> This treatment turned worse when the North Koreans realized that crewmen were secretly giving them "the finger" in staged propaganda photos.
> Eventually the North Koreans threatened to execute his men in front of him, and Bucher relented and agreed to "confess to his and the crew's transgression." Bucher wrote the confession since a "confession" by definition needed to be written by the confessor himself. They verified the meaning of what he wrote, but failed to catch the pun when he said "We paean the DPRK [North Korea]. We paean their great leader Kim Il Sung". (Bucher pronounced "paean" as "pee on.")
I wasn't even familiar with the verb "paean", brilliant of the commander to know that non-native speakers wouldn't catch on to the idiosynchronies of using an uncommon homophone as an insult.
One of my favourites is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doug_Hegdahl:
He got blown overboard by a gun turret's blast, a story which his interrogators found so unbelievable they assumed he was an idiot and gave him free run of the POW camp, which he used to gather intel and sabotage vehicles.
That said, I wouldn't call it an easy destination while you're there, depending on your personality type. You have no freedom of movement, are pretty transparently being used for domestic propaganda purposes, and you're with your NK tour guides 100% of the time (and they're very vocal about their distaste for America/Americans, even if they're friendly to you directly). If you're the kind of person who can't follow rules, or if you get vocal/aggressive/unpredictable (particularly when drinking), it is not the destination for you. Most (but not all) of the foreigners who've been detained in NK did something dumb while there that resulted in detainment; if you can imagine yourself acting similarly dumb, don't go.
That said, I had a great time, loved the group I ended up with, and saw a part of the world that few else have. I'd go back in a heartbeat as soon as the political climate between the US/NK changes for the better.
Funny, all the people I know that do dumb things can't imagine themselves acting dumb.
(Disclaimer: US immigration politics are crazy right now, so obviously take all that with a healthy grain of salt)
>The tour group celebrated New Year's Eve by carousing in Pyongyang's Kim Il-sung Square before returning to their accommodations at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, where they continued drinking alcohol. Early in the morning of New Year's Day, Warmbier allegedly tried to steal a propaganda poster from a staff-only area of the hotel.
He stole a poster.  In North Korea. It was young and stupid and he shouldn't died for it, but he did break a law while he was over there.
How are we certain that he did in fact steal the poster? For all we know he could have been entirely innocent and any other tourist could have been arrested and tortured for forged reasons too.
Many tour operators regularly take people into North Korea to see guided tours. Keep in mind though, these are highly structured tours that are designed to keep you in line and only see certain things. You will be extremely safe while in the country, it's basically like a giant airport. Play in the boundaries and you're fine. Tens of thousands of tourists go there annually.
I am actually running a Hockey tournament in Pyongyang as a way to bridge the gap if anybody is interested. Unlike most tour operators, because we operate directly through the Ministry of Sports, we get a lot more liberties that you typically do not get through a regular tour agency that is only looking to provide to provide a cut and dry experience.
I spent 2 semesters teaching computer science at PUST and it was a wonderful experience. You really get to know the locals (both students and staff) much better than on a short tourist trip. Some highlights include teaching Dijkstra's algorithm by showing them google maps images of Pyongyang (which they hadn't seen from space before), talking about Snowden and how he used encryption to hide from the NSA, and having North Korean citizens contribute to open source machine learning projects (vowpal wabbit and mlpack). All the students I met with were also surprisingly well informed about both events in the US and American history.
You also get to do as much touristy stuff as you'd like. Two highlights for me were, visiting the Pueblo and the subway system. As a former naval nuclear officer, it was quite surreal to visit these places. The subway system is one of the few places in the world that US nuclear weapons cannot effectively target because it is buried so far underground (>100m). You have to spend about 5 minutes riding the longest escalator I've ever seen to get from the surface to the trains. It's a daily reminder to North Korean citizens that they've been targeted by US nuclear weapons for decades.
Educational exchanges have a long history of improving relations between countries, and so I'm a huge advocate for the PUST exchanges. Unfortunately, I had to stop going because President Trump no longer allows Americans to visit North Korea. If any non-Americans are interested in going, however, shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'm happy to chat more with you about the experience.
Probably they were given this education so they could learn to deal with westerners and potentially to improve their training for cyber warfare and intelligence gathering in the west.
I'd bet within a few miles of the experience you enjoyed that there were families starving in substandard housing.
My assessment is different.
I currently teach at an "elite" US college (liberal arts college ranked top-5 nationally with more than 20% of students having parents in the top 1% income bracket) and previously taught at a mid-ranked UC school. My impression is that the student demographics at PUST more closely resemble the mid-ranked UC school than the elite liberal arts school. The elite students in the DPRK tend to prefer their version of elite colleges like Kim Il Sung and Kim Chaek universities. For example, students from these other universities are regularly lauded in national newspapers for their achievements (which exceed those of PUST students), but PUST students have never been mentioned in a national newspaper as far as I am aware. My understanding is that students at these other universities have similar levels of internet access as students at PUST, but they do not have regular in person contact with westerners.
