Beyond the Cusp

July 23, 2017

The Subject Best Left Untouched Today is Korea

 

Korea gets stark coverage in the news; a short article here and there often buried with a headline every couple of weeks with sparse follow-up. There actually is a good reason, there is no good coverage or any way Trump can be blamed or criticized as he has taken measured steps increasing pressure slowly without crossing any critical lines as of yet. The distance from where everyone and everything currently stands and those aforementioned lines has shrunk to a very small distance. Kim has not altered his trajectory launching larger and longer range missiles with his latest calculated to be capable of reaching Alaska and potentially the West Coast of the United States mainland. Kim is pressing all the buttons which distress the Pentagon and make some of those older men with the largest number of medals on their uniforms excessively nervous and rightfully so. On the other side, President Trump has ordered three super-carrier groups to the area in and around the Sea of Japan, sufficient airpower to neutralize all known North Korean launch and nuclear facilities and destroy the vast majority of the rocket and projectile artillery placed just north of the demilitarized zone (see map below) all of them targeting Seoul, the South Korean Capital and home to near twenty-seven-million people. This has been the big threat held by the Kim family as they have ruled, or should we say ruined, North Korea making it a virtual hell on Earth for the entire population with the exception of the elites who live lives as if they were the monarchs and royal court over their medieval serfs who live at their pleasure.

 

Demilitarized Zone Between North Korea and South Korea

Demilitarized Zone Between North Korea and South Korea

 

The founder of North Korea was Kim Il-sung who was a believer in the myth of Communism and how it could make everyone live better under its socialized dictatorship with central planning and everybody receiving an equal portion. Just like most Communist dictatorships, North Korea failed with an ever-shrinking economy which remains now based on selling what meager oil and other natural resources they have most often to China. Much of the industrial base went to the manufacture of military hardware and development and little in consumer goods. Such placement of the investment in military hardware and the military left little for the people. Subsistence farming became a larger and larger part of the economy in the hope of feeding the people. Kim Il-sung died unexpectedly from a sudden heart attack on July 8, 1994, and was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-il. Things continued in their steady decline throughout his years leading the militaristic country of North Korea. But at least things appeared sane, Russia and China assisted the nation and they threatened to attack South Korea and annihilate Seoul on a semiregular basis in order to gain some form of relief from the West, meaning the United States, which was regularly met by whoever was in the White House as it beat risking the war resuming in the Korean Peninsula. The North continued to press their demands that the Korean Peninsula be united and all the Korean people be ruled by their rightful rulers, the Kim family. The trades with North Korea were always the same basic deal, the United States sent tons of food and other provisions and of course a fair amount of funds all in return for a promise not to cause any disturbances, or in simple terms, peace and quiet and little if anything else which is a large quantity of basic nothing.

 

The original Korean War was fought with the free world with the backing of the United Nations due to a Security Council vote which took place, conveniently, after the Soviet Union walked out in a show of solidarity with Nikita Khrushchev who walked after slamming the table with his shoe, fighting the Communists, largely the Soviet Union. The forces backed by the United States had been pushing the Communists back when the other Communist nation decided to join the fight, one might say the eight-thousand-ton gorilla in the zone, the Chinese came over the border with forces of hundreds of thousands of soldiers pushing the Americans and their allies almost off the peninsula. The American forces rallied and in the end they decided to call it quits and draw a line on or about the 38th Parallel and rather than end the war, just allow it to stall for the time being, an armistice. Kim Jong-Il died on December 17, 2011, and was quickly succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-un. This is where the problems set in. There are many who claim that Kim Jong-un might be unbalanced, a little unstable and frankly dangerous and a potentially dangerous threat. Add in President Donald Trump and things get really dicey.

