#kimjongun

Singapore Airlines wins whichever way the peace talks go

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June 12. Kim & Trump meet in Singapore. How the North Korean dictator will look in utter awe at how a city state of 5.6mn can build such a vibrant and prosperous economy with no resources of any kind other than grit, perseverance and common sense pro-business policy. The splendor of the skyline, architecture and cleanliness. Singapore will also get billions of people tuned in to the hours of global press coverage and news reruns. Surely Anderson Cooper will prop in front of the Merlion or Marina Bay Sands to convey the live coverage. How can Singapore Airlines not win from this global media freebie for tourism. One would imagine the place they sit down and talk will become a cult fixture for people to say they went to the spot where history was made.

Yet Singapore didn’t win the contest as a fluke. It has shown itself to be the outstanding beacon of independence in the region. Mongolia was a long shot and Switzerland would have caused poor old Kim to take a fuel stop. Let’s hope we get a peaceful resolution and maybe then we see Trump’s approval rating surge beyond the latest reading of 51% (Rasmussen). Ignore the noise around the midterms in Nov 2018. Iran is a separate issue and scrapping that deal was an election promise.

Who will get the Nobel Peace Prize for helping end the Korean War – Kim, Moon & Xi or Trump?

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Will President Donald Trump be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for getting Kim & Moon to the peace table? It is unlikely in so far as the Norwegian Nobel Committee would fear the full weight of international opinion (aka mainstream media) for doing so. Surely they wouldn’t risk making a mockery of such a coveted award? Then again a one Barack Obama was handed one less than 9 months into his first term on the stated basis of a noble quest for the Holy Grail of world peace rather than anything actually achieved. In 2016 alone, the Obama administration dropped 26,171 bombs on enemies. Not bad for a serial appeaser. A Nobel prize has even been awarded to a multi billion dollar embezzling terrorist of a self appointed authority, so Kim Jong-un is in with a shot.

Will Trump receive any credit (even without a Nobel) for pushing ‘Rocketman/The Fat Kid’ to the negotiating table? Probably not. How come no other administrations were able to achieve something that was relatively easier when the state of the North’s arsenal was considerably less lethal? Kim threatened Guam less than half a year ago. Trump didn’t back down and the North Korean dictator clearly realized from Twitter that the most powerful man in the world wasn’t all bluster. President Xi may well have played a solid hand in pushing Kim to sue for peace negotiations. In the interests of President-for-life Xi, his foe Trump has a maximum 7 years left to meddle. If Korea gets a peace deal, Xi can play hardball on the peninsula if a softer President enters the White House thereafter. Then he can take a stab at Taiwan. Xi can afford to wait.

We should not forget that Kim Jong-Un travelled to China on his first ‘overseas’ visit earlier this year. Best get the approval of a real dictator before progressing. Kim was there to get Beijing’s blessing to ensure North Korean sovereignty come what may so as to maintain the desired geographical buffer to pro-US nations.

Noone said peace isn’t desirable. The question is what price must one pay to get it? There are too many incidents in the past where signing peace treaties with dictatorial regimes have ended in disaster. Hitler/Chamberlain (Munich Agreement), Hitler/Stalin (Pact of Steel), Putin/Merkel/Macron (suggestion of UN in Ukraine), Le Duc Tho/Kissinger (Paris Peace Accords over Vietnam), Xerxes II/Leonidas (Greece) etc.

Will part of the denuclearization ‘deal’ call upon a withdrawal of US Forces from the Korean Peninsula? Would the US go for that? Highly unlikely. Would Moon be so gullible as to suggest a (slow) withdrawal? Of course he has the right to demand a foreign garrison pack up and go home. Trump may have pushed China and NK to act but he’d prefer the status quo than to roll over and vacate the premises. China wins in either scenario. America certainly doesn’t want to pay for the same real estate twice. Some quarters in South Korea must surely want the US military to stay as an insurance policy. Afterall how can one trust someone who comes from a dynasty that kills its own people and assassinates family members? Worryingly Moon looks to have a certain ring of Chamberlain about him.

It was clear that North Korea was dictating the moves at the Winter Olympics. It was South Korea who funded the $3mn in travel costs for the cheer squad. Anything that looked to mock the North Koreans was swiftly dealt with. It spoke volumes about which Korea was calling the shots. Anyone impersonating any other world leader could do so with reckless aplomb. Anything resembling Kim Jong-un  was quickly removed from sight. Tyrannies rarely do humour and sadly not enough democracies defend it. Still it is hardly an encouraging sign for even handed peace talks when one side looks to appease in this way.

