.From Why Trump is Winding Up Tensions with North Korea
After 18 months of on-off diplomacy with North Korea, the Trump administration seems determined now to jettison the fragile talk about peace, reverting to its earlier campaign of “maximum pressure” and hostility. It’s a retrograde move risking a disastrous war.
In a visit to China this week, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Chinese leader Xi Jinping both urged for greater momentum in the diplomatic process with North Korea, saying that renewed tensions benefit no-one. The two leaders may need to revise that assertion. Tensions greatly benefit someone – Washington.
Why Trump is winding up tensions again with Pyongyang appears to involve a two-fold calculation. It gives Washington greater leverage to extort more money from South Korea for the presence of US military forces on its territory; secondly, the Trump administration can use the tensions as cover for increasing its regional forces aimed at confronting China.
In recent weeks, the rhetoric has deteriorated sharply between Washington and Pyongyang. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has resumed references to Trump being a senile “dotard”, while the US president earlier this month at the NATO summit near London dusted off his old disparaging name for Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, calling him “rocket man”.
On December 7 and 15, North Korea tested rocket engines at its Sohae satellite launching site which are believed to be preparation for the imminent test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). North Korea unilaterally halted ICBM test-launches in April 2018 as a gesture for diplomacy with the US. Its last launch was on July 4, 2017, when Pyongyang mockingly called it a “gift” for America’s Independence Day.
Earlier this month, Pyongyang said it was preparing a “Christmas gift” for Washington. That was taken as referring to resumption of ICBM test launches. However, Pyongyang said it was up to the US to decide which gift it would deliver.
On the engine testing, Trump said he was “watching closely” on what North Korea did next, warning that he was prepared to use military force against Pyongyang and that Kim Jong-un had “everything to lose”.
The turning away from diplomacy may seem odd. Trump first met Kim in June 2018 in Singapore at a breakthrough summit, the first time a sitting US president met with a North Korean leader. There were two more summits, in Hanoi in February 2019, and at the Demilitarized Zone on the Korean border in June 2019. The latter occasion was a splendid photo-opportunity for Trump, being the first American president to have stepped on North Korean soil.
During this diplomatic embrace, Trump has lavished Kim with praise and thanked him for “beautiful letters”. Back in September 2017 when hostile rhetoric was flying both ways, Trump told the UN general assembly he would “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatened the US. How fickle are the ways of Trump.
What’s happened is the initial promises of engagement have gone nowhere, indicating the superficiality of Trump’s diplomacy. It seems clear now that the US president was only interested in public relations gimmickry, boasting to the American public that he had reined in North Korea’s nuclear activities.
When Trump met Kim for the third time in June 2019, they reportedly vowed to resume negotiations on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. North Korea had up until recently stuck to its commitment to halt ICBM testing. However, for that, Pyongyang expected reciprocation from the US side on the issue of sanctions relief, at least a partial lifting of sanctions. Kim gave Trump a deadline by the end of this year to make some concession on sanctions.
Russia and China last week proposed an easing of UN sanctions on North Korea. But Washington rebuffed that proposal, categorically saying it was a “premature” move, and that North Korea must first make irreversible steps towards complete decommissioning of its nuclear arsenal. The high-handed attitude is hardly conducive to progress.
The lack of diplomatic reciprocation from Washington over the past six months has led Pyongyang to angrily repudiate further talks. It has hit out at what it calls Trump’s renewed demeaning name-calling of Kim. There is also a palpable sense of frustration on North Korea’s part for having been used as a prop for Trump’s electioneering.
The fact that Washington has adopted an intransigent position with regard to sanctions would indicate that it never was serious about pursuing meaningful diplomacy with Pyongyang.
Admittedly, Trump did cancel large-scale US war games conducted with South Korea as a gesture towards North Korea, which views these exercises as provocative rehearsals for war. This was an easy concession to make by Trump who no doubt primarily saw the cessation of military drills as a cost-cutting opportunity for the US.
