China: Risky Business

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July 5, 2022: South Asia is becoming a growing problem for China. India (officially) and a growing number of Pakistanis (unofficially) see China as a major threat. Currently China continues to move more troops to the Indian border to confront Indian forces and slowly advance into Indian territory. China has not been idle in areas where there is little direct military confrontation. Along the Indian border Chinese troops and engineers continue building roads, structures and fortifications. Lately the border conflicts with China have remained quiet, mainly because China has more urgent problems to deal with. One of those problems does impact India. China backs the military government in Myanmar (Burma). India has a 1,4oo kilometer border with Burma in the northeast and long had problems with tribal separatist rebels there, on both sides of the border. India finally worked out peace deals with all their rebels before the pro-India elected government in Burma was ousted in February 2021. The Burmese army war with northern tribes resumed because the army is seen as the main reason for all the corruption and illegal Chinese economic activity in the north. Fourteen months later there is a lot more fighting in northern Burma and a lot of refugees fleeing to India. The Indian government has ordered border police to turn away or forcibly return such refugees to Burma. Local state governors refuse to enforce those orders, if only because so many of the refugees have kin in India. Many of the refugees belong to the same tribe that straddles the border. A lot of non-tribal Burmese entered as well and India sought to stop those refugees to avoid more trouble with China. The state governors protected these refugees as well. In some cases, separatist tribal gunmen in India used force to block Indian government efforts to curb the flow of refugees. The federal government has not escalated this dispute, in part because the local resistance is an adequate excuse for allowing the Burma refugees in despite protests from China. The Myanmar military government is sustained by China, which provides all the fuel, bombs, shells and other munitions needed to keep the fight going. The army infantry are reluctant to fight when they encounter armed resistance, which continues in the tribal areas. The urban rebels are slowly arming but still depend on a lot of demonstrations by unarmed protestors. So far, Burmese soldiers and police have killed nearly 2,000 people and imprisoned over 14,000. Aside from China, most nations in the region want the military government to free the elected and appointed officials of the overthrown government. Without Chinese support the Burmese generals could not have sustained their coup and might not even have attempted it without assurances of Chinese support. India and other nations bordering China see the Burma coup as a threat.

China is also running into problems with anti-Chinese attitudes in Pakistan. Violence in southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan province) escalated when Pakistan and China agreed in 2013 to build the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) project. This cooperation began a decade earlier when China agreed to expand the port of Gwadar in Baluchistan. Many Pakistanis, not just the Baluchis, saw such cooperation with China, especially the CPEC, as a threat to Pakistani independence. This was made clear in 2021 when the Pakistani Navy and Coast Guard refused to give up 47 hectares (116 hectares) at the site of the expanded Gwadar port project. The commanders of the Navy and Coast Guard were making a public protest against the policy of being so economically and militarily dependent on China. This opposition has been growing within the military leadership, who see this dependence on China as a surrender of independence which also puts Pakistan at risk of becoming collateral damage if China decides to fight India and its Western and East Asian allies for control of the Indian Ocean. The Pakistani naval officers have done the math and believe China has little chance of prevailing against that kind of coalition. Worse is the fact that Pakistan is becoming so economically and diplomatically dependent on their northern neighbor. This public protest, which the Chinese demanded be resolved quickly, began in late 2020 and surfaced in 2021 because the Chinese were visibly upset at such insubordination. The growing opposition within Pakistan, and the Pakistani military towards the increasing brutality of the military against elected officials, critical media and anyone who opposes the military getting its way, also exists in the military. Not just among junior members but among some senior commanders.

The military decided over a decade ago that Pakistan should be willing to pay a high price to get CPEC done because it meant Pakistan had an ally against Iran and even Western powers that might have some violent disagreement with Pakistan. China addressed that by pointing out that China does not have allies, just powerful trading partners (the West in general) and client states (like Pakistan). That has always been the Chinese outlook and it hasn’t changed.

