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South Korea’s history making geo-political pivot frightens the US more than Kim’s weapons

South Korea’s President Moon has just met with China’s President Xi Jinping. The meeting affirmed that South Korea is yet another traditional Asian ally of the US that wants to participate in One Belt–One Road. The implications however, go beyond South Korea’s economy. The move could lead to an outbreak of peace in the region that the US is hellbent on retarding.

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Throughout the Cold War, the doctrine of mutually assured destruction, somewhat appropriately referred to by the acronym ‘MAD’, ensured that in spite of high tensions, none of the nuclear powers ever directly attacked each other.

While the Cold War is over, the principle of understanding the mutual detriment of killing millions in two or more nations still holds strong. It is for this reason that Russian President Putin again stated that there is a clear rationale for North Korea’s weapons programme. The authorities in Pyongyang do not want to see their country and people destroyed in the way Iraq and Libya were, as the Arab states did not have a ‘MAD’ deterrent.

9 things you need to know from Vladimir Putin’s end-of-year Q&A session

But into the literally mad fray of Donald Trump, Trump’s Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and his CIA Director Mike Pompeo threatening to destroy North Korea, seemingly at least once a week, there is a very real development that is making many in Washington worried behind the scenes.

South Korea is pivoting towards the geographically close superpowers of China and Russia. Indeed, in a literal sense, all that separates South Korea from Russia and China is North Korea. In spite of this, for decades, the zero-sum Cold War mentality which dominated geo-political relations in the late 20th century, led to South Korea being cut-off from two nearby giants.

Today, this has changed greatly. Furthermore, the meaningful scope and intensity of Seoul’s relations with both Beijing and Moscow has accelerated rapidly under the moderate rule of President Moon Jae-in.

Moon has developed a visibly productive and personally warm relationship with Vladimir Putin since taking office in May of this year. Moon supported, without hesitation, Putin’s tripartite economic cooperation initiative between Russia and the two Korean states when it was first unveiled at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.

South Korea and Russia continue to work on more immediate energy projects, including the delivery of Russian liquefied natural gas to South Korea. There are further talks of a wider free trade agreements between Moscow and Seoul that could be finalised in 2018.

South Korea’s relationship with China continues to expand along similar lines. This was affirmed during Moon Jae-in’s just completed visit to Beijing, where he held substantial talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The following is from a report on the visit, originally published by China’s official Xinhua news agency,

“Xi welcomed Moon on his state visit to China for the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

China and the ROK are friendly neighbors and strategic cooperation partners, Xi said.

He said the two countries have made remarkable progress in exchanges and cooperation in various fields, which has brought tremendous benefits to both sides.

There have been some twists and turns in China-ROK relations, which have provided enlightenment for both sides on how to create a better future together on the basis of mutual respect for each other’s core interests, said Xi.

He said China attaches great importance to relations with the ROK and is ready to work with the ROK to maintain the original intention of establishing diplomatic relations and take full account of the well-being of the two peoples.

Both countries should uphold the basic principle of respecting each other’s core interests and major concerns as well as the principle of treating each other as neighbors with sincerity, he said.

Xi also suggested that the two sides adhere to the principle of mutual benefit and win-win cooperation to ensure that the development of bilateral relations is on the right track.

The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has brought broader prospects for China’s cooperation with its neighboring countries, including the ROK, said Xi.

He called on the two sides to strengthen political communication, cement the foundation of mutual trust, and make good use of the exchange mechanism between legislative bodies and political parties of the two countries.

China welcomes the ROK’s participation in the Belt and Road construction, said Xi, hoping to promote the alignment of the Belt and Road Initiative with the ROK’s development strategy.

He called for increased exchanges in areas such as youth, education, science and technology, media, sports, health and local affairs, for the long-term and stable development of bilateral ties.

Moon’s visit coincided with China’s annual memorial for the victims of the Nanjing Massacre, which fell on Wednesday. Moon extended his empathy to the victims.

This was Moon’s fifth trip to China and the first as ROK president. He expressed his admiration for China’s development achievements.

Calling the two countries important trading partners, Moon said the development of regional countries is closely linked with China’s Two Centenary Goals.

The ROK expects joint efforts with China to cement political trust and friendship between the two peoples, boost cooperation in various areas and coordination in global and regional affairs, Moon said.

The ROK hopes to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative and promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, he said.

The two leaders also exchanged their views on the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

“We must unswervingly uphold the goal of a nuclear-free peninsula and never allow war or chaos on the peninsula,” said Xi.

