Category Archives: South Korea

70% of U.S. youth are too fat, uneducated, and criminal to serve in military

childhood obesity rates of U.S., China, Japan, So. Korea & India

Michael Cook reports for MercatorNet, Nov. 9, 2015, that in a 2009 report, Ready, Willing, And Unable To Serve, more than 450 retired generals and admirals in a lobby group called Mission Readiness concluded that young Americans are “too fat to fight” and that “The best aircraft, ships and satellite-guided weaponry alone will not be enough to keep our country strong”.

According to the report:

Startling statistics released by the Pentagon show that 75 percent of young people ages 17 to 24 are currently unable to enlist in the United States military. Three of the most common barriers for potential recruits are failure to graduate high school, a criminal record, and physical fitness issues, including obesity.

That was in 2009. Alas, nothing has changed since.

Mission Readiness 2014 report, Retreat is Not an Option,  found that:

Obesity is one of the main reasons why more than 70 percent of young Americans are unable to serve in today’s military. This includes young adults in families with generations of military service, and others who have the critical skills our military needs but cannot join simply because of too many extra pounds.

There are 3 reasons for why 75% of young Americans are unfit to serve in the U.S. military:

  1. Inadequate education: About 25% of young Americans lack a high school diploma. Even those who have one, many are substandard at reading and mathematics, which explains why as many as 30% of potential recruits with a diploma fail the Armed Forces Qualification Test.
  2. Criminal records: About 10% of young U.S. adults are disqualified because they have had at least one prior conviction for a felony or serious misdemeanour. According to the Pew Center on the States, “One in 30 [American young] men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars.”
  3. Obesity and other health problems: 27% of young Americans are too fat to join the military. Many never even try to join. But of those who do, 15,000 fail their entrance physicals every year because they are too fat. Another 32% of all young people have other disqualifying health problems –asthma, eyesight or hearing problems, mental health issues, or recent treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In total, half of young U.S. adults cannot join because of health problems.

Study after study show that the best early education program is a stable home with a loving mother and father. But the Obama administration’s Pentagon, instead of realising that young Americans need the strength and security that comes from intact biological families, recommend the usual government solution — better early education programs, better school meals, and better physical education programs. What the Pentagon refuses to say for politically correct reasons, is that America’s national security is at risk because America’s families are dysfunctional.

This is emphasized by a 2014 report by Brad Wilcox and Robert I. Lerman for the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies, which concluded that:

“what is largely missing from the public conversation about economics in America is an honest discussion of the family factor. The retreat from marriage … plays a key role in the changing economic fortunes of American family life. Growing up with both parents (in an intact family) is strongly associated with more education, work, and income among today’s young men and women.”

And they make better soldiers, too.

Retired Rear Admiral James Barnett said, “Our national security in the year 2030 is absolutely dependent upon what is going on in pre-kindergarten today.” In healthy families, kids learn to respect authority, value education and take responsibility for their health. They learn how to cooperate and to work as a team. They build a stronger moral sense. And all this costs the taxpayer nothing, unlike the government-funded programs recommended by the retired generals and admirals.

But after two generations of me-centred marriages and unstable families, America’s human capital increasingly is degraded. The introduction of same-sex marriage would only accelerate the process. As The Economist says about the challenges ahead: “The result is that America may be unable, within reasonable cost limits and without reinstituting the draft, to raise the much bigger army it might need for such wars.

At the moment, the Pentagon relies upon a weak job market to lure young men and women into the services. But it worries and should worry about what will happen when the economy eventually picks up.

Lastly, America’s obese young are not just bad for the military, they constitute a looming national health crisis.

Time magazine reports that researchers at a recent American Heart Association annual meeting in Florida warned that excess weight in children can lead to potentially harmful changes in the hearts of kids as young as 8.

Linyuan Jing, a post doctoral fellow from the Geisinger Health System, and her colleagues studied 20 obese children—i.e., those with a body mass index over 35, whereas a healthy range is 18.5 to 25—and 20 normal-weight children. All had MRIs of their hearts.

The researchers found that obese children:

  1. have 12% thicker heart muscle overall compared to the normal-weight children. Thicker heart muscle means the heart is working harder to pump blood. Previous studies have linked thickened heart muscle in adults to premature death from heart-related causes.
  2. show 27% thicker left ventricles, the chamber of the heart responsible for pumping blood to the body.
  3. show signs of having less cardiac muscle contractility, which is a possible early sign of decreased heart function.

Jing said, “It’s surprising to see evidence of heart disease among eight year olds. Because that implies that children younger than eight could have signs of heart disease as well.”

-StMA

China builds military base on offshore island to reclaim contested Senkakus

At the end of the Ryukyu archipelago in the East China Sea is a cluster of small islands called Senkaku by the Japanese and Diaoyutai by the Chinese, the ownership of which is contested by Beijing and Tokyo. The waters surrounding the islets are believed to contain sub-soil oil and natural gas deposits.

On November 24, 2013, China made a bold move toward its claim by declaring an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that includes the air space over the contested islands.

At first, the United States appeared to challenge China’s ADIZ by flying B-52 bombers over the area. Two days later, China demonstrated its resolve by sending warplanes into the ADIZ. The Obama administration then backed off, told U.S. commercial airlines to abide by China’s rules in the ADIZ, then seemed to signal that the U.S. would accept China’s ADIZ in the East China Sea although the U.S. official position is that it does not recognize the Chinese air defense zone as it covers large areas of international airspace and waters.

Now China has made another move to reclaim the islands.

