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Mitch Blatt in The National Interest on North Korea

Bombs + Dollars editor Mitchell Blatt was published in The National Interest‘s website on U.S.-China relations with regard to North Korea.

Although he put Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments in context, noting that they don’t necessarily mean a vast change in policy, he did say that certain actions the U.S. has already taken, like the deployment of THAAD, and any possible change in policy to be more aggressive, are not acts of provocation but rather responses to growing North Korean provocations.

“But if the Trump administration does up the ante, it will be because proposals to engage in toothless talks with North Korea—like that made this week by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi—have utterly failed, and China hasn’t done its part to try to reign in its rogue frenemy,” he wrote. “Juxtaposed against its vitriolic response to the South Korean deployment of Terminal High Area Altitude Defense, China’s impassive response to multiple North Korean nuclear tests, always predicated on the same “firm opposition” talking point, which makes it look like China hasn’t been taking the threat of a nuclear North seriously.”

He pointed out that China hasn’t been faithfully enforcing some of the sanctions they agreed to against North Korea.

In summary, “As long as North Korea is an out-of-control threat, South Korea will need to take tough actions. China is reaping what it sowed from years of complacency.”

The whole article can be read here: Why China Must Confront North Korea.

The UK’s MoneyWeek also quoted Blatt’s article:

On the contrary, “China has largely itself to blame” if the US now pursues a more militaristic agenda towards North Korea, says Mitchell Blatt in the American magazine The National Interest. Beijing has spent years “turning a blind eye to sanctions violators and keeping the dangerous North Korean regime alive and its leaders well fed”, so it is not surprising that Washington now thinks “enough is enough”. China has also reneged on promises to limit imports of North Korean coal. Overall, “if China wants to avoid instability, then China must take an active role and take responsibility”.

Blatt also has an article about South Korea-China relations coming out in The Korea Times on Tuesday.

Healthcare fail puts the lie to Trump’s power narrative

Less than three months into Donald Trump’s presidency, and already the Republicans have given up on their #1 promise. Repealing Obamacare was what you could count on almost any Republican to say at almost any campaign event.

They won a majority in the House of Representatives in 2010 campaigning on repealing Obamacare. They won the Senate in 2014 campaigning on repealing Obamacare. And in 2016, Donald Trump won the presidency on a campaign of selling himself as a strong leader who would dispense with the niceties of the weak Republican establishment.

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Why Korea’s election might not change North Korean policy

With the dismissal of South Korea’s former president Park Geun-hye from office, a new presidential election is coming up on May 9, and a change of parties is not only expected—it is almost certain. With the liberal Democratic/Minjoo Party replacing the conservative Korean Liberty Party/Saenuri, what kind of changes can the world expect with regard to U.S.-Korean relations and policy towards North Korea?

Throughout the past year, the Minjoo Party criticized Park’s decision to deploy the U.S.-produced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. The leading Minjoo Party candidate, Moon Jae-in, served as the chief of staff to the last liberal president, Roh Moo-hyun, who supported policies of engagement with North Korea. So will the next government be more open to diplomacy at this dangerous time on the Korean peninsula?

To answer these and other questions, I talked to John Lee, who is the Conservative Columnist at NK News and the writer behind The Korean Foreigner.

Lee said that because of the reality on the ground, the next president, whoever it is, will be constrained in his choices. The Minjoo Party will have to accept THAAD, because it is already a done deal. The first components of THAAD arrived at Osan Air Base, outside of Seoul, on March 6, and the system is in the process of being assembled. “By the time the elections are over, this is going to be a done deal, and they will have no choice but to accept it. They’ll just blame it on the Park administration,” Lee said.

As for possibilities of dealing with North Korea,

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John Lee on Korea’s election, North Korea, and why South Korea isn’t “ethnically pure”

John-Lee-copyJohn Lee is the Conservative Columnist at NK News and the writer behind The Korean Foreigner. Born in Brunei to immigrant parents, Lee was educated in English (a legacy of British colonialism) and then went to study in the U.S., before taking up citizenship in his ancestral Korea. As such, he says he feels like “a foreigner in my own country.” I interviewed him about the upcoming Korean elections, policy towards North Korea, Korean politics, and other topics.

Mitchell Blatt: There’s been lots of news about North Korea launching missiles and threatening to test an ICBM that could hit the U.S. South Korea is having elections, and the Trump administration seems to be suggesting that they might take a more aggressive policy towards North Korea. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the time for “strategic patience” is over. Do you think that Trump and Tillerson are going in the right direction on this?
John Lee: I don’t think that either Donald Trump or Tillerson are going in any direction regarding North Korea. Just recently they said that all options are still on the table. But that’s the same thing they’ve been saying since the Clinton administration. And anytime you say, ‘All options are on the table,’ what that means is, yeah, we have options, but we haven’t picked one yet. So I think they’re just going with being ‘tough’ on North Korea as far as their rhetoric goes, but I am not convinced that their rhetoric can be backed up by any significant actions.