China believes that ultimately, the Korean Peninsula issue could only be solved through dialogue and consultation, he said.

China and the ROK have important common interests in maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, Xi added.

China will continue to strengthen communication and coordination with the ROK on maintaining stability and preventing wars on the Korean Peninsula and promoting peace and talks, said Xi.

He said China supports the continued improvement of the relations between the two countries on the Korean Peninsula through dialogues and contacts, which will help ease tensions and finally settle the issue.

Moon said the ROK is firmly committed to resolving the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue through peaceful means, and is willing to work with China to safeguard peace and stability in the region.

Xi reaffirmed China’s position on the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the ROK and hoped the ROK will properly deal with the issue.

After their talks, the two leaders witnessed the signing of cooperative documents in areas such as economic and trade, green and ecological industries, environment, health, agriculture, energy and Winter Olympics”.

The report clearly indicates that each country is sincere about embracing warm relations in the 21st century, after not having official relations during the Cold War period (official relations were only established in 1992). Most crucially, Chinese media appears to be optimistic about South Korea’s participation in the One Belt–One Road initiative.

In many ways, One Belt–One Road remains one of the critical points which can insure the success of a would-be de-escalation of North/South Korean tensions. It would appear that South Korea realises this as much from its own self-interested economic perspective as it does in respect of overriding security concerns for the region and wider world.

North Korea’s nuclear deterrent proves One Belt–One Road is the only hope for peace

While the US seeks to literally starve the DPRK into submission, a tactic which the Russian President has warned will never work as North Koreans would sooner “eat grass” than capitulate to international bullying, China and Russia are clear in the knowledge that only mutual opportunities can solve geo-political crises.

Threatened US Naval blockade of North Korea represents the illegal starvation of a nation

China implemented a “win-win” model of crisis management during its first ever modern peace initiative in a dispute involving third parties. China’s peace plan for Myanmar’s Rakhine State was announced with little fanfare, but it is already being implemented.

China proposes peace process for Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh

The key to the programme’s success was fostering cooperation among the authorities in both Myanmar and Bangladesh, through the promise of increased economic investment and trading opportunities as part of One Belt–One Road. Sure enough, while the US made threats, China’s “win-win” model, secured the trust and enthusiasm of both Naypyidaw and Dhaka–two countries currently being warned off and wooed away from One Belt–One Road by India. Chinese method has quietly secured a victory against both US threats and Indian gamesmanship.

In Myanmar, the US just tried to derail China’s peace plan, but actually ended up alienating India

For South Korea, a similar “win-win” model is being pursued, albeit in very different circumstances.

On the 30th of October, Beijing and Seoul reached a still undisclosed agreement regarding China’s deep concerns over the presence of US THAAD missiles on South Korean soil. Russia and China have each sought to negotiate the removal of THAAD from South Korea, as the presence of the US missiles has been illustrated as a major point of provocation against Pyongyang, while also representing a threat against China and Russia.

America uses North Korea as a transparent excuse for meddling in South Korea and provoking China

China maintains its opposition to THAAD and while the missiles are still in place, the fact that both China and South Korea reached an agreement on the issue, means that in this sense, China trusts the good will of the South Korean President more than that of the US, when it comes to such issues.

This good will has resulted in the positive meeting in Beijing wherein both countries agreed to increase both their short and long-term trading ties.

This clearly is not what the US wants as the US model of trade seeks to build up a network of nations which are largely dependant on the US for their security and consequently policy making, in exchange for economic deals.

The Chinese model by contrast, does not come with such heavy strings attached. China has made it clear both in word and deed that it requires nothing in terms of domestic policy making and governance, once an understanding in-line with an agreement to cooperate on trade and investment  is reached.

The fact that the Chinese model is now attractive to South Korea, a nation once so firmly under the grip of the US that it was nothing more than a satellite state, is demonstrative of the fact that as US allies mature, they seek to diversify their economic and geo-political portfolios, and often at the expense of indelible ties to the US.

This is not to say that South Korea is not still a US ally and partner, it still very much is. But according to the Chinese model, there is room both for traditional allies and new partners in One Belt–One Road.

The idea that everything in geo-politics is a head-to-head competition is a Cold War relic that ironically and worryingly,  continues to shape US thinking more than it did even in the Cold War when the US courted Communist states like Romania as well as left leaning non-aligned states ranging from India to Egypt. Of course, Nixon’s own rapprochement with the People’s Republic of China and his detente with the USSR, proved that even at the height of the Cold War, the US used to be less dogmatic and extreme than it has become since the early 1990s.

