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NK offers olive branch after holocaust threat – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

NK offers olive branch after holocaust threat – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

S Korea has rejected calls for an end to the mudslinging, saying it does not slander or threaten the North [AP]
North Korea has called on South Korea to end “all acts of provocation and slander”, a day after it warned of “an unimaginable holocaust” if the South carried out military exercises with the United States.

The National Defence Commission in Pyongyang adopted the conciliatory tone on Thursday in line with leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year speech about greater co-operation between the two countries.

In a statement posted on the official KCNA news agency, the NDC said: “We officially propose the South Korean authorities to take a practical measure of halting all acts of provoking and slandering the other side from January 30, a day before the Lunar New Year’s Day.”

But the olive branch was rejected by Seoul on Friday, with a government spokesman saying there was no intention of changing its behaviour or plans.

“We don’t slander North Korea so there is nothing for us to stop,” Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-Do said.

“Our military exercises are routine defensive drills, like those conducted by all sovereign states.”

The North has regularly denounced the annual drills staged by South Korea and US as preparation for invasion.

This year, Pyongyang said the exercises were dangerous and “may push the situation on the peninsula and the north-south ties to a catastrophe,” KCNA reported.

A spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) said in a statement: “They should clearly understand that the north-south ties will plunge into a deadlock and unimaginable holocaust and that disaster will follow should they go ahead with the nuclear war drills and make military provocation.”

Last year’s exercises were held in the wake of North Korea’s third and largest nuclear test, prompting months of heightened military tensions that saw Pyongyang issue apocalyptic threats of nuclear war against the South and the US.

The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity : World Danger Spots for 2014

The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity : World Danger Spots for 2014.

written by eric margolis
Kiev Nov

Where are the world’s most dangerous places in 2014?

*Mostly forgotten, but the highly dangerous, Indian-controlled portion of disputed Kashmir. Rebellion against Indian rule by Kashmir’s majority Muslims is again boiling. Over 1.6 million Indian and Pakistani troops, backed by nuclear weapons, are in confrontation. Skirmishing along Kashmir’s Line of Control is frequent. The nuclear strike forces of both India and Pakistan are on a perilous hair-trigger alert, with about three minutes warning of an enemy attack.

A false warning of incoming missiles or aircraft, a border clash, or a massive offensive by India exasperated by guerilla attacks from Pakistan could set off a war that could kill millions and pollute the entire planet with radioactive dust. India and Pakistan aside, hardly anyone even thinks about beautiful, remote, perilous Kashmir.

*Korea’s Demilitarized Zone, the world’s second most dangerous place where 1.5 million North and South Korean troops, and 28,000 Americans, face off. Tension crackles along the DMZ. Some 11,000 N Korean guns and rockets are targeted on South Korea’s capitol, Seoul. The North is believed to have 4-6 crude nuclear devices that could hit S Korea or Japan.

In December, North Korea’s new ruler, Kim Jong-un, had his powerful uncle arrested and shot. This was another sign of the Pyongyang regime’s instability, and dangerously erratic behavior by youthful hothead leader, Kim Jong-un. War could erupt anytime along the DMZ. Just as likely, North Korea could collapse, sending 25 million starving northerners to seek refuge in South Korea, something that Seoul dreads.

*The dear old Mideast. Syria may continue disintegrating into warring mini-states. The US, Saudi, Israel, and Turkey sparked the uprising against Syrian ruler Bashar Assad to punish Iran, causing millions of refugees to flood the region. This after the US invasion of Iraq caused 3 million refugees. Iran and Saudi Arabia (backed by secret ally Israel) will fight over Syria’s bleeding body as this once lovely country is relentlessly destroyed. Yemen will continue to burn.

Intense efforts are underway by American neocons and their hired hands in Congress to get the US to attack Iran, or at least force the US to go to war against Iran if Israel initiates a conflict. Meanwhile, Israel is gearing up for another invasion of Lebanon aimed at destroying Hezbollah, and it may intervene directly in Syria. Egypt, now ruled by a fascist military junta, is working hand in glove with Israel and Saudi Arabia. The so-called Israel-Palestinian peace agreement is a very bad joke, a Mideast Kabuki dance in which no one believes.

