Person of Interest: National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan

by David Parmer / Tokyo

New faces in Washington are no surprise, but with the Biden administration we get a collection of new faces that have been seen before in the nation’s capitol. Many of the Biden folks have been at the top tier before but just not in the spotlight. General Lloyd Austin was around before, as was Anthony Blinken and even Avril Haines. Now, these first tier players have moved from assistant this and deputy that to Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State and Director of National Intelligence. And then there is Jake Sullivan.

Jake Sullivan, Joe Biden’s National Security Advisor has been around in the thin oxygen of national politics and policy for “a while” and gotten his ticket punched. Mr. Sullivan graduated from Yale University, did an MA at Oxford, and cycled back to Yale for his law degree. He practiced law in Minnesota where he worked for Senator Amy Klobuchar.

He then worked for both Hillary Clinton and then Barack Obama and worked as Clinton’s Director of Policy Planning. He worked for Obama as Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to then Vice President Joe Biden. In 2013 he worked on the JCPOA or Iran Nuclear Deal. In 2016 Mr. Sullivan was again working for Clinton, this time during her presidential campaign. After a stint back in the private sector, in 2020, Sullivan was selected by President-Elect Biden to be his National Security Advisor. 

The Biden administration quickly undid a lot of Trump-era policy and infrastructure, but remains fairly consistent on China policy. Mr. Sullivan signaled no big changes in China policy during his confirmation hearing and even went on to support some of the views of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, including the question of the violation of human rights of the Uighur minority.

In Biden’s Washington it looks like the band is back together. Biden’s team is deep with experience and peopled with appointees that the president knows and trusts. Former President Donald Trump might call Biden’s team a return of the “deep state.” Around Washington (and around the world) many people are happy about this, and happy to see new-old faces like Jake Sullivan hard at work.

Photo: The White House via flickr.

 

 

 

“Iran Does Not Seek A Nuclear Weapon.”

“Iran does not seek a nuclear weapon. If we wanted to build a nuclear weapon, we could have done it some time ago, but we decided that nuclear weapons would not augment our security and are in contradiction to our ideological views.” (Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif)

                          by David Parmer / Tokyo

America’s new Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Sunday, January 31, in an NBC news interview, that Iran could be “weeks” away from having enough fissile nuclear material to build an atomic weapon. Blinken’s assessment was soundly rebutted by Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in an interview with CNN’s Christian Amanpour the following day, February 1.

Zarif said that if Iran wanted a nuclear weapon, it would already have one, but this was not their intention. In the interview with Amanpour, Zarif was asked about Iran and the US negotiating their differences. Zarif said that the US must come back into compliance with the JCPOA “Iran Deal.”

Certain things were NOT agreed upon at the time of the negotiating and signing of the agreement; Iran has concerns about US arms sales to the region which were not on the table. Iran’s missile program which was of interest to the US was not on the table (Zarif did not mention the word “missiles.”)

The US and Iran are at a stalemate, and the foreign minister offered a possible solution. The top EU official, Josep Borrell, Chairman of the Joint Commission could broker an agreement by saying what each side must do. This would be a face-saving mechanism to eliminate such thinking as “before we negotiate, you must…” on both sides.

Zarif noted that time was running out for the US. The Iranian parliament has approved further drawing back by Iran from the 2015 JCPOA as is its right when the other side is not in compliance. As for existing nuclear material enriched to a higher percentage, it could be dealt with swiftly and eliminated if conditions were favorable and concessions on both sides were made.

From the two meetings with the press, it was clear that Iran was better prepared and knew what it wants and how to move things forward. Secretary Blinken simply repeated an old contention about nuclear weapons common under the Trump administration.

Blinken did not seem either well informed or well prepared to deal with one of America’s three vital foreign policy challenges. Even given the fact that Blinken must staff, coordinate and re-build a hollowed-out State department, his first appearance out of the gate was not very impressive. The problem is that US-Iran relations need the full attention of the US government, and as Mr. Zarif has said: time for the US to act is not unlimited.

