China Advocates for US to Agree to a “Freeze-for-Freeze Scheme” With North Korea

As I have said before from the Chinese perspective a freeze deal between the US and North Korea is in their interests.  Freezing US-ROK joint military exercises is a way to reduce military readiness and push forward the long term goal of separating the ROK from the US:

China reiterated on Thursday that the most reasonable way to resolve North Korea’s nuclear stalemate is to push for a stop to joint military exercises between South Korea and the U.S. in exchange for freezing Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile provocations.

“China sees the freeze-for-freeze scheme is the most reasonable way,” Geng Shuang, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing.

He made the remarks in response to what U.S. President Donald Trump earlier said.

Explaining the outcome of his 12-day Asia trip that also included a summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Trump said on Wednesday (Washington time) that the two leaders agreed that they “would not accept” the freeze for freeze agreement, “like those that have consistently failed in the past.”

The spokesman said stopping the joint military exercises and provocations at the same time is the “first step” necessary to create an environment for talks and called for other countries to “actively” consider the method that China had proposed.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but the whole dispute over the US deployment of the THAAD battery to South Korea is just another front in China’s long term effort to separate the US and the ROK.

1,500 Supporters Welcome President Trump to Camp Humphreys as Anti-Trump Protests Fizzle in Seoul

It is good to see the large turn out of people welcoming President Trump to Camp Humphreys:

Moon with Trump at Camp Humphreys
President Moon Jae-in (L) meets with U.S. President Donald Trump at Camp Humphreys, the new home of the U.S. Eighth Army, in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, on Nov. 7, 2017. (Yonhap)

When U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Korea, Tuesday, it was not just President Moon Jae-in who came to greet him from early morning, supporters and opponents of Trump gathered in various parts of the country awaiting the U.S. leader.

At Camp Humphreys Trump’s first official destination and a newly expanded U.S. military base in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul over 1,500 conservative civic group members waved American and Korean flags, shouting “We love Trump,”alongside banners hailing the two country’s alliance.

On the other side, a smaller group of around 20 people stood with posters written, “No Trump, No War.”  [Korea Times]

It is also good to see that the Moon Jae-in administration has been able to keep the anti-US leftists under control in Seoul as I expected they would do:

South Korean protesters stage a rally to oppose a visit by U.S. President Donald Trump near the presidential Blue House

But the largest rallies took place near Cheong Wa Dae and Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul, where an anti-Trump alliance of over 220 liberal civic organizations filled the streets.

Beginning with a press briefing in front of the Cheongun-dong office near the presidential office before noon, the group members made their way to Gwanghwamun Square.

From morning, 15,600 police officers blanketed the area, boosting security measures against possible contingencies. Gwanghwamun Square was surrounded by a wired fence and bus barricade.

You can read more at the link, but according to ABC News “hundreds” of anti-Trump protesters showed up in Seoul.  By Korean protest standards this is a pathetic turn out and shows that the Moon administration likely reigned in their left wing base to not come out in force and make fools of themselves during the President’s visit.

President Trump Enjoys “Taco Tuesday” with Troops At Camp Humphreys

This had to have been a pretty neat experience for the soldiers that attended this lunch with President Trump:

U.S. troops who had lunch with President Donald Trump on Tuesday at a military base in South Korea say he told them there was no place he’d rather be.

Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in joined 108 hand-picked servicemembers, including 20 South Koreans, for Taco Tuesday at a Camp Humphreys dining facility.

Pvt. Merion Holmes, 21, of Georgetown, S.C., said he was honored to see the president in person and found Trump’s words motivating.

“He said he’d rather eat with the troops than at a fancy restaurant,” Holmes told Stars and Stripes after the president’s 20-minute appearance. “It made me feel like he cared.”

Trump flew to Humphreys in a helicopter shortly after landing at Osan Air Base on Tuesday to begin his visit to South Korea, the second leg of his first official visit to Asia.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link, but of significance is that ROK President Moon Jae-in made a surprise visit to Camp Humphreys as well to have lunch with President Trump.  This is reportedly the first time a ROK President has greeted a visiting foreign leader outside of Cheongwadae.

President Trump Agrees to Arms Deal with South Korea and Comments On North Korea Policy

So far so good for President Trump’s visit to South Korea:

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) and U.S. President Donald Trump hold a joint conference following their bilateral summit at the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Nov. 7, 2017. (Yonhap)

The presidents of South Korea and the United States agreed Tuesday to completely remove the limit on the payload of South Korean ballistic missiles and discuss Seoul’s introduction of nuclear-powered submarines and other advanced weapons, Seoul officials said.

