Wednesday, 9 August 2017

So. Korea.

Of late there has been some dispute over the Korean Peninsula.

In 1910 the Peninsula was invaded and occupied as part of the Japanese Empire.

In 1941 Imperial Japan joined the Second World War on the side of the Axis Powers of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy and Spain. 

In 1945 the Axis Powers were defeated with the Soviet Union liberating the northern part of the Korean Peninsula while the US liberated to the southern part.

As within Europe this triggered a dispute over how the newly liberated areas would be run. Under Communism or Capitalism. 

This led to the creation of two nations - the Communist Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK/North) and the Capitalist Republic of Korea (RoK/South). The nations were divided along the 38 North line of latitude.

Also in 1945 the DPRK's immediate neighbour to the north China underwent its own Communist revolution. The addition of such a large and powerful ally led the DPRK and the Soviet Union to believe that they could invade the RoK and unite the Korean Peninsula under Communism.

On June 25th 1950 (29/6/50) the DPRK with Russian and Chinese support launched their invasion of the RoK. This prompted the United Nations (UN) to deploy an international force to repel the invasion from the RoK. This triggered the Korean War.

Although at various points both sides came within sight of victory by July 1953 the Korean War had reached a stalemate with neither side able to advance much beyond the 38th Parallel. This led to an armistice agreement being signed on July 27th 1953 (27/7/53).

However this armistice merely meant that the fighting stopped. The war however continued with both the DPRK and the RoK sending each other aggressive and passive aggressive coded messages on an almost daily basis.

The nearest thing I can think to compare this situation to is the US popstar Beyonce.

In February 2017 Beyonce announced that she was pregnant. Shortly afterwards she posted a photograph on Instagram in which she wore the earrings she had worn in the video for her 2008 single; "If I Were a Boy." This sent Beyonce fans into a frenzy of speculation that she was using a secret code to indicate that she was pregnant with a boy.

On Tuesday (8/8/17) the Washington Post (WaPo) newspaper in the US ran a story declaring that the DPRK had built a nuclear warhead that could fit onto an Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). This would give the DPRK the capability to deliver a nuclear missile into the continental US.

The WaPo story isn't actually particularly news worthy. It seems to have been published to ambush US President Trump at a press conference he was giving on the US Opioid crisis a few hours after the story appeared. 

In part President Trump called the press conference to show that he was working through his holiday. During the campaign Trump had criticised former President Obama for his long holidays.

In illustrating the story the US Fox News network used a stock photo of DPRK leader Kim Jong-Un sitting at a desk inspecting a metal object. That object is a nuclear re-entry vehicle. It is used to mount a nuclear warhead to a ICBM and protect it during re-entry from the Earth's atmosphere during an attack.

That photograph was first released by the DPRK on March 15th 2016 (15/3/16). So you can probably see why I'm not overwhelmed by WaPo discovering the DPRK can mount nuclear warheads to ICBM's some 18 months after that became common and public knowledge.

At the time the photograph was first released there was the usual speculation over whether the object was a functioning nuclear re-entry vehicle or simply a mock-up. There was also speculation over whether it was built for the Atom Bomb (A-Bomb) that the DPRK successfully tested on October 9th 2006 (9/10/06) or the much more powerful Hydrogen Bomb (H-Bomb) the DPRK tested on January 6th 2016 (6/1/16).

However the nuclear physics and rocket science were actually the easy part in analysing the photograph. 

The complex part was deciding whether the angle at which the re-entry vehicle had been placed on the table corresponded with the positioning of maps on the walls and books on the bookcases to reveal the GPS coordinates of a specific location. I think the shared Kaesong industrial centre.

In responding to the release of this one photograph the RoK had to identify, break and confirm any potential code. They then had to consider all the other coded messages that have been exchanged between the two nations before crafting a message to send back.

So the Korea dispute is extremely complicated. Simply getting up to speed on all the back and forth that has taken place over the last 67 years is a mammoth task.

However a key sequence in the Korea dispute occurred between September 1950 and April 1951.

