President Moon and Chinese Premier Xi Reportedly Reach Understanding on a Freeze Deal

Here we go again with yet more momentum building towards a freeze deal:

A South Korean ruling party lawmaker said Thursday that President Moon Jae-in and Chinese President Xi Jinping share an understanding that suspending North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises at the same time is the most realistic way to start resolving the standoff.

Rep. Lee Hae-chan of the Democratic Party also said during a security conference that Moon and Xi talked a lot in their meetings about the simultaneous suspension, as well as the idea of seeking the North’s denuclearization and a Korean War peace treaty at the same time.

“I can say that (Moon and Xi) have come to a point where they share an understanding that it is perhaps the most realistic way,” Lee said during the conference organized to mark late former President Kim Dae-jung’s winning of the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize.  [Yonhap]

I have been saying this for quite sometime, but signing a peace treaty would mean the end of the US-ROK alliance.  That is because if there is “peace” then why does the US need troops in Korea?  This would play into the North Koreans strategy of separating the US from South Korea to set the stage for coopting South Korea with their nuclear weapons.  There is a false belief that North Korea is solely pursuing nuclear weapons for regime survival when the regime has survived just fine with the threat of a massive artillery strike on Seoul.  The ultimate goal of the North’s nuclear weapons program is to co-opt the ROK into a confederation on North Korean terms.  A freeze deal followed by a peace treaty plays right into the Kim regime’s hands.

Additionally the freeze deal for treaty plays into China’s hands who have also long wanted to separate the ROK from the US in a bid to increase their hegemony over the region.

Is North Korea Part of a Grind Down Strategy Against US Military Implemented By China?

The “grind down” strategy by China against the US Navy appears to be working judging by recent incidents:

In regard to China, in particular, neither the Obama nor the Trump administrations has shifted forces to the Pacific in sufficient enough numbers or capability, said James R. Holmes, professor of strategy at the US Naval War College.
“China has come to this commonsense realization, and understands that it can grind down adversary sea services just by being active in its ‘near seas,’ mainly the China seas,” said Holmes. “Imposing a swift ‘optempo’ on your opponent, meaning keeping him on the go all the time, wearies him over time. And while that hasn’t been a direct cause of this year’s mishaps, it does contribute to crew fatigue, cut down on training time, and thus exacerbate the factors our navy cited in its recent collision reports.”
In response, the Navy has two options, said Holmes. “We can build up our navy to a level where it can do all of these things without wearing out crews and hardware, or we can ‘pivot’ or ‘re-balance’ more of our forces to the Pacific theater.”
Holmes points out that while large, the 7th Fleet represents only a part of the US Navy. “If we can no longer overpower opponents in both the Atlantic and Pacific, then we need to make some hard choices about where to apply the bulk of our effort — and accept that that means accepting risk in the other theater.”  [CNN]
You can read the rest at the link, but that is why I have always thought the Chinese want to keep a certain level of provocations active with North Korea.  They want enough provocations to continue to strain US military resources, but they don’t want a serious enough provocation that would warrant a US attack.

China Reportedly Made Demand that South Korea Build Wall to Block THAAD Radar

This is officially the stupidest thing I have read all day:

China may have asked South Korea to build a wall to block a U.S. missile defense system from monitoring Chinese military movements.

The request from Beijing comes at a time when Seoul is preparing for a summit between President Moon Jae-in and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Munhwa Ilbo reported Thursday.

Multiple South Korean diplomatic sources are not sure how the request could be met, as the deployment of THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, was a joint decision with the United States.

“The Chinese side is demanding the installation of a barrier to block the THAAD radar, although this is not a decision to be made by [the South Korean] government,” the Munhwa’s sources said.

The South Korean newspaper’s sources also said the requests began as early as July, when China was engaged in unofficial sanctions against South Korean companies operating in the world’s second-largest economy.

On Wednesday Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-hwa in Beijing.  [UPI]

You can read more at the link, but first of all this journalist does not seem to understand what the THAAD radar is.  The THAAD’s AN/TPY-2 radar is not used to monitor military movements.  It is used to detect and track ballistic missiles.  Secondly if the South Korean’s built a wall in front of the radar then it would be useless for tracking North Korean ballistic missiles which defeats the point of having the THAAD there in the first place.