China vs. Japan ADIZs

Bill Gertz reports for The Washington Free Beacon, Jan. 27, 2015, that recent satellite photos of an island off the coast of China confirm Beijing’s buildup of military forces within attack range of the Senkaku islands.

In October 2014, construction of a helicopter base on Nanji Island was observed by a commercial spy satellite. The island is off the coast of China’s Zhejiang province—some 186 miles northwest of the Senkakus. The imagery, obtained from the Airbus Defense and Space-owned Pleaides satellite, reveals China is constructing an airfield with 10 landing pads for helicopters on Nanji Island.

Click images below to enlarge

Nanji1Nanji2Military analysts say the new military base on Nanji Island appears to be preparation by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army for an attack or seizure of the Senkakus. Rick Fisher, a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said:

“China’s new heli-base on Nanji Island demonstrates that the PLA is preparing for an offensive military operation against the Senkaku/Daiyoutai Islands. If you want to rate the level of tension, this is the PLA reaching for its holster. When forces start deploying to Nanji Island, that means the hammer is cocked.

The military buildup on Nanji was first disclosed by Japan’s Kyodo News Service last month. Kyodo, quoting Chinese sources, said a landing strip was being built. However, the satellite photos, reported last week by IHS trade publication Jane’s Defence Weekly, did not indicate construction of an airstrip, only helicopter landing pads. The helicopter base construction is new because photos taken earlier than October 2013 do not show any visible construction. In addition to the helicopter pads, wind turbines on a ridge on the southeast part of Nanji also are visible additions to the island. Radar and communications equipment also is visible. The helicopter pads are an indication that China plans to use the base for transporting troops and forces by helicopter and not for longer-range air transports or fighter jets.

China has been engaged in a tense confrontation with Japan over the Senkakus since 2012, when Tokyo, in a bid to clarify the status of the uninhabited islands, purchased three of the islands from private owners in a bid to prevent Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara from buying them. Since then, Chinese ships and warplanes, as well as unmanned surveillance drones, have been flying close to the islands, prompting numerous Japanese maritime and aerial intercepts.

Yang Yujun

Yang Yujun

China’s Defense Ministry did not dispute the military buildup on Nanji.

On Dec. 25, 2014, at the same time as he called Japanese news reports of the construction on Nanji “irresponsible,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman PLA Sr. Col. Yang Yujun told reporters in Beijing that “There is no doubt that China has the right to conduct activities and construction on its own territory. Some media in Japan make irresponsible speculations on China’s legitimate activities and construction and play up tensions in the region. It is pure media hype.”

Questions were raised during the discussion with Yang as to whether the buildup is part of China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea that covers the Senkakus.

Retired PLA Maj. Gen. Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser at China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, a Beijing-based research group, told Singapore’s Today newspaper on Dec. 23, that the Nanji military construction was “normal” and that “China has military bases in several strategically important coastal islands and the Nanji is one of them. The Japanese media is only singling out the Nanji and making a big fuss, [and] this can be misleading.”

Jane’s said the Nanji construction appears to be part of a “quiet military buildup around the Senkaku/Daioyu islands by both sides. For its part, Japan is putting aside funds to buy land for a coastal surveillance radar unit on Yonaguni island, which is the westernmost of its islands and only 150 kilometers from the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, while it is also training up and kitting out a small marine corps-style force that will be based in Nagasaki.”

The lack of an airfield is a “gap” in Chinese plans for military operations against the Senkakus, Jane’s said. The closest PLA air base to the Senkakus currently is located at Luqiao, some 236 miles from the Senkakus, where J-10 fighters are based.

Fisher, however, said Nanji could be used by the PLA to base its large Zubr air-cushioned hovercraft that are capable of moving troops and tanks in a takeover of the Senkakus or an assault against Taiwan.

A Japanese Embassy spokesman declined to comment on the Chinese military construction: “We are in the process of gathering information on this, and thus not able to comment.” A Pentagon spokesman did not respond to an email request for comment.

Note: The United States has a mutual defense treaty with Japan, and a Congressional act with the Republic of China on Taiwan called the Taiwan Relations Act (1979), wherein the U.S. states it is committed to the maintenance of peace and security in the Western Pacific (which includes the Taiwan Strait).

See also:

~StMA

Russian nuclear bombers within 50 miles from California coast

Tu-95 Bear nuclear bomber

Tu-95 Bear nuclear bomber

Bill Gertz reports for the Washington Free Beacon that four Russian strategic bombers triggered U.S. air defense systems while conducting practice bombing runs near Alaska this week, with two of the (Tupolev) Tu-95 Bear H aircraft coming within 50 miles of the California coast, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) confirmed yesterday, June 11, 2014.

“The last time we saw anything similar was two years ago on the Fourth of July,”

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Norad spokesman, said the Bear H incursions began Monday around 4:30 p.m. Pacific time when radar detected the four turbo-prop powered bombers approaching the U.S. air defense zone near the far western Aleutian Islands.

Two U.S. Air Force F-22 jets were scrambled and intercepted the bombers over the Aleutians.

After tracking the bombers as they flew eastward, two of the four Bears turned around and headed west toward the Russian Far East. The bombers are believed to be based at the Russian strategic base near Anadyr, Russia. The remaining two nuclear-capable bombers then flew southeast and around 9:30 P.M. entered the U.S. northern air defense zone off the coast of Northern California. Two U.S. F-15 jets were deployed and intercepted the bombers as they eventually flew within 50 miles of the coast before turning around and heading west.

A defense official said the four bombers also were supported by two IL-78 aerial refueling tankers that were used for mid-air refueling during the operation this week.