 

The Kim Family

 

Kim Jong-un is attempting to use the time honored tradition of threaten the world and the Western nations will come up with the goods sooner or later. The problem is, he is basically selling the same nothing for something to a businessman, and that will not fly. President Trump’s answer to Kim Jong-un’s threats has been to slowly build the United States presence sending super-cruiser groups to attend training exercises with allies in the area including South Korea, Japan and others. President Trump attempted to resolve the situation by requesting the North Korean allies in China to talk the situation down. The Chinese and the Russians instead gave the United States an ultimatum to break off their planned operations with South Korea and potentially end their support for the South Koreans. This is all simply another attempt to isolate the South Koreans and allow for North Korea to do the same thing to South Korea as happened to South Vietnam after the United States removed their support. The Cold War is back and as healthy as it ever was and Russia is hoping to make President Trump back off in North Korea as if they can push him around there, they will then do more threatening to force the free world to allow Russia to retake as much of their former satellite nations as they are able. That would bring the end to the freedom in the Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova and potentially Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia and even the Czech Republic, and this is simply Eastern Europe. Then there is Central Asia where Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and a few other nations north of Afghanistan. Once again, should Russia force President Trump to trip and retreat in the Korean Peninsula and then continue the pressure in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the break where the West would no longer back further and instead would be up in arms, just as in World War II, might very well be Poland again.

 

This hugely dangerous game of chicken is showing no signs of either side blinking and has every sign of reaching a breaking point. If North Korea launches an actual and undeniable ICBM capable of reaching any point on the globe and then start placing satellites into low Earth orbit, with some crashing back to the planet even striking within the United States or Canada, then all bets are off because telling the difference between a crashing weather satellite and an incoming ballistic missile is impossible. The one and most trusted way of knowing the difference is asking the launching nation and trusting their answer. This is not exactly something in which North Korea would be considered a trustworthy nation as far as truth is concerned. Further, once North Korea reaches such ability for launching ballistic missiles and the miniaturized warheads to place atop of these missiles, then everyone need decide whether they can live with a nuclear armed North Korea or would defanging the rogue nation be the only viable option. These two scenarios are on a crash course with reality and the decisions reached by President Trump and his advisors will be weighty and potentially threatening the peace in Asia. The results against the North Korean nuclear missile threat will also go a long way in resolving the war in Syria and whether or not the killing simply continues endlessly. The decisions made in the standoff on the peninsula will send ripples around the world. What is the right move for President Trump? Should he again return to the days when the United States stationed ballistic nuclear missiles in South Korea or place them in Japan or Taiwan as a message to China and Russia that their nuclear mischief in North Korea had its consequences for them equal or greater than the threat the North poses to the Western World? Let’s just say that we had all better wish him decent advice, certainly better and more useable advice than he appears to have received about the Middle East and Israel. If he is as ill prepared to judge Kim Jong-un as he appeared to be with Mahmoud Abbas and his pack of lies, then the world had best tighten their seat-belts, because a misreading of the ripples in this crisis result in a huge conflagration or an alteration in the power centers of the world, largely from Washington the power would flow to Moscow and Beijing. Best of all, everybody tread quietly and carefully as a misstep will be ruinous for all involved.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

June 3, 2017

A Detail from Yesterday About Kim Jong-un is Troubling

 

Yesterday we reported in our article about a preliminary analysis of Kim Jong-un’s personality by Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics. In it, the study revealed him to apparently be agreeable, acquiescent, charming, placing a high premium on external approval, sympathetic to others’ needs and socially gregarious on the plus side. Then there are the lesser traits resulting in an assessment that he is relinquishing too much authority, failing to assert himself sufficiently, delegating too much responsibility, as well as showing hesitation in taking the initiative when circumstances demand boldness or daring. As we noted, this would make him a potentially easy target for manipulation. This, we feel, needs a little more investigation and we will try our best to give a counting for what is a potential reality explaining the difference between the profile and the international reputation which Kim Jong-un’s actions have produced; certainly, the threatening and bragging attributed to Kim Jong-un in the media.

 

Initially, we have to believe the personality profile is authentic as a given and work from there. We know that Kim Jong-un was supposedly responsible for the execution of a general by firing squad and the murder of his uncle and arranged the assassination of his half-brother. All of these deaths presumed to be ordered by Kim Jong-un would be completely contrary to his personality profile. On the other hand, they would easily be explainable if he is being manipulated by a close advisor or a group from the North Korean military high establishment. If a group of generals has taken control of running North Korea, there is a definitive probability that at least one general was loyal to the royal family, would oppose them, and may have attempted to extricate Kim Jong-un from whatever pressure or situation he currently faces. This would likely have come to the knowledge of the remainder of the generals who support those now running the country and thus the rogue general trying to grant Kim Jong-un back his lost power would easily be found guilty of treason, the charge for which he was shot (or possibly hung, memory is uncertain but only his death matters). The uncle would also be a logical person as well as the half-brother thus leaving only Kim Jong-un left in the line of succession. If one or a group from the military or elsewhere are controlling Kim Jong-un, they now have left their pawn as the only person left of his family line left to rule North Korea and thus secured their control for the immediate future and potentially well beyond. It is very possible that if the military are behind controlling Kim Jong-un, they may have decided that he was unworthy and lacked the necessary strength and sense of urgency required to face the world and satisfy the needs and necessities of the nation. This is a coup by some other name.

