Category: Kings of the East

Jul 17

U.S. Moves Toward Acting Alone on N. Korea Amid UN Stalemate

The United Nations logo is displayed on a door at U.N. headquarters in New York February 26, 2011.

July 12, 2017Chinese companies and banks funneling money into Pyongyang’s weapons program is now prompting the United States to move towards unilaterally tightening sanctions on North Korea.

Breitbart reporting on the subject said that, recently unsealed court filings as offering clues that the White House is ready to act on its own in sanctioning banks. In those filings, the Justice Department pointed to a network associated with five companies linked to a Chinese national that hid transactions to help finance the North Korean regime.

Analysts told the Journal that some Chinese banks handle allegedly laundered money that could be targeted. While efforts to shut down North Korea’s missile program have stumbled in recent years, officials said the missile launch was a game changer, particularly as it put Alaska within reach.

The Trump administration has shown a more muscular stance on North Korea and had been eyeing more sanctions even before the launch. However, the unilateral option will look more enticing to U.S. officials considering the stalemate in the U.N. Security Council

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8636

Jul 10

Experts: North Korea’s missile was a ‘real ICBM’ — and a grave milestone

By Joby Warrick July 4 at 8:36 PM

The North Korean missile that soared high above the Sea of Japan on Tuesday was hailed by state-run television as a “shining success.” But to U.S. officials, it was a most unwelcome surprise: a weapon with intercontinental range, delivered years before most Western experts believed such a feat possible.

Hours after the apparently successful test, intelligence agencies continued to run calculations to determine precisely how the missile, dubbed the Hwasong-14, performed in its maiden flight. But the consensus among missile experts was that North Korea had achieved a long-sought milestone, demonstrating a capability of striking targets thousands of miles from its coast.

Initial Pentagon assessments said North Korea had tested a “land-based, intermediate-range” missile that landed in the Sea of Japan just under 600 linear miles from its launch point, Panghyon Airfield, near the Chinese border. The State Department and the Pentagon later confirmed North Korea had launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM. Government and independent analyses showed the missile traveling in a steep arc that topped out at more than 1,740 vertical miles above the Earth’s surface.

If flown in a more typical trajectory, the missile would have easily traveled 4,000 miles, potentially putting all of Alaska within its range, according to former government officials and independent analysts. A missile that exceeds a range of 3,400 miles is classified as an ICBM.

“This is a big deal: It’s an ICBM, not a ‘kind of’ ICBM,’ ” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. “And there’s no reason to think that this is going to be the maximum range.”

[North Korea at top of agenda as U.S., South Koreans hold summit]

David Wright, senior scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists, calculated in a published analysis that the Hwasong-14’s demonstrated capability exceeded 4,100 linear miles, based on estimates released Tuesday.

“That range would not be enough to reach the Lower 48 states or the large islands of Hawaii, but would allow it to reach all of Alaska,” Wright said.

North Korea’s apparent accomplishment puts it well ahead of schedule in its years-long quest to develop a true ICBM. The Hwasong-14 tested Tuesday could not have reached the U.S. mainland, analysts say, and there’s no evidence to date that North Korea is capable of building a miniaturized nuclear warhead to fit on one of its longer-range missiles. But there is now little reason to doubt that both are within North Korea’s grasp, weapons experts say.

“In the past five years, we have seen significant, and much more rapid than expected, development of their ballistic-missiles capability,” said Victor Cha, a former director of Asian affairs for the George W. Bush administration’s National Security Council. “Their capabilities have exceeded our expectations on a consistent basis.”

While U.S. intelligence officials have sought, with some success, to disrupt North Korea’s progress, Pyongyang has achieved breakthroughs in multiple areas, such as the development of solid-fuel rocket engines and mobile-launch capabilities, including rockets that can be fired from submarines. Early analysis suggests that the Hwasong-14 uses a new kind of indigenously built ballistic-missile engine, one that North Korea unveiled with fanfare on March 18. Nearly all the country’s previous ballistic missiles used engines based on modifications of older, Soviet-era technology.

