MS Risk Blog

As Tensions Rise, US States that its Not Seeking Regime Change in North Korea

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Amidst tensions over Pyongyang’s weapons programme, the United States government confirmed this month that it is not seeking a regime change in North Korea.

Rex Tillerson stated this month “we’re not your enemy,” adding that the US wanted a dialogue at some point. A Republican senator however has contradicted this statement, saying that US President Donald Trump had told him there would be a war with North Korea if its missile programme continued.

Mr Tillerson disclosed, “we do not seek a regime change, we do not seek the collapse of the regime, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th parallel,” referring to the border between the two Koreas, adding “we’re not your enemy, we’re not your threat but you’re presenting an unacceptable threat to us and we have to respond.” While President Trump has repeatedly criticized China, which is North Korea’s closely economy ally and which shares a land border, for not doing enough in order to stop Pyongyang’s weapons programme, Mr Tillerson took a more diplomatic approach, stating that “only the North Koreans are to blame for this situation.”   “But,” he added,” we do believe China has a special and unique relationship, because of this significant economic activity, to influence the North Koran regime in ways that no one else can.”

The statement comes after Pyongyang late last month carried out its second test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), a test that was celebrated by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the latest to be conducted in defiance of a United Nations ban. Pyongyang has claimed that its latest missile could hit the US west coast.

In a separate development, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham stated that President Trump told him that there would be a military conflict between the two countries if Pyongyang continued with its aim to develop a missile programme with the US in its range. In an interview with NBC’s Today programme, Mr Graham stated, “there will be a war with North Korea over their missile programme if they continue to try to hit America with an ICBM,” adding “He (President Trump) has told me that, I believe him, and if I were China I would believe him too, and do something about it,” adding ‘if there’s going to be a war…it will be over there. If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die here. And he (President Trump) has told me that to my face.”

Despite the ongoing tests, most experts believe that Pyongyang does not have the capability to miniaturise a nuclear warhead, fit it on a long-range missile, and ensure that it is protected until delivery to the target. They say that many of North Korea’s missiles cannot accurately hit targets. Others however believe that at the rate it is going, Pyongyang may overcome these challenges and develop a nuclear weapons within five to ten years that could strike the US.

New Boko Haram Faction Proving to be Deadly

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A Boko Haram faction that has ties to the so-called Islamic State (IS) group and which is responsible for the kidnapping in July of a Nigerian oil prospecting team that led to at least 37 people being killed, has proven to be a deadly force capable of carrying out highly-organized attacks.

In recent years, Nigerian government forces have focused their attentions on combatting the best-known branch of Boko Haram, with the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, leading an eight-year insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria, which has killed thousands. However while Nigerian officials have claimed the capture of Shekau’s main base in the Sambisa Forest, and freed many of the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by his group in April 2014 from the town of Chibok, a rival wing has been quietly developing its capacities to carry out deadly attacks on a larger scale. Shekau’s division, which operates in the northeastern Sambisa Forest has been known to deploy girls as suicide bombers, targeting mosques, markets and bus stations in northeastern Nigeria as well as in neighbouring states, including Cameroon and Niger.

In late July, at least 37 people, including members of th team, rescuers from the military and vigilantes, were killed when security forces tried to free those being held by the Boko Haram faction that is led by Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who is trying to thwart government efforts to explore for oil in the Lake Chad Basin. The group has been assessed as being better organized the Shekau’s faction, though in recent weeks, Shekau’s faction has stepped up suicide bombings. According to a Reuters tally, since 1 June 2017, at least 113 people have been killed by its attacks. Furthermore, the combined attacks by the two wings have effectively marked a resurgence by Boko Haram, occuring months after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announced in December 2016 that Boko Haram’s stronghold in the Sambisa Forest had been captured.

While Shekau has been Boko Haram’s most recognizable figure, since IS named al-Barnawi as Boko Haram’s leader in August 2016, after the West African militants pledged allegiance the previous year, his Lake Chad-based faction has been rapidly moving fighters and ammunition across the porous borders of northeastern Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger. According to the head of Nigerian security firm, al-Barnawi’s IS affiliation effectively means that his wing has been able to benefit from sub-Saharan trade routes to ship weapons from lawless Libya where IS is active. A Western diplomat has also disclosed that his group has been planning a larger scale attack for some time.

Air France Expands North Korea No-Fly Zone

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This month, Air France-KLM expanded its no-fly zone over North Korea after one of is jets flew past the location where an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) splashed down ten minutes later.

