Is It Time for A US Military Withdrawal from South Korea?

That is what columnist Oh Young-jin in the Korea Times is saying that South Korea should prepare for :

Oh Young-jin

Just the talk of a U.S. pullout could shake the Korean economy upside down, sending foreign investors packing and leaving.

So if there would be a separation between the two, it would be the U.S. that has a change of heart.

There have been distinct signs that this is happening.

First, Henry Kissinger, a U.S. guru of diplomacy serving as secretary of state and national security adviser in the Nixon and Ford administrations, is a strong advocate for that. Typical of big power politics, wrapped in the trappings of realpolitik, the Nobel Peace Prize winner suggests that the U.S. should deal directly with China to resolve the North Korean crisis.

He suggests that the U.S. address China’s biggest concern ― Korean unification led by Seoul that sees American GIs and their Korean allies breathing down its neck with the buffer of the North gone. Kissinger’s solution is pulling out U.S. troops out of the Korean Peninsula.

Second, why is the Kissinger formula noteworthy? The answer lies in Steve Bannon, a mentor to U.S. President Donald Trump, who recently was fired as chief strategist. He was right on the money when he referred to the U.S. withdrawal from the South to settle the North Korean crisis, although he dismissed it as a remote possibility.  (………)

Seoul should be prepared for three contingencies ― a total U.S. withdrawal, partial and maintenance of the status quo. The first scenario is comparable to the Paris peace accord struck by the U.S. and the communist Vietnamese, which led to the fall of Saigon as the U.S. troops were leaving. The examples for the second are Iraq and Afghanistan where the U.S. has drastically reduced its troops, which has seen an occasional surge. The third is the current situation.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

President Moon Calls THAAD Deployment In South Korea Temporary

Can someone please define what temporary means?  Is the North Korean missile threat to South Korea just going to magically go away sometime soon to where the THAAD system will no longer be needed?:

South Korean President Moon Jae-in defended the government’s decision to fully deploy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system here Friday, saying it was an inevitable decision to protect his people from evolving nuclear and missile provocations from North Korea.

The president, however, hinted at possible changes in the future, calling it only a temporary decision.

“While ignoring our government and the international community’s repeated demands and warnings, North Korea staged its sixth nuclear test following a series of ballistic missile launches. And due to these developments, our security situation has become more serious than ever,” the president said in a released statement.

“Therefore, the government reached a decision that it could no longer delay the temporary deployment of THAAD to prevent war on the Korean Peninsula and protect the lives and safety of its people,” he added.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

Protesters Gather to Block Expected Movement of Additional THAAD Launchers to Seongju

It looks like there could be chaos today in in Seongju as the US military tries to move the remaining launchers and equipment on to the THAAD site:

The U.S. military will deploy additional launchers for an advanced missile-defense system Thursday in a remote area of South Korea despite local protests, the defense ministry said.

Seoul said Monday that it had cleared the last administrative hurdle to installing four more launchers soon to complete the deployment of the anti-missile battery known as THAAD, aimed at countering the growing threat from the North.

The plan has met with regular protests in Seongju, the southeastern area where the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system is stationed.

Protesters gathered again Wednesday near the former golf course that is housing THAAD, saying they would try to try to block the entrance with cars and tractors.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.

Are South Koreans More Fearful of President Trump Than Kim Jong-un?

As I have said before, despite all the provocations and deadly aggressive behavior over the past few years by Kim Jong-un, some how South Koreans are more fearful of President Trump:

Citizens in Seoul Station watch news showing a North Korean newsreader announcing that Pyongyang successfully carried out a hydrogen bomb test, Sunday. / Yonhap

“My firm belief is that war will not happen. The general consensus among my friends is that war won’t break out since the U.S. and China are involved,” Choi Yong-kwan, a 20-year-old college student, said as he read an article on his mobile phone.”But I definitely do feel a sense of growing tension and fear ― it’s their sixth nuclear test and they are on their way to refining their nukes.”

“I’ll leave Korea and head for Canada or something” was the initial response from Park, an elementary school teacher. But as she went on, she dismissed the idea of war. “To be honest I don’t put too much thought into this because it’s always been this way. War does not come easily,” she said. “And we shouldn’t be worried. Fear is what leads to war.”

For the public in the South, North Korea’s provocations are not treated as something new. Although most stuck to this instinct, some added U.S. President Donald Trump as a new, unpredictable and perhaps even more frightening variable.

