Posts Tagged ‘South Korea’

Military base-building destroys coral reefs in the South China Sea

March 28, 2017


26 March 2017 / Analysis by Greg Asner
Greg Asner, a global ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, writes about his recent field survey in the Spratly Islands.
Sea turtle in a coral garden in the Spratly Islands. Photo by Greg Asner.

As I reached the surface, I could hardly believe my eyes. The black shadow of the vessel turned, revealing its distinct cigar-shaped profile. Seeing a submarine at sea with a scuba tank on your back is like pricking yourself on a needle lost in a very big haystack. But the South China Sea is not your average haystack, and nothing seems to be lost out in its vast expanse.

The South China Sea stretches from the coast of mainland China to the shores of Borneo, Vietnam, and Philippines. The southern part is a huge blue water world dotted with remote atolls and islands known as the Spratly Islands, named after whaler Richard Spratly who ‘discovered’ them in 1843. The Spratlys have many other names in the languages of nations that encircle the South China Sea, an expression of the long-standing strain between multiple claimants of the region. Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam each claim a portion of the Spratly archipelago, and China claims all of it.

Fig 1. The Spratly Islands are located in the southern portion of the South China Sea.
Figure 1: The Spratly Islands are located in the southern portion of the South China Sea.

The region has also become a hotbed for modern naval activity, owing to critical commercial shipping through its waters, and the oil that underlies its seabed. The U.S. routinely navigates the South China Sea as a demonstration of its naval power, said to ensure right-of-passage, and which China openly views as a threat. And as a result, military base and outpost building continues at a feverish and ecologically destructive pace. Whole coral reef atolls have been dredged to form hard land for military complexes and aircraft runways.

As a global ecologist and conservation scientist, I have long been interested in the Spratlys as a biodiversity hotspot. With its purported 600 coral and 6000 fish species, I had wondered what this ecoregion looks like underwater, and more recently, what the frenzied building of military bases might mean for its sea life. I wondered too if coral reefs of the Spratlys had been impacted by recent hot water events that cause coral bleaching, like that which has devastated the Great Barrier Reef.

There isn’t nearly enough scientific literature on the ecology of the Spratlys, but it has been shown that the atolls are important sources of coral larvae for that part of the South China Sea. Each atoll is a habitat for connected layers of lifeforms ranging from corals and invertebrates to huge schools of hammerhead sharks and bottlenose dolphins. Each layer relies on the presence and health of the next layer, and the coral reefs form a critical core for the regional ecosystem as a whole

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In March 2016, Camilo Mora and colleagues published a report on military base building across the Spratlys. In the same month, I was working on the northern tip of Borneo, east of the Spratlys, and I decided to expand our mapping efforts into the archipelago. I wanted to better understand what is being lost with each military base conversion of a Spratly atoll. By May 2016, I got a chance to visit one of the atolls in the southeast corner of the archipelago.

Known as Swallow Reef, or Pulau Layang Layang by the Malaysian government that administers it, the atoll is an amoeba-shaped ring of reef that drops off more than 3000 meters into deep ocean (Fig 2). In one corner of the atoll lies a small Royal Malaysian navy outpost, manned with a few patrol vessels. Alongside the outpost is a place where diehard divers can spend time exploring some of the most unique and endangered coral reef ecosystems on Earth. Moving down in the water column at Swallow Reef is like slicing through a psychedelic layer cake that would impress Willy Wonka lovers. The outer reef is replete with millions and millions of colorful specks of life, hard and soft corals, schools of jacks, batfish, barracuda, and more, each contributing to an ecosystem patrolled by giant mantas and sharks. Picture what you think a perfect coral reef ecosystem might look like, well before the global degradation of reefs that started with the industrial revolution, and that will put you at Swallow Reef.