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mfarussia/50879955528/in/faves-117355407@N08/

RG21’s Predictions for 2021

                        by David Parmer / Tokyo

Here are a few “predictions” from RG-21 for 2021. None of them are really new, but rather the ways that existing situations might develop in the New Year.

China-VS-US: We took a look at this topic before here at RG-21, and our conclusions have not changed much. The new Biden administration will not fundamentally change its relationship with the People’s Republic of China. Certainly the bellicose tone favored by President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be toned down. Diplomacy will be back in fashion and this includes relations with the PRC. The constant attacks on the CPC (Communist Party of China) will cease from the US government, but not from right-wing elements within the US.

As former Secretary of Defense James Mattis saw it, China is a “strategic competitor” but not an enemy. This may very well be the approach that the Biden administration takes. Also, the Trump administration has left the Biden people with several cards to play vis-a-vis China. While some sanctions may be lifted as a “good will” gesture, the others will be bargaining chips which the US will happily remove in return for concessions from the PRC.

As for the South China Sea issue, neither China nor the US will budge much if at all. As for the Indo-Pacific, the US will continue to do what it has been doing to form a coalition around the area to maintain a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” From the Chinese side this may very well be seen as an effort to contain or encircle China.

The US will continue to evaluate Huawei’s role in building and re-building infrastructure worldwide. The case of Meng Wanzhou might be re-evaluated and dropped or settled out of court as a “good will” gesture to the PRC.

 President Biden will get US allies on board with whatever China policy the US decides to adopt. This may be easier than might be imagined since, for now, China and Europe are not on the best of terms.

Finally, with better US-China dialogue, consular facilities that were closed on a tit-for-tat basis may be quickly re-opened.

Iran-VS-US: Relations between the US and the Islamic Republic are at such a low point that almost anything done in a positive manner would be seen as significant. After China, Iran is next on the list threats to the US as seen by the Trump administration.

To this end President Trump pulled the US out of the JCPOA or “Iran Deal” despite Iran’s independently verified full compliance with the terms of the agreement. As we have written previously, the Europeans  (together with China and Russia) have kept the agreement on “life support” after the US withdrawal.  The US and Israel have kept Iran in their sights, and have taken provocative actions that only strengthen the radical elements within Iran, and then use the results of those provocations to show how dangerous Iran is.

Here again, the Trump administration has left the US with some cards to play. Sanctions could be lifted in exchange for that which the US and its allies want. For example, a whole host of sanctions could be lifted for some movement on Iran’s limiting its missile program, one that causes much more threat to its neighborhood than a nuclear capability.

It was the US and Israel that wanted Iran to re-negotiate the JCPOA to include this program that caused the US to withdraw from the JCPOA. The strategy was that crippling sanctions would drive Iran back to the table to negotiate over its missile program. This did not happen. The Iranians, just like the Cubans bore the brunt of US sanctions and did not fold.

The Biden administration could begin immediately to re-weave the JCPOA. First by re-joining, and then when Iran is found in compliance, to release much-needed funds to the government of Iran.

The original strategy of the JCPOA was to strengthen the moderate elements in the Iran power structure, and it is likely that this strategy will again be used.

Taiwan-VS-China-VS-US: The bottom line is this–the US Taiwan policy will not fundamentally change, but the tone will. Support for Taiwan (as is) is rock solid in the US congress. Weapons sales will continue. What will happen first is the rhetoric regarding China will be toned-down.

Also, the drawing of Taiwan closer to US will probably stop. Despite the Taiwan Relations Act, high-level visits by US officials will be seen for what they are: provocative acts which could potentially de-stabilize a precarious situation. Acts that could be seen as re-recognizing Taiwan as “China” will be toned-down or eliminated. But the US will not budge on Taiwan or on the “freedom of navigation” within the Taiwan Strait.

