sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

On the two Koreas

The Republic of Korea (ROK) - South Korea

The Obama Administration crafted a number of very bad trade deals (from a US perspective). Foreign governments were happy with them, and who can blame them? One currently under discussion is KORUS, a bilateral deal with the US and South Korea.
A USTR fact sheet released with the statement said the U.S. trade deficit in goods with South Korea had more than doubled from $13.2 billion in 2011 -- the year before the pact took effect -- to $27.6 billion in 2016. It noted that the bilateral auto deficit made up about 90% of that deficit.
KORUS advocates say that some sectors have benefited under the agreement and would suffer from a breach. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce circulated a fact sheet saying that "aerospace exports to Korea have doubled to $8 billion" under the pact, while "exports of key agriculture products have soared as Korus has begun to phase out double digit tariffs."

President Trump wants a better deal than the one we now have. Discussions are underway.

A war on the Korean Peninsula would create a situation where the trade deal is essentially moot, and the fat kid with the bad haircut is trying to get that party started.

There is a significant pacifist movement in South Korea that puts pressure on the government to make peace at any price with the horrible creature running the Hermit Kingdom up north. 'Peace at any price' has a familiar ring to it. History has shown over-and-over that the mindset creates and emboldens monsters. If there is one thing certain with history, it's that it repeats itself. There will be another Korean War sooner than later and it remains to be seen on whose terms it will be fought.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) - North Korea

South Korean officials have briefed the US that they detected signs that North Korea will launch a third intercontinental ballistic missile this week. 

It's unclear which launch indicators the South Koreans detected. Open sources have reported no signs of missile launch preparations since North Korea began using mobile missile carriers and launchers. Nevertheless, USGOV expects North Korea to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile with a simulated thermonuclear warhead, as a next step in its nuclear weapons development program.

On 3 September, North Korea detonated a probable hydrogen bomb, as its sixth nuclear test. The test occurred at Punggye-ri, the nuclear test site. A smaller seismic event followed the main detonation, which experts suggested meant the tunnel collapsed.

A variety of monitors reported that the magnitude of the explosion as up to 6.3. The estimates of yield ranged up to 120 kilotons. It was the most powerful detonation of the series, up to ten times more powerful than the “hydrogen” bomb tested in January 2016. 

The North said in its statement that its H-bomb "is a multi-functional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for a super-powerful EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack, according to strategic goals."

According to the statement, Kim claimed that "all components of the H-bomb were homemade ... thus enabling the country to produce powerful nuclear weapons as many as it wants."

The quake was felt in northern China prompting emergency sirens to go off in Yanji, near the North Korean border, according to local media.

North Korea has a credible and powerful weapon. Even the many uncertainties about the weapon tend to enhance the sense of threat. China and, lately, Russia stress that sanctions have failed to restrain North Korea, but so have talks, which Kim Jong Un has rejected except on his terms.

China has been supporting the North Korean missile program tacitly, while urging them to stop doing it. That makes no sense to most of you, but it does to the Chinese. Testing nuclear weapons that cause seismic events in China are another thing all together and they are vexed. The question remains what it will take to have China embargo and blockade North Korea. The potential impact on the environment in northeast China is one issue that could prompt China to exert stronger bilateral pressure on North Korea. Chinese leaders used it to persuade Kim Jong Un to not detonate a device last April.

The North Korean nuclear test is a public relations disaster for President Xi Jinping, who is hosting the BRICS summit in Xiamen. (BRICS is the acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.) North Korea has shown that it can defy its long-time patron and neighbor with impunity.  China, thus, appears to be a world leader that cannot maintain stability across its borders. Instability on China’s northeastern border puts at risk China’s economic development program for that region.

In the past two weeks, Chinese writers and leaders have criticized the South Korean decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile defense system and the increase in the Japanese defense budget. The North Korean nuclear test makes China’s complaints seem irrelevant. 

North Korea has damaged China’s image as the Asian regional leader. South Korea, Japan and probably Taiwan have little choice but to improve their defenses now. North Korea will be responsible for accelerating the remilitarization of Japan.

China and Russia both stated that they oppose additional sanctions on North Korea because they have not worked and more hardship might drive North Korea to take more risks. From a practical standpoint, the US and its allies can expect no support for more sanctions from China and Russia.

There will be more missile launches and more nuclear tests up unto the point where North Korea deliberately or accidentally triggers a war. My sense is that's not far off - possibly this winter.