Cadence of Conflict: Asia, January 2, 2018

China claims no part in the Hong Kong and Taiwan -related ships recently stopped by South Korean officials for illegally supplying oil to North Korea. China’s claim might be believable, but during the holiday week, China blocked a UN attempted to blacklist those very vessels caught in the act. By blocking the block of the “smoking gun” ships, as it were, China has defined itself as an accomplice. It’s a mere matter of fact and definition. There is no defense for China in regard to having some part to play with these two seized vessels.

Russia’s role, however, seems more dominant and should be more disconcerting. But, where does the attention from the press turn to blame but China. The press loves to make China the global scapegoat, but China’s responses don’t help its own disposition any.

Beijing made it clear that military exercises all around Taiwanese airspace are the “new normal” and Taiwan will just have to get used to it. Taiwan is re-focusing strategy for asymmetric warfare—politically correct military language for “fighting a bigger enemy”. Several Taiwanese companies are “rethinking” the presence of their factories in China after an entire zone was targeted for zone-wide shutdown. The catch to the zone shutdown story is that the entire zone is said to be targeted for a few blackout days because only some factories in the zone are polluting the environment too much. Factories that are within environmental regulations also have to shut down, argued to include Taiwanese-owned factories. Many factories in that zone are Taiwanese-owned. If China isn’t sending a message that Taiwanese aren’t welcome then Beijing could do a better job of not making it look that way.

Again, China’s actions indicate more and more that China is hostile toward democracies in the East Pacific, namely South Korea and Taiwan. From the perspective of Americans reading Western headlines, it is more difficult every day to come to China’s defense. That perspective among the masses is what the Pentagon is waiting for.

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Encore of Revival: America, January 2, 2018

Terrorist talk didn’t wait as the New Year arrived. Protests in Tehran have drawn two kinds of buzz: the first is that “keeping quiet” is the best way to respond, the second is that “economics” is the reason for the protests.

Taking the obvious first, people don’t protest and riot merely over economics. This is a clear attempt by de facto pro- status quo pundits and media personalities to diminish the matter. Iranian people object to their government for the same reason everyone else does: it’s a tyrant and terrorist-sponsoring regime. Reporting that the cause and headline-worthy DNA of the protests in Iran are merely about the “economy” is an insult to both the protesters and the protest victims.

The more complex buzz—claiming that the best response is to “keep quiet”—has several levels of “irony”. Keeping quiet didn’t work with getting Otto Warmbier back from North Korea—a friend of Iran—when Obama instructed the same tactic with Otto’s family. So, “keeping quiet” has already proven to not work. Supporting protests discredits the protests and therefore gives more power to the current regime?—people in the press actually expect Americans to believe that? But, the largest of all contradictions coming from the Left relates to Trump himself. If “keeping quiet” is the way to win, why doesn’t the Left try “keeping quiet” about Trump, since they don’t seem to be stopping him with their constant heckling?

Reactions and spin aside, the US is in “tyranny-crackdown” mode. Perhaps the Iranian people are taking to the streets because they finally believe that when America speaks something will actually happen. That has been the evidence of the last year, anyway.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 18, 2017

All signs indicate a gear-up for war. The US is full on-tilt, not only in military prep, but also in blaming China. The US and China face each other with North Korea in the middle. There is nothing China or Russia will do to stop Washington from gobbling North Korea whole, but a reaction is to be expected. A war just east of China’s border should rouse China’s military, if for no other reason than that North Korea might go rogue and invade China as a means of escape.

The US also has a precarious position. China trades with and supplies North Korea; of particular interest is oil. The US recently reached an oil deal with China to pay back China on old debts with oil from Alaska. Recent comments from Washington, including a statement at the UN, include that China must do its part to stop feeding North Korea, otherwise the US will take its own means of handling the part it was hoped China would handle. That’s no threat, but it is an expected warning, as it is expected that Beijing would respond defensively.

