War Drums

Blog Post
Cause and Effect

We need to file this one under cause and effect. War on the Korean Peninsula is not inevitable, but we’re not that far off, either. It all hinges on what the Norks do next. Another nuclear test is the trigger point for the US to remove the North Korean capacity to deploy missiles or use it’s nuclear weapons.

The Chinese signaled that they will allow that to happen without recourse to the US. If North Korea attacks the South, the US and South Korea will remove the regime with extreme prejudice. If North Korea uses nuclear weapons, the US will reciprocate — and China will stand on the sidelines trying to keep North Korean refugees from over-running China.

US elections have consequences and President Trump and his capable administration have laid out what will happen very clearly. The Chinese have agreed with the plan.

On April 25, the Chinese unofficial English language publication, Global Times, published an editorial on the North Korean confrontation which warned North Korea to not detonate a sixth nuclear device. Excerpts follow.

“The game of chicken between Washington and Pyongyang has come to a breaking point. If North Korea carries out a sixth nuclear test as expected, it is more likely than ever that the situation will cross the point of no return. All stakeholders will bear the consequences, with Pyongyang sure to suffer the greatest losses.”

“Under the best-case scenario, unprecedentedly severe sanctions imposed by the UN will deal a heavy blow to the entire industrial activities of North Korea and it will barely be able to sustain development of its society. Once the US launched surgical strikes against North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities, the Pyongyang regime will be forced to make a life-or-death decision.

“By then, if North Korea does not resort to strategic retaliation, its deterrence will lose ground and Washington will play it like a fiddle. If Pyongyang does choose to retaliate against Seoul, the US and South Korea will target its regime without a second thought.

“A high stakes situation like this could quickly get out of control. No stakeholders want such a situation. But once the gamble begins, no side will be able to stop it.”

“…China is now acting to prevent the relevant sides from rolling the dice in this crazy gamble, and is doing this by persuading Pyongyang to quit its sixth nuclear test. If Pyongyang stops now, it will avoid the devastating result that it cannot bear. North Korea can drive a bargain with the US with its current nuclear achievements and strive for its rights over national security.”

“Pyongyang has pursued an independent course since the end of the Korean War. The integrity of the nation’s sovereignty is much higher than that of South Korea. This has impressed quite a few people. Yet given North Korea’s current national strength as well as its peculiar geopolitical circumstances, it must learn how to be flexible as well as resolute. Taking a small step back will make a conflict easier to solve. This does not mean being a coward, but being courageous to face the challenge in a different way.”

“The North Korea nuclear issue is like a puzzle filled with bombs. Pyongyang must not strike a match and detonate it. What it needs is big wisdom to realize a soft landing.”

This editorial was written on Army Day, April 25. It contains unusually candid language. Chinese leaders have abandoned subtlety in communicating with North Korea. Global Times is the publication in which Chinese leaders can express their views candidly, but without making an official statement. 
This editorial is similar to prior editorials in several respects. The most important message is that another nuclear detonation represents the point of no return in a game of chicken. Imagery of North Korean preparations for a nuclear test during the past two months has provided the time for leaders in China and the US to have confidence in making that judgment.
The second message is that North Korea will suffer the most if it crosses the point of no return. “It will barely be able to sustain development of its society.” An earlier editorial said North Korea would cease to exist.
A final point is that China continues to insist that its ability to influence North Korea is limited. It cannot force North Korea to comply with Chinese wisdom.
A new Chinese idea.

A second editorial in Global Times proposed that the US and the international community should be prepared to offer North Korea incentives for good behavior.

More excerpts.

“North Korea is facing unprecedented international pressure due to its nuclear and missile programs. The country’s economy can hardly bear tougher sanctions and Washington has raised many times the extreme option of initiating a military strike on Pyongyang.”

“But sticks alone are not enough to prompt North Korea to stop its nuclear and missile activities. The international community should acknowledge the importance of the carrot.”

“Now Pyongyang is clear about the consequences if it continues to act recklessly. What it is uncertain about, though, is what benefit it will get if it stops nuclear and missile activities.”

“As for Washington, it should show its sincerity to encourage Pyongyang to move in the right direction and leave room for positive changes.”

“Sanctions against North Korea should be imposed within such a pattern – as long as North Korea violates UN Security Council resolutions, the sanctions will become tougher with no upper limit. But if North Korea does not carry out new nuclear tests or missile launches within a certain period of time, there should be no new sanctions. Both sanctions and North Korea’s nuclear activities should be temporarily frozen.” (Emphasis added.)

“Major powers should research what North Korea can get once it announces a moratorium on its nuclear and missile tests. The UN Security Council should play an active role to bring Pyongyang in this direction.”