In a sense, this takes the US out of the equation in the question of China-vs-Taiwan. In another sense, both parties are back to “square one.” And what is “square one?” China claims Taiwan as its territory and has promised to return the island to the PRC even using force if necessary. Taiwan sees itself as a de-facto independent country, and clings to the Republic of China name not as an anachronism but as a reality. Again and again the people of the island have reported that they see themselves as Taiwanese and not Chinese.

President Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party is called an “independence” party, but it knows that if it declares “independence” it will cross a redline that will probably lead to the PRC invading.

China may be thinking (and hoping) that if the DPP does not deliver to its constituents, then the pro-Beijing Kuomintang opposition party may take power and relations would again improve significantly.

The situation for now: stalemate. But from the PRC’s point of view, the clock is ticking. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

US-VS-Europe: Old friends meet again. Traditional allies close ranks. Relations between the US and Europe will take a monumental leap forward once Joe Biden raises his hand and takes the oath of office of the President of the United States. Trump’s distain for diplomacy and for long-standing relationships that do not benefit the US in his way of calculating will no longer be policy.

The Biden administration will again re-assert US world leadership and call on the Europeans to join. With its strong traditional allies the US will have a joint face regarding both China and Russia.

US-Turkey-NATO: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey is going his own way and is far along on making Turkey a viable regional power. There have been comments that he is creating a new Ottoman Empire with himself at the center. Turkey is the only Muslim member of NATO, and the US has for years had a base at Incirlik on Turkish soil. And yet, Turkey despite its NATO membership went ahead and bought the powerful and capable Russian Triumph S-400 missile system. In retaliation, the US removed Turkey from a lucrative and advanced program in fabricating the cutting-edge F35 fighter.

Erdogan also has brought force to bear on the Kurdish fighters in Syria whom it counts as terrorists. These same Kurds are seen as staunch US allies, or at least they were before the Trump administration pulled US advisors out, thereby signaling Erdogan that is OK to do what he wishes with the Kurds.

It is likely that the US will mend fences with the Kurds as well as soon as Donald Trump is gone. But the US will now have to face new challenges in the region. Both Iran and Turkey will be mid-level players who will be calling the shots in their neighborhood. It will be up to the Biden administration to formulate a strategy to deal with these two emerging and powerful regional powers.

Korea-VS-The World: There are no signs that the Kim dynasty will go away any time soon. Kim Jong-un will continue to rule and will continue to hone his nuclear powered military. He will probably try to upgrade his submarine fleet (if anyone will sell him the boats) and will continue to strengthen his special forces as well.

Kim’s strategy for the South in the event of war would be asymmetrical warfare to start with including the use of special forces to disrupt communications and transport in the South and then use his massive conventional forces to invade following a withering rain of artillery fire on Seoul and a missile attack on the largest US base in the country, Camp Humphreys, which is just 97km (60 miles) from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

Donald Trump’s attempt to get concessions from Kim failed. His meetings resulted in nothing taking place except the optics of a meeting. The Biden administration will have to deal with the Korea stalemate as well. Kim will probably use his nuclear arsenal to try to intimidate the US and Japan, and extract some kind of concessions from the South.

Perhaps the only negative to be found in the departure of Donald Trump from the office of US president will be the fact that Kim could never be sure of Trump’s mental state, and he could never be sure that Trump would not “press the button” on the DPRK.

With a more measured and professional Biden in office, it is likely that Kim, without the fear of immediate nuclear reprisal from Trump, will again begin to stir things up on the Korean peninsula.

There are a few more areas of interest that could heat up in 2021. Next time we will take a look at a few including Russia, Syria, Central Africa, and the Nordic countries.

Photo: Marshall Space Flight Center via flickr

China–Taiwan Question: Another Year Goes By Without A Solution.

