Since I wrote this the impeachment of the President of the Republic of Korea has been confirmed by the court. A presidential election must now be held by 9 May 2017. There is a possibility that a new president may be more open to the DPRK. The consequences for relations with the USA are not clear. That's a new subject for separate treatment.
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That was at the same time as annual exercises between US and ROK forces involved a much larger than before number of US and south Korean troops and astonishing 'platforms'.
This report in The Guardian emphasises the expanded character of the 2016 exercises and reports that the DPRK believes the drills reportedly now include training designed to prepare troops for the invasion of the North’s capital and “decapitation strikes” aimed at killing top leadership.
The World Socialist Web Site has reported on the 2017 exercises thus.
As business as usual, the US Eighth Army continues to advertise a posting to Korea as a great opportunity.
The US Republican Party’s foreign policy platform – “America Resurgent” – put Korea up front in Asia, desiring, in particular, that “China … recognize the inevitability of change in the Kim family’s slave state”.
In thinking about the apparent assassination of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother Kim Jong-nam in Kuala Lumpur with VX applied to the skin, there is context of that Republican Party platform advocacy of regime change, of DPRK apprehensions about the changing nature of US-ROK exercises to include preemptive decapitation of the leadership in Pyongyang ... AND ALSO the ruckus attending the 2014 US comedy The Interview about assassination Kim Jong-un, including reprisal against Sony but where the fictional CIA plan was to assassinate with Ricin. Compare VX and Ricin here. Underscore this: the ruthless, cutthroat, authoritarian dynasty in the DPRK is currently ruled by a less senior family member, Kim Jong-un, than the reluctant prince, his half brother, now assassinated, perpetrators not legally determined. The more senior, playboy Kim Jong-nam, had been living mainly inside the Peoples Republic of China. Both, as is the pattern of their family for male descendants, Swiss educated. Edward VIII, say hello to Stalin. Kim Jong-nam say hello in heaven or hell to Lin Biao. Deng Xiaoping, which of these four will you exclude from a bridge game? (Someone of more classical education might name the relevant Shakespeare.)
38North is a coherent advocate for negotiation by the US with the DPRK, but such does not seem feasible in the current situation in Washington, probably also Pyongyang (we have knowns about the US, mainly unknowns about the DPRK).
Some excited reports said missiles had fallen within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Here is a paper published in the journal of the US Naval War College on the legality of military activities in other people’s EEZs.
In February the DPRK scheduled a missile launch to coincide with the visit to the US of Japanese Prime Minister Abe, exposing to the world some shonky processes of national security deliberation, surely now tightened up ... and leading to a cautious response by the White House.
There has been no formal end to the Korean War (1950-53). Every day, year by year, a pantomime of hostility and balance and occasional incident is played out in the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom in the Demilitarised Zone, dead centre of this extraordinary continuing gamesmanship. Book a visit.
|Sound familiar? Source|
The point is not what he had in mind, but how he was perceived.
Whatever later quibbling, Acheson made the speech and it was open to interpretation at the time that US support for South Korea was less than firm. North Korea launched a full attack on the south on 25 June 1950. It is reasonable to consider that the DPRK this year considered it appropriate to test the resolve of Trump... unless you consider the North Koreans simply mad, in which case please also consider Trump simply mad. Neither is true, though each side bewildering from time to time. Trump says he seeks to bewilder, so I think does the DPRK.
So where is the balance this month?
· • Trump has been put back in the bottle of established US security policy and machinery on Northeast Asia. US military posture is sharper.
· • THAAD is in place in South Korea, with a little action by the DPRK to make it easy, much to the fury of China.
· • China is a major target in US high policy focus on Korea, as it was in 1950. There are nuclear weapons on the table.
· • If China ever had any notion that Kim Jong-nam could be a replacement for Kim Jong-un, that game is over. We have a neglected/ignored/avoided framework of DPRK apprehensions in which to find understanding of the murder of Kim Jong-nam.
· • There isn’t going to be a real war this year: I have revised my perspective away from anticipation of war in preparing this note.
· • We need to watch the election campaign in the ROK. The doorway to not-war is via the relationship between Seoul and Pyongyang, not the big powers around them.
PS: for another perspective see Geoff Miller Too Nuclear to Fail?
Dennis Argall has been an observer of north Asian affairs since 1970
and was Australian Ambassador to China in the 1980s.