to dismantle nuclear programs, and its recent aggression could reflect frustration that those talks remain stalled.

The North unleashed an artillery barrage last week on a South Korean island that hit civilian areas, marking a new level of hostility along the contested maritime border between the Koreas. The attack killed two civilians and two marines.

In a major address Monday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak pledged a tough response if the North carries out any further attacks.

Kim Keun-sik, a North Korea analyst at South Korea’s Kyungnam University, said sides in the standoff will have competing ideas on how to resolve tension.

“North Korea and China will want to resolve the matter through a dialogue,” he said, “while South Korea and the U.S. will say ‘Why negotiate at this time?’ and think about pressure and punitive measures” on the North.

The Wikileaks documents further complicate the diplomatic picture.

China, the documents show, “would be comfortable with a reunified Korea controlled by Seoul and anchored to the US in a ‘benign alliance’ as long as Korea was not hostile towards China,” then-South Korean vice-foreign minister, Chun Yung-woo, is quoted as telling U.S. ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens in February.

Chun predicted the government in Pyongyang would last no more than three years following the death of ailing leader Kim Jong Il, who is seeking to pass power to son Kim Jong Un, an untested political newcomer in his 20s.

In Seoul, government officials declined to comment on Chun’s reported comments.

During Tuesday’s U.S.-South Korean military drills, a heavy fog engulfed the USS George Washington supercarrier. The carrier’s fog horn boomed out as U.S. aircraft took off and landed in quick succession.

Cmdr. Pete Walczak said the ship’s combat direction center was closely monitoring any signs of ships, aircraft of any other activity and that nothing unusual was detected from North Korea.

“Absolutely nothing,” Walczak said. “A lot of saber-rattling, fist-shaking, but once our presence is here, reality says that it’s really nothing.”

The North’s propaganda machine warned that the drills could trigger a “full-blown war” on the peninsula. “Our republic has a war deterrent that can annihilate any aggressor at once,” the government-run Minju Joson said.

On the streets of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, North Koreans spoke with pride of their military.

“Those who like fire are bound to be punished with fire,” Kim Yong Jun, a Pyongyang resident, told international broadcaster APTN.

A rally in Seoul, meanwhile, drew several thousand protesters who burned North Korean flags and called for the overthrow of Kim Jong Il. “We’ve had enough,” said Kim Jin-gyu, 64, adding that North Korea deserves punishment. “We should just smash it up.”

Yonhap news agency reported that Choe, the North Korean official, was expected to meet top Chinese communist party officials and discuss last week’s artillery barrage, the North’s nuclear program and the U.S.-South Korean military drills.

China has sought to calm tensions by calling for an emergency meeting among regional powers involved in six-party nuclear disarmament talks — the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russian and Japan — which have been stalled since last year.

Seoul, however, wants proof of Pyongyang’s commitment to denuclearization as well as a show of regret over the March sinking of a warship.

Japan rejected a new round of aid-for-disarmament talks any time soon, but announced Tuesday that a nuclear envoy would travel to China. Tokyo provided no further details

___

Santana and Kelly Olsen reported from aboard the USS George Washington. AP writers Foster Klug, Kim Kwang-tae and Ian Mader in Seoul, Christopher Bodeen in Beijing, and photographer Jin-man Lee in Yeonpyeong contributed to this report.

 

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