“It’s not a copy of a crappy Soviet engine, and it’s not a pair of Soviet engines kludged together — it’s the real thing,” Lewis said. “When they first unveiled the engine on March 18, they said that the ‘world would soon see what this means.’ I think we’re now seeing them take that basic engine design and execute it for an ICBM.”

In announcing the test in a special TV broadcast Tuesday, North Korean officials proclaimed that the country had achieved an ICBM capability that would safeguard the communist government from attacks by the United States and other adversaries. According to U.S. analysts, leader Kim Jong Un has long calculated that nuclear-armed ICBMs are the best deterrence against threats to his survival, as any perceived aggression against him could trigger a retaliatory strike targeting U.S. cities.

“As the dignified nuclear power who possesses the strongest intercontinental ballistic rocket which is capable of hitting any part of the world along with the nuclear weapons, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will fundamentally terminate the U.S. nuclear war threats and blackmail and credibly protect the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the region,” a government spokeswoman said in a bulletin read on state-run television.

The spokeswoman said that the missile’s trajectory was deliberately set “at the highest angle” to avoid harming nearby countries.

That claim rang true to U.S. analysts, who agreed the high arc was probably intended to avoid the possibility of hitting Japanese territory. Moreover, the rocket’s flight path would help North Korea secure another objective: secrecy. By sending the spent engine splashing into the deep waters of the Sea of Japan, Pyongyang ensured it would be hard, if not impossible, for U.S. and Japanese divers to retrieve the parts.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8629

Jul 05

Military option for North Korea being prepared for Trump, McMaster says

Published June 29, 2017

Fox News

Analyzing potential US policy options on North Korea

President Trump’s national security adviser said Wednesday that the administration is considering a wider range of strategies on how to deal with North Korea, including the military option.

“The threat is much more immediate now and so it’s clear that we can’t repeat the same approach – failed approach of the past,” H.R. McMaster, the adviser, said during a security conference with Homeland Security Chief John Kelly.

He said it would be insanity to continue to do the same thing the U.S. has done for years and expect a different result.

McMaster’s comments come a day before Trump is scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. South Korea’s new leader vowed to stand firmly with Trump against North Korea, downplaying his past advocacy for a softer approach toward the isolated regime.

“Together we will achieve the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program, peace on the Korean Peninsula and eventually peace in Northeast Asia,” Moon said.

The talks between Moon and Trump, which begin with dinner on Thursday night and then formal talks on Friday, come amid intense wrangling over North Korea.

China is pushing the United States to start negotiations with the North. That prospect appears unlikely as Trump grows frustrated over Beijing’s level of economic pressure on the North, its wayward ally.

North Korea shows no sign of wanting to restart talks on abandoning its nuclear weapons program.

Moon told The Washington Post that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is “unreasonable” and “very dangerous” and that pressure was necessary. But Moon said sanctions alone would not solve the problem, and dialogue was needed “under the right conditions.”

The THAAD missile defense is also expected to be on the agenda. Seoul delayed the full deployment of the U.S. system that is intended to protect South Korea and the 28,000 U.S. forces on the peninsula.

Moon’s government has ordered an environmental review before allowing additional launchers for the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system. South Korean officials say that does not mean they are placating China or reversing the decision, which risks angering Washington.

The U.S. has stepped up shows of military force near the Korean Peninsula under Trump, and outrage in Washington over North Korea has only grown since the death last week of U.S. university student Otto Warmbier. He had spent 17 months in detention in the totalitarian nation for stealing a propaganda poster and returned home this month in a coma. Three other Americans and six South Koreans are still being held in the North.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8621

May 01

North Korea threat: Experts paint dark picture of what fallout of pre-emptive strike may look like

By Ryan Gaydos

Published April 26, 2017

Trump administration on same page over North Korea?

Foreign policy experts theorized Tuesday about what a pre-emptive military strike against North Korea may look like in the event that pressure from China and deepening isolation does little to stop Pyongyang’s rogue regime.