> Probably they were given this education so they could learn to deal with westerners and potentially to improve their training for cyber warfare and intelligence gathering in the west.
As someone who has professional experience running/developing cyberwarfare and nuclear military operations with the US military, I can unequivocally state that the work I did at PUST was not developing these capabilities for North Korea.
Western experts who study the DPRK largely agree with me that educational exchanges are a great way to improve relations between the US and DPRK building on the model of how educational exchanges improved relations between the US and USSR. See for example https://www.38north.org/2010/11/pyongyang-university-and-nk-...
> I'd bet within a few miles of the experience you enjoyed that there were families starving in substandard housing.
One of the major goals of the PUST project is to help improve and internationalize the North Korean economy. The longterm effect will be to improve the standard of living of all North Koreans.
This is surprising to me. I imagine they read some news/propaganda about the events, rather than reading the NYTimes, WAPO, or BBC news directly. Can you comment on that?
> As a former naval nuclear officer
Did you have to get special approval?
Their history lessons certainly have a different emphasis than American history lessons. They emphasize things like slavery in the US and the CIA's interventions in Latin America in service of US businesses, but from all my conversations with students none of them had learned anything that was actually incorrect. They get their news mainly from government run newspapers, but also word of mouth spreads news pretty quickly.
> Did you have to get special approval?
It had been long enough since my time in service that non of my clearances were still valid, and so there was no special risk of me disclosing anything. I just contacted the American embassy in China and informed them of my plans.
Graduate students at PUST (and other local universities) have unfiltered internet. Undergrads have a more limited access where they would have to request that I download a webpage for them, and then I'd go download it and stick it on a usb drive. One of the main limitations is that students are not supposed to create accounts on websites because this would lead to tracking of them, which would allow NSA/CIA to target them.
Not that I am particularly fond of taking Trump’s side on anything, but I think this is a fairly reasonable policy given North Korea’s tendency to kidnap Americans and use them as leverage in negotiations.
How do you feel about educating the future hackers in the North Korean military? You almost certainly contributed to their ability to wage cyberwarfare.
Western experts who study the DPRK largely agree with me that educational exchanges are a great way to improve relations between the US and DPRK, building on the model of how educational exchanges improved relations between the US and USSR. See for example https://www.38north.org/2010/11/pyongyang-university-and-nk-...
>Western experts who study the DPRK largely agree with me that educational exchanges are a great way to improve relations
Would you make a distinction between disciplines of agricultural engineering and more dangerous ones, such as nuclear science or aeronautical engineering?
As a concrete example of the things I taught, look at the official KCNA webpage http://www.kcna.kp (North Korea's main state run newspaper).
This webpage is very poorly designed, and cannot even be indexed by Google due to poorly implemented AJAX queries. In my classes, we would talk about why this is bad design and how to improve it. The DPRK would benefit from producing better webpages, but so would the rest of the world. These webpages are one of the few sources we have for understanding life in North Korea, and I personally want to encourage the North Koreans to fill them with high quality and easy to access content. Currently, they simply don't have enough skilled programmers capable of performing these tasks.
IMHO, this is a clear example of how teaching computer science benefits both the North Koreans and Americans without improving North Korean hacking skills.
The (((echo))) is a dogwhistle. "Globalists" is a dogwhistle. The USS Liberty incident is just another point on the miles-long list of war crimes committed by the Israeli military and pardoned by the American UNSC veto.
The accusation of antisemitism whenever misbehavior from the Israeli government comes up is itself antisemitic because it presupposes that "the Republic of Israel" and "the Jews" are the same thing.
>The accusation of antisemitism whenever misbehavior from the Israeli government comes up is itself antisemitic because it presupposes that "the Republic of Israel" and "the Jews" are the same thing.
I believe this argument is pointless since people on all sides of this debate selectively draw and blur the line between Israel and Jews depending on what point they are trying to make.
Another example from the same era was the second Gulf of Tonkin incident which lead to the Vietnam War. In the 2000's Robert McNamara finally admitted the second incident never happened.
All these incidents ... I can't help but think we never grow up as human beings all the way until becoming international super powers.
It's like a geopolitical "I'm not touching you."
It's bullying behavior. It's an aggressive provocation.
Will we ever grow up?
Like they did the USS Liberty: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Liberty_incident
Basically, China says it's their territory, the US says it is international waters. And so we "prove" it by regularly traveling through it with US warships for no other purpose then to prove we can.
