Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 13, 2017

At the APEC summit in Vietnam, Putin told Trump that Russia had not interfered in the 2016 election. Putin was sincere. At the same time, Taiwan is beefing-up cybersecurity, ostensibly to counter “daily” and “Russian style” attacks originating in China. If everyone’s rhetoric holds true, that means that there aren’t any threats at all.

Trump offered to help settle disputes in the South Sea. The Philippines’ finance minister complemented Trump on knowing “the art of the deal”. The Filipino president does not want any problems in the South Sea. China would rather settle disputes one-to-one. Will everyone get what they want? We’ll have to see. This is a chance for China also to earn compliments about negotiation skill from Filipino leadership.

Trump was very friendly in China. He underscored the importance of cooperation between the US and China. It was one of the kindest things he ever said. He publicly conducted himself in some of the kindest ways he ever has since running for office. China received him with respect and his public appearances went smoothly. If there ever was a good chance for peace, now is the best chance there has been for a long while and is probably the best chance there will yet be for a long while.

Will things go peacefully? We’ll see.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, August 14, 2017

A campaign is slowly mounting its ground swell against Philippine President Duterte concerning his past corruption. The Philippines is littered with classic “mafia-machine” style corruption, making it generally easy to find scandals on politicians. This has been building against the new Filipino president since about the same time the Philippines has needed aid from the US against ISIS, all while the Filipino president campaigns on a continued platform of moving away from the US so as not to be “dependent” on anyone, a normal sentiment in Filipino populism.

A similar media war is mounting against both China and North Korea. This week, they came together in a story about “Made in China” -labeled goods actually being made in North Korea. Also, an old story was rehashed about the Chinese using “scientific underwater drones” in the South Sea, which could be used for military purposes, if nothing more than to make underwater maps for the Chinese and to spot American submarines.

It’s not far-fetched or newsworthy to claim that the Chinese could use academic or scientific tools for the military. China wouldn’t be the first to perform military operations in the name of “science”. China’s diesel-powered aircraft carrier, the Soviet-made Liaoning, was purchased from Russia to be little more than a “floating museum”. Now, it has been reverse-engineered to model at least four more aircraft carriers from China. China’s underwater drones first made headlines not long after the Chinese captured a similar drone from the US.

There seems to be a trend that China’s tech is reverse-engineered, not invented. More interestingly is the role the US has played. Better said, how the US has played China. It wasn’t fair, but it was avoidable.

China wouldn’t have most of its tech or its money for these military aggressions if American tech companies weren’t outsourcing jobs to China. Companies only did that because Americans were obsessed with saving a few pennies on their goods. The country learned to copy those goods and took American money doing it, then got a big wallet, then got a big head. If the US had confronted “Shame” culture in its cultural exchanges—government, business, and otherwise—and educated whatever Chinese people they met in daily dealings and insisted on using the Biblical view of “repentance unto hope”, China’s government wouldn’t be trying to “save face” quite so much and might even be cleaning things up at home a bit more.

Then, we have foiled military operations, this week, a crash in Australia. A truly-gone-awry military operation won’t be so easily plastered across headlines. The West is trying to look weak in the eyes of the Chinese while mounting a press war against China and North Korea to stir popular support for action. That action is, indeed, becoming necessary, but only after unnecessary trade money and methods made it so.

The swelling conflict in the Pacific could have all been avoided if Americans had simply insisted on paying a few more pennies to buy American. But, it’s too late to turn back. Now, American taxpayers will have to pay for an expensive, otherwise unnecessary war against their manufacturer.

Everyone is accountable for their own choices, but the US knew better. Americans know the Bible’s teaching “to get one’s own life in order first” and to confront “Shame” by teaching the good news of “forgiveness”. But, the US didn’t do that with China, not in business and not even the Christians in dealing with Chinese churches in America. While it is all sad, the bigger victim is China.

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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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Cadence of Conflict: Asia May 29, 2017

The situation in the Western Pacific grows more precarious. Muslims have taken over some territory in the Philippines. Martial law has been declared in those areas. The Philippines’ president, Duterte, has offered to resign if he can’t keep the peace.

For a long time, the Filipino people have wanted respect as a sovereign nation, hungering for that respect as much as China if not more. This has led the Philippines to diminish ties with other nations, including the US, and warm up to China. Sun Tzu might advise that any form of hunger can be exploited as a weakness, including hunger for respect. Now, an extreme sect of Muslims have interrupted the sovereign work of the Filipino government. If any forces lack respect in the Pacific and undermine rule of law, the US is not the foremost among them. The current security arrangement in the Philippines has failed to keep law and order. Duterte’s policies are being put to the test. If he can’t regain control, then both China and the US will step-up their presences.