The Trump administration–which is holding an emergency meeting Wednesday at the White House– has said “all options” are on the table, but the White House appears to be losing patience with Pyongyang.

Former CIA analyst Bruce Klingner told Newsweek that Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, waould likely hit back with an artillery barrage in the event of a pre-emptive strike by the U.S. or an ally.

“Without moving a single soldier in its million-man army,” Klingner said. “The North could launch a devastating attack on Seoul.”

From there, a second Korean War could escalate.

Victor Cha, a former National Security Council staffer, theorized in his 2012 book “The Impossible State,” that North Korea could start an invasion by debilitating South Koreans with chemical weapons and cutting off options to flee the country.

“An arsenal of 600 chemically armed Scud missiles would be fired on all South Korean airports, train stations and marine ports, making it impossible for civilians to escape,” Cha wrote.

North Korea may be able to equip medium-range missiles with chemical weapons and launch them at Japan and U.S. bases, stemming the immediate flow of reinforcements. U.S. war experts believe Pyongyang would look to overrun Seoul before the allies could prop up South Korea’s armies. Cha said a possible war on the Korean Peninsula in 2017 “would be the most unforgiving battle conditions that can be imagined.”

Cha theorized the U.S. would dispatch about 20,000 troops per combat division, 10 Air Force wings of about 20 fighters per unit and up to five air craft carriers. Cha added that “U.S. and South Korean “soldiers would be fighting with little defense against DPRK artillery, aerial bombardments, and in an urban warfare environment polluted by 5,000 metric tons of DPRK chemical agents.”

Even with North Korea’s first wave of attacks, war planners still believe the U.S. and South Korea would come out on top, but the casualties could be catastrophic.

Gary Luck, the commander of the U.S.-Republic of Korea forces in 1994 under President Bill Clinton, estimated that a new Korean War could result in one million deaths and  $1 trillion of economic damage.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8507

Apr 24

North Korea: ‘Super-mighty pre-emptive strike’ will reduce US to ashes

Published April 20, 2017

FoxNews.com

VP Pence to North Korea: ‘Sword stands ready’

North Korean state media threatened to launch a “super-mighty pre-emptive strike” that would reduce South Korea and the United states “to ashes.”

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper for North Korea’s ruling Worker’s Party, wrote, “In the case of our super-mighty pre-emptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes,” according to Reuters. The rogue nation also claimed the U.S. and its allies “should not mess with us.”

The threat came as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. was exploring ways to pressure North Korea to the negotiation table over its nuclear program.

“We’re reviewing all the status of North Korea, both in terms of state sponsorship of terrorism as well as the other ways in which we can bring pressure on the regime in Pyongyang to re-engage with us,” Tillerson said on Wednesday. “But re-engage with us on a different footing than past talks have been held.”

The seretive regime also released a propaganda video over the weekend that showed a simulated nuclear missile attack destroying an unidentified American city. A cemetery and American flag appeared with flames superimposed over the footage.

Tensions continue to mount as Trump takes a harder stance against North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Last week, the president made comments to Fox Business that he was sending an “armada” to deter Pyongyang.

“We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier,” Trump told the Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo last week. “We have the best military people on Earth.  And I will say this: [North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un] is doing the wrong thing.”

The U.S. Navy said on Tuesday the carrier, USS Carl Vinson, was heading toward the Korean Peninsula, but only after it passes through Australia.

Pyongyang has promised to continue building its “nuclear deterrant” to prepare for any perceived or real attacks, adding that Trump’s administration was “more vicious and more aggressive” than the administration under former President Barack Obama.

On Sunday, the country attempted to launch an intermediate-range Musudan missile, but it blew up within seconds, one official said. The test occured at an air base near the city of Wonsan North Korea’s east coast along the Sea of Japan.

