Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 16, 2017

It’s not quite there yet. Korea’s conflict escalates, but there’s still more mount to climb. Trump is increasing weapons sales to South Korea and Japan, based on a September 5 Tweet; North Korea called him a “strangler of peace” and a “war merchant”. Mattis told the Army to “Stand ready”. Hawaii is rehearsing for attacks.

Most of the talk is to get everyone psyched-up plenty of time in advance—soldiers, nations, and peoples. The timing, however, will come at a convergence of defenses being in place and opportunity being open. Then, the US will either strike with “just cause” or “strik-taliate” as it did with Pearl Harbor and the Lusitania.

In the meanwhile, expect the escalation to continue. Expect more Navy strike groups to be directed. Expect the USS Ford to replace the decommissioned USS Enterprise and the USS Reagan to replace the USS Vinson, somewhere in East Asia. Three aircraft carriers, two on their way in and one their way out is certainly a military peak. But, also keep an eye out for a shift in types of Korea-related headlines followed by a quiet from central command. Once the press release statements resemble a ship casting off, that’s what you call a clue. And, we haven’t been clued in quite yet.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 9, 2017

Taiwan publicized reports that China was pushing for its dream of reunification through many venues and in many nations. The fact that China works so diligently through aggressive diplomacy further indicates that the “military option” being less than preferable with North Korea carries some continuity with China’s policy concerning Taiwan. That’s not to say it is beyond Beijing to decide to strike Taiwan, only that it would demonstrate that China had exhausted other methods it preferred in its determination.

Military deescalation is not out of character with China. Chinese troops were friendly with the defense minister from India in her recent visit to the disputed area. Late August, China halted building the road that India objected to in a way that saved face for China, but also appeased India for the time. This doesn’t indicate any change of heart nor indicate that China is not relentless, but the Asian culture of “preferring smoothness” in disputes seems to be holding true with non-volatile land on which China hopes to fly its flag.

Trump’s resolve and openness, however, are a contrast to China’s. In his “only one thing will work” comment this week, the US president is not afraid to use a military option to bring peace to a region if that region is arming up and dangerous. If the US wins in a conflict with North Korea, the US flag would not fly as the authority on that soil.

China is preparing for a routine leadership review. Much of the top brass under Xi Jinping will rotate out, but he himself is not set to retire anytime soon. While there may be some changes in temperature, there will be no change in the speed or direction China has been taking.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 2, 2017

Things are stepping-up in Korea. The US is gearing up for a “military option”. The question is how China will respond. China’s approach with Taiwan is a contrast of priorities or a strong indication about China’s approach with North Korea. If China won’t take harsh action to stop a nuclear North Korea, then logically China should not be painted as a “hostile villain” over TAO (Taiwan Affairs Office) statements concerning Taiwan.

China has a reputation to defend, which includes normal political posturing. If China were to ignore a nuclear North Korea, but attack Taiwan during a time of no military conflict, that would seem to the world as “inconsistent”. The Taiwan situation hit many headlines this week.

Taiwan’s new Premier William Lai commented this week about “status quo”. He shared his personal opinion at an early stage in his tenure, more or less observing that China and Taiwan behave as if they are already sovereign and that the main two political parties in Taiwan hold a policy that Taiwan has a government with a constitution that considers itself sovereign. Lai’s comments focused on observing “status quo”, added that, personally, he is “pro-independence”, and that he will remain in-step with Taiwan’s President Tsai, regardless of his own career and personal views.

Lai admitted that he should have kept his personal views to himself, but indicated that such transparency of his personal view is part of an ingenuous disclosure when legislators are inquiring about him as recently approved for his public office. Needless to say, China was not pleased. Beijing responded with some simple public statements.

How serious is China about any intent to start a war to reclaim Taiwan? The first sober question would be about preparatory military exit strategy. Arguably, the US has more at stake in Taiwan than in North Korea.

Taiwan has more than a few F-16s, Apache helicopters, and other military and naval assets—all supplied by the US. If China’s government were to exert power over Taiwan, that would change status quo—something Premier William Lai says would require a vote in Taiwan. But, the question few people ask is what to do with all those F-16s, helicopters, and naval assets.

If China truly intended to “go to the mattresses” to change status quo with Taiwan, at the very top of its statement would be a plan to first send all of that military equipment back to the United States, to gut technology from all military installations in Taiwan, and to provide to move nearly all adult men in Taiwan to any country other than China. Adult men in Taiwan serve “compulsory” military time in a military that used US military tech. That means nearly half of Taiwan’s entire adult population would be a security threat if governed by a regime seated in Beijing. They, and their families would need to be relocated. China would be taking control of an empty island with massive infrastructure.

Beijing has presented no such “exit strategy” for US military assets in Taiwan. That does not mean Beijing is not deserving of “respect”—the foremost question on many minds in Beijing. It simply raises questions about how much the “Taiwan question” has been thought through.

Even with all that is happening in North Korea, more security eyes should be turned to how China will deal with Taiwan once North Korea stops making headlines—or more importantly, when North Korea makes far more headlines than it already does.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 25, 2017

China is taking a turn for the better over North Korea’s “Rocket Man”. Stronger sanctions, limits on trade, cutting off oil, halting banking—it was all a wise move on China’s part.

At the United Nations, North Korea made no new friends. They made no indications of any change of heart. North Korea shares the same view of President Trump as the American Left: that he is crazy and irrational and should be called the types of names expected on an elementary school playground.

Even China’s new best buddy, Russia, is concerned for stability in the region. It’s not a threat. It doesn’t sound like a threat. Russia is genuinely concerned. Conflict with North Korea is, indeed, a nosedive and it does affect all Koreans, both North and South, as well as Japan, Russia, and, of course, China. Ending trade is the best bet.

Keeping North Korea alive and kicking as a China-Russia buddy is no longer a reasonable “hopeful”. Now, it’s about damage control. China is being urged to consider cleaning up the dismembered parts of a soon-to-be-former North Korea to avoid other problems.

Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is expected to call an election. There’s no better time to get re-elected than when the backyard “Rocket Man” is firing missiles over your country and Russia and China won’t do anything about anything except cut off trade with “Rocket Man”. So, from this week’s ongoing drama with North Korea, Japanese Prime Minister Abe is likely to remain in office and China got more involved.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 18, 2017

China’s situation is growing more and more similar to North Korea’s. They seek to “match” the US in military strength, but aim to do so without US economics. Without the economics it will be hard to match anything. Slowly, but surely, the US is chipping away at money going into China.

Stocks were up in China, especially recently. Shenzhen is fairing quite well. But, Trump managed to block a Chinese company from buying a US chip maker, Lattice. This is just the beginning, not only for blocked deals both in the US and elsewhere, but also in bad international press against China.

Taiwan isn’t helping. 500 Taiwanese in New York protested the island not being a UN member, claiming that Palestine is not a state, but has a membership. If Taiwan were to join the UN, it would be in the top 25% largest populations. But, pushing these matters will likely have no impact, other than bad press against China.

This week, North Korea launched again, scaring Japanese even more, making it even harder to defend the Kim Dynasty. China doesn’t want to lose a “buffer” that would put a stronger US ally on its border, nor deal with an influx of refugees. But, China may have more than the situation with the US and North Korea to worry about. The dormant volcano on North Korea’s side of the China border has been rumbling.

There’s nothing like a small “act of God” to settle all disputes.

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