Friday, April 14, 2017

Opportunity Korea?

Korea is now a convenient target. 

Even South Korea's domestic media is alarmed (link), though accustomed to living in the shadow of North Korean uncertainty. Japan, mocked in the past as consistently willing to fight to the last Korean, in fact is always terribly concerned about refugee troubles & fallout if warfare were to erupt on the Korean peninsula. There's further worries of Japan as a target -- (as Korea's rival) otherwise gaining advantages from mutual North & South Korean destruction. Japan's Foreign Ministry issued a safety notice (11 April) warning "pay attention to the situation on the Korean Peninsula" (link, in Japanese) -- the wording's vague, but watch for families of officials being evacuated, and you flee likewise ... [Update: (14 April) 600,000 people have been ordered immediately evacuated from North Korea's capital]

Three weaknesses make conditions remarkably unstable now:

1) The impeachment & arrest of President Park Geun-hye has left a leadership vacuum. I've no insider knowledge, but many of the accused's crimes should have been known to U.S. intelligence, considering the closeness of the partnership. North Korea considers South Korea a puppet state of the USA, and reasonably question why Park & her government were sacrificed (yet Park's 'teflon aide' Woo Byung-woo has thus far eluded arrest). Neighbor Japan's leadership weakness is PM Abe's desperation to have the world forget his family involvement with ultra-rightwing Moritomo Gakuen's proposed Shinzō Abe Elementary School (安倍晋三記念小学校). Leadership deficit in the USA stems from the inexperience of the Trump regime. Could nuclear war truly be triggered to erase perceived shortcomings of manliness? China's leadership seems the most reliable, and their BBC headline today is "China fears North Korea-US conflict 'at any moment'"

2) Former President Park's government agreed to American requests to deploy the US Army's THAAD missile system in the center of South Korea (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile system, in Seongju County, North Gyeongsang Province). Highly alarmed by what they see as an arms escalation, China instituted very-costly commercial boycotts of South Korea. THAAD could easily further trigger regional chaos, but there's also still a few weeks before it goes live & operational (reportedly June 2017). Does that create a dangerous window?

3) US President Trump is discovering overseas military action diverts American attention from domestic corruption, official incompetence, and other internal weaknesses. But Syrian intervention is unsustainable, as Americans resist investing more in the morass of the Middle East. North Korea (DPRK) is a convenient enemy. The seemingly achievable goal of regime change may entail substantial regional costs, but perhaps Trump & Co. will take the risk.

Hint: Recent news that Steve Bannon is no longer a regular member of the National Security Council ... better positions the White House Chief Strategist away from nuclear blowback & fallout.

Very Sorry Asian friends:  Prepare for the worst !

Who'll profit from Korean instability?