Vice President Mike Pence touched down in South Korea Sunday for his 10-day tour of Asia, where he said the “era of strategic patience” with North Korea was over.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan echoed the same sentiment during his visit to London. Ryan said allowing Kim to “have that kind of power” was unacceptable

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8496

Apr 13

Trump warns China on North Korea: Help solve the problem or ‘we will’

By Cody Derespina

Published April 11, 2017

FoxNews.com

President Trump on Tuesday said North Korea “is looking for trouble” and vowed to get the murderous regime of dictator Kim Jong-Un under control with or without China’s help.

Trump sent the warning in a pair of tweets just days after he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. China traditionally has acted as a counterweight on North Korea, helping to moderate some actions of the isolated country. Trump indicated a favorable trade deal could await China if they stepped up pressure on North Korea; however, Trump also appeared ready to reign in the provocative nation on his own.

“I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!” Trump tweeted.

He added: “North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.”

The tweets echo Trump’s comments to The Financial Times earlier this month, in which he spoke cryptically but forcefully about North Korea.

“China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t,” Trump said. “And if they do, that will be very good for China. And if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone. If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.”

North Korea has drawn U.S. ire recently following a series of ballistic missile tests. There is also fear the country’s nuclear program is progressing.

Pyongyang said Monday it would “hold the U.S. wholly accountable for the catastrophic consequences” after the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its battle group was sent to waters off the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. and South Korea are engaging in war games in the region, which North Korea is suspicious of, viewing the exercise as a practice for a hypothetical invasion of North Korea.

Trump’s decision to bomb a Syrian airbase last week in response to the war-torn country’s chemical weapon attack on a rebel-held area also may have strengthened the perception that Trump could consider a military solution to the North Korea issue. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seemingly did nothing to downplay that possibility in recent, somewhat ambiguous comments.

“President Trump is willing to act when governments and actors cross the line,” Tillerson said.

Adding to tensions, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that activity appeared to be taking place at a North Korean nuclear test site ahead of the April 15 anniversary of the communist country’s founding.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8436

Apr 11

U.S. Navy strike group to move toward Korean peninsula: U.S. official

By Idrees Ali | WASHINGTON

A U.S. Navy strike group will be moving toward the western Pacific Ocean near the Korean peninsula as a show of force, a U.S. official told Reuters on Saturday, as concerns grow about North Korea’s advancing weapons program.

Earlier this month North Korea tested a liquid-fueled Scud missile which only traveled a fraction of its range.

The strike group, called Carl Vinson, includes an aircraft carrier and will make its way from Singapore toward the Korean peninsula, according to the official, who was not authorized to speak to the media and requested anonymity.

“We feel the increased presence is necessary,” the official said, citing North Korea’s worrisome behavior.

FILE PHOTO – Sailors man the rails of the USS Carl Vinson, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, as it departs its home port in San Diego, California August 22, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

The news was first reported by Reuters.

In a statement late Saturday, the U.S. Navy’s Third Fleet said the strike group had been directed to sail north, but it did not specify the destination. The military vessels will operate in the Western Pacific rather than making previously planned port visits to Australia, it added.

This year North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un, have repeatedly indicated an intercontinental ballistic missile test or something similar could be coming, possibly as soon as April 15, the 105th birthday of North Korea’s founding president and celebrated annually as “the Day of the Sun.”

Earlier this week U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Florida, where Trump pressed his counterpart to do more to curb North Korea’s nuclear program.

Trump’s national security aides have completed a review of U.S. options to try to curb North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. These include economic and military measures but lean more toward sanctions and increased pressure on Beijing to rein in its reclusive neighbor.

Although the option of pre-emptive military strikes on North Korea is not off the table, the review prioritizes less-risky steps and de-emphasizes direct military action.

Trump spoke with South Korea’s acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn on Friday, the White House said on Saturday in a statement which did not mention the strike group.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8434

Mar 27

Trump’s First War? ‘All Options Are On The Table’ As The U.S. And North Korea Prepare For The Second Korean War

By Michael Snyder, on March 17th, 2017

This may be the closest that we have been to war with North Korea since the original Korean War ended in 1953. The North Koreans are feverishly working to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles that could strike the U.S. mainland, and meanwhile Donald Trump has not moved from his position that North Korea will simply not be allowed to have ICBMs. If North Korea does not blink, it means that we are literally counting down the days until we go to war. Unfortunately, North Korean leaders appear to literally be insane and they have shown absolutely no signs of backing off. In 2016, North Korea tested two nuclear bombs and test-fired 24 missiles, and so far this year they have test-fired five ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan.

