Should President Trump Tour the DMZ During Visit to Korea?

If the ROK government and the State Department have their way, the answer is no:

It has become the ultimate symbol of American resolve against the threat of North Korea: a visit by the U.S. commander in chief to “freedom’s frontier,” the heavily guarded Demilitarized Zone that has separated the North and South for 64 years.

Wearing bomber-style jackets, surrounded by military officers, peering through binoculars, all but one president since Ronald Reagan has gazed across the barren strip of land at the 38th parallel from an observation post — and been moved to talk tough. In April, Vice President Mike Pence, undertaking the same solemn ritual, said he toured the DMZ so the North Koreans could “see our resolve in my face.”

But as President Donald Trump prepares for a 12-day swing next month through five Asian nations to bolster international pressure on Pyongyang, the administration is divided over whether he should make the pilgrimage, an issue that remains unresolved. Some aides worry a visit could further inflame already heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, while others have expressed concern over Trump’s personal safety, according to people who have spoken to administration officials.

Asian foreign policy veterans of both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations said it would be foolish for Trump not to go. But the White House is facing opposition from South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s administration and the U.S. State Department over fears that a visit would ratchet up Trump’s war of words with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link, but if people are worried about President Trump saying something provocative about North Korea during his visit does the location really matter?  As far as his personal safety does anyone really think the North Koreans will assassinate President Trump while visiting Panmunjom and start a war that will end the regime?  I guess we will see how this plays out.

White House Chief of Staff Makes Powerful Comments About Condolence Call Controversy

If you watch anything today, watch what retired General and White House Chief of Staff said at a press conference yesterday.  No matter what you think of this whole condolence call controversy this is pretty powerful stuff.  Here is an excerpt:

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Invoking the death of his son, a Marine, in Afghanistan, White House chief of staff John Kelly delivered an impassioned defense on Thursday of President Trump’s outreach to families of four Americans recently killed in Niger. Kelly also denounced Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., as “selfish” for criticizing Trump for his message to one soldier’s widow.

“I appeal to America: Let’s not let this, maybe, last thing that’s held sacred in our society: a young man, young woman going out and giving his or her life for our country. Let’s try to somehow keep that sacred,” Kelly said in an unusual appearance in the White House briefing room. “It eroded a great deal yesterday by the selfish behavior of a member of Congress.”

Wilson had said that Trump callously told Myeshia Johnson — whose husband Army Sgt. La David Johnson was killed in an Oct. 4 patrol in Niger — that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” The congresswoman, a Johnson family friend, reportedly overheard parts of the conversation while riding in the same car as the widow. Trump flatly denied that account on Twitter Wednesday and said he had “proof.” The soldier’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, reportedly said that the president had “disrespected” her family.

But Kelly, a retired Marine general, broadly confirmed Wilson’s account — while explaining that Trump had drawn inspiration from what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, told him when Robert Kelly was killed after stepping on a landmine while on patrol in Afghanistan in 2010.

“He said ‘Kell, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into, by joining the Marines — that 1 percent — he knew what the possibilities were, because we’re at war,” Kelly said. “‘When he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this Earth, his friends.’

“That’s what the president tried to say to four families the other day,” Kelly said. “I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning, and brokenhearted, at what I saw a member of Congress doing. A member of Congress who listened in on a phone call from the president of the United States to a young wife, and, in his way, tried to express that opinion — he was a brave man, a fallen hero. He knew what he was getting himself into, because he enlisted — there was no reason to enlist, he enlisted. And he was where he wanted to be, exactly where he wanted to be, exactly the people he wanted to be with, when his life was taken. That was the message.”  [Yahoo News]

You can read more and watch the video at the link.  General Kelly definitely provides the needed context of what the President had tried to say.  The President probably should have took General Kelly’s advice and not made the call considering the difficulty he can sometimes have articulating what he means.  But like General Kelly I was surprised that a member of Congress after something like this happens, the first thing they think of is to find a camera to run in front of to score political points.  Then the media deciding to run with it like they have is just as bad.  Our political and media culture have definitely hit a new low.

Gordon Chang Accuses China of “Weaponizing” North Korea

The North Koreans have been getting technical assistance on their weapons programs from somewhere and writer Gordon Chang believes it is China:

China has helped build North Korea’s ballistic missile program by providing important military equipment and technology, a U.S. expert claimed Wednesday.

In an interview on Fox Business, Gordon Chang, an East Asia security expert, said Chinese President Xi Jinping has been “fueling” the regime in Pyongyang with transfers of “very important” weapons, equipment and technology.

“They’re weaponizing the North,” he said, citing the ballistic missile program in particular.