In such a paradigm as that which is formulated by the US of 2017, the only loser is the nation seeking to compete, rather than make the best of every situation. In this sense, the US is the clear loser and both China, Russia and South Korea are winners. In time, North Korea could be a winner too as Russia and China have renewed calls to lead a peace process that the US continues to send mixed signals about.

When it comes to an eventual peace process, the cooperation of South Korea is implicitly important. If Russia, China and South Korea end up forming a chain of trade and cooperation among each other, the only missing piece will be North Korea.

In spite of North Korea’s stance vis-a-vis the South, Pyongyang officials have stated that they do not seek hostility with the South, so long as Seoul can demonstrate that it is a sovereign state that represents something more than an instrument of aggressive US foreign policy in the region.

By cooperating with both China and Russia, South Korea can make this message increasingly clear and thus gradually win increased trust from Pyongyang.

As it is with so many other geo-political conflict zones. The logical conclusion of this scenario is that the lone obstacle to peace and cooperation is the presence of the US in East Asia.

South Korea is charting its own course, which is why the US is trying to provoke tensions on the Korean peninsula in order to prevent the outbreak of peace as a result of Seoul’s undeniable geo-political pivot.

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Photos of swastika on Ukrainian mall stairway creates a stir [Video]

Ukrainian nationalist press in damage-control mode to explain away the Nazi sign, but they forgot the name of the street the mall is on.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the aspects of news about Ukraine that does not make it past the gatekeepers of the American and Western news media is how a significant contingent of Ukrainian nationalists have espoused a sense of reverence for Nazis. The idea that this could even happen anywhere in the world in an open manner makes the claim seem too absurd to be taken seriously. Gone are the days when the Nazi swastika adorned streets and buildings in Europe. Right?

Well, maybe, wrong.

This was seen in Kyiv’s Gorodok (or Horodok, if you insist) Gallery, a shopping center in that city, located on Bandera Avenue.

The pro-nationalist news service UNIAN wasted no time going to press with their explanation of this incident, which admittedly may be accurate:

Children and teenagers who participated in the All-Ukrainian break dance festival held in the Kyiv-based Gorodok Gallery shopping mall were shocked to see a swastika image projected onto an LED staircase.

The mall administration apologized to visitors, explaining saying that their computer system had apparently been hacked.

“The administration and staff have no relation to whatever was projected onto the LED-staircase, and in no way does it support such [an] act. Now we are actively searching for those involved in the attack,” it said in a statement.

According to Gorodok Gallery’s administrative office, it was not the first time a cyber breach took place.

As reported earlier, Ukraine is believed to be a testing ground for cyberattacks, many of which are launched from Russia. Hackers have earlier targeted critical energy infrastructure, state institutions, banks, and large businesses.

This time, it appears, hackers aimed to feed the Kremlin’s narrative of “Nazis in power in Ukraine” and create a relevant hype-driving viral story for Russian media to spread it worldwide.

The Gorodok Gallery also apologized on its Facebook page and said that this was a result of hacking.

But what about the street that the mall is on? From the self-same Facebook page, this is what we see:


To translate, for those who do not read Ukrainian or Russian, the address says the following:

23 Steven Bandera Prospekt, Kyiv, Ukraine 04073

This street was formerly called “Moscow Avenue.” Big change, as we shall see.

Steven Bandera got his birthday designated as a national holiday in Ukraine last December. He is known in Ukraine’s history for one thing. According to the Jerusalem Post:

The street where the shopping mall is located is named for Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who briefly collaborated with Nazi Germany in its fight against Russia.

His troops are believed to have killed thousands of Jews.

Several Israeli papers picked this bit of news up, and of course, the reasons are understandable. However, for the West, it appears possible that this news event will largely go unnoticed, even by that great nation that is often called “Israel’s proxy”, the United States.

This is probably because for certain people in the US, there is a sense of desperation to mask the nature of events that are happening in Ukraine.

The usual fare of mainstream news for the West probably consists of things like “Putin’s military seizes innocent Ukrainian sailors in Kerch incident” or, “Ukraine’s Orthodox Church declared fully independent by Patriarch of Constantinople” (not that too many Americans know what a Constantinople even is, anyway), but the overriding narrative for the American people about this country is “Ukraine are the good guys, and Russia are the bad guys,” and this will not be pushed aside, even to accommodate the logical grievance of Israel to this incident.