I wonder if the South Korean diplomats were able to keep a straight face or did they seriously consider this stupid idea?

South Korea Agrees to the “Three Nos” with China on THAAD Deployment

Here is how South Korea has ended its dispute with China about the deployment of the THAAD battery to Seongju:

The recent agreement to restore relations between South Korea and China was achieved by having South Korea assuage China’s security concerns through public pronouncement of the “three no’s” – no additional THAAD deployment, no participation in the US’s missile defense network and no establishment of a trilateral military alliance with the US and Japan. But since the situation is liable to change with conditions on the Korean Peninsula and the interests of the countries concerned, it’s hard to say how the government’s promise of the “three no’s” will play out.There’s not likely to be a push for additional THAAD deployments under the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in. For one, opposition to THAAD deployment is the prevailing view among the Moon administration’s base of supporters.

Furthermore, since THAAD is designed to intercept enemy missiles at the high altitude of 40 to 150 km, it cannot defend the Seoul region, which is close to the armistice line, and can therefore only be deployed in the southern part of the country. Since one THAAD unit is already deployed in this southern area, there would seem to be little reason to deploy another. But if North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile threat grows even more, South Korea could conceivably find itself under increasing pressure in a variety of ways to allow further deployment.Seoul’s declaration that it will not participate in the US missile defense network has been the government’s basic stance going all the way back to the Kim Dae-jung administration. This is in consideration of China, which suspects that the US wants to build a missile defense network in northeast Asia to neutralize China’s military.

In exchange, Seoul has announced that it will build what it calls “Korean Air and Missile Defense” through local development of M-SAM (medium-range surface-to-air missiles) and L-SAM (long-range surface-to-air missiles).But South Korea and the US are also hurrying to set up a system that would enable detection and tracking information of missiles launched by North Korea to be shared in real time to facilitate the effective interception of those missiles. This would mean linking South Korea and American missile defense by means of sharing information. Such steps would naturally cause South Korea to move toward participating in US missile defense, some argue.

There’s virtually no possibility of a trilateral military alliance forming between South Korea, the US and Japan. Given popular sentiment in South Korea, it’s hard to imagine a military alliance being signed with Japan.  [Hankyoreh]

You can read more at the link, but I always find it interesting how many in the ROK treat the Japanese as the enemy when it is China that economically and diplomatically punished them over the past year.  What makes it even worse is that the deployment of THAAD was to protect South Korea from a threat the Chinese helped to create in the first place.  You would think there would be mass anti-Chinese protests about this, but the best the ROK has done is a one man protest.  I guess everyone else in South Korea is to busy waiting in line to take their picture with a comfort woman statue.

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.

DMZ Flashpoints: The 1983 Hijacking of CAAC Flight 296 to Camp Page

Introduction

There has been some strange incidents over the years involving the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), but one of the weirdest was when a hijacked Chinese airliner crossed over the DMZ on May 5, 1983 and landed at the US Army base Camp Page.  This was the first successful hijacking of a Chinese plane that ultimately ended up leading to the thawing of relations between South Korea and China.


Example of a CAAC Trident Jet that was hijacked. 

The Hijacking

The hijacked plane was a British made Trident jet that was part of China’s state owned airline called the Civilian Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).  The plane CAAC Flight 296 was making a routine domestic flight between Shenyang in northeast China and Shanghai with 96 passengers and 9 crew members on board when it was seized by 6 hijackers.  The hijackers were composed of five men and one woman who were armed with pistols and led by a man named An Weijian.  They used their weapons to blast open the door to the cockpit where during a skirmish for control of the plane a total of eight shots were fired wounding two crew members in the legs.  After successfully taking control of the aircraft the Chinese hijackers demanded to be flown to Taiwan where they hoped to defect.

Possibly fearing retribution from the Chinese government if he complied with the hijackers demands, the pilot did not fly the plane towards Taiwan, the pilot instead flew the plane towards Pyongyang.  1983 was during the Cold War when tensions were high and the pilot deciding to fly the airliner into North Korean airspace was a risky move.  He had no way of knowing how the North Koreans would react to an unannounced aircraft suddenly flying over their country.

