Cadence of Conflict: Asia, June 19, 2017

The big danger brewing in the Pacific this week was not about who was right and wrong, but about optics and perspective.

American college student Otto Warmbier came back from North Korea in a kind of coma. Almost every news story about Otto provides some background of his arrest and sentencing for taking a North Korean government poster one year ago.

North Korea mentioned “botulism” having preceded Otto’s situation. American doctors found “no sign” thereof. While doctors verify details, Otto’s situation of “nonresponsive wakefulness” has to do with levels of brain damage caused by lack of oxygen from the lungs, usually caused by traumatic injury or intoxication. In other words, it could look like Otto was beaten or poisoned, but news outlets can’t confirm this, so they won’t say it. But, that’s how bad it looks.

And, this is the big problem. There is nothing North Korea can say—even if it is true—to stop the West from being more enraged every time Otto is mentioned.

Taiwan is pursuing it’s desire for official recognition in the world and normal relations with China. This is different from the pursuits of China and the Philippines for respect; both have recognition. Taiwan has international respect, but lacks recognition as a legitimate country. Right or wrong lies in the opinion of the beholder. But, right or wrong, Taiwan isn’t going to stop pushing. The threat to China is that China consciously seeks the respect that it knows Taiwan already has.

Now, the  USS Fitzgerald was broadsided from starboard at night. Ships as sea are supposed to yield to approaching vessels on the right, as with road vehicles at a four-way stop.

Why wasn’t someone watching? Why didn’t proximity alarms wake the crew and prevent collision? Is the superior-tech US Navy ready for a confrontation with China? Most of the crew was asleep at the time. Seven are dead. The collision happened right where they were sleeping. Sailors woke up to find the ship taking on water.

Let’s just say that sailors woke up. In fact, the whole Navy woke up. The world is already waking up to everything going on.

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Encore of Revival: America, June 19, 2017

The complaints are mounting, but not sticking. When nothing sticks, the complaints just mount more and more. Eventually, there will be a mountain of nothing that sticks.

In other words, the nation is looking at the early stages of a “cleansing meltdown”.

Usually, the legitimacy of an election is called to question when the minority party in the legislature wins a speakership or presidency. If Congress were full of Democrats, that would be the biggest cause for suspicion. But, the Republican grip on Congress is actually growing.

This, combined with James Comey’s own words and the words of many others, tells us unequivocally that the alleged “Russia Gate” was only a ruse to enrage the defeated.

The people who aren’t busy working have time to complain and get all upset. They are about to make a big, huge, mountainous mess. Then, they will face the people who were too busy, but had to stop working to go deal with the people who weren’t.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, June 12, 2017

Most of the news this week was rehashed hype. North Korea is making progress with missiles. This is nothing new. The US presence in South Korea is controversial among South Koreans. This is nothing new. But, the reminders keep coming in and politics never misses opportunity.

South Korea’s new president, Moon, is undergoing his own freshmen shake-ups. His military people didn’t tell him the whole story. US anti-missile systems, namely THADD, put out a lot of juice, having incredibly strong radars that no ham radio operator would be allowed to own. People don’t like living near them.

Two are already in place and are going to stay there. More, reportedly four, are at a US military base in South Korea, can be deployed at any time, and they are going to stay there. Security is not diminishing in South Korea, it is just not progressing as quickly as was scheduled.

The new Korean president is listening to his voters. He wants any additional missile defense systems in places that won’t slow-cook his own people. The delay seems to agree with China’s objection to the far-reaching THADD radars snooping on its own turf. Washington would have us think that South Korea is selling-out to the Chinese. And, China surely will get a big head over this, thinking that their economic threats against South Korea for defending itself against a loose-nuke cannon—that China funds—is finally having sway.

The real story is that time is running out in the “logistics” calculation. The US Navy is waiting. South Korea is irritated and can’t and won’t deploy endless missile defense systems. A China-backed dictator needs to be taken out. China knows it. Trump knows it. And, the Trump-Xi “bromancers” wish they could get North Korea dealt with quickly so they can take off the gloves over the South Sea.