Citing flight data provided by Japan, an airline spokesman disclosed that Air France’s flight 293, a Boeing 777 carrying 323 people on board and flying from Tokyo to Paris, missed North Korea’s latest ICBM as it fell to earth on 28 July by about 100 km (60 miles). The spokesman went on to say that Air France-KLM flied direct to Tokyo and Osaka and the expansion of the no-fly zone could make the flights 10 minutes to 30 minutes longer, depending on the direction.

Late last month, North Korea announced that its latest ICBM test proved its ability to strike America’s mainland. The latest test drew a sharp warning from US President Donald Trump and a rebuke from China.

China Announces End Date for Imports from North Korea

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China last month announced that it will stop importing North Korean coal, iron ore, fish and other goods on 5 September 2017 as it implements United Nations sanctions.

Earlier last month, the UN Security Council, including China, backed a new resolution imposing fresh sanctions on North Korea in retaliation for its controversial nuclear programme. The sanctions aim to block US $1 billion worth of North Korean exports – about a third of its total exports.

The announcement by China came as US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford disclosed that military options were being prepared against the North if diplomatic and economic sanctions failed. The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in stated that Mr Dunford had made the comments in a 50-minute meeting to discuss North Korean provocation.

China has also appointed a new special envoy for the North Korean issue. China is North Korea’s closest ally, however it has been angered by its repeated missile and nuclear tests. President Xi has urged Washington and Pyongyang to avoid words or actions that could worsen the situation. US President Donald Trump has also called on China to do more in order to stop the North’s nuclear ambitions, while the South Korean leader has called for a peaceful solution, saying that there must not be another war on the Korean Peninsula.

Last month, tensions significant increased over fears that North Korea is close to achieving its goal of putting the mainland US within range of a nuclear weapon. North Korea also threatened to fire intermediate missiles into waters off the coast of the US overseas territory of Guam. The North’s state news agency also stated that about 3.5 million students and workers have volunteered to fight alongside the military to defend their country from the US.

SECURITY ADVISORY: Ivory Coast 4 September 2017

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  • Ninety-six inmates have escaped from a Katiola Prison.

  • A gendarmerie post in Songon has been attacked. The assailants seized a number of weapons.

Between 0500 and 0600 GMT on Sunday 3 September, 96 inmates escaped from a Katiola prison in the Ivory Coast. The inmates escaped by going through the roof of their cells to get to other cells. They then reportedly took advantage of workers who were leaving the facility, in order to break the main gate and flee.

A local judicial source says the escapees were followers of Coulibaly Yacouba. Yacouba, also known as “Yacou le Chinois” (“Yacou the Chinese”) was killed in February 2016 during an attempted jail break from Ivory Coast’s main detention centre in Abidjan. During the escape, ten people, including one guard, were killed, and a further 21 others were injured.

This is the latest in a string of prison breaks in recent weeks. On 8 August, five prisoners escaped from a jail in Gagnoa in southern Ivory Coast. The mayor in Gagnoa said four prison guards and one civilian were arrested on suspicion of aiding the prisoners in their escape. Days later, on 10 August, twenty people escaped from holding cells at the Abidjan courthouse. The escapes clashed with police. Later, seven prison officials were arrested.

Separately, at 2100 (local time) on 2 September, at least five individuals, hooded and heavily armed with AK 47 machine guns, targeted a gendarmerie station in Songon (20km of Abidjan on the road of Dabou) to steal weapons. Security forces exchanged fire with the assailants for more than 20 minutes. The assailants were able to seize several weapons, including automatic Kalashnikovs, before disappearing into the wild, according to witnesses.


In light of the large number of escaped inmates, there is likely to be a greater security presence, including an increased number of traffic and vehicle checkpoints in the areas surrounding Katiola. Camps or offices within 30-75 kilometres should be aware of illegal trespass and be careful around security of vehicles, residences and offices.

MS Risk advises travellers and expatriates in Ivory Coast to remain vigilant throughout the country. Exercise situational awareness Katiola, and Abidijan, as well as previously affected areas including Bouake, Korhogo, Odienne, Adiake, Daloa, Bouafle, Man and San Pedro. Should a disturbance erupt near you, MS Risk advises quickly leaving the area, and if possible, returning to your accommodation or local office and remain there until the situation stabilizes. Monitor local developments and follow guidance and directives as issued by local authorities.