This editorial is important for two reasons. The first is that it tends to confirm that Chinese officials have been in contact with their North Korean counterparts. The editorial staff wrote confidently, “Now Pyongyang is clear about the consequences…” That implies that the Chinese got through to the North Koreans. The rest of the sentence reads like North Korea’s probable follow-up question to a Chinese presentation about the consequences.
The sentences in bright highlight contain a new formula for temporarily easing tensions. The editorial writers proposed that a freeze on nuclear and missile testing should be matched by a freeze on sanctions. This is the first time we have read a solution that ties testing to sanctions.
All previous Chinese solutions have proposed a suspension of testing in return for a suspension for Allied military training. We have written previously that there is no symmetrical exchange of value in that formula. The sanctions must be biting if the North Koreans now are willing to consider suspending tests in exchange for suspending new sanctions. 
On 26 April, Turkish authorities launched a massive detention operation, arresting more than 1,000 people nationwide. The Turkish government said the arrests were aimed at supporters of the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom President Tayyip Erdogan blames for last year’s failed coup attempt.
Anadolu Agency, a state-run news service, reported that the government aims to arrest another 2,000 people. A late report said that 9,000 policemen have been suspended for links to the coup plot.
The Turkish Interior Ministry said the raids on the 26th were aimed at disrupting a secret anti-government network, called the “secret imams.” Supposedly this network had infiltrated Turkey’s police forces. The network has no connection to the Islamic clerisy.
President Erdogan has chosen to interpret the narrow margin of victory in the passage of the constitutional amendments as a mandate to pursue the purge and other security programs with greater energy. 
Turkey has detained or suspended more than 150,000 of its best educated public servants. The impact on the armed forces was demonstrated in their lackluster effectiveness against Islamic State fighters in northern Syria since last August. 
The purge will continue as long as it helps Erdogan consolidate and centralize presidential power.
Turkey in Syria

Between 24 and 26 April, Turkish army and air force units attacked US-backed Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish fighters.
A Russian news service reported, “According to reports that are coming in, on the night of Monday 24 April, Turkish Air Force aircraft delivered missile and bomb strikes on parts of Iraq and Syria bordering on Turkey. The Turkish side states that positions of armed formations of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Democratic Forces of Syria led by the Democratic Union Party, which is close to the PKK, were the targets of the strikes. About 70 Kurdish fighters are reported to have been killed.”
On the 26th, Rudaw reported that the Turkish army and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) exchanged fire on the Syria-Turkey border. Both sides claim they were attacked first and retaliated. 
A YPG media outlet reported that Turkish artillery shelled at least four villages in the border area of Darbasiyah in al-Hasakah province. It did not report any casualties. 
The Turkish military announced that it continued its strikes against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) positions in northern Iraq and against the YPG in Syria on 26 April. The army said the raids killed six militants.
When President Erdogan announced the end of Operation Euphrates Shield last month, he said that Turkey would not withdraw its forces from northern Syria and that other operations would begin soon. The attacks on 25 and 26 April appear to be the opening actions in the new operations. If so, the new operations are directed against the Kurds more than the Islamic State. 
In undertaking these operations, Turkey has challenged the US, Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria as well as the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds. It deliberately has fractured the anti-terrorism effort.
The Syrian Kurds called for the establishment of a no-fly zone in northern Syria. “Only by declaring north Syria as a no-fly zone can YPG defend the country unhindered. Turkey must adhere to a no-fly zone,” wrote the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) on Twitter.
The Turks consider the Kurds to be terrorists and justify their attacks as part of the Coalition’s anti-terror campaign. Erdogan and his advisors know that the US and Russia strongly back the Kurds in Syria and the US and Iraq back Kurdish autonomy in Iraq. 
For years Turkey had a relatively free rein to operate against the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization, in northern Iraq and Syria. Times and the nature of the fighting have changed. A huge backlash against Turkey is forming to reduce Erdogan’s hubris.
If the US or Russia provide air defense weapons to the Syrian Kurds or extend an air defense umbrella over them, the threat of losing a modern combat aircraft might prompt the Turks to reconsider their campaign against the Kurds during the fight against the Islamic State.
A Russian View
Russian reaction. In commenting on Turkish military attacks against the Kurds, the Russian Foreign Ministry posted the following comment.

“Such moves cause most serious concern in Moscow. We are talking about the Turkish military’s actions against Kurdish forces that are genuinely opposing terrorist groups, above all ISIL (the Islamic State), on the ground. In circumstances where the war against terror in Iraq and Syria is far from being over such actions are clearly not facilitating the consolidation of antiterrorist efforts; they are exacerbating the situation that is tense as it is.”

“That the Turkish strikes were delivered against sovereign states’ territories in circumvention of their legitimate governments also cannot but cause concern. We deem such moves unacceptable, running counter to the fundamental principles of interstate relations.”