On September 15th 1950 (15/9/51) the US conducted a spectacular amphibious assault on the city on Inchon which sits just south of the 38th Parallel. This prompted China to formally enter the war in support of the DPRK sending hundreds of thousands pouring into the Korean Peninsula.

Throughout the conflict US President Truman had used the threat of nuclear war to blackmail the DPRK, Russia and China. This involved the US stationing a fleet of B-29 bombers at the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam equipped with nuclear bombs. However the bombs were not equipped with detonators.

In April 1951 in response to the advancing Chinese troops President Truman increased the number of nuclear bombs. He also dispatched the B-29's loaded with these nuclear bombs to fly over the DPRK and China. They most certainly did not know the bombs were not equipped with detonators.

President Truman's message was simple; Either China withdrew its troops from the DPRK or the US would use nuclear weapons to destroy both the DPRK and China.

This threat was made just six years after the US had used nuclear bombs against Japan. 

So the destructive power of nuclear war was not some abstract piece of distant history. Instead it was very much a current event with scientists continuing to learn about the damaging effects of radioactive fallout. It also occurred at a time when the US was the only nuclear armed nations

Truman's threat left China with little option. In October 1951 they withdrew their forces from the DPRK leaving the DPRK unable to secure victory over the RoK leading to the 1953 armistice.

The DPRK learned two lessons for this sequence of events.

The first was that the only way to ensure survival in the face of US aggression was to obtain nuclear weapons. As a result they wrote the obtaining of nuclear weapons into their national constitution. It remains a core principle of their statehood.

The second lesson the DPRK learned is that they cannot rely on the Chinese as an ally.

The DPRK's strained alliance with China worsened when Kim Jong-Un took power in 2016.

In the west politicians and the media like to dismiss Kim Jong-Un as a madman and make fun over him over his appearance. This is both extremely lazy and frankly a bit racist.

Far from being some sort of Hermit King Kim Jong-Un actually spent much of his early life in Switzerland which is firmly part of western Europe. There he got to see firsthand how much better life is in the capitalist west and comparatively strange life is in the DPRK. For example Kim Jong-Un's grandfather Kim Ill-Sung remains President of the DPRK despite dying in 1994.

I wouldn't go so far to say that Kim Jong-Un wants to embrace Capitalism or abandon the DPRK as a nation in favour of a unified Korea. However he is certainly keen to open up the DPRK to the rest of the World and modernise the country.

This is evidenced by his so-called Basketball Diplomacy. A major Basketball fan since his youth Kim Jong-Un has invited the US Basketball star Dennis Rodman to the country on numerous occasions along with big US tech firms like Google and Facebook. Both things that would have been unthinkable under his father Kim Jong-Ill.

Kim Jong Un has also shown an interest in opening the DPRK up to tourism. Not just traditional Chinese tourists but visitors from western nations. Obviously though that effort has been set back recently with the death of US citizen Otto Warmbier and the US banning its citizens from the DPRK in response.

However if tourists do visit the DPRK capital Pyongyang they will not find a city totally trapped in a 1950's Communist timewarp. Instead they're likely to find modern coffee shops with Wi-Fi connections to a heavily censored form of the Internet. A significant step forward from the nation specific Intranet Kim Jong-Ill established.

Kim Jong-Un has even done a deal with Britain's BBC to allow modern TV Shows such as Doctor Who to be broadcast in the DPRK. That grants citizens unprecedented glimpses of the world outside.

Perhaps most telling of all the DPRK has dramatically scaled back the coded photo messages in favour of more typical forms of communication.

On Tuesday (8/8/17) the DPRK responded to the WaPo story by announcing it was examining the possibility of attacking Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. Although still hostile this announcement was made in the form of a relatively normal press release that was covered on TV by the DPRK's state news broadcaster.

Despite how the US media is choosing to report it the DPRK’s announcement on Guam came before President Trump’s comments at the press conference. However they occurred after the WaPo story.