During a joint press conference with the South Korean Foreign Minister on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson boldly declared that “all options are on the table” when it comes to North Korea…

US military action against North Korea is an “option on the table,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stated, adding that Washington’s “strategic patience” with the isolated country has ended.

“Let me be very clear. The policy of strategic patience has ended. We are exploring a new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures. All options are on the table,” Tillerson told reporters during a joint news conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se on Friday.

In addition, Tillerson specifically declined to rule out a preemptive strike against the regime.

Needless to say, the ultra-paranoid leadership in Pyongyang was totally freaked out by what Tillerson had to say. The following comes from the Washington Post

Soon after Tillerson’s remarks, in a sign of mounting tensions, the North Korean Embassy held an extraordinary news conference in Beijing to blame the potential for nuclear war on the United States while vowing that its homegrown nuclear testing program will continue in self-defense.

North Korea has amassed a sizable nuclear stockpile and appears at the brink of being able to strike the U.S. mainland and American allies in Asia.

What has brought this crisis to a breaking point is the fact that North Korea has continued to work on developing an ICBM that could deliver a nuclear payload to the United States.

Donald Trump has promised to stop North Korea from doing that before it ever happens

Just before he took office in January, Trump tweeted: “It won’t happen!” when Kim said North Korea was close to testing an ICBM.

I believe that Trump means what he says.

So now Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are locked in a very dangerous game of chicken. Both of them are known to be extremely strong-willed, tempermental, and unwilling to back down when threatened.

But if neither of them is willing to back down now, it could potentially spark a major war

Making matters worse, this year we have Kim Jong Un on one side: A young, relatively inexperienced and unpredictable leader prone to aggression who could be facing internal turmoil (one explanation for killing his brother).

On the other, we now have President Trump. In such a high-stakes standoff, if we’re not careful, these two leaders could prove to be a volatile — and deadly — mix.

In short, what we have now is a regional tinderbox ready to be lit by a small spark that could lead to an exchange of fire and subsequently another war.

And actually the truth is that the conflict has already started. It is widely known that the U.S. has already been conducting cyberattacks against North Korea’s nuclear program, but if those cyberattacks end up not being enough the Trump administration will order a preemptive military strike.

In recent days, the U.S. military has deployed a 100,000-ton Nimitz-class aircraft carrier to the region. The USS Carl Vinson is carrying more than 40 F-18s, and it is being escorted by a number of very powerful destroyers and cruisers.

And it is also being reported that SEAL Team 6 is being deployed to South Korea in order “to practice incapacitating North Korean leadership in the case of conflict”. The following comes from Zero Hedge

On March 1, the WSJ reported that the options contemplated by the White House in response to recent North Korean acts, include “the possibility of both military force and regime change to counter the country’s nuclear-weapons threat.” The review came es amid recent events have strained regional stability including last month’s launch by North Korea of a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan, and the assassination of the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Malaysia.

And, according to a report in Yonhap, said “regime change” may come far sooner than expected: the South Korean website writes that U.S. special operations forces, including the unit that killed Osama Bin Laden, will take part in joint military drills in South Korea “to practice incapacitating North Korean leadership in the case of conflict”, a military official said Monday.

The U.S. Navy’s Special Warfare Development Group, better known as the SEAL Team 6, will arrive in South Korea for joint military drills and take part in an exercise simulating a precision North Korean incurion and “the removal of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un”, according to the Ministry of National Defense Monday.

But regime change in North Korea would not be easy, and unless the U.S. was willing to use nuclear weapons in a first strike the North Koreans would almost certainly be able to strike back very hard.

