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Navy Seals Take Over North-Korea-Flagged Oil Tanker In Libya | Zero Hedge

Navy Seals Take Over North-Korea-Flagged Oil Tanker In Libya | Zero Hedge.

Tensions around the North-Korea-flagged tanker that “illegally” obtained oil from rebels who hold a Libyan port have been escalating for the last week. However, The BBC reports that overnight US forces, at the request of both the Libyan and Cypriot governments, boarded and took control of the commercial tanker Morning Glory. The raid by Navy Seals took place in international waters south of Cyprus, said spokesman Rear Adm John Kirby. The US Seals operated from the USS Roosevelt, a guided missile destroyer, which “provided helicopter support and served as a command and control and support platform” and are now in “full control” of the vessell carrying 234,000 barrels of illicity-obtained oil. The message is clear – don’t mess with the Petrodollar.

Via AFP,

US Navy Seals boarded and took control of an oil tanker that had loaded crude at a rebel-held port in eastern Libya and escaped to sea, the Pentagon said Monday.

No one was hurt “when US forces, at the request of both the Libyan and Cypriot governments, boarded and took control of the commercial tanker Morning Glory, a stateless vessel seized earlier this month by three armed Libyans,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

The operation was approved by President Barack Obama and was conducted in the early hours of Monday (just after 0200 GMT) “in international waters southeast of Cyprus”.

The Morning Glory’s evasion of a naval blockade at the eastern port of Sidra prompted Libya’s parliament to sack Prime Minister Ali Zeidan last week.

Adm Kirby said the operation had been authorised by President Barack Obama and that no-one had been hurt.

“The Morning Glory is carrying a cargo of oil owned by the Libyan government National Oil Company. The ship and its cargo were illicitly obtained,” he said, adding that it would now be returned to a Libyan port.

North Korean?

The Morning Glory originally was a North Korean-flagged ship, but Pyongyang on Wednesday denied any responsibility.

The ship was operated by an Egypt-based company that was allowed to temporarily use the North Korean flag under a contract with Pyongyang, North Korean state news agency KCNA said.

Pyongyang had “cancelled and deleted” the ship’s North Korean registry, as it violated its law “on the registry of ships and the contract that prohibited it from transporting contraband cargo”.

Next Steps..

The loading of the Morning Glory and its escape to sea marked a major escalation in the struggle between Tripoli and the rebels, and triggered the ouster Tuesday of liberal-backed premier Ali Zeidan, who fled the country

the US move is likely to act as a deterrent to any further attempts to illicitly buy oil from the rebel-controlled ports.

Don’t mess with the Petrodollar…

Navy Seals Take Over North-Korea-Flagged Oil Tanker In Libya | Zero Hedge

Navy Seals Take Over North-Korea-Flagged Oil Tanker In Libya | Zero Hedge.

Tensions around the North-Korea-flagged tanker that “illegally” obtained oil from rebels who hold a Libyan port have been escalating for the last week. However, The BBC reports that overnight US forces, at the request of both the Libyan and Cypriot governments, boarded and took control of the commercial tanker Morning Glory. The raid by Navy Seals took place in international waters south of Cyprus, said spokesman Rear Adm John Kirby. The US Seals operated from the USS Roosevelt, a guided missile destroyer, which “provided helicopter support and served as a command and control and support platform” and are now in “full control” of the vessell carrying 234,000 barrels of illicity-obtained oil. The message is clear – don’t mess with the Petrodollar.

Via AFP,

US Navy Seals boarded and took control of an oil tanker that had loaded crude at a rebel-held port in eastern Libya and escaped to sea, the Pentagon said Monday.

No one was hurt “when US forces, at the request of both the Libyan and Cypriot governments, boarded and took control of the commercial tanker Morning Glory, a stateless vessel seized earlier this month by three armed Libyans,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

The operation was approved by President Barack Obama and was conducted in the early hours of Monday (just after 0200 GMT) “in international waters southeast of Cyprus”.

