Geopolitical Commentary

Blog Post
North Korea

Kim Chol – a pseudonym — released a commentary on 3 May that urged Chinese newspapers and officials to refrain from making reckless remarks undermining DPRK-China relations. The article has a lengthy prologue, but the key points are:

  • “Noting that a string of absurd and reckless remarks is now heard from China everyday only to render the present bad situation tenser, Kim Chol wrote, ‘The People’s Daily and the Global Times, widely known as media speaking for the official stand of the Chinese party and government, have recently carried commentaries asserting that the DPRK’s access to nukes poses a threat to the national interests of China….’”
  • “China is hyping up ‘damage caused by the DPRK’s nuclear tests’ in its three northeastern provinces.”
  • “This only reveals the ulterior purpose sought by it, being displeased with the DPRK’s rapid development of nukes.”
  • “One must clearly understand that the DPRK’s line of access to nukes for the existence and development of the country can neither be changed nor shaken and that the DPRK will never beg for the maintenance of friendship with China, risking its nuclear program which is as precious as its own life, no matter how valuable the friendship is.”
  • “The DPRK, which has already become one of the most powerful nuclear weapons state, does not feel the need to think over how many options it has now.”
  • “China should no longer try to test the limits of the DPRK’s patience, but make proper strategic option, facing up to the situation (sic).”
  • “China had better ponder over the grave consequences to be entailed by its reckless act of chopping down the pillar of the DPRK-China relations.”
Kim Chol commentaries are comparable in authority to editorials published in China’s Global Times. They carry weight, but retain a fig leaf of deniability as official policy.
The commentary is unvarnished and crude in many parts. It has the style of Kim Jong Un himself, as reflected in his published speeches. It is blunt and arrogant, traits that the Chinese associate with inferior cultures.
It shows that the North Korean leadership pays attention to some of the same Chinese news publications on which this blog relies for authoritative statements of Chinese positions.
Kim Chol’s commentary rejects every item of advice the Chinese have published in the two publications, topic by topic, in the past two months. For example, it ignores the Chinese advice that the North has overestimated the strength of its deterrent because it is puny compared to the devastation the US can impose.
Most egregious is that a some-time Chinese tributery dared to threaten China, the Central Kingdom. At one time, such language could have resulted in a Chinese punitive expedition against the haughty tributery.
This commentary embodies a challenge to China’s role as a regional power. At some point, China must take action to show the North Korean leadership its proper place or abandon the pretense that China is the hegemon of East Asia.
The Chinese have more than two thousand years of experience in knowing how to handle upstart regimes. They will handle Kim Jong Un and do not need outside assistance, except patience.
Russia in Syria
Russian special presidential representative for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev said on 3 May that a draft Russian memorandum on “zones of de-escalation” stipulates that the Syrian armed opposition groups join the ceasefire guarantor countries (Russia, Turkey and Iran) in fighting the terrorists in these zones.

Lavrentyev told reporters: “We decided to take up a path of creating such zones, in which moderate opposition units backed by the guarantor countries would be directly combating terrorist organization groups.”  

“The memorandum currently is being elaborated; this is why I cannot tell you about every detail of this document. The wording of the memorandum, which is expected to be signed at tomorrow’s plenary meeting, is being finalized. Work will be continued both with Turkish and Iranian delegations,” 

The Russians identified four areas for creating the zones. They were selected based on the intensity of the fighting among Syrian government forces, the AOGs and the Islamic State and the al-Qaida franchise, the Jabhat al Nusra (the al Nusra Front). Idlib, North of Homs, Eastern Ghouta (east of Damascus), and South Syria were specifically identified.
As part of the de-escalation proposal, military units from unspecified “observer countries” could also be deployed. 
Turkey, Iran and Russia would create a “joint working group” within five days of the proposed agreement being signed by the warring parties.
The AOGs view the Russian proposals for the possible creation of zones of de-escalation as a “temporary measure and not a substitute for the political process.” 
The inability of the US to separate armed rebels from armed terrorists during the ceasefire has been a longstanding point of contention with the Russians, about which Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has complained repeatedly. 
The Russian proposal is clever because if focuses the main effort on defeating the Islamic extremists, which is a condition for any successful political negotiations. It solves the separation problem essentially by co-opting the AOGs into fighting a common enemy. The Islamic terrorists have found AOGs to be easy prey and have attacked them regularly during the six years of the civil war. 
Under the Russian proposal, if a rebel group fights the Islamic State, it is a member of the ceasefire coalition and could expect support from at least one of the guarantor countries.
Following recent Turkish military operations against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), Russia has deployed more soldiers to Afrin district (see map above). News services reported that Russia now maintains a significant troop presence in four villages and areas of the district, in addition to manning the ceasefire monitoring center in Afrin.
The Russians are protecting Syrian Kurdish fighters in much the same way the US is. Prior to the latest augmentation, the Russians were thought to have deployed at least 100 soldiers to Afrin.