While China is picking up most of the $60 billion cost of CPEC, it means that China owns many of those new economic assets, especially the new port of Gwadar. In early 2017 China and Pakistan signed an agreement granting China a 40-year lease on new Chinese-built facilities at Gwadar. The lease granted China most (over 80 percent) of the revenue brought in by port and free trade zone operations. China usually imports its own workers from China to do most of the work on projects like this. By 2022 China had nearly a hundred thousand foreigners, most of them Chinese, in Pakistan, some of them with their families. The easiest way to provide protection is to have most of them live in a heavily guarded and restricted access area. Gwadar is a key part of CPEC and it has the misfortune of being in a province (Baluchistan) that does not want to be part of Pakistan. China and the Pakistanis try to ignore this by not reporting on non-Islamic terror attacks on CPEC construction projects. The government has long been accused of suppressing news of tribal separatists in Baluchistan attacking government targets and especially those related to CPEC. The separatists claim they regularly carry out attacks on CPEC construction projects, but most of their attacks are still directed at Pakistani security forces and government facilities.

Because of the security threat to Gwadar, China demanded that Pakistan build 30 kilometers of three-meter-high security fencing near the two main entrances to Gwadar. In addition, the Chinese installed 500 security cameras within the perimeter of the port. Pakistanis fear the entire port area will eventually be fenced off to protect what is described by locals as a Chinese naval base guarded by Chinese and Pakistani troops. Since early 2019 Pakistan has been responding to Chinese complaints about lack of security, and agreed to add more troops to the security forces already assigned to guard over 300 Chinese projects in Pakistan and the 25,000 foreigners (mainly Chinese) who were then working on them. The security force had over 15,000 personnel with 9,000 being soldiers and the rest local para-military forces. This will be in addition to the special naval force that protects navy facilities in Gwadar and the waters off Pakistan.

In mid-2017 Pakistan also agreed to build a walled and restricted residential area near the port of Gwadar to house up to half a million people, most of them Chinese that will eventually be working in Pakistan. This will include some military personnel and a lot of family members. Chinese construction work on Gwadar port facilities is visible to anyone on the ground or flying by, and it was noticed that some features of the new port and airport facilities are clearly intended for military use. India has long claimed that China (despite denials) was planning to use Gwadar as a base for Chinese warships and naval aircraft. Pakistan never had a problem with the Chinese military using Gwadar as it helped keep local troublemakers out. Pakistan has assured China that there would be no terrorist violence against Chinese working on upgrading the port of Gwadar and land links north to China. The military now has to assure their Chinese overlords that dissent with the Pakistani military will be suppressed as well. That is not working and the violence against the military and Chinese in Baluchistan continues to escalate.

June 21, 2022: A South Korean built SLV (Satellite launch vehicle) rocket put a South Korean built satellite in orbit for the first time. This makes South Korea the seventh nation to do this with locally built SLVs and satellites. The satellite put into orbit increases the accuracy and reliability of GPS location data used by aircraft. This is particularly important for South Korea because North Korea has tested GPS jammers near the border that disrupt GPS service for aircraft. So South Korea did something about it, which improves flight safety near North Korea and annoys North Korean military planners.

It took South Korea less than a decade to design and build this technology. In 2017 South Korea conducted a successful test of a locally made solid fuel ballistic missile with a range of 800 kilometers. This enables South Korea to hit targets anywhere in North Korea with weapons (ballistic missiles) that North Korea is not equipped to stop. This came 18 months after the announcement that a ballistic missile with a range of 500 kilometers was successfully tested. That test ended decades of restrictions on South Korean ballistic missile development. In 2012 the United States halted its efforts to restrict South Korean missile development. The South Koreans tried for over a decade to develop warmer relations with North Korea and all efforts failed. The 2010 North Korea attacks (using artillery and a torpedo that sank a warship) on South Korea changed a lot of attitudes in South Korea, and the United States. North Korea is still a big problem but since 2010 South Korea has been free to try whatever it thinks will work. Currently has over a hundred ballistic and cruise missiles aimed at North Korea This has unnerved North Korea, which still hasn’t built a functional SLV, instead using ballistic missiles designed to deliver warheads, not insert one or more satellites into a precise orbit. North Korea improvises a lot because it has to and that’s why North Korea is still trying to do what South Korea did today. North Korea tries to block news of South Korean successes from reaching North Koreas. That has proven impossible in the Internet Age but the news is delayed. South Korea media are aware of the audience in the north and often announce achievements like the successful satellite and SLV program as a “Korean” achievement. Over the past decade there have been more South Korean technology advances that are often described as Korean, deliberately leaving out North or South. This boosts morale among the “Koreans” in North Korea where the North Korean officials officially deny that such South Korean achievements exist. Since the 1950s the official North Korean attitude was that South Korea was the economically backward Korea run by South Korea officials who did what the United States demanded. The North Korean government has an increasingly difficult time dealing with their official propaganda version of South Korea and the actual South Korea that now has a GDP per capita that is more than twenty times that of the north. The GDP gap continues to widen, which is why North Koreans caught viewing recordings of South Korean media are sent to prison and those responsible for distributing these recordings are often executed. The South Korea space program is bad news for China because it will eventually mean another competitor for satellite launch services. China has surpassed Russia in this area but now faces a resurgent American launch services industry because the U.S. SpaceX technology uses reusable booster rockets and can land by themselves and be reused. Already one of these SpaceX boosters has been reused over a dozen times.