Blatt: Suppose there was an attempt to go in a new direction. Do you think a new direction is needed?
Lee: If by “new direction,” you mean something more kinetic, then I think that would be a horrible idea. I think deterrence has worked for the past seventy years, and I think it can continue to work. Strong deterrence militarily and economic sanctions, I believe will help contain the situation as much as possible, but something more kinetic would involve a lot of human lives being lost. I think that would be the absolute worst case sanctions.

Blatt: China is talking about trying to open up four party talks. What kind of role does China play in this, and is there any possibility for China to play a bigger role in keeping North Korea in check?
Lee: I think China’s role is more limited than people think it is. It has been proven repeatedly that the North Koreans do not listen to China all that much. China does not want the North Koreans to conduct these missile tests, but they’re conducting them anyway. Recently, because of the unofficial sanctions that the Chinese has imposed on South Korea, China has lost a lot of good will with the South Koreans, too. Four party talks might be enticing for the next progressive government, but I think they will have a hard time juggling the economic interests of China with the military alliance of the United States. The military alliance, as much as they [the progressives] disdain it, is not something that they can just ignore. It would just be irresponsible.

Blatt: One of the big sticking points there is THAAD, and most of the Minjoo Party candidates over the past year have opposed it, but now they seem to be shifting their positions. Do you think in the end, they are going to—if not support THAAD—support the status quo, which is the deployment of THAAD?

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Trump’s North Korea policy causes Trump to withdraw campaign pledges

If Donald Trump wants to turn the heat up on North Korea and China, as recent statements by himself and his administration leaders suggest, then he’s going to have to fail to implement many of his campaign promises.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on his visit to Seoul,”Let me be very clear: the policy of strategic patience has ended. We are exploring a new range of security and diplomatic measures. All options are on the table.” UN Ambassador Nikki Haley two weeks ago said there was no time for talks, which she doesn’t expect would go anywhere, with North Korea.

Trump weighed in on Twitter: “North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been “playing” the United States for years. China has done little to help!”

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Trump, China and trade war : two short op-eds

Trump declares (trade) war…for now

Donald Trump’s inauguration marked a change in the world order, the free market liberal order that continued from 1945 in the West, and spread across the world around 1989. Here’s the transcript of the entire speech. But here are my quick three takeaways. The speech means, firstly, Trump is planning a 1930s-type national nation building project. Secondly, and inevitably, there’s now all possibility of a devastating trade war. And thirdly, Islamists are now the prime target of the administration.

The speech highlighted the new American credo of manufacturing in US, with American workers, and American infrastructure getting priority. It is unclear how he can do it, however, as if he imposes legal procedures on manufacturing outside US, his own company which outsources to China, will also suffer. The world is not stuck in the 1930s, and one cannot change the direction of capital flow or alter the comparative advantages. The center of gravity of economy moved to the East, and one can only adapt so far.

Trump’s inauguration statement was straightforward and refreshingly neutral in tone. In a certain way, it was without all the ridiculous and optimistic and hopeful balderdash we seem to have expect from American inaugurations. This was like a whistle for a firing squad. The world is now without leadership, and every power for its own. If you’re a strong power, then be stronger, if you’re weak, choose a side. Simple as that.

Researchers who deal with grand strategy often tries to find historical patterns in foreign policy. 

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The implications of Park’s removal from office for Korea

Korean president Park Geun-hye was officially removed from office this morning, Korea time, three months after she was impeached in a bribery scandal. New elections are scheduled for before May 9. The opposition is almost certainly going to win–either the Minjoo Party, which is currently the plurality in the legislature, or the People’s Party. Moon Jae-in is the frontrunner for the Minjoo Party nomination and thus probably the frontrunner for the presidency.

Korean parties fuse and change and rebrand all the time, so of course Park’s Saenuri party has already rechristened itself the Liberty Korea Party. It stands little to no chance. In the last poll released before Park’s impeachment, Park’s approval rating was 5 percent, and the Saenuri/LKP’s support dropped from 34 percent in November 2016 to 12 percent in January 2017.

What this means for the future of THAAD’s deployment is uncertain. (Maitra: THAAD deployment will not soothe Korean tensions.) The Korean opposition had opposed THAAD for the past year, but in January both Moon and People’s Party leader Ahn Cheol-soo expressed that they might be reconsidering their opposition on the basis that it would hurt U.S. relations to retreat from a decision that was already made (by Park’s administration).