The intercontinental ballistic missiles North Korea fired on July 4 and 28 were transported to their launch sites on Chinese mobile launchers, according to Chang, author of “The Coming Collapse of China.”

“Those mobile launchers make North Korea a real threat because their missiles can now hide,” he said.

Other North Korean missiles launched in August last year and February and May this year also appeared to be variants of China’s JL-1 submarine launched missiles, according to the expert.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

Former President Park is Claiming “Political Persecution” and Human Rights Violations Over Continuing Detention and Trial

According to the Korea Times there is a bunch of mounting evidence against former ROK President Park Geun-hye proving she is corrupt has been found:

Ousted former President Park Geun-hye, who is on trial over massive corruption allegations, seems to be seeking sympathy from international society by claiming she is suffering from “political persecution.”

The change of strategy may have come because she is unlikely to get a favorable verdict in the trial, with her detention being extended recently for another six months.

But it seems unclear whether her playing the victim of political retaliation will work, because more and more evidence unfavorable to her is being found, and she has already faced strong criticism for denying all the allegations and attempting to cover them up.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but I would love to see a roll up of this evidence and how Park ordered a cover up.  I have yet to see a definitive roll up of the evidence just accusations in the media.  Maybe at some point we will see the evidence that proves she is corrupt.

Here is probably the statement that concerned me the most in the article:

Rep. Park Beom-kye also said she has four to six times as much space as other inmates, has enough furniture and received outside medical treatment at a hospital twice. “She can also receive treatment inside the prison any time she wants. The claim (of human rights violations) is unreasonable,” he said.

“She committed very serious crimes but she and the MH Group are likely to package her as a victim of political retaliation.”

The cell conditions I am less concerned about then the fact that Representative Park Beom-kye has already declared her guilty with no presumption of innocence until proven guilty.  That just feeds into Park Geun-hye’s claims that this is a political persecution.

South Korean President Announces Massive Government Hiring Spree

It looks like there will soon be a lot of job openings in the government sector of South Korea:

The government has pledged to create 810,000 jobs in the public sector as a means to help young people struggling in the tight job market.

The Presidential Committee on Job Creation unveiled the plan as part of a five-year road map Wednesday.

President Moon Jae-in, who presided over the meeting, said the nation’s top 30 business groups will increase hiring by 5.6 percent this year.

On top of creating more jobs on the public sector, Moon called for private companies to join the campaign to hire more employees. “Hyundai Motor converted 7,000 subcontractors into regular workers. KT, Hanwha, POSCO and Doosan Group will also join the campaign to create more jobs,” he said.

Moon said the government will support innovative companies that actively hire more young people.

Under the plan, the government will create 340,000 jobs in the social services sector. It will start by adding 170,000 jobs in child care and nursing this year, for which there is a high demand.

An additional 170,000 positions will be created in the culture, sports and environment sectors.

The government will add 100,000 more police officers, 74,000 position in firefighting, social welfare and livestock disease control, and 174,000 in local-level civil servants.  [Korea Times]

You can read the rest at the link, but the ROK government has no funding plan for this hiring spree which means it will likely just be deficit spending.

Courageous Channel Exercise to Begin Next Week

Courageous Channel is a routine biannual exercise, but I am willing to bet that families are taking it a little bit more seriously this time:

U.S. military dependents, contractors, retirees in Area 4 participate in the Courageous Channel exercise at the Kelly Fitness Center on Camp Walker, South Korea, in May 2012.

U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said Monday it will conduct a regular contingency response exercise next week for its service members and their families, including how to evacuate them in the event of a war on the peninsula.

The annual Courageous Channel training will be held from Monday till Friday in cooperation with South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense and the U.S. State Department, said the USFK.

“Courageous Channel prepares service members and their families to respond to a wide range of crisis management events such as non-combatant evacuation (NEO) and natural or man-made disasters,” it said.

Participants in the exercise perform tasks that include readiness briefings, document and passport inspection, roster updates, and limited rehearsals.

The USFK stressed that the upcoming practice is a routine one, not directly related to recently heightened military tensions on the peninsula attributable to North Korea’s nuclear test and missile launches.  [Yonhap]

Here is more about the Courageous Channel exercise from the Stars & Stripes:

The exercise known as Courageous Channel, which will be held from Oct. 23-27, is basically a dress rehearsal to make sure everybody’s ready to get out in a hurry in case of war or another emergency.

Military spouses, children and others wearing backpacks and pulling suitcases will file through assembly points on U.S. bases where wardens will make sure documents are updated and procedures are explained.

Information also will be provided about power of attorney, financial concerns, pets — which are considered family members — and other issues.

The military also has recently selected groups to be transported all the way to Japan, which would be a likely first stop in a real emergency.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.