June 30, 2022: More problems in the South China Sea as the Philippines ordered six. This time it was six OPVs (Offshore Patrol Vessels) from South Korea. This came after a competition involving proposals from Australia, Turkey and several other nations. The South Korean entry was the export version of the new HDP-1500 OPV. The export version is customizable but the basic features are an 81 meter (260 foot), 1,700-ton ship with a top speed of 38 kilometers an hour and endurance of 28 days. There are accommodations for 51 personnel, including the 41 crew. Standard armament consists of a 76mm cannon and four CIWS (Close In Weapons Systems) for missile defense and other threats within a few thousand meters of the ship. There is a landing pad and hangar for a helicopter. Under the helipad there is space for additional weapons or equipment in four cargo spaces. The HDP-1500 can be equipped with anti-ship missiles or to hunt and attack submarines as well for mine-clearing. South Korea, Japan and Taiwan are all building more warships for their own use or export. China sees these three nations as a key component, along with American naval forces in the West Pacific of a naval coalition that China cannot ignore or easily deal with. South Korea is also building ballistic missiles to counter those of North Korea but these missiles can also hit Chinese targets in wartime.

June 29, 2022: The United States has added five Hong Kong based firms to the growing list of Chinese companies sanctioned for violating economic sanctions on Russia because of Ukraine. Russia discovered it was more dependent on Western component suppliers than realized. Cut off from these suppliers has halted production of many Russian missiles, guided weapons, and aircraft. Russian airlines are grinding to a halt because they can no longer obtain spare parts. China manufactures some of these spares under license but many other unauthorized (counterfeit) components continue to be made and quietly sold. The Chinese counterfeits have improved their quality levels because one of these components causing an accident in a Western built airliner used by a Russian airline causes major problems for the airlines involved. The Chinese counterfeits also show up with U.S. airlines and even American military aircraft. This is where Chinese counterfeit parts are usually discovered because the American military is much more diligent about authenticating the source of components. Russian counterfeits are not as reliable nor are those from outlaw manufacturers in several other countries. China is taking risks violating sanctions to keep Russian military and commercial aircraft flying. The risk is seen as acceptable because China is now building locally designed airliners and is better at it than Russia. In the future China will be an alternative to Boeing and Airbus for airliners. China has always had a marketing edge because they will sell to anyone who can pay. No political or ideological background check required.

June 28, 2022: China suffered another diplomatic defeat in Qatar, where two days of negotiations between the United States and Iran over lifting economic sanctions ended unsuccessfully because the United States believed Iran was making unreasonable demands and was not serious about the Western efforts to end the sanctions. China and Russia are willing to trust Iranian pledges to not cheat. The American problem is that Iran refuses to allow verification of their claims that they were not continuing work on nuclear weapons. Some European nations were willing to drop verification demands as well but the U.S. was not and a growing number of European nations were supporting this demand.

