Trump ‘Ignorance’ Turns Kim Jong Un’s Hopes into Achievable Goals

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE 38 NORTH.ORG) (SOUTH KOREA)

 

Trump Turns Kim Jong Un’s Hopes into Achievable Goals

Three generations of North Korea’s Kim family have dreamed of getting the United States off the Korean peninsula. Now, the Trump administration appears to be doing everything it can to undermine the US-South Korean alliance that has vexed Pyongyang since the armistice that ceased the Korean War was signed 64 years ago.

During his election campaign, Donald Trump’s “America First” rhetoric caused broad and general consternation amongst US allies. Then, more than once, he suggested that maybe South Korea and Japan would have to go nuclear, raising the prospect that those countries couldn’t count on the US nuclear umbrella and should be thinking about fending for themselves.

As soon as he took office, Trump decided to walk away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-country trade agreement that did not include China. The TPP was widely seen as a move by the United States to reassure its allies and friends of its enduring security commitment to the region and to bind together non-Chinese economies in order to balance Beijing’s growing political and economic clout in the region. Withdrawal from the TPP was interpreted by some of America’s Asian partners, including South Korea, as a sign that the US was abandoning the region to Chinese influence.

In the spring of 2017, Trump suggested—during South Korea’s snap elections after the impeachment of Park Geun-hye—that Seoul should pay for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile battery that was negotiated under Park’s rule. The cost of the system is about $1 billion and the United States was to cover 100 percent of the costs, in part, because South Korean politicians and voters were deeply ambivalent about it. In order to make it politically palatable in South Korea, it at least had to come at no cost to the Korean taxpayer.

In the past month, Trump has made statements on two fronts that continue to profoundly undermine the US-ROK alliance. The first was his August 8 off-the-cuff “fire and fury” remarks. The second was his more deliberate disdain for the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) that has been in effect for five years. Negotiations began during the Bush administration and the FTA was signed in 2012 during President Obama’s first term. Trump is now threatening to unilaterally pull out of the deal, and soon.

In the meantime, Kim Jong Un is marching along at his own pace in his quest for a credible nuclear deterrent against the United States, as last week’s missile and nuclear tests reemphasize. Pyongyang chooses more or less provocative ways of testing its nukes and missiles, but it has an end game and several overlapping goals in mind. That end game isn’t nuclear war, which would lead to the destruction of North Korea and the end of the Kim dynasty. But driving a wedge between the United States and its allies, especially South Korea, is among the likely aims (or at least hopes). For that to work, however, it would depend on some “cooperation” from politicians in Seoul or Washington.

Historically, multiple US and ROK presidencies made sure that no unmanageable cracks emerged in the alliance in the 11 years since North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon in 2006. Four other nuclear tests as well as numerous missile tests have challenged the various administrations to stay on the same page. The allies pretty much did, even when their perspectives and approaches on North Korea significantly differed.

But that unified voice is now wavering. President Trump’s apparent willingness to entertain the idea of war on the Korean peninsula unnerves South Koreans, especially if started by unilateral US actions. After Trump responded to news that North Korea had miniaturized a nuclear warhead with threats with “fire and fury,” Pyongyang announced it was considering a missile strike around Guam. Trump in turn reacted by stating that if Kim “does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody’s seen before, what will happen in North Korea.”

Later, on August 16, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in felt compelled to tell his citizens that he had “ruled out war” and that “Mr. Trump has already promised to consult with South Korea and get our approval for whatever option they will take against North Korea.” Still, ordinary South Koreans are starting to wonder if the United States is too keen on escalating this crisis towards a conflict for which they will pay the heaviest price.

Furthermore, the Moon government (and Abe’s in Tokyo) can’t help but have noticed that Washington has become much more animated over Pyongyang’s rapidly improving ICBM threat to the United States than the longer term ballistic missile and nuclear threat it has posed to US allies for at least a decade. The alliance structure is supposed to guarantee that both countries are absolutely committed to the defense of each other. US credibility in that regard is extremely strained if it appears Washington is willing to risk a regional war to prevent a theoretical attack on US soil.

