Japan to Decides to Purchase Aegis Ashore System In Response to North Korean Missile Threats

This expected purchase of an Aegis Ashore system seems to make sense considering it can provide a persistent missile defense capability for Japan without having to rotate in and out their current Aegis BMD ships:

Japan is planning to deploy a new U.S.-developed ground-based missile defense system.

The Defense Ministry is to provisionally request that the fiscal 2018 budget cover planning costs for installing the Aegis Ashore system, according to a ministry official. “We are being urged to enhance our capabilities to continually protect the entirety of Japan from the threat of a missile attack,” the official said.  (……)

Japan’s Defense Ministry has studied whether to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system or the Aegis Ashore shield. But it has not planned for Aegis Ashore installations. The system is not included in the current National Defense Program Guidelines or mentioned in mid-term defense planning documents. The official said Aegis Ashore plans will be finalized by the end of the year.  [Asian Review]

You can read more at the link.

General Vandal Apologizes for Photo Incident During THAAD Deployment to Seongju

My guess would be this apology must be something the ROK government recommended to USFK to do in order to get the protesters to stop blockading the road considering it is happening four months after the fact.  I guess we will see if this will help lead to the end of the blockade:

Lieutenant General Thomas Vandal

Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal, commander of the 8th U.S. Army, apologized Sunday to the people of Seongju over one of his soldiers using a smartphone to film a protest involving physical clashes, smiling as he did so.

The Seongju residents rejected Vandal’s apology, saying it was four months too late.

First, Vandal and his superior officer, U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) commander Gen. Vincent Brooks, should find a better way of dealing with this incident. The protesters should stop using the apology issue for political purposes.

The incident happened in the early hours of April 26 when a convoy of U.S. military vehicles pushed their way through to deliver equipment for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery, a U.S. missile interceptor, to the site in the vicinity. Twelve people were injured. A GI in one vehicle was caught filming the scene with a snigger on his face.

For that, Vandal went down to Seongju and bowed at a press conference after the residents refused to meet him. He said the soldier’s behavior was inappropriate and that he was fresh on his Korean tour and had not finished his orientation program.

The residents questioned Vandal’s sincerity because his apology came four months after the incident, despite repeated demands. The residents claimed they felt ignored by Vandal.

Vandal should have apologized earlier. The USFK is often belated in dealing with accidents in relation to Koreans. One example is the 2002 Yangju Highway Incident where a U.S. military vehicle crushed two Korean girls to death. Then, the USFK dragged its feet, letting the incident grow out of proportion in a major PR fiasco.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but the Korea Times in regards to the 2002 Yangju Highway Incident do not know what they are talking about.  Both the 8th Army commander and the 2nd Infantry Division commander apologized after the accident happened.  2ID even paid an initial $1,000 payment to the families to assist with funeral expenses.  Then 2ID soldiers held a candlelight vigil and fundraising drive in honor of the two girls that were tragically killed.  The fundraiser raised $22,000 for the families.

2ID soldiers attend candle light vigil in memory of Shim Mi-son and Shin Hyo-sun.

Finally the USFK commander put the soldiers on court martial strictly for PR purposes despite this being a clear accident.  Anyway much more about the 2002 accident can be read at the below link:

GI Flashbacks: The 2002 Armored Vehicle Accident

‘The Hunger Games’ Theme Park to Be Built on Jeju Island

Maybe it is just me but it seems like there is something inappropriate about a “Hunger Games” theme park considering the movie involves teenagers hunting each other to the death:

Audiences that raved about novel-based science fiction adventure film franchise “Hunger Games” will be able to experience the thrill at a theme park on Jeju Island.

Landing Jeju Development, a wholly owned subsidiary of Landing International Development Limited, said Wednesday it signed with the United States’ Lionsgate, the franchise’s distributor, to build “Lionsgate Movie World” as part of recreational resort complex Jeju Shinhwa World now under construction.

The theme park, built over 122,000 square meters, will be Lionsgate’s first branded outdoor park and the biggest among the studio’s location-based entertainment businesses.