Swallow Reef atoll is administered by the Malaysian government, and houses a small navy base and diving facility (top image). A view of the atoll from the runway on Swallow Reef, as a tropical storm approaches in 2016 (bottom image)
Figure 2: Swallow Reef atoll is administered by the Malaysian government, and houses a small navy base and diving facility. Courtesy of Planet (top image). A view of the atoll from the runway on Swallow Reef, as a tropical storm approaches in 2016 (bottom image)

My initial visit to Swallow Reef yielded thousands of photographs and video. It also sparked the idea to combine rapid underwater surveys with a new class of satellite imaging that might give us a fast-track way to assess coral reefs on more atolls than we could possibly visit in the water. To do this, I turned to my colleagues at, formerly known as Planet Labs. They operate the world’s largest constellation of small orbiting satellites that can image Earth on a daily basis at about 3 to 5 meter spatial resolution. As one of Planet’s science Ambassadors, I collaborate with the company to apply their satellite data to new environmental challenges, so the Spratlys were a perfect fit.

Planet’s constellation of ‘Dove’ satellites can give us a daily viewing of the South China Sea, which is critical since the region is naturally very cloudy. By selecting cloud-free images that were available shortly before and after my initial visit to Swallow Reef, my collaborators Robin Martin from Carnegie, Joe Mascaro from Planet, and I were able to align the satellite images with our near-realtime understanding of reef composition and condition. Martin and I returned to Swallow Reef in July to complete an intensive series of additional underwater surveys, which when combined with the Planet Dove data in the field, helped us to determine that we can easily map the extent of coral reef. We were also able to map some of the deeper reefs. Our overall mapping accuracy ultimately exceeded 90 percent.

From the Swallow Reef pilot study, we extended the mapping approach to all of the atolls currently occupied by China, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam – the four countries most present throughout the region. We compared the proportion of coral reef on occupied atolls to unoccupied ones, and found up to 70 percent reduction in coral reef cover on those with military bases (Asner et al. 2017). In other words, military base and outpost building has destroyed huge expanses of coral reef, which means that millions of its colorful lifeforms have been wiped off the planet.

Figure 3. Proportion of shallow coral reef cover on unoccupied versus occupied atolls in the Spratly Islands, South China Sea, organized by current occupying nation.
Figure 3. Proportion of shallow coral reef cover on unoccupied versus occupied atolls in the Spratly Islands, South China Sea, organized by current occupying nation.

Shockingly, the vast majority of this loss has taken place in just the past three years. Yet promising is the fact that there are still a hundred or so reefs with relatively little human impact, so conservation and management ought to have a chance to make a difference before it is too late. Also promising is the fact that recent coral bleaching events do not seem to have had as large an impact in the South China Sea as we have seen on the Great Barrier Reef. I experienced very little bleaching during our survey dives at Swallow Reef. As Professor John McManus, University of Miami, has long emphasized based on his work in the region, a promising pathway forward to protecting the remaining coral reefs of the South China Sea rests in the development of an international peace park agreement between nations. Based on our recent experience with Planet Dove satellites and diving, time is of the essence to get a park-style accord accomplished.

School of barracuda on a Spratly Island atoll. Photo by Greg Asner.

Notes and References

For more photos of reef inhabitants of the South China Sea, go to

Asner, G., Martin, R. & Mascaro, J. Coral reef atoll assessment in the South China Sea using Planet Dove satellites. Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation, 1-9, doi:10.1002/res2.42 (2017).

Mora, C., Caldwell, I. R., Birkeland, C. & McManus, J. W. Dredging in the Spratly Islands: Gaining Land but Losing Reefs. PLoS Biol 14, e1002422 (2016).



 (Contains links to several previous articles on the South China Sea)

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On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.

China Drifts Into a U.S. Vacuum in Asia — “They are really alarmed about Trump.”

March 28, 2017

Beijing builds its influence in Asia by default, not design, as Trump retreats

A staff member prepares for an annual gathering last week of Asia’s elite in Boao on the Chinese island of Hainan.

A staff member prepares for an annual gathering last week of Asia’s elite in Boao on the Chinese island of Hainan. PHOTO: ZUMA PRESS

BOAO, China—For more than half a century, Washington has set the economic agenda for the Asia-Pacific, where global wealth, technology and military power are concentrating.

Today, increasingly, Beijing does.

That’s not because its economic model is so widely admired; Deng Xiaoping’s “open door” to global trade and investment is creaking shut under current President Xi Jinping, a hard-line nationalist.

Nor does the country’s political system, brutally focused on self-preservation, have much appeal.