The Tu-95 is a long-range strike aircraft capable of carrying nuclear cruise missiles. Other versions are equipped with intelligence-gathering sensors and electronic warfare gear. It has a range of around 9,400 miles without refueling.

Davis said the aircraft “acted professionally” and the bombers appeared to be conducting a training mission. “They typically do long range aviation training in the summer and it is not unusual for them to be more active during this time,” he said. “We assess this was part of training. And they did not enter territorial airspace.”

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, a former Alaska commander for Norad, said he does not remember a case of Russian strategic bombers coming that close to the U.S. coast.

McInerney said in an email, “Again we see the Obama administration through their covert—but overt to Mr. Putin—unilateral disarmament, inviting adventurism by the Russians. At the height of the Cold War I do not remember them getting this close. Mr. Putin had to approve this mission and he is just showing his personal contempt for President Obama right after meeting him in Normandy less than a week ago.”

McInerney said no American president has been treated with such disrespect in U.S. history: “A sad day indeed and at the same time Mosul and Tikrit [Iraq] fall to radical Islamists after the Obama administration’s failed Iraq policy. He snatched defeat from the jaws of victory yet again.”

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, called the Russian flights “intentional provocations.” He said in an interview that “Putin is doing this specifically to try to taunt the U.S. and exercise, at least in the reported world, some sort of saber-rattling, muscle-flexing kind of nonsense. Truth of the matter is we would have squashed either one of those [bombers] like baby seals. It’s a provocation and it’s unnecessary. But it fits in with [Putin’s] macho kind of saber-rattling.” Conaway expects Russia will carry out more of these kinds of incidents in the future.

In fact, in April 2014, a telephone conversation between two Russian ambassadors was posted on YouTube and appeared to show the diplomats joking about the Ukraine crisis and discussing the possible incursions in the United States and Eastern Europe. The leaked conversation between Igor Nilokaevich Chubarov and Sergey Viktorovich Bakharev, Russian ambassadors to the African nations Eritrea and Zimbabwe and Malawi, respectively, includes references to post-Crimea Russian imperialism to include Eastern Europe and “Californialand” and “Miamiland.”

The bomber incursion is only the latest in a series of Russia’s increasing strategic assertiveness toward the United States:

  • On April 23, 2014, a Russian Su-27 interceptor jet flew dangerously close to within 100 feet of the cockpit of a U.S. RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft flying over the Sea of Okhotsk, north of Japan.
  • In July 2013, two Russian Tu-95s were intercepted by Japanese and South Korean jets near the Korean peninsula and Japan’s northern Hokkaido Island.
  • On April 28, 2013, two Russian Bear Hs were intercepted near Alaska.
  • On February 12,  2013, two Russian Tu-95 Bear-H strategic bombers, equipped with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, circled the island of Guam and were followed  by U.S. Air Force F-15 jets from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The bomber incident was considered highly unusual. Russian strategic bombers are not known to have conducted such operations in the past into the south Pacific from bomber bases in the Russian Far East, which is thousands of miles away and over water.
  • In August 2012, Gertz reported that a Russian nuclear-powered Akula-class attack submarine armed with long-range cruise missiles operated undetected in the Gulf of Mexico for several weeks and its travel in strategic U.S. waters was only confirmed after it left the region. The Navy is in charge of detecting submarines, especially those that sail near U.S. nuclear missile submarines, and uses undersea sensors and satellites to locate and track them. U.S. officials said the fact that the Akula stealth submarine was not detected in the Gulf is cause for concern, as well as exposes deficiencies in U.S. anti-submarine warfare capabilities—forces that are facing cuts under the Obama administration’s plan to reduce defense spending by $487 billion over the next 10 years.
  • On July 4, 2012, Russian bomber flights near the U.S. West Coast were the first time since the Cold War that Russian jets has traveled so close to the U.S. coastline.
Akula-class submarine

Akula-class submarine

~StMA

Obama makes promises to Japan and South Korea

To Japan:

The New York Times reports that while he was in Japan, on Thursday, April 24, 2014:

Obama … declared that the United States was obligated by a security treaty to protect Japan in its confrontation with China over a clump of islands [the Senkaku or Diaoyu islets] in the East China Sea. But he stopped short of siding with Japan in the dispute regarding who has sovereignty over the islands, and carefully calibrated his statement to avoid antagonizing China.

The net result, seen in a news conference in which the leaders referred to each other a bit stiffly as Barack and Shinzo, was an alliance clearly on firmer footing than it was earlier, but still vulnerable to political frailties on each side. […]

The president’s statement about the United States’ obligations toward Japan was important because it was the first time he had explicitly put the disputed islands under American protection, though Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently made the same statement and the policy has been held by successive administrations.

“This is a very important turning point for the United States-Japan alliance because it means the period of drift under President Obama has finally come to an end,” said Yuichi Hosoya, an expert on American-Japanese relations at Keio University in Tokyo. “The fact that this was said by the president will have a huge psychological impact on Japanese officials and people.”

The Chinese government reacted swiftly, saying it was “firmly opposed” to Mr. Obama’s position. More than anything, Mr. Obama appeared eager to defuse tensions over the islands, referring to them as a “rock” and saying they should not be allowed to derail a relationship that could otherwise be productive.

“It would be a profound mistake to continue to see escalation around this issue rather than dialogue and confidence-building measures between Japan and China,” Mr. Obama said.

[Japan’s prime minister] Mr. Abe said he was encouraged by Mr. Obama’s pledge to protect the islands. “On this point,” he said, “I fully trust President Obama.”