US credibility as an economic partner is also at risk. In April, Trump called the Korea-US FTA “unacceptable” and “horrible.” The effects of the FTA are debatable and gently calling for a renegotiation of some parts of it may even be warranted. However, it was revealed this weekend that Trump was considering completely pulling the plug on the FTA as early as this month.

This takes place not only as the North Korea crisis grows, but also while China’s informal sanctions on South Korea for its deployment of the THAAD system in March continue to bite. Many Koreans already feel as if they deployed THAAD at the behest of the United States and have suffered economically for it. If Trump tears up the FTA now, it will seem that the US is turning its back to Seoul economically in a time of need. People are already frustrated at being buffeted between the strategic concerns of the region’s great powers.

The South Koreans I talk to increasingly wonder: If the economic relationship is not advantageous and the strategic one imperils their country, what is the value of this alliance anymore? It is a not a huge leap from there to the question: “Why do we keep the US presence here at all?” It appears Donald Trump is gifting the wedge that Pyongyang has long hoped for all along.

Andray Abrahamian is a Visiting Scholar at the Jeju Peace Institute and the Center for Korean Studies, UC Berkeley.

Trump responds to N Korea with missile defense test and B-1 drills

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Trump responds to N Korea with missile defense test and B-1 drills

Media caption The US B-1 bombers were joined on Sunday by South Korean and Japanese planes

The US says it has carried out a successful test of its controversial anti-missile system and has flown B-1 bombers over the Korean peninsula.

The exercises are a direct response to recent North Korean missile tests.

A projectile fired by the US Air Force was intercepted over the Pacific by a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) unit in Alaska.

US B-1 bombers also conducted exercises over the Korean peninsula with South Korean and Japanese planes.

On Friday, North Korea test-fired a second intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) which it said proved that the entire US was within striking range.

The launch came three weeks after the state’s first ICBM test.

Despite fierce objections from China, the US military has begun installing the Thaad system in South Korea with the aim of shooting down any North Korean missiles fired at the South.

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful test, 29 July 2017Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThe US says it has successfully shot down a ballistic missile in a test of its Thaad system

On Saturday, US President Donald Trump criticized China for not doing enough to stop Pyongyang’s weapons program while making “billions of dollars” in trade with North Korea.

Mr Trump wrote on Twitter that he was “very disappointed” with China, adding that he would not allow the country to “do nothing” about the isolated state.

But Victor Gao, a former diplomat and Chinese government adviser, said that Mr Trump’s comments were unhelpful, adding that the US was acting like a “spoiled child”.

China, which shares a land border with North Korea and is its closest economic ally, earlier condemned the North’s test launch and urged restraint on all sides.

The US exercises over the weekend were performed as a “direct response” to recent behavior from what is seen as an increasingly belligerent North Korea as it tries to realize its nuclear ambitions.

The show of strength formed “part of the continuing demonstration of ironclad US commitment to our allies”, the US Pacific Command said.

Mr Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping discussed North Korea during talks earlier this year, after which US officials said the two countries were working on “a range of options” to rein in Pyongyang.

But Friday’s ICBM launch demonstrates a defiance from the North, which is showcasing “a significant advancement in technology”, South Korea said.

The North continues to test its missiles in breach of UN resolutions.

Pressure is expected to mount this week for a new UN Security Council resolution to push through tougher sanctions on North Korea.

Its success will depend not only on China’s co-operation but also on Russia, which is concerned by the balance of power in the region.

Map showing estimates of North Korean missile ranges

What is Thaad?

  • Shoots down short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in the terminal phase of their flight
  • Uses hit-to-kill technology – where kinetic energy destroys the incoming warhead
  • Has a range of 200km and can reach an altitude of 150km
  • US has previously deployed it in Guam and Hawaii as a measure against potential attacks from North Korea
Thaad missile defence system graphic

1. The enemy launches a missile

2. The Thaad radar system detects the launch, which is relayed to command and control

3. Thaad command and control instructs the launch of an interceptor missile

4. The interceptor missile is fired at the enemy projectile

5. The enemy projectile is destroyed in the terminal phase of flight

The launcher trucks can hold up to eight interceptor missiles.

Thaad system launcher

U.S. Army Tests THAAD Missile Defense System That China And Russia Complain About

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Washington (CNN) 

The US Defense Department Missile Defense Agency plans to conduct a long-planned flight test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system within the next few days, according to a DOD official.