North Korea has the fourth largest army in the entire world, and it is being reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has personally ordered his entire military to go into “combat mode” in anticipation of a conflict with the United States…

It’s been at least 24 hours since any further sabers were rattled between China, US, South Korea, and North Korea (oh and Japan), but it according to DailyNK.com, Kim Jong Un has ordered the entire North Korean army into “combat mode” to tighten security and consolidate sentiment in response to military drills conducted by South Korea and the US, which began in early March.

A source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK that following the order from Kim Jong Un, every last soldier– even if away on business, on leave, off-base for training, or even those with a recent death in the family–were ordered back to their units. The authorities have ordered the military police in each region to summon all soldiers back to their bases.

North Korea has overwhelming military superiority over South Korea, and unless the U.S. was willing to use nukes, any U.S. strike would almost certainly provoke a North Korean invasion of South Korea. The following description of what that might look like comes from the Daily Mail

North Korea, most rogue of rogue nations, has struck. The nuclear explosion, similar in size to that which levelled Hiroshima, signalled the start of a blitzkrieg-style ground invasion intended to swiftly overwhelm its richer, more advanced neighbour.

A second atomic warhead, inbound on a crude Rodong rocket, has been successfully intercepted by America’s THAAD (Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence) anti-ballistic missile system. But Seoul’s torment is only beginning as hundreds of North Korean heavy guns rain down shells on the capital, many containing Sarin nerve gas.

The city, bunched up against the North-South border, is hopelessly vulnerable to a mass sneak attack of the kind now taking place, as hundreds of thousands of North Korean troops, and thousands of tanks, pour out of innumerable underground bunkers built within miles of the Demilitarized Zone between the two countries.

Unless the U.S. is willing to nuke North Korea into oblivion (and this would almost certainly not happen), the scenario detailed above is very likely to actually happen someday.

And once North Korea invades, the United States will be forced to come to South Korea’s aid and the Second Korean War will have begun.

We are moving into a time when war will become much more common, and at some point World War III will erupt.

If we do go to war with North Korea, Trump will get the blame, but the truth is that Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also deserve much of the blame for allowing things to get to this point.

It is absolutely unthinkable that we would allow the North Koreans to develop ICBMs that could deliver nuclear payloads to U.S. cities.

But it is almost as unthinkable for us to go to war with North Korea.

Both possibilities are absolutely horrific, and so let us hope that cooler heads will prevail and that Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be able to work things out.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8404

Mar 20

Japan, South Korea, US Deploy Guided Missiles Near North Korea

Tensions on the Korean peninsula near boiling point

Clifford Cunningham | Infowars.com – March 14, 2017 183 Comments

Japan, South Korea, and the United States dispatched naval vessels equipped with missile defense technology to an area of the Sea of Japan where four missiles recently fired by North Korea landed.

The three vessels involved in the exercise, USS Curtis Wilbur, ROKS Sejong the Great, and JS Kirishima, are guided missile destroyers equipped with the Aegis missile defense system, which uses AN/SPY-1 radar to detect, track, and ultimately destroy ballistic missiles launched within the radar’s effective range.

The Aegis missile defense system is also capable of working in tandem with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system recently deployed to an area in southeastern South Korea, much to the chagrin of China and Russia.

The United States Navy called the two-day exercise “a trilateral missile warning informational link exercise.”

“The exercise will employ tactical data link systems to trade communications, intelligence and other data among the ships in the exercise,” read a statement from the US Navy’s 7th Fleet, based in Japan.

In addition to the three guided missile destroyers in the Sea of Japan, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson recently joined South Korean naval forces for an annual military exercise dubbed “Foal Eagle.”

The United States has reportedly begun deploying Gray Eagle attack drones to South Korea, while conflicting reports indicate Army Rangers, Delta Force Green Berets, and Navy Seals may be training to infiltrate North Korea and decapitate the country’s leadership in the event of a military conflict.

North Korea reacted furiously to the naval deployment and military exercises, threatening to launch “merciless” precision strikes on South Korea.

“If they infringe on the our sovereignty and dignity even a bit, our army will launch merciless ultra-precision strikes from ground, air, sea and underwater,” said North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency, KCNA.

