Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 11, 2017

The North Korean situation makes much more sense when seen from the perspective of a film director performing a social experiment. Film makers, directors, actors, screen writers—they love to do good “real life” research. If one was making a movie simulating culture in a story such as Orwell’s 1984, North Korea would be a perfect laboratory.

Looking at North Korea through this lens, some predictions could be made. What outside forces and events would be necessary to watch a “hermit kingdom” implode?

Another perspective could be from, say, China’s view. China rightly fears that it is surrounded by US allies—Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan… India is a “frenemy” of the US, but more of an “enemi-friend” from China’s view. Then, there is Korea. If the North were provoked to invade the South, that would be “plus one” ally for China and “minus one” ally for the United States, at least on China’s border. “Gain more land to win the war” is an old school strategy from Westpoint, a strategy that Grant had to put aside at Gettysburg.

So, the jockeying in the West Pacific could be more predictable by thinking of international policy for North Korea as Film Maker vs Westpoint China. One set of policies wants the North to be easily provoked into decimating the South to win a land war in Asia. The other set of policies initiates “outside force” to carefully study an implosion of the North—and that includes allowing the North to be provoked, but on a controlled terms.

This week, North Korea made even more threats. So, the theorem of Film Maker vs Westpoint China can be put to the test in weeks to come, watching international policies provoke the North to attack and pressure the North to implode. While that transpires, international support from common folk to see North Korea’s dynasty come to an end only grows, and the international press certainly doesn’t do anything to shift sentiment the other direction.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 4, 2017

Korea’s situation is amplifying. We know this. North Korea is making more threats than ever with it’s “boy king” on the iron clad throne. We know that military options are 1. relevant and 2. undesirable. The Pentagon consistently barks about “military options”, while “economic options” stay on the table—don’t overlook how talk of military bolsters economic action. Rather than reviewing the obvious, consider North Korea through the eyes of the White House—viewing both economics and security—and from the rest of the world.

As the Pentagon, economists, and surrounding nations sees things, not China, but specifically the Communist Party seated in Beijing, is viewed as the “menace of Asia”, venturing into increased trouble with Vietnam, India, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Myanmar, Malaysia, Mongolia, Africa, Europe, and others. North Korea has six months of oil remaining, and China does 90% of North Korea’s trade. No Beijing Communist Party feeding the Kim Dynasty equals no Kim Dynasty nukes. That’s how the Pentagon, the US Treasury, and many surrounding nations view China and North Korea.

It will never be said, just as much as it will always be considered: North Korea is a stepping stone to facing the Beijing Communist Party. For the Pentagon, it’s practice and demonstration. For economics, North Korea is an excuse to cut off trade with China who manufactures technology, but does not develop their own, and uses copied technology with trade money to make it more difficult for their neighbors to sleep at night. Right or wrong, justified or not, that’s how others view China these days.

Now, Xi Jinping addresses an assembly over the BRICS bank group, while still not having dealt with the menace in its own back yard. Without a word being mentioned, Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa—and the nations who trade with them—will view China as being the “maker of promises that won’t be kept”.

China had so much going for it, as did the Communist Party in Beijing. They had trade, they had marked-off territory that no one encroached. But, it wasn’t “what they deserved by rite”, thereby provoking them into too much venture and not enough housecleaning. Make no mistake, North Korea is only the tip of the iceberg marking regional vendettas that loom beneath the surface, both militarily and economically. The US is not as friendly as it seems, “considering either” economics “or” military; it has already been implementing both as part of a greater regional ambition.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, August 7, 2017

If North Korea heeds China’s urges to back down on its nuclear program, it would be a welcome first. China requested the US back down its military activity in South Korea. Russia does not want North Korea’s economy to become worse. Much has been claimed about the purported, will-be effectiveness of new UN sanctions against North Korea, but history provides little to no basis that North Korea heeds any warnings or follows any step toward deescalation.