Significantly, this month US special forces along with South Korean counterparts conducted a “decapitation” exercise in which they simulated a commando raid to capture a foreign target. Furthermore, the operation was given unusual public media attention.
As the Yonhap news agency reported: “A YouTube video by the Defense Flash News shows more details of the operation, with service personnel throwing a smoke bomb, raiding an office inside the building, shooting at enemy soldiers over the course, and a fighter jet flying over the building… It is unusual for the US military to make public such materials… according to officials.”
The Trump administration appears to have run out of further use for the diplomatic track with North Korea. The PR value has been milked. The policy shift is now back to hostility. The instability that generates is beneficial for Washington in two ways.
Trump is currently trying to get South Korea to boost its financial contribution towards maintaining US forces on its territory. Trump wants Seoul to cough up an eye-watering five-fold increase in payments “for US protection” to an annual $5 billion bill. South Korea is understandably reluctant to fork out such a massive whack from its fiscal budget. Talks on the matter are stalemated, but expected to resume in January.
If US relations with North Korea were progressing through diplomacy then the lowered tensions on the peninsula would obviously not benefit Washington’s demand on South Korea for more “protection money”. Therefore, it pays Washington to ramp up the hostilities and the dangers of war as a lever for emptying Seoul’s coffers.
The other bigger strategic issue shaping US intentions with North Korea is of course Washington’s longer-term collision course with China. US officials and defense planning documents have repeatedly targeted China as the main geopolitical adversary. American forces in South Korea comprising 28,500 troops, nuclear-capable bombers, warships and its anti-missile Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system are not about protecting South Korea from North Korea. They are really about encircling China (and Russia). Washington hardly wants to scale back its military assets on the Korea Peninsula. It is driven by the strategic desire to expand them.
In media comments earlier this month, Pentagon chief Mark Esper made a curious slip-up when referring to withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan. He said they would be redeployed in Asia to confront China.
Esper said: “I would like to go down to a lower number [in Afghanistan] because I want to either bring those troops home, so they can refit and retrain for other missions or/and be redeployed to the Indo-Pacific to face off our greatest challenge in terms of the great power competition that’s vis-a-vis China.”
The logic of war profits and strategic conflict with China mean that Trump and the Washington establishment do not want to find a peaceful resolution with North Korea. Hence a return to the hostile wind-up of tensions.
From Why Trump is Winding Up Tensions with North Korea
This post was originally published on this site After 18 months of on-off diplomacy with North Korea, the Trump administration seems determined now to jettison the fragile talk about peace, reverting to its earlier campaign of “maximum pressure” and hostility. It’s a retrograde move risking a...
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Christmas Doge (BLT|13-2)
US Air Force RC-135 Cobra Ball (ballistic missile detection platform) departed Kadena AB at 0215z for the Sea of Japan via
Christmas Doge (BLT|13-2)
The US is essentially keeping 24/7 Cobra Ball surveillance on North Korea. It's obvious they're still prepared and expecting something, despite the fact that Christmas is over for the US. Remember, not all Christmas gifts come on Christmas day.
|I recall recently reading that DJT might be letting Norks go this far unchallenged as they have in this last lil dust up. The thought was it could be being allowed in order to bring some additional torque force to the negotiations between US and South Korea around the issue below....i dunno, I just make coffee and sweep floors...j|
The U.S. and Korea narrowed differences significantly in the latest round of defense cost-sharing…
"The two sides are likely to agree on a 10 to 20 percent hike in South Korea's contribution and a hefty sweetener in arms purchases from the US." http://english.chosun.com/m/svc/article.html?contid=2019122601330…
3:54 AM · Dec 26, 2019·Twitter for Android
The U.S. and Korea narrowed differences significantly in the latest round of defense cost-sharing talks as the U.S. stepped back from demands for an exorbitant five-fold hike in Korea's contribution, sources said Wednesday.