                         by David Parmer / Tokyo

Well 2020 is rapidly winding down; just about a month or so to go, and the Year of the Rat will be gone. The truth be told, not many people will miss this year, or remember it fondly due to its association with the COVID-19 pandemic.

When it comes to relations between Beijing and Taipei, there hasn’t been a lot of movement during the past 11 months. Probably the biggest happenings this year has been the visit of high-level US officials following the passage of the Taiwan Relations Act by the US congress, and continuing US arms sales to Taiwan.

The biggest “win” for President Tsai Ing-wen has been warming relations with the United States under the Trump administration. And while the US has never said that it will come to the aid of Taiwan if attacked by the PRC, it says that the matter is of grave interest.

Beijing has its red line, and that means anything to do with Taiwan independence is seen as crossing that line. President Tsai and her party have ventured close to the line but have not come close to crossing it. Beijing for its part has never denied that military action to rejoin Taiwan is one of its options.

So a stalemate persists. With the Democratic Progressive Party in power it looks like there will be no closer relations with Beijing. Should the Kuomintang again gain power, then a warming of relations could be expected to take place. 

What is troubling is that Beijing and Taipei see no creative way to solve their differences. Beijing’s only attempt at a nuanced solution was to suggest a One Country-Two Systems solution such as that under which Hong Kong is now governed. This has been soundly rejected by Taipei in light of what it considers Beijing’s lack of good faith as witnessed by the events in Hong Kong.

So stalemate. It appears that neither Hong Kong nor Taipei sees any advantage to a closer relationship with Beijing. Beijing has nothing to offer them that they don’t already have. In the distant past the high culture of China was indeed attractive to people in the neighborhood who copied Chinese culture and aspired to that which China could offer.

So what would create a “willing” closer affiliation with the mainland? At present, nothing. What then is the solution? Maybe in the current way of thinking there simply isn’t one. Beijing seems to have only one strategy: Join us or else. There could, perhaps, be a more nuanced way to approach the problem. Taiwan is part of China, but what does “China” mean?

Is there no possibility for a “federation” of China, or a “commonwealth” of China?A “commonwealth” or “federation” of China could relieve Beijing of three of its headaches and its negative perception by the rest of the world. A commonwealth of China could solve not only the Taiwan question, but also the question of Tibet and of the Uighurs in Xinjiang. A indefinite continuation of the One-Country Two Systems in Hong Kong could keep tensions low there as well.

There is an old saying to the effect that if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Right now, Beijing seems to have a hammer mentality with regard to Taiwan. Having only one solution is a sure way to a lack of progress and stalemate, which is what is taking place now. Classical Chinese culture shows us a mastery of nuance and subtlety in thought and expression. Perhaps it is time to draw on this ancient wisdom to create some workable answers to the Taiwan question.

Please let us know your thoughts on this.

Photo: Heikki Holstila via flickr

 

 

Person of Interest: Tony Blinken, Biden Foreign Policy Advisor.

To get an idea of former Vice President Joe Biden’s foreign policy when he becomes president, the best person to listen to is his top advisor, Tony Blinken.

Blinken, a graduate of Harvard College and Columbia University has been around politics and policy since 1994 when he was on Bill Clinton’s National Security Council staff. From 2002-2008 he was Democratic Staff Director for the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Blinken was Deputy Secretary of State from 2015-2017 and Deputy National Security Advisor. It is possible that he will be chosen to be National Security Advisor in a Biden administration.

In two interviews (links below) he outlines a possible direction for Biden foreign policy. It should come as no surprise that one of the first priorities will be mending relations with US allies who have been alienated by the substance and manner of Donald Trump’s policies toward allies, toward Europe and toward NATO.

The big question is relations with China. In the interviews Blinken suggests that the US is operating from a position of weakness regarding China and the first task is to reestablish good relations with US allies before dealing with China. He suggests that the US and China share many common interests internationally and that these are areas for cooperation. However, he stresses that the US must do this from a position of strength.

