Getting Back to Updating My Website Here – Sorry – Here’s a Piece on Why the Proposed Korean ‘End of War’ Declaration is Kinda Pointless

I neglected my website here in the second half of 2021. Sorry. I was really busy rushing three articles into submission before the end of the year. Two got accepted, at:

Foreign Affairs (with a friend), on US alliances and the ostensible damage Trump did to them, which actually didn’t happen, because no US ally bolted or even hedged the US, because they’re just unwilling to absorb the domestic adjustment costs of really de-linking from the US even if Trump is a total jerk to them,

Korean Observer, on North Korea sanctions and why they are a good idea even though everyone hates them apparently at the conferences in South Korea.

These are scheduled for publication in the Q1 and Q2 journal volumes respectively. I’ll post the original, pre-edited versions so that my/full ideas are out there, but probably not till after the published version has been out for awhile.

On this site, I will try to start posting more, with links to my op-eds and other writings. I will also update the ‘What I am Reading’ section to keep better track of what I think readers ought to read themselves.

I started writing for last month, so a lot of these posts will be of the short essays I write for them.

Finally, I find myself ‘micro-blogging’ at Twitter more than using this website. So please follow me there if you are interested in a more regular stream of my thoughts on northeast Asian security and US politics.

So my first piece for 1945, from a month ago, was on the ridiculous ‘end of war’ declaration idea floated by the Moon administration. Moon pushed hard for it last year, but nothing came of it, and it’s faded away. Why? Because no one what it was since it was not a treaty. Would it bind North Korea? Would Pyongyang stop its long history of provocations along the inter-Korean border if the US and SK signed it? Would NK cap its WMD programs or retrench the KPA from the DMZ? Of course not. So why would we sign it?

Anyway, here it is:

As South Korean President Moon Jae In enters the final months of his presidency, he has pushed hard for an ‘end of war declaration’ (EoW), ostensibly to conclude the legally unfinished Korean War (1950-53). There has been extensive discussion of this idea, including at thismagazine. ‘EoW declaration’ is a curious locution – in Korean too (종전선언) – because wars traditionally end with a treaty (also a different word in Korean – 조약). The Korean War was paused in mid-1953 by an armistice. That armistice has never been upgraded to a treaty. It is unclear if Moon’s declaration is supposed to replace that armistice, supplement it, be a ‘semi-treaty’ of some sort, or is just symbolic.

For the rest, go here, please.

More on Whether the US will Make Commensurate Concessions to North Korea to get a Nuclear Deal? How about Buying the Program?

Image result for us bases in korea

This is a local re-post of an essay I wrote a couple weeks ago for The National Interest. It is an extension of this first essay.

That original essay explored why the US will have to make concessions to North Korea if it wants a nuclear deal. The North Koreans aren’t stupid, and CVID is tantamount to unilateral disarmament for nothing. So if we really want them to give up at least some of the nukes and missiles – they won’t give up all – then we have to give them something of commensurate value. That seems pretty obvious at this point, no matter how much official Washington won’t even discuss counter-concessions.

I see two things we can give them: a) a boatload of money, or b) the retrenchment of US strategic assets from South Korea. Or we can give them nothing and try to adapt to a nuclear North Korea. I would rank these choices as: buy them (bad); live with nuclear missilized NK, ie, accept the new status quo (worse); swap them for a tangible US regional strategic assets like bases or airwings (worst).

So this essay argues why buying out as much of their program as we can is better than nothing or giving up local assets. The last is a particularly terrible idea, because once we leave, we’ll never come back. That’s what happened after the US left the Philippines in the 1980s. Even if we said we could flow back into Korea easily, the actual removal of US hard, tangible assets, like the bases in the pic above, would basically be decoupling/abandonment in all but name. It would dramatically soften the alliance.

So, for as ugly as it sounds to pay them off like its blackmail – and the Kims are nothing if not gangsters – that strikes me as better than the two alternatives.

The full essay follows the jump:

Hanoi Fallout (3): Moon Jae-In is Now Leading Détente with N Korea – and He Needs Clearer Domestic Political Support for It

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This is a local re-post of an article I wrote for The National Interest a few weeks ago.

Basically, Moon Jae-In is now in charge of détente with North Korea. Trump is too checked out, too lazy, and too ill-informed to run this thing properly. Trump blew Hanoi because he got outwitted by his own staff (Bolton), because Trump doesn’t know anything about the issues, so he didn’t know how to push back on Bolton, or even realize he was being manipulated by him. So it’s up to Moon now.

But Moon lacks a national coalition in South Korea to push through a major change in relations with North Korea. South Korean conservatives are sliding into paranoid delusions that Moon is being manipulated by the North. The Liberty Korea Party is totally cut out of this process and furious. The big three newspapers in South Korea are all center-right, and all are skittish if not hostile to Moon’s initiatives.

Moon is running this from his left-liberal base, but it’s not big enough. He won with only 41% of the vote. If he does not get at least some conservative buy-in on a new relationship with North Korea, the right will destroy ‘Moonshine’ when it next re-takes the POTROK, just as it destroyed ‘Sunshine’ in 2008.

The full essay follows the jump:

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Hanoi Fallout (2): Trump is Too Incompetent and Unprepared for these Open-Ended, High Stakes Summits. Time to Stop

Image result for trump hanoi

This is a re-post of an essay I wrote for the Lowy Institute earlier this month.

Basically, Trump blew Hanoi, because he is lazy and poor negotiator. He has no empathy, so he cannot put himself in another’s shoes. Nor does he read, so he has no idea what the issues really are. He isn’t preparing for these meetings. He is throwing them together as he goes. So he walks into them unprepared with little fallback when he doesn’t get his way. Both Singapore and Hanoi failed along the same lines. Trump is 0-2, because he’s winging it.

This is classic Trump of course and shows yet again how badly suited for the office he is. A normal president would have at least had staff hammer out some basic agreement beforehand so that acrimony was not the only outcome. But not Trump. Negotiating to him is laying down ultimatums and sounding off on Twitter. And the response is predictably: the North Koreans are upset at the snub and threatening to restart testing.

For the life of me, I cannot understand the affection of Trump’s voters for such rank incompetence. He is so obviously in over his head, bungling a rare window of opportunity with NK, because he simply will not read, plan, or prepare like a normal professional. It’s amazing he hasn’t wandered into something genuinely catastrophic.

The full essay follows the jump:

South Korea is Now Running Détente with North Korea – and that is Probably a Good Thing

Image result for moon kim trump

This is a local re-post of a lengthy review I wrote on this year’s détente for the Center for International Governance Innovation. This is the original version, rather than that edited up version. They’re basically the same

Basically, I argue that the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore was a nothingburger, that basically served to get Trump out of the way. The Americans had to be involved somehow given their importance to South Korea security. So Trump had to have something – unsurprisingly, a content-free, made-for-TV summit. With Trump now sidelined, Moon can do his stuff. I figure we’ll be lucky if he can cap NK at its current arsenal without giving up too much. That is the challenge now.

The full essay follows the jump:

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