Bombs + Dollars will have more coverage of Korea and its elections over the next weeks and months from editor Mitch Blatt, who is on the ground here. For now, enjoy this article I wrote for my travel blog, which explains some of the divides in Korean politics and society: Why some Koreans are still supporting Park Geun-hye at a March 1 Independence Day rally.

And enjoy these photos from the scene of the celebration by Park’s opposition:
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How cutthroat corporate culture imposed on politics dooms the Trump administration

Kellyanne Conway, a political activist and current advisor to President Donald Trump, and Stephen Miller, also a Trump advisor may not, at first blush, seem to be products of a corporate structure.

Employees who work in upper echelons of huge corporations all know corporate structure comes from top management, usually the CEO and Executive Board. It is easy to succumb to the rigorous demands of deeply embedded corporate structure without realizing it. However, when a corporate structure makes a cross over to government, all of the most negative factors of living the corporate life become obvious. Such is the picture the public sees of Conway and Miller. Part of the structure is what many recognize as the “rat race” to stay in close proximity to the top. Within such an environment, the level of competition between top advisors becomes overwhelming, and leaks abound. (Reportedly Conway leaked to the press that Trump was dissatisfied with press secretary Sean Spicer’s performance.)

The Ambitions of Conway and Miller

In order to remain a vital part of the “team,” Conway and Miller often become “creative” about facts and truth. They believe

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Your weekend long reads, Sweden, Migrants, Trump and Russia

Some of you must remember Swedish foreign minister trolling Donald Trump’s all male lineup during a signature of a bill cutting random funding to NGOs providing abortion worldwide. That act alone doesn’t tell us anything, it might be very well a part of America First and cutting additional expenditure. Boy, the reaction was swift. The Dutch started a fund to compensate the American funding cut, prompting the question, what were they waiting for so long? Also, shouldn’t they be spending the money in NATO? But never mind. Let’s stick to Sweden. When the Swedish FM penned an opus in Guardian, named “What Donald Trump could learn from the Feminist government of Sweden“, punching questions like, “The question remains: who should decide over a woman’s body, if not herself?” (Or Iranian mullahs maybe), irony died laughing clearly. In other news, Swedish Secretariat of Gender Studies, an organisation as notorious as the Soviet politburo in their promotion of unscientific dogma, called for an academic boycott of US. I personally think the yanks dodged a bullet there. The Swedish gender research is a laughing stock in mainstream academic community, and is essentially unverifiable, unfalsifiable dross anyway.

My critique on the myth of Sweden’s Feminist foreign policy as well as my book review of Professor Tom Nichols’ “The Death of Expertise” is out in Quillette. Read them here.

Also, my first piece for “The Conversation” on threat inflating Russia came out recently. I try to provide some realism and nuance amidst the ongoing hysteria.

 

 

 

Free Speech: No, CPAC disinviting Milo Yiannopoulos is not an attack on free speech

Milo Yiannopoulos’s brief history as an invited speaker to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) lasted less than a week. Given that Yiannopoulos is who he is, an attention seeker and an expert at victimization politics, he is sure to try to turn this into a discussion about free speech.

But make no mistake: This is no war on free speech, and it is nothing like the violence at Berkeley, which caused his speech to be shut down, or other attempts by anti-free speech radicals to silence invited speakers through intimidation or disruption.

CPAC, given that they are putting on the event, makes the decision over who it invites, and CPAC attendees decide whether to purchase a ticket or not. Even before videos of Yiannopoulos praising the potential of relationships between older men and minor children went viral, many conservatives were disappointed with the decision to invite Yiannopoulos, which was reportedly not made with the full approval of the CPAC board. CPAC, after all, is a “conservative” event, and Yiannopoulos offers no deep insight into conservative thought–or much of anything besides showmanship.

Free speech does not imply inviting anyone and everyone to give a speech. After all, CPAC had not extended invitations to Black Lives Matter activists, Lena Dunham, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, DeRay Mckesson, Shaun King, Brianna Wu, Anita Sarkeesian, or any other identity politics-supporting left-wingers.

They don’t have to extend invitations to anyone and everyone. CPAC, like the College Republicans, is a private group with its own viewpoints and agenda. In the past, CPAC has barred conservative-affiliated groups from being cosponsors for ideological disagreements (GOProud for its support of gay rights) and because of their radicalism (the John Birch Society). Those decisions can be debated, but it’s well within CPAC’s right to make them.

That many of their attendees and sponsors didn’t want to hear Yiannopoulos speak anymore than they wanted to hear DeAndre “Soulja Boy” Cortez Way speak doesn’t make them opponents of free speech–just people with values. In the end, the market place of ideas (and of money–CPAC sells tickets) determined Yiannopoulos’s fate.

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