 

The nuclear testing periodically, just enough to upset other leaders and be noticed but not quite enough to start a war immediately, along with their more aggressive testing of varying missiles with just sufficient capability to make the western leaders nervous and suspecting that North Korea has or is on the verge of developing ICBMs, leaves only the question of whether they would be multi-staged or single-stage, the latter being far more reliable and accurate. It is the ICBMs which have the west most worried as anything less is far lesser a threat and the current thinking is the only target that North Korea can strike would be Hawaii, which would be too much like a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, a mistake anybody would be ill advised to repeat. Still, the current threat is that North Korea is setting up to conduct another nuclear test and the recent increased rate of missile tests, including one fired well into the Pacific Ocean is leading to suspicions that the missile may have been the long sought North Korean ICBM. This truth may be the reality which President Trump may have been advised of through the Joint Chiefs of Staff having been advised by Military Intelligence or by the Central Intelligence Agency. That could be the reasoning behind the unprecedented show of strength by the United States as it is highly unlikely that President Trump would be devoting thirty percent of Americas supercarriers, the Carl Vinson (CVN-70) followed by the Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and lastly the Nimitz (CVN-68), simply as means of calling Kim Jong-un’s bluff. Hopefully the military and intelligence geniuses behind advising President Trump, and hopefully there are advisors from either the military, intelligence or both and the President is not flying solo, and they know the risks and understand who they are facing off against. We really hope they know whether those running North Korea are a group of generals or others manipulating and controlling Kim Jong-un or actually Kim Jong-un himself.

 

The truth is that these supercarriers never travel alone and with three heading for the neighborhood of North Korea, there are going to be a large number of naval vessels and the supercarriers also have their specialty, a large contingent of modern aircraft which are what make these strike groups so capable and dangerous. The average contingent of aircraft aboard these supercarriers are twelve F/A-18E/F Hornets, thirty-six F/A-18 Hornets, four E-2C Hawkeyes, and four EA-6B Prowlers as well as a small number of helicopters which fly mostly close area defense. Multiply this by three and you have more airpower than some European nations have in their entire Air Force. For a feel as to what a supercarrier strike group would look like, simply view the picture of one sailing below. That is an awful lot of firepower and with the carrier, it is also a force that can reach far from its location and strike hard at any target. There are going to be at least three times this many ships sitting off the coast of North Korea somewhere just west of Japan. Now the question is what follows and what will North Korea do next.

 

Carrier Strike Group

Carrier Strike Group

 

The one thing which just might become known is who is really ruling in North Korea. Whether it will be Kim Jong-un, a group of generals or some group of politicians, sooner or later, they will show their hand. Kim Jong-un will, at some point, become more of a burden than he is worth and then he will be a liability. The one thing you never want to be in the game of power politics is a liability. Having Kim Jong-un play a part cannot be an easy path for ruling the nation and eventually the myth of the supremacy of the Kim family has to wain, and when it does, Kim Jong-un becomes useless and if there are people behind the scenes manipulating him, they will need to show their hand. In a way, we may end up hoping that Kim Jong-un is as insane as he appears and crazed with power as that might be more advantageous than a set of scheming generals or political operatives. Then again, maybe cold rational power hungry entities might be more predictable than Kim Jong-un. Whatever the truth ends up being, we just hope that somehow this all ends without any need to use the military power of either side. What would be the best is for North Korea to find some means of giving the people some degree of freedom, liberty and political power so that their nation can join the rest of the world and their country start to have a normative economy and relations with the rest of the world. This threatening to fire missiles and destroy other nations if certain demands are not met can only eventually end in disaster for all involved. Disaster in any form is something to be avoided.

