Shortwave radio may be the most underused of all the AM wavebands, though its ability to travel far greater distances than either long or medium-wave has enabled it to cross continents, open extended lines of communication between amateur radio hams and provide intelligence services with an invaluable means of both eavesdropping on the enemy and passing instructions on to agents in the field. The clandestine cult of the Numbers Stations (which I have covered in previous posts) has highlighted the indisputable existence of the latter shortwave use, even if governments remain in public denial. The repetitive reading of numbers by an electronically-generated voice, reciting a code indecipherable to the layman, was a vital weapon in the Cold War because shortwave broadcasts can often be untraceable.

The golden age of the Numbers Stations was when the majority of them emanated from behind the Iron Curtain, though they have continued to appear on shortwave long after the so-called Russian Woodpecker over-the-horizon Soviet radar system served as a useful jamming device. Many these days come from the likes of Cuba and China. Shortwave radio is an almost infallible method of secret communication, far more than the easily-hacked and traceable signal from the internet. The notion that a medium dating from the early years of the twentieth century is a safer bet than contemporary technology flies in the face of everything we’re led to believe in this techno-savvy age, when the lifespan of mediums means they seem to have a use-by date stamped on them the minute they exit the conveyor belt; but it’s true.

It goes without saying that I’ve no evidence whether or not shortwave is utilised to penetrate the closed world of North Korea, but if it isn’t it should be. The global reach of the worldwide web experiences something of an obstacle when confronted by Kim Jong-un’s citadel; very few of the great dictator’s subjects have internet access, so snooping on the traffic travelling in and out of Pyongyang is a considerably more challenging task than watching westerners wanking over webcam wonders doing rude things in a Belarus bedroom.

That many of the North Korean nuclear testing sites are situated underground has also limited the ability of American satellites to observe the country’s rapidly developing nuclear programme. Modern spying techniques that work so well when observing the innocent have proven to be all-but useless whenever the west has attempted to keep an eye on the Far East’s most worrisome nation.

North Korea’s old sponsor China hasn’t seen fit to share what its own intelligence has been able to divulge re recent events, though North Korea’s understandably jittery neighbour in the South has claimed more missile launches are being prepared; these would be hot on the heels of the one that flew over Japan last week before splashing down in the Pacific. North Korea has also bragged that it now has the capabilities for attaching a hydrogen bomb onto a long-range missile, after testing out said explosive device at the weekend, one that apparently made the H-bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 resemble little more than a fart in a curry-house.

The detonation of North Korea’s weekend H-bomb could be clearly detected in tremors that were felt in the Chinese city of Yanji, though few who flooded social media with their videos of the aftershocks were initially aware this had been a manmade earthquake. The fact that North Korea chose to test their H-bomb on the same day as Chinese President Xi Jinping was scheduled to give a speech at an international diplomatic shindig perhaps demonstrates its growing detachment from its former ally. Each of the recent publicised North Korean nuclear tests have coincided with major dates in the Chinese President’s schedule; the fact that China has backed UN sanctions against the nation it remains one of the few in the world to still trade with clearly grates.

China, however, is still in a position where it could effectively bring North Korea to its knees, being the country’s principle supplier of gas and oil as well as laundering billions in its banks; the apparent reason it doesn’t seems to stem from Chinese fears over what the collapse of the North Korean regime would do to the region. If North and South were to reunite, with the whole of the nation becoming one giant South Korea, China is concerned that the US would exercise the same influence it already has over the South, turning the reunified Korean Peninsula into another American base in the Pacific akin to Japan. China isn’t exactly keen on the thought of US troops stationed on its borders, but how much more is it prepared to tolerate before it exercises its remaining power over its one-time protégé?

China and the USA have a greater influence in the area around North Korea than any other world powers, so they are both better placed than most to change the current situation; but it’s equally obvious that they need to work together to bring about a resolution that the UN is incapable of concocting. North Korea has hardly paid much attention to that institution so far. President Trump declaring that America is considering no longer trading with any nation that trades with North Korea seemingly overlooks the fact that China provides the country with 90% of its trade. For the moment, North Korea is essentially dropping its trousers and mooning China, the US and the UN in an act of schoolboy taunting; but China still wields the cane. All it needs to do is use it and maybe the rest of the world can sleep a little sounder as a consequence.