Suppose the US claimed that the entire Gulf of Mexico was US territory. Would people be as sympathetic to that as they appear to be to China claiming that the entire South China Sea is Chinese territory? (Note that the South China Sea is more than twice as large as the Gulf of Mexico, and less of its coastline is part of China as compared with the amount of Gulf of Mexico coastline that is part of the US.)
Since China is a long way from the Gulf of Mexico, and has no need to sail there, I'm confident that China couldn't care less about this.
On the other hand, The South China Sea is very important to China, and very far away from USA -- why does USA care so much about it?
Perhaps you could also comment of USA claims over the Northern Sea Route (which lies within Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone) ? , 
First, many Chinese flag ships sail through the Gulf of Mexico, so I think China does care.
Second, even if China didn't care, many other countries do. And the US, unlike China, respects the rights of other countries to freedom of the seas.
> The South China Sea is very important to China, and very far away from USA -- why does USA care so much about it?
First, because many US flag ships sail through the South China Sea. We trade with many countries other than China that have coastlines on that sea. You know that, right?
Second, because, just as with the Gulf of Mexico, many other countries have ships that sail through the South China Sea, and there are internationally agreed rules about international waters and freedom of the seas, which, as noted above, China does not respect the way the US does. The only way to enforce such rules is for countries that uphold them to take action against countries that do not.
> Perhaps you could also comment of USA claims over the Northern Sea Route (which lies within Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone) ?
This case is an excellent illustration of the proper way to negotiate rules regarding freedom of the seas: to notify other countries of something you would like to see happen, and then have a diplomatic dialogue with them. As opposed to, oh, say, just asserting that a huge chunk of ocean is your territorial waters, in contravention of international law and treaties.
Also, since you mentioned Exclusive Economic Zones, you will note that the US is not saying it wants to exploit resources in this zone; it is only saying it wants it to be a transport corridor. Which, according to current international agreements, it already is everywhere outside 12 nautical miles from Russia's coast.
You both make good points. China is doing a lot of bad stuff here, but it is their land and their right to exert their power over it how they see fit.
If China tried to tell another sovereign nation how to handle their internal disputes, they'd be just as wrong as the west is in this.
This is really something China needs to handle. It's not the west's place to butt in.
At the risk of whatabouting it, most of all the tactics you're saying China is using in Hong Kong have been used by western governments as well. It's not right.
You know, China gave away Hong Kong to stop the bombing from the west and now China is trying to wrestle back control of it... kind of still, in a way, from the west.
It was the west that caused this problem in Hong Kong. It's time the west stopped meddling in it and I think that'd be best.
Is this just to save face or is there some other reason we would want the ship back?
Now, it’d be difficult to pull off and offers no upside and lots of downside, but it’d be very intrepid to pull off.
They shoot at you? Honey badger don't care, there ain't no people there.
Google maps appears to confirm that: https://www.google.com/maps/place/USS+Puebloemail@example.com,125...
Always interesting to be reminded of all of these incidents from past operations.
The value of invading another sovereign nation's territory in order to repatriate some hunk object that has purely symbolic value?
Hardly seems worth the cost and massive fallout that would ensure.
This is a really weird hair to try to split, given that the two words are essentially synonymous.
> When an army crosses a border into another country for battle, they are making an incursion into enemy territory. An incursion is an invasion as well as an attack.
> [An incursion is] An aggressive movement into somewhere; an invasion
> Invasion is a synonym for incursion in attack topic.
...and so forth.
The Russians have incursions into our airspace and we do similarly to them.
We don’t call those “invasions”. An invasion is more physical in terms of control. When you invade you’re attempting to control an area with troops some time accompanied by non local pop. An incursion may result in extrication, surveillance or reconnaissance, those sorts of things.
The US and Russians do legally conduct authorized reconnaissance flights over each other's airspace. This is authorized under the terms of the Open Skies Treaty and is specifically not an incursion.
Yes, but that's about politics and emotional connotation, not denotation.
Invasion is quite involved and usually requires troops to establish foothold and perhaps control over an area. We, the US invaded Grenada, even if it was just momentary. We established control, sent armed troops, etc. Flying reconnaissance over Havana is an incursion but not an invasion.
They obviously went to see the USS Pueblo as well...
It's kind of a long read, but very interesting, imho.
The wreckage is worth a visit if you find yourself in Tokyo with a day to spare for a trip to Yokohama. (Half a day will do easily if that's literally all you go to Yokohama for, but you can spend a pleasant few hours there, so may as well make a day of it.)
Any thoughts on why this was so? Why would the crew not be classified PoWs? Did the US not want to admit they were in a war with PRK or what?
They classify them as people that will pay good money to be taken on a Disneyland tour through their Potemkin villages.