China isn’t even well liked. Domestic repression and trade mercantilism combine these days with a prickly assertiveness overseas. A recent opinion poll in South Korea, the latest target of Beijing’s economic bullying, shows the country has even less affection for its close neighbor than Japan, its historical archenemy.

Rather, China’s advance is being enabled by a factor that few countries in Asia could have foreseen, not even China itself: an American retreat.

With no obvious alternatives, Beijing is filling a vacuum that is rapidly expanding in the early days of the Trump presidency.

But while China dominates its region with the sheer size of its economy, it struggles to lead—or inspire.

Years in the making, the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership was the core of the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia, the product of compromises hammered out in capitals from Tokyo to Canberra, an ambitious—perhaps the last—U.S. effort to shape the destiny of a region that stands at the crossroads of every global trend from fashion to “fintech” and clean energy.

In repudiating that deal, President Donald Trump has empowered China.

The new U.S. administration, says Goh Chok Tong, the former Singapore prime minister, “has taken a step backward.”

At an annual gathering of Asian power brokers on China’s tropical Hainan Island last week, Mr. Goh, one of the region’s most respected elder statesmen, posed an anxious question: “Who will step into the shoes of the U.S. to make sure that we have free trade?”

It is hard for Chinese politicians to sound credible when they proclaim the virtues of globalization—the free flow of ideas, technologies and cultures across borders—from the battlements of the “Great Firewall,” the most extensive barrier in all of cyberspace.

Instead of a U.S.-inspired free-trade deal focused on the digital economy, intellectual property, the environment and labor standards—what Hillary Clinton called the “gold standard,” before turning against it as presidential candidate—China is pushing a lower-grade alternative.

Yet, despite the shortcomings of this incremental effort, known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, Asian economies are aligning around it because there’s no better deal on the table.

Neighbors are skeptical that China can build consensus across the region. “Leadership takes humility, humor and flexibility,” says Thomas Lembong, the chairman of the Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board, a government agency that seeks to attract foreign investors to the country.

In Mr. Lembong’s view, Asia is headed into a more anarchic future dominated by leaders with strong mandates like India’s Narendra Modi or Japan’s Shinzo Abe. It will be a case of “everybody negotiating with everybody else,” he says. “Some will take the reform route; others will do the reverse and turn protectionist and regressive.”

For now, the main danger is that Mr. Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership will morph into Mr. Trump’s Trans-Pacific trade war.

Mr. Trump has threatened to impose 45% import tariffs on Chinese imports. If he triggers such an action, the effects will ricochet around the entire Asia-Pacific manufacturing supply chain.

A common view in Asia is that the success that the U.S. did so much to encourage is now feeding a backlash.

Having adopted Washington’s economic prescriptions for growth—lower tariff barriers, expansion of market forces and investment in infrastructure —the region has become a lightning rod for the populist resentments of an America still grappling with the effects of the 2008 financial crisis.

The White House chief strategist Steve Bannon laments that “the globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia.”

“The issue now is about Americans looking to not get f—ed over,” he told the Hollywood Reporter.

On the one hand, this kind of rhetoric scares the Chinese leadership. “There is deep anxiety,” says Fred Hu, chairman of Primavera Capital Group, a China-based global investment firm, who has advised the Chinese government on financial reform. “They are really alarmed about Trump.”

The angst is shared in a region that feels unmoored as it steadily drifts into Beijing’s orbit, as much by default as by design.

Write to Andrew Browne at


South Korea ferry salvors find human remains — Almost all the victims were schoolchildren

March 28, 2017


© SOUTH KOREAN MARITIME MINISTRY/AFP/File | The 145-metre Sewol ferry is brought to the surface in a salvage operation believed to be among the largest ever of a wreck in one piece
SEOUL (AFP) – Salvage workers who raised South Korea’s sunken Sewol ferry may have found a body which had been missing since the disaster in 2014, the maritime ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry said in a statement it would hold a briefing on “finding human remains suspected to be one of the missing victims”.

The wreck was brought to the surface last week, nearly three years after it went down killing more than 300 people, and placed onto a semi-submersible ship that will finally bring it to shore.

Almost all the victims were schoolchildren and nine bodies were still unaccounted for, raising the prospect that they could be trapped inside the vessel.