 

Beyond the Cusp
.

June 2, 2017

Where Will the Spiraling End?

 

The United States new President, Donald Trump, apparently is not reacting to the threats from North Korea in the routine and usual manner, giving in and sending money, food and meet whatever demands are made by the current psychotic leader of that Communist death trap claims must be met or else he will destroy the world starting with South Korea and moving on to Japan and finally the United States. The past administrations have all responded with the goods every time the North Korean leader has rattle sabers making foul sounding threats if his little realm had used all the treasure from the previous confrontation has reached its end. This was the routine which wound itself repeatedly over time. Apparently, this time may end differently. First, China has called an end to their calling their attack-dog to heel and desist or even make an effort which also was a change in the normal routine. Everything appears as if the forces who might make a difference and avoid the most horrific of results has decided that they prefer to stand aside and see what the mettle of the new President is made of. The Chinese are preparing to sit this little game out and watch from the sidelines after making the feeblest of attempts to calm their friend to their south and instead allowed him to continue bellowing his threats. It appears that China is not receiving the reaction they expected as it was likely their impression that President Trump was not versed in the game of brinkmanship and would simply fold and give in to the threats from Kim Jong-un and provide North Korea with a renewed treasury, feed their starving masses and walk away simply licking his wounds and broken ego, tarnished reputation.

 

Apparently President Trump does not respond well to threats from a proven madman, a leader who has murdered a general for contradicting him, executed his uncle simply because he thought him a threat to his leadership and ordered the assassination of his half-brother in a foreign country so there could be no successor to his leadership other than whomever he should designate. President Trump initially sent the aircraft carrier fleet with the USS Carl Vinson and Kim Jong-un simply continued his ranting and threats. Then President Trump sent the aircraft carrier fleet with the USS Ronald Reagan and Kim Jong-un simply continued his ranting and threats. Now President Trump has further upped the anti and sent the aircraft carrier fleet with the USS Nimitz. We are willing to bet that Kim Jong-un could not care less and might even react unkindly or he might respond with more missile tests and possibly even a full-blown nuclear test. This situation, to put it mildly, is rapidly spiraling and where it might end is simply terrifying to imagine.

 

Kin Jong-un (김정은) is the grandson of Kim Il-Sung (김일성), the founder of North Korea; the son of Kim Jong-il (김정일), the second leader of North Korea, and is the current leader of North Korea, obviously. His threats are not to be taken so lightly as to make it appear that he is being taken lightly, something this ever-escalating response could impart. Seoul, South Korea, the national capital city is the first place threatened to be destroyed by Kim Jong-un, a threat he could carry out in under fifteen minutes from making the decision. North Korea has approximately 13,000 artillery pieces positioned along the border which could be fired striking Seoul leveling most of the capital city. Making matters even more troubling is the report by the Federation of American Scientists telling of the North Korean known quantities of anthrax, mustard gas, sarin, botulism and phosgene. Such weapons placed in artillery shells designed to release poison gas would not only permit Kim Jong-un to all but flatten Seoul, but to guarantee his artillery fire murdered most of the over ten-million people living within the city. That would be the opening scenario of Kin Jong-un deciding to raise President Trump’s move of positioning three aircraft carrier groups within striking distance of North Korea.

 

The Kim Family

 

The problem in this situation is that President Trump may have stated that all options are on the table, but this does not mean, as some in the media have claimed, that he is out looking for a fight, that he wants a war to prove something. The hope has to be on settling this problem, this saber rattling, with the least amount of violence and a lowering of the threat options. Unfortunately, this is apparently not going to be an option which either side is wishing to utilize, opting instead to raise the stakes, or at least the consequences, should the other side opt to initiate violence first. This is the idea behind placing so much power within the theater surrounding North Korea. This hopefully is the idea behind President Trump placing sufficient firepower within range of North Korea thus making any threats for use of force by Kim Jong-un suicidal at best and foolhardy at the least. The problem is that Kim Jong-un has all the classical signs of numerous psychological disorders one of which is obviously paranoia. A preliminary analysis of Kim Jong-un’s personality by Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics reveals him to apparently be agreeable, acquiescent, charming, placing a high premium on external approval, sympathetic to others’ needs and socially gregarious on the plus side along with a few other lesser traits resulting in an assessment that he is relinquishing too much authority, failing to assert himself sufficiently, delegating too much responsibility, as well as showing hesitation in taking the initiative when circumstances demand boldness or daring. As they say next, just who is really in charge and pulling the strings presumably controlling Kim Jong-un from the background.

