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Offshore in a Dangerous Neighbourhood

Posts Tagged ‘Analysis

Chinese Espionage Cases Uncovered in the US in 2010

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Last week STRATFOR posted an in-depth analysis of Chinese espionage in the US during 2010. The post comes as French car manufacturer Renault (alongside the national counter-intelligence agency, DCRI) investigate leaks to an unnamed foreign state after restricted information on the company’s electric vehicle development made its way into the hands of ‘persons unknown’.

The most telling part of the lengthy report was the huge table summarising the cases, which I present to you below (click for the full-size image):

Chinese Espionage Cases Uncovered in the US in 2010
Chinese Espionage Cases Uncovered in the US in 2010
(Source: STRATFOR.)
 
 

Chinese Espionage and French Trade Secrets is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

Written by James

2011/01/24 at 15:00

North Korean defectors and the ROK Army

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North Korean defectors hold protest in Seoul on November 29, 2010
North Korean defectors hold protest in Seoul
on November 29, 2010 (Source: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
 
 

Public Radio International’s The World carried an interesting report by Jason Struther this week on the desire of some North Korean refugees to fight liberate their former state.

South Korea is understandably reluctant (but unwilling to talk about why):

Andrei Lankov, a North Korea analyst at Seoul’s Kookmin University, said in the past both Koreas trained defectors to infiltrate enemy lines. But times have changed, he said, and there are at least two good reasons these North Korean defectors should not be armed.

“One is that a creation of such a group, especially if it’s publicized to some extent, will be seen to the North Koreans as a provocation, and indeed this is a provocation, ” he said. “Second, if you arm these people, most of whom are ideologically motivated and probably quite selfless people who have nothing to lose, and who are determined to fight for their cause, well, you will create a loose cannon.”

Lankov added that the Ministry of Defense is probably also concerned that these defectors could be spies.

In the event of a war, former North Korean soldiers could work as pathfinders and guides, and it is hard to believe that Seoul has not considered this eventuality. However, as Lankov states above, the creation of the unit would be a provocation – such a unit could only be created with the intention of toppling the Kim regime. There would be no disguising it. In addition, going public on such a move would open the door to agents posing as refugees in the future (if not some of those already in the South). Thus, for the sake of the cease-fire and their security, South Korea couldn’t even admit such a unit even if it existed.

Written by James

2011/01/23 at 20:00

South Korean missile limits

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Under the 1979 US-ROK Accord, updated in 2001, South Korea is restricted from developing missiles with “a range of up to 300 kilometers and a payload of up to 500 kilograms.” The map below illustrates this current range:

300-km range from South Korea's borders
300-km range from South Korea’s borders
(click for full-size)
 

South Korea, however, is unhappy with the current limits and would like to be able to “extend it beyond 1,000 kilometers,” according JoongAng Daily’s government source.

What would 1000 km include? Have a look:

1000-km range from South Korea's borders
1000-km range from South Korea’s borders
 

While GI Korea at ROK Drop suggests that the limits might be in place to prevent South Korea from legitimising the North’s missile programme through pursuing one of its own, it is hard to dismiss the notion that the US is unwilling to put Tokyo in range of South Korean missiles.

It also raises the question of just why South Korea requires missiles capable of hitting targets over 1000-km away. The projections above are deceptive in that they show range from South Korea’s borders.* It is most likely that South Korea just wants to able to strike anywhere in the North from bases anywhere in South Korea.

However, could it also be forward planning? Beijing would also be within Seoul’s sights, for whatever that’s worth. Regardless of South Korea’s intentions, just giving it a capability that might raise Chinese ire is reason enough for the US to want to keep a lid on those missiles.

 

Note on maps:
*The overlays showing the ranges as measured from South Korea’s approximate borders. This would mean that the furthest reaches of the range would require launchers to be placed near the border or DMZ making them extremely vulnerable. Thus, in reading the maps, it is necessary to subtract a South Korea-sized range in order to account for a more practical range.

Written by James

2011/01/23 at 18:00

Weekend Update: Jan 23 2001

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#1: Obama Hears a Hu

Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao at a joint press conference in Washington on January 19.
Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao at a joint press conference
in Washington on January 19.
(Source: Reuters)
 
 

Chinese President Hu Jintao was in the US this week for what was expected to be his ‘legacy’ visit. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem that any concrete political developments came out of the talks besides pledges for closer cooperation. As The Daily Beast summed up concisely, ‘Obama didn’t get the concessions he wanted from China’s Hu. But then, he didn’t have the cards he needed.’

For some, however, it was good enough:

The Obama administration accomplished exactly what it set out to do: stake out its positions on a wide range of issues in the U.S.-China relationship, appear strong on concerns such as human rights, bring a little forward momentum to the relationship, and get a few deliverables (on the trade and investment front) in the process.