To South Korea:

The AP reports that while he was in Seoul, on April 26, 2014:

President Barack Obama warned North Korea on Saturday that the United States “will not hesitate to use our military might” to defend allies, as he sought to showcase U.S. power in the region amid China’s growing influence and Pyongyang’s unpredictable nuclear threats.

Obama’s visit to Seoul comes as North Korea has threatened to conduct its fourth nuclear test, leading Obama to raise the possibility of further sanctions.

The commitment that the United States of America has made to the security of the Republic of Korea only grows stronger in the face of aggression,” Obama said in a speech to some of the 28,000 American service members stationed in South Korea to keep watch on its northern neighbor. “Our alliance does not waiver with each bout of their attention seeking. It just gains the support of the rest of the world.” […]

Obama ridiculed North Korea’s attempt to show force. “Anybody can make threats,” he said. “Anyone can move an army. Anyone can show off a missile. That doesn’t make you strong.”

He said real strength comes from having an open participatory democracy, open markets and a society free to speak out against its government.

“We don’t use our military might to impose these things on others, but we will not hesitate to use our military might to defend our allies and our way of life,” Obama said to cheers from the uniformed troops who filled a field house at Yongsan Garrison, headquarters for U.S. forces in South Korea.

Obama’s 10-minute speech followed a rare joint defense briefing with South Korean President Park Geun-hye that focused on efforts to counter the North’s nuclear ambitions.

See also “Pentagon official: U.S. budget will not allow an Asia pivot,” March, 2014.

~StMA

Colorado newspaper asks if Obama is a Manchurian candidate for Russia

The Aspen Times is an 11,500-circulation, 7-day-a-week newspaper in the ski resort of Aspen, Colorado with a history dating back to 1881.

Glenn K. Beaton is a columnist for The Aspen Times, and a contributing columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is a former Partner and Co-Chair of the Intellectual Property Group of the international law firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, and practiced in the U.S. Supreme Court.

In other words, Beaton is neither crazy nor a flake.

In an opinion essay for The Aspen Times on March 30, 2014, Beaton asks if Barack Obama is a Manchurian candidate secretly working in Russia’s interest.

~StMA

Obama & MedvedevObama whispers “This is my last election. After my election, I’ll have more flexibility.” to then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the nuclear security summit in Seoul, March 26, 2012.

Is Obama a Manchurian?

By Glenn K. Beaton

I don’t think Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

Yes, his father was born in Kenya, and his brother was born in Kenya. But that doesn’t mean he himself was born in Kenya.

And yes, for 16 years he allowed his literary agent to circulate a one-paragraph bio stating that he was born in Kenya, which was revised numerous times over the years while continuing to state that he was born in Kenya. But I’m inclined to think he did that because it seemed cool and a way to sell books and not because it was true.

And yes, he refuses to release his college transcripts, as other presidents and candidates have done. But I’m guessing that’s because they show poor grades and not because they state he was a foreign student.

And yes, for many years he attended a church where the pastor sometimes exclaimed, “God damn America!” but I think he was just trying to fit in.

No, I don’t think he’s Kenyan.

But I wonder whether he’s Manchurian.

“The Manchurian Candidate” was a 2004 movie about a U.S. politician who was secretly a “sleeper agent” working to overthrow American democracy. (Manchuria is the region of Russia and China where the agent had been brainwashed into working for the other side.)

Here’s why I wonder:

When Obama came into office, he announced that he was “resetting” America’s relationship with Russia. Sure enough, he then canceled the planned defensive missiles in Poland aimed at deterring a Russian invasion. That infuriated our Polish allies and pleased the Russians. He got nothing from the Russians in return that we know of.

Vladimir Putin was then the Russian prime minister, and Dmitri Medvedev was the Russian president. Putin was the boss, and Medvedev was his handpicked puppet.

Later, Obama spoke at a seminar with Medvedev, who speaks English. Putin was not there.

During a break, Obama approached Medvedev on the stage. Thinking his microphone was off, he said privately, just one on one, “This is my last election. After my election, I’ll have more flexibility.” The context was a discussion on defense. Good puppet that he was, Medvedev promised, “I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”

___________________

Note: This is a video of Obama’s exchange with Medvedev:

___________________

But the microphone was not off. The exchange was captured and recorded. And the pair also were captured by a distant video camera showing Obama warmly shaking the hand of Medvedev and patting Medvedev’s knee as they completed the exchange.

Ask yourself this: Why did Obama choose an awkward in-person exchange on a stage at a seminar for delivery of this important message? Why didn’t he simply pick up the phone in the Oval Office and call Putin directly? Could it be because he didn’t want any Americans to hear it — even White House aides and interpreters?

Fast forward another two years. Russia has invaded a sovereign nation, Ukraine, and has purported to annex part of it. Obama’s response so far has been to impose “sanctions” that are so trivial that the Russians have literally laughed at them.

Putin refuses to state whether he will extend his invasion farther into Ukraine or re-invade the East European countries that were liberated by the fall of the Soviet empire in 1991 — an event that Putin has repeatedly declared was “the major geopolitical disaster of the century.”

In contrast to Putin’s poker face, Obama — without being told Putin’s next move insofar as we know — has ruled out military options. In short, Putin has refused to rule out annexing additional sovereign nations, and Obama has refused to guarantee that he’ll stop him.

In dealing with foreign dictators gassing their people as they did in Syria, threatening to “wipe Israel off the map” with a nuclear attack as Iran repeatedly has done, invading sovereign nations as Russia has now done or threatening to reduce America to “radioactive dust” as one of Putin’s apparatchiks recently did, Obama promises “resets” and “flexibility.”