China, which recently called for an end to all joint South Korean/US military drills in return for a halt to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, expressed disappointment in the naval drill.

“North Korea has violated UN Security Council resolutions banning its ballistic missile launches; on the other hand, South Korea, the US — and now Japan — insist on conducting super-large-scale military drills,” said Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8396

Feb 28

Wary of Trump unpredictability, China ramps up naval abilities

By Ben Blanchard and Michael Martina | BEIJING

The PLA Navy is likely to secure significant new funding in China’s upcoming defense budget as Beijing seeks to check U.S. dominance of the high seas and step up its own projection of power around the globe.

China’s navy has been taking an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and new Chinese warships popping up in far-flung places.

Now, with President Donald Trump promising a U.S. shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.

“It’s opportunity in crisis,” said a Beijing-based Asian diplomat, of China’s recent naval moves. “China fears Trump will turn on them eventually as he’s so unpredictable and it’s getting ready.”

Beijing does not give a breakdown for how much it spends on the navy, and the overall official defense spending figures it gives – 954.35 billion yuan ($139 billion) for 2016 – likely understates its investment, according to diplomats.

China unveils the defense budget for this year at next month’s annual meeting of parliament, a closely watched figure around the region and in Washington, for clues to China’s intentions.

China surprised last year with its lowest increase in six years, 7.6 percent, the first single-digit rise since 2010, following a nearly unbroken two-decade run of double-digit jumps.

“Certainly, the PLA Navy has really been the beneficiary of a lot of this new spending in the past 15 years,” said Richard Bitzinger, Senior Fellow and Coordinator of the Military Transformations Programme at the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

“We don’t how much they spend on the navy, but simply extrapolating from the quantity and the quality of things that are coming out of their shipyards, it’s pretty amazing.”

RAPID DEVELOPMENT

The Chinese navy, once generally limited to coastal operations, has developed rapidly under President Xi Jinping’s ambitious military modernization.

It commissioned 18 ships in 2016, including missile destroyers, corvettes and guided missile frigates, according to state media.

Barely a week goes by without an announcement of some new piece of equipment, including an electronic reconnaissance ship put into service in January.

Still, the PLA Navy significantly lags the United States, which operates 10 aircraft carriers to China’s one, the Soviet-era Liaoning.

Xu Guangyu, a retired major general in the People’s Liberation Army now senior adviser to the government-run China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said China was keenly aware of the U.S. ability to project power at sea.

“It’s like a marathon and we’re falling behind. We need to step on the gas,” Xu said.

Trump has vowed to increase the U.S. Navy to 350 ships from the current 290 as part of “one of the “greatest military buildups in American history”, a move aides say is needed to counter China’s rise as a military power.

“We’ve known this is a 15-20 year project and every year they get closer to being a blue-water navy with global aspirations,” said a U.S. administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“What you have seen this last year and what I think you will see with the new budget is that they are moving ahead with the short-term goal of being the premier naval force in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, with the mid-term goal, of extending all the way to the Indian Ocean.”

In January, China appointed new navy chief, Shen Jinlong, to lead that push.

Shen has enjoyed a meteoric rise and is close to Xi, diplomatic and leadership sources say.

“The navy has gotten very lucky with Shen,” said a Chinese official close to the military, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Now they know for certain their support goes all the way to the top.”

Recent PLA Navy missions have included visits to Gulf states, where the United States has traditionally protected sea lanes, and to the South China Sea, Indian Ocean and Western Pacific, in what the state-run website StrongChina called Shen’s “first show of force against the United States, Japan and Taiwan”.

Last month, a Chinese submarine docked at a port in Malaysia’s Sabah state, which lies on the South China Sea, only the second confirmed visit of a Chinese submarine to a foreign port, according to state media.

The submarine had come from supporting anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, where China has been learning valuable lessons about overseas naval operations since 2008.

Chinese warships have also been calling at ports in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, unnerving regional rival India.

“It’s power projection,” said a Beijing-based Western diplomat, of China’s navy

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