There, in the South Sea, no lie Trump may have told about former director Comey could be as big as the lie Xi told about China’s man-made islands: They won’t be militarized. If the same islands aren’t being militarized then the anti-missile defense systems in South Korea are actually gumball machines and the US Navy is only in South Korean waters to throw a pizza party, which means that China has nothing to fear.

But, the truth is different from how slow-moving takeovers get glossed-over.

The press is moving against China and South Korea more and more, especially with “life inside” and other pro-democracy stories. China’s view is also about logistics. They lack food. China doesn’t have enough land to grow food for its own people. News stories from other countries put China in a worse light than is appropriate.

China’s solution is to expand. But, the Chinese don’t seem to understand the Western concept of expansion: Master what you have first; if you can’t manage your house as it stands, making it bigger will only grow the problem.

Now, China’s silk road is up against ISIS, making a third battle-front for the Chinese. And, after all that bravado against the US, the Philippines are welcoming US troops to help deal with their own ISIS problems. Don’t think that US- South Korean relations are down in the least.

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Encore of Revival: America, June 12, 2017

Donald Trump has been and always will be a business man at heart. His interactions with Comey reflect a boss gently steering one of his top employees. But, Washington doesn’t work that way. The president can fire an FBI director, but he may not steer him. Many Americans will see this as an “endearing and harmless mistake”—evidence that the nation finally has a president who doesn’t think like a lawyer. Trump is guilty of thinking like the people rather than an old stone that has sat in the beltway so long that it looks like a pile of moss.

In his testimony, Comey verified what we already knew: Russians did not meddle with cast votes or vote count. If there was voter fraud, it wasn’t from Russia.

So, there was no “Russian hack” of the electoral process. There were hacks during, after, and before the election, along with a lot of other events that didn’t make the news. So, why the big news?

The news media couldn’t not cover it. They hyped it. They had to cut into profits to pay for it because they had gotten themselves in too far not to. Pictures of Comey and a scene with the press taking pictures of the press taking pictures proves that there’s a lot of press, something the press still needs to prove these days—especially with Fox News having cannibalized itself right out of first place.

Moderate Republicans and mainstream Democrats work on the same basic ethic: effort wins. Republicans want the people to see that they are “trying”, but they won’t do anything. If the Republicans took action it would be a first.

Likewise, Democratic voters are enamored with the Comey hearing. Comey is looking Trump in the eye. He is going to go say things. That’s courage. That’s really bold, and stuff. In-yer-face, toothless, uber-rude bravado is much more important than actually winning—at least when you can’t win. To a young ultra Liberal, boldly accomplishing nothing is much better than winning anyway, that is if you’re still angry about having lost.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, June 5, 2017

At this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, China sent a lower-ranking delegation than in years past. Previously, China’s representative was a deputy chief from Joint Staff; this year Beijing sent a lieutenant general. India did not attend.

US Defense Secretary Mattis commented that China’s man-made islands undermine stability and that China has contempt for other nations’s interests and disregards international law. As expected, China took exception, calling the remarks “irresponsible”.

More interesting were the responses of the under dogs…

Small players know they are in a tug of war between the US and China over who has rights to which waters. Malaysia’s main reported talking points seemed to be on regional safety and rule of law. When Malaysia’s Defense Minister commented that a China-only “code” would not prevent all clashes, China’s lieutenant general rebutted with a question of what a “perfect code” would look like.

This is telling. It becomes more and more clear how China views itself in these talks, as a lieutenant general among ministers and rebutting Malaysia as one would a peer. China is clearly withdrawing, responding to the international community as already being an outcast. While the West and the press have tried to paint China as the villain, much more so than may be appropriate, China’s response only perpetuates that view among Western taxpayers and now smaller players in China’s back yard.

A group affiliated with Taiwan’s Association of University Professors are calling for Taiwan’s president to declare Taiwan’s sovereignty. This comes in the over-lapping contexts of regional talks and the ongoing situation of China having arrested Taiwanese human rights advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲). The group called for Taiwan to boycott some upcoming talks with China to make a point to the international community.

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