The exact date of the planned test is not being disclosed until it has taken place. The THAAD is based at the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska in Kodiak, Alaska.
According to the official, the test is not related to North Korea’s recent intercontinental ballistic missile launch.
THAAD is designed to shoot down short, medium and intermediate ballistic missiles with shorter ranges than the ICBM that North Korea launched Tuesday.
The test will involve the THAAD seeking to detect, track and engage a target with an interceptor missile.
Each THAAD system is comprised of five major components: interceptors, launchers, a radar, a fire control unit and support equipment, according to Lockheed Martin, the security and aerospace company that serves as the prime contractor for the equipment.
The radar first detects an incoming missile, those manning the system identify the threat then a launcher mounted to a truck fires a projectile, which Lockheed Martin calls an “interceptor,” at the ballistic missile in the hopes of destroying it using kinetic energy — basically just its sheer speed.
While military officials claim the impending test is not related to the recent successful launch of a North Korean ICBM, the escalation of Pyongyang’s nuclear program has prompted a closer look at the effectiveness of missile defense systems maintained by the US and its allies.
Last month, a US and Japanese missile test conducted in Hawaii missed its target, but both militaries stopped short of calling it a failure.
The firing involved a SM-3 Block IIA missile that’s built for the Aegis Missile Defense system, which is used to shoot down medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles from ships at sea.
In May, the Pentagon successfully shot down an intercontinental ballistic missile using its own upgraded long-range interceptor missile.
That test involved firing a new version of the military’s single long-range ground-based interceptor missile, which is currently based in Alaska and California. That program has been in existence for more than a decade but only about half of the tests have been successful, according to the Defense Department. US officials often call it a high-speed effort to hit a bullet with another bullet.
While the Pentagon called the test a success, some experts cautioned that the $40 billion missile defense system still has a long way to go before it can be considered fully developed.

US Moves THAAD Anti-missile to S.Korean Site as North Shows Power

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

World

US Moves THAAD Anti-missile to S.Korean Site as North Shows Power

Protesters stage a rally to oppose a plan to deploy an advanced US missile defense system called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, in front of the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korea announced Wednesday the installation of key parts of a contentious US missile defense system meant to counter the North hours after Pyongyang displayed its military power.

South Korea said in a statement Wednesday that unspecified parts of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, were installed.

It said that Seoul and Washington have been pushing to get THAAD quickly working to cope with North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threats. According to the Yonhap news agency, the parts include two or three launchers, intercept missiles and a radar.

The South Korean move triggered protests from villagers and criticism from China.

Television footage showed military trailers carrying equipment, including what appeared to be launch canisters, to
the battery site. Protesters shouted and hurled water bottles at the vehicles over lines of police holding them back.

More than 10 protesters were injured, some of them with fractures, in clashes with police, Kim Jong-kyung, a leader of villagers opposing the deployment, told Reuters.

Kim said about 200 protesters rallied overnight and they would keep up their opposition.

North Korea conducted live-fire artillery drills on Tuesday, the 85th anniversary of the founding of its million-person Korean People’s Army.

North Korea’s official media reported Wednesday that leader Kim Jong Un personally observed the exercises, which involved the firing of more than 300 large-caliber artillery pieces and included submarine torpedo-attacks on mock enemy warships.

On the same day, the USS Michigan, a nuclear-powered submarine, arrived at the South Korean port of Busan for what was described as a routine visit to rest crew and load supplies. The US 7th Fleet said two American destroyers were conducting simultaneous maritime exercises with naval ships from South Korea and Japan.

And the USS Carl Vinson aircraft supercarrier is also headed toward the peninsula for a joint exercise with South Korea.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Wednesday that the system’s deployment would “disrupt the regional strategic balance and further aggravate the tension on the peninsula.”

Geng said “China will firmly be taking necessary measures to defend our own interests” but offered no details. China’s defense ministry has also repeatedly criticized THAAD’s deployment and said the military will take unspecified actions in response.

