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.

Picture of the Day: President Moon Meets with Comfort Women

Moon meets ex-sex slaves

President Moon Jae-in (C, rear) meets two victims of sexual enslavement by the Japanese military during World War II to have lunch with them at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae on Jan. 4, 2018, in this photo released by his office. Moon reiterated his stance that a 2015 deal between Seoul and Tokyo on ending their longstanding dispute over former wartime sex slaves is defective but said the incumbent government may still work with the agreement to resolve the issue. (Yonhap)

President Moon Says He Has Asked the US to Postpone the Key Resolve Military Exercise

I guess we will see where this leads, but Key Resolve is the joint military exercise that typically happens every March which would be the month after the Pyeongchang Olympics held in February 2018:

South Korea and the United States may consider postponing their joint military exercise as part of efforts to reduce tension and invite North Korea to the Winter Olympic Games to be held in South Korea, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Tuesday.

Moon, however, said the move really depends on the way North Korea behaves.

“It is possible for South Korea and the U.S. to review the possibility of postponing the exercises. I have made such a suggestion to the U.S. and the U.S is currently reviewing it. However, all this depends on how North Korea behaves,” he said in an interview with U.S. broadcaster NBC on Tuesday (local time).  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

President Moon Receives Little Respect During Visit to China

President Moon’s trip to China began with him receiving a cold shoulder from the Chinese:

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (2nd from R) gives remarks at the South Korea-China expanded summit talks in Beijing on Dec. 14, 2017. (Yonhap)

The early part of President Moon Jae-in’s state visit to China this week was marred by Beijing’s mistreatment of the Korean leader, who is making his first visit to the country since taking office in May.

Upon arrival in Beijing, President Moon was greeted by Kong Xuanyou, Chinese assistant minister of foreign affairs and special representative on Korean Peninsula affairs.

During a state visit last year by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, China sent Foreign Minister Wang Yi to the airport to greet him. Considering such a precedence, Beijing should have sent a higher official than one of its foreign ministry’s assistant ministers to greet the Korean head of state.

Aside from the inappropriate airport greeting, Chinese President Xi Jinping was out of town on the day of Moon’s arrival. Xi was in China’s eastern city of Nanjing to preside over a ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the 1937 Nanking Massacre by Japanese troops. Korean Ambassador to China Noh Young-min attended the event at the order of the President rather than greet him at the airport. The President reportedly told him it is more important for an ambassador to take part in a meaningful event in the host country. Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and other key figures in Chinese government were also absent from Beijing as they were also taking part in the Nanjing ceremony.

Cheong Wa Dae dismissed the media reports of Moon getting mistreated by China, but one cannot help getting the impression so far that China is not very enthusiastic about Moon’s visit.  [Korea Times]

Then there was the beatdown of a South Korean journalist by Chinese security that marred a business event that President Moon attended.  Then the Chinese refused to issue a joint statement about the lingering THAAD issue:

Calling the media reports “narrow-minded,” the state-run outlet reported on China’s stance over the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.

“The issue has become the biggest obstacle to the Bejing-Seoul relationship. The two governments partly reached an agreement on how to solve the problem, but some differences remain unsolved. The fact that the two sides will not issue a joint statement is a reflection of the differences.”

Lee Chang-ju, researcher for the Korea Logistics Forum, said the provocative editorial mirrors lingering domestic concerns in China. The Huanqiu Shibao has been outspoken in defending China’s national interest.

“If the two countries had issued a joint statement focusing on economic cooperation without mentioning THAAD, South Korea would have viewed it as a full-fledged solution to the THAAD, which China cannot accept,” Lee said  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but it is pretty clear that the Chinese government is going to continue to politically use THAAD as a wedge issue to separate the ROK from the United States.  The Chinese feel that that the US is trying to recreate the old USSR containment strategy against them and thus are taking actions to counter this.  They have made inroads within the Philippines at countering US influence there and are doing the something with the ROK using the phony THAAD dispute.

Picture of the Day: President Moon Thanks JSA Guards

Moon meets JSA guards

President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with a group of South Korean and U.S. soldiers guarding the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom, called the Joint Security Area (JSA), at the presidential office in Seoul on Dec. 1, 2017. Moon invited them to praise them for their shrewd response to a North Korean soldier’s defection to South Korea via the inter-Korean border inside the JSA on Nov. 13. (Yonhap)

President Moon Advocates for A Freeze Deal with North Korea

Here we go again with more talk of a freeze deal with North Korea where the international community rewards North Korea for violating United Nations sanctions and receive little to nothing in return:

South Korea President Moon Jae-in (R) speaks in a press conference for South Korean journalists at a hotel in Manila, the Philippines on Nov. 14, 2017 on the outcome of his participation in the ASEAN forum. (Yonhap)

South Korea and the international community may begin discussions on possible rewards for North Korea if the reclusive state decides to at least freeze its nuclear program and come to the denuclearization dialogue, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Tuesday.

“I believe it will not be easy realistically to move on to complete dismantlement of North Korean nukes in the near future, considering recent advances in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs,” the president said at a press conference.

“That means it will likely be North Korea first freezing its nuclear program and then moving onto complete dismantlement, and if that happens, I believe we and the international community may discuss what we can do in return,” he added.

The South Korean president was attending a regional forum hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Manila. He arrived here Sunday following trips to Indonesia and Vietnam.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but President Moon is also once again urging the North Koreans to take part in the Winter Olympics being held this upcoming February in South Korea.

I would love it if some journalist would ask President Moon if he would have advocated for Apartheid South Africa to participate in the Olympic Games?  Apartheid South Africa was shunned from the Olympics and they were not a threat to world peace or have any where near the level of human rights violations going in North Korea right now.

Picture of the Day: President Moon Together with PM Abe at APEC Summit

Leaders at APEC summit

Some leaders of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum — (clockwise from R, 1st row) South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern — attend a group photo session during this year’s APEC summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on Nov. 11, 2017. (Yonhap)

Picture of the Day: President Moon Plants Tree with Indonesian President Widodo

Moon meets with Widodo

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) plants a commemorative tree with Indonesian President Joko Widodo at Bogor Palace south of Jakarta on Nov. 9, 2017, to mark his state visit to Indonesia. Moon, who arrived in Indonesia the previous day for a three-day visit, will hold a summit with Widodo to discuss ways to improve cooperation and joint efforts to denuclearize North Korea. (Yonhap)

Japanese Nationalists Call South Korean State Dinner an Anti-Japanese Banquet

It figures that the Moon Jae-in administration would find a way to stick to the Japanese during President Trump’s visit:

U.S. President Donald Trump hugs sex slavery victim Lee Yong-soo at a state dinner at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Tuesday. /Yonhap

The rightwing government in Tokyo was duly incensed when Korea served U.S. President Donald Trump shrimp caught near Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo, to which Japan maintains a flimsy colonial claim.

Worse in the eyes of the nationalists in Japan was the invitation to a state dinner for Trump on Tuesday of a victim of imperial Japan’s sexual enslavement of women during World War II.

Tokyo protested through diplomatic channels that Cheong Wa Dae’s invitation of sex slavery victim Lee Yong-soo to the state dinner is “against the purport” of a 2015 agreement to compensate the women, which was once described as “a final and irreversible resolution,” according to the Yomiuri Shimbun on Wednesday.

The controversial deal, which trades indirect compensation for a promise to remove memorials for the victims from the vicinity of Japanese diplomatic missions, makes no mention of what events the victims of the atrocity can or cannot be invited to.

The new government of President Moon Jae-in wants to reverse it.   [Chosun Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but why were the victims of Chinese and North Korean atrocities not invited to the state dinner?