The remains were recovered on board the semi-submersible carrying the ferry, Yonhap news agency said, without immediately giving further details or citing a source.

Yonhap said officials from the National Forensic Service as well as ministry officials and police have been dispatched to the site to identify the remains.

The 145-metre ship was brought to the surface in a complex salvage operation believed to be among the largest recoveries ever of a wreck in one piece.

Major nations responsible for keeping world peace: China vice premier says, “China’s door to the world is open, and it will only be opened wider.”

March 25, 2017


Sat Mar 25, 2017 | 6:20am EDT

The world’s major nations are responsible for maintaining global peace, and all countries should remain committed to a road of stable and peaceful development, China’s Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said on Saturday.

His comments followed media reports this week that North Korea was in the final stages of preparing for another nuclear test. Earlier this month, Pyongyang launched four ballistic missiles in response to joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises, which it regards as preparation to war.

“Large countries have the responsibility to maintain global peace, should increase strategic dialogue, increase mutual trust, and respect each other’s core interests and major concerns,” Zhang said at the opening of the Boao Forum for Asia in southern China’s Hainan province.

He did not identify the large countries.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and a series of missile launches since the beginning of 2016. Washington has been pressing Beijing to do more to stop North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. China has called for a dual-track approach, urging North Korea to suspend its tests and the United States and South Korea to halt military drills, so that both sides can return to talks.

Beijing has also been angered by the U.S. deployment of the THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, missile defense system in South Korea, which it says will both harm China’s own security and do nothing to ease tensions.

“All parties should stick to dialogue to settle disputes and problems in a peaceful manner,” Zhang said, without specifying what disputes and problems.

Zhang’s comments also came ahead of a milestone meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump in the United States next month.

During a recent visit to Beijing by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Xi said China and the United States must strengthen coordination of hot regional issues, respect each other’s core interests and major concerns, and protect the broad stability of ties.

Trump has previously threatened a 45 percent tariff on China’s exports and frequently said on the campaign trail that he would label China a currency manipulator. Trump has not followed through on either move yet.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has also complained about China’s excess industrial capacity, unfair subsidies for state-owned enterprises and a lack of access for foreign firms to major sectors of the Chinese economy.

“China remains committed to the strategy of opening up,” Zhang said. “China’s door to the world is open, and it will only be opened wider.”

(Reporting by Elias Glenn; Writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Robert Birsel and Christian Schmollinger)

Beijing Defends Its Right to Guard South China Sea With Arms

March 24, 2017

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang says deployment of military gear helps to protect maritime trade routes

Malcolm Turnbull in China

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrives in Australia for a five-day visit, March 23, 2017. Reuters photo

March 24, 2017 1:44 a.m. ET

CANBERRA, Australia—Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made an unusually elaborate defense of Beijing’s deployment of military gear on artificial islands in the South China Sea, saying the disputed facilities were partly intended to protect maritime trade and air routes.

Mr. Li, who was asked to speak about the hot-button issue on a visit to Australia to promote trade links, said that it was China that would be hit hardest by conflict in a region home to trillions of dollars worth of seaborne trade.

“China’s facilities on Chinese islands and reefs are primarily for civilian purposes,” Mr. Li said in a press conference at Australia’s Parliament. “And even if there is a certain amount of defense equipment or facilities, it is for maintaining the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, because without such freedom or without stability in the South China Sea, the Chinese side would be the first to bear the brunt of it.”

His comments were a rare amplification by a top Chinese leader on Beijing’s South China Sea policies following a pledge in 2015 by China’s President Xi Jinping not to militarize the islands . The U.S. and some Asian countries that have territorial disputes with China in the sea are concerned about the construction of extensive facilities including ports, hangars and military-capable runways.

Last year, after a U.S. think tank released satellite images appearing to show China had installed antiaircraft weapons and other arms on all seven islands it has built in the in the Spratly archipelago, China’s Defense Ministry said the emplacements were for “appropriate and legal” self-defense.

Both the U.S. and China say their main goal in the South China Sea is to maintain security, freedom of navigation in the vital global trade route. Where they disagree is over China’s expansive maritime claims over most of the sea and who should be the guarantor of such principles.

