Small Wars Journal

04/06/2021 News & Commentary – Korea

Tue, 04/06/2021 - 10:10am

News & commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and published by Daniel Riggs.

1. The Japan-US Summit and Cooperation With South Korea

2. Detente May Be an Option With North Korea

3. North Korean workers in Russia defect to South Korea

4. U.S. takes alliance commitment with S. Korea very seriously: Pentagon spokesman

5. North Korea first country to pull out of Olympics over COVID concerns

6. N. Korea decides not to participate in Tokyo Olympics over coronavirus concerns

7. Japan extends its own North Korean sanctions another 2 years

8. Mutual Suspicion, Mutual Threats: Getting Japan and South Korea to Work Together

9. The Politics of South Korea’s ‘China Threat’

10. North Korea's wealthy entrepreneurial class facing economic difficulties amid COVID-19 pandemic

11. North Korea slams UN report on child malnutrition as 'sheer lie'

12. Papal visit to North Korea can bring peace, say Catholic leaders

13. The North Korean Refugee Who Crossed the Border for Fashion

14. Young Defectors Take to YouTube


1. The Japan-US Summit and Cooperation With South Korea · by Scott W. Harold · April 6, 2021

Conclusion:  "The Biden administration’s goal of renewed Japan-South Korea-U.S. trilateralism is laudable and promising, but at the same time the obstacles remaining are substantial. In a February 2021 survey, 82.4 percent of Japanese respondents stated that the Japan-South Korea relationship was “not good” or “not very good,” and fully 40.4 percent said it was also not that important. South Korean views of Japan are also quite negative. Additionally, the politics are complicated by the upcoming April 7 by-elections in South Korea and lower house elections to the Diet in Japan, which have to be held on or before October 22, making some engagements more risky and difficult. Yet the Biden administration has shown that it is disciplined and unafraid of tackling difficult issues, and cooperation on the COVID-19 pandemic and the Tokyo Olympic Games may provide opportunities to press further. The United States has shown that when it gives its allies a clear demand signal for trilateral cooperation, it can accomplish important goals. Biden and his team might well choose to do so again when they host the Japanese prime minister on April 16."


2. Detente May Be an Option With North Korea

WSJ · by Walter Russell Mead · April 6, 2021

So much to unpack here.  With all due respect I have to call out the imminent scholar Walter Russell Mead in the conclusion. You just cannot say this:

“Difficult and threatening as North Korea can be, it is not the gravest threat either to human rights or to American strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific. If the U.S. must, it can and should act resolutely with allies against destabilizing North Korean actions in Northeast Asia. But quietly exploring other options is an avenue the Biden administration should not neglect.”

I am thinking of the 25 million victims of crimes against humanity on a scale that has not been documented since WWII.  I urge you to take back that statement.

Detente with north Korea means Kim's political warfare strategy has succeeded.  He will continue his long con and double down on blackmail diplomacy which of course means more of the same (for the last seven decades).  

Yes, it is true that the Kim family regime has been said to be more Stalinist than Stalin but to use the Stalin analogy of turning Soviet policy on a dime and dropping the antifascist line just does not recognize the nature of the regime and the box that created for itself - it cannot radically change or reform or it undermines the very legitimacy of the regime and its ideological basis.

But the real issue is there can be no detente until we can for sure answer these questions in the affirmative:

Do we believe that Kim Jong-un has abandoned the seven decades old strategy of subversion, coercion-extortion (blackmail diplomacy), and use of force to achieve unification dominated by the Guerrilla Dynasty and Gulag State in order to ensure the survival of the mafia like crime family cult known as Kim family regime?

In support of that strategy do we believe that Kim Jong-un has abandoned the objective to split the ROK/US Alliance and get US forces off the peninsula?  Has KJU given up his divide to conquer strategy - divide the alliance to conquer the ROK?”

With detente we set the conditions that allow Kim to pursue the strategies he has no intention of giving up.  This is why it is imperative we understand the nature, objectives, and strategy of the Kim family regime.

I say again, the root of all problems in Korea is the existence of the most evil mafia- like crime family cult known as the Kim family regime that has the objective of dominating the Korean Peninsula under the rule of the Guerrilla Dynasty and Gulag State.

The answers to the above questions should guide us to the strategy to solve the "Korea question" (para 60 of the Armistice) and lead to the only acceptable durable political arrangement: A secure, stable, economically vibrant, non-nuclear Korean peninsula unified under a liberal constitutional form of government with respect for individual liberty, the rule of law, and human rights, determined by the Korean people.  In short, a United Republic of Korea (UROK). This is "one option the Biden administration should be quietly exploring and should not neglect."


3. North Korean workers in Russia defect to South Korea · by Elizabeth Shim · April 6, 2021

We should not consider these survivors as defectors.  They are escapees.

But there is a lot in this short article - note the escape route through Mongolia.  Note the Russians eventually allowed them to leave (unlike the Chinese who repatriated them to north Korea). Of course they should not have been in Russia in the first place if Russia had been complying with the UN sanctions on overseas slave labor.

It is good news if they did receive help from the UN High Commissioner for refugees.  I hope the High Commissioner will now start putting pressure on China to allow these Koreas from the north to be treated as refugees and not be forcibly repatriated to north Korea.


