US Secretary of State Announces Strategic Patience Policy With North Korea Has Ended

It appears to me that the Trump administration’s get tough on North Korea policy that includes increased emphasis on military strike rhetoric is aimed more at China than North Korea.  Tillerson seems to be basically signaling to the Chinese that if they don’t enforce stronger sanctions and reign in North Korea then the US will by military means:

In a press conference in Seoul, Tillerson declared the end of former U.S. President Barack Obama’s “strategic patience” policy and signaled a sharp turn toward a tougher policy involving ramped-up sanctions, pressure and even military actions.

“The policy of strategic patience has ended,” he said. “We are exploring a new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures. All options are on the table.”

Tillerson said that military measures could be one option if the threat from the North gets too high.

He also ruled out the possibility of any immediate negotiations. He noted that conditions are “not ripe” for any talks with the North, while calling on China to do more to induce a meaningful change in its behavior.

In Tokyo, he emphasized the need for a “new approach” after the failure of the past two decades of talks and aid to the North on hopes that it will take the path to denuclearization.

He didn’t provide details but provided a glimpse into what appears to be the Trump administration’s new policy toward the recalcitrant North, experts said.

Wang, meanwhile, hinted that China doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the U.S. on how to deal with the North. He said that diplomacy should be pursued and called for the resumption of the long-suspended six-party denuclearization talks.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

US Secretary of State Strongly Criticizes Chinese THAAD Retaliation Against South Korea

Thehe retaliation by China against the ROK is extremely petty and not something an aspiring super-power should be doing:

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, right, talks with USFK Commander Gen. Vincent K. Brooks in the truce village of Panmunjom on Friday while a North Korean soldier outside the building takes photos of them through a window. Tillerson began his two-day trip to South Korea on Friday, flying from Japan. [YONHAP]

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that China’s economic retaliation against South Korea for its decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) U.S. antimissile system was “inappropriate and troubling,” and that Washington asks Beijing to “refrain from such action.”Although the U.S. “acknowledges” China’s opposition, Tillerson urged China to “address the threat that makes Thaad necessary.”

The statement was Tillerson’s first time personally addressing the issue in public. It was made during a 20-minute joint press conference with South Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Yun Byung-se in central Seoul, ahead of his closed-door meeting with Yun.

Tillerson touched down at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, 70 miles south of the capital, Friday morning for his second of three-leg trip in Asia. He had flown in from Tokyo, where he had talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, among others.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.

US Trade Deficit with South Korea More Than Doubled After Free Trade Agreement

It looks like the Trump administration will at some point demand a renegotiation of the US-ROK FTA:

The U.S. Trade Representative said Wednesday the free trade agreement with South Korea resulted in a “dramatic increase in our trade deficit,” stressing it’s time for a major review of how the U.S. approaches trade deals.

“The largest trade deal implemented during the Obama administration — our free trade agreement with South Korea — has coincided with a dramatic increase in our trade deficit with that country,” USTR said in President Donald Trump’s 2017 Trade Policy Agenda.

Compared with before the deal went into effect in 2012, the total value of U.S. goods exported to South Korea fell by $1.2 billion, while U.S. imports of goods from South Korea grew by more than $13 billion, USTR said.

“As a result, our trade deficit in goods with South Korea more than doubled,” it said. “Needless to say, this is not the outcome the American people expected from that agreement. Plainly, the time has come for a major review of how we approach trade agreements.”  [Korea Times]

I think what would be interesting to see is a report on any artificial barriers making it difficult for US companies to compete in South Korea which may contribute to the trade deficit.

Korean Illegal Immigrants Fear Being Deported By New US Immigration Enforcement Policies

I hope the Korean consulate and advocacy groups are recommending to the illegal immigrants calling them to go back to Korea instead of remaining as criminals in the US:

Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs take an undocumented immigrant to a patrol car in Los Angeles on Feb, 7, 2017, in this photo released by The Associated Press. (Yonhap)

Park Sang-ok, a consul responsible for immigration affairs at the South Korean Consulate General in Los Angeles, was inundated with telephone calls all day long on Friday.

Many Koreans who are not legally in the United States called him for inquiries, as they were becoming aware that the anti-immigration polices of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration were imminent and are scared of possibly being deported.

According to Park, the callers, including one from Boston, Massachusetts, were responding to the consulate general’s posting of a notice about the U.S. administration’s measures to toughen immigration polices and related information.

Advocacy groups supporting the rights of Korean immigrants, such as the Los Angeles-based Korean Resource Center (KRC), have been dealing with an increasing number of callers seeking more information about the administration’s campaign to crack down on illegal immigration. The center, founded in 1983, was created to educate, serve and organize the Korean-American community in Los Angeles.