The U.S. has carried out several so-called freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, sending warships close to Chinese-built atolls in patrols that have raised tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Mr. Li said China “never had any intention” to engage in militarization when it began building islands in waters claimed in whole or part by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei. But he said China’s presence guaranteed that more than 100,000 ships passed through the sea and the pirate-plagued Malacca Strait last year without being attacked.

“We hope that the market and the business communities will continue to have strong faith in the South China Sea, in these sea-lanes with safe passage to pursue more free trade,” he said.

An estimated $5 trillion worth of goods pass through South China Sea maritime trade routes each year, en route to China, South Korea, Japan and other Asia-Pacific destinations.

During his confirmation hearings, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Washington may need to block China from some South China Sea islands, what expert said could trigger a dangerous military escalation. But Mr. Tillerson struck a conciliatory tone after meeting President Xi Jinping last week, promising “non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.”

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull signed deals with Mr. Li on Friday to expand Australia’s $6 billion-a-year beef export industry with China, while streamlining the 2015 China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The beef deal sought to capitalize on a temporary halt to China’s imports of beef from Brazil after a furor there over meatpacking safety.

Mr. Li’s five-day visit to Australia is the first by a Chinese premier in more than a decade and comes weeks ahead of a visit by U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence aimed at improving alliance ties. As well as signing trade agreements, Mr. Li will also attend a weekend game of Australian Rules, the country’s quirky homegrown football code which Canberra hopes will take off in China.

Mr. Li has also sought while in the country to contrast China’s trade stability with the U.S. under Mr. Trump, warning against protectionism and Washington’s decision to reject a Pacific trade pact favored by Australia.

Mr. Turnbull said his country didn’t need to choose between security alliance ties with the U.S. and China, as the country’s biggest trade partner, worth about $114 billion last year, around a quarter of Australia’s total.

“We have a staunch, strong ally in Washington and a very good friend in Beijing,” Mr. Turnbull said. “It’s a multipolar world. The idea that Australia has to choose between Australia and the United States is not correct.

Jeremy Page in Beijing contributed to this article.

Write to Rob Taylor at

Duterte says Philippines can’t afford oil rigs, open to sharing resources with China in disputed sea

March 24, 2017

South China Morning Post, AFP and Reuters

Friday, 24 March, 2017, 1:09pm
 Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature
The Haiyang Shiyou oil rig, the first deep-water drilling rig developed in China, 320 kilometres southeast of Hong Kong in the South China Sea in 2012. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he was open to sharing resources with Beijing in flashpoint South China Sea waters over which Manila has been given exclusive rights by an international tribunal. File photo: Xinhua

North Korea Expected To Conduct Nuclear Weapon Test “In The Next Few Days”

March 23, 2017

Fox News

North Korea is in the final stages of preparing for another nuclear test, which could come in the next few days, U.S. officials with knowledge of the most recent intelligence from the region told Fox News.

“The test could come as early as the end of the month,” said one official.

U.S. defense officials have seen evidence that North Korea has completed digging new tunnels around the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, but it still has to move more equipment into the area for a possible test, the official added.  The Pentagon is keeping a close eye on these looming developments.


North Korea’s nuclear preparations prompted the U.S. military in recent days to move a surveillance aircraft used to test the air following nuclear explosions to the region.  The U.S. Air Force WC-135 Constant Phoenix arrived in Japan and will be used to patrol the area off the Korean peninsula in the coming days, according to a separate official.

Image may contain: cloud, sky, airplane and outdoor

U.S. Air Force WC-135 Constant Phoenix

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Beijing last weekend to press the case about what to do about North Korea’s erratic leader and his drive to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States.

North Korea first conducted a nuclear test in 2006.  Last year, it carried out two additional tests.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and suit

China’s President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 19, 2017. ReutersThomas Peter

Secretary Tillerson declared the Obama-era policy of “strategic patience” was over when dealing with North Korea and called the past 20 years of negotiating with the communist regime by past administrations a failure.

The U.S. military is not the only nation concerned about North Korea’s pending nuke test.

Recent satellite imagery reveals Russia has moved one of its Antonov An-30R reconnaissance aircraft with air sample pods from its base outside of St. Petersburg. The Russian aircraft is used to take air samples to detect possible nuclear, biological and other chemical agents.