*East Africa – A new cauldron of trouble. Efforts by Washington to forge a US-led African protectorate of South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Somalia – dominated by close US ally Ethiopia – have run into trouble. All are dictatorships that are rent by tribal, ethnic and regional problems.

Watch the new US Africa Command get drawn ever deeper into East, Central and North Africa, all regions, by no coincidence, with oil.

*China Sea – China has blundered into open confrontation with Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines over its claims to islets in the East China Sea. This has caused the US to beef up its Pacific forces and alliances. Japanese and Chinese warplanes and ships play a daily game of chicken around the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. China’s aggressive stance is causing Japan to increase military spending and may, along with North Korean threats, cause Japan to deploy nuclear weapons – which it can produce in only 90 days.

Chinese, usually deft, cautious diplomats, have alarmed much of East Asia for no good purpose. China’s government has been foolishly fanning the flames of nationalism among young people. All this resonates with the same type of idiotic, primitive behavior that unleashed World War I. The clock is ticking down rapidly.

*Strife-torn Ukraine is another powder keg. Its western half wants to join Europe; the Russian-speaking eastern half wants to reunite with Russia. The West is busy stirring the pot in Kiev. Moscow is furious and sees nefarious western plots to begin tearing apart the Russian Federation, which is beset by rebellion in the Caucasus. All this threatens a clash between Russia and NATO. Diplomacy, not subversion, is urgently needed.

Flickr/Oxlaey.com

Top 10 Global Risks for 2014 | Zero Hedge

Top 10 Global Risks for 2014 | Zero Hedge.

With another new year upon us mortals, we thought it is time again to check out the top 10 global risks ranked by Oxford Analytica.  Not surprisingly, from a geographical perspective, a majority of the top global risks come from the Middle East region (at 40%) and the Asia-Pacific region, specifically China, and North Korea (at 30%).  U.S., Europe, and Russia round out the rest.

 

 

Source: Oxford Analytica

 

The ranking is mostly based on the potential size of global impact.  However, putting them under the lens of probability, a difference picture emerges (see graph below)

 

Chart Source: Oxford Analytica

While the economic related risks such as a sharp slowdown in China, EU disintegration, and deflation in the U.S may rein supreme in terms of global impact, the probability of them materializing is actually less likely than the geopolitical risk in the Middle East (Syria, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan), and Asia (China, North Korea).

 

In terms of the type of risk, seven out of the top 10 risks are geopolitical, while only three are financial or economic.  So if we look at probability from this perspective, we are more likely to see a war or regime topple before another financial crisis rippling through the world again.

 

Regarding the ‘U.S. Deflationary Trap’, the Fed said last month it would reduce its monthly asset purchases by $10 billion to $75 billion, while also expressed worries about inflation.  Meanwhile, Fed’s balance sheet has ballooned to $4 trillion, we seriously doubt the U.S. deflationary scenario after Fed’s helicoptered five years worth of QEs.

 

 

At this point, we at EconMatters believe that the Federal Reserve removing the Liquidity Punchbowl not because everything is fixed with the US economy, and we have fully recovered from the financial crisis of 2007, but because they have no other choice in the matter given the obvious asset bubbles they have created in the credit, bond and equity markets.

 

For now, the inflationary effect from QEs is mostly trapped in the stock and commodity markets (i.e. enriching the 1%), but inevitably it will manifest and spill over to the consumer side of things hitting hard on the 99%.  The removal of this liquidity, the resultant implications for financial markets, and potential future inflationary consequence of Fed’s QEs remain an under appreciated risk to the global economy in our humble opinion.

2013 in Review: The Worrying Trend of Internet Shutdowns | Electronic Frontier Foundation

2013 in Review: The Worrying Trend of Internet Shutdowns | Electronic Frontier Foundation.

2013 in ReviewAs the year draws to a close, EFF is looking back at the major trends influencing digital rights in 2013 and discussing where we are in the fight for free expression, innovation, fair use, and privacy. Click here to read other blog posts in this series.