13 thoughts on “Geopolitical Commentary

  1. I heard today that China has asked citizens in North Korea to return home to the PRC. Isn't that a normal precursor to "a Chinese punitive expedition against the haughty tributery."?

    I've been expecting China to actually do the dirty work of taking Kim out since the weekend meeting in Mara Lago. They don't want Seoul on their southern border, so I wonder if they might want things to degrade until L'il Kim commits that long-talked about artillery attack on Seoul and kills off a million or two.

    Or is that too heartless even for them?

  2. There is a lot of North Korean slave labor in China. I have also heard the they're being bussed back home. The Chinese don't want fifth column problems when they get tough. Yes, it's a precursor to something serious.

    This is a Chinese problem and we need to allow China the time to do it. It's not worth American/South Korean lives if their loss can be avoided. At the same time, USGOV has said that the time for playing with this has ended. The North Koreans metaphorically flipping off China was an impossibly bad move.

    China needs to decapitate the leadership in Norkland, dismantle their nuclear program and begin a program of normalization. They've known for a long time that it needed doing but have been putting it off.

    Party's over for the boy king.

  3. It sounds, LL, as though Kim's about to get a haircut. And not before time!

  4. >The North Koreans metaphorically flipping off China
    Backed themselves into a corner and can't figure out what to do other than posture, or genuine national-level Dunning-Kruger effect?

    Are the Russian proposals generally favorable or unfavorable to US goals in Syria. What *are* our goals in Syria anyway? That wasn't rhetorical, BTW. And two questions in one, really: 1) Has the administration laid out what our goals are, and 2) Are stated goals congruent with what would likely lead to the least-bad outcomes for us when looked at soberly and seriously?

  5. We need to back the Kurds. they have been our only consistent ally in the region.

  6. I don't think the current situation is going to end very well for the Norks.

    Telling their biggest (and almost only) trading partner to buzz off is insanity…..

  7. Or a head-cut, which will obviate the need to continue with the radical-weird hair style.

  8. Turkey is a NATO member. The Turks have killed off all of the Kurds in Turkey but they want to see them all eliminated from the planet. It's a tough walk to walk, but I personally agree with you.

  9. 80% of Nork food comes from China.

    There are no other metrics that matter. Maybe the Norks feel that they're big enough to invade China. They live with a lot of make-believe there in the Hermit Kingdom.

  10. For the sake of readership the study that Dunning and Kruger conducted, postulated that there is an internal illusion in those of low ability, which projects competence to themselves where it does not exist. And it's not the nation. It's a few dozen caught up in Dear Leader's circles. Failure to acknowledge that Dear leader is a god/The God results in execution of that person and their family. Thus they all go along with the fact that Dear Leader has clothes.

    For the Norks to tell China to "come and get it" is a level of effect that Dunning and Kruger never anticipated.

    US Goals in Syria? (It's kabuki theater – but) We're there to fight ISIS, so we're focused on the capture of Raqqa. That's our goal. The elimination of ISIS. The Kurds are our allies. The Russians are fine with all that.

    The question of regime change in Syria is a far more thorny issue and I think that President Trump's first instincts were correct. We let the Syrians and friends sort all that out. With Russian safe zones established along the Syrian West Coast, the Europeans should ship back the refugee military age males to rebuild their nasty country.

  11. Well, let's hope China can do something before the Norks try to prove they are bigger than everyone else.

  12. The US is there if they do that. The tie down areas at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam are full. The same is true in Japan and South Korea. The fleet is there, and everyone is waiting to see what China will do. The Norks could attack South Korea when China makes its move. Thus deconfliction at a high level is critical.

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