June 26, 2022: China is disappointed with the poor performance of Russian forces in Ukraine and the long-term damage done to the Russian economy. This means Russia is no longer as powerful a component of the Chinese coalition facing the West. China has provided as much economic support to Russia as it can without incurring crippling sanctions. This provides long-term economic benefits for China by providing a major source of oil and natural gas delivered via pipelines rather than ship. These energy supplies will also be cheaper than any other source. Until Russia invaded all of Ukraine in 2022, Russia was still hurting from low oil prices. These were headed up in 2018, peaking at $74 a barrel in early October then falling over 40 percent (to $43) by the end of 2018. Oil prices recovered a bit in 2019 but the prospects of much more price growth in 2019 were not good. The major customer for oil, China, continues to reduce use because Chinese economic growth continues to decline and it is feared China might even suffer a major recession because of the continued economic problems. Because of the sanctions Russia has to sell its oil and gas at a discount to China, which China is willing to trade with Russia using rubles and yuan (the Chinese currency) rather than dollars. This means Russia receives less value for its oil and gas sold to China. Meanwhile, other nations are able to replace Russia as a supplier of oil and natural gas. These alternate suppliers provide LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) at a lower cost than Russia provides via pipeline. European customers don’t trust Russia, partly because of the war against Ukraine but also because of the increasing belligerence against NATO. This is all about an imaginary NATO scheme to weaken Russia. Russians seem quite capable of doing that all by themselves. European nations are turning away from Russia for oil and natural gas and the only alternative for Russia is China, which is willing to invest in new or expanded pipelines going to China as well as provide modern oil and gas technology for upgrading Russian production facilities. This increased dependence on China limits long-term economic and military prospects for Russia, which is becoming a subsidiary of the Chinese economy. This is not a positive development for China, where the economy is already in trouble and the side effects are becoming obvious. There is the growing exodus of foreign entrepreneurs and tech specialists. This is the result of China cracking down on Chinese entrepreneurs who had built huge fortunes and showed signs of independent thinking. Chinese government officials value obedience above all else even though that contradicts the economic reforms of the 1980s that turned the Chinese economy loose and resulted in the second-largest economy in the world. Now the economic growth is stumbling, mainly because of bad government decisions. This includes establishing closer links with Russia and turning on anyone criticizing the government. This is a reminder that China is still a communist police state and by law the security forces and military are committed to protecting the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), not China. Economic growth was achieved by loosening the traditional right government control over everything. Independent thought and action have served its purpose but are now seen as a threat to CCP power, especially the power to make bad, and very expensive economic and political decisions. Closer economic and political links with Russia are hurting the economy and criticism of that by anyone, especially Chinese, is seen as an attack on the legitimacy of the CCP. Economic growth continues to decline and is now under two percent a year and getting worse. That means more unemployment and lower living standards for most Chinese.

June 20, 2022: China is suffering from a widespread covid19 outbreak. New strains of covid19 spread faster although they are less often fatal. China has responded with more frequent lockdowns in cities experiencing an outbreak. Currently landlocked Anhui Province in Central China is suffering the most shutdowns because of covid19 infections. This is causing economic problems and even more difficulty in dealing with North Korea. The current outbreak is more about fear than illness of death. China never admitted how many Chinese died from the initial covid19 outbreak, which began in China. To maintain the fiction that China was not the source of covid19, China continues to treat any outbreak as a major threat and shuts down all activity in cities and urban areas for weeks until there are no more covid19 positive people in the area. This is difficult to do with the current strains that are about as lethal as influenza and spread with flu-like speed.

Fear of covid19 virus spreading from China to North Korea has caused some extraordinary efforts to prevent anyone from crossing the Chinese border, especially coming in from China. Those hardest hit by this are the people smugglers and illegal traders, especially those who arrange for money from North Koreans in China or South Korea to be transferred to families in North Korea. This has become a big business, moving as much as $20 million a year. In 2018 enterprising North Korea donju (legalized entrepreneurs) proposed a new scheme to obtain hard currency and the government accepted. Donju noticed the government was willing to adopt a more pragmatic attitude towards “defectors” that have established themselves outside of North Korea, usually in China, South Korea and the West. The government has long known that defectors often send money back to families still in North Korea. This was accomplished via a network of smugglers who moved all sorts of forbidden goods in and out of North Korea. In 2018 the North Korea began allowing these remittances to get into North Korea legally, in return for a 20 percent fee. North Korea also allowed reunions of defectors with their North Korean kin for a price (over $100,000). There are North Korea expatriates willing and able to pay that much, and North Korea saw this as an excellent source of foreign currency. Implementing this was possible because many donju ran the older system. Before this, Chinese brokers would, for a 20 percent fee, arrange to have a Chinese or North Korean merchant inside North Korea pay the remittance. Even then, you are not safe. If any local communist officials find out you are getting money this way, you can be arrested or, if you are lucky, hit up for a bribe. Nevertheless these “remittance families” were known, or suspected and many donju got their start with money from remittance families, many of whom were donju themselves.

