China Once Again Pushing for Freeze to US-ROK Military Exercises

CNN has a long article published advocating for a freeze deal with North Korea by suspending US-ROK military exercises.  As I have long said suspending or degrading the US-ROK alliance is a long term goal of China.  Suspending the upcoming UFG military exercises will only invite more belligerent behavior by North Korea by rewarding bad behavior and further advance China’s strategic goal of ending the US-ROK alliance:

In an editorial Tuesday, nationalistic state-run tabloid Global Times said South Korea should “act as a buffer” between the US and North Korea and urged Seoul to halt the upcoming joint military exercise.
The dual freeze approach put forward by China and Russia often “gets a bad rap” in Washington because of who backs it, said Delury. “But it’s a way for both sides to take a step back, lower the temperature (and) explore a diplomatic option.”
Zhao said such a freeze could “have prevented North Korea from fast advancing their missile programs, especially from acquiring an ICBM capability so quickly.”
However, Pinkston described such a deal as a “completely asymmetric,” pointing out that regular military exercises held by North Korea and China would not be covered by it.  [CNN]
You can read more at the link, but what I think the US should do is say they would sign up for a freeze deal if the punishment for non-compliance by North Korea is the authorization of preemptive strikes to take out their nuclear and missile programs.  The North Koreans would never sign up for such a deal because like past agreements they fully intend to violate it at a time of their choosing.  However, offering this condition shows the US attempted to negotiate and the North Koreans were the ones that would not agree to a deal.

China Puts North Korea on Notice that They Will Not Assist North Korea If They Attack US Soil

This is very interesting that the Chinese government has apparently given the US the go ahead to attack North Korea in response to a strike against US soil, but not to the extent that it leads to regime change:

China won’t come to North Korea’s help if it launches missiles threatening U.S. soil and there is retaliation, a state-owned newspaper warned on Friday, but it would intervene if Washington strikes first.

The Global Times newspaper is not an official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, but in this case its editorial probably does reflect government policy and can be considered “semi-official,” experts said.  (…..)

“China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral,” it added. “If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.” [Stars & Stripes]


You can read more at the link.

US Secretary of State Backs President Trump’s Comments on North Korea During Guam Visit

Secretary of State Tillerson provides some context in regards to President Trump’s recent comments about North Korea:

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson played down President Donald Trump’s incendiary warning to North Korea on Wednesday, saying he was just trying to send a strong message in language its leader would understand.

Tillerson, speaking to reporters before landing in Guam, a U.S.-held Pacific island that Pyongyang threatened to strike, said he does not believe there is an imminent threat from North Korea.

“I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days,” he said.

 Trump on Tuesday warned North Korea it would face “fire and fury” if it threatens the United States, prompting the nuclear-armed nation to say it was considering firing missiles at Guam.

“I think what the president was just reaffirming is that the United States has the capability to fully defend itself from any attack, and our allies, and we will do so,” Tillerson said.

The international community had a “pretty good week” with respect to North Korea, he said, citing new U.N. sanctions and strong statements coming out of a meeting of world leaders in Asia.

“In response to that, North Korea’s rhetoric is just ratcheted up, louder and louder and more threatening,” Tillerson told reporters. “So I think the president, what the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un would understand, because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language.”  [CNBC]

You can read more at the link, but the media is of course in full freak out mode not because of Kim Jong-un, but because of President Trump.  My guess is that President Trump in an unconventional way is trying to make it clear to Kim Jong-un to not miscalculate North Korea’s response to the recent UN sanctions that were passed.  Additionally I think the President may be sending a message to China to make sure North Korea does not miscalculate as well because it could lead to an outcome the Chinese leadership does not want to happen.

Remember that the Ulchi Focus Lens US-ROK military exercise is coming up later this month which is typically when a North Korean provocation cycle happens.  Whatever the North Koreans have planned this year they may have to be reassess based off of President Trump’s warning.

Poll Shows 62% of US Citizens Support Defending South Korea If Attacked

The majority of Americans may support defending South Korea if attacked, but currently only a minority of 40% support any preemptive military action:

More than 60 percent of Americans are in favor of sending troops to defend South Korea in the event of an attack by North Korea, a survey showed Monday, indicating a strengthened commitment toward the Asian ally.

The survey, conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs with support from the Korea Foundation, found 62 percent of Americans favored the use of U.S. troops if North Korea invaded South Korea, the first time there was a majority since the first survey in 1990.

The council attributed the spike to the public’s sense of a heightened threat from North Korea.

The survey was conducted on a weighted national sample of 2,020 adults living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia between June 27 and July 19. Some of the respondents are presumed to have been aware of North Korea’s first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4.

The ICBM had the range to strike Alaska or Hawaii, according to experts.

According to the survey, 75 percent of the respondents viewed North Korea’s nuclear program as a critical threat, up 15 percentage points from last year and 20 points from 2015.

The council said it was the largest on-year increase for a potential threat mentioned in this year’s survey.

North Korea’s nuclear program ranked among the top threats facing the country, it added.