The North Koreans initially reacted by monitoring the aircraft by radar.  However, since they were informed that it was a Chinese civilian airliner they took a wait and see approach with the aircraft.  The North Korea ground controllers may have even been working in concert with the pilot to dupe the hijackers since the North Korean Air Force did not dispatch any planes to intercept the airliner.  As the airliner approached Pyongyang’s Sunan Airport one of the hijackers noticed a big picture of North Korea’s leader, Kim Il-sung which tipped them off that they were being fooled by the pilot.  The hijackers forced the plane to divert the landing and instead head to South Korea.

After the aborted landing this is when the people on the airliner got very lucky.  It is likely that the North Korean government would want to stop this airliner from crossing the DMZ and entering South Korea.  However, the North Korean air defense authorities could not get a hold of the Kim Il-sung to authorize the shoot down of the aircraft.

Then, one of the hijackers detected something amiss when he saw a North Korean sign _ a big portrait of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the North and its then leader _ as the plane was approaching Pyongyang airport. The hijackers threatened the pilot at gunpoint, forcing him to abort the landing and head to the South. It landed at U.S. Camp Page in Chunchun, in the South’s Gangwon Province. Now, it took about 20 minutes for the the British-made HS121Trident aircraft to fly from Pyongyang to Chunchon with the North Korean air defense all but paralyzed.

The North Korean air defense commander was reprimanded for his failure to respond according to the manual for such an emergency. But he was spared from a firing squad because he tried without success to locate Kim Il-sung to gain his clearance to go after the aircraft as the regulations stipulated. Kim was out of touch and nobody except for him could make a decision about such a situation.  [Korea Times]

Due to the command paralyzation in North Korea, the Chinese airliner was able to safely cross the DMZ where it landed at the US military base of Camp Page outside the city of Chuncheon:

Hijackers Give Themselves Up at Camp Page

After the plane crossed over the DMZ it was intercepted by ROK Air Force fighter jets.  The pilot moved his wing left to right which is a signal of defection.  The ROK fighters escorted the plane towards the military airfield at Camp Page.  Once the plane landed at Camp Page negotiations with ROK authorities began with the hijackers to release the crew and passengers.  The hijackers eventually agreed to release the hostages where the two wounded crewmen were immediately taken to a hospital in Seoul for medical attention.  The remaining crew and passengers were put up at a luxury hotel in eastern Seoul.  Shortly after releasing the hostages the hijackers were taken into custody by ROK authorities without incident after requesting political asylum in Taiwan.  The Taiwanese government responded by saying they welcome “anyone aboard who desires to come to our home country.”

After taking the ROK authorities took the hijackers into custody, the Chinese government demanded the plane, passengers, and hijackers all be returned to China.  This is where things were tricky because at the time time South Korea and China did not have official diplomatic relations due to its decades long animosity of Chinese support to North Korea during the Korean War.  South Korea responded to the Chinese demands by saying they would respect the “spirit” of the 1970 Convention of the Hague which outlawed skyjackings without saying what they would do with the six hijackers.

Negotiations

Two days after the hijacking a 33 person Chinese delegation arrived in Seoul led by the CAAC Director Shen Tu. Through negotiations the Chinese and the ROK agreed to the return of the plane, its crew, and all Chinese passengers back to China.  The hijackers however would be subject to Korean law.  At the time it was a good compromise to resolve the dispute.  While negotiations were going on the passengers were warmly received by the Koreans.  During their time in South Korea the Chinese passengers were put on a sightseeing tour, received lavish meals, gifts, and entertainment.  The overall bill came up to over $28,000.  The three Japanese passengers on the plane however did not get to enjoy the lavish treatment, there were immediately returned to Japan the day after the hijacking.

Five days after the incident on May 10, 1983 all the passengers and crew were returned to South Korea and two weeks after the incident the Trident plane was returned as well:

A Chinese passenger plane hijacked to South Korea two weeks ago left for home Wednesday, ending an incident that led to the first official contact between China and South Korea.

The British-made Trident jetliner of China’s state airline, CAAC, left Seoul’s Kimpo International Airport at 10 a.m. with 13 people aboard.

Among the passengers was a radio operator who was one of two crew members wounded May 5 when five men and a woman armed with two pistols hijacked the plane to South Korea in the first hijacking of a jetliner out of China.

The plane’s 96 passengers and eight other crew members returned home May 10.  [UPI]

The crew and passengers when they arrived in China were greeted with the same type of welcome they received in South Korea.  Approximately two hundred weeping well wishers were present for their arrival and presented them with flowers.  They then met with politicians and then attended a reception to welcome them back to China.