The Morning Glory’s evasion of a naval blockade at the eastern port of Sidra prompted Libya’s parliament to sack Prime Minister Ali Zeidan last week.

Adm Kirby said the operation had been authorised by President Barack Obama and that no-one had been hurt.

“The Morning Glory is carrying a cargo of oil owned by the Libyan government National Oil Company. The ship and its cargo were illicitly obtained,” he said, adding that it would now be returned to a Libyan port.

North Korean?

The Morning Glory originally was a North Korean-flagged ship, but Pyongyang on Wednesday denied any responsibility.

The ship was operated by an Egypt-based company that was allowed to temporarily use the North Korean flag under a contract with Pyongyang, North Korean state news agency KCNA said.

Pyongyang had “cancelled and deleted” the ship’s North Korean registry, as it violated its law “on the registry of ships and the contract that prohibited it from transporting contraband cargo”.

Next Steps..

The loading of the Morning Glory and its escape to sea marked a major escalation in the struggle between Tripoli and the rebels, and triggered the ouster Tuesday of liberal-backed premier Ali Zeidan, who fled the country

the US move is likely to act as a deterrent to any further attempts to illicitly buy oil from the rebel-controlled ports.

Don’t mess with the Petrodollar…

North Korean Tanker Burning In Libya After Navy Opens Fire | Zero Hedge

North Korean Tanker Burning In Libya After Navy Opens Fire | Zero Hedge.

The Libyan defense minister took over duties as prime minister this morning as the Libyan parliament voted “no confidence” in the current prime minister after a North-Korea-flagged tanker broke the “blockade” from a rebel-held port. The ouster of the PM appears to have bolstered confidence in the anti-rebel oil-stealing that we discussed yesterday, and resulted in

  • *LIBYA NAVY FIRE HIT TANKER AS IT FLED TO INTL WATERS: SKYNEWS

The oil tanker – The Morning Glory – had at least 234,000 barrels of oil aboard but is now “under complete control” of Libyan government authorities. However, as Bloomberg reports, the North Korean tanker is said to be on fire after being hit by a missile.

It’s been a busy morning for Libya:

The rebels started it..

  • *EAST LIBYA REBELS ANNOUNCE START OF OIL EXPORTS, NABAA TV SAYS
  • *LIBYA REBELS SEEK TO SELL OIL FROM ALL PORTS THEY CONTROL: TV

And for a while they were right…

  • *OIL TANKER ESCAPES LIBYA NAVY INTO INTERNATIONAL WATERS:JAZEERA
  • *LIBYAN MP HUWAILI SAYS TANKER ESCAPED TO INTL WATERS: NABAA TV
  • *LIBYA’S HUWAILI SAYS GOVT TO ASK INTERPOL TO TRACK TANKER

Which led to:

  • *LIBYAN PARLIAMENT OUSTS PRIME MINISTER, AP SAYS
  • *LIBYAN DEFENSE MINISTER WILL ASSUME ROLE OF PM FOR 15 DAYS

 

Via BBC,

Libya’s parliament has dismissed PM Ali Zeidan after a tanker laden with oil from a rebel-held port reportedly broke through a naval blockade.

 

MPs called a vote of confidence in Mr Zeidan amid reports that the North Korean-flagged ship had escaped to sea.

 

Defence Minister Abdullah al-Thinni was named interim prime minister.

 

Earlier, Libyan officials had said they had “complete control” of the tanker as it tried to leave Sidra port. However, rebel fighters rejected the assertion.

 

Separatist militants have occupied three major eastern ports since August.

 

They are seeking a greater share of the country’s oil revenues, as well as autonomy for eastern Libya.

 

The oil tanker – named Morning Glory – was reported to have taken on at least 234,000 barrels of crude oil at the Sidra terminal.

