It’s way past time to get out of Korea. From Doug Bandow at antiwar.com:
Washington’s policy toward Korea – both Koreas, actually – isn’t going well. President Donald Trump calls the North’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un his “friend,” but Kim might be on his deathbed, incapacitated, or just hiding out to confuse his adversaries. In any case, the two haven’t talked since last summer, after a brief handshake while meeting at the DMZ when Trump visited the South. Negotiations between their underlings sputtered out in the fall.
South Korea is a longtime defense dependent, with the relationship forged in the Korean War which began 70 years ago this coming June. However, last year the administration demanded that Seoul increase its contribution toward the U.S. garrison under the Special Measures Agreement more than fivefold, to $5 billion annually. The Republic of Korea balked and talks deadlocked. The US recently furloughed thousands of ROK employees, which probably hurts American personnel, who must make up the work, more than Seoul.
As Washington officials speculated on who in North Korea currently possesses the key to that nation’s nuclear arsenal they tried to sound a reassuring note, claiming to have contingency plans if Kim dies. However, the Supreme Leader’s unexpected departure for beyond the River Styx would set off a brutal and possibly bloody power struggle – imagine millions of refugees, loose nukes and other WMDs, open warfare, and both South Korean and Chinese generals determined to intervene. Yet at this moment of uncertainty the US relationship with Seoul, which provides most of the troops on the ground, is strained and uncertain. Much could go wrong.
One reason South Korea has apparently tamed the coronavirus is because it quickly tested tens of thousands of people for the virus. It makes the US a sad contrast. From Dr. David Brownstein at drbrownstein.com:
South Korea was one of the first countries affected by Coronavirus after China. Their first case occurred January 20, 2020. The number of cases remained low until February 18 when the country reported 31 new cases. A few days later hundreds more were confirmed and continued to rise. At that time, S. Korea had the highest number of COVID-19 patients outside of China. (1) By February 27, with a few hundred cases of COVID-19 reported, S. Korea had tested over 66,000 people while the US had tested just 445. (2)
How did this not spiral out of control like it has in the US? In later January, just after the first case, S. Korea procured a massive amount of tests. When the infection spread in February, S. Korean health agencies were quickly mobilized to test tens of thousands of exposed Koreans. In fact, they tested tens of thousands of patients and properly instituted quarantining and treatment.
That is a perfect example of how a national health service is supposed to function. We—especially the CDC–have a lot to learn from the Korean health agencies. How did this fare for the Korean citizens?
In the March 13, 2020 Korean Times it is reported that there are 7,869 cases of COVID-19. How many have died? Sixty-six people, mostly elderly patients with underlying illnesses have died so far. That means the death rate in Korea is 0.8% (66/7,869). This is still higher than the death rate for the flu in the US which is approximately 0.1%. However, this number is much lower than the 3-4% promoted by the media.
Is the economic slowly circling the drain? From Brandon Smith at alt-market.com:
If we are to measure the concept of “economic recovery” in real terms, then we would have to look at the fundamentals (not stock markets) and whether or not they’re improving. Unfortunately, not all economic data is presented to the public honestly. Very often it is mired and obscured in a fog of disinformation and false standards.
I would point out, though, that there is relatively accurate information out there in certain areas of the global economy, and it tells us our economic structure is destabilizing. Beyond that, even the rigged numbers are moving into negative territory. But what does all this mean for the holiday retail season, one of the mainstream’s favorite gauges of US financial health? And, if 2019’s holiday profits sink, what does this tell us is going to happen in 2020?
First, let’s start with what we know…
Since we live in a “globalized” economy where everything is supposedly “interdependent”, it helps to examine international export numbers. The US doesn’t manufacture and export much of anything anymore beyond agricultural products, but global markets do expect us to consume the goods of other nations. A decline in exports indicates a failing global economy, but in particular a failing US consumer economy.
In competition with Asia, the West has a weak hand. From Jeff Thomas at internationalman.com:
I’ve never been much of a gambler. On the rare occasions I’ve played poker, I almost always came out ahead, but I almost never bluffed and, probably more important, I always played with amateurs like myself, never with players who really knew what they were doing.
Of course, the business of governance is far more important than a friendly poker game between friends. All the more reason why, when political leaders are making their assessments as to the national future, they should make sure they have a winning hand, prior to betting heavily.
Every day, we’re reminded that the Asian powerhouse is moving ahead at a pace that’s unheard of in the West. It’s almost as though the clocks stopped in the West ten years ago, but Asia kept on advancing in every way.
This is clear to anyone who has had feet on the ground in Asia in recent years. Yet, every day in the Western media, the illusion is presented that the West is still running the show, and Asia is a lesser player.
Posted in Business, Culture, Economics, Economy, Education, Eurasian Axis, Geopolitics, Governments, Labor, Law, Politics
Tagged Asia, China, Japan, South Korea
If you’re going to be a US ally, you sure as hell are going to buy US weapons. From Stu Smallwood at antiwar.com:
South Korean President Moon Jae-in did something very unusual in early October for a leader who once deemed the Korean peace process among the highest priorities of his administration: He promoted the very fighter jets that North Korea says undermine diplomacy.
President Moon was on hand to celebrate the first delivery of the Lockheed Martin F-35A “next generation” fighter jets that, with 40 in total set to arrive by 2021, represent the most expensive weapons purchase in South Korean history according to Reuters.
“The war of the future will be a fight of science and intelligence against all elements that threaten our people’s safety and property,” Moon said in a speech to promote the jets, noting that he felt “secure about the might of [South Korea’s] military armed with new … F-35As.”
