Brief commentary on news tidbits that you might have missed.
Adventures in Norkland
The North Koreans are ruled by a God. Just ask the fat kid with the bad haircut. He will reassure you that he is at the very least ‘a god’. At the same time, he is a prisoner of that near worship that drips like honey from the mouths of the people, his subjects, within the Hermit Kingdom. He cannot be seen to make the mistakes that lesser national leaders routinely make. Kim cannot be blamed for policy failures. (see The Man Who Would be King – Kipling)
Chairman Kim and his strategists have made preparations for a major change in strategy in 2020. North Korean statements indicate Kim personally is responsible for maintaining the outreach and conciliatory policy. The recent exchange of personal correspondence between Kim and the US President reinforces that judgment. President Trump recently reported that he received a “beautiful letter” from the fat little dictator.
North Koreans need relief from the UN Security Council sanctions and they can have that if they dismantle their nuclear weapons in a transparent and verifiable way. They also need to demobilize much of their land army and turn swords into plowshares. The problem with doing that is that they can’t conquer South Korea if they do… And that’s a key part of their national agenda (Long March)
Big Trouble in Little China (continued)
On 9 June, more than a million Hong Kong people rallied to protest amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, according to the organizers. The Civil Human Rights Front said the number of protestors totaled 1.03 million, doubling the number who protested in 2003 against Article 23 national security laws.
On 12 June, a second day of protests occurred in Hong Kong to accompany the start of the legislative debate over the bill. Many businesses were reported closed. Police used tear gas and water cannons to maintain order.
Hong Kong is semi-autonomous under the “one country, two systems” principle and has no extradition arrangement with China. The trigger is the extradition amendments, but the issue is Chinese erosion of Hong Kong’s limited sovereignty, including citizen rights not available elsewhere in China.
The protestors want extradition amendments withdrawn or limited to countries in which the suspect would be tried under a criminal justice system that respects civil rights comparable to Hong Kong’s system. That would rule out mainland China.
However, Chief Executive Lam is committed to enacting the amendments. She is under orders.
PRC Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang responded to questions from the press, assuring them that the amendments will be enacted and will be law by 20 June. Hong Kong is under the iron boot of the communists in Beijing, and they don’t care how displeased the public is.
Under the new rules, political protestors in Hong Kong might be arrested and extradited to mainland China where criminal justice serves the ends of the Communist Party and the punishments for dissent are more draconian.
For Hong Kong, the defenders of civil rights are waging a rear-guard action that they cannot win unless the communist government collapses. Trust in the city’s leadership to withstand political pressure from Beijing has declined again, but the communist mandarins in Beijing are moved by instability, not by distrust.
Greece and Turkey
Tension is rising offshore in Cyprus. Turkey’s foreign ministry vowed a strong response to the issuance by Greek Cyprus of arrest warrants against the 25-member crew of a Turkish oil drilling ship off western Cyprus.
The Greek Cypriots claim the Turkish drillship is exploring in continental shelf areas that are in the Greek Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone. The Greek Cypriot administration is the Republic of Cyprus and is a member of the European Union.
Turkish officials and the government of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) claim that they also have rights to the resources. Turkey is the only state that recognized the TRNC. A thousand UN peacekeepers in UNFICYP maintain the buffer zone between the two halves of Cyprus.
In February, ExxonMobil announced the discovery of a commercially exploitable gas field. The size of the field would make the Republic of Cyprus energy self-sufficient but would require it to construct a processing and distribution infrastructure, which Turkey already possesses. Turkey protested ExxonMobil’s license, which was issued by the Republic of Cyprus. Tension has been building ever since. In May, Turkey announced its intention to send a drillship to the new gas field.
Expect Turkey to resort to gunboat diplomacy.