As for Iran, the US withdrawal from the JCPOA or “Iran Deal” did not force Iran back to the bargaining table as the Trump administration had planned, nor did the crippling sanctions create regime change in Teheran. It is possible that the US might even return to the JCPOA under a Biden administration. The Europeans have been keeping the deal on life support, and it might well get new life.

While it is possible that a Biden administration would have to look inward to repair the damage done to all areas of American politics and daily life brought about by 4 years of the Trump policies, the US would still have both its international commitments and interests, and those would be addressed by people of a like mind to Tony Blinken.

Dialogue on American Foreign Policy and World Affairs: A Conversation with Former Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (Hudson Institute)

Transcript: Joe Biden foreign policy adviser Anthony Blinken on COVID shortfalls, failures in Syria (CBS News)

Photo: US Department of State via flickr

How Will A Democratic Win in November 2020 Affect US-China Relations?

                        by David Parmer / Tokyo

US-China relations aren’t at their lowest ever–before President Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, the US and the PRC were not even talking to each other. No, things are not that bad, but in many ways they are still pretty bad.

The current US-China tensions are fueled by an ongoing trade war between the two superpowers mostly based on the Trump administration’s underlying assertion that the US has been taken advantage of by China over the decades and that it is now time to the US to stop being victimized by China. The second point of contention is that China is a rising superpower and now the world’s number two economy and that the US must compete with China.

This translates into seeing China as America’s most dangerous potential adversary and building alliances to handle this perceived threat. And of course, there is the question of Taiwan. The US continues to sell weapons and to upgrade weapons systems for Taiwan. China objects to this, but the US ignores those objections.

 What’s more, in 2018 the Trump administration did a $225 million upgrade of its Taiwan mission facilities. On top of this, in 2018 the US Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act which encouraged high-level officials from both the US and Taiwan to make reciprocal visits. As noted earlier, this could be construed by the PRC as the US walking back recognition of the PRC and the One-China Policy and upgrading of the status of Taiwan.

 So US-China relations are not at their worst, but they are certainly not very good. Now there is a good chance that in the 2020 election Donald Trump will not get a second term and that former Vice-President Joe Biden will be elected to replace Donald Trump as president. All indications are that it will be a contentious, dirty, hard fought election with allegations of foreign interference, vote tampering and vote suppression. Past performance indicates that Donald Trump will not be a graceful loser.

So with a Democratic president in the White House in the form of former Vice President Joe Biden, what could we expect with regard to US-China relations?

Indo-Pacific Strategy–Don’t look for much, if any, change here. This area is seen as of significant importance to America’s global power and reach, and is seen as a potent force to counter Chinese influence in the region.

South China Sea–Same again; not much, if any, change. America’s presence in this area will not diminish. It is seen as much too important to the overall US strategy to give any leeway on this issue.

Taiwan–The long-standing US commitment to Taiwan, especially from the US congress is not likely to change. What might change, however, is the US government’s emphasis on Taiwan. The support will be there, but actions by a Biden administration would be less confrontational than those of the Trump administration. US support goes all the way back to its support of Chiang Kai Shek and the Republic of China after WWII. So a less provocative stance by the US might be on the cards, but fundamentally no real change in policy except the avoidance of overtly-provocative actions that the PRC could not ignore like port calls by US warships for example.

Hong Kong–Not much change here either. Democrats are basically liberals, and what they consider human rights will be a priority for them. If US prestige is restored after the Trump debacle presidency, then “human rights” as preached by the US might again have some meaning around the world. Moral support for Hong Kong democracy will continue.

Xinjiang–In the same manner as with Hong Kong, American Democrats will continue to push for human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet.

Trade–This is a real problem for the US, and the Biden administration will have to do some serious “fence mending” with China (and many others). Tough negotiations are part of the game, but politically-motivated trade policies only hurt the perpetrator. One great concern is whether Chinese buyers will trust American suppliers again after relations have been fractured during the Trump Administration’s trade war with China. American products might be attractive in terms of quality and price, but buyers will have to consider whether the flow of commodities will be turned on and turned off like a faucet at a political whim in the future.

