10 February 2018   Leave a comment

Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, is representing North Korea at the Winter Olympics, the first official representative from North Korea to set foot on South Korean territory (that we know of).  She is scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon.  The planned meeting has raised apprehensions among some that South Korea will not maintain the hard-line against North Korea that is favored by the US and Japan.  US Vice-President Pence is representing the US and he has called for the denuclearization of North Korea, a position that is unlikely to ever be embraced by North Korea under any conceivable circumstances.  It would be great if a stronger dialogue between North and South Korea could begin and tensions could be ratcheted down.  It would also be interesting to see if there are any US-North Korean contacts during the Olympics, although it is unlikely that Pence would be involved in such contacts.

Right now, the US does not have an Ambassador to South Korea, and it is unlikely that one will be found any time soon.  Victor Cha, a highly regarded analyst of Korean affairs, was dropped from consideration even after he passed all the security checks becuase he wrote an op-ed that suggested he did not favor a preventive war with North Korea.  Ralph Cossa, a respected analyst of East Asian affairs, wrote an op-ed for the South China Morning Post indicating that finding a decent Ambassador will likely be impossible for the Trump Administration:

“But if a candidate meets the qualifications that have thus far seemingly been put forth by the White House – a belief that preventive war is a good idea, as distinguished from a pre-emptive strike in the face of imminent danger; that North Korea cannot be otherwise deterred (despite deterrence having worked for decades); that the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement is a bad one that should be scrapped (despite the potential harm it will do to the US economy, not to mention US credibility as a trade partner); and that a non-combatant evacuation during peacetime would not cause mass panic and disruption and potentially undermine the South Korea-US alliance – he or she is probably not qualified to take the job in the first place”.

Meanwhile, the North Korean attempt to restore better relations with South Korea proceeds apace, Much to the chagrin of US officials.  North Korea has invited the South Korean President to visit North Korea for the first such meeting in 10 years.  That possibility delays any possible US action against North Korea far beyond the current lull brought about by the Olympics.  US Vice-President Pence skipped a formal dinner hosted by the South Koreans in order to avoid being seen with North Korean officials, a show of pique that was considered highly rude by South Korean officials.  The decision to send Mr. Pence to the Olympics due to the absence of a US Ambassador to South Korea is unquestionably harming US-South Korean relations.

 

There has been a dramatic escalation in another conflict area in the world:  an Israeli fighter jet was shot down while conducting an attack against targets in Syrian.  The Israeli jet attacked a military base in Syria which also was manned by Russian troops and the Russians reacted angrily to the risk to its soldiers.  Israel has conducted hundreds of such raids over the last few months, but the jet was apparently shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire, raising the prospect of a new vulnerability to Israeli security.  Israel did not act kindly to the incident and responded to it by conducting a “large scale” aerial assault on Syrian targets.  The Israelis were targeting suspected Iranian positions in Syria which will undoubtedly initiate a response from both Iran and its ally, Hezbollah.

Posted February 10, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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