Prior to January 2011, national or regional Internet “blackouts” were mostly unheard of.  Although the Maldives,NepalBurma, and China all preceded Egypt with this innovation, it was the shutdown initiated by former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak that set a new precedent and garnered global media coverage.  Since then, SyriaLibya, and even San Francisco’s BART police have “pulled a Mubarak.”

But in 2013, Internet blackouts became de rigeur for embattled governments: In August,Burma experienced a week of disruptions, the cause of which remains unclear. In Egypt’s North Sinai region, telephone and Internet networks were—according to a report from Mada Masr—intermittently shut down in September in the midst of military operations targeting militants there. In Sudan, where a brutal government crackdown in September on protests over fuel subsidy cuts resulted in the deaths of more than 30 people, authorities cut off Internet accessin an apparent bid to stop the demonstrations. In October, Renesys reported that the Iraqi government had tried but failed to shut down the Internet. And more recently, Renesys spotted a 45-minute national outage from North Korea, for which the source was unclear.

The Syrian Internet has seen numerous outages throughout the year, some of which appear to be politically motivated and others of which may be structural.  In October, Aleppo was without Internet for 17.5 hours, while in early December, the entire country’s Internet went down for a few hours.

Politically-motivated Internet outages are certainly trending. For governments, they pose an all-too-tempting way of stifling speech and keeping order during periods of protest or unrest, but as the BART telecommunications shutdown in San Francisco demonstrated, they can also prevent urgent communications from getting through and therefore may not be worth the risks they pose, even to the most despotic of regimes.

This article is part of our 2013 Year in Review series; read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2013.

 

Kim tells N Korean army to ready for combat – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

Kim tells N Korean army to ready for combat – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

Kim visited the Command of Large Combined Unit 526 on Tuesday to mark the day his father became supreme commander [EPA]
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has warned war could break out “without any prior notice” and urged his military to bolster its combat readiness, state media reported.The call on Wednesday comes one day after a US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University report said that satellite imagery suggested that the North might have begun producing fuel rods for its recently restarted nuclear reactor.

There has been heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula following the execution of Kim’s uncle and former mentor in an unusually public purge.

Seoul and Washington have warned of possible provocative acts by the nuclear-armed North following the execution of Jang Song-Thaek, a senior leader who was also the uncle and former political mentor of the younger leader.

Kim visited the Command of Large Combined Unit 526 on Christmas Eve, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.

“He instructed the unit to put utmost spurs on rounding off its combat readiness… always bearing in mind that a war breaks out without any prior notice,” it said.

The unit is based in the North’s western port city of Nampo, according to the South’s Yonhap news agency.

‘Ominous’ situation

The Johns Hopkins University report said that satellite imagery had identified facilities at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Centre that might produce fuel for North Korea’s recently restarted  plutonium production reactor and the Experimental Light Water Reactor still under construction.

“The identification of these facilities indicates a more wide-ranging, extensive effort by North Korea to modernise and restart the Yongbyon complex dating back to 2009 than previously understood,” the report said.

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye called for “watertight security readiness” during her trip on Tuesday to a frontline guard post, as she described the situation over the border as “ominous”.

“We should react sternly and mercilessly to any provocations by North Korea,” she said.

The reclusive state’s propaganda mill has gone into overdrive in recent days, describing Jang as a traitor while extolling Kim’s leadership.

Tens of thousands of troops pledged loyalty to him in a mass rally on the death anniversary of his father last Tuesday.

The Kim dynasty has ruled the impoverished but nuclear-armed state since 1948 with an iron fist and pervasive personality cult.

 

N Korea ‘restarting nuclear programme’ – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

N Korea ‘restarting nuclear programme’ – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

A cooling tower at Yongbyon was destroyed in June 2008, but the plant now seems to be reactivating [Reuters]
Satellite imagery suggests North Korea is making “wide-ranging, extensive” efforts to fully reactivate its main nuclear complex, a US think-tank has said, in line with Pyongyang’s vows to strengthen its weapons programme.Recent images show work at the Yongbyon nuclear compound, apparently aimed at producing fuel rods to be used in a plutonium reactor, Johns Hopkins University’s US-Korea Institute said.