© The Editor

12 thoughts on “BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

  1. It may be indicative of limited freedom in North Korea that it still seems to be necessary to restrain its veteran principal newsreader, Ri Chuin-hee, to her chair with what looks like a piece of conveyor-belting. Even the BBC doesn’t do that to Fiona Bruce.
    You may be understating the impact of a ‘fart in a curry-house’ – usually launched without adequate warning, these can be violently unpleasant experiences for all concerned, especially if accompanied by incidental ‘fall-out’. You really don’t want to be anywhere nearby when one is released.

    As you rightly observe, China, which has the capacity to end this sorry game in an instant, is looking further ahead and seeks longer-term protection for its own borders from uncontrolled infiltration of US-sourced influence. This is understandable from the Chinese viewpoint, as it tries to move its huge country forward whilst adhering to its traditional principles – the thought of a ‘Chinese Spring’, encouraged by the naive West despite how that played out elsewhere, fills them with dread, as it should the rest of us too.
    If the cost of this managed process is humouring the apparently humourless Fat-Boy Bang in North Korea then, as long as he doesn’t actually let one go, the Chinese will count that worthwhile in their own long march to developed progress, ideally for their rulers, without all the associated freedoms.

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    1. In some respects, the North Korea issue could be read as a symptom of the power struggle between the US and China in the Pacific, just as India provided one of the many backdrops to the similar battle for supremacy between the UK and the French at the turn of the nineteenth century. I suspect most of us distanced from the battlefield would be content to let them get on with it were the stakes not so bloody high.


  2. I find one of the most informative channels on youtube is the Stefan Molyneux channel. He’s an amazingly bright guy and he brings real perspective and knowledge. Check out his video “The horrible truth about North Korea.” Just watching.

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  3. So much I could say on this topic, especially regarding the Duga-1 and Duga-2 Radars a.k.a. “The Russian Woodpecker” a.k.a. “STEEL WORK” its old NATO Reporting Name. As you correctly state it was indeed an over the horizon radar, designed as part of the Soviets anti ballistic missile early warning system. Its famed “jamming” ability was actually an unintended and very much unwanted byproduct of the technology, as it disrupted Soviet/Warsaw-Pact communications at least as much as, if not more than, it did ours! The popular idea that it was some kind of massive purpose built jamming device seems to have originated within the civilian amateur radio community, for whom I can only imagine it must have presented a very real problem!

    But I’m not going to go on about it! In fact I’d rather address the North Korea issue…


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      1. Yes, and no! It gets really complicated! Each Duga system comprised of a transmitter station and a separate receiver station, located some miles apart from each other for technical reasons that would take far too long to go into here. The receiver station/array of Duga-1 is indeed located a few miles northwest of Chernobyl. It is within the sealed off radioactive zone, but since 2013 formal organised tours are available, passports, permits and paperwork permitting!!! This the giant antenna/array that most people think when mentioning “The Russian Woodpecker.” The transmitter station of Duga-1 is located about 30 miles to the northeast of Chernobyl near the small city of Chernihiv.

        Duga-2, the eastern system, is located in Siberia near the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, with the receiver about 20 miles southeast of the city, and the transmitter around 25 miles to the north of the city.

        Even the nomenclature gets complicated, You may read of a “Duga-3”, in fact the receiver of Duga-1 (the famous one) is often incorrectly referred to on the internet as Duga-3. Even Google Earth is guilty of fostering this misunderstanding! There is not and never was a Duga-3….. although, and I did warn you it gets complicated, there was a third Duga system in the USSR, one that actually predates Duga-1 and Duga-2, and was effectively the experimental prototype for the above systems. It was located near the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv, with its transmitter and receiver stations about 20 miles apart. It’s stated purpose was to track space craft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, some 1500 miles away, and it did so very effectively, of course it also just happened to be capable of tracking US submarine launched missiles from the Pacific Ocean! This facility was always referred to simply as “Duga” it was never assigned a numeric, unlike its successors Duga-1 and Duga-2. Phew, now that will teach you to not ask questions about Cold War tech!!! lol 😉


  4. Thanks, my favourite number station was “The Lincolnshire Poacher” I always half expected, at any minute, to hear the voice of Kenneth Williams’s ‘Rambling Sid Rumpo’ say “Now hello my dears…” and then launch in a ‘traditional Lincolnshire air’ concerning a young bogle clencher who was caught polishing his cordwangle in public! 😃

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      1. Those long winter evenings must simply fly by!!! 😃 Though I’m not sure I would want to listen to the likes of “Swedish Rhapsody” in the wee small hours! I remember it giving me the creeps way back when and I am in no hurry to reprise the experience anytime soon! 😱

        P.s. Just a thought, with a little, shall we say, ‘chemical enhancement’ that box set would probably be like the ultimate Concept Album ever! 😃

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