Northern Korea is already stepping up its game, now with rumors of anti-aircraft missiles. The US has sent yet another strike force to Korean waters. China knows the US is the best hope to end the mess on the peninsula, whether in terms of finances, diplomatic affinities, or strength of arms. Importantly, the Western press is mounting a well-published case against the Kim regime comparable to the case the W. Bush administration mounted against Saddam Hussein.

In the South Sea, Trump sent his first “sail-by” through China’s man-made islands. US threats to blockade the artificial island militarized bases are not empty threats, not in the least. Nor is China’s threat to declare war if the US follows-through.

Trump is going to need to act on North Korea while still on friendly terms with China. Both China and the US know this. With these islands, China and the US can’t play “let’s be friends” forever. The problem of the artificial islets in the South Sea will compel quicker US action on the Korean Peninsula.

The majority argument, however, will go to the international view. If China’s military presence in the South Sea is benign, why didn’t China demonstrate respect and stop Muslims from disrupting the China-friendly Filipino government? That’s the question the Western taxpayers will ask, anyhow. The West will have gone to much trouble and will pin China as the perpetrator.

But, there is another part of Western Pacific strategy to consider. When the Korean peninsula is united, all those US troops in Southern Korea will be able to point their guns elsewhere. With the US being “the liberator”, the soon-to-be united Korea will not want to side with the People’s Liberation Army of China. China isn’t foolish; they’ve thought about that.

Moving on the Koreas will make moving on the South Sea more feasible, from the US military’s perspective. China knows that someone must move on the Koreas and that “someone” can only be the US. After that, islets in the South Sea can quickly be taken and turned against China. With Muslims disturbing the Philippines, Duterte—or whoever is president at the time—may suddenly turn away the Chinese for not helping enough and welcome cooperation with the US. But, if not, the Philippines would collapse if they abandon the mess at home to help China keep the South Sea.

Then, the spearhead aims at Taiwan like Saruman marching against the Shire. Two times this weekend, in both north and south of Taiwan, a train hit a person on the tracks. It’s a string of freak accidents that almost seems poetic, but with no explainable meaning as of yet.

Moreover, an outspoken DPP associate, Lee Ming-che, is still being detained in China with no statement on which law in particular he violated.

China’s situation is difficult and complex, even though the West will tend to take the easy road and villainize China. Beijing needs to retain domestic control. This is all the more evidenced by the situation in the Philippines. Lee is a disturbance, even if his cause is good. China doesn’t see the world in terms of values and ideologies, but in terms of maintaining power in order to maintain peace. Muslims are at China’s doorstep, not only in the Philippines, but also in Malaysia. This is no time for Lee to be stirring up trouble.

But, in the eyes of the evermore compassion-driven West, by detaining Lee after speaking out on matters of Human Rights, China is only trying to silence a whistle-blower for blowing the whistle on them. As with the anti-China press war that began in Hong Kong, the Taiwan question comes into play, affecting public image as much as military strategy.

Both China and Taiwan have some hypocrisy in the Lee situation. China claims Taiwan as its own territory—though claiming Northern Korea might be more tenable, more affordable, more militarily advantageous, and result in more peace. China certainly has paid the bills in Northern Korea. Taiwan is an island already surrounded by Western allies and is about to be surrounded by even more. Militarily, China’s claim to Taiwan is not strategic, it is about something else.

By China claiming Taiwan, Taiwanese have a vested interest in Human Rights issues in China. On the other hand, the DPP, the political party of Taiwan’s freshman president, a political party which Lee is affiliated with, claims that Taiwan is independent. This should mean that the DPP thinks that Taiwan “doesn’t have a dog in that fight” where Human Rights are concerned in China. They want to be independent, yet they also worry about the goings on in China as if they are family. The DPP makes it seem as if they want to have their cake and eat it too.

So, everyone is right, and wrong—it depends on who you ask. Eventually, push will come to shove and all the houses of cards in the Western Pacific will crash. If Russia intervenes then they might as well surrender Syria to the States. So, the “Ruskies” aren’t likely to tip any balances. Besides, they would rather bide their time, let China do their bidding, and let the US grow weary. Based on both push and advantage for action in Korea just before action in the South Sea, China could find itself in a checkmate in three moves. Then, we’ll see if that “bromance” between Trump and Xi was all it was chalked up to.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, March 20, 2017

North Korea made headlines again. Reports have it that North Korea performs a routine ritual of saber rattling every spring. It’s definitely “saber spring” in “Kim world”. Trump thinks the Great Successor is a naughty boy, behaving very “badly”.

China’s answer is to educate the US on calmness and diplomacy, while continuing to build weaponized islands in the South Sea. The US is certainly paying attention. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just made a pit stop in China. While the US won’t take anything off the table, including pit stops and naming that “military action” won’t be taken off the table, the stronger, less visible, and probably more important response from the US is money. The Fed is raising interest rates and China appears to be in some kind of economic cross-hairs. Read More