But Washington is still demanding an expanded contribution from Seoul, which already pays more proportionally than any other U.S. ally for keeping 28,500 American troops here.
"The two sides began narrowing their differences and moved toward a smaller increase in defense cost-sharing," a diplomatic source said.
The final agreement is not expected until February, two months past the expiry of the current agreement.
The American negotiators took into account the views of several senior U.S. lawmakers that a $5 billion bill would be excessive. Instead, the two sides are likely to agree on a 10 to 20 percent hike in South Korea's contribution and a hefty sweetener in arms purchases from the U.S., other sources said.
The U.S. Senate earlier this month ratified the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, requiring American troop levels to remain at present levels. That decision, which was signed by U.S. President Donald Trump, played a major role in Washington lowering its cost-sharing demand. A government official said, "We plan to meet in January to discuss further details."
|sounds utterly plausible to me, but, I am gullible...|
NHK accidentally sent out a training alert.
Jesse Johnson クリスマス版
Asahi reporting NHK mistakenly sent draft of alert used in training for North Korean missile launch. CC: @jeongminnkim View: https://twitter.com/asahi/status/1210234325658034182
10:31 AM · Dec 26, 2019·Twitter Web App
U.S. operates at least 22 reconnaissance planes over Korean Peninsula
Posted December. 27, 2019 07:53,
Updated December. 27, 2019 07:53
|The U.S. is not relaxing its surveillance even after the “Christmas gift” deadline threatened by North Korea is passed. The country is carpet-bombing the Korean Peninsula with its reconnaissance resources.|
The U.S. deployed its five main reconnaissance planes, such as E-8C Joint STARS, at once to the Korean Peninsula on Wednesday, which was followed by three more reconnaissance aircraft on Thursday to detect any new signs of North Korean provocations involving intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).
According to the Aircraft Spots, a combat aircraft tracking website, first Joint STARS and later two RC-135S Cobra Balls flew from the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa to the Korean Peninsula from early morning until afternoon on Thursday. In particular, Cobra Balls, which can track the trajectories of missiles and warheads, flew to the East Sea back to back. “The U.S. is keeping an eye on the submarines and SLBM base located in Wonsan, Gangwon Province and Sinpo, Hamgyong Province 24 hours a day,” said a South Korean military source. This implies the U.S.’ forecast that North Korea is more likely to launch SLBMs than ICBMs, which will remain as the last resort.
The amount of reconnaissance resources poured in by the U.S. following the “Christmas gift” threat of North Korea is believed to be unprecedented by both military and non-military experts. The U.S. deployed at least 22 reconnaissance planes of seven different models to the Korean Peninsula since Lee Tae Sung, the vice minister of the North’s foreign ministry in charge of the U.S. affairs, said “What the Christmas gift will be depends on the U.S.’ decision.”
“Almost all reconnaissance aircraft deployed to Northeast Asia are used to surveil North Korea,” said a military source. Given that 22 reconnaissance planes are the number intentionally released by the U.S. military through the Aircraft Spots, etc. to put pressure on North Korea, the actual figure including confidential reconnaissance activities must be higher.
Sang-Ho Yun email@example.com
Silent night: Christmas day in Korea wraps up with no DPRK missile testing
December 25, 2019
The lack of test, despite DPRK's "Christmas gift" warning, comes amid slow pace on set up of the December plenum
Jeongmin Kim December 25, 2019
Christmas day came and went on the Korean peninsula with no special weapons testing as of midnight KST, despite the North having warned about an unspecified “Christmas gift” that the U.S. could expect in early December.
In addition, party daily Rodong Sinmun, cabinet newspaper Minju Choson, and the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) all remained absent of statements directly condemning the U.S., though some indirect complaints on the topic of sanctions could be found.
The absence of reported actions the U.S. would likely describe as provocative follows the DPRK foreign ministry’s December 3 statement, which led some observers to suggest a long-range missile test could be in the works.