4. U.S. takes alliance commitment with S. Korea very seriously: Pentagon spokesman

Axios · by Rebecca Falconer

Yes, but…

If training becomes untenable for US forces in South Korea we could very well need to remove combat forces and station only enablers (communications, logistics, and intelligence to support the arrival of combat forces).  I'm hearing rumors that South Korea is no longer an optimal choice for the operational force and those who are required to maintain various crew qualifications from fighter pilots helicopter pilots to tank crews because it is too difficult to maintain the full range of skill qualifications to due restrictions on training areas and in particular live fire.  And then there is the issue of the THAAD "base' (or lack of developed one) - the most advanced missile defense system that is providing protection not simply for US forces or ROK military forces but for the South Korean population.  The ROK government has been unable to deal with the professional protestors and community organizers who have duped the local population around the base into preventing proper development and basic logistics support to the troops stationed there.  These issues may very well impact the force posture review because if the ROK government cannot provide adequate training areas to allow US forces to sustain their skill qualifications there will need to be some significant adjustments in force posture. "To send an untrained army to war is to throw it away." Confucius. 


5. North Korea first country to pull out of Olympics over COVID concerns

Axios · by Rebecca Falconer

Well, I guess this allows north Korea to say "We are number one!"  It is also leading the fight against COVID with its claim of zero cases.


6.  N. Korea decides not to participate in Tokyo Olympics over coronavirus concerns · by 최수향 · April 6, 2021

I am somewhat amazed how much press this is getting.  It is not like north Korea pulling out is going to radically affect the games (except I guess for weightlifting which I think is the only sport in which they are somewhat competitive based on some of the reports I have seen).

And of course this is another blow to the Unification Ministry and the Moon administration.


7. Japan extends its own North Korean sanctions another 2 years · by Mari Yamaguchi · April 6, 2021

Maybe this is the real reason for north Korea pulling out of the Tokyo Olympics. 


8. Mutual Suspicion, Mutual Threats: Getting Japan and South Korea to Work Together · by Andrew Park and Elliot Silverberg · April 6, 2021

Excerpts: “The hurdles to closer Japanese-South Korean relations remain formidable and largely outside Washington’s control. Without innovation, U.S. policymakers will remain at an impasse. Instead of urging South Korea to join hands with Japan in a broader confrontational approach toward China, Washington should encourage Seoul to cooperate with Tokyo on specific areas of insecurity.


Others have already argued that the Biden presidency’s promise of rejuvenated coalition-building creates a window of opportunity to bolster U.S.-Japanese-South Korean trilateral cooperation. To be sure, while the new administration attempts to turn back the clock on Trump’s more impolitic approach to his Japanese and Korean counterparts, there is no easy solution for restoring regional allied security cooperation. Even attending to such mutually significant issues as maritime sovereignty, supply chain resilience, and cyber security won’t fully inoculate the trilateral relationship against further setbacks and inaction due to Tokyo’s and Seoul’s bilateral shortcomings. But the United States cannot wait for the headwinds of Japanese-South Korean tensions to subside. The Biden administration needs to show immediate and innovative leadership and take advantage of the strong undercurrent of bipartisanship among Democrats and Republicans regarding a proactive U.S. posture in the Indo-Pacific. Biden’s leadership during a moment of considerable strategic peril for Japan and South Korea heralds an opportunity to expand cooperation in new security domains.


9. The Politics of South Korea’s ‘China Threat’ · by Dongwoo Kim · April 5, 2021

Many of the Koreans I speak with are well aware of the Chinese threat and have different views than the Moon administration.

A very important conclusion: "There are several parallels to draw between the South Korean case and the different responses to the “China threat” around the world. A key shared element in these is how the frustration with elite politics and existing economic and social problems are getting channeled through these debates on China. More specifically, people hear from the elites that economic engagement with China is important and beneficial, but house prices continue to go up and inequality continues to rise. Ultimately, these responses to the “China threat” underscore the struggle of liberal democracies to identify ways of dealing with an assertive and powerful China that is increasingly more present in their lives."


10. North Korea's wealthy entrepreneurial class facing economic difficulties amid COVID-19 pandemic · by Mun Dong Hui · April 6, 2021

The question is whether the "wealthy" entrepreneurial class has developed sufficient wealth to be able to shift from economic priorities to seeking political change?  The answer to that question may be why Kim Jong-un is using COVID as an excuse to implement draconian population and resources and control measures in order to prevent any kind of political resistance to the regime.  He certainly fears such a development.


11. North Korea slams UN report on child malnutrition as 'sheer lie'

The Korea Times · April 6, 2021

Admit nothing. Deny everything. Make counter-accusations.

These children are suffering because of Kim Jong-un's deliberate policy decisions to prioritize nuclear and missile programs over the welfare of the 25 million Korean people in the north.


12. Papal visit to North Korea can bring peace, say Catholic leaders · April 5, 2021

Only if the Pope can perform a miracle.


13. The North Korean Refugee Who Crossed the Border for Fashion

Vice · by Junhyup Kwon

Excerpt: “Up until last year, I never said that I was from North Korea. I hid it like a guilty person. When picking out my outfits, I was always conscious about how others would see me, worrying that I might look like a North Korean woman. But then I found out that a lot of people, including international and South Korean organizations, are interested in the stories of North Koreans and North Korean refugees. That’s when I realized I’ve been hiding and only focusing on myself. Now, I want to proudly say that I’m from North Korea and show that I’m living a fruitful life. I want to be an inspiration for North Korean refugees. Someday, I hope to help them as a beauty consultant too.”


14.  Young Defectors Take to YouTube · April 4, 2021


I recommend "Pyonghattan" the YouTube channel of Lee Hyun-seung and his sister Seo-hyun. I know them and I follow their channel.




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