While the left lauds the achievements of the eight years of Obama/Clinton, things are unraveling at an unprecedented pace overseas. Since you won’t hear much about them on the news, I’ll share here for the forty or so of you who read this blog from time to time. I usually try and keep these things short and to the point but there’s a lot going on and I’ll hit the highlights – but it will be somewhat longer than usual.
I’ll start off with the Norks, because they’ve got a problem on their hands. The missile unit at Kusong appears to have reliability problems in its inventory of missiles. On 20 October, North Korea experienced yet another ballistic missile failure.
The missile is believed to have been a Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile. It was launched from a site near Kusong and exploded immediately after launch.
I mention this only because they are desperately trying to build a missile that’s reliable enough to launch a nuclear weapon OUT of their own nation, to land in South Korea or Japan. From a Kim Jong Un (the fat little dictator) perspective, hitting the US mainland with a nuclear weapon would be a dream come true, but he may have to accept a less ambitious target locally.
I doubt that they will put a nuclear warhead on top of the rocket and try to launch it given their reliability problems, but with the Norks, you never know.
Philippine President Duterte arrived in China on 18 October for a state visit. Duterte pressed his message that he wished to improve cooperation with China, saying the roots of the two countries’ bonds could not be easily severed and that it was a “springtime” in relations.
At his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on 20 October, Duterte said, “Your honors, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States … both in military, but also economics.’’
Duterte’s statement sparked thunderous applause inside the Great Hall of the People.” Without the United States,” he said addressing the Chinese audience, “I will be dependent on you.” He also said that “America has lost now” and suggested that he was also eager to cozy up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world — China, Philippines and Russia,’’ he said. And as an added slap, Duterte mimicked an American accent and said: “Americans are loud, sometimes rowdy. Their larynx is not adjusted to civility.’’
Xinhua published the official statement on the visit. “On 20 October President Xi Jinping held talks with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in the Great Hall of the People. The two sides unanimously agreed to proceed from the two countries’ basic and common interests, follow the aspirations of the two peoples, push for the realization of comprehensive improvement and better development of the relations between China and the Philippines, and bring benefits to the two peoples.”
The highlight of the statement is Xi’s four-point suggestion for developing relations.
“First, the two sides should enhance political mutual trust. The Chinese people love peace passionately and they are benevolent and friendly toward their neighbors. China adheres to peaceful development path, adheres to the good-neighborly and friendly policy of being a good neighbor and good partner. While China firmly safeguards national sovereignty it also adheres to peaceful resolution of disputes. The two sides should enhance high-level exchanges and give play to the guiding role of high-level strategic communication in the development of the two countries’ relations. It is necessary to make the visit as an opportunity to bring about comprehensive exchanges and cooperation between governments, parties, parliaments and regions of the two countries.”“Second, the two sides should carry out pragmatic cooperation. There is the need to comprehensively align the two countries’ development strategies. The Chinese side is willing to enhance cooperation with the Philippine side within the Belt and Road framework and discuss ways to realize mutual benefits and win-win results. China is willing to actively take part in the building of the Philippine railways, city rail transport, highways, ports and other infrastructure to bring benefits to the local people. The two sides should strengthen law enforcement and defense cooperation. The Chinese side supports efforts made by the new Philippine government in drug-banning, counter-terrorism, and combating crimes and is willing to carry out relevant cooperation with the Philippine side. The two sides need to expand economy and trade and investment cooperation. The Chinese side stands ready to promote companies to increase investment in the Philippines and help it develop the economy faster and better. The two sides should deepen cooperation on agriculture and poverty alleviation. The Chinese side is willing to help the Philippines boost its capacity of agricultural production and rural development and support the two countries’ fishing companies to carry out cooperation.”“Third, the two sides should promote people-to-people exchanges. The Chinese side will positively encourage Chinese tourists to travel to the Philippines, enhance bilateral exchanges in education, culture and media, and promote regional cooperation. The Chinese side suggests that the two countries carry out a series of commemorative activities next year on the 600th anniversary of the King of Sulu of the Philippines, who travelled to China for the first time.”“Fourth, the two sides should enhance cooperation in regional and multilateral affairs. Both China and the Philippines are developing countries. They should jointly promote democratization of international relations and promote the development of international order in the direction of fair and reasonable direction. The Chinese side is willing to enhance coordination with the Philippines within multilateral frameworks such as the United Nations and APEC, safeguard the interests of developing countries, stands ready to jointly promote achieving even greater development in China-ASEAN relations and in East Asian cooperation.”