U.S. officials have seen evidence that North Korea’s 33-year-old dictator, Kim Jong-un, checked into a new residence near the test site of a failed missile launch Wednesday near the port city of Wonsan on North Korea’s east coast, according to one official.  Wonsan is located six hours south of the nuclear test site.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting

Kim Jong-un

The Pentagon is increasingly concerned about North Korea’s ability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead and eventually place it on a ballistic missile. Each missile brings North Korea closer to achieving that goal, according to defense analysts.

In his New Year’s address, Kim Jong-un said his nation has “entered the final stage of preparation for the test launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles.”

Earlier this month North Korea launched four ballistic missiles, which landed 190 miles from Japan, an indication North Korea was simulating a more sophisticated attack to overwhelm anti-ballistic missile systems in Japan.

Roughly 80,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea and Japan.

Last month, North Korea conducted its first ballistic missile test of the Trump administration while the president hosted Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida.

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

Jennifer Griffin currently serves as a national security correspondent for FOX News Channel . She joined FNC in October 1999 as a Jerusalem-based correspondent. You can follow her on Twitter at @JenGriffinFNC.

Includes video:

Op-Ed: If we’re going to rule out negotiations with North Korea, we have to be ready for war — Chinese air traffic controllers eager to chase away U.S. military aircraft

March 23, 2017

By Robert L. Gallucci
The Los Angeles Times

March 23, 2017

Image may contain: airplane and sky

Robert L. Gallucci

During a visit to Seoul last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson drew some reddish lines around North Korea.

“Twenty years of talking has brought us to the point we are today,” Tillerson said at a news conference. “Talk is not going to change the situation.” If North Korea threatens South Korean or American forces or elevates the level of its weapons program, Tillerson warned, preemptive military action is “on the table.”

Tillerson’s comments did not come entirely out of left field. For months, Washington has been abuzz over the possibility that North Korea may successfully test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to an American city. In a New Year’s address, North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un indicated such a test could come sooner than we think.

But Tillerson’s warning did signal that the Trump administration is taking U.S. policy toward North Korea in a new direction — that we may be serious about abandoning engagement and willing to pursue containment through military action.

If North Korea is newly capable of striking an American city with a nuclear-armed missile, however, it would not be the first time that the U.S. was defenseless against an adversary’s weapons.

Americans lived for years with Soviet and Chinese missiles pointing in our direction. We had no way to defend against Soviet missiles in the 1950s, nor Chinese missiles in the 1960s. We were worried in 1960 when Nikita Khrushchev, then the Soviet leader, pounded his shoe against a table during a session of the United Nations General Assembly. For many reasons, Mao worried us even more.

Analysts can read Tillerson’s comments in different ways. If he meant to indicate that the U.S. would undertake a military strike on North Korea to prevent the testing and development of an ICBM — a “left of launch” program, as the Pentagon would call it — such an act could not properly be called preemption, because it would not be responding to an imminent attack. Rather, we would be taking preventive action and risking a preventive war with the goal of cutting off the emergence of a future threat. The invasion of Iraq in 2003, for instance, was a preventive war, not an act of preemption. Ethics, law and prudence are on the side of preemption but not on preventive strikes.

If, on the other hand, the U.S. intelligence community were to conclude that North Korea was about to launch a missile at Los Angeles, Seoul or Tokyo, we should fully expect Trump to order a preemptive strike to take out the missile before it is launched. If this is the only line Tillerson meant to draw, he should have saved the ink and not made news with the threat.

In either scenario, we can expect that attacking North Korea, even with an intended “surgical strike,” will bring retaliation, most likely against South Korean and American forces and civilians on the Korean peninsula — there are a lot of both within range of North Korean missiles and artillery — and possibly a second Korean War. The U.S. and its allies should be ready for this. At the moment, neither we nor our allies are prepared for war.

With so much at stake, Tillerson should disclose what exactly is new about the North Korean threat that makes deterrence suddenly unreliable. Certainly it is not the quality or quantity of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. At the height of the Cold War, the number of Soviet weapons — counting tactical and strategic weapons deployed in silos, on submarines and aboard bombers —reached 30,000 or so. The North Koreans have less than 20. It is possible that U.S. officials lack confidence in the rationality of Kim Jong Un. If this is the case, the American people should be informed that this is why we are risking another Korean War.

