North Korea Launches Missile That Fails Again After Launch

Maybe there is something to the claims that the US is launching a cyber and electronic warfare campaign against North Korean missiles because they sure are having a lot of failures over the past year:

North Korea launched a ballistic missile on Saturday, which apparently exploded minutes after liftoff, according to South Korean and U.S. militaries.

“North Korea fired an unidentified missile from a site in the vicinity of Pukchang in Pyeongannam-do (South Pyeongan Province) in the northeastern direction at around 5:30 a.m today,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. “It is estimated to have failed.”

The U.S. Pacific Command also said it detected the launch from an airfield there.

“The missile did not leave North Korean territory,” its spokesman Cmdr. Dave Benham said. “The North American Aerospace Defense Command determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

Considering the subdued reaction from the US military and government I think it is safe to say this was not an ICBM test which President Trump has voiced before would be a red line with North Korea. Here is what President Trump had to say in response to the failed launch:

Trump is definitely conducting the charm offensive with Chinese President Xi considering all the positive comments he has made about him and even rebuffed a phone call from the Taiwanese President this week.

South Korean TV Show Accused of Racism for Skit Using “Blackface”

Via a reader tip comes news of an SBS show under fire for what seems like an annual controversy over the use of “blackface” in South Korea:

In a comedy skit, a character named Hyunhee talks to her family about her dreams of becoming a comedian despite her father’s disapproval, according to Koreaboo.

When she comes to see him, Hyunhee appears in blackface, wearing dreadlocks and what are supposed to be African tribal clothes.  

The final scene of the show has the character dancing to the song “Circle of Life” from Disney’s “The Lion King”.

In response, viewers took to social media to express their anger, with many calling the skit racist and how it’s offensive to people of color.  [Next Shark]

You can read more at the link.

IHO Forms Unofficial Consultation Group to Discuss Changing Name of “Sea of Japan”

Here is an update from the frontlines of the East Sea versus Sea of Japan conflict:

The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), agreed Friday to form an unofficial consultation group to discuss South Korea’s proposal to use “East Sea” alongside “Sea of Japan” when referring to the waters between the two countries, Seoul officials said.

The decision was made on the last day of the global hydrography standard-setter’s five-day assembly in Monaco. It calls for the formation of the consultation group of concerned countries, namely South Korea, Japan and others, to carry out a three-year discussion on the revision of the IHO’s “Limits of Oceans and Seas”, also known as S-23, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The group is required to report the results to an IHO assembly in 2020.

The sea chart, used as the standard for world map production, currently uses the Japanese name for the sea between the two countries.

South Korea began diplomatic efforts to revise it in the early 2000s. The IHO had dropped the initial revision discussion in 2012 amid broiling tension between Seoul and Tokyo.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but I continue to maintain it should just be called the “Nameless Sea”.

President Trump Continues to Put Pressure on Kim Jong-un

Here is the latest on what President Trump has to say in regards to the North Korean nuclear issue:

US President Donald Trump has paid North Korean leader a Kim Jong-un a strange, back-handed compliment – while at the same time warned the two countries are on the verge of a “major, major conflict”.

In an interview, the US leader admitted some grudging respect for Kim, referring to when the North Korean became leader of his secretive country in 2011.

“He’s 27 years old,” said Trump. “His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age,” he said.

“I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit, I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do. As to whether or not he’s rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he’s rational,” he said.

But that was as far as the praise went.

In a chilling warning that the world could be on the verge of a catastrophic war, Trump added: “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely.

“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” he said.

His warning came after the US in recent days pushed for North Korea not to carry out major new weapons tests.

The US has said it will talk directly with Kim to ensure North Korea got rid of any nuclear weapons.  [Yahoo News]

You can read more at the link.

Ceremony Honors the Moving of the General Walker Statue from Yongsan Garrison to Camp Humphreys

Another sign that Yongsan Garrison is getting closer to being shutdown:

Lt. Gen. Thomas S. Vandal, the commanding general of the 8th U.S. Army, speaks next to a statue of Gen. Walton H. Walker, a Korean War hero, at Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul, Tuesday. The U.S. Army began the relocation of its base from Yongsan to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, with the transfer of the statue. / Yonhap

The U.S. Army at Yongsan Garrison, central Seoul, began base relocation in earnest to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province Tuesday, to what will be its largest overseas base.

The large-scale relocation project began with a historic ceremony to mark the relocation of the Gen. Walton H. Walker monument, hosted by the Eighth U.S. Army in front of its headquarters.

Gen. Walker was the commander of the Eighth Army when it was deployed to the Korean Peninsula with the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean War on June 25, 1950.