In Washington, top Trump administration officials are due to brief the entire US Senate on Wednesday. A rapid tempo of North Korean weapons testing in the past year has pushed Kim Jong Un’s authoritarian nation closer to developing a nuclear-armed missile that could reach the US mainland.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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US, China to Increase Cooperation on North Korea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS PAPER ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

World

US, China to Increase Cooperation on North Korea

Korea

Beijing – The United States and China vowed to work together against threats of the North Korea’s nuclear program, while US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that the situation has reached a “dangerous” level.

Tillerson and his Chinese counterpart’s language seemed more reconciliatory in light US President Donald Trump’s accusations that China was not exerting enough efforts to control its troublesome neighbor. Beijing had meanwhile accused the White House of causing tensions.

“I think we share a common view and a sense that tensions on the peninsula are quite high right now and things have reached a rather dangerous level. And we have committed ourselves to doing everything we can to prevent any kind of conflict from breaking out,” Tillerson added during a press conference in Beijing with Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Tillerson’s visit to China is the last leg of his Asian trip, where he made stops in Japan and South Korea.

He avoided using strong language during the joint press conference with Wang, who seemed to have reproached his counterpart for statements he had made earlier this week.

Wang urged the US to remain “cool-headed” and defended his government’s position, saying all international parties should seek diplomatic solutions while implementing UN sanctions against the regime in North Korea.

“We hope that all parties, including our friends from the United States, could size up the situation in a cool-headed and comprehensive fashion and arrive at a wise decision,” he added.

Neither parties announced any tangible future steps to solve the issue and Tillerson did not publically respond to Beijing’s calls for negotiations with North Korea.

Trump had increased the pressure on China, accusing it of not exploiting all means possible to control North Korea, whom he said considered Beijing to be its closest ally and economic benefactor.

“North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years. China has done little to help!” he tweeted.

The developments come after North Korea conducted two nuclear tests last year and launched missiles last month. The US considered the test-launch an attack on its bases in Japan.

The developments alarmed South Korea, spurring it to deploy the US’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD). The Chinese leadership had accused the US of aggravating the situation through military trainings with its ally Seoul and the deployment of THAAD.

China is hesitant to increase its pressure on North Korea, whose reactions can be unpredictable.

Washington and Seoul insist that the THAAD system is for defense purposes only, but Beijing fears it could undermine its capabilities to denuclearize North Korea.

Beijing had always called for diplomatic talks to denuclearize North Korea, which is barred by the UN from proceeding with its program.

Wang also said that the Korean peninsula nuclear issue is of interest to everyone, reiterating his country’s commitment to the goal of denuclearization

“We are for the settlement of this issue through dialogue and negotiations and the maintenance of peace and stability on the peninsula and the overall region,” he added on Saturday.

Wang reiterated that China, as a close neighbor of the peninsula and a major power, has devoted a lot of energy and efforts to seek a settlement to the issue. The tremendous important efforts China has made are visible to all, he said.

Tillerson, who was CEO of ExxonMobil before being appointed secretary of state, said that a military option is possible if Pyongyang intensified its work.

“We do believe that if North Korea stands down on this nuclear program, that is their quickest means to begin to develop their economy and to become a vibrant economy for the North Korean people,” the US officials said.

He added: “All options are on the table, but we cannot predict the future.”

Maybe one of the reasons for the calm American-Chinese rhetoric is the expected talks between US President Trump and Chinese President Xi during the latter’s upcoming visit to US next month, the first such summit between the two leaders.

Trump is expected to host Xi at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach on April 6 and 7 for an informal “no necktie” encounter. Experts hope this meeting will reduce tensions between the two officials.

China shares US fears of Pyongyang’s nuclear ambition, but it makes sure not to provoke its neighbor.

In February, Beijing issued a strong position when it announced it will stop coal imports from North Korea until the end of this year.

North Korea expert at Beijing University Wong Dong said: “It is a mistake to think that China can control Pyongyang and it is not reasonable for Washington to accuse Beijing of doing nothing. The situation is complicated and sensitive and there is no magical solution.”

The Obama administration ruled out any diplomatic involvement with Pyongyang until the latter shows commitment to denuclearization.

The communist state insists on owning nuclear weapons to defend itself and executed its first test in 2006 despite international objection. It had done four other tests, two last year.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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South Korea Actively Considering Filing A Complaint With The WTO Against China

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS) 

South Korea’s government will consider filing a complaint to the World Trade Organization against what they described as China’s trade retaliation after Seoul agreed to deploy a U.S. anti-missile system, the ruling party said on Tuesday.