“Now…it is entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will select to get,” North Korea’s vice foreign minister Ri Thae Song warned while complaining that Washington failed to provide sufficient compensation for good-faith measures over the past 18 months.
Quiet over the peninsula was also coupled with a break in precedence surrounding the pace that North Korea’s much anticipated extraordinary December Plenary would be held.
It remains possible, however, that it could have taken place on Wednesday, with outcomes scheduled to come out via state media in the early evening of Christmas day in North America.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump on December 24 (ET) said the “Christmas gift” expected from Pyongyang may be “a beautiful vase as opposed to a missile test,” appearing to brush off the possibility of a DPRK missile test on December 25.
Nevertheless, increased U.S. efforts to monitor DPRK airspace were observed ahead of Christmas day KST, an air traffic monitoring service said, suggesting the military was taking the ‘Christmas threat’ seriously.
According to Aircraft Spots – a military aircraft tracker on Twitter – several reconnaissance assets were spotted flying in or near South Korean airspace overnight: an RQ-4 Global Hawk, E-8C JSTARS (Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System), RC-135W Rivet Joint, and RC-135S Cobra Ball.
Aircraft Spots said Wednesday that the increased surveillance observed on early Wednesday was “quite unusual,” adding, “I haven’t seen activity like this since 2017.”
However, NK News could not verify the accuracy of the service’s claims or its data.
Chad O’Carroll, the CEO of NK News’ parent company Korea Risk Group, said it was unlikely any so-called “major provocations” by North Korea would take place in the short-term.
“Instead, we’ll see a strongly worded Plenum outcome and New Year’s speech which will show the DPRK take a hardline anti-American position… but nothing else, for now,” he said, adding that Pyongyang will likely keep the “ICBM tests, satellite launches or nuclear tests as potential leverage to use at a later date” – depending on how Washington responds to the North.
Nevertheless, there remains a small possibility the North will go ahead with a test of some sort in the early hours, to chime with Christmas on the East Coast, he said.
Edited by Chad O’Carroll
Featured image: KCNA
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Christmas day came and went on the Korean peninsula with no special weapons testing as of midnight KST, despite the North having warned about an unspecified “Christmas gift” that the U.S. could expect in early December. In addition, party daily Rodong Sinmun, cabinet newspaper Minju Choson, and...
I know you can't help but worry a bit about your baby girl, but looks like at least this incident is fading into the sunset. Thanks so much for the update on her perspective and experience!Talked to daughter today and I mentioned that Christmas is over so we don't have to worry and she responded by reminding me that Kim gave us until the New Year to remove the sanctions. She seems to think we still should be alert. Anyway this is all we mentioned of the situation.
Posted for fair use.....North Korea's leader plans to further develop nuclear programs and to introduce a "new strategic weapon" in the near future, state media said on Wednesday, although he signaled there was still room for dialogue with the United States.www.reuters.com
DECEMBER 31, 2019 / 2:05 PM / UPDATED 5 MINUTES AGO
North Korea's Kim says world to see 'new strategic weapon' in the near future: KCNA
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Wednesday vowed to continue developing his country’s nuclear deterrent and introduce a “new strategic weapon” in the near future, state media KCNA said, after the United States missed a year-end deadline for a restart of denuclearization talks.
While accusing Washington of making “gangster-like demands,” Kim said at a key ruling Workers’ Party meeting that the scope of the nuclear deterrent will depend on the United States’ future attitude, leaving the door for dialogue open.
Thanks Jward for your thoughts. My baby girl just had her retirement approved. She'll separate on her birthday next summer at 25 years as an intel officer and 6 deployments to war zones. I'm just counting down until she's a civilian and am so thankful to God for taking care of her in harms way.I know you can't help but worry a bit about your baby girl, but looks like at least this incident is fading into the sunset. Thanks so much for the update on her perspective and experience!