On those promises, by golly, he’s delivered. He boasts that his strategy constitutes “leading from behind.” (I wonder if he imagines that Putin is “following from the front.”)

In dealing with Americans, on the other hand, he shows less flexibility, gives few “resets” and most decidedly leads from the front. The White House uses the National Security Agency to spy on Americans, uses the IRS to target Americans with whom it disagrees politically, refuses to rescue American diplomats begging for help as they’re slaughtered in Benghazi, calls the American political party that freed the slaves “hostage takers” and, most recently, uses the CIA to conduct surveillance on American senators (according to the longtime Democratic senator who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee).

One more thing: That seminar — the one where Obama made his fateful promise to the Russians that in his defense of freedom and liberty he would be flexible — was in South Korea, just a few hundred miles from Manchuria.

Japan seeks better ties with Russia

Putin and AbeRussian President Vladimir Putin and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the Kremlin in Moscow, April 29, 2013

Michael Lipin reports for Voice of America (VOA) (via GlobalSecurity.org), February 12, 2014, that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying hard to improve relations with Russia, a neighbor with whom Tokyo has yet to sign a peace treaty after the end of World War II.

Since taking office in December 2012 Abe has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin five times. Their latest encounter was a significant gesture by the Japanese leader when Abe added prestige to Russia’s opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics by accepting Putin’s invitation to attend last Friday’s event in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Western leaders stayed away, in an apparent protest at Putin’s stance on homosexuals.

Abe also had a lunch meeting with Putin on Saturday and his commitment to make a rare visit to Japan in the second half of this year.

Abe has a variety of motivations for reaching out to Russia, which has been receptive to closer ties with Japan in some areas, but not others. Those motives include:

1. Asia Society analyst Ayako Doi told VOA that one factor driving Abe closer to Russia is a worsening of Japan’s relations with its two other regional neighbors, China and South Korea, both of whom have toughened their positions on maritime territorial disputes with Japan in recent years. Beijing and Seoul also have long resented what they see as Tokyo’s failure to atone for wartime aggression in the first half of the 20th century. ‘There is no improvement in sight for those relationships, so Abe is looking to Russia as a potential bright spot in his foreign policy initiatives,’ Doi told VOA.

2. Doi said Japan also wants to stop Putin from becoming an even closer ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping and potentially supporting China’s claims to Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea. Xi also attended the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony and won a meeting with Putin, although without the luncheon granted to Abe.

3. Another motivation behind Japan’s Russian outreach is its hope to resolve a decades-old territorial dispute that has held up the signing of a Japan-Russia peace treaty. Japan has long sought to reclaim four islands off the northern coast of Hokkaido from Russia, whose then-Soviet forces captured them in 1945, days before then end of World War II. James Schoff, an Asia analyst at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says Abe has reasons to be hopeful for a resolution of that dispute because both Japan and Russia acknowledge the dispute, and there is a history of negotiation between them, ever since the end of the war. All of which make the Japan-Russia territorial dispute more manageable for Japan than its maritime disputes with China and South Korea. “In those cases, the parties still are in a situation where neither side will acknowledge that a dispute even exists,” Schoff said. ‘The Koreans say Dokdo island in the Sea of Japan/East Sea is theirs and they are on it, and any claims to it by Japan are completely false. In the case of the East China Sea’s Senkaku islands, the Japanese insist the islands are Japan’s and under their administration, while China says Japan must at least acknowledge that there is a dispute over the islands [known in Chinese as Diaoyu].

In a gesture to Japan, Russia held a round of peace treaty negotiations at the level of deputy foreign minister in Tokyo on January 31. But, there was no breakthrough. Moscow reiterated its long-held stance on the four disputed islands that it calls the Southern Kurils, saying they became Russian as a result of World War Two. Japan considers the islands to be its Northern Territories. No date for further talks has been set.

Doi said the Russian leader currently has little reason to make territorial concessions, “For Russia, making the Japanese hopeful about an eventual signing of a treaty is a very good thing, because it can be dangled as a prize to entice Japanese investment and other types of cooperation.”

4. Schoff said Japan’s shutdown of its nuclear power plants after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster also has left it in greater need of fossil fuel imports, particularly natural gas from Russia.

5. For its part, Moscow has a key incentive to boost its economic ties with Japan in areas such as energy, and Putin has made it a national priority to develop oil, gas and other resources in Russia’s Far East and Siberia – economically-neglected areas where Japanese investment would be welcome.

6. Schoff said Russia also has a motive to seek a better political alliance with Japan, “There is some worry in Moscow about China’s rising military budgets and military expansionist maneuvers in the maritime sphere. I think Russia likes to have friends in different places and would not mind having a stronger relationship with Japan as a counterweight in that regard.” But Doi said Moscow is unlikely to take Tokyo’s side in the dispute with Beijing about the East China Sea.

~StMA

U.S. sends more troops and tanks to South Korea as part of U.S. Pacific pivot

DMZ Korea

David Alexander reports for Reuters that on Jan. 7, 2014, the Obama administration said the U.S. will send 800 more soldiers and about 40 Abrams main battle tanks and other armored vehicles to South Korea next month as part of a military rebalance to East Asia after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted military officials as saying that the new U.S. troops would be deployed in North Gyeonggi Province, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas.

The battalion of troops and M1A2 tanks and about 40 Bradley fighting vehicles from the 1st U.S. Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas, will begin a nine-month deployment in South Korea on February 1.