On the policy options to stop the North’s nuclear weapons program, imposing tighter economic sanctions on the country won the most support with 76 percent, followed by imposing sanctions on Chinese companies doing business with North Korea at 68 percent.

The other options were conducting airstrikes on nuclear production facilities (40 percent), sending U.S. troops to destroy nuclear facilities (28 percent), accepting that North Korea will possess nuclear weapons in exchange for producing no more (21 percent), and accepting that North Korea will produce more nuclear weapons (11 percent).  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

Secretary of State Says US Is Not Seeking North Korea Regime Collapse

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had some interesting things to say about North Korea:

Rex Tillerson

The United States does not seek a regime change in North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday, as tensions renewed over the country’s nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea conducted its second test of an intercontinental ballistic missile last week, fueling concerns that the communist nation may be close to delivering a nuclear weapon to the U.S. mainland.

Pyongyang said the test was aimed at giving a “stern” warning to the U.S., which is bent on employing sanctions and pressure on North Korea and justifies the regime’s will to develop nuclear weapons with threats of war.

“We do not seek a regime change. We do not seek the collapse of the regime,” Tillerson said in a surprise appearance at a State Department press briefing. “We do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula. We do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th parallel.”  (…..)

He noted, however, that the U.S. does not blame China for the North Korean nuclear conundrum and Pyongyang “does not define” Washington’s relationship with Beijing.  (….)

“Given the history of enmity and mistrust, this is no doubt a hard message for the North to accept at face value. But I believe it is sincere and worth the North exploring.”  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

White House Says Conditions Not Met for Talks with North Korea

It looks like the US government will not be participating in any talks with North Korea any time soon:

The White House expressed veiled opposition to South Korea’s proposal for rare inter-Korean talks Monday, saying current conditions are “far away” from those needed to reopen dialogue with the recalcitrant state.

Seoul proposed military talks for this coming Friday and Red Cross talks on Aug. 1 to discuss ways to ease tensions along their shared border and resume reunions of families separated since the 1950-53 Korean War.

The offer came amid renewed tensions over the North’s first launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4.

“Well, obviously those comments came out of the Republic of Korea and I would refer you back to them,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer said during a briefing, when asked if there are certain conditions U.S. President Donald Trump would like to see met before the talks take place. “That being said, I think the president has made clear in the past with respect that any type of conditions that would have to be met are clearly far away from where we are now.”  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

US Prosecutors are Seeking to Seize Money from Chinese Companies Doing Business with North Korea

North Korea is getting money and the parts to build their nuclear weapons and missiles from somewhere.  Going after the Kim regime’s money network and part suppliers is something that the US can unilaterally do, but has not aggressively pursued because many of the front companies assisting the Kim regime are based in China.  It appears the Trump administration has now lost patience with the Chinese government and may start aggressively targeting these Chinese companies and the banks assisting them:

U.S. authorities have tried to seize millions of dollars associated with several companies that deal with North Korea, including the country’s military, from eight large international banks, according to court filings made public on Thursday.

The effort was revealed two days after North Korea tested a long-range missile capable of reaching Alaska, ratcheting up tensions with the United States and adding to worries about North Korea leader Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons plans.

Thursday’s filings show that Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the federal court in Washington, D.C. on May 22 granted U.S. prosecutors’ applications for “damming” seizure warrants against Bank of America Corp, Bank of New York Mellon Corp, Citigroup Inc, Deutsche Bank AG, HSBC Holdings Plc, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Standard Chartered Plc and Wells Fargo & Co.

Prosecutors believe the banks have processed more than $700 million of “prohibited” transactions on behalf of entities tied to North Korea since 2009, including the period after Donald Trump was elected U.S. president, the filings show.

Some of the transactions were processed for Dandong Zhicheng Metallic Material Co and four affiliated “front” companies that prosecutors said tried to evade sanctions through transactions that would benefit North Korean entities, “including the North Korea military and North Korea weapons programs,” according to the filings.  [Reuters]

You can read more at the link, but for the Kim regime $700 million is a lot of money.  Long time ROK Heads may remember how much the Kim regime got worked up when $25 million was seized from the Macau Bank, Banco Delta Asia.  This seizure caused the Kim regime to actually come to the bargaining table and make some major concessions to get their money back.

How North Korean Children Are Indoctrinated with Anti-Americanism

besides anti-Americanism North Korean children are also indoctrinated at an early age in militarism to go along with their Kim regime propaganda teachings:

North Korean anti-American propaganda poster.

North Korea needs an enemy. The regime needs a villain for its people to hate. There is no indication that the regime will let go of that hatred anytime soon.

The museum in Sinchon is a prime example. Tucked down a street in south Hwanghae Province, the original museum was created to serve as a repository of alleged American atrocities. Plain and unassuming, the old building housing the relics was flanked by massive mosaics that hinted at the anger contained within: a grandmother in traditional dress, hair askew, shaking her fist at the “wily Americans” and calling on fellow North Koreans to seek “a thousandfold revenge.”

Inside, room after room catalogued the alleged war crimes committed by Americans, from the Presbyterian missionaries accused of seeking to brainwash Koreans with religion to the “Hitlerite” American soldiers they claim systematically tried to exterminate the townspeople in the early months of the Korean War.

