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North Korea again

A mysterious aircraft belonging to the closed-state is reported to have crashed into a house in northern China, in, what some observers are speculating as, an attempt to defect.

The New York Times quoted South Korean news agency Yonhap as reporting the plane to appear to be a Soviet-era military jet and that the pilot might have been trying to defect, citing unnamed intelligence sources. The Times also said Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that China was now communicating with North Korea about the crash.

Yonhap said the North Korean aircraft appeared to be a MiG-21 jet. Quoting an unnamed South Korean military source, it said the jet took off from an airfield in Sinuiju, a North Korean town on the far western border with China. Yonhap said the pilot appeared to be defecting to Russia but lost course and crashed in China. Officials in the South Korean Defense Ministry declined to comment on the Yonhap reports.’

The Wall Street Journal reported, “Photos circulating on the Internet showed what appeared to be a fighter jet with a faded red star of the North Korean military burrowed into a thick corn field, its silver fuselage draped by logs, bricks and hay matting, with a slashed tail wing,” and also carried two of the photographs.

‘The spot is about 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Dandong, the major Chinese border crossing with North Korea.

The Yonhap news agency speculated the pilot may have been attempting to defect to Russia. It said radar images showed the plane took off from Sinuiju, just over the border from Dandong. Such a short distance would raise the possibility the pilot ran out of fuel.

Attempting a flight to Russia over China would be extremely risky, taking it near major cities, including Beijing, although it might be the quickest route out of North Korea.

Though defectors from North Korea into China are common, they are mostly civilians, not military.’

The Christian Science Monitor had this to say.

‘Analysts believe the plane may have been bound for Russia and flown off course, but the reason for the flight or the crash remains shrouded in mystery. The inexperience of the pilot, or fuel shortage though, may have been a factor.

Bolstering that theory, analysts say North Korean pilots often lack adequate training due to scant fuel available to fly as many hours as needed to hone their skills.

“Most of their planes are out of date,” says Kim Tae-woo, senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses. ”They fly very much less than our South Korean planes. They have a fuel problem and lack spare parts.”

The last time a North Korean pilot reportedly defected was in May 1996, when he flew a MiG19 to the South Korean air base at Suwon, south of Seoul. A North Korean pilot took advantage of a training exercise in February 1983 to fly a MiG19 to another base near Seoul. And a pilot flew a MiG15 to South Korea in September 1953, just two months after the end of the Korean War.’


Taliban prison compound

NATO-led forces have discovered a Taliban prison in a compound in Musa Qaleh in Helmand province of Afghanistan, which held 27 prisoners in chains, reports Reuters. The report said they rescued prisoners, two of whom were aid workers, appeared to have been tortured.

The news agency also reported US officials as saying that the ban imposed on security firms on Tuesday by Preident Hamid Karzai could affect the delivery of aid in Afghanistan.

The report carried the following quote. “We are concerned that any quick action to remove private security companies may have unintended consequences, including the possible delay of U.S. reconstruction and development assistance efforts,” U.S. embassy spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

Reuters also reported that closure of 900 Afghan polling stations due to security concerns during the parliamentary elections.

‘More than 900 polling centers for Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections next month will not open because of security fears, an official said on Wednesday, adding to concerns after a fraud-marred presidential vote last year.’

The report quoted Ahmad Mahnawi Fazel, chairman of the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC) as saying that ‘those that would not be able to open were spread across 25 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces but most were in the south and the east, the heartland of the insurgency’.

And another report says archaeologists in Afghanistan have discovered Buddhist-era remains in an area south of Kabul, with some relics being reported to date from the 5th century.


Somalian non-pirates

A US court in Norfolk, Virginia dismissed charges of piracy against six Somalis who attacked a US Navy warship. The court held the government failed to make its case that their actions amounted to piracy, reports the Associated Press.

The Wall Street Journal carried a very educative back-story to this case last Saturday.


Zimbabwe’s diamonds

Zimbabwe is going to look east (including India) as far if its diamond trade is sanctioned. So reports the Christian Science Monitor also carrying a story on US diamond trader Rapaport’s campaign against that country’s blood diamonds.


Wikileaks and the Pirate Party

Foreign Policy‘s blog Passport notes that Wikileaks has reached an agreement with Sweden’s Pirate Party ‘that would help protect the whistleblower web site’.

This could mean the sort of protection similar to the file sharing website The Pirate Bay. The Pirate Party has a seat in the European Parliament and The Pirate Bay’s servers are located in the Pirate Party’s office in Parliament, granting them immunity from seizure or censure. Or so one gathers.


Humor and Brazilian elections

Passport also noted on Tuesday, in a hilarious post, how election jokes have been banned in Brazil, in spite of candidates with names like DJ Saddam, Chico bin Laden, Kung Fu Fatty and Second King of the Prawns having been fielded before.


Did you know that Adolf Hitler received an Iron Cross in the First World War, later the foundation of his CV for dictator. The sickening irony? The award was recommended by a Jewish officer, Hugo Gutmann, according to this article in The Independent.


Murtaza Ravi, editor at Dawn, writes revealingly of the state of Pakistan in the aftermath of the floods in the Indian Express.


There’s talk of a coup in Iraq at Passport and a stunt pilot who survived even after getting a wing clipped. The Telegraph has the video.

Saurabh Joshi

Saurabh Joshi

Saurabh is a journalist based in New Delhi, India who has worked in print, television as well as internet news media. Besides defense and strategy, his past assignments have ranged from reporting terror strikes to elections. He has studied journalism and law at the University of Delhi. 

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