SOUTH KOREA DOES ABOUT FACE ON US MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM
Mr. G.B. sent this article which appeared at our friends at Zero Hedge, and it's worth passing along, because, as I shall argue in today's high octane speculation, it appears to be part of a global pattern that is emerging:
Zero Hedge is right; this is a major blow to Washington's regional geopolitical policy:
In a stunning blow for US diplomacy in the Pacific rim region, Yonhap reported that South Korea’s newly elected president, Moon Jae-in said he has suspended the deployment of American THAAD anti-missile defense system, a major concession to China and a significant break with the United States on policy toward North Korea.
“We are not saying the two launchers and other equipment that has already been deployed should be withdrawn. But those that have yet to be deployed will have to wait,” a senior presidential office official said, according to the news agency. The remarks come as the presidential office is examining an allegation South Korea’s defense ministry may have kept the delivery of four further Thaad launchers secret in an attempt to protect the project from an environmental impact evaluation, Yonhap said.
As noted previously, the THAAD missile defense system has been controversial in South Korea where thousands have protested the deployment, while also drawing sharp criticism from China, which views the system’s radar as a threat to the regional balance of power. In response to the initial deployment, Beijing had taken retaliatory economic measures against Seoul, including curtailing the flow of Chinese tourists and punishing South Korean companies in China. The defense system officially went into operation late last month on an abandoned golf course in Seongju, 135 miles southeast of Seoul, when two of six launchers were installed. United States military officials have said that the system is already “operational and has the ability to intercept North Korean missiles.”
This move by Seoul appears to be in response to the typical Chinese pattern of diplomacy, a pattern based on offering lucrative commercial benefits to countries in return for those countries distancing themselves from Washington. It's a pattern we saw implicit in yesterday's blog about Qatar: the Chinese are offering deals to develop infrastructure and water resources to Israel and Jordan, and those two nations are listening. The USSA offers what it can: weapons. No resource development, no automobile or other manufacturing bases (except weapons, of course). In short, the pattern is clear: China is exporting stuff, developing stuff - resources, infrastructure, and so on - and the USSA is exporting war. Over the long term, which would you choose?
There is a larger pattern here, and we'll get back to that in a moment, but notice something else. While Seoul is definitely making a bit of a break with Washington over the missile defense system, it would be folly to assume the South Koreans are in a hurry to drop Washington altogether. I suspect something much more subtle is going on, and perhaps even with Washington's (and, behind the scenes, Tokyo's) blessing and connivance, for in return for this halt to the deployment of the missile defense system, China now has to deliver something more than just continuance of the commercial status quo to South Korea, namely, real and genuine moves on the part of North Korea.
In short, while Seoul may look like it has capitulated to Beijing, it could be argued that it has just served a hard volley into China's court, and put it on the spot to deliver something of substance. Mr. Xi has certainly been up to challenges like this before, but it still remains how he is going to return the serve. And he must do so, for doing nothing only plays into Washington's hands.
But back to the deeper pattern: if one looks at what has happened since the summit in Paris, and Chancellorin Merkel's response that the USA and UK are no longer reliable allies, then it would appear, that Seoul likewise might be thinking along similar lines for the long term, and has embarked, like Mr. Abe, on a careful long term readjustment of Korean diplomacy along the Abe pattern: keep the lines to Washington open, but actively engage Beijing and Moscow, and rearm ream rearm. Recall from yesterday's blog the strange water deal that is perhaps in the offing between China, Jordan, and Israel, a deal that makes one wonder if Ms. Merkel's evaluation is shared in Amman and Tel Aviv.
See you on the flip side...
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