Xi and Duterte witnessed the signing of 13 bilateral cooperation documents covering economy and trade, investment, production capacity, agriculture, media, quality inspection, tourism, drug-banning, finance, coast guard, and infrastructure.
President Duterte arrived in Beijing with at least 200 top Philippine business people to pave the way for what he calls a new commercial alliance. The two countries signed trade agreements valued at more than $13 billion and China promised $9 billion in development investments.
Most important for Duterte, Chinese leaders will not meddle in Philippine domestic affairs by criticizing Duterte’s war against drug lords or the Philippine human rights record. President Xi expressed support for the anti-drug campaign.
Nevertheless, Chinese leaders are wary of Duterte because they know from Philippine polls that his anti-American sentiment is not representative of the Philippine people’s attitude. One poll in 2015 indicated more than 90 per cent of the Philippine population had a favorable opinion of the US.
He also has refused to acknowledge Chinese sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Evidently the two nations will work out an accommodation that will allow Philippine boats to fish in the area.
Analysis- The Philippines will be a liability for China. Duterte is looking for a patron who dispenses rewards. He says that the US is that it has not done enough for the Philippines. However, denial of US military access to Philippine bases for use against China in the South China Sea might make the cost of carrying the Philippines for a while worth the bargain. Chinese national goals require a stable environment in Asia. That requires cooperation with the US. The Chinese also are not impressed by Duterte’s coarse, vulgar choices of words. (i.e. referring to Barack as the son of a whore – which while true, is crass)
The Philippines from a political perspective has often looked like a revolving door. A new administration might do to Duterte what he did to his predecessor—reverse the policy. The Duterte tilt might not last past Duterte’s time in office.
For now, in the politics of the South China Sea claimants, Duterte has delivered to China a strategic windfall. That includes an unprecedented partnership with China, a communist country considered a threat in the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty. It also includes the prospect that Duterte will deny US access to and use of Philippine bases in resisting China’s claim to sovereignty in the South China Sea.
There’s not much that I can say positive about the place. There have been a number of cease fires in the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran that’s going on in Yemen. Another one went into effect, and was promptly violated by the Iranian/Houthi army.
Despite the stalemate and war weariness, this ceasefire will not last unless massive outside pressure is exerted on the Houthis and the Iranians who continue to supply them.
Iran is asking for a billion dollars a head for US hostages that they’re holding. After the $150,000,000 windfall including a $1.4 billion cash for hostages deal with the US, they are using the ante on the release of additional hostages. My sense is that if you are stupid enough to go to Iran – and the savages take you hostage, you’re on your own. But that’s just me. Barack and Hillary have a different take on it.
Turkey – in – Syria
The Turkish government reported that on 18 October its combat aircraft executed 26 air strikes against Syrian Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) targets in northern Syria. The Turks claimed they killed between 160 to 200 YPG fighters.
A Turkish deputy prime minister said that Turkey was displeased with the support the US provides to the Syrian Kurds.
A YPG spokesman said the air strikes killed 15 people. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said nine Kurdish fighters are confirmed dead.
In response to the Turkish air strikes, the Syrian army general command issued a statement. “Any attempt to once again breach Syrian airspace by Turkish war planes will be dealt with and they will be brought down by all means available.”
The status of Syria’s air defense system is unclear. The Russians are believed to have helped restore it. Regardless of its condition, we judge the Syrians are serious about shooting at the Turkish aircraft.
The status of Russia’s air defense system in Syria is robust and capable of downing the Turkish fighter bombers. The Syrians are not known to have asked for Russian help yet, but they almost certainly share air surveillance information and probably jointly man air defense centers.
Turkish involvement complicates the destruction of the Islamic State because Turkey will use the grand campaign against Mosul as a justification and cover for pursuing its own military objectives. The air attacks are an example of Turkey attacking a US-backed proxy force in Syria, while the US is focused primarily on the Mosul operation.
Al Monitor published an article that reported Turkish President Erdogan intends to launch Operation Tigris Shield in Iraq as a complement to Operation Euphrates Shield in Syria. Both have the objective of fighting terrorists, namely the Kurds (US allies), in both countries.
The US relies on aircraft based in Turkey to prosecute its bombing campaign (such as it is) against ISIS in Syria and Northern Iraq and also to provide top cover for US troops in the field. The Turks are OK with that so long as the US allows them to kill our Kurdish allies. Does that make any sense to you? It doesn’t to me, but Barack and friends don’t have a coherent policy – and that’s what you get.