If this article gets to Western papers at all, it will be the UNIAN line they adhere to, that evil pro-Russia hackers caused this stairway to have a swastika to provoke the idea that Ukraine somehow supports Naziism.

But UNIAN neglected to mention that the street name was recently changed to Stephan Bandera (in 2016), and no one appears to have hacked this. Nor does UNIAN talk about the Azov fighters that openly espoused much of the Nazi ideology. For nationalist Ukrainians, this is all for the greater good of getting rid of all things Russia.

A further sad fact about this is the near impossibility of getting assuredly honest and neutral information about this and other similar happenings. Both Ukrainian nationalists and Russian media agencies have dogs in the race, so to speak. They are both personally connected to these events. However, the Russian media cannot be discounted here, because they do offer a witness and perspective, probably the closest to any objective look at what is going on in Ukraine. We include a video of a “torchlight march” that took place in 2017 that featured such hypernationalist activity, which is not reported in the West.

More such reports are available, but this one seemed the best one to summarize the character of what is going on in the country.

While we do not know the motive and identities of whoever programmed the swastika, it cannot really be stated that this was just a random publicity stunt in a country that has no relationship with Nazi veneration.

The street the mall is on bears witness to that.

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It’s Back to the Iran-Contra Days Under Trump

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Wayne Madsen, via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Showing that he is adopting the neoconservative playbook every day he remains in office, Donald Trump handed the neocons a major win when he appointed Iran-contra scandal felon Elliott Abrams as his special envoy on Venezuela. Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to two counts of withholding information on the secret sale of US weapons for cash to help illegally supply weapons to the Nicaraguan right-wing contras, who were battling against the government of President Daniel Ortega. Abrams would have headed to a federal prison, but President George H. W. Bush, an unindicted co-conspirator in the scandal, issued pardons to Abrams and his five fellow conspirators – former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, and former Central Intelligence Agency officials Alan Fiers, Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, and Clair George – on Christmas Eve 1991, during the final weeks of Bush’s lame duck administration.

Abrams escaped being charged with more serious crimes by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh because he cut a last-minute deal with federal prosecutors. Trump, who has made no secret of his disdain for cooperating federal witnesses, would have normally called Abrams a “rat,” a gangster term meaning informant. The man who helped engineer the pardons for Abrams and his five convicted friends was none other than Bush’s Attorney General, William Barr, who has just been sworn in as Trump’s Attorney General. Trump, who is always decrying the presence of the “deep state” that thwarts his very move, has become the chief guardian of that entity.

During a recent hearing of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, newly-minted congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, reminded her colleagues and the world about the sordid background of Abrams.

Omar zeroed in on Abrams’s criminal history:

“Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful.”

Abrams, as is the nature of neocons, refused to respond to Omar and cited her comments as “personal attacks.”

Abrams’s and his fellow criminals’ use of mercenaries and “death squads” to conduct secret wars in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s has made a re-entrance under Trump. Abrams was brought on board by neocons like National Security Adviser John Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to oversee a US military build-up in Colombia, said to be 5000 US troops, to support Venezuelan paramilitary and military efforts to topple President Nicolas Maduro. Abrams and Bolton are also believed to have retained the services of another unindicted conspirator in the Iran-contra affair, Michael Ledeen, a colleague of the disgraced and convicted former Trump National Security Adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Ledeen and Flynn co-authored a book titled, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies.” The book contains nothing more than the standard neocon tripe one might expect from the likes of Ledeen.

An official investigation of the Iran-contra scandal by the late Republican Senator John Tower of Texas concluded that Abrams’s and Ledeen’s friend, Iranian-Jewish middleman Manucher Ghorbanifar, a long-time Mossad asset and well-known prevaricator, was extremely instrumental in establishing the back-channel arms deals with Iran. Ghorbanifar has long been on the CIA “burn list” as an untrustworthy charlatan, along with others in the Middle East of similar sketchy credentials, including the Iraq’s Ahmad Chalabi, Syria’s Farid “Frank” Ghadry, and Lebanon’s Samir “Sami” Geagea. These individuals, however, were warmly embraced by neocons like Abrams and his associates.