 

It was the first vessel to have loaded oil from a rebel-held port since the separatist revolt against the authorities in Tripoli erupted in July.

which resulted in:

  • *LIBYA NAVY FIRE HIT TANKER AS IT FLED TO INTL WATERS: SKYNEWS

And, as the Libya Herald reports,

The North Korean-flagged oil tanker that left Libya this morning after loading an illegal shipment of oil is said to be on fire after being hit by a missile.

 

Part of the ship is burning because it was shot at,” General National Congress (GNC) member Abdullah El-Kabier told the Libya Herald. He was unable to give more details or identify who had fired on the tanker.

We suspect Mr. Kim will be displeased (or is this a way to distract from Ukraine and get the North Koreans to rattle some sabres?)

North Korean Tanker Burning In Libya After Navy Opens Fire | Zero Hedge

North Korean Tanker Burning In Libya After Navy Opens Fire | Zero Hedge.

The Libyan defense minister took over duties as prime minister this morning as the Libyan parliament voted “no confidence” in the current prime minister after a North-Korea-flagged tanker broke the “blockade” from a rebel-held port. The ouster of the PM appears to have bolstered confidence in the anti-rebel oil-stealing that we discussed yesterday, and resulted in

  • *LIBYA NAVY FIRE HIT TANKER AS IT FLED TO INTL WATERS: SKYNEWS

The oil tanker – The Morning Glory – had at least 234,000 barrels of oil aboard but is now “under complete control” of Libyan government authorities. However, as Bloomberg reports, the North Korean tanker is said to be on fire after being hit by a missile.

It’s been a busy morning for Libya:

The rebels started it..

  • *EAST LIBYA REBELS ANNOUNCE START OF OIL EXPORTS, NABAA TV SAYS
  • *LIBYA REBELS SEEK TO SELL OIL FROM ALL PORTS THEY CONTROL: TV

And for a while they were right…

  • *OIL TANKER ESCAPES LIBYA NAVY INTO INTERNATIONAL WATERS:JAZEERA
  • *LIBYAN MP HUWAILI SAYS TANKER ESCAPED TO INTL WATERS: NABAA TV
  • *LIBYA’S HUWAILI SAYS GOVT TO ASK INTERPOL TO TRACK TANKER

Which led to:

  • *LIBYAN PARLIAMENT OUSTS PRIME MINISTER, AP SAYS
  • *LIBYAN DEFENSE MINISTER WILL ASSUME ROLE OF PM FOR 15 DAYS

 

Via BBC,

Libya’s parliament has dismissed PM Ali Zeidan after a tanker laden with oil from a rebel-held port reportedly broke through a naval blockade.

 

MPs called a vote of confidence in Mr Zeidan amid reports that the North Korean-flagged ship had escaped to sea.

 

Defence Minister Abdullah al-Thinni was named interim prime minister.

 

Earlier, Libyan officials had said they had “complete control” of the tanker as it tried to leave Sidra port. However, rebel fighters rejected the assertion.

 

Separatist militants have occupied three major eastern ports since August.

 

They are seeking a greater share of the country’s oil revenues, as well as autonomy for eastern Libya.

 

The oil tanker – named Morning Glory – was reported to have taken on at least 234,000 barrels of crude oil at the Sidra terminal.

 

It was the first vessel to have loaded oil from a rebel-held port since the separatist revolt against the authorities in Tripoli erupted in July.

which resulted in:

  • *LIBYA NAVY FIRE HIT TANKER AS IT FLED TO INTL WATERS: SKYNEWS

And, as the Libya Herald reports,

The North Korean-flagged oil tanker that left Libya this morning after loading an illegal shipment of oil is said to be on fire after being hit by a missile.

 

Part of the ship is burning because it was shot at,” General National Congress (GNC) member Abdullah El-Kabier told the Libya Herald. He was unable to give more details or identify who had fired on the tanker.

