H.R. McMaster Believes North Korean Offer of Talks is to “Drive a Wedge” Between the US and the ROK

It looks like US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster has been reading analysis on One Free Korea in regards to why North Korea is really developing their nuclear weapons and currently pursuing talks with South Korea:

Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster

U.S. President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Tuesday the purpose of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year address was to “try to drive a wedge” between Seoul and Washington.

That assessment of Kim’s 40-minute speech was in stark contrast to that of the Blue House. President Moon Jae-in’s Spokesman Park Soo-hyun said Monday his office “welcomed” Kim’s overture about sending a delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, set to kick off next month in Gangwon.

Park made no mention of Kim’s threatening the United States with a nuclear attack in the address.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Tuesday in New York that her country is “not going to recognize” or “acknowledge” any talks other countries have with the North unless the regime agrees to foreswear its nuclear weapons program.

Asked by Greta Van Susteren, a contributor for the Voice of America (VOA), about Kim’s Olympic gesture to South Korea, McMaster replied: “Anybody who thought that the speech was reassuring was drinking too much champagne over the holidays…..he is building a hair-trigger nuclear force that can place the world at risk.”

McMaster continued that it was “pretty clear” Kim was trying to separate Seoul and Washington, but, “Of course, that’s not going [to] happen. His provocative actions, what he’s been doing, is driving our alliances closer together.”

The security adviser explained that the “only reason” why North Korea was developing weapons was to “coerce or blackmail or extort the United States to leave the peninsula and Northeast Asia.”

Beyond that, he continued, it wants to unify the two Koreas under its own “failed system.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but there is a false belief that North Korea is solely pursuing nuclear weapons for regime survival when the regime has survived just fine for decades with the threat of a massive artillery strike on Seoul.  It is very arguable that the ultimate goal of the North’s nuclear weapons program is to co-opt the ROK into a confederation on North Korean terms.

US and ROK Presidents Agree to Delay Joint Military Exercise Until After the Winter Olympics

It looks like the upcoming Key Resolve exercise will be delayed if North Korea does not cause any more provocations:

This photo provided courtesy of the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae shows South Korean President Moon Jae-in during his telephone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump on Jan. 4, 2018. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed Thursday to delay their countries’ regular joint military exercises during the Winter Olympic Games to be held here next month.

The agreement came in a telephone conversation between the two leaders, according to the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

The tentative agreement came at a request from the South Korean leader.

“I believe it would greatly help ensure the success of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games if you could express an intention to delay joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises during the Olympics in case the North does not make any more provocations,” Moon was quoted as telling Trump.

The U.S. president agreed, saying Moon may tell North Korea that there will be no military exercises during the Olympics, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

In a press release, the White House confirmed the leaders agreed to “de-conflict the Olympics and our military exercises so that United States and Republic of Korea forces can focus on ensuring the security of the Games.”  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but the Olympics are in February and the Key Resolve exercise is typically executed in March so it was not like both events were overlapping.  However, preparations and personnel movements do happen in February and a shift of Key Resolve will provide the ROK military more time to focus on Olympic security before executing the exercise.

I guess the big question becomes what happens if North Korea commits a provocation like a missile test? Does Key Resolve get executed at the original time?  I would not be surprised if North Korea does a more ambiguous provocation like a space launch just to create tension in the US-ROK alliance over what to do in response.

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.