A Pentagon spokesman said the personnel would remain for nine months but on departing would leave their equipment behind to be used by follow-on rotations of U.S. forces.

Army Colonel Steve Warren said, “This addition of forces to Korea is part of the rebalance to the Pacific. It’s been long planned and is part of our enduring commitment to security on the Korean peninsula. This gives the commanders in Korea an additional capacity: two companies of tanks, two companies of Bradleys.”

Barack Obama had announced a strategic rebalancing of U.S. priorities toward the Pacific in late 2011, while ending the direct U.S. military involvement in Iraq and planning to wind down the long U.S. engagement in Afghanistan.

Since the announcement of that so-called “pivot” in foreign, economic and security policy, the Philippines, Australia and other parts of the region have all seen increased numbers of U.S. warships, planes and personnel.

In a meeting in Washington on Jan. 7 with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tated the U.S. position on nuclear weapons in North Korea: “The United States and the Republic of Korea stand very firmly united, without an inch of daylight between us, not a sliver of daylight, on the subject of opposition to North Korea’s destabilizing nuclear and ballistic missile programs and proliferation activities.”

The United States has some 28,000 troops based in South Korea, which has remained technically at war with Communist North Korea since the 1950-1953 Korean conflict ended in stalemate.

The deployment of additional U.S. troops comes at a time of raised tensions on the Korean peninsula after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un executed his uncle Jang Song Thaek in the biggest political upheaval in years.

Donna Miles reports for American Forces Press Service, Jan. 7, 2014, that the rotational deployment of a cavalry battalion of about 800 soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas, to South Korea next month is in support of U.S. Forces Korea and 8th U.S. Army. Officials said that posturing a trained, combat-ready force in the region allows for greater responsiveness to better meet theater operational requirements.

The Army rotational deployments are just one aspect of the rebalance. Marine Rotational Force Darwin was the first new rotational arrangement in the Asia-Pacific region designed to bolster U.S. theater engagement. In April 2012, the first rotation of about 200 Marines was deployed to Australia just months after the U.S. and Australia had announced an initiative for Australia to host a U.S. rotational presence of a 2,500-member Marine air-ground task force that would exercise with the Australian defense force and train regional militaries.

In late September 2012, the second rotation of U.S. Marines wrapped up its six-month deployment to Darwin, with the third rotation to increase five-fold when it deploys this spring. About 1,150 members of Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, are scheduled to deploy from Camp Pendleton, Calif., complete with an infantry battalion, logistics and aviation detachment.

Meanwhile, the Navy has started littoral combat ship rotations in Singapore. USS Freedom completed its first rotation in November 2012, basing its operations at Singapore’s Changi Naval Base after its arrival in April.

Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the U.S. Pacific Command commander, is a big fan of rotational units, which he said provide an “uptick in presence” that complements that provided by the 330,000 service members permanently based within the Pacom area of responsibility.

Locklear said, “What they provide is an ability to work with our allies and to leverage the capabilities of the allies across all aspects of peace to conflict,” Rotational forces also provide a regional presence that could pay dividends if the United States had to flow more forces into a particular area to protect the interests of the United States and its allies. (Hint: China!)

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un had his uncle fed to 120 ravenous dogs

Jang and KimJang Song Thaek (in red circle); Kim Jong Un (in yellow circle)

Ching Cheong reports for The Straits Times, Dec. 24, 2013, that North Korea leader Kim Jong Un‘s execution of his uncle and No. 2 man, , took Beijing by surprise and will adversely affect bilateral relations. Jang was known for his close ties with Beijing.

Beijing expressed their displeasure of Kim through the publication of a detailed account of Jang’s brutal execution in Wen Wei Po, the Chinese government’s official mouthpiece in Hong Kong, on Dec 12.

According to the report, unlike previous executions of political prisoners which were carried out by firing squads with machine guns, Jang was stripped naked and thrown into a cage, along with his five closest aides. There, the six men were eaten by 120 ravenous hounds who had been starved for three days. The Chinese call it quan jue ( ): execution by dogs.

Kim Jong Un, along with 300 senior officials, “supervised” the “execution by dogs” which lasted for an hour.

The fact that the account of the brutal execution appeared in a Beijing-controlled newspaper shows that China no longer cares about its relations with the Kim regime.

Two days later, another Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece — the Chinese-language Global Times — followed up with a sternly worded editorial saying that the execution epitomized the backwardness of the North Korean political system. It warned the Chinese government not to coddle North Korea any longer, saying that the majority of Chinese were extremely disgusted with the Kim regime.

Beijing understood Kim’s brutal purging of a top official known for his close ties with Beijing as a sign of Pyongyang’s antagonism towards China. Indeed, the official litany of Jang’s “treason” implicated China three times. Jang was accused of:

  •  Underselling coal and other natural resources for which China was virtually the sole customer.
  • “Selling off the land of Rason economic and trade zone to a foreign country for a period of five decades under the pretext of paying debts.”
  • Selling precious metals, thus disrupting North Korea’s financial stability. China had purchased some of North Korea’s gold reserves several months ago.
  • Aiding Chinese businessmen in securing low prices for North Korean goods and commodities.

Pyongyang’s suspicion and apprehension towards China is longstanding and dates back to the time of Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s founder and Jong Un’s grandfather. Although China had fought the United States in the Korean War (1950-53) to preserve the North Korean regime, Kim Il Sung was less than grateful. Once the war was over, he started purging the Yan-an faction within his party — a faction so named because its members had received training in Yan-an, the capital of the Chinese Communist Party in the 1940s.