Some argue that an alternative to military action is the adoption of tougher sanctions together with more pressure on China to allow them to work. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with such an approach, there is little reason to think it will be effective in stopping North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. So the real alternative to war is a negotiated settlement that addresses the threat. There is a lot of work yet to be done in order to set the table for productive negotiations. More than 20 years ago, we struck a deal with the North that froze plutonium production for almost a decade before the deal collapsed: They cheated and we caught them. That was still a deal worth making, and the next one will have to be better. For starters, we should require that North Korea improve the human rights of its citizens as a condition of normalizing relations with the U.S.

The United States has no real capability to shoot down ICBMs, but we never have. We have been defenseless against this threat for six decades. For all those years, we have relied on deterrence and the promise of devastating retaliation. The logic is that the capability of our conventional and nuclear weapons deters our enemies and provides for the nation’s security. If the U.S. is going to abandon this logic now, it should be done with great care, and with the full understanding that we are risking war.

Robert L. Gallucci is a professor of diplomacy at Georgetown University. He served in the State Department as chief U.S. negotiator during the North Korean nuclear crisis of 1994, and as an ambassador-at-large and special envoy dealing with threats posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.


China threatens American B-1 bomber flying off South Korea: Stand off as Beijing claims US aircraft violated its ‘defense zone’

  • China has accused the US plane of operating in its airspace without permission 
  • Pliots of a Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber were forced to respond to controllers 
  • Chinese Air Traffic officials radioed the bomber flying 70 miles from Jeju Island 
  • The US bomber was in the controversial Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone
  • American and Japanese officials do not recognize the airspace China claism 

Chinese military officials have accused US bombers of flying too close to the country and operating in its airspace during a mission off South Korea.

Pilots of the US Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber were forced to respond to Chinese air traffic controllers during a flight about 70 nautical miles southwest of South Korea’s Jeju Island.

American officials told CNN the pilots told the Chinese controllers they were conducting ‘routine operations in international airspace and did not deviate from their flight path’.

Chinese military officials have accused a US B-1B Lancer bomber of flying too close to the country and operating in its airspace during a mission off South Korea

Chinese military officials have accused a US B-1B Lancer bomber of flying too close to the country and operating in its airspace during a mission off South Korea

This map shows where the bomber was flying when Chinese officials contacted the American pilots during the stand off

This map shows where the bomber was flying when Chinese officials contacted the American pilots during the stand off

The network revealed the tense moment was the result of the bombers had actually entered the Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone – a controversial area of sky over the East China Sea.

The airspace also covers islands claimed by Japan, and it is not officially recognized by the US.

‘Pacific Air Forces … did not recognize the Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone when it was announced in November of 2013, and does not recognize it today,’ US Pacific Air Forces spokesman Major Phil Ventura told CNN.

This map shows how the different airspaces in the area in question are divided up by the different countries in the region

This map shows how the different airspaces in the area in question are divided up by the different countries in the region

The US B-1B Lancer bomber was seen flying in formation with Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15s on March 21

The US B-1B Lancer bomber was seen flying in formation with Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15s on March 21

‘The ADIZ has not changed our operations.’

Chinese authorities demand airplanes flying over or through the airspace must first notify officials.

US Air Force sources said B-1 bomber was carrying out training operations with Japanese and South Korean jets in recent days.

On March 21, the American bomber was seen flying in formation with Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15s.

Growing Conflict in Asia Sparks Japan’s Military Expansion

March 23, 2017


BY ON 3/22/17 AT 1:07 PM

US Defence Secretary sees no need for US military action in South China Sea

Japan unveiled its second helicopter carrier, the Kaga, Wednesday, sending a message of military strength to China amid growing conflict over the South China Sea and other strategic waterways in Asia. The new vessel is the latest sign of Japan’s ongoing military expansion as it seeks greater international influence.

Roughly 500 people attended the unveiling ceremony at the Japan Marine United shipyard in Yokohama near Tokyo. The vessel was parked next to Japan’s other helicopter carrier, the Izumo, Reuters reported Wednesday. 