We suspect Mr. Kim will be displeased (or is this a way to distract from Ukraine and get the North Koreans to rattle some sabres?)

N Korea test-fires two short-range missiles – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

N Korea test-fires two short-range missiles – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

Seoul says missiles launched from Wonsan likely flew about 500km towards open sea in a northeasterly direction.

Last updated: 03 Mar 2014 04:02

North Korea has fired two short-range missiles into the sea off the east coast of the Korean peninsula, South Korea’s defence ministry has said, after launching similar rockets last week.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the missiles likely flew about 500km after being launched on Monday, adding that they were believed to be Scud-C models.

South Korea’s defence ministry has said the Scuds are normally fired using mobile launch pads which can be activated with minimal preparation.

“North Korea fired two missiles, which are suspected as short-range ballistic missiles, at 6:19 this morning from Wonsan area towards open sea in a northeasterly direction.” South Korea’s Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said at a regular news briefing.

“North Korea is taking peace offensive and provocative acts at the same time. We strictly warn against such acts and strongly urge to stop them immediately.”

The distance would mean the weapon can hit targets in South Korea and Japan.

Launches by the North of short-range missiles are not uncommon as part of regular military exercises.

The firing came days after the beginning of annual US and South Korean joint military exercises, which the North routinely denounces as a preparation for war.

Don’t Be Fooled: North Korea Is Getting Ready to Provoke | The Diplomat

Don’t Be Fooled: North Korea Is Getting Ready to Provoke | The Diplomat.

All signs suggest that North Korea is laying the groundwork to begin a new round of provocations.

zachary-keck_q
February 13, 2014

North Korea appears to be laying the groundwork to begin a new round of provocations, which could very well take the form of a missile and/or nuclear test.

Despite its deliberate (and successful, in the U.S. at least) attempts to portray itself as an irrational actor, North Korea’s provocations usually follow a well-worn playbook. This begins with North Korea mounting a charm offensive that is aimed primarily at South Korean audiences. The purpose of this charm offensive is to create hope that Pyongyang could be turning over a new leaf. Amid this charm offensive, North Korea quietly demands that South Korea and/or the United States do something that Pyongyang knows full well they won’t do. When they predictably fail to meet the demand, Pyongyang insists that it is being provoked, and uses this supposed provocation to justify its brazen actions. This allows North Korea to blame its own actions on South Korea and the U.S., which can be convincing to some audiences in China, South Korea, and even the West.

North Korea has carefully put all these pieces into place over the past few weeks. First, it has launched a huge charm offensive containing more carrots than usual. For example, it has agreed to hold the first family reunions in years between Koreans living on opposite sides of the 38th Parallel. The reunions are scheduled to occur for five days starting on February 20. Important constituent groups in South Korea place a great deal of importance on these reunions, and would be extremely disappointed if they were called off.

Secondly, earlier this month an inter-Korean committee discussing the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC)reached an agreement to allow some internet connectivity in the business park in North Korea. It will be the first time any internet has been allowed at KIC in a decade. In announcing the agreement, a Ministry of Unification spokesperson said, “Officials and employees in the North’s border city will be able to use most of the online services now available in South Korea.” The prospect of having the internet at KIC is attractive to the many South Korean businesses that operate there, as well as to those hoping that North Korea will gradually open up to the outside world.

Thirdly, as my colleague Ankit reported, North and South Korean officials held two rounds of talks at the border town of Panmunjom on Wednesday. The talks were held at North Korea’s request. South Korean officials said they were “pleasantly surprised” (in the words of the BBC) to receive the North’s invitation. South Korea’s delegation was led by Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Kyou-hyun, making these the most senior-level talks the two Koreas have held since 2007. Before the meeting began, NSA Kim declared, “This is an opportunity to open a new era of the Korean peninsula. I would like to attend the meeting with ‘open attitude and mind’ to study the opportunity.”