The agreement aimed at building up their joint deterrence against a provocative North Korea was made at a bilateral summit between President Moon Jae-in and President Donald Trump at the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

“The heads of South Korea and the United States reached a final agreement on removing the limit on missile payloads,” Moon said in a joint press conference with the U.S. president.

Trump arrived here earlier Tuesday on a state visit, becoming the first U.S. president to do so in 25 years.  [Yonhap]

You can read much more about President Trump’s comments at the link.  There was nothing he said that was unreasonable and in line with stated policy.

Concerns Mount that Rodriguez Range Will Be the Next US-ROK “Hot Potato” Issue

I do find it interesting that no one ever seems to protest ROK military training areas:

Rodriguez Range

The contentious Rodriguez Live Fire Complex in Pocheon, Gyeonggi, a tactical training area for the American army near the border with North Korea, was brought up in a recent high-level military conference between Seoul and Washington as nearby residents have complained of noise and safety concerns.

U.S. military officers worry that the complex, a 3,390-acre training zone managed by the 8th U.S. Army, could become the next “hot potato” after the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile shield in Seongju County, North Gyeongsang, a senior South Korean government official told JoongAng Ilbo Sunday on the condition of anonymity.

The field, which is the U.S. military’s largest shooting complex in Asia, was among the main agenda items discussed at the annual Military Committee Meeting between Jeong Kyeong-doo, chairman of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his U.S. counterpart, Joseph Dunford, last Friday.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read the rest at the link, but Rodriguez Range could close tomorrow and the THAAD battery could redeploy back to the United States and the leftists will still find “hot potato” issues to bash USFK with.  Remember these are the same people who created a hot potato issue by claiming a USFK mortician polluted the Han River and exposed everyone in Seoul to cancer.  They even convinced most people in Korea that eating US-beef would kill them.

The bottom line is that the Korean left will never be happy until USFK is gone.  That is there ultimate goal with sensationalizing every “hot potato” issue.

US & ROK Defense Chiefs Fail to Reach OPCON Transfer Agreement

Like I have said before I will believe it when I see the OPCON transfer happen:

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo, right, shakes hands with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis before a joint press conference in Seoul Saturday. [YONHAP]

The Moon Jae-in administration’s ambition to regain wartime operational control from the United States has hit a snag, as the latest security consultation by U.S. and Korean defense chiefs failed to approve a restructuring plan for the combined forces.

Defense Minister Song Young-moo and U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis attended an annual Security Consultative Meeting on Saturday in Seoul, accompanied by top military officials. North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, and other key issues concerning the Korea-U.S. alliance, were discussed.

Following the discussion, the 49th of its kind, a joint communique was issued. Song and Mattis also addressed reporters in a press conference.

According to the joint communique, Song and Mattis pledged to work together to implement an agreement made in June by Moon and U.S. President Donald Trump to “enable the expeditious conditions-based transfer of wartime operational control.”

But conspicuously missing from the communique was the much-anticipated approval of a plan for a new Combined Forces Command to oversee Korean and U.S. troops on the peninsula after the transfer. Song and Mattis were updated on the draft organization of the future Combined Forced Command and decided to continue to refine the draft through combined exercises and certifications, it said.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of National Defense told the National Assembly that the structure of a future combined forces would be discussed and approved at the Song-Mattis meeting. According to the draft, a Korean general would act as chief commander of the combined troops and an American general was to serve as deputy commander.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but the talk of an OPCON transfer has been going on for many years due to Korean governmental delay games.  You can read more about the OPCON transfer at the below link:

“Early” Transfer of OPCON of Military Forces to Korea Will Not Happen Until Early 2020’s

US and ROK Defense Chiefs Condemn North Korean Provocations

Some strong language from the US and ROK Defense Chiefs:

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo (R) shakes hands with his American counterpart James Mattis before a joint press conference in Seoul on Oct. 28, 2017. (Yonhap)

The defense chiefs of South Korea and the United States made clear Saturday that North Korea’s provocations will never be tolerated, as the two warned any act of aggression will be met with a “massive military response.”

They also stressed it’s pipe dream for North Korea to be recognized as a nuclear power.

The allies “reaffirmed that any North Korean aggression or military provocation will not be tolerated,” read the joint communique issued after their annual defense ministerial talks.

The two sides will continue combined efforts to “make North Korea understand that it cannot achieve the ends it seeks through its provocative behavior,” it added.

South Korea’s Defense Minister Song Young-moo told reporters that he and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis condemned the North’s reckless provocations, including a series of recent ballistic missile launches and a nuclear test.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but I guess the question now becomes what is an “act of aggression”?  Does ballistic missile and nuclear tests count as an act of aggression worth a massive military response?