Abrams, whose links with Israeli intelligence has always been a point of consternation with US counter-intelligence officials, is part of an old cabal of right-wing anti-Soviet Democrats who coalesced around Senator Henry Jackson in the 1970s. Along with Abrams, this group of war hawks included Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, William Kristol, Douglas Feith, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Abram Shulsky, and Paul Wolfowitz. Later, this group would have its fingerprints on major US foreign policy debacles, ranging from Nicaragua and Grenada to Lebanon, Iraq, and Libya. Later, in December 2000, these neocons managed to convince president-elect George W. Bush of the need to “democratize” the Middle East. That policy would later bring not democracy but disaster to the Arab Middle East and North Africa.

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela. They have old scores to settle with Nicaraguan President Ortega. The initiation of “regime change” operations in Nicaragua, supported by the CIA and the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami, have been ongoing for more than a year.

The Trump administration has already achieved a regime change victory of sorts in El Salvador. Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, who was expelled from the formerly-ruling left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) party and joined the right-wing GANA party, was recently elected president of El Salvador. Bukele has quickly re-aligned his country’s policies with those of the Trump administration. Bukele has referred to President Maduro of Venezuela as a “dictator.” He has also criticized the former FMLN government’s recognition of China and severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan. It will be interesting to see how a sycophant like Bukele will politically survive as Trump continues to call hapless asylum-seeking migrants from his country, who seek residency in the United States, “rapists, gang monsters, murderers, and drug smugglers.”

Another country heading for a US-installed “banana republic” dictator is Haiti. President Jovenal Moise has seen rioting in the streets of Port-au-Prince as the US State Department removed all “non-essential” personnel from the country. Moise, whose country has received $2 billion in oil relief from Venezuela, to help offset rising fuel prices, has continued to support the Maduro government. However, at the US-run and neo-colonial artifice, the Organization of American States (OAS), Moise’s envoys have been under tremendous pressure to cut ties with Venezuela and recognize the US puppet Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president. Moise’s refusal to do so resulted in armed gangs hitting the streets of Port-au-Prince demanding Moise’s resignation. It is the same neocon “regime change” playbook being used in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

There will be similar attempts to replace pro-Maduro governments in his remaining allies in the region. These include Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Abrams was also brought in as an adviser on Middle East policy in the George W. Bush administration. The carnage of Iraq is a stark testament to his record. In 2005, it was reported that two key Bush White House officials – Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams – gave a “wink and a nod” for the assassinations by Israeli-paid operatives of three key Lebanese political figures seeking a rapprochement with Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah – Member of Parliament Elie Hobeika, former Lebanese Communist Party chief George Hawi, and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In 2008, a United Nations panel headed by former Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare later concluded Hariri was assassinated by a “criminal network” and not by either Syrian and Lebanese intelligence or Lebanese Hezbollah as proffered by Abrams and his friends in Washington.

Representative Omar was spot on in questioning why Abrams, whose name is as disgraced as his two fellow conspirators – Oliver North and John Poindexter – whose criminal convictions were overturned on appeal, is working for the Trump administration on Venezuela. The answer is that the neocons, who can sense, like raptors, Trump’s political weakness, have filled the vacuum left by top-level vacancies in the administration.

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Putin: If mid-range missiles deployed in Europe, Russia will station arms to strike decision centers

Putin: If US deploys mid-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to respond.

RT

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If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will respond by stationing weapons aimed not only against missiles themselves, but also at command and control centers, from which a launch order would come.

The warning came from President Vladimir Putin, who announced Russia’s planned actions after the US withdraws from the INF Treaty – a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow which banned both sides form having ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles and developing relevant technology.

The US is set to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty in six months, which opens the possibility of once again deploying these missiles in Europe. Russia would see that as a major threat and respond with its own deployments, Putin said.

Intermediate-range missiles were banned and removed from Europe because they would leave a very short window of opportunity for the other side to decide whether to fire in retaliation after detecting a launch – mere minutes. This poses the threat of an accidental nuclear exchange triggered by a false launch warning, with the officer in charge having no time to double check.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapon systems, which can be used not only against the territories from which this direct threat would be projected, but also against those territories where decision centers are located, from which an order to use those weapons against us may come.” The Russian president, who was delivering a keynote address to the Russian parliament on Wednesday, did not elaborate on whether any counter-deployment would only target US command-and-control sites in Europe or would also include targets on American soil.

He did say the Russian weapon system in terms of flight times and other specifications would “correspond” to those targeting Russia.

“We know how to do it and we will implement those plans without a delay once the relevant threats against us materialize,”he said.

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