The North Korean and Chinese money brokers were usually involved in other forms of smuggling things into and out of North Korea and the current crackdown on any illegal border traffic has been hard on these professional smugglers. It has gotten so serious that some North Korean border guards refuse to be bribed, something that is expected to eventually fade pass along with the covid19 danger. Inside North Korea even donju with family ties to high ranking (in the government bureaucracy) families are subject to arrest and punishment for activities involving cross-border movement of any kind. All this further destabilizes the North Korea government and increases the risk of a political collapse in North Korea followed by a massive surge of North Koreas trying to get out via the Chinese border.

June 17, 2022: North Korean trade with China, its major trading partner, dropped 80 percent in May because rail traffic between China and North Korea was halted in response to a major outbreak of covid19 in North Korea. Many North Koreans, including many senior officials, are calling for rail traffic to resume. The growing starvation deaths and unrest in North Korea is seen as justification for resuming trade with China.

June 10, 2022: In Africa (Congo’s southern Lualaba province) the China Molybdenum conglomerate denied reports that Congo’s state mining company has taken control of Tenke Fungurume Mining (the world's second-largest cobalt producer). This contradicts a statement made by the secretary-general of Gecamines, Congo's state mining company. China Molybdenum is the majority owner of Tenke Fungurume Mining. Congo has been prosecuting these Chinese mining operations for corruption and bribing senior government officials to get favorable (to China) contracts in Congo.

June 7, 2022: Russia and China have been very public about their envy, anger and hostility towards the new American Starlink space-based communication system. Russia was the first to feel the pain caused by Starlink and declared Starlink founder Elon Musk an enemy who should be executed. China was less emotional and more practical by making public a government study of the Starlink problem and asking for comments and new solutions. This is a common practice in China and used to be in Russia, especially when the Soviet Union existed. The Soviets used this publicity technique primarily to let all officers in the military know of new tactics, concepts or problems the state was having with something. Public discussion was allowed to help eliminate the less useful suggestions and solutions. Starlink, a subsidiary of SpaceX, is not the only multiple small satellite ISP (Internet Service Provider) system. There are similar efforts underway in several countries, including Russia and China. Starlink is unique in that it was the first to enter service and quickly proved it could do what it was designed to do. That included quickly adapting to the needs of military users. China sees Starlink as a serious threat to the current government and its control over the population as well as the effectiveness of their military. That’s no speculation because it’s already happening to Russian forces, often live on TV, in Ukraine.

June 4, 2022: For over fifty years China has been working towards designing and building its own commercial airliners. Finally, COMAC (Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China), a state-owned firm did it with the C919 narrow-body twin-engine airliner. The C919 competes with the latest Boeing 737 model, the 737 Max. The Max ran into serious quality problems after introduction, which was later traced back to a change in management selection as Boeing sought to reduce costs and increase its ability to compete with its major rival AirBus by no longer requiring senior managers to have an engineering, as well as a business background. Fixing that problem will take the rest of the decade to complete.

In the 1990s China aimed for world domination in as many manufacturing industries as possible. China was still hobbled by a lack of domestic engineering skills that enabled the development and production of high-tech items like aircraft engines and many other components of world class military and commercial aircraft. As China became a major market for Western airliners China gained enough clout to persuade Boeing and Airbus to establish assembly plants in China that would produce Boeing 737s and the similar AirBus 320s, the commercial aircraft most popular in China. AirBus and Boeing still had to provide many components, like engines, that China could not yet produce. The Chinese government founded COMAC in 2008 by merging several smaller aircraft and component companies. COMACs first product was the ARJ21, a 90-passenger regional airliner powered by two General Electric jets. The ARJ21 ran into a lot of development problems which delayed introduction by eight years. Technically, the first ARJ21 entered commercial service in 2016 with one aircraft in one airline. This was part of the development process and mass deliveries did not begin until 2020. The delay enabled COMAC to quickly develop the larger (105 passenger) ARJ21-900 as well as freighter and 20 passenger business jet versions.