There have also been some less noticed overtures made to Japan and the United States. For example, Kyodo News Agency has reported that Japan and North Korea held talks last month in Vietnam. Tokyo immediately denied the reports, with a Shinzo Abe spokesperson saying that Japan cut off official talks with North Korea after it launched a missile over Japan in 2012. That being said, last May North Korea’s state media announced what was supposed to be a secret trip to Pyongyang by a close Shinzo Abe aide. There have also been reports that the same aide met with North Korean officials last October in northwest China. Thus, the Abe administration’s denial of the meeting in Vietnam last month cannot be taken at face value.

North Korea has been stingier toward the U.S. during this current charm offensive. That being said, it did raise expectations that it might be amenable to releasing the American-Korean prisoner Kenneth Bae, before once again shooting down that possibility. Moreover, Donald Gregg, the former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, iscurrently leading a delegation to North Korea for talks with government officials. Gregg’s trip came at the invitation of North Korea’s Foreign Ministry.

If all this seems too good to be true, that’s because it almost certainly is. Since at least as far back as the middle of January, North Korea has been quietly demanding that South Korea and the U.S. cancel their annual military exercise, Foal Eagle, which will begin on February 24 and run through April. This demand has grown progressively louder as the exercise’s start date nears, and North Korea has threatened to withdraw from the planned family reunions if the military exercise takes place.

As North Korea well knows, there is virtually no possibility that the U.S. and the ROK will agree to call off the exercise, which is precisely the reason it has made the demand. At most, the allies might agree to forgo some parts of the drill that the North sees as most provocative. Even then, they would only do so quietly with no formal announcement.

Pyongyang and Seoul plan to continue discussions ostensibly aimed at finding a compromise that allows for the family reunions to move forward. These are likely to be futile as North Korea almost certainly doesn’t want to find common ground, but rather wants to use the Foal Eagle exercise to blame Seoul for a breakdown in relations.

It’s possible that it may be content with stopping there. However, given how much effort it has put into the charm offensive in recent weeks, North Korea likely has a larger goal in mind. The best case scenario is that the charm offensive has been a ruse to woo China. Chinese-North Korean relations have continued to deteriorate in recent months, with some of the discord playing itself out in public. Beijing consistently urges all parties on the Peninsula to take measures that improve peace and stability, and North Korea may hope its charm offensive — along with blaming the breakdown on South Korea and the U.S. — will put it back in China’s good graces.

The more troubling scenario is that the charm offensive has been laying the groundwork for another round of provocations. If so, there have been a number of signs that suggest that it will take the form of a missile test, likely to be followed closely by the country’s fourth nuclear test. Last week Johns Hopkins University’s 38 North said satellite imagery showed that upgrades to a launching pad were nearing completion, and when finished would enable the site to launch larger rockets.

Then, on Monday, ROK Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin told the National Assembly that North Korea had finished preparations for a fourth nuclear test, while adding that there were no signs that one was imminent. Still, North Korea’s nuclear tests are almost always preceded by a missile test, which North Korea disingenuously portrays as part of a peaceful space program. It then uses the international community’s “hostile” response to its space exploration to justify a nuclear test.

Commentary: Japan’s War on History Comes to America | The National Interest

Commentary: Japan’s War on History Comes to America | The National Interest.

|

February 6, 2014

Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe has a promise to keep. And it is a promise that tests his and any American governor’s ability to stand up for his constituents against economic blackmail. During his campaign hevowed to support having school textbooks note that the Sea of Japan is also called the East Sea. Japan has reacted to this small addendum by threatening to withhold trade and investment from the Commonwealth.

Japanese ambassador Kenichiro Sasae and a pack of lobbyists have warned Governor McAuliffe that allowing two names for the body of water between Japan and South Korea, North Korea, and Russia would endanger Japanese investment in the State. The Japanese government wants to retain a linguistic vestige of Western expansionism and Japanese colonialism. Korea was a colony of Japan through half of the twentieth century and was forced to abandon its language, geographyhistory and culture.