Secretary of Defense Mattis to Visit Troops in Korea Wearing His Marine Uniform

It will be interesting to see what the North Koreans have to say about this visit and messaging by US Secretary Defense James Mattis:

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo (R) and his American counterpart James Mattis in an image provided by Yonhap News TV. (Yonhap)

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo said Monday he and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis plan to use military uniforms for a joint warning message to North Korea this week, when they meet in South Korea for bilateral annual talks.

Song proposed that Mattis wear a Marine Corps combat uniform, instead of a suit, in meeting with the allies’ troops on the peninsula together. The Pentagon chief is a retired Marine Corps general.

Song, a former Navy admiral and chief of staff, will be dressed in a Navy combat uniform as well.

“I offered that to Secretary of Defense Mattis and he responded positively without hesitation,” the minister told reporters during a visit to Clark, the Philippines, for a regional security forum hosted by Southeast Asian countries.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

ROK Lawmaker Wants US-ROK SOFA Revised to Make USFK Report All Military Training Activities

Here is the latest SOFA complaint:

The sound of multiple gunshots from a supply depot of the U.S. Forces Korea resounded through part of the southeastern city of Busan every evening for three days from June 20 to 22.

Residents, petrified by the unexpected noise, made frantic calls to the police to figure out what was going on, but to no avail as the police had no idea either.

Only later did the police figure out the USFK had been firing blanks with automatic firearms during a defense drill.

At the same time, residents near a forest in Dangjin, South Chungcheong Province, had to endure the sounds of flyovers, takeoffs and landings of army helicopters for a while.

The drill, later reported to be by the USFK, continued two to three times a week for over a year from early 2016.

Faced with complaints from nearby residents, the defense ministry checked with the USFK which said it had reached a verbal agreement on helicopter drills with the local government.

South Chungcheong provincial government and Dangjin municipal government, however, denied making any such agreement.

With concerns over unannounced drills growing among citizens, Rep. Kim Jong-dae of the minor opposition Justice Party called for a revision of the rules on USFK operations.

The Korea-U.S. joint committee on the State of Forces Agreement (SOFA) came up with preventive measures to secure the safety of citizens regarding USFK operations in 2003.

The move followed the Yangju Highway Incident in which two schoolgirls were crushed to death by an American tracked vehicle in 2002.

According to the 2003 agreement, the USFK has to report its drills beforehand to the South Korean army and local governments.

However, the regulation is applied only limitedly in northern Gyeonggi Province, excluding other regions in the country from getting prior notification.

“If it had been applied to the entire country from the beginning, all parties the defense ministry, local governments, police, and local people would have not had to suffer,” Kim said.  [Korea Times]

You can read the rest at the link, but it will interesting to see what the USFK response is because there must be a reason why the whole country was not included in the revision in 2003 and the ROK government agreed to it.

Further Reading:

GI Myths: The Unfair US-ROK SOFA Agreement

Trump To Be First US President to Make Two Day Visit To South Korea in 25 Years

It is going to be really interesting to see what President Trump says during his visit to South Korea.  On prior foreign visits since taking the Presidency he has been pretty restrained with what he has said.  However, it will be interesting to see if he makes any “tear down this wall” like statements to North Korea during his visit:

President Donald Trump

South Korea will provide the best treatment it can offer to a foreign dignitary when U.S. President Donald Trump arrives here Nov. 7 for a two-day state visit, Cheong Wa Dae said Tuesday.

Trump will be the first sitting U.S. head of state to make a “state visit” in 25 years following George H. W. Bush in 1992. He will also be the first head of state to visit Korea since the Moon Jae-in government was launched in May.

“A state visit is made only once for a country during a Korean president’s term,” presidential spokesman Park Soo-hyun said.“Considering this, Trump’s state visit means we are treating him with the best respect as a top guest.”

Foreign leaders’ visits are divided into state, official, working and private visits, with each governed by different protocols.

A state visit usually includes welcome and farewell ceremonies upon arrival and departure, an artillery salute, an official welcome ceremony at Cheong Wa Dae, a state dinner with a performance, a summit and cultural programs. Trump’s visit this time will include almost all such events, according to Park.

Trump and first lady Melania will arrive here in the morning following their visit to Japan. They will leave for Beijing in the afternoon the next day. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, will also accompany the first couple as a member of the official entourage.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but President Trump will arrive on the morning of November 7th and is scheduled to give a speech to the National Assembly after visiting the Blue House.  There are no plans to visit the DMZ during his visit because of the current tensions with North Korea.