As for President Trump’s fire and fury comments the World Athletic Championships are currently taking place in London, UK. Using Norovirus as a metaphor the main topic of conversation is whether the UK Labour Party will be brought to justice over its arson attack on Grenfell Tower.

In his attempts to open the DPRK up to the world Kim Jong-Un seems to view the nation's longstanding alliance with still very authoritarian China as something of a hindrance.

The deterioration in the alliance between the DPRK and China has also coincided with Obama’s “Pivot Towards the Pacific” policy. This policy’s seemingly sole objective was to contain and isolate China within the Asia-Pacific region. It had two main tracks.

The first of these is the economic track. The idea being to open up some of the highly questionable regimes in the region up to trade with the US. The intention being to drive down wages within China increasing social unrest. Since Tiananmen Square China has maintained a pact with its people; Constant economic growth in return for a lack of freedom.

The second track is security. This involves building the DPRK up into a regional bogeyman which the US then offers to protect nations from. This takes them out of China’s sphere of influence and into America’s.

The most stark example of the security track at work is the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system to the RoK. As the name suggests THAAD operates against high altitude missiles meaning it is next to useless against missiles being fired from the DPRK on the RoK which will be at low altitude. However THAAD does feature a long range radar system which allows the US to stare deep into China.

Due to the historical tensions with China and Kim Jong-Un’s own aspirations the DPRK has been happy to play the role of the US bogeyman.

There are strong rumours that Obama actually supplied the DPRK with missile control software. However a kill switch was included in the software allowing the US to destroy missiles at launch. This is borne out by the high number of failed missile launches that the DPRK experienced in 2016.

The problem is though that the DPRK would always be able to reverse engineer the Obama supplied software to remove the kill switch. This is something they seem to have done in the early part of 2017 allowing them to vastly increase their successful missile launches over the last six months or so.

That is the mess that President Trump inherited from Obama. It is also why the RoK were extremely opposed to Hillary Clinton replacing Obama.

Tomorrow I will look at Trump’s progress in helping take the region back from the brink. After all the weather today has been inspiring. It inspires you to find somewhere warm and dry and curl up there.

19:25 on 9/8/17 (UK date).

Edited at around 15:55 on 10/8/17 (UK date) to add;

Upon taking office President Trump almost immediately set about dismantling the economic track of Obama's Pivot Towards the Pacific policy. I think this is more commonly known as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) which Trump scrapped on January 23rd 2017 (23/1/17).

President Trump was elected on an anti-globalisation platform. Although I endorsed him for President I am actually broadly supportive of the principles of globalisation. After all I couldn't really spend all this time on global environmental issues without noticing that many manmade, political borders are arbitrary and rather meaningless.

The problem is that globalisation assumes a World where all nations enjoy more or less the same level of economic wealth. This is simply not reality. Instead we live in a World where there are extremely rich nations and extremely poor nations. Therefore before globalisation can be truly achieved there needs to be a rebalancing with wealth flowing from the rich nations to the poor nations to achieve a sort of equilibrium.

This means that so far all people in many rich nations like the US have seen of globalisation is the negative. Their jobs being taken away to be given to people in poorer nations like China.

However as those jobs have gone to China the Chinese have become richer with wages increasing. This narrowing of the wage gap means that it is almost cancelled out by the cost of transporting goods all the way from manufacture in China to market in the US. As a result many corporations are starting to consider moving manufacturing jobs back to the US.

A prime example of this is Foxconn. This Chinese/Taiwanese electronics manufacturer famous for the Apple iPhone recently announced plans to open a plant in Wisconsin, US. That is very much the globalisation model. You have a plant in China to supply the Asian market, a plant in the US to supply the Americas markets and then another plant in, let's say Kenya to supply the African and European market.

Through the TPP Obama was trying to open up China's neighbours to trade to create a low wage alternative to China. This undermines China's economic growth threatening the nation with Tiananmen Square levels of unrest. It also prevents jobs like those at Foxconn being returned to the US.