Stanford University research fellow David Straub recalled that when he accompanied former United States assistant secretary of state James Kelly to North Korea in 2002, the North’s then Vice-Foreign Minister Kang Sok Ju made comments that minimized Chinese assistance during the Korean War.

Likewise, this author (StMA) and two other members of the Consortium of Defense Analysts were in Pyongyang in 1991 and heard North Korean military officials more than minimizing China’s assistance during the Korean War. They made no mention that China had even fought in the war.

When Kim Il Sung’s son, Kim Jong Il, took over the helm, he did not hide the fact that his nuclear weapons could be used against China. According to Xue Litai, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, an American source who accompanied former US president Bill Clinton in his visit to Pyongyang in 2009 said that a North Korean senior official told Clinton that their nuclear weapons could not reach the US but could be “pointed West” in the direction of the Chinese mainland. The North Korean official also reportedly suggested that if the US changed its policy towards Pyongyang, the latter could become a strong bastion against China.

The Korean peninsula was a vassal state of China in the 17th century. A deep-rooted suspicion remains among the North Korean leadership that China wants to make North Korea its satellite state. In addition, Pyongyang resents Beijing for establishing ties with its rival in South Korea. North Korea also finds China — a nuclear power — pressuring Pyongyang to halt the latter’s nuclear program to be hypocritical.

All of which might account for Kim Jong Un’s purge of pro-China elements like his uncle Jang.

But Kim’s brutality and ruthlessness are now a source of concern for the Chinese:

  • China now thinks its own security is at risk from Pyongyang’s nuclear threat. Global Times had an article by Lieutenant-General Wang Hongguang, former deputy commander of Nanjing Greater Military Region, saying that the execution of Jang shows North Korea had become increasingly provocative and was getting out of (Chinese) control. Wang urged a complete reassessment of security threats originating from North Korea.
  • China’s political and strategic influence on the Korean peninsula has been drastically reduced. In the past, China was widely considered to be able to rein in the unruly Kim regime, thus acting as a force for peace in the region. But it now appears China wields no influence over its neighbor. That may account for recent moves by China to consult with Russia — Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi telephoned his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov for urgent consultation on Dec 13, followed by Ambassador Wu Dawei’s trip to Moscow. Both moves suggest that Beijing believes it can no longer tame the Kim regime by itself.
  • China had hoped to nurture a less belligerent North Korea by encouraging its neighbor to undertake liberalizing economic reform similar to what China had undertaken beginning in 1979. Jang had been working closely with China on precisely that — to bring about a Chinese-style transformation in North Korea. With Jang brutally executed, the idea of a peaceful transformation now seems unrealistic.

H/t CODA’s Sol Sanders

See also:

~StMA

500% increase in China’s purchase of US commercial real estate

Please note that although the Reuters news report below does not say it, there is good reason to believe that at least some of the Chinese companies purchasing U.S. residential and now, also commercial, real estate are state-owned entities, including those owned by the People’s Liberation Army.

Chinese investment in US by sectorSource

Reuters reports, Dec. 23, 2013:

Chinese investors, the second-biggest overseas buyers of U.S. residential real estate, are building up portfolios of U.S. commercial property as they look for new avenues of diversification.

Chinese entities announced more than $5.89 billion in projects in January-October, nearly six times the $996 million for all of 2011 and 2012 combined, showed data from New York-based consultancy Rhodium Group.

“There is a lot of upside,” said Thilo Hanemann, Rhodium’s research director. “We are at the beginning of a structural increase of Chinese investment in U.S. commercial real estate.

This week, Greenland Holding Group Co. completed a deal that will give the Shanghai-based developer a 70 percent stake in Forest City Enterprises Inc’s Atlantic Yards, a 22-acre commercial and residential project in Brooklyn, New York. The deal, which is expected to require $4.8 billion worth of investment over 8 years, is the largest property transaction by a Chinese company in the United States.

China’s push into U.S. property is underpinned by declining investment returns at home, a growing desire by wealthy individuals and developers to diversify their holdings overseas, and property companies looking to capitalize on offshore migration.

“Some investors want to diversify their assets, and some are looking for different growth opportunities,” said Julien Zhang, international director in Beijing for property consultancy Jones Lang Lasalle, which is advising three Chinese conglomerates on property deals. “Others want to learn how to enter mature and developed markets.”

A rebound in U.S. real estate pricing, tight inventory in major cities, and continued low interest rates also are attracting Chinese buyers, said Gary Locke, the U.S. ambassador to China.

Locke was speaking this week at a forum in Beijing sponsored by the U.S. Embassy to promote Chinese investment in U.S. property. Chinese investment in the United States has surged to $18.5 billion over the last two years, more than the combined total of the previous 11 years, Locke said.

Chinese nationals bought more than $8.1 billion worth of real estate in the year ended March 31, representing 12 percent of the estimated $68.2 billion of domestic property purchased by overseas nationals and second only to Canadians, according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors.

Real estate is finally becoming a global industry and you will see capital flows on a cross-border basis, just like every other investment class,” said Rob Speyer, the co-chief executive of Tishman Speyer Properties LP, which partnered in February with China Vanke Co Ltd to build a $620 million apartment project in San Francisco.

Speyer, whose company is also developing commercial, residential and retail projects in the Chinese cities of Shanghai, Chengdu and Tianjin, said he courted Vanke’s Chairman Wang Shi for more than two years, and inked their deal only 45 days after first introducing the project to him.

Not everyone is convinced that Chinese investment in the U.S. property market will continue uninterrupted. Other options for expansion include Europe, Australia and Singapore, which account for about two-thirds of offshore Chinese real estate investment, according to Jones Lang Lasalle.