“This is nothing new. Just another provocation by the North as I see it and it’s been worse before but still did not lead to war. I don’t think any South Korean male who has been in the military is scared,” 29-year-old Yoon Tae-jun from Busan said, adding “But then again I’m not sure this time because of Trump.

“I’m not keeping an eye on this ― maybe this is the problem. But this time, maybe Trump will take some sort of action,” Kwon Suk-in, 27, said. “There must be no war.”  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

Blue House Says American Tactical Nuclear Weapons are Not Coming to South Korea

Considering that the Blue House cannot even get the remaining four THAAD launchers to the site at Seongju blockaded by protesters, could you imagine the size of the blockade that would happen to any location hosting tactical nuclear weapons?  However if the US and the ROK wanted to get China and North Korea’s attention reintroducing tactical nuclear weapons would be one way doing it:

Two B-1B Lancer bombers from Guam and four F-35B stealth fighter jets from U.S. bases in Japan fly over Japan’s air space on Thursday after the United States deployed its strategic assets to South Korea for a live firing exercise near the inter-Korean border, in response to the North’s intermediate-range ballistic missile launch Tuesday. [YONHAP]

The Blue House dismissed the possibility of bringing U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea after reports got out that Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo mentioned the idea in a meeting with his counterparts in Washington.

“We have not discussed anything related to the tactical nuclear weapons in this administration,” said a senior government official of the Blue House. “The Korean government respects the international efforts on nonproliferation and its policies have been and will be in line with these efforts.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.

US Responds to North Korean Missile Launch with Exercise Bombing Strike

This is turning into what seems a monthly activity, North Korea shoots a missile and the US military responds with a practice bombing strike:

Two days after North Korea flew a missile over Japan, the United States and South Korea staged their own show of force with state-of-the-art stealth fighters Thursday.

Four US F-35B fighter jets joined two US B-1B bombers and four South Korean F-15 fighter jets in the joint US-South Korean flyover of the Korean Peninsula, an official with the South Korean air force told CNN.
The exercise was designed to “strongly counter North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile tests and development of nuclear weapons,” the official said.
In a statement, the air force said the US bombers flew out of Guam and four stealth fighter jets from a US Marine Corps base in Japan.
They conducted a mock bombing drill, which simulated a surgical strike of key enemy facilities, over the Pilsung Range in the eastern province of Gangwon.  [CNN]
You can read more at the link.

ROK Government Nearing Completion of Environmental Assessment of Seongju THAAD Site

It will be interesting to see if the protesters allow the additional THAAD equipment on to the site considering the blockade they have been maintaining.  Will the Moon administration be willing to send in police to forcibly remove grandmas and grandpas off of the road?  We are about to find out:

South Korea is poised to complete the installment of a US missile shield next week, officials said Friday, despite unabated controversy over the Moon Jae-in government’s flip-flopping on the timing of the deployment.

The stationing of the remaining four launchers of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system comes as the Environment Ministry wraps up a small-scale environmental review. The equipment will join the already operational two launchers, radar and other assets to form a full-fledged battery.

The move will also coincide with a maiden face-to-face meeting between South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo and US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, set for Wednesday in Washington.

“Currently a small-scale environmental impact assessment is under way, and I can’t say it for certain, but the results are likely to come out around Monday,” a Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters on customary condition of anonymity.

The Ministry of National Defense echoed the view, saying the four launchers and related apparatus will be brought to the site in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, as soon as the survey is finished.  [Korea Herald]

You can read more at the link.

THAAD Protesters Claim They Will Not Believe Results from ROK Government’s Environmental Assessment

I think no matter what the government does these protesters will never be happy because this is not about environmental concerns, but instead a not in my backyard mentality:

Officials from the defense and environment ministries measure electromagnetic radiation and noise from the site of the THAAD deployment in Seongju, some 300 kilometers south of Seoul, on Aug. 12, 2017, as part of the environmental survey on the controversial U.S. missile defense system. (Yonhap)

Local residents and activists campaigning against the deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system said Sunday they will not accept the outcome of a government survey that ruled out the possibility of its serious environmental damage.

On Saturday, the government announced the result of a survey of electromagnetic radiation and noise from the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in Seongju, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

The defense ministry said the radiation level was far below the regulatory protection standard and the noise level in the residential areas is also on par with the maximum regulatory threshold.

Seongju residents and civic groups denounced those findings, saying it is not credible since the test was only done by the government and without any experts from the private sector.

“There was no one in the assessment team that we recommended, and it is not acceptable since it’s not a full test but a very partial one done to wrap up the whole process, which is illegal,” said Lee Seok-ju, a representative of the Seongju residents.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.