The park will have seven zones, each themed around different blockbuster movies and featuring reproduced streets and towns, rides, 4D experience halls, restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops and entertainment performances. The thematic movies include the “Hunger Games,” “Twilight Saga” and “Now You See Me” franchises and “Robin Hood,” to be released next March.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

35th ADA Brigade In Korea Announces Completion of Patriot Modernization Effort

USFK’s Patriot missile defense batteries have become more capable:

The U.S. Army announced that its 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, successfully completed a Patriot missile defense system modernization effort that will provide protection from potential North Korean attacks.

Targa Gibbs, Patriot modernization project officer of the brigade, said that the eight-month task was aimed at ensuring that everything worked and met the industry standard, and training soldiers and crew on the new equipment.

“As part of the training, the batteries networked into the battalion data link architecture from geographically dispersed locations around the peninsula and conducted air battles,” the army said in a statement Monday.

The largest benefit of the overhaul was said to be the replacement of many systems and updating outdated technology. In part of an ongoing plan to enhance air defense capabilities on the Korean Peninsula, the brigade will, in the coming months, modernize their Avengers surface-to-air missile system that protects ground units from incoming short-range missiles, said the army.

The statement did not mention whether the brigade adopted and trained for the all-new Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE), a Lockheed Martin hit-to-kill interceptor, but a local military source told the JoongAng Ilbo that it has.

The PAC-3 MSE incorporates a larger, dual-pulse solid rocket motor, larger fins and upgraded actuators and thermal batteries, according to descriptions from Lockheed Martin.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link as well from the original press release from the Army.

Steve Bannon Admits There is No Military Solution with North Korea; Wants Economic War with China

It is pretty amazing to me that someone from the White House would just call up a random reporter and be this open about their views, but as we have seen there is nothing conventional about Steve Bannon:

Steve Bannon

“We’re at economic war with China,” he added. “It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow.”

Bannon said he might consider a deal in which China got North Korea to freeze its nuclear buildup with verifiable inspections and the United States removed its troops from the peninsula, but such a deal seemed remote. Given that China is not likely to do much more on North Korea, and that the logic of mutually assured destruction was its own source of restraint, Bannon saw no reason not to proceed with tough trade sanctions against China.

Contrary to Trump’s threat of fire and fury, Bannon said: “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.” Bannon went on to describe his battle inside the administration to take a harder line on China trade, and not to fall into a trap of wishful thinking in which complaints against China’s trade practices now had to take a backseat to the hope that China, as honest broker, would help restrain Kim.

“To me,” Bannon said, “the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we’re five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover.”  [The American Prospect via a reader tip]

You can read much more at the link, but in regards to threat to Seoul Mr. Bannon is correct that it continues to restrain US actions against North Korea.  The fact that Bannon is willing to consider a freeze deal with North Korea in exchange for the removal of US troops I find very interesting.  I think everyone pushing for the freeze deal are now going to push it even harder if they see an opening that the White House might accept it.

Bannon in the article also talks about trying to get more hawks into the administration that don’t want to play nice with China.  He feels there are too many people in the government that think playing nice on trade with China will encourage them to help us with North Korea.

As far economic war with China it seems to me that a lot of the economic problems are self inflicted with the exporting of manufacturing jobs to China.  I don’t know if someone can even live a modern life any more if they made a conscious decision to not buy anything made in China.

North Korean Threats Have Not Stopped Tourists From Visiting Guam

With the vast majority of Guam’s tourists coming from Japan and South Korea it makes sense that they are unfazed by the recent rhetoric from North Korea which they have grown accustomed to:

Tourists haven’t been deterred from visiting the tropical island of Guam even though the U.S. territory has been the target of threats from North Korea during a week of angry words exchanged by Pyongyang and Washington.

Chiho Tsuchiya of Japan heard the news, but she decided to come anyway with her husband and two children. “I feel Japan and Korea also can get danger from North Korea, so staying home is the same,” said the 40-year-old.

Won Hyung-jin, an official from Modetour, a large South Korean travel agency, said several customers called with concerns, but they weren’t worried enough to pay cancellation fees for their trips.

“It seems North Korea racks up tension once or twice every year, and travelers have become insensitive about it,” Won said. His company has sent about 5,000 travelers to Guam a month this year, mostly on package tours.  [Bloomberg]

You can read more at the link.