Kim Jong-un is smart enough to realize at such a youthful stage in his life that he probably has another 40-50 years left in him. Reunification only works if he is given sanctuary. Idi Amin saw the beauty of a life in exile in Saudi Arabia. If Kim Jong-un can relax in Sichuan Province it maybe a dignified way out. One can bet his ‘some are more equal than others’ inner sanctum would rather the two stay separated. They would stand to lose way more than Kim.  It would be ridiculous to assume that Kim could be a major cog driving a reunification process with such an abysmal human rights record. Name a despot who would willing cede authoritarian rule much less without a deal which would exonerate him from any international criminal court that he would be held accountable for under a functioning democracy?

The South Koreans have had a think tank in Berlin researching the effect of reunification in Germany. The former West is still heavily subsidizing the former East. Depopulation (-15% between 1989 & 2013), unemployment rates (higher today that 1989) and inferior GDP per capita (27% less) are all a feature of the former communist state vs the federal republic over the last three decades.

How easily could South Korea absorb the North? West Germany had a population of 63mn in 1989 vs 16mn in East Germany or 4:1. South Korea has 53mn vs North Korea’s 24mn or 2:1. West Germany had a 2.3x GDP/capita ratio to the East in 1989. South Korea has a 52x GDP/capita ratio to the North. Reunification for Korea isn’t an apples to apples comparison with Germany. While Samsung might relish the prospects of tapping a cheap labour pool to build washing machines, the South would likely face far higher integration costs than the Germans. Even 30 years ago East Germany had a GDP/capita 17x that of North Korea.

In any event the only sure outcome of peace on the Korea Peninsula is that President Trump will get next to zero credit in the media. Wailing about the reckless diplomacy of an unhinged dictator will be the main with a few conceding it was at best a fluke.

My Button is bigger than yours

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Purile but effective. The message has gone around the world. How is it more people are worried about his language than the ability for a nation like the DPRK to possess a capability to strike the US? How many times have we seen the North Korean’s nuke technology end up  in the wrong hands – e.g. Syria. Spurn the US for its post war foreign policy but it’s a known devil.

Back to mine is bigger than yours – unorthodox message delivery but why is anyone in the least bit surprised? How can anyone feel outrage at something that has happened almost daily for nearly 12 months straight? One should be howling if he wasn’t doing it! Then one could truly call him an unhinged lunatic because one would be worried that he was unpredictable.

Let’s not forget that China has recently told the world what it thinks of the UN sanctions by continuing to trade oil with the rogue nation. Trump told Xi than no amount of theatre by hosting a dinner in the Forbidden City will give them any free passes like his predecessors. Let’s not forget the farewell message sent by China to Obama on his last state visit – no stairs, no red carpet and no senior delegates. He exited by the emergency stairs of Air Force One. What a humiliation.

It is reasonably unstatesmanlike to be sure but the message is pointed at China not Kim. Quit screwing around is the message. If China doesn’t take care of business with its ‘tenant’ the US will evict him for it.

For all those panicking that a nuke strike is on the horizon Korean CDS spreads are 52. At the first stage of the verbal exchange several months back they were mid 70s. Yawn.

Why China will effectively annex North Korea

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PDF REPORT HERE

I’ve been saying this for months. Think through the logic. China doesn’t want to lose the strategic buffer North Korea provides.. Beijing doesn’t want US friendly forces on its border. How to make a bad situation work for China? Bite the bullet and annex North Korea. Kim Jong Un has been brazenly telling the world to shove its diplomacy thinking the decades old practice of threats will keep on working. He’s wrong.

China must realize that the West is against Trump taking action for no other reason than he’s Trump. It is a strange world where many of America’s long term allies are backing the other side. Trump is merely filling the geopolitical  vacuum left by his predecessor. Trump is absolutely right to consider taking an increasingly dangerous threat off the table and China knows it is no longer dealing with a political powderpuff.

Still China wins in many ways by turning North Korea into its own administration. First, it isn’t Trump. Second, China will not be condemned for removing the threat and installing its own puppet. Third, China keeps the strategic geographical buffer and fourth China gets to show itself a proper force to be reckoned with in the Asia Pacific region by taking a credible threat off the table.