So by scrapping the TPP President Trump has relieved the mass of pressure on China and relieved the pressure on American workers. In short it's a good deal for everyone.

On dismantling the security track President Trump has made less progress.

Just on Saturday (5/8/17) the UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously passed US authored sanctions on the DPRK's exports. These sanctions are expected to cost the DPRK economy USD1bn per year. Or roughly a third of the DPRK's 3bn total economy. This has potential.

The DPRK is pursuing nuclear weapons for purely defensive purposes. The intention being to deter the US and the RoK from launching a war that will destroy the DPRK. These new sanctions have the potential to show the DPRK that rather than protecting them nuclear weapons could well be the thing that destroys them. After all you can't really force someone to trade with you by nuking them.

However sanctions were a big part of Obama's playbook against China. They were his reward for encouraging the DPRK to behave ever more aggressively.

China shares a long land border with the DPRK and is one of its main trade and political partners. The US has no land border and no real trade or political ties with the DPRK.

So the US imposing sanctions on the DPRK has little to no impact on it or its allies. However if China imposes sanctions they will in this case cost their economy around USD1bn in trade and damage the relationship with their ally. If they don't impose sanctions they risk jeopardising their trade and political relationships with everyone else in the region.  

President Trump also risks falling into Obama's pattern of using military threats to force the DPRK to respond allowing the US to increase its pressure on China through the sanctions issue.

At his meeting in April 2017 with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping President Trump announced that he was sending an aircraft carrier group to the Korean Peninsula. This obviously threatens the DPRK with military action against it. However with the carrier group actually heading in the opposite direction the true purpose of the move was to put pressure on China to see if they could track the carrier group's movements.

On July 30th (30/7/17) the US flew potentially nuclear armed B-1 bombers over the Korean Peninsula from Andersen Air Force base in Guam. They repeated this on Monday (7/8/17).

These flights were intended to recreate President Truman's nuclear blackmail of 1951. This is what made the DPRK decide that they really needed nuclear weapons. The US constantly restating the threat is not going to convince the DPRK that they don't need a nuclear deterrent against US aggression.

Last night the DPRK gave more details on its examination of the possibility for an attack on Guam. 

Despite how the US media has chosen to cover it the DPRK did not threaten to attack Guam. Instead they said they had drawn up a plan to land four missiles around into the sea around 70km (40 miles) from Guam. The people of Guam would not notice this.

The DPRK's announcement was made in the more conventional way of a press statement which was reported by the state news agency. The announcement gave extremely precise details about the type of missiles to be used, where they'd be launched from, their trajectory and where they would land. It even gave the speed the missiles would be travelling at.

On July 28th (28/7/17) the DPRK test fired an ICBM which landed in Japan's territorial waters. Because the DPRK failed to tell anyone that they were testing this missile it came within about 10 minutes of hitting an Air France civilian passenger jet.

When you're talking about speeds in excess of 3km per minute 10 minutes is actually a really long time. However if Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 has taught us anything it's that accidentally shooting down a civilian aircraft can quickly send a tense situation spiralling out of control.

The DPRK statement said that Kim Jong-Un would make a decision on whether to put the plan into action in "mid-August." This seems to be a reference to the current discussion over whether the UK Labour Party will be brought to justice for their arson attack on the Grenfell Tower.

Immediately after the fire at Grenfell Tower the Labour Party led by London Mayor Sadiq Khan demanded a public inquiry. However having made some wild claims the Labour Party is now extremely opposed to that inquiry looking in any level of detail at how the fire started and spread.

Instead the Labour Party want the inquiry to focus entirely on social housing policy in the UK. In short they want to turn it into a piece of political propaganda they can use to rage against the government.

On August 4th (4/8/17) the consultation period over the inquiry closed. It is expected that by tomorrow (11/8/17) the head of the inquiry will write to UK Prime Minister Theresa May recommending a two part inquiry. The first part looking at the cause and spread of the fire. The second looking at social housing policy. A week after that letter is set Prime Minister May will set the terms of the inquiry.