Overall: If there is a Biden administration in power, China can expect a return to normalcy in the US, i.e. a government run by professionals and not by ideology. There will be an end to the demonization of China and an end to the racist attitudes towards China, the PRC, and the Chinese people.

We can assume that the Democrats will fill the vacant jobs in the US government at all levels from ambassadors to department heads and again attract dedicated professionals to government service. Finally, a Biden administration might restore some order to the chaos caused by Donald Trump personally and by his ideologue cronies.

Will things return to normal? Will Joe Biden become the next president? It would be good for US-China relations, and probably good for the world. However, if we learn anything from China’s epic novel by Lo Kuan-chung, The Romance of The Three Kingdoms, it is just this: the good guys do not always win.

Photo:Marco Verch via flickr

The Iran Nuclear Deal: Remains of the Day.

After years of negotiation, on 15 July 2015 the JCPOA or “Iran Deal” was signed. The substance was that in exchange for curbing its nuclear program and allowing extensive inspection sanctions against the Islamic Republic would be lifted, funds released and trade normalized.

The parties to the agreement included:

  • Iran
  • EU
  • China
  • France
  • United Kingdom
  • Russia
  • Germany
  • United States

Things began well and Iran was found to be in compliance with the agreement. However US President Donald Trump had been against the agreement even before he had become US president, and in May 2018 he withdrew the US from the agreement–despite Iran’s full compliance with its obligations.

Trump’s problem with the agreement was that it did not cover Iran’s missile programs or its support of proxy actors in the region. Despite that that had never been part of the agreement, Trump balked at re-signing and withdrew the US from the JCPOA. Ironically, it was Iran hardliners who were happy with this since they didn’t like the deal any more that Trump and his closest allies.

Since the US withdrawal France, Germany and the UK have tried to keep the agreement afloat. The Europeans even created a barter system for food and medicine named INSTEX, but the US threatened to sanction anyone participating in the program.

In the face of continuing and crippling sanctions Iran returned to uranium enrichment. In early January 2020, the EU leaders held an emergency meeting to urge Iran to stick with the deal and cease enrichment. Iran has not complied, but neither have they ejected nuclear inspectors from the west.

US sanctions are heavy and crippling and are damaging an already ill Iranian economy. So far, it seems that sanctions have not done much to curb Iran’s support of its proxies in the region. One approach to diplomacy and life is if something is not working, do more of it. This seems to be the Trump administration’s policy with regard to Iran.

Even if the Europeans do not abandon the agreement, as Mr. Trump wants, the agreement might simply dissolve in the face of continued US pressure on Iran and the other signers. The Iranians see no need to re-negotiate, and would lose considerable face if they did so. And the US seems to see no need to get another deal anytime soon.

The 2015 agreement may have been flawed, and maybe not inclusive enough. But it was working and continued to work. Now what?

Can anything good come of this situation? Please let us know your thoughts.

Photo: US Dept. of State via flickr

 

 

Taiwan Travel Act – A Slippery Slope?

                   by David Parmer / Tokyo

On March 17, 2018 the Taiwan Travel Act passed by the US congress went into effect. The bill calls for closer relations between the US and Taiwan at the highest level. Not surprisingly, Beijing reacted in a heated way expressing its strong displeasure over the new law.

US-China relations vis-a-vis Taiwan have been guided by negotiations between the US and the PRC beginning with the Shanghai Communiqué in 1972. For more than 40 years the “one China” policy has been acknowledged by the US, China and Taiwan.

The question is: why tamper with this understanding now? The answer can be found in the bill itself (link to full text below).

(6) Since the enactment of the Taiwan Relations Act, relations between the United States and Taiwan have suffered from insufficient high-level communication due to the self-imposed restrictions that the United States maintains on high-level visits with Taiwan.