Japan wasn’t shy about its motivation. Vice Minister of Defense Takayuki Kobayashi said at the ceremony Tokyo was deeply concerned about China’s construction of islands and military bases in the South China Sea waterway, which is claimed by multiple Asian nations.

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Japan’s Izumo now has a sister ship named Kaga

“China is attempting to make changes in the South China Sea with bases, and through acts that exert pressure is altering the status quo, raising security concerns among the international community,” he said.

Roughly $5 trillion in global trade passes through the South China Sea each year. Both Japan and the U.S. have urged Beijing to honor open travel in the waterway. Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei also claim the South China Sea, which is known for its fishing and oil and gas deposits. Japan, meanwhile, is engaged in its own territorial dispute with China over the neighboring East China Sea.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has increasingly called for Japan to seek a bigger international role in global military conflicts in recent years and urged lawmakers to reconsider Japan’s pacifist constitution that forbids using force in international disputes. His remarks have alarmed China and many Japanese voters who enjoy the country’s post-World War II pacifism.

“If Japan persists in taking wrong actions, and even considers military interventions that threaten China’s sovereignty and security… then China will inevitably take firm responsive measures,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing last week.

Japan plans to send its Izumo helicopter carrier through Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka starting in May before joint naval exercises with India and the U.S. in the Indian Ocean in July.

China’s and Japan’s economies are the world’s second- and third-largest.


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Singapore prime minister visits Vietnam to strengthen trade — Vietnam asks for South Korean help in South China Sea

March 23, 2017


March 23, 2017 at 18:20 JST


Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, left, speaks during a joint press briefing with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi on March 23. (AP Photo)

HANOI–Vietnam and Singapore have signed several business agreements as the island state seeks to boost investment and trade with the communist country during a visit by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Among the six memorandums of understanding that were signed Thursday and witnessed by Lee and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc, two were for industrial parks to be developed by Singapore’s Sembcorp in central Vietnam.

“I’m very glad to be back to Vietnam after more than three years in order to take our relationship another step forward,” Lee told reporters at a joint press briefing with Phuc.

Lee told reporters that he hoped Singapore, one of Vietnam’s top investors and trading partners, would increase its investments in the country.

“With more intensive business links and with more tourism between both sides, travel between Vietnam and Singapore has increased substantially,” Lee said.

Phuc said the two leaders were committed to enhancing the partnership between Vietnam and Singapore in all fields.

Lee said the two discussed regional and security issues and in particular the South China Sea, where he said issues should be resolved “in accordance with the international law including the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea … and also on the freedom of navigation on the important artery of global commerce in the South China Sea.”

Vietnam and China along with the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan claim parts of or all of the South China Sea.

Vietnam is the vocal opponent of China’s expansion in the South China Sea.


Vietnam seeks South Korean support in South China Sea

HANOI: Vietnam’s Prime Minister sought support for the nation’s stance in the South China Sea when he met South Korea’s foreign minister in Hanoi on Monday.

Vietnam is the country most openly at odds with China over the waterway since the Philippines pulled back from confrontation under President Rodrigo Duterte.

“The Prime Minister proposed that South Korea continue its support over the position of Vietnam and Southeast Asia on the South China Sea issue and to help the country improve its law enforcement at the sea”, the government said in a statement on its website after the meeting between Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.

The statement did not say whether South Korea backed Vietnam’s position on the South China Sea.

Yun did affirm his country’s willingness to promote ties despite instability in South Korea after the ousting of President Park Geun-hye over a graft scandal.

South Korea is Vietnam’s biggest foreign investor thanks to companies like Samsung.

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South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se is welcomed by Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh in Hanoi, Vietnam March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

South Korea and China are currently in dispute over deployment of the U.S. anti-missile defence system. South Korea on Monday has complained to the World Trade Organization about Chinese retaliation against its companies over the deployment.

Last week, Vietnam demanded China stop sending cruise ships to the area in response to one of Beijing’s latest moves to bolster its claims to the strategic waterway.

China claims 90 percent of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan lay claim to parts of the route, through which about US$5 trillion of trade passes each year.

(Reporting by My Pham; Editing by Julia Glover)