As a former prisoner of war of Japan, I am familiar with the Japanese government’s use of economic threats to defend its colonial era history and unwillingness to take responsibility for Imperial Japan’s war crimes. Tokyo used these against legislation in 2001 in West Virginia to kill a resolution calling on the Japan to offer a formal apology and compensation to former prisoners of war.

In the spring of 2001, the Rules Committee of the West Virginia House of Delegates unanimously approved House Concurrent Resolution No. 7. As this happened at the end of the legislative session (81st), the full House did not have time to consider the resolution. I was assured that it would be approved in House and Senate in the following year during the 82nd Legislature.

Japan’s Consul General in New York reacted to this delay by sending a letter to West Virginia legislators, Governor, and others stating that the “positive cooperation and strong economic ties” between Japan and West Virginia might be damaged if the resolution was approved. Japan would not buy the state’s coal and steel. His warning was successful and the result was that neither chamber of the Legislature ever reconsidered the resolution.

No governor should allow a foreign government to blackmail his state. Further, no American should allow a foreign government the opportunity to again humiliate its once subjugated peoples. In the end, Governor McAuliffe must decide what lesson that he wants Virginia’s school children to learn: that there are reasonable alternatives to geographic names or that their governor can be swayed by intimidation.

Edward Jackfert, a native of Wellsburg, WV, was a POW of Japan captured on Mindanao, The Philippines. He was twice National Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor.

The Japanese government’s repeated intervention in efforts to set history straight is a painful reminder of the indignities I endured at the hands of my Japanese captors. I was a U.S. Army Air Corps mechanic, surrendered on May 6, 1942 at the fall of the Philippines. I became one of the thousands of POWs shipped to Japan in fetid holds aboard “hell ships” owned by Kawasaki’s K-Line or Mitsubishi’s NYK. In Japan, I was brutalized and humiliated as a slave laborer by four prominent Japanese companies during World War II. I was forced to work for Mitsui, Nippon Steel, Showa Denko, and Nisshin Flour Mills.

There were over sixty Japanese companies that used American and Allied POWs as well as Dutch, Indian, Korean, and Chinese civilians for slave labor. Most are major corporations that still exist and likely do business in Virginia. None have acknowledged or apologized for their use and abuse of these unwilling workers.

Virginians once questioned why a French company (Keolis) that is unapologetic for the Holocaust is allowed to service their VRE rail line. They should now ask why Sumitomo, Kawasaki, and Mitsui rail cars run on the VRE. Conditions in their factory camps (yes, plural) rivaled the inhumanity in those of the Nazis.

I think the Virginia governor should stand up to Japanese threats and ask that maybe it’s time for a means test of corporate responsibility for Japanese companies that want state contracts. Too many Virginians, native born and immigrant, suffered horribly for these companies to now allow them to operate with impunity in the Commonwealth.

North Korea ‘executes slain general’s family’ – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

North Korea ‘executes slain general’s family’ – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

Jang was a powerful general in the military before his execution in December [Reuters]
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has ordered the execution of his uncle’s entire family, including his children and relatives serving as ambassadors to Cuba and Malaysia, according to South Korea’s state news agency, Yonhap.Jang Song-thaek, a once powerful North Korean military general, was executed last month as divisions between him and his nephew Kim widened.

All relatives of Jang have been put to death, including even children.Unnamed source for Yonhap.

Kim referred to Jang as “worse than a dog” and “human scum” in his announcement of his execution, which he said was for treachery and betreyal. Pictures showed Jang being led from his office by state security.

“Extensive executions have been carried out for relatives of Jang Song-thaek,” an anonymous source said to Yonhap in a report published on Sunday. “All relatives of Jang have been put to death, including even children.”