If anything, Hu seemed to go into the talks hoping to settle US fears over China’s recent antagonism:

It is only normal, in any relationship, to have disagreement and friction, Hu said. But he added that a strategic and long-term perspective will ensure relations will not be affected or held back by any individual incident at any particular time.

Despite this blogger’s expectations to the contrary, Hu did not offer any progress on bilateral military talks. It seems ever more likely that that option is not Hu’s to offer.

One of the more important discussions between Hu and Obama manifested into a joint statement on North Korea. In the statement, there was still some support for the Six-Party Talks (in whatever form they can finally settle on – it has been suggested that the inclusion of the talks in the statement was a compromise by Washington), as well as the specific mention of ‘the DPRK’s claimed uranium enrichment program,’ which could be read as China giving some ground on North Korea’s nuclear developmentalthough China denies such a change. Whether any of what was said will amount to anything depends on inter-Korean talks, as well as North Korea more specifically.

The joint press conference with both leaders was plagued by interpretation issues which should cause the White House some embarrassmentor not, but Obama handled himself well, perhaps noticeably better than his Chinese counterpart. [Transcript here via CFR]

 

#2: Kan: “Japan-U.S. alliance is the foundation of Japan’s foreign policy”

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa arrives at Kadena AFB, Okinawa on January 20
Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa arrives
at Kadena AFB, Okinawa on January 20
(Source: USAF)
 
 

At a speech for the Friendship Exchange Council, Prime Minister Kan reaffirmed the necessity of the US bases in Okinawa, and promised “to strengthen efforts through various opportunities to seek the understanding and cooperation of those living outside Okinawa regarding the burden of hosting U.S. bases.”

The speech came as Japan and US signed a new five-year Special Measures Agreement on ‘host nation support,’ often called the sympathy budget (omoiyari yosan). Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara wants to put a stop to this nickname:

“Host nation support is often referred to as ‘sympathy budget,’ but we will no longer use this term since host nation support is a strategic contribution by Japan,” he said. “I’d like to declare that it is something that is agreed based on mutual strategic grounds.”

Regardless of those mutual grounds, “Japan wanted to pay less because of its financial straits and the U.S. was hoping it would pay more in light of elevated tensions on the Korean Peninsula and China’s rising might.” It looks like Japan won out, but also allowed the US to insert a clause whereby Japan might “partially or completely compensate the United States for the cost of shifting U.S. military drills to other venues.” A hedge against developments in Okinawa?

Appropriately timed, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa announced that Kadena AFB’s F-15 three-week training sessions would take place in Guam from April.

The Japan Times reported that:

Japan will cover the cost of relocating the F-15 drills under a bilateral pact to partially move them from U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, so about 20 F-15s can take part in each drill on Guam, with each lasting up to 20 days. Support aircraft, including aerial tankers, will also have to take part in the drills. The U.S. military can conduct the drills alone or jointly with the Self-Defense Forces.

Stars and Stripes added:

Kitazawa also told [Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima] that both governments reached an agreement to close the 149-acre Marine Corps Gimbaru Training Area, located near Camp Hansen. Closure of the Marine training facility was first agreed to in 1996 by the Special Action Committee on Okinawa on the condition that the helicopter landing zone would be relocated to the nearby Kin Blue Beach Training Area and other Gimbaru facilities moved to Camp Hansen.

The announcements came as Kitazawa visited Okinawa (and Kadena AFB) – new Chief Cabinet Secretary and Minister for Okinawan Affairs Yukio Edano made a visit yesterday, and Maehara will follow before the end of the month. It shows a determined push by Kan to look strong on the problem of Okinawa, and it shows once more how Kan and his men have entered 2011 with fists swinging. His position is helped by an apparent softening on the issue following SecDef Robert Gates’ trip to East Asia last week:

“They’re looking for a compromise, to give Kan something that he can show to the public,” explains John Swenson-Wright, associate fellow of the Asia Programme at Chatham House. “It makes sense for Washington to offer practical concessions, but I’d be very surprised if the relocation of Futenma [within Okinawa] didn’t go through as originally agreed.”

Regardless of whether or not this is the result of America having thrown Japan a bone, Kan could certainly do with the support.

 

#3: South Korea and North Korea agree to high-level military talks

South Korean and North Korean guards at Panmunjom
South Korean and North Korean guards at Panmunjom
(Source: Debate It Out)
 
 

North Korea’s offer of talks has finally gained it some ground as South Korea agree to high-level military talks “only if the agenda included the two events that have soured relations – the sinking of a southern warship in March, and the shelling of a southern island.”

North Korea latest proposal for talks came on Thursday following the US-China Joint Statement on North Korea in Washington. The question remains whether North Korea will be happy to talk about those events and whether the answers it gives will be sufficient for the South.