Beijing is widely believed in South Korea to be retaliating against some of its companies and cancelling performances by Korean artists after South Korea’s decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.

“We will actively consider whether China’s action is in violation of the South Korea-China free trade deal, while stepping up efforts to minimize damage on South Korean industries,” Lee Hyun-jae, chairman of the Liberty Korea Party’s policy committee, said after meeting senior government officials.

China rejected applications by some Korean carriers, including Jeju Air (089590.KS), to add charter flights between the two countries in March, Yonhap News Agency said on Tuesday, in what is seen as China’s latest retaliation against South Korean firms. Their applications for charter flights to China were rejected for January and February, with no reason given, Yonhap said.

The Chinese government last week ordered tour operators in China to stop selling trips to South Korea, days after the Seoul government secured land for the THAAD system from Lotte Group.

Lee said on Tuesday the government had since agreed to provide an additional 50 billion won ($43.3 million) worth of “special loans” to tourism companies that are experiencing business difficulties.

Chinese authorities have also closed nearly two dozen of Lotte Group’s retail stores following inspections, Lotte said on Monday.

China objects to the THAAD deployment, saying its territory is the target of the system’s far-reaching radar. South Korea and the United States have said the missile system is aimed only at curbing North Korean provocations.

(Reporting by Daewoung Kim and Hyunjoo Jin, Additional reporting by Joyce Lee; Writing by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Paul Tait)

China Reacts Angrily To South Korea Wanting To Be Able To Protect Themselves From North Korean Missiles

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

China angrily reacts with threats after South Korean missile defense decision

Chinese state media has reacted with anger and threats of boycotts after the board of an affiliate of South Korea’s Lotte Group approved a land swap with the government that will enable authorities to deploy a U.S. missile defense system.

The government decided last year to deploy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, in response to the North Korean missile threat, on land that is part of a golf course owned by Lotte in the Seongju region, southeast of Seoul.

The board of unlisted Lotte International Co Ltd approved the deal with the government on Monday.

China objects to the deployment in South Korea of the THAAD, which has a powerful radar capable of penetrating Chinese territory, with Beijing saying it is a threat to its security and will do nothing to ease tension with North Korea.

Influential state-run Chinese tabloid the Global Times said in an editorial on Tuesday that Lotte should be shown the door in China.

“We also propose that Chinese society should coordinate voluntarily in expanding restrictions on South Korean cultural goods and entertainment exports to China, and block them when necessary,” it said in its English-language edition.

The paper’s Chinese version said South Korean cars and cellphones should be targeted as well.

“There are loads of substitutes for South Korean cars and cellphones,” it said.

The WeChat account of the overseas edition of the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said late on Monday that cutting diplomatic ties should also be considered.

“If THAAD is really deployed in South Korea, then China-South Korea relations will face the possibility of getting ready to cut off diplomatic relations,” it said.

The official Xinhua news agency also said in a commentary late on Monday that China “did not welcome this kind of Lotte”.

“Chinese consumers can absolutely say no to this kind of company and their goods based on considerations of ‘national security’,” it said.

South Korea’s defense ministry said on Tuesday it had signed a land swap deal with Lotte on the golf course in exchange for providing military property. A South Korean military official told Reuters the military would begin installing fences and soldiers would patrol the area.

The Lotte Group said on Feb. 8 Chinese authorities had stopped construction at a multi-billion dollar real estate project in China after a fire inspection, adding to concern in South Korea about damage to commercial relations with the world’s second-largest economy.

Asked if South Korea had demanded the Chinese government suspend any economic retaliation, South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-kyun said: “We have continuously persuaded China so far and will keep continuing efforts to do so.”

South Korean government officials have said THAAD is a defensive measure against North Korean threats and does not target any other country.

South Korea’s central bank said this month the number of Chinese tourists visiting the tourist island of Jeju had fallen 6.7 percent over the Lunar New Year holiday from last year, partly because of China’s “anti-South Korea measures due to the THAAD deployment decision”.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Ju-min Park in SEOUL; Editing by Paul Tait)