So, we are headed to war and China won’t sit this one out. While it is unlikely the Chinese would help North Korea defend a war with the US, the more likely option is an invasion of Taiwan. If China invades Taiwan, it would likely be seen as mere retaliation from the West, but would make strategic sense from China’s view—at least if China assumes that invading Taiwan could be a success. With the US busy and expanding pro-democracy South Korea’s borders northward, China would naturally want more territory. China might also thing that the US is too occupied with Korea to worry about Taiwan. And, the recent step-up in regular rhetoric over bipartisan support in Congress to defend Taiwan is China’s perfect excuse to justify a strike of its own.

We’ll have to wait and see how things play out. But, don’t think that there isn’t plenty of China-blaming in the press, including speculation that China would actually back North Korea militarily or even the smear by making China look inhumane for its implementation of the death sentence. Human Rights or not, there are press forces in the West always trying to smear China. But, just as much rhetoric comes from all sides, including Russia.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 11, 2017

More smoke got blown this week. South Korea’s president is stepping-up efforts to talk to China about North Korea. Asian culture dictates that a country as big as China doesn’t give a rat’s synthetic tail about what a small country like South Korea thinks. All South Korea can expect is to be in China’s debt merely for listening since the diplomacy won’t affect outcomes whatsoever. China probably knows this. Whatever “deal” does or does not follow Moon’s efforts with the Chinese will be an indication of China’s greater intentions for the future. Don’t expect too many fireworks; it’s mostly politicians blowing smoke.

Things in Korea are stepping up, however. More sanctions are coming down. Secretary of State Tillerson commented about possible naval blockades, which sent a threat of “declared war” bouncing back from the North Koreans—more blown smoke from all sides. As for South Korea and Japan cooperating with the US—they will be “watching” missiles from North Korea. Usually, missiles have little to watch other than a trail of—well, a trail of smoke.

The big note to take about Moon is that his obsession with “talking” and “reconciliation” could prove very valuable after other players (the US, the UN, possibly China and others) do their parts to initiate reunification on the Korean Peninsula. When Korea becomes one country again, it might benefit from a leader like Moon who hungers for an opportunity to get opposite sides talking. But, we’ll see.

China’s state-run tabloid commented that a visit from the US Navy to a Taiwanese Naval port would activate a kind of “Anti-Secession” law in China and China’s PLA would invade Taiwan and immediately reclaim the territory. The statement came months after US Congress approved and planned such port visits between Taiwan and the US for 2018. Taiwan is responding by constricting and banning select visits from Chinese diplomats, usually surrounding topics of “Human Rights” and warlike rhetoric. Again, all sides blowing more smoke without a shot fired, yet.

Usually, boiler cars bellow more smoke, blow their whistles, and let off steam as buildup to a conflict mounts—or just before a train wreck. The smoke is not without meaning, but as of this week, smoke blown remains little more than blown smoke and neither the topics nor the players have changed.

In fact, every small development reported by news outlets seems to follow the format of new facts in the first few paragraphs followed by the same, long background story, whether the background is about a conflict between North and South Korea or between Taiwan and China. That’s what you call a clue: The press seems to feel that the public will need that background for the avalanche of news to come.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 4, 2017

The US is gearing up for a demonstration of it’s new Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II jets. North Korea is providing the perfect opportunity. When all is done, be ready to count the headlines in which the F-35s appear.

There are a variety of factors in the North Korean conflict. As you count them, don’t exclude the need for the US to show force in the region. Just two examples include Putin’s manners in Crimea—where Russian soldiers flew a flag over a building they had taken before a proper referendum became final—along with China not playing by UN rules with its man-made islands, yet remaining a UN member. There are other situations in the region.

Suffice it to say that North Korea is a perfect opportunity for the US to beat its chest and clear its throat for all to hear. Were there no such need, the US military presence might be a lot more low-key in the process of North Korea’s government being on the way out anyway. Always remember that Washington occasionally thinks like Hollywood—in the White House as in the Capital Building and at the Pentagon. America loves theatrics and, knowingly or otherwise, nearly all Pacific nations played their roles as the foil.

Once Korea becomes one nation, tryouts for the next performance will likely soon follow.

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