“In these circumstances, we call for restraint from all the sides. It is important to demonstrate due political farsightedness and focus one’s attention on the most important current task – countering the terrorist international in the form of ISIL, Nusra and other affiliated groups.”

This is the second time that Turkish forces have attacked either a Russian aircraft or the forces of a Russian proxy. Turkey’s actions are putting pressure on a fragile relationship. The Russians have been uncustomarily patient with the Turks.

32 thoughts on “War Drums

  1. A few photographs of the recent NORK military parade are floating around claiming many of the weapons are fake. Wonder if the fat trud knows? If your life depends on satisfying the little shit, and you have no way of producing the real deal, wouldn't you fake it? Or am I just voicing false hope?

  2. We know that the DPRK has real missiles that it launches. Each class of missile has different telemetry and we monitor that. It makes sense to trot out mock-ups for a parade. If we were doing the same thing, so would we. And the weapons that the Nork soldiers carried may be dummies so they wouldn't decapitate Dear Leader. That makes sense too.

    DPRK air force is very old; Their submarines are not bad, but up against the US, they either stay in port or they die. Their surface navy is for coastal patrol and to kidnap foreign fishermen and steal their boats. It's a pirate navy. They have a LOT of artillery and it works. The populace is in a continual state of mobilization for war as is their military. The Chinese don't think that they'd last long against the US and they're correct. We'd cut off the lines of supply and communication and they'd fold in the same way that the Iraqis did. I'm sure that many would fight with fanatical doggedness until they ran out of ammo or died, but that would be the end of it. We'd have air supremacy from the outset and we'd take it from there.

    Would Seoul survive? Parts would, but not the whole city. The Norks can fire a lot of artillery in a short period of time and they have deep tunnels under the DMZ designed to put troops across the border safely. I'm sure that there is a plan to deal with those, in place.

  3. I try to put out what is going on. You sometimes get part of it from the news outlets, but US News is not what it once was. They spin everything, and focus on what Michelle Obama is wearing or about Chelsea Clinton's latest award or how the creepy looking Bruce Jenner is a role model.

  4. Being a non-military tactician, I can’t help but wonder about the military of North Korea. It seems to me that their military leaders, if they are indeed trained military leaders, would know they have a snowballs chance in hell of surviving any kind of conflict. Most of the whole world is looking down on them, plus their big brother, who was their protector during the Korean War in the 50’s, is not willing to help them this time, so… how far will they let the fat fuck go? I can see a coup happening before another war begins. Then, again, I am not brainwashed to the extent they are. I was reading and looking at some pictures over at This Ain’t Hell showing a fire power demonstration by Un. There were several rows of tanks facing out to sea, all lined up next to each other… I guess they are expecting a beach invasion or something. But with all that close quarters, I could tell the Navy and Air Force air jocks were getting boners over the staffing and bombing the shit out of them. Could a coup happen?

  5. As with all dictatorships, the power elite who back Kim Jong Un owe their high lifestyle and literally their survival to the myth of DEAR LEADER that keeps the peasants from revolting.

    There have been small scale revolts in the DPRK and some military units are deemed to be of "lesser reliability". However for the most part, the military believes that what they have spent blood, sweat and treasure to build is world-beating.

    As you point out, China saved them during the Korean War, but things have gone too far and the DPRK is at the tipping point. If they light off their nuclear weapons test, it's OK Corral and China is stepping out of it. None of the North Korean leaders will survive a war. China told them — but they have a way of disregarding big brother's advice.

    People in the "Hermit Kingdom" are not in touch with the rest of the world. Those few who do have access are executed if they spread the word that the emperor has no clothes. China told the leadership explicitly what will happen, but it doesn't filter down to the people or the army.

    We are very close to war, John. And President Trump will not blink or draw a goofy red line as his incompetent predecessor did. Mad Dog Mattis runs the military and if the Norks expect him to be a pussy, they don't know St. James of Quantico.

  6. If you have some orange squash to accompany the Jaffa cake, it would be the perfect traditional English snack.

  7. Another well done report, and your replies to comments are just as interesting. Thank You!

  8. The reports get a little windy for a blog, where I try and keep it short and to the point. I understand that. I could have said, "We're going to kick the fat b@stard's @ss if he doesn't square himself away" — and left it at that.

  9. I think the troops of the 50's who survived that war needs a closing for all they did. Having the country glow in the dark seems fitting to me and a reward to the 50's guys.

  10. You've become accustomed to the fresh squeezed kind in Texas…you're a juice concentrate snob now.

  11. Most Americans under the age of 40 don't know that we fought a war in Korea. They also can't find Alaska or Tennessee on an unlabeled map. It would be a homage to them to pound the place to dust. But I find myself thinking that as arrogant as the Norks are, they can't be THAT STUPID.