 The bill says that “relations have suffered from insufficient high-level communications” which means what exactly? One would wonder if this suggests that at one time the US “de-recognized” the Republic of China and that it is now moving back toward “re-recognizing” it? Certainly it would not be hard to imagine Beijing thinking this very thought. If a country upgrades the level of officials going to another country and encourages high-level officials from that country to visit, could it not be construed that both parties were heading down “recognition road?” Moreover, could this not be considered as de-facto recognition?

This is indeed a slippery slope, and the first step on that slope that might not have been thought out too well by either Washington or Ms. Tsai. While Tsai might welcome this US gesture, the reality might be much more like the cartoons in China’s Global Times, one that shows the US handing Tsai a package with a ticking time-bomb, and another a US arm poking a hornet’s nest.

 

If the US looked at this problem strategically instead of ideologically, and had it considered its long-term interests, it would have understood that it was/is eminently in its own interests to let the situation continue as is. Why? Simply put: Taiwan is a stone in Xi Jinping’s shoe. A stone that he cannot get out of his shoe easily.

Up till now, Ms. Tsai has played a brilliant strategic game. She has done nothing really provocative towards Beijing. (For example, declaring Taiwan Independence or even talking about Taiwan Independence.) Day and night that stone has been in Mr. Xi’s shoe. Mr. Xi has promised re-unification, yet a forceful re-unification would bring about a great loss of prestige for China and for Mr. Xi personally. It would cost the Chinese nation untold lives and loss of national treasure.

Now, in March 2018, the US issues the Taiwan Travel Act that can be seen by Beijing as the US starting to renege on the Shanghai Communiqué. And this is not so far-fetched coming as it is from a president in the US who likes to renegotiate “deals.”

So how has the dynamic changed? If the US continues to head down that slippery slope, then maybe Mr. Xi can justify to his people that it is necessary to re-unite Taiwan with the Motherland by force despite the astronomical cost because it would be in China’s national interest.

Let us hope that President Tsai has some advisors who can think strategically and long-term, and can advise her what is best for Taiwan in this century and beyond.

History tells us that no one “wins” a war and ideology does not trump strategy.

Full Text: Taiwan Travel Act, US Govt.

Photo: AIT Facebook Page

Cartoon: Global Times, China.

 

 

Will The US Attack the DPRK Anytime Soon?

                             by David Parmer / Tokyo

The media is full of reports that the US is seriously considering a limited attack on North Korea known as a “bloody nose” strike.

The thinking is that the US would attack the DPRK, a sovereign country with which it is not at war, and that this attack would somehow make Kim Jong-un come to his senses, abandon his nuclear ambitions and head to the negotiating table pronto.

Factored in to the thinking is apparently the assumption that Kim and his regime want most of all to survive and continue in power, and for this reason they would not launch a massive nuclear, biological, cyber or conventional attack against the US and its South Korean and Japanese friends.

Clearly, Kim would have to make some kind of military response to save face. He could very easily attack US forces in South Korea paricularly Camp Humphreys a base 60 miles from Seoul that has about 28,000 US military personnell. Such an attack would cause massive Americian casualties. This would certainly be seen as a 9/11 moment, and give the Trump administration carte blanche to pursue a wider war.

A US strike would propably be a cruise missle strike on Kim’s rocket testing and launch facilities in an effort to set back the clock on his nuclear program. Would this work? Probably not. Putting aside Korean pride for a moment, there is still the concept of juche, or self-relaiance, a revolutionary ideal put forward by DPRK founder, Kim Il-sung. This ideal of standing alone in the face of adversity no matter how grave should give an excellent indicator of the stubborn and uncompromising response from the Kim regime. There would be no heading to the negotiating table.

Will this “bloody nose” work as a threat or as an actual military operation? What do you think? Please share your thoughts.

Photo: John Pavelka via flickr