Analysis of the imagery identified one “probable fuel fabrication plant” for the 5-megawatt plutonium reactor that reopened earlier this year, researcher Nick Hansen wrote on the institute’s blog, 38 North.

The isolated communist state staged its third nuclear test in February, its most powerful to date, after two previous tests in 2006 and 2009.

Two months later, it said it would reopen the Yongbyon nuclear compound in the northwest that had been shut since 2007, in order to bolster its atomic arsenal.

“The soot on the new roof shows that a heating process had occurred, such as the use of metal casting furnaces necessary to complete the heat treatment during the fuel rod assembly,” Hansen wrote.

Nuclear stockpile

A nearby venue that appears to be a dumping site showed a large amount of “grey materials” suspected to be ash from the fuel rod production process, he added.

“The identification of these facilities indicates a more wide-ranging, extensive effort by North Korea to modernise and restart the Yongbyon complex… than previously understood,” he wrote.

Pyongyang’s current stockpile of nuclear materials, mostly plutonium, is variously estimated as being enough for six to 10 bombs.

Nam Jae-Joon, chief of the South’s intelligence agency, told politicians on Monday that the North was capable of staging another atomic test anytime but had so far showed no signs of doing so.

 

Japan set to buy $240B worth of hi-tech weapons | StratRisks

Japan set to buy $240B worth of hi-tech weapons | StratRisks.

Source: NewsInfo

Japan set to buy $240B worth of hi-tech weapons

TOKYO—Japan announced on Tuesday that it would buy stealth fighters, drones and submarines as part of a splurge on military hardware that would beef up defense of far-flung islands amid a simmering territorial row with China.

The Cabinet of hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to spend 24.7 trillion yen ($240 billion) between 2014 and 2019 in a strategic shift toward the south and west of the country—a 5-percent boost to the military budget over five years.

The shopping list is part of efforts by Abe to normalize the military in Japan, which has been officially pacifist since its defeat in World War II. Its well-equipped and highly professional services are limited to a narrowly defined self-defensive role.

Abe’s plan to upgrade Japan’s military capability comes with the establishment of a US-style National Security Council that is expected to concentrate greater power in the hands of a smaller number of senior politicians and bureaucrats.

Fears are growing in Japan over the rising power of China, with the two countries embroiled in a dispute over the sovereignty of a group of islands in the East China Sea, and the perennial menace posed by an unpredictable North Korea.

Joint defense force

New guidelines approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday said Tokyo would introduce a “dynamic joint defense force,” intended to help air, land and sea forces work together more effectively.

Abe said the shift would allow Japan’s military to better shoulder its responsibilities on the global stage, through what he has promoted as “proactive pacifism.”

“We hope to make further contributions to the peace and stability of the international community through proactive pacifism,” he said. “This shows with transparency our country’s diplomatic and defense policies.”

Spending will be raised to 24.7 trillion yen over five years from April 2014, up from the present 23.5 trillion yen over the five years to March 2014, but the figure could be trimmed by up to 700 billion yen if the defense ministry can find savings and efficiencies.

New hardware will include 3 drones, 52 amphibious vehicles, 17 Osprey hybrid choppers and 5 submarines—all designed to boost maritime surveillance and bolster defense of islands.

The spending will also encompass two destroyers equipped with the Aegis antimissile system and 28 new F-35 fighter jets, a stealth plane far superior to the F-15s that Japan currently has in service.

Analysts noted that much of this kit will replace obsolete equipment, but the shift in military priorities is evident.

“The guidelines underscore a clear shift of Japan’s major defense focus to the protection of its islands in the East China Sea,” said Hideshi Takesada, an expert on regional security at Takushoku University in Tokyo.

During the Cold War, Japan’s military was largely static, with the majority of resources in the north and east to guard against any invasion by Russia.

Changing dynamics

But changing dynamics and in particular the rise of China—where double-digit rises in defense spending are the annual norm—mean that Japan’s armed forces need to be located further south and to be able to deploy to the country’s many far-flung islands.

“The guidelines show Japan’s readiness for practical defense if China’s bluff turns to be real military action,” Takesada said.

Regional tensions were ratcheted up last month when China abruptly declared a new air defense identification zone over the East China Sea, including overdisputed Tokyo-controlled islands called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.