One of the officials at the KRC, Chung Sang-hyuk, said, “We received an average of 20 calls a day last week. There were calls from Ohio State and New York as well as Los Angeles.”

The Korean-American community has been gripped by fear since the Trump administration on Tuesday announced new guidelines that could lead to more aggressive deportations of undocumented immigrants inside the country and at the border.  [Yonhap]

The new immigration policy deports illegal immigrants arrested for crimes.  Such as this guy here quoted in the article:

A Korean-American in his 20s living in Georgia State said to Yonhap News Agency, “I have been fined for drunk driving in the past and my visa has expired. I am so worried about agents coming after me.”

If an illegal immigrant is driving around drunk, putting people at risk, why should American citizens be expected to let this person stay?

Here is the other effect from President Trump’s new immigration policy, it is forcing people to apply for residency and citizenship:

Against the backdrop, lawyers specializing in immigration law are cashing in on many Koreans’ needs to obtain permanent residence rights and citizenships earlier.

A 49-year-old Korean resident near Los Angeles said on the condition of anonymity that he hurriedly applied for citizenship right after President Trump’s inauguration. “But it remains to be seen whether I will get it in due time,” he said.

I have little sympathy for illegal immigrants that have had years to apply for residency and did not do it.

Pro-Park Activists Wave US and Israeli Flags During Protest

It does seem pretty weird that the pro-Park protesters are waving US and Israelis flags which have absolutely nothing to do with the corruption scandal that caused her impeachment:

Controversy is brewing over the use of U.S. and Israeli flags by supporters of the impeached President Park Geun-hye during their weekend rallies that have nothing to do with the countries.

Right-wing groups have organized these rallies to counter much-larger demonstrations demanding Park’s removal from power by the Constitutional Court.

Pro-Park counterprotesters have waved the Korean national flag, or Taegeukgi, at the rallies, which they call “Taegeukgi rallies” themselves. Lately, they have also been bringing U.S. and Israeli flags to the political events.

The participants claim it is a way to show their “patriotism,” but criticism is prevalent that the flags are being misused.

Several protesters, who are mainly in their 60s or older, have been waving the Korean and U.S. flags together in a bid to underscore the Korea-U.S. security alliance against “North Korean sympathizers.”

Some others, who call themselves devout churchgoers, have brought the Israeli flag with a wooden cross and other symbols they think can represent their faith.

But critics said Monday that such expressions may only stir up misunderstandings toward the U.S and Israel as well as Christianity.

The U.S. and Israeli embassies in Seoul were not available for comment.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

Why Do South Koreans Hate the Japanese So Much?

Here is an interesting theory on why South Koreans hate the Japanese so much:

Korean school children draw anti-Japanese pictures to post at a subway station.

If South Korea can only weakly legitimate itself through democracy, and with race-nationalism so powerful, Seoul must go head-to-head with Pyongyang over who is the best custodian of the minjok and its glorious 5000 year history. This is a tussle South Korea cannot win, not only because of the North’s mendacious willingness to falsify history, but South Korea’s Westernized culture, massive U.S. presence, rising multiculturalism leading to mixed race citizens, and so on.

The North’s purer minjok nationalism will always have resonance in the South, where for a generation former dictator Park Chung Hee invoked race for legitimacy, 10% of the public voted for an openly pro-North Korean party in the last parliamentary election, and the main left-wing party has consistently equivocated on whether the U.S. represents a greater threat to South Korea than North Korea does.

Enter Japan, then, as a useful ‘other’ to South Korea, in the place that really should be held by North Korea. All Koreans, north and south, right and left, agree that the colonial take-over was bad. The morality of criticizing Japan is undisputed, whereas criticizing North Korea quickly gets tangled up in the ‘who-can-out-minjok-who’ issues raised above.   [The National Interest]

I recommend reading the whole article at the link, but likewise the anti-Japanese hatred is irrational when compared to the Chinese as well.  The Chinese are actively conducting anti-Korean initiatives because of the THAAD issue, have a territorial dispute with Korea, are the chief benefactor of North Korea, a country committed to the destruction of the ROK, and China was the last country to invade the ROK and nearly destroyed it during the Korean War.  Heck the Chinese embassy even sent protestors into the streets of Seoul to beatdown Koreans during the Olympic torch protest.

