As long as Trump & Tillerson — aka TNT — keep picking unwinnable fights with China, Mattis can make all the reassurance trips he wants — but it’s unlikely to make much difference … East Asia is headed down the road to a completely unnecessary war of mutually assured destruction
Well, it’s weirdly appropriate to say on Groundhog Day, but
it’s probably already too late to stop the slide
into a completely unnecessary war of mutually assured destruction in East Asia
started by the infamous duo of Trump and Tillerson, aka TNT.
In less than what used to be called a fortnight,
they seem well on the way to eclipsing the dubious record for pointless carnage set by Karl Rove and Dick Cheney in Iraq —
which is really saying something …
It’s good that Mattis is making these trips, of course …
But as long as TNT keep picking provocative and unwinnable fights with China,
it won’t make any difference how much reassurance Mattis gives South Korea and Japan —
some kind of significant military encounter is almost certain to take place in East Asia …
And at the rate things are going, it’s going to happen a lot sooner than later …
An heavily edited and re-organized version of NYTimes piece on this …
And to make it worth reading all the way through,
at the end, some comments about the volatile domestic political situation in South Korea and regionally in East Asia,
as well as a special bonus speculation about the strange triangle of TNT Plus Putin … a terrible trio known here as TNTPP …
“In his first mission to reassure an important American ally, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in South Korea on Thursday …
South Korea is a logical first stop for Mattis, who will also visit Japan on his whirlwind trip before returning to Washington.
East Asian nations have been concerned about the conflicting signals from President Trump,
which has made reassuring allies the first order of business for Mattis.
During his campaign, Trump mused the US could save money
if nations like South Korea and Japan developed their own nuclear weapons —
comments that ran counter to DECADES of American nonproliferation policy.
Trump said on Twitter last month that North Korea would be stopped from developing the capability to reach the United States with a nuclear weapon.
But he did not say whether he was referring to taking military or diplomatic steps.
“It won’t happen,” he tersely declared of a North Korean missile test.
[ Another dangerous and pointless boast that will only make Kim MORE committed to creating problems with the US … ]
One of Trump’s first acts as president was to formally withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement,
which had been an important pillar of the Obama administration’s policy in the region.
Critics say the US withdrawal will give China an opportunity to expand its influence …
The mixed messages — some spontaneous, some premeditated — coming from Trump & Tillerson
have imbued Mattis’s otherwise traditional statements of support for South Korea and Japan with strategic importance … … …
His trip was also reassuring for South Koreans,
who have become anxious over Trump’s accusations during his campaign
that their nation and Japan were getting a free ride in their national defense
by not paying enough for the American military presence.
“In less than two weeks since taking office,
President Trump has been almost daily issuing executive orders
upending not only his predecessor Obama’s policies,
but also some of the longstanding American policy lines,”
said Go Myong-hyun, an analyst at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, the capital.
“In this context, Secretary Mattis’s trip, which serves to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to its allies, is an unexpected present.”
The fraught political situation in South Korea —
President Park Geun-hye faces an impeachment trial —
also poses a challenge, given that a presidential election may be held as early as the spring.
“Mattis is going to meet with people who probably aren’t going to be in office in a few months,“ said Joel S. Wit,
an expert on Korea at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
Mattis will meet with an array of officials, including the acting president of South Korea, Hwang Kyo-ahn.
One crucial political issue in Korea is the Thaad antimissile defense system,
which is designed to intercept missiles like the North Korean Rodong.
The United States and South Korea initially said they wanted to deploy the Thaad system by the end of the year.
Given North Korea’s bellicose behavior, there has been some speculation that the air defense could be deployed sooner.
In his comments to reporters, Mattis made the case for deploying the system, without detailing how quickly that might happen.
“Thaad is for defense of our allies’ people, of our troops who are committed to their defense,” he said.
“Were it not for the provocative behavior of North Korea we would have no need for Thaad out here.
There is no other nation that needs to be concerned about Thaad.”
But key opposition leaders mindful of the possible election oppose the deployment,
arguing that it will do little to defend South Korea from the North’s plentiful short-range missiles
while angering China, which could engage in economic retaliation if the system is deployed.
The Chinese have long objected to the deployment of limited missile defenses,
fearing it could be the first step toward a more comprehensive antimissile shield
that would have the capability to defend against Beijing’s own nuclear deterrent.
“Thaad is a defense tool whose deployment should not be delayed any more,” Hwang said at a recent news conference.
“We are explaining our position in various ways to neighboring countries like China who are concerned about the Thaad deployment.”
Moon Jae-in, an opposition leader who is considered the front-runner among potential presidential candidates,
has argued that South Korea should use the Thaad program as diplomatic leverage with China,
keeping open the possibility that it would not be deployed
if China helps rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
He has said the Thaad deployment would create tension between the United States and China
and make South Korea’s diplomatic position more complicated.
“Given our standoff with North Korea and its nuclear program,
our security and the alliance with the United States are our top priority,” Moon told reporters recently.
“But the best scenario for us is when the U.S. and China get along well.
If there is friction between the two, it’s not going to be easy for us.”
Mattis is not planning a trip to the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas.
Nor is he planning to meet with South Korea’s political opposition.
Mattis will meet with top American military leaders but is not scheduled to visit with American troops.”
The key point about South Korea is that the group currently in power is
a) very hard-line towards the North, being the party descended from the former military dictatorship … and …
b) is very likely NOT going to be in power after the upcoming elections …
The fact Mattis is meeting ONLY with the current group — and NOT with the opposition —
indicates that even this relatively “normal” move to reassure decades-long allies
is almost DOA because of that failure to meet with the opposition,
which has a different view than the incumbents of not only THAAD,
but also — and significantly — how to handle relations with China …
And that’s the crucial point overall —
if TNT continue to make provocation of China the fundamental tenet of their East China policy,
then the stage will be set for a regional confrontation / conflagration that can quickly go global …
This is purely speculation …
But between Trump’s literally NOT BELIEVABLE comments about how bad the EU is —
and Tillerson’s incendiary confirmation hearing statements about China —
it really makes you think Putin has cleverly ensnared both Trump and Tillerson
into buying hook-line-and-sinker his world view and policy preferences …
Because the way it looks now,
the Trump regime seems to feel the unnecessary need to appease Russia
while constantly poking China in the eye in a way
that could very easily start World War III …