Abe on Saturday denounced the declaration and demanded Beijing retract it immediately and unconditionally, after a summit with Southeast Asian leaders where a joint statement called for freedom of travel on the seas and in the air.

Beijing issued a sharp rebuke, singling out Abe for “slanderous remarks.”

The guidelines also call for Japan to boost its missile defense system to counter “a grave and imminent threat” from North Korea.

 

China Slams Abe’s “Malicious Slander”; Warns Japan Is “Doomed To Failure” | Zero Hedge

China Slams Abe’s “Malicious Slander”; Warns Japan Is “Doomed To Failure” | Zero Hedge.

Events in the East China Sea since 2009 have thrust to the forefront the following frightening question: will China and Japan imminently go to war? Conventional answers in the affirmative point to the deep level of historical mistrust and a certain level of “unfinished business” in East Asian international politics, stemming from the heyday of Showa Japan’s imperialism across Asia. Those on the negative often point to the astronomical economic costs that would follow from a war that pinned the world’s first and third largest economies against its second in a fight over a few measly islands, undersea hydrocarbon reserves be damned.

I can’t pretend to arbitrate between these two camps but I find that far too many observers sympathize with the second camp based on rational impulse. Of course China and Japan wouldn’t fight a war! That’d ruin their economies! I sympathize with the Clausewtizean notion of war being a continuation of politics “by other means,” and the problems caused by information asymmetries (effectively handicapping rational decision-making), but the situation over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands can result in war even if the top leaders in Tokyo and Beijing are eminently rational.

Political scientist James D. Fearon’s path-breaking article “Rationalist Explanations for War” provides a still-relevant schema that’s wonderfully applicable to the contemporary situation between China and Japan in the East China Sea. Fearon’s paper was initially relevant because it challenged the overly simplistic rationalist’s dogma: if war is so costly, then there has to be some sort of diplomatic solution that is preferable to all parties involved — barring information asymmetries and communication deficits, such an agreement should and will be signed.

Of course, this doesn’t correspond to reality where we know that many incredibly costly wars have been fought (from the first World War to the Iran-Iraq War). So, if wars are costly — as one over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands is likely to be — why do they still occur? Well, the answer isn’t Japanese imperialism or because states just sometimes irrationally dislike each other (as the affirmative camp would argue). It’s more subtle.

Fearon’s “bargaining model” assumes a few dictums about state knowledge, behavior and expectations ex ante. I’ll cast the remainder of the model in terms of Japan and China since they’re our subjects of interest (and to avoid floating off into academic abstractions).

First, China and Japan both know that there is an actual probability distribution of the likely outcomes of the war. They don’t know what the actual distribution is, but they can estimate what is likely in terms of the costs and outcomes of going to war. For example, Japan can predict that it would suffer relatively low naval losses and would strengthen its administrative control of the islands; China could predict the same outcome, or it could interpret things in its favor. In essence, they acknowledge that war is predictable in its unpredictability.

Second, China and Japan want to limit risk or are neutral to risk, but definitely do not crave risk. War is fundamentally risky so this is tantamount to an acknowledgement that war is costlier than maintaining peace or negotiating an ex ante diplomatic solution.

The third assumption is a little dressed up in academic jargon: there can be no “issue indivisibility.” In plain English, this essentially means that whatever the states are fighting over (usually territory, but it could be a pot of gold) can be divided between them in an infinite number of ways on a line going from zero to one.Imagine that zero is Japan’s ideal preference (total Japanese control of the Senkakus and acknowledgement as such by China) and one is China’s ideal preference (total Chinese control of Diaoyu and acknowledgement by Japan). Fearon’s assumption requires that there exist points like 0.23 and 0.83 (and so forth) which set up some sort sharing between the warring parties. Even solutions, such as one proposed by Zheng Wang here at The Diplomat to establish a “peace zone,” could sit on this line.

If the third assumption sounds the shakiest to you that’s probably because it is. “Issue indivisibility” is a nasty problem and a subject of quite some research. It usually is at the heart of wars that seek to decide which state should control a territory such as a Holy City (the intractability of the Arab-Israeli conflict is said to be plagued by indivisible issues).