Display cases offered what they called proof: some 3,000 artifacts dug up from the soil, including skulls, bones, ID cards, simple woven shoes. A 2009 book on the museum published by Pyongyang’s Foreign Languages Publishing House says that more than 35,000 people, a quarter of the county’s population, were killed during a 52-day rampage.

After a 2014 visit to Sinchon, Kim Jong Un called for an upgrade. The simple building on a grassy knoll was replaced by a palatial museum that is a veritable house of horrors, with room after room graphically bringing to life the gruesome atrocities attributed to the Americans.

The renovated museum opened in late July 2016, in time for the anniversary of the Korean War ceasefire (which the North Koreans call “Victory Day,” even though the fighting ended in a truce).

A visit there is like walking through the set of a horror movie; visitors can walk right up to the tableaus and can practically smell the blood and hear the screams.

In one tableau shown in photos published by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency in July 2016, a life-sized American soldier yanks the hair of a young Korean woman tied to a tree as another American sinks a knife into her heart. In another room, suffused in red light as though drenched with blood, American soldiers drive nails into a Korean woman’s head. Rabid glee distorts their faces.

The grisly scenes are meant to be lifelike. But are they accurate? Many in South Korea and the United States question the veracity of the claims that such killings were carried out by American troops. While the bones and personal artifacts appear genuine, on my own visits to the museum I did not see any items that directly proved or implicated American involvement.  [Newsweek]

You can read more at the link, but this is something that anyone negotiating with North Korea needs to realize, they can’t have peace because the regime needs an enemy to justify its rule.  However, just because the Kim regime cannot ever have peace does not mean they are not willing to have peace treaty negotiations in order to extract concessions.

North Korea Claims to Have Tested an ICBM While Russia and China Call for a Freeze Deal

I predicted that the North Koreans would commit a provocation in response to the Trump-Moon summit in Washington, DC and the Kim regime of course delivered:

A North Korean Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile is launched in this photo released by the North’s state-run Korean Central TV, Tuesday. The launch took place near Banghyon, North Pyongan Province, at 9:40 a.m. / Yonhap

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday warned North Korea not to cross a “red line” after it claimed a successful test of its first intercontinental ballistic missile.

Moon urged the North to immediately halt its provocations, saying he is not sure what kind of consequence the communist state will have to face if it crosses the “red line.”

“I hope North Korea will not cross the point of no return,” the South Korean leader said in a meeting with former British Prime Minister David Cameron, according to his chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan.

His remarks came shortly after he ordered his top security officials to seek “UN Security Council measures” in close cooperation with the country’s allies, including the United States in an emergency meeting of the National Security Council.

North Korea launched what initially appeared to be an intermediate range missile at 9:40 a.m.

Later, the North’s official media said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed an order to test launch a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) the day before, also claiming the success of its launch.

Moon earlier noted the North may develop an ICBM in the “not too distant future.”

The North Korean reports said the new ICBM, Hwasong-14, reached an altitude of 2,802 kilometers, and flew 933 kilometers.

When launched at the right angle, the missile could reach up to 8,000 km, experts have noted.

Moon, even prior to the North Korean reports, told his security officials to handle the latest provocation as if it were an ICBM.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but the Korea Times is reporting the missile could have up to a 10,000 kilometer range.  However, USFK reported in the same article that the missile was an intermediate range ballistic missile with a range of 5,000 kilometers.  US Pacific Command is reporting a range from 3,000 to 5,500 kilometers.

North Korea’s state-run Korean Central TV released photos of launching a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday. From left; North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watches the missile test through binoculars; a transporter erector launcher (TEL) sets up the missile to launch; the missile blasts off. [YONHAP]

These ranges are important because if it is an 8,000 kilometer range than Hawaii and Alaska are within range.  If it is a 10,000 kilometer range than the US mainland is within range.  Not that Hawaii and Alaska are less important than the US mainland, but I think being able to credibly strike the US mainland does make a difference in regards to US response options.  If the range is 5,000 kilometers then strategically nothing has really changed.  It just means that Guam remains within range of North Korea’s missile threat which is why a THAAD battery is deployed to protect the island.

Google Earth image showing estimated distances from North Korea to US targets

In response to this latest test China and Russia are calling for North Korea to freeze their weapons program in exchange for the US and the ROK scaling down their bilateral military exercises:

Russia and China have proposed that North Korea declare a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests while the United States and South Korea refrain from large-scale military exercises.

The call was issued in a joint statement by the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministries on Tuesday following talks between President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.  [Daily Mail]

This is something the Trump administration is going to hear more and more to do.  I hope President Trump does not get suckered into this without severe measures for non-compliance.  Like I have said before, a freeze deal may be something for the Trump administration to pursue if non-compliance by the Kim regime authorizes a pre-emptive strike against North Korea.  Language in the deal would also make it quite clear the pre-emptive strike is not for regime removal, but to target the Kim regime’s weapons programs.  The Kim regime cheated on all the past deals and will assuredly cheat on a freeze deal without the credible threat of force.