Despite all of this, hatred is directed towards the Japanese who should be a natural geopolitical ally.  I have always believed that the persistent anti-Japanese sentiment and rotating bouts of anti-US sentiment is because South Koreans know they can protest both countries without repercussions.  As the current THAAD dispute shows the Chinese government does not sit idly by without retaliating against Korea, likewise for North Korea.  If South Koreans push North Korea too much a ROK ship may get sunk or artillery rounds may land in the ROK.  Protest Japan or the United States and little to nothing happens.  That makes both countries easy targets to direct Korean nationalism towards especially for domestic political reasons.

I don’t expect this dynamic to change unless South Koreans are put into a position where they have to forgive and forget with Japan for national security reasons.  As long as the US-ROK alliance this is something Koreans do not have to worry about.

Was North Korean Missile Launch In Response to Trump and Abe Meeting?

I think it is more than coincidence that the Kim regime decided to interfere with President Trump’s and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s golf game this weekend by firing off this missile:

This photo first released on Jan. 24, 2017, by North Korea’s state-run news organization, KCNA, shows a Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile being test-fired from a launcher in North Korea on June 22, 2016. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Pyongyang fired a missile into waters off its eastern coast Sunday morning, the first test-firing by North Korea this year and since U.S. President Donald Trump took office, according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Launched from Banghyon Air Base in North Pyongyan Province at 7:55 a.m., the missile reached an altitude of about 550 kilometers (342 miles) and flew 500 kilometers before splashing into the East Sea, both figures which indicate that it wasn’t an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), said an official from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It appears that the missile was a Rodong medium-range class meant to target Japan, according to another South Korean military source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

The Rodong or Nodong missile is a missile developed primarily to target Japan which is further evidence that the Trump-Abe meeting this week is why they fired the missile when they did.  With that said it is important to keep things in perspective.  The Nodong is a missile they have fired plenty of times in the past and this test firing was on a known test trajectory that safely impacted in the Sea of Japan.  If it wasn’t for the fact that it was North Korea test firing this missile most people would not care.

Here is how President Trump and Prime Minister Abe responded during a hastily called news conference at Trump’s golf club:

United States President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have condemned North Korea’s latest missile launch.

United States President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have condemned North Korea’s latest missile launch.

Trump and Abe issued their statements on the North’s surprise ballistic missile launch on Sunday during an unscheduled joint news conference in Florida.

Abe said that North Korea’s most recent missile launch is absolutely intolerable, urging the North to fully comply with relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Trump said that he wants everybody to understand and fully know that the United States stands behind its great ally Japan 100 percent.  [KBS World]

Here is how the ROK has responded:

The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) denounced North Korea for its latest ballistic missile launch.

Following North Korea’s missile launch Sunday morning, the JCS issued a statement, calling the military action a “grave threat to peace and safety of South Korea and the international community.”

The JCS warned that the Kim Jong-un regime will only see its collapse unless it wakes up from the delusion of nuclear and missile provocations.

The JCS said the missile launch is unacceptable and the military is prepared to immediately respond to any North Korean provocation.

The South Korean military stressed that the missile launch came in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.  [KBS World]

I think the response was handled well by everyone because on the scale of North Korean provocations this is very low and people should not over react to it in my opinion which so far no one is appearing to do.

President Trump and PM Abe Appear to Have Developed Strong Relationship

It looks like out of the all the world leaders so far that have interacted with President Trump, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems to be the one that has developed the best relationship with him so far:

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe arrive ahead of his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

With a hug and a handshake, President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe opened a new chapter in U.S.-Japan relations on Friday with Trump abruptly setting aside campaign pledges to force Tokyo to pay more for U.S. defense aid.

The two leaders appeared to have established a quick friendship during a day of talks at the White House and a flight together aboard Air Force One to Florida for a weekend of golf.

At a joint news conference with Abe, Trump avoided repeating harsh campaign rhetoric that accused Japan of taking advantage of U.S. security aid and stealing American jobs.

It was a welcome affirmation for Japan in the face of challenges such as China’s maritime expansion and North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.

“We are committed to the security of Japan and all areas under its administrative control and to further strengthening our very crucial alliance,” Trump said. “The bond between our two nations and the friendship between our two peoples runs very, very deep. This administration is committed to bringing those ties even closer,” he added.

A joint U.S.-Japanese statement said the U.S. commitment to defend Japan through nuclear and conventional military capabilities is unwavering.

The statement amounted to a victory for Abe, who came to Washington wanting to develop a sense of trust and friendship with the new U.S. president and send a message that the decades-old alliance is unshakeable.

Japan got continued U.S. backing for its dispute with Beijing over islands in the East China Sea that China also claims. The statement said the two leaders affirmed that Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan security treaty covered the islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.  [Reuters]

You can read more at the link.