Saturday, July 24, 2010

Asia Inflamed by Naval War Games

"North Korea warns of "physical response" against South-US navy drills in Asian seas. United States Secretary Hillary Clinton said North Korea must reverse a "campaign of provocative, dangerous behavior" and commit itself to an irreversible denuclearization if it wants to improve relations with neighboring countries and the United States. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said countries should bear in mind the overall situation and interests when dealing with sensitive regional issues, and always safeguard the regional peace and stability."

The war games, which begin on Sunday, involve the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, 20 other ships and submarines, 100 aircraft and 8,000 personnel. China has criticized the plans and warned against any action which might "exacerbate regional tensions". But Japan is sending four military observers, in an apparent endorsement of the drills.

North Korea says it will use its "nuclear deterrent" in response to joint US-South Korean military exercises this weekend. Pyongyang was ready to launch a "retaliatory sacred war", according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency KINA. The North had already promised a physical response to the military exercises during an Asian regional security forum in Vietnam. North Korea's delegation spokesman at the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) Regional Forum (ARF) said the exercises were an example of 19th century "gunboat diplomacy".

VDO on DPRK threats

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Japan will send Self-Defense Forces observers to a joint military drill to be staged next week by the United States and South Korea in an effort to deter future aggression by the North (according to Japan Defense Ministry quoted by agencies)

The decision by the government came in response to a formal invitation from the United States and South Korea. North Korea, which is blamed for the death of 46 sailors in the March sinking of a South Korean warship in the Yellow Sea, has urged the joint exercise be canceled. The sources also said Tokyo has judged that sending SDF staff as observers would not violate the Constitution, which the government interprets as prohibiting the country from exercising the right to collective self-defense, or the right to counter an attack on an ally.

Some 20 vessels, 200 aircraft and 8,000 U.S. and South Korean service members will take part in the exercise, scheduled from tomorrow Sunday until Wednesday and coming as the first in a series of joint drills between the two countries that will continue in the coming months.

China warned the United States and South Korea Thursday against holding the war games near its waters, urging them not to worsen tensions with its ally North Korea. "China has expressed its serious concerns with the relevant parties," said foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang in Beijing. "We are firmly opposed to foreign military vessels engaging in activities that undermine China's security interests in the Yellow Sea or waters close to China."

VDO China reaction

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China started an artillery drill in the East China Sea. The 6-day, live ammunition exercise since Wednesday in the East China Sea off China’s coast and this demonstration of forces is seen by some analysts as a "response to a joint exercise between the United States and Republic of Korea navies in the Yellow Sea." Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, said there was no such link and a Chinese military officer said the timing was coincidental.

"This is a regular military exercise, not related to the situation on the Korean Peninsula."

"Though the Chinese government did not say anything about the drill, anybody with common sense on military strategy will bet that they are related," expert on China-U.S. relations, Shi Yinhong of Renmin University in Beijing, told the China Daily.

Joint US-ROK naval exercises, designed to build on UN condemnation with a massive show of united force and resolve, have instead turned into an embarrassing fizzle. Quotes:

"Initial plans for the exercises targeted the Yellow Sea between China and the Korean Peninsula and promised the intimidating presence of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington. The reports aroused a barrage of official criticism and popular anger inside China. In response, the expected location began to drift eastward, first toward the south of the peninsula and now into the oceans between the east coast of Korea and Japan. The most recent report is that the US will, with Solomonic wisdom, split the difference in a dual-sea exercise, with the George Washington and three destroyers in the east and a face-saving smaller exercise in the west.

China, which as recently as two weeks ago looked to be facing an intransigent united front of the US, South Korea and Japan, received an unexpected gift thanks to this American muddling: an alliance showing distinct signs of dismay, demoralization and division.

South Korea, which for a time expected to ride the Cheonan crisis to a heightened global profile and recognition as the key US security partner in Asia - and be in a position to leverage Western support in the event of a North Korean security crisis triggered by Kim Jong-il's death, instead found itself shunted to the side as the two superpowers, China and the United States, once again dispose of the affairs of the Korean Peninsula between them."

On July 20, in a piece entitled, "This Country Needs True Independence", [Korean newspaper] the Chosun Ilbo columnist wrote. Quotes:

"Seoul has had little say in the negotiations between Washington and Beijing. The 1950-53 Korean War was in fact a war between the US and China. The South relied on the US from the moment of the invasion, and the North soon depended on China. The commander of the Chinese forces is said to have told Kim Il-sung, "This is a war between me and MacArthur." Observing the centenary of the country's colonization by Japan and the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, we boast that our country has become the 15th largest economy in the world, but where security is concerned things are little different than they were 100 or 60 years ago. The North is unable to exist without China, and the South too seems to rely on the US to prevent a war. In a sense, they are protected by America and China." (end of Chosun Ilbo quotes)

Futenma air base, Okinawa

Sources: Western Agencies, Chosun Ilbo, Xinhua, Asiatimes, Global Security, JMOD, Reporters' notes,

✍✍✍ Time to return to the six-party talks and implement the denuclearization program... right?

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