While no credit will be given to Trump for forcing China’s hand, be sure that an effective annexation by China will be a major win for him. Sure North Korea most likely retains the name and the sovereignty but China’s military becomes a form of blue helmets administering PyongYang’s every move. Kim Jong Un is on borrowed time. Sometimes long used strategy outstays it’s welcome.

How will financial markets react? While they may sell off initially expect them to rally hard if China pulls off regime change with precision. Surely Kim will soon get the ‘horse’s head in the bed’ scenario handed to him anytime soon from Beijing. It is the only viable solution which actually works remarkably well for China.

Abe’s “Trump” card will be more effective than the UN

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The Japanese newspaper front pages are all splashed with the latest North Korean nuke test. Japanese PM Shinzo Abe has to quit asking the UN to step up sanctions. That is a purely optical illusion. Kim Jong Un is playing a different game. He doesn’t care. Trump is Abe’s only viable card to get Japan out of this long term mess. If Kim does possess the H-bomb it is clear that he intends to exploit his new toy box to snub his critics and take even harder lines to extort money.

While war is the least desired outcome, Kim must be careful not to bring down his own demise. Obama was the first US president Kim had direct exposure to but he would be wise to treat Trump as completely different. Trump maybe willing to remove the cancer that many presidents before haven’t. The sad reality is that having a 33yo dictator who subjugates his people like his father and grandfather before with such disdain has little to lose.

Getting a capable nuclear arsenal is not desired. It is clear he’d be willing to sell his technology to other tinpot dictatorships to top up the DPRK’s coffers. This has been done before when Israel blew up Syria’s North Korean derived and supplied nuclear facility in 2007.

China seems to be having less impact on young Kim. This should worry them.  China is the economic lifeblood of North Korea. The geopolitical buffer is a strategic must for China. There must be some circles calling for it to be turned into a Chinese protectorate. A Chinese led regime change where Kim Jong Un is granted an exile is a far better outcome than allowing US forces led strike to take it over

Although China may threaten to support Kim if the US preemptively strikes to topple the regime, they have said Kim’s on his own if he does anything stupid.

Kim isn’t stupid. However he is playing a very dangerous game of chicken with a player who realizes that this nuclear arsenal investment has to be stopped. It isn’t a question of if but when.

The idea that conflict can’t or won’t break out on Korean Peninsula is naive. Recall that the Korean War was never officially ended. Gut instincts suggest that if anyone is to take heavy handed action it is the Chinese that must do so. Beijing must also be wary of calling Trump’s bluff.

Abe’s sleepless nights won’t end until something definitive happens to North Korea. It is fraught with many risks but doing nothing now is the riskiest of all strategies over the long run. The UN is unlikely to achieve anything. Besides if they devoted even a slither of the energy and time they do to beat up Israel  one might have confidence in sanctions. Sadly too many vested interests with North Korea

All of Maizuru’s ballistic missile destroyer fleet are at sea

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Passing through JMDF Port of Maizuru in Kyoto, Japan (the red pindrop) today  I noticed that all her destroyers were at sea. Note Maizuru is the closest naval base to North Korea’s east coast. Maizuru has three destroyers the JDS Atago, JDS Shimakaze and JDS Myoko. The Atago and Shimakaze carry the SM-3 Anti ballistic missile system which theoretically can shoot Kim Jong Un’s rockets.

The Maizuru Regional District Command is responsible for defending the central part of the Sea of Japan, from Akita Prefecture in the north-east of Honshu down to Shimane Prefecture, in south-western Honshu. It participated in the search for and subsequent chase of two North Korean ‘spy ships’ that were found o the Noto Peninsula in March 1999. A detachment of SH-60J Sea Hawk patrol helicopters from the Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture air base has been deployed to Maizuru. The Maizuru District HQ depends on the underwater surveillance stations at Wakkanai, Rebun Island and Matsumae at the northern end of the Sea of Japan, and in the Tsushima Straits at the southern end, to keep it appraised of submarine movements into its area of responsibility

It is not hard to deduce these ships are on high alert in the Sea of Japan. Sea drills and war games are one thing.

Full interview on Bolt Report on Japan’s regional security conundrum

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The full interview can be found on the August 30 podcast from 21:17-34:30  where I discuss Japan’s Constitution Article 9 and 96 and the changing face of Japan’s Self Defense Force moving from “static deterrence” to “dynamic deterrence”  The wheels to defend herself are already well under way