So, is the dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu fundamentally indivisible? Probably in the sense of splitting sovereignty over the islands, but probably not in the sense of some ex ante bargain similar to what Zheng proposed. Even if the set of solutions isn’t infinitely divisible, whatever finite solutions exist might not fall within whatever range of solutions either Japan or China is willing to tolerate — leading to war.

Fearon actually doesn’t buy the indivisibility-leading-to-war theory himself. He reasons that generally almost every issue is complex enough to be divisible to a degree acceptable by each party (undermining the infinite divisibility requirement), and that states can link issues and offer payments to offset any asymmetrical outcome. In the Senkaku/Diaoyu case, this would mean a solution could hinge upon Japan making a broader apology for its aggression against China in the 20th century or China taking a harsher stance on North Korea (both unlikely).

Relevant to the Air Defense Identification Zone is Fearon’s description of war arising between rational states due to incentives to misrepresent capabilities. China and Japan’s leaders know more about their country’s actual willingness to go to war than anyone else, and it benefits to signal strong resolve on the issue to extract more concessions in any potential deal.Japan announcing its willingness to shoot down Chinese drones earlier this year and its most recent defense plans are example of this, and China’s ADIZ is probably the archetype of such a signal. Instead of extracting a good deal, what such declarations can do is force rational hands to war over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.

Fearon’s final explanation — regarding commitment problems leading to war — is slightly ancillary to the core discussion about the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands given Japan’s constitutional restraints on the use of force (rendering preemptive, preventative, and offensive wars largely irrelevant in the Japanese case). Regardless, the point remains that even if the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands might seem like a terribly silly thing for the world’s second and third largest economies to go to war over, war can still be likely.

As I observe events in the East China Sea, I mostly recall Fearon’s warnings on certain types of signals leading to brinksmanship (the divisibility issue is far murkier). Both Japan and China don’t seem to be relenting on these sorts of deleterious signals. Additionally, given that Chinese and Japanese diplomats haven’t had high-level contact in fourteen months, even the more primitive rationalist’s explanation, that war occurs because a lack of communication leads to rational miscalculations, becomes plausible.

A reflection on the possible rational reasons for China and Japan to go to war over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands highlights the seriousness of the ongoing brinksmanship in the East China Sea. If a war is fought over these long-contested islands, it will have an eminently rational explanation underlying all the historical mistrust and nationalism on the surface. War in the East China Sea is possible, despite the economic costs.

 

 

North Korea’s Purge Message to China: Pay Up – Bloomberg

North Korea’s Purge Message to China: Pay Up – Bloomberg.

In this image taken from video North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, waves to…Read More

Chinese President Xi Jinping must have felt pretty pleased with himself earlier this year, after he dispatched rival and former Politburo member Bo Xilai in a dramatic, humiliating show trial. When it comes to staging purges, though, North Korea’s brash young leader Kim Jong Un has him beat.

Kim didn’t just arrest his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, the second-most powerful man in the country. The boy-dictator appears to have had Jang brought out of seclusion in order to arrest him again at a televised leadership meeting, then tried and executed on the grounds of being “an anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional element and despicable political careerist and trickster,” according to the judgment of a secret military tribunal. No doubt.

Jang’s fall may have sent an equally loud message to Xi in Beijing. Until recently, Jang had been the North Korean official most closely linked to China — a mature diplomatic go-between, and the man responsible for forging deals with Chinese mining and other companies looking to exploit North Korea’s natural resources and cheap labor. By eliminating his uncle, young Kim seemed to be warning Xi and the Beijing leadership not to presume to work through anyone but him. The fate of North Korea’s special economic zones and other Chinese-style economic innovations now hangs in doubt.

Optimists might hope that the purge will finally convince China of its ally’s unreliability. In fact, though Beijing’s tolerance for Kim’s provocations has been tested, it has never snapped. China still values regime stability over all else: The last thing Beijing wants to see is a reunified Korean Peninsula, governed from Seoul, and allied to the U.S. Jang’s downfall doesn’t change that calculus.