The executed relatives include Jang’s sister Kye-sun, her husband and ambassador to Cuba, Jon Yong-jin, the ambassador to Malaysia, Jang Yong-chol, who is Jang’s nephew, as well as his two sons, the sources said.

The two ambassadors were recalled to Pyongyang in early December. The sons, daughters and grandchildren of Jang’s two brothers were all executed, the sources told Yonhap.

One source told Yonhap that some relatives were dragged out of their houses and shot in front of a crowd.

South Korea’s state news agency did not specify when they were killed. The article does not mention any specific sources and the agency is known for its anti-North Korean bias.

After Davos, The China-Japan ‘Cold-War’ “Situation Is Getting Worse” | Zero Hedge

After Davos, The China-Japan ‘Cold-War’ “Situation Is Getting Worse” | Zero Hedge.

China and Japan’s war of words reveals a larger struggle for regional influence akin to a mini Cold War. Last week’s tempestuous pissing contest in Davos, which The FT’s Gideon Rachman notes, left people with the belief that “this is not a situation that is getting better; it is getting worse.” Following Abe’s analogies to WWI, China’s Yi compared Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni shrine to Merkel visiting the graves of Nazi war criminals and as the rhetoric grows the US has asked for reassurance from Abe that he will not do it again. So we have two countries, each building up their militaries while insisting they must do so to counter the threat of their regional rival. Added to this, a deep distrust of each other’s different political systems coupled with a history of animosity makes the two nations deeply suspicious of each other. Each country insists it loves peace, and uses scare tactics to try to paint its opponent as a hawkish boogeymanSound familiar to anyone else?

 

As The WSJ reports,

U.S. officials say they are seeking assurances from Japan that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won’t repeat a visit to a war shrine that angered China and South Korea and will ask Mr. Abe to consider reaffirming Tokyo’s previous formal apologies over World War II in a bid to ease tensions in East Asia.

 

But even as Washington looks for calm, Seoul and Beijing bristled again this week over new comments by Mr. Abe on his shrine visit, underscoring the challenges the U.S. faces in its diplomatic push.

The FT sums up the tensions in Davos last week…

 

Via Shannon Tiezzi via The Diplomat,

Lately, it seems that Japanese officials can’t sneeze without incurring the wrath of the Chinese — and vice versa. So it’s no surprise that even conciliatory statements from Shinzo Abe have been soundly rebuffed. On Thursday, Abe wrote a message, published in local Chinese-language papers, conveying greetings for the lunar new year. According to Reuters’ translation of the Japanese-language version, Abe insisted that Japan has “taken the path of peace” since World War II, and “nothing has been changed in the policy of continuing to uphold this position.”

Friday, Abe further extended the olive branch. According to Channel NewsAsia, Abe told a parliamentary session that “Japan and China are inseparable.” He also expressed his desire for the two countries to restart diplomatic meetings. “Instead of refusing to hold dialogue unless issues become resolved, we should hold talks because we have issues,” Abe said.

China flatly rejected these overtures. Responding to earlier requests for a bilateral dialogue, Qin Gang responded with bitter sarcasm: “Such kind of dialogue will be of no effect. Chinese leaders are very busy. Let them spend more time on things useful and effective.” China has repeatedly expressed its position that no diplomatic meetings between China and Japan can be held until Shinzo Abe proves his sincerity. During Friday’s press conference, Qin Gang laid down a specific path for restarting dialogue: Abe should declare that “I will pull back from the precipice, immediately admit and correct mistakes and make no more visits to the Yasukuni Shrine.”

As I wrote earlierat this point it seems impossible that anything Abe will do will satisfy Chinese leaders (the things he could do, like apologizing for his visit to Yasukuni and/or Japan’s imperialistic past, are incredibly unlikely). To Chinese officials, Abe is “self-contradictory,” as an editorial in China Daily put it. Unless Abe apologizes for and refrains from repeating actions that upset China (from visiting Yasukuni to building up Japan’s military), China will dismiss as insincere his rhetoric about dialogue and peace. Meanwhile, from the Japanese perspective, were Abe to devote the rest of his administration to proving his friendship to China, it would have obvious negative repercussions for Japanese interests.