Posted in Business, Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Governments, History, Imperialism, Military, Technology, War
Tagged F-35, Lockheed Martin, Moon Jae-in, North Korea, South Korea
The prospects for peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula have taken a turn for the worse. From Stu Smallwood at antiwar.com:
“His shameless talk of dialogue between the North and South [at a time like this] raises questions about his mental faculties… We have nothing to say to South Korean authorities and have no intention of sitting down with them again.”*
These are just some of the highlights of a North Korean spokesperson’s ruthless response to Moon Jae-in’s August 15 Liberation Day speech in which the South Korean president called for unification of Korea by 2045 and the establishment of a North-South peace economy.
The “time like this” mentioned by the spokesperson for the North Korean Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country is a reference to the insulting training drills ongoing between South Korean and US forces – specifically a simulated counterinsurgency campaign in North Korea after successfully conquering Pyongyang in 90 days.
Laughable as this simulated scenario is (China and Russia would never sit back and let North Korea be conquered so swiftly), the comments embody the all-too-predictable outcome of these offensive drills: the North Korean government is upset and has lost complete trust in the South Korean president who once led the peace process.
Trump talks a lot about big, bold initiatives. It’s time to actually do one with North Korea. From John Feffer at antiwar.com:
Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un are scheduled to meet again. Here are several reasons to be optimistic about next month’s summit.
The second meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un is scheduled for next month. The most likely location will be Vietnam. The agenda is much the same as before: how to get North Korea to denuclearize and the United States to dismantle its sanctions regime. The question remains: which side will make the first substantial move?
The summit comes at a particular difficult time for Trump. The partial shutdown of the federal government is nearing the end of its third week, and most Americans blame the president. Pentagon chief James Mattis resigned over Trump’s insistence on withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria, a policy that other administration officials have attempted to reverse. The president faces fresh criticism of his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. And the House of Representatives, now in the hands of the opposition Democratic Party, is getting ready to launch a slew of investigations into Trump’s affairs and policies.
Kim Jong UN, on the other hand, has been busy consolidating his position. He visited China for the fourth time this month and began making arrangements for Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s first visit to North Korea this spring. Relations with the South are proceeding more-or-less smoothly, with the groundbreaking ceremony for a new inter-Korean railroad taking place late last year.
Is Kim Jong Un out-wheeling and out-dealing Master of the Deal Donald Trump? From Kent Harrington and John Walcott at marketwatch.com:
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is eager to hold a second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump. Since their first meeting in Singapore in June, Kim has consistently outmaneuvered his counterpart. Trump may still fancy himself a world-class deal maker, but the truth is that Kim — like Russian President Vladimir Putin — has got Trump’s number.
Kim’s bonhomie (real or feigned) and promises of denuclearization have muted Trump’s threats, brought the South Korean government closer to his side, and eroded international sanctions against his regime. Kim has accomplished all of this without diminishing his regime’s nuclear capacity, and he appears to have continued ballistic-missile development at 16 hidden sites. Having gone from nuclear-armed pariah to presidential negotiating partner, it is little wonder that Kim would want a second summit to consolidate his newfound international legitimacy and position in the global limelight.
To the consternation of much of the US government and mainstream media, the two Koreas continue to make progress towards reconciliation and peace. From Peter Van Buren at medium.com:
What is the state of diplomacy on the Korean peninsula? Are we again heading toward the lip of war, or is progress being made at an expected pace? Are there Asian Neocons fanning the flames for conflict in Pyongyang much as others did with Baghdad?
A year ago, in November 2017, John Brennan estimated the chance of a war with North Korea at 20 to 25 percent. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the odds were 50/50. The New York Times claimed we were “slouching toward war” with the North, on a “collision course.” National security adviser HR McMaster said North Korea represented “the greatest immediate threat to the United States” and that the potential for war with the communist nation grew each day. The U.S. lacked an ambassador in Seoul; Victor Cha was rejected by Trump because, according to “sources and reports,” he didn’t support a preemptive strike on Pyongyang. It was reported the U.S. was “imminently preparing for an attack on North Korea,” driven in part by hawks like Mike Pompeo and John Bolton.
All that was wrong.
While the rest of the world isn’t paying much attention, North and South Korea are taking steps towards eventual reconciliation and peace. From John Feffer at antiwar.com:
The media is missing the real story on the peninsula. If that gives Koreans space to lead, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
Remarkable changes are taking place on the Korean peninsula.
The two Koreas are actually starting to demilitarize the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Just in the last couple weeks, they have taken down 22 guard posts, demined the Joint Security Area, and established a no-fly-zone about the peninsula’s dividing line. They’ve pulled back from confrontation along their maritime boundary. North Korea has shut down its coastal artillery units and the two sides have discussed a plan to reduce the large number of artillery positions near the border.
One key indicator of the seriousness of these changes: speculators are driving up the price of land near the border on the South Korean side. Even in a slow-motion reunification scenario, this farmland will become increasingly valuable.
The two Koreas have also revived plans to reunify economically, step by step. At the third inter-Korean summit, the leaders of the two countries agreed to relink, finally, the railroad as well as roads and to restart the shuttered Kaesong industrial complex, which married North Korean labor with South Korean capital and managerial skills. Also on tap is the resumption of tourism projects that have brought large numbers of South Koreans to select locations in the north.
All of this has been met with deafening silence in the United States. Worse, the big Korea news this week is, once again, about what the perfidious North Koreans are doing to reinforce the Cold War, not dismantle it.
But maybe this silence is a good thing.