Whatever Prime Minister May decides in mid-August if a day or two after the inquiry begins documents were made public detailing the Labour Party's arson conspiracy the inquiry would certainly find itself embarrassed.

Also while the US media seem intent on provoking a crisis in Korea the World is potentially on the verge of an actual crisis in Syria.

As the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF/QSD) come ever closer to defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) Turkish President/Prime Minister/Emperor Recep Tayyip Erdogan is becoming ever more keen to invade Syria in support of ISIL.

There has been speculation that Erdogan will invade the SDF's Afrin Canton on the anniversary of his invasion of the Garvaghy Road area - August 24th 2016 (24/8/16). This occurred just after the Summer Olympics and just before the Summer Para-Olympics both held in Brazil.

In early 2018 the RoK will host the Winter Olympics. Reflecting Kim Jong-Un's openness there was some talk recently of the RoK and the DPRK jointly hosting the games. However this has recently been shelved because logistically it takes more than a year to prepare games venues

Being a significant part of the Grenfell Tower discussion the UK actually came up with a quick and rather good response to the DPRK's announcement last night. A bus crashed in the Clapham area of London.

Specifically it was a number 77 bus. This route originates in Sadiq Khan's old Parliamentary constituency of Tooting. It terminates at Waterloo railway station. This is named in honour of Britain's victory over Napoleon's France in 1815. It has become a byword for crushing defeat. 

On its way route 77 passes through Amen Corner, Burntwood Lane, ISIS Street and Iman Road to name but a few.

One of Mayor Khan's policy has been to introduce the "hopper" bus fare. This allows passengers to take two rides for the price of one. The same deal the Labour Party seem to want from the Grenfell Tower inquiry.

In promoting the hopper fare the Mayor's office spent taxpayers money taking out adverts on buses and billboards. Rather than simply announcing that the Mayor's office had introduced the fare system these adverts made clear to Londoners it was being brought to them by; "Mayor Sadiq Khan."

In short Sadiq Khan's been using taxpayers money to turn every bus in London into a Labour Party campaign bus. Something that is very clearly forbidden by UK election law.

Just to annoy everyone at around 17:25 on 10/8/17 (UK date) I'll be back after dinner to finish and tidy this up.

Edited again at around 19:00 on 10/8/17 (UK date) to add;

The bus' fleet identification code which is clearly painted on the top of the vehicle is GAG BLV288.

One of the most pernicious lies the Labour Party told in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire was that a voluntary gag-order known as a D-Notice had been issued to prevent the media from reporting the death toll. 

This was simply untrue. Thirty of the victims of the 1988 Piper Alpha fire were never recovered. To this day 40% of the victims of the September 11th attacks have still not been identified.

"Gag" is also a slang term for "Joke." 

On February 13th 2017 (13/2/17) Kim Jong-Un's half-brother Kim Jong-Nam was poisoned and killed at an airport in the Islamist Kingdom of Malaysia. One of the women accused on administering the poison was wearing a top with "LOL" emblazoned on it.

Traditionally LOL has been an acronym meaning "Lots Of Love." However in the Internet age it has come to mean; "Laugh Out Loud"  - the sort of thing you'd do in response to a good gag.

The Malaysians claim Kim Jong-Nam was poisoned with the nerve agent VX. Given the potency of VX and the fact the untrained women who supposedly handled it are still alive casts significant doubt on that claim.

Instead the VX element of the story seemed intended to signal support to Erdogan for the chemical weapons attack he launched in Khan Sheikhoun in Syria on April 4th (4/4/17) using a Sarin-like nerve agent. 

That attack and the misguided US missile strikes it triggered were timed to coincide with Premier Xi's meeting with President Trump.

The two women accused of poisoning Kim Jong-Nam continue to languish in Malaysian prisons. The bus crash featured two women being trapped and then heroically rescued.

I suspect the remaining Cold War warriors are still trying to work out the significance of; "BLV288."   

19:40 on 10/8/17 (UK date).  


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