So we have two countries, each building up their militaries while insisting they must do so to counter the threat of their regional rival. Added to this, a deep distrust of each other’s different political systems coupled with a history of animosity makes the two nations deeply suspicious of each other. Each country insists it loves peace, and uses scare tactics to try to paint its opponent as a hawkish boogeyman. Sound familiar to anyone else?

Ever since the Cold War ended, strategists have been warning leaders to drop the “Cold War mentality.” But it apparently hasn’t worked, because that is exactly what we have right now between China and Japan. The two countries identify so strongly as rivals that it’s impossible for either country to do or say anything without triggering a response from its counterpart. The tensions pop up in the most unexpected places – during Abe’s Africa tour, during a global economic summit in Switzerland.

Even the strong economic ties between China and Japan haven’t helped forestall tensions. In fact, it’s the other way around – tensions are eroding the economic relationship. The Telegraph recently reported that, according to a poll, 60 percent of Chinese business leaders are unwilling to work with Japanese firms. In 2012, China-Japan tensions even erupted into outright calls to boycott Japanese products, with rioters targeting Japanese businesses and restaurants. While Japan’s business view of China is less affected (according to The Telegraph, 80 percent of Japanese are willing to continue trade with China and South Korea), economic interests are shifting to other regions, notably Southeast Asia. Economic ties are likely to continue worsening. It’s certainly hard to see the next round of negotiations on a trilateral China-Japan-South Korea free-trade agreement going off as planned in February 2014.

As with the Cold War, part of the problem is that both China and Japan willfully read each other’s every move as a challenge or threat. For all the distrust between China and the United States, the problem hasn’t reached this level (yet). The U.S. has too many potential enemies (Russia, Iran, North Korea) and too many global interests for China to realistically interpret every diplomatic or strategic maneuver as somehow anti-China (although certainly some hawks within China do try). Japan, with its more limited global presence and strategic interests, is a different story. Meanwhile, as China is currently limiting its military build-up and strategic goals to the near seas, it’s easy for Tokyo interpret each move (for example, a new air defense identification zone) as directly aimed at Japan.

My colleague Zachary wrote Friday that one byproduct of the United States’ decline could be the emergence of regional hegemons. We might be seeing the beginning of this process now, with China and Japan in a Cold War-style battle, not for global power but for regional dominance. The territorial dispute highlights this by increasing the possibility of military conflict, but even if the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands were to sink into the ocean tomorrow (one possible benefit of global warming) the tensions would remain. It’s a regional Cold War, currently being fought with words but with an arms race looming on the horizon. And, like the Cold War, tensions are unlikely to end until one country claims victory.

US sends troops and tanks to South Korea – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

US sends troops and tanks to South Korea – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the US stood united with South Korea against the North [AP]
The United States is to deploy more troops and heavy tanks in South Korea as part of a military rebalance at a time of raised tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Forty M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks, 800 soldiers and 40 Bradley fighting vehicles from the 1st US Cavalry Division will be sent on deployment in February, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday.

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

The deployment comes at a time of raised tensions on the peninsula after the North’s young leader, Kim Jong-Un, executed his powerful uncle last month, the biggest upheaval inside the ruling dynasty for years.

The North under Jong-Un has continued to develop nuclear weapons and test missiles in defiance of UN resolutions.

Commenting on the deployment, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said: “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 destabilising nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and proliferation activities.

Army Colonel Steve Warren said: “This addition 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.”

The US has 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.

A Pentagon spokesman said the additional equipment would be left behind after the nine-month deployment to be used by follow-on rotations of US forces.

Barack Obama, the US president, announced a strategic rebalancing of priorities toward the Pacific in late 2011 while winding down US commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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