Punishment

The return of the plane and passengers officially ended the dispute between the ROK and China, however the South Koreans still needed to prosecute the six hijackers they held in custody.  The hijackers received incredibly light sentences by receiving less than a year in jail before being resettled in Taiwan to a heroes welcome:

In 1983, six Chinese hijacked a plane to South Korea. They were imprisoned for less than a year and resettled in Taiwan, where they received heroes’ welcomes.  [Deseret News]

The punishment for the hijackers is probably what bothers me the most about this story.  They hijacked a plane, put the lives of the 96 passengers at risk, and shot two crew members, but their punishment was receiving less than a year in jail.  The political situation should have been put aside at the time and these hijackers should have been harshly dealt with to prevent future hijackings.

Conclusion

The aftermath of the CAAC Flight 296 hijacking did have some important ramifications.  First of all is that the hijacking showed how initiative within the North Korean military is held back because of the centralized control of the regime.  This incident also proved how North Korea did not have an adequate system in place to contact the top leadership in case of an emergency.  I would not be surprised if initiative in the North Korean military even today is still stifled because of the extreme controls the Kim regime needs to keep in place to control the country.  However, with the modern technology available today it is likely that the North Koreans have quicker access to its top leadership to make decisions if needed.

This hijacking also became a turning point for ROK and Chinese relations.  After the hijacking the two countries who had long been suspicious of each other, began a series of exchanges in sports, industry, and international conference attendance.  These positives events eventually led to South Korea severing relations with Taiwan in 1992 and officially establishing diplomatic ties with China on August 24, 1992.  Since then China has gone on to become South Korea’s #1 trade partner.  It is interesting to think that modern Chinese relations with South Korea began with a botched hijacking.

China Once Again Caught Violating North Korean Sanctions on Coal Imports

Over at One Free Korea has a good posting up showing how yet again the Chinese are cheating on the North Korean coal import ban:

The lesson I’ve learned from this and other, similar episodes is that one should be cautious before believing any highly publicized case of China enforcing sanctions against Pyongyang or applying economic pressure to it. I’ve seen this show enough times to suspect that China has a deliberate media manipulation strategy of making a big deal of enforcing sanctions until reporters lose interest. (……)

Take the coal export cap under UNSCR 2321, which later became a coal ban in UNSCR 2371. Remember August, when China announced that it was halting coal imports from North Korea? We’ve since learned that this is yet another case of China initially complying with an obligation, only to resume its cheating as soon as reporters looked the other way. The flaw in this strategy is that nowadays, too many reporters don’t look the other way for long. The sharp-eyed crew at NK News has been especially diligent about spotting North Korean bulk carriers at Chinese coal terminals, but this time, I’ll credit VOA.  [One Free Korea]

You can read the rest at the link, but the Chinese are not even trying to hide their cheating considering they imported 509,000 tons of coal last month. It is pretty clear the Chinese government feels they will not be held accountable for cheating on the coal ban and they are probably right.

China Decides to Move On from Dispute With South Korea Over THAAD Deployment

Via a reader tip, as many people expected the Chinese government has finally decided to move on from their dispute with South Korea over the THAAD deployment:

A diplomatic dispute between South Korea and China officially ended on Tuesday, following months of tense relations and economic retaliation triggered by the deployment of a controversial missile defense system.

In statements issued by both countries’ foreign ministries Tuesday, Seoul and Beijing said they recognized the “great importance” of the relationship between the two neighbors.”
Both sides agreed that strengthening exchanges and cooperation between Korea and China would create harmony of interests in both sides, and agreed to resume exchanges and cooperation in all areas as soon as possible,” the statement said.
Relations deteriorated after South Korea announced in July 2016 that it would deploy the US-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) defense system to defend against North Korean missile threats.  [CNN]
You can read more at the link, but the objections by the Chinese were always hypocritical and largely in my opinion an attempt to create a wedge issue between the ROK and the US.  Considering that President Moon went all in on the THAAD deployment there was no longer any reason to keep up their objections in the hope of creating a wedge issue in the alliance.  It is in China’s long term interest to separate the US from the ROK and this was an opportunity for them to create a wedge issue that ultimately failed.