China, Russia and North Korea

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North Korean Soldier argues with girlfriends. The frustration shows…
There are elements to the ongoing conflict between North Korea and  US/South Korea. It’s difficult to tell what the players are doing without a program. It’s almost as difficult with a program, but I’ll throw my cracker in the soup once again.
Russia  enjoys seeing the US trying to unwind the North Korean Gordian Knot, while China takes a more clinical approach to the issue. Both plan to remain in the bleachers and criticize the US.  One ‘F-You’ that the US could do to both China and Russia would be to sell nuclear weapons to Japan. They’d be very unhappy about that, as some of you readers have suggested.

Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force ship, Izumo
It might look like an aircraft carrier but it’s s destroyer.

I’m still not sure that the Japanese public would applaud that turn of events. It’s difficult enough for the Japanese leadership to build aircraft carriers and call them “destroyers”.

China’s hegemony is not confined to the mainland. It wants Japan to toe the line as well and at least at present, the Japs are disinclined to be absorbed into the NEW Chinese “Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere”.

Japan has taken its self defense obligations seriously and while there are those in the US who have been critical of their efforts, I have not been.

At the 11 July daily press session, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang replied to a question about China’s role in controlling North Korea.

“It’s time to stop the ‘China responsibility theory’ on the Peninsula nuclear issue.”

Geng said that China’s role is indispensable in solving the problem, but insisted that China has done its part, implying that other parties have not. Geng engaged in a short rant. 

“At the same time, to ease the situation and resolve issues, other parties should also go in the same direction. ‘Hands off policy’ won’t work; ‘bridge burning’ won’t do;’ much less ‘stabbing in the back.’”

“If the Chinese side is working hard to put out the fire while others are pouring oil; if the Chinese side is implementing the resolutions of the UN Security Council to the letter while others are infringing on China’s just and legitimate rights and interests; if the Chinese side is working positively in the Peninsula non-nuclearization process while others are looking for pretexts and undermining China’s security interests, how can the Chinese side’s efforts reach expected effects, how can the situation be eased, and how can the Peninsula nuclear issue can be resolved?”

The salient inference from the past six months of Chinese interaction with the US and North Korea is that most of what North Korea has done does not threaten Chinese interests. 
The Chinese leaders see risk in instability, not necessarily a threat. Their diplomacy, negotiating tactics and preoccupation with stability suggest they are continuously engaged in risk management, a lot like financial managers…which is very “Chinese” in its approach.
The People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) actions, however, are about threats. During the period when tension peaked between 18 and 20 April, we received two reports of significant PLA movements, and activity just before the Chinese delivered their ultimatum to North Korea to not detonate a sixth nuclear device. 
The week of April 18th was the only time we are confident that the Chinese took unilateral action to modify North Korea behavior.
Geng made another point that the Chinese leaders consider important. The instability on the Korean Peninsula is not directed against China. It is the result of unfinished business from the Korean War and the Chinese leaders do not consider it their business. Their actions, especially since the 4 July missile flight, indicate Chinese leaders have concluded that they can live with the present situation indefinitely, provided it does not lead to war. They would blame a war on the contradiction between North Korea and the US, meaning they expect the US to start it.
North Korean missile launches, whose targets would be US forces and territory, do not cross China’s red lines for greater intervention. The communist mandarins in Beijing are more concerned about US reactions, than North Korean provocations. In any event, North Korea is not China’s responsibility, according to Geng Shuang.
Don’t expect China to do anything meaningful until one of the Nork missiles goes out of control and hits something in China.
The first question to ask is whether or not Russia is cheating with the Norks. In a way they are in the oldest profession sense, because they supply high-end Russian hookers to the Nork elite, and have been doing that for decades. Sometimes the Russians sell the prostitutes as being ‘Swedes’. The obvious question is whether or not the hookers are access agents (spies) that use their art to squeeze secrets from horny Nork generals. I’ll let you, the readers, work that one out.
Trying to teach Dear Leader to use a machine gun.
South Korean news services reported that Russia shipped $2.3 million worth of oil products to North Korea between January and April 2017. They reported this amount represented a 200 percent increase. This report implies Russia is profiteering from the sanctions against North Korea. That charge does not seem supported. 
First, oil sales are not banned by UN sanctions. 
Secondly, some of the numbers don’t add up to exploitation. At the per barrel price of Brent crude on 10 July, $2.3 million could purchase a bit under 50,000 barrels of crude for the four months. At a conversion rate of 7.1 bbls to the ton, North Korea imported a little over 7,000 tons in that third of a year. 
The report does not mention crude, but specialty oil products would be more expensive per ton or barrel, so the volume would be less.
It is not clear from those numbers that North Korea increased its dependence on imports from Russia. Oil product imports from Russia in the range of 10,000 barrels per month are consistent with North Korea’s historic practice of importing specialty oil products from Russia, primarily aviation fuels. North Korea also has a practice of importing Russian crude for refining at its east coast refinery and returning the refined products to the Russians, retaining a portion as payment. 
The Singapore Game
North Korea can use cutouts, such as companies in Singapore, to bypass sanctions restrictions. Singapore is an important oil refining center, but its use as a cutout for North Korea is not confirmed in open sources. 

14 thoughts on “China, Russia and North Korea

  1. Interesting. Of course these days "Swede" means a military age male from Syria, Afghanistan or Libya.

  2. I think the Japanese are one of the best allies we have. The South Koreans are another. The Germans are suffering under the leadership Herr Merkel, and while they support us somewhat, it's not like we have the Fulda Gap to worry about these days.

    The Brits and Aussies seem to still be with us, but I think rather sadly that the sun might be setting on the Brits.

  3. Given the level of corruption in China, the status quo probably fills quite a few rice bowls.

  4. The Brits are fading, sadly. The Aussies have to pick between the US and China. For now, they chose us. The Germans…you mean the Turks don't you? I think that they call the shots in Germany.

  5. LL,

    Your NORKie boy at the top forgot the first lesson of girlfriends.

    Keep them close, but not close to each other.

    Have a great weekend.

  6. I found the following over at Bunkerville:

    "According to Arirang News, the 8th US Army has relocated its base of operations from Yongsan, Korea (3 miles outside of Seoul) to an extraordinarily large new base at Pyeongtaek (65 miles south of Seoul), where, according to its commander, Lieutenant General Thomas Vandal, US Forces Korea will station 43,000 of its ground and air forces (and their dependents). I’m thinking that considering our history with North Korea —or more particularly, with North Korea under the aegis of a psychopath whose missile systems are under constant development, such a move does not appear very wise."

    Scary as it plays into that scenario I've brought up once or twice in the past as to one small nuke lobbed over the border. Just was wondering about your thoughts on it

  7. My personal instinct would be to disburse troops in the face of a nuclear weapons threat. I can't help but wonder if the US will base ANOTHER THAAD there specifically to protect US troops. There could be more to this than meets the eye.

  8. If another THAAD is located on one of "our" bases, perhaps it won't be subject to the insane "environmental" restrictions the existing ones have to meet….

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