The purge could well end up pushing China and its errant vassal closer together. After Jang’s execution, Japan’s hawkish Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera warned, “North Korea might become a more radical place in the future.” Next Tuesday the Japanese government is expected to approve a more assertive defense policy, one that is justified by the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs but that clearly has China in mind as well.

The U.S., too, has cited the North Korean threat to justify stationing ballistic missle defense systems on Guam next year. And this week Japan and South Korea — whose relations have soured recently over questions about Japan’s attitude toward its war record — went ahead with a previously scheduled, joint naval exercise in the East China Sea.

Xi and others in China may also not be as perturbed by Jang’s ouster as some commentators seem to think. The late No. 2’s influence had been declining for almost a year; in May 2013, Kim dispatched a Jang rival as a special envoy to Beijing. It’s also not clear that the purge will necessarily derail some of the economic reforms Jang had championed. On Monday, the day after his public humiliation, the North signed a contract to develop yet another special economic zone along the Chinese border.

Jang’s purge, though, is hardly reassuring to China. Among other things, the Politburo charged Jang with “throwing the state financial management system into confusion and committing such acts of treachery as selling off precious resources of the country at cheap prices” — in other words, cutting deals that were too generous to the Chinese.

No doubt the youngest Kim had many reasons for ousting his uncle — not least, to send a message to an older generation of North Korean officials not to dare challenge the Dear Leader’s authority. To Xi and China, the message seems to be slightly different: it’s time to pay up.

 

Russia Stations Tactical, Nuclear-Capable Missiles Along Polish Border | Zero Hedge

Russia Stations Tactical, Nuclear-Capable Missiles Along Polish Border | Zero Hedge.

“Russia will deploy Iskander missile systems in its enclave in Kaliningrad to neutralize, if necessary, the anti-ballistic missile system in Europe.”

– Dmitry Medvedev, former Russian president, November 2008 in his first presidential address to the Russian people

2013 was a year when Europe tried to reallign its primary source of natgas energy, from Gazpromia to Qatar, and failed. More importantly, it was a year in which Russia’s Vladimir Putin undisputedly won every foreign relations conflict that involved Russian national interests, to the sheer humiliation of both John Kerry and Francois Hollande. However, it seems the former KGB spy had a Plan B in case things escalated out of control, one that fits with what we wrote a few days ago when we reported that “Russia casually announces it will use nukes if attacked.” Namely, as Bloomberg reports citing Bild, Russia quietly stationed a double-digit number of SS-26 Stone, aka Iskander, tactical, nuclear-capable short-range missiles near the Polish border.

The range of the Iskander rockets:

From Bloomberg:

  • Russia has stationed missiles with a range of about 500 kilometers in its Kaliningrad enclave and along its border with the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Germany’s Bild-Zeitung reports, citing defense officials it didn’t identify.
  • Satellite images show a “double-digit” amount of mobile units identified as SS-26 Stone in NATO code
  • Missiles were stationed within the past 12 months
  • SS-26 can carry conventional as well as nuclear warheads

In other words, Russian quietly has come through on its threat issued in April 2012, when it warned it would deploy Iskander missiles that could target US missile defense systems in Poland. From RIA at the time:

Moscow reiterated on Tuesday it may deploy Iskander theater ballistic missiles in the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad that will be capable of effectively engaging elements of the U.S. missile defense system in Poland.

NATO members agreed to create a missile shield over Europe to protect it against ballistic missiles launched by so-called rogue states, for example Iran and North Korea, at a summit in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2010.

The missile defense system in Poland does not jeopardize Russia’s nuclear forces, Army General Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, said. 

“However, if it is modernized…it could affect our nuclear capability and in that case a political decision may be made to deploy Iskander systems in the Kaliningrad region,” he said in an interview with RT television.

But that will be a political decision,” he stressed. “So far there is no such need.”

Looks like a little over a year later, the “political decision” was taken as the need is there. But why does Russia need to send a very clear message of escalation at a time when the Cold War is long over, when globalization and free trade, promote game theoretic world peace (or “piece” as the Obama administration wouldsay), oh, and when Russia quietly has decided to reestablish the former USSR starting with the Ukraine.

We’ll leave the rhetorical question logically unanswered.

 

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