“The Gen. Walker statue will be moved from Yongsan to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek,” the Eighth Army said in a release, noting that this event will mark the beginning of the Eighth Army’s relocation.  [Korea Times]

You can read much more at the link.

Trump Wants ROK Government to Pay Cost for Deployment of THAAD to Korea

I think who ever the next ROK president is will find it politically very difficult to pay for the THAAD deployment like President Trump is now requesting.  I think this may just be something President Trump is doing as a bargaining chip for future US-ROK Free Trade Agreement renegotiations which is something else he has been wanting.  I guess we will see what happens:

In the top left photo, elements of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery are being installed on a former golf course in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, Friday. In the bottom left photo, members of the Korean Federation of Environmental Movements stage a protest against the deployment of the anti-missile system at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul, Friday. In the right photo, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Department of the Interior in Washington, Wednesday. Trump said in an interview with Reuters Thursday that Seoul should pay the cost for the battery which is around $1 billion. / AP-Yonhap

U.S. President Donald Trump has abruptly demanded that Seoul pay $1 billion for the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery here, stoking negative public sentiment against the anti-missile system.

In response to the unexpected, deal-breaking remark, the Ministry of National Defense said Friday that Washington should pay any costs in accordance with the two countries’ Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that governs the treatment of U.S. forces stationed here.

Trump’s comments were squarely against the allies’ previous agreement, reached based on SOFA, which calls for South Korea to provide the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) with the site for the anti-missile shield and other infrastructure, and for the U.S. to bear the cost of deployment and operation.

The government provided the USFK with land in Seongju County, North Gyeongsang Province, previously owned by Lotte Group, April 20.

Trump’s surprise remarks are adding fuel to the ongoing controversy over the deployment of the THAAD battery, giving objectors another reason to oppose it, along with fierce protests from local residents over the system’s possible environmental risks.

During an interview with Reuters, Thursday, President Trump said the THAAD system was to protect South Korean people, questioning why the U.S. should pay for that.

“On the THAAD system, it’s about a billion dollars. I said, ‘Why are we paying? Why are we paying a billion dollars? We’re protecting,'” he said. “So, I informed South Korea it would be appropriate if they paid.”

Stressing that the battery is “phenomenal” and “the most incredible” equipment to shoot down enemy missiles, he continued: “We’re going to protect them. But they should pay for that, and they understand that.”  [Korea Times]

Here is the ROK political reaction to President Trump’s demand:

Presidential front-runner Moon has been opposing the deployment of the U.S.-led antimissile defense system in Korea.

“The deployment and management of the Thaad system must be paid for by the U.S. government, as agreed upon initially between the two governments,” said People’s Party Rep. Son Kum-ju, chief spokesman of the presidential campaign of Ahn Cheol-soo. “But if there were disagreements on the bilateral agreement to deploy the defense system, the agreement must be tabled for approval at the National Assembly.”

The Park Geun-hye administration last July said the deployment requires no approval by the National Assembly, but liberal opposition parties that are against the placement said the matter should be deliberated and ratified by the lawmakers.

“The People’s Party also opposes renegotiating the Korea-U.S. FTA. It is only right that two countries stick to agreements they have reached together,” Son added.

Some lawmakers went so far as to request the cancellation of the agreement over Thaad.

“We would rather the U.S. government take back the Thaad battery if it’s going to make the South Korean government pay for it,” said Rep. Sim Sang-jeung of the Justice Party, also a candidate for the presidential election, in a campaign speech on Friday at Hongik University Station in western Seoul. “The South Korean people have not asked for Thaad.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

PACOM Commander Takes Blame for Not Informing Media of Aircraft Carrier Movements

What really bothers me about this whole USS Carl Vinson story is why should the US Navy report to the media where their ships are at?:

The U.S. military’s top Pacific chief was in the hot seat Wednesday at a House hearing and took the blame for apparent miscommunication over the USS Carl Vinson carrier’s movements amid the rising tensions with North Korea.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump said in an interview the military was sending “an armada” to the Korean Peninsula and reports at the time indicated the carrier strike group was led by the Vinson. But as tensions mounted with North Korea over the nuclear and ballistic-missile threat, it was learned last week from a New York Times story the Vinson was actually headed in another direction and not toward Korean waters.

“With regard to the Carl Vinson, that’s my fault on the confusion and I’ll take the hit for it,” Navy Adm. Harry Harris, the four-star commander of U.S. Pacific Command, testified at a hearing of the House Committee on Armed Services.

Harris explained that he made the decision to pull the aircraft carrier out of Singapore and cancel a port visit to Australia. He also ordered the carrier to proceed north. However, he said, he failed to communicate that adequately to the press. “So that is all on me.”  [CNBC]

You can read more at the link.