The experience with the ARJ21 led COMAC to begin production and further development of the C919, which made its first flight in 2017. Seen as a cheaper competitor for the 737 and AirBus 320, it encountered even more problems than the ARJ21. As of mid-2022 only seven development aircraft have been built. This included accusations of stealing technology and manufacturing techniques so that China could produce key components in China as the Chinese developed designs. The Chinese espionage effort was discovered in 2015 and arrests made. This sort of thing is nothing new but in the case of commercial aircraft it limited export sales. It also made several smaller Western aircraft manufacturers rethink deals with China for co-production. This espionage was one reason why America implemented sanctions and trade-restriction against China in 2018.

The C919 also lost another competitive edge, price. Originally designed to sell for about half what 737s and A32os cost, fixing all the problems encountered have increased the cost of the C919 to the point where it is nearly the same as 737 and A320. COMAC already has orders for over a thousand C919s from Chinese airlines but greater profits only come via export sales. Artificially lowering the price to gain sales is illegal according to the international trade agreements China agreed to in order to gain access to major export markets. The Chinese industrial espionage efforts will further limit export sales. Undeterred, COMAC plans to eventually dominate the world-market for narrow-body airliners like the 737 and A320. COMAC is planning on developing larger wide-body airliners as well and by the middle of the century be a major competitor for Boeing and AirBus.

June 3, 2022: The navies of the United States and China are in a naval arms race as each turns out more unmanned surface and subsurface ships. So far in 2022 China has produced the Zhu Hai Yun, a 2,000-ton ship that carries up to fifty unmanned submarine, surface and airborne vehicles. Zhu Hai Yun is operated remotely to get it out to the high seas, where the ship operates autonomously to carry out a variety of missions. China is depending on its AI (Artificial Intelligence) software to effectively carry out its mission and then signal that it is returning. The U.S. Navy has similar but smaller (145-ton) unmanned surface ships that do not carry and operate other autonomous vehicles but can stay at sea for up to sixty days carrying out ASW (Anti-submarine warfare) missions. The navy has also developed larger autonomous cargo ships to move supplies long distances. Smaller armed and unarmed autonomous vessels have been in service for decades to patrol ports and coastal areas. China believes it has a lead in AI control software and the Zhu Hai Yun is an effort to test that. The Americans are depending on less ambitious technologies that have produced impressive results so far and a new Orca autonomous submarine takes those proven concepts further than ever before.

A month before China presented the Zhu Hai Yun, the Americans received the first of 24 Orca 80-ton XLUUV (extra-large UUVs) that can carry and deploy a variety of naval mines and evade enemy detection due to their small size.

Orca was the U.S. Navy solution to the difficulties with deploying offensive mobile naval mines and a robotic submarine in enemy controlled waters, like the South China Sea. Orca could even operate as an offensive weapon against Chinese submarines seeking to block access to the South China Sea and Taiwan. China is considered the major submarine threat in the Pacific and the South China Sea is seen as a major future battleground.

Currently China has about 55 diesel-electric subs of recent design in service versus 42 operated by Japan and South Korea, each with 21. Malaysia and Indonesia each have two and Australia has six. The United States has about 30 nuclear attack subs in the Pacific. The anti-China coalition also has a large array of surface and aerial ASW forces.

To even the odds China has built a network of underwater sensors in the South China Sea that is complemented by ASW aircraft and surface ships. South Korea and Japan have similar technology monitoring their coastal waters. The only nation capable of blocking Chinese subs from moving out of the South China Sea is the United States, which has underwater sensors and a large fleet of ASW aircraft. The problem is defeating the Chinese diesel-electric submarine force. China has been trying to build effective SSNs for decades and that is still a work-in-progress. Chinese non-nuclear subs are another matter and they have become world-class.

The U.S. Navy believes robotic subs carrying mobile mines would be an effective new ASW asset because the U.S. is already developing some of the new ASW technology needed for this. This includes UUVs (Unmanned Underwater Vessels) and mobile mines. Over a decade ago the navy adopted civilian underwater UUVs used for monitoring the oceans and has been using them to do that as well as collect data useful for wartime submarine operations. With a growing number of civilian and military customers, American UUV developers and manufacturers have been coming up with new ocean research UUVs that also have military applications.

May 30, 2022: China was surprised at the failure of Russian forces to quickly conquer Ukraine and the fierce Ukrainian resistance that tore apart the invasion force. South Korea and Japan took notice. Taiwanese have been particularly encouraged by the success of the Ukrainians in developing a defense that worked against a delusional and overconfident invader. Not quite Finland in 1940 but close, and Ukraine is an updated version of the 1940 example. Taiwan wants to be the East Asian model for derailing invasions by larger neighbors.