  12. LL, do you really think China has pretty much told us to "Do as you will" with regard to the Norks?

    If they're willing to wash their hands of the little twerp and let the US clean up the mess, I'm amazed.

    Maybe they figure if we take him out, we'll get all the blame in the World Court of Opinion, and they'll come out smelling like a rose.

    I still find it a bit hard to believe that the Chicoms have pretty much abandoned Dear Leader…..

  13. Dear Leader has become an embarrassing liability. I think that China is happy to have us remove the missiles and nukes, and they may finish Dear Leader themselves. I don't know how the deal was cut.

    The Chinese want to be reasonable and to fix the problem without bloodshed. At the same time, Dear Leader's antics push both South Korea and Japan to become closer to the US, and damages their chi with other Asian nations. He damages their long plan.

  14. A couple of weeks ago, in your post entitled "Close to the Bottom Line," you suggested that China would not tolerate U.S. military intervention in North Korea — or at least they would only tolerate U.S. troops as far as Pyongyang. On Tuesday, you said that China has repeated to the U.S. that North Korea is their problem, and they will deal with it. Now you are suggesting that China would be okay with us taking out Nork nukes. Do the Chinese simply think there's a big difference between a missile strike to take out nukes and a boots-on-the-ground invasion of North Korea? Or am I missing something?

  15. As the information coming out of China evolves and I quote their editorials in media designed to reach a US audience.

    China has said that they won't tolerate US forces north of the Yalu River. That has not changed. The Yalu River is the border between North Korea and China. Previous articles suggested that the Chinese wouldn't invade if US and more particularly South Korean forces moved up to the border with China.

    China doesn't want a war, and more particularly a war where nuclear weapons are used on its doorstep. What China has agreed is that if North Korea conducts a nuclear weapons test, it is sufficient provocation for the US to take military action. China knows that once that begins, it will get ugly very quickly and that there are no winners. Not North Korea, not South Korea, not China and not the US – which will lose troops in a ground war on the Korean peninsula. China is asking Un and fiends to stand down while praising President Trump. That is historically unprecedented.

    Missile strikes by the US (possibly thousands of cruise missiles from USAF airborne platforms, SSGN's, SSN's, and surface ships) will likely lead to North Korea attacking the south. That means a ground war – a general war – and the end of North Korea and a big piece of Seoul.

    It is very unlikely that it can be contained to just a missile strike – cause and effect being what it is.

  16. Sec. of State Rex Tillerson is convinced that the Fat Un is not nuts. He makes rational decisions given the input and advice he receives.

    But like all heirs to the throne, he has been surrounded by yes men his entire life. Worse yet, his yes men have never been involved in a military defeat and truly, honestly believe that they are one of the world's greatest military powers.

    If you were a rational executive, convinced that you had the greatest army on earth, why would you bow to an enemy's demand that you disarm, when you know in your heart of hearts that you can reign death and destruction upon them as syour beloved people sing songs of your greatness?

    I know, absolutely know for a fact (meaning, I am speculating here) that this fat shit will continue missile and nuke tests.

    The ball will be in The Donald's court, and unlike his corpulent adversary, he hasn't been raised in a illusory bubble. I don't see good things in the future for the Beloved Chubby Un.

  17. Kim Jong Un didn't grow up in North Korea. He went to school in Switzerland and lived abroad, not unlike Kim Jong Nam the half brother whose execution he ordered. When his father died, they brought him back to be Dear Leader. Admittedly, his life abroad was carefully controlled and watched by the Norks — but he didn't live in the Hermit Kingdom all his life.

    Having said that, you're on point. The generals will want him to be defiant and launch a missile or test a nuclear weapon and he'll do it. And that's the last thing that he ever does.

  18. It is past time for the U.S. to support the Kurds more.

    So have the Chinese given up the concern of nuclear fallout if the Norks test a nuclear bomb? It seems as if they have, but I may have missed something.

    Thank you!

  19. Another failed ballistic missile test, and more saber-rattling — I guess we'll see what happens next. If they launch any nukes, they're liable to blow their own selves up.

  20. China is worried about it failing to guide with a nuke atop the rocket and having it hit Beijing. They don't have the US made THAAD like Japan and South Korea to shoot it down..

  21. The only way to protect the Kurds is to shoot down Turkish jets. Many of our aircraft are based in Turkey. Its complicated, isn't it?

  22. It is. Better we sent the Kurds the means to defend themselves better. I don't suppose there is an underground railroad somewhere?

    If the Kurds could acquire a base, I am sure they would be happy for us to make use of it.

  23. We've done that. At least to some extent. The Kurds have lots of bases in the region. The Turks announced the their forces would remain in Syria and Iraq – which include substantial armor. This condition will remain in effect until terrorism (which means Kurds) have been wiped out.

    The whole NATO thing is inconvenient.

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