Zhang Xin, the chief executive of SOHO China Ltd, who paid $700 million through her family trust to buy a stake in the General Motors Building in Manhattan, said that while the U.S. regulatory and legal environment remained attractive, valuations were getting expensive. “I would not feel as comfortable today putting in money as I did a few years ago,” Zhang said.

Asian investment in USSee also:

South Korea reacts to China’s Air Defense Identification Zone by expanding its ADIZ

ADIZ overlap mapYellow lines demarcate China’s ADIZ; red lines demarcate Japan’s ADIZ. Red shaded area is the overlap between China’s and Japan’s ADIZs.

Overlooked in the uproar over China’s announcement, on Nov. 23, 2013, of an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) is the fact that Beijing’s exertion of  sovereignty over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, did not have to overlap with about 3,000 square kilometers of South Korea’s own ADIZ. The overlap encompasses South Korea’s Ieodo (Suyan) Rock, grazing the Western fringe of Jeju-do’s airspace in the process.

The overlap however is noted in Seoul.

The Hankyoreh began its report by noting the inclusion of Ieodo in the ADIZ, while South Korea’s defense minister Kim Min-seok said Korean aircraft would continue to fly in the area covered by the ADIZ without informing China.

In an attempt to offset tension, the Chinese press immediately disseminated a Chinese defense ministry statement that China had “no territorial dispute” with Seoul over Ieodo, and that Beijing and Seoul would resolve the issue via “friendly consultations and negotiations.”

On December 8, 2013, South Korea announced it is expanding its 62 year-old air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in a clear reaction to China’s own new ADIZ.  The announcement adds over 25,000 sq. mi to Korea’s ADIZ, which now covers the submerged rocks that are the subject of a territorial dispute between South Korea and China. Seoul’s new ADIZ also overlaps with the ADIZs of both China and Japan.

3 ADIZsClick map to enlarge

Unlike China, however, Seoul had conferred in advance with neighboring countries, including the U.S., China, and Japan, before its ADIZ announcement.

According to remarks by Jang Hyuk, head of policy for South Korea’s Defense Ministry, the government believes that the move “will not significantly impact our relationships with China and with Japan as we try to work for peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia”  and that “related countries” are overall “in agreement that this move complies with international regulations and is not an excessive measure.”

China had a muted reaction to South Korea’s announcement. Partially, this was an inevitable result of China’s own insistence that its ADIZ was in accordance with international precedent and convention — China would have a hard time now arguing that South Korea has no right to expand its own ADIZ. In response to a question about the issue, China Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Hong Lei confirmed that China had been notified in advance by the Republic of Korea (ROK). Nevertheless, “China expresses regret” over the decision to expand the Korean ADIZ. “China will stay in communication with the ROK in the principle of equality and mutual respect. We hope that the ROK will meet China halfway.”

As for the issue of the disputed territories with South Korea, Hong made an odd remark — that “an ADIZ is not the [sic] territorial airspace … It has nothing to do with maritime and air jurisdiction.” But that is precisely what China’s ADIZ is, having everything to do with “territorial airspace” and with “maritime and air jurisdiction”!

China’s restraint towards South Korea only draws more attention to its diplomatic row with Japan. Japan’s parliament recently passed a resolution calling for China to rescind its ADIZ. China’s reaction to this development was far more aggressive than its response to South Korea:  “Japan’s accusation against China confuses right and wrong and is totally groundless,” Hong Lei said. China is “strongly dissatisfied” with Japan, two words that China did not use for South Korea’s ADIZ.

Interestingly, most of the concern Chinese scholars do show over South Korea’s move circles back to Japan. In an op-ed for China News, Xue Baosheng of Jilin University writes that China is concerned that Japan might use Korea’s action as an excuse to make its own provocative moves, and that South Korea may not truly understand the “sinister motives” of Japanese authorities, but instead is used by Japan to attack China.

Most Chinese commentators, including Xue, feel a certain kinship with South Korea because both countries suffered under Japanese occupation during World War II. An editorial in China’s Global Times dismissed Korea’s move as a “small tactical advantage” with no major strategic significance, but noted that if Japan had been the one to expand its ADIZ, it would have provoked a strong reaction from China.

The Global Times also noted how different the U.S.’s reaction was to South Korea’s expanded ADIZ. The U.S. State Department issued a statement implicitly comparing South Korea’s ADIZ announcement to China’s: “We appreciate the ROK’s efforts to pursue this action in a responsible, deliberate fashion by prior consultations with the United States and its neighbors, including Japan and China. We also appreciate [South Korea’s] commitment to implement this adjustment to its ADIZ in a manner consistent with international practice and respect for the freedom of overflight and other internationally lawful uses of international airspace,” noting that South Korea does not expect commercial aircraft to comply with the ADIZ regulations. In contrast, the Global Times argued that U.S. and Japanese hostility to China is a reflection of China’s status a “rising major power.”

But the Global Times‘ paternalistic benevolence toward South Korea has its limits. The editorial warned that, should South Korea cross the line in its relationship with China, China could retaliate by disrupting economic ties or by stirring up trouble with North Korea.

Sources: Ankit Panda for The Diplomat, Nov. 28, 2013; Shannon Tiezzi for The Diplomat, Dec. 10, 2013.

The reason for the difference in China’s attitude toward Japan’s ADIZ vs. South Korea’s ADIZ is rooted in China’s irridentist nationalism. In contrast to its experiences with Japan, China had lost no territory to nor had China been invaded by Korea.

~StMA