Though historically bleak, this effort from the international community is the best well-mounted push for peace ever seen for the Korean situation. Even Taiwan is urging North Korea to back off. While this may set the stage for some kind of “breakthrough” in negotiations, the bigger and less-acknowledged stage being set is war. With the best-made good-will effort having been made to stop North Korea’s nuke program, one missile launch would prove all the yea-sayers wrong. That threat could wake up North Korea to climb down out of the tree—the hidden threat of war that every peaceful stance veils.

Any peace offering indeed doubles as a hidden war threat by definition. But, fools don’t believe in what they can’t see. So, we’ll see.

Remember, though, how fools surrender: in childlike tears.

If North Korea fires even one more missile, buckle up and grab the popcorn for an immanent Trump “it didn’t work, so now we will” speech. If that happens, not only will North Korea’s position be untenable, but so will it be for everyone who claimed that negotiations would stop the missile launches.

In these tense times, China is making no new friends. Old border disputes with India are rehashing and ramping up. The VPN crackdown makes sense since no government should be circumvented, the most-ignored question is whether there should be a need in the first place. There are numerous reports of Chinese students being denied travel documents to study at universities in Taiwan. Of particular interest is National Cheng Kung University in Tainan. Tainan’s Mayor, William Lai is the most popular of any and in the same semi-pro-independence party, DPP, as Taiwan’s president. And, Tainan’s small airport was used by the US in the Vietnam war. Other than that, there’s little to explain why the third-top school seems to be a top target for denied travel from China.

With stronger rhetoric about military and not letting any China-claimed land go, with action concerning Taiwan, and militarized border crossings with India, it is clear that China intends to take a lead role in conflict on multiple fronts. All depending on how things develop in the Korea situation, China could face a clear third front.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 1, 2017

The news would have us think that China’s reverse-engineered copy of a Soviet-made diesel aircraft carrier is nuclear-powered and in full commission. It’s not. It’s simply being towed from one construction site to another. But, it is another milestone step in progress and the West needs to pay close attention. With all the excitement over Korean nukes, China obtaining its own aircraft carriers is a bigger step and a bigger threat to China’s neighbors. Heads are turning in Japan and India.

Trump’s “bromance” with China’s President Xi isn’t without precedent. The two are smart. Trump is less-controlled by the big political class. No matter how much Xi may want to resolve peace, any deal he makes with Trump must be pleasing to the Communist Party of China. Perhaps some success with Trump on the Kim dynasty in Korea will help Xi persuade the old boys club in China. But, that would be a first. Old school Chinese don’t like to learn new tricks.

Eventually, Korea will make major steps toward becoming one nation. Then, the US and China will change colors in the South Sea. Both sides will have gotten what they wanted: a stable Korean Peninsula. But, when the conflict in the West Pacific erupts, all bets will be off. It won’t be America who betrays first, the Chinese will make their move after they have their excuse. The ongoing US relationship with Taiwan may be that excuse. And, in the minds of the Chinese, the US will have been wrong.

Xi and Trump will become like old generals who know each other from battle field just as well as from the tea time table. No matter how much conflict they have, they will always be grateful for their cooperation in Korea. That’s what mature generals do. And, that is the current leadership at both ends of the Pacific.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, April 24, 2017

All eyes on Korea means all eyes on China, which means all eyes on Trump. What’s at stake?—not nuclear war, not regional war, not freedom for northern Koreans, but a trade deal with China. At least, that’s the story if you ask the money channels.

China is a “gold mine for innovation”, the hope for breakthrough in the car crisis—in case you didn’t know there was a car crisis. Australia is partnering with—of all countries—China to address cyber theft. China is such a booming, excellent, most-happening place that Chinese investors have actually decided it’s a good idea to finally start reinvesting in their own country.

But, most importantly, Trump needs to be very, very careful in dealing with northern Korea. China even said so. They even made a phone call to say it.

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