 

North Korean Artillery Display

North Korean Artillery Display

 

Should this personality inventory be accurate, then there is an even greater danger in the threats emanating from North Korea, the person making them is hiding behind a figurehead which they are taking the precaution of making appear pompous and unpredictable. Hiding behind this figurehead making threats may make such a figure so assured of their safety from acting in the shadows that they might take chances believing that boldness would force President Trump to weaken and possibly fold or meet their demands with a simple promise from China that they have received assurances that if a basic set of demands were met by the west that North Korea would end their missile tests and enter negotiations over their nuclear program. Then it would be up to President Trump to react to such an offer. The main risk is that should they send a warning shot such as trading artillery fire as happened and reported in the New York Times on August 20, 2015 when the two nations still technically at war exchanged rocket and artillery fire in the first major armed clash across their border in five years. This was an exchange which reportedly resulted in no casualties and was a show of intent and test of wills and response. North Korea has taken an offensive stance with threatening with missile tests into the Pacific Ocean when testing potential ICBMs, shorter-range ballistic missiles towards the Sea of Japan to threaten Japan and claiming to be ready to test a new and more powerful nuclear weapon. The threat to Japan has been sufficient that the parliament has been deliberating to revise the Japanese stance since the end of World War II and enlarge their navy and other military strength beyond simple island protection in response to threats perceived from both North Korea and China.

 

China is another reason that President Trump may be placing so much naval and air power into the west Pacific Ocean near both China and North Korea. China has been extending claims challenging Islands claimed by Japan, Viet Nam, Taiwan and the Philippines. These challenges are in addition to their building islands in the South China Sea moving towards the East China Sea and militarizing many of these islands even to the point of placing airstrips on the larger of these water-bound embankments. This challenges one of the most heavily traversed sea-lanes in the world which handles close to one third of the sea trade making it as important as the Suez Canal, Strait of Hormuz which controls the world’s oil flow from the Middle East, and the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait which controls the southern exit from the Red Sea into the Arabian Sea. Both the Strait of Hormuz and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait (see map below), through their control of Yemen using the Houthis Rebels, are currently under threat of control from Iran, an ally of North Korea, allowing the two to exchange information and technology regarding missiles and nuclear weapons as they share a common enemy, the United States and the Western world. Iran is also allied with Russia as well as China which makes for a real threat in response to the presumed former sole super-power, the United States. The power of the United States is formidable but would face a serious challenge from the combined strength and nuclear power of the combined forces of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. The real question could at some point become are Iran and/or North Korea really worth facing down the United States for either China or Russia, especially with a presumed unknown in President Trump whose most powerful weapon might be his reputation of being a bit of a hot-head.

 

Strait of Hormuz and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait

Strait of Hormuz and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait

 

Still, one can be assured that President Trump would be best served and likely prefer some assistance from China defusing the current situation with North Korea. What is troubling is if the situation is as the personality profile of Kin Jong-un is accurate and he really is just a puppet being worked by a rogue general or party official working from the presumed safety of anonymity, then President Trump and his advisers plus those in the Pentagon all actually are operating blind as they do not know who they are working against. It is difficult to find a solution if you have no real clue who is the operator on the other side. Kim Jong-un either completely baffled those trying to inventory his personality or is just as unstable as he appears or somebody finds it advantageous to make the ruler of North Korea appear unstable. All of this leads one to really feel that North Korea is, and will continue for the time being, one threat which is front and center. But if that does not frighten you, then keep in mind that standing right alongside them is Iran that has spread terror armies throughout the world and thought to have more operatives living under cover inside the United States simply waiting for the code for them to strike a predetermined target or even instructions of where to strike. They have a training center in South America in an area known as the Tri-Border Area which sits at the borders of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. And you thought that you could sleep comfortably tonight. Well, probably for tonight, but for how many more nights is the big question.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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