Taiwan has good trading and diplomatic relations with many of the smaller nations near Russia that pioneered the concept of preparing for the worst and winning, not just surviving. This has become a common and successful strategy among small European states. Small East Asian nations like Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea have the same problem and are all studying the Ukrainian war intently for lessons they can use.

May 28, 2022: In Tajikistan, national security officials from China, Iran, India, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, but not Pakistan, met to discuss the terrorism situation in Afghanistan. All agreed that the terrorism threat from Afghanistan was growing despite the new IEA government insisting they have it under control. There was also agreement that diplomatic recognition and financial aid or investment was on hold until the IEA got serious about the terrorism threat. A senior IEA official recently said that all were welcome in Afghanistan, including known Islamic terror groups. The one exception is ISK (Islamic State Khorasan), the local ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) group that regularly kills non-Moslems or non-Sunni Moslems, especially Shia. This causes major problems with Shia-majority Iran, which considers itself the protector of Shia everywhere. The security officials agreed that the Pakistan-backed Taliban dominate the IEA government and seem unable to control what they have created. That includes the sanctuary the TTP enjoys in Afghanistan. TTP wants to impose an IEA-like government in Pakistan. Tajikistan also noted that a similar Tajik group had received sanctuary in Afghanistan just across the Tajik border.

May 27, 2022: Since January Japan has completed a process that creates a strong military alliance with Australia. That raised questions of why doesn’t Japan have a similar close defense relationship with South Korea, which has a larger economy and population than Australia. South Korea also has much larger armed forces with modern equipment and ample budgets to keep the ships at sea, warplanes in the air and the ground troops involved in combat longer than the Japanese.

South Korea and Japan have many reasons to be allies, but have a difficult time making formal agreements to cooperate against North Korean or Chinese aggression. When pressed on this, South Korea points out that because of the widespread antipathy towards Japan for past events, the Japanese must do something dramatic to improve their popularity in South Korea. There have been many efforts to deal with this problem and none have done enough.

South Korean anger towards Japan can be traced back to when Korea was a brutally treated Japanese possession from 1910 to 1945. The four decades of Japanese occupation were very cruel. Think how bad the Nazi occupation of conquered countries was during World War II and realize that the Japanese occupation of Korea was much worse and for much longer. The Japanese don’t help with their post-World War II attitude that Japan was a victim because it was forced into World War II by evil Westerners and was only trying to help its neighbors by occupying them and treating them badly. Japanese have a hard time understanding how their victims don’t appreciate all that Japan tried to do for them. What the foreigners do remember is what the Japanese did to them, something the Japanese tend to downplay or deny outright.

It’s popular in Japan to believe that when they defeated Russia, after a brief war in 1905, they should have been accorded more respect by the West. The Japanese seemed to overlook the fact that most European countries had defeated Russia at one time or another. Even Sweden had done so, and later on even tiny Finland would as well. The problem here was that everyone but Japan saw Japan as a major bad guy during World War II.

As a result of the 1904-5 Russo-Japanese War Japan got control over Korea in 1910, along with some German colonies a decade later for joining the allies during World War I. Japan expected more for its World War I support and these resentments led to increased aggression against China and, eventually, to attacking the United States and European possessions in East Asia in 1941. The United States liberated what is now South Korea while the Russians did the same in North Korea.

Officially, South Korea suggests that Japan cede to South Korea claims on Dokdo Island in order to improve relations. South Korea has long been willing to sacrifice good relations with Japan over the issue of who owns the uninhabited Dokdo (Takeshima to the Japanese) islands in the Sea of Japan (East Sea in Korean). Both countries have been sending more air naval reconnaissance missions to the islands, and the mass media in both countries have been jumping all over the tension. Japanese politicians would take an enormous domestic political hit if they managed to get the votes to give South Korea Dokdo. But it would make Japan popular enough in South Korea to get the long-desired (by defense officials in both countries) cooperation treaty. Australia, like the United States and other Western nations, get along with both Japan and South Korea. That means South Korea and Japan both oppose Russian, Chinese and North Korean threats but do so separately. Mass media and politicians in South Korea and Japan see this feud as an asset rather than a problem that must be solved at all costs. This is a unique situation and one, so far, that resists all efforts to resolve.

 

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