With a cautiously optimistic wind in its sales, South Korea is also looking at having preliminary talks on denuclearisation:

“Our position is that separate high-level talks are essential to check sincerity about denuclearization and we will propose” such talks, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said at a New Year’s reception for foreign diplomats stationed in Seoul.

[…]

“If North Korea demonstrates sincerity through specific action and then six-party talks resume, our government will seek a comprehensive resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue” through its “grand bargain” idea of a one-time major deal of swapping denuclearization and concessions, he said.

“North Korea should decide on its own whether it will choose a dead-ended road of confrontation and enmity or a road of peace and prosperity,” he said

An editorial in the Chosun Ilbo guesses at the reason for North Korea’s willingness to come to the table:

Until now the North has told its starving people that normalized relations with the U.S. would solve the food shortage and economic problems. But the only country in the world with the ability and willingness to help North Korea is the South. This reality seems finally to have hit the North when Seoul halted all trade and exchanges following the sinking of the Cheonan. The only way for the North to reach out to Washington is through Seoul, and only through Washington can the doors to the wider world open.

One writer, Nuno Santiago de Magalhaes, was willing to connect the Yeonpyeong Island strike to the talks as part of a connected strategy to get Seoul to the table. It certainly describes North Korea’s past behaviour quite well, but it’s hard to say whether the Yeonpyeong attack was so well devised.

North Korea has to play its cards right as South Korea is unwilling to taken for a ride. That might be asking too much of the North.

 

The Small Print

Taiwan’s disappointing missile test = US arms opportunity?

Abductee Yaeko Taguchi spotted in North Korea last year?

Parents of abductee Keiko Arimoto fail to secure MOFA official interview tape in damages trail

Written by James

2011/01/23 at 17:56

The tale of North Korea-Iran cash flow

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Robert Neff at The Marmot’s Hole has a fascinating post detailing the money trail from North Korea to Iran via Seoul. This quote of a Choson Ilbo article is a brief introduction:

Iran paid North Korea US$2.5 million for arms purchases in 2008 through the South Korean branch of Bank Mellat, U.S. diplomatic cables unveiled by WikiLeaks suggest. They also say that China exported to North Korea dual-use products that could be transformed into parts for Scud missiles.

For the full details, read the post at The Marmot’s Hole: Following the North Korean-Iranian money trail through Seoul. Fantastic stuff.

Written by James

2011/01/19 at 01:25

S Korea and Japan: Hopes Dashed?

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Protest outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul
Protest outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul (source: AP via NPR)

Some time earlier today, a South Korean fishing boat was apparently involved with a confrontation in Japanese-controlled waters near the disputed island Takeshima (Dokdo to Koreans, Liancourt Rocks to the rest of the world). From Xinhau

Patrol ships of the both sides began the joint investigation at around 3:53 p.m. local time in waters about 36 sea miles southeast off the disputed islets in the Sea of Japan, to find out whether a 29-ton South Korean fishing boat intruded into Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Korea Coast Guard said in a press release.

Earlier reports said a South Korean coast guard vessel have involved in a confrontation with four Japanese patrol ships as of 2:00 p.m. local time.

Seoul’s coast guard dispatched the patrol vessel to conduct joint investigation with the Japanese side after the receiving report from the fishing boat “SSangyong”, which was chased by Japanese coast guards’ ships when it was sailing in waters about 42 sea miles southeast off Dokdo earlier in the day and then sailed back toward South Korean side, the press release said.

The timing of this incident could not be worse. With Japan hoping to convince the South Koreans to strengthen military ties between the two countries, there is a chance that this incident could revive South Korean anti-Japanese passions.

Of course, it is safe to assume that the timing is no coincidence either. During the talks between Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and his South Korean counterpart Kim Kwan-jin, a dozen protestors gathered outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to condem the talks. All it takes is one fervent nationalist in a fishing boat to stir up some tension, and the house of cards could all come crashing down.

It’s early days yet, and we don’t know anything about the pilot of the boat and his motives, but I know where my money lies.

Written by James

2011/01/14 at 01:15

Is China the Reason Behind Japan’s Push for S. Korean Ties?

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Japanese and Korean Flags
Possible partners against rising China? (source: World Security Network)
 
Charlie Reed at the Stars and Stripes quotes Denny Roy of the East-West Center in Hawaii as saying:

“North Korea provides the political excuse for what would otherwise be a strategic move” against China, Roy said. “It’s a fig leaf.”

“Japan-South Korea defense cooperation is an example of what the Chinese want to avoid,” said Roy, a senior fellow at the center. “China has long understood, and feared, that its rise might cause other countries in the region to cooperate strategically against (it.)”

Certainly, regardless of what motives are behind the Japanese push for better ties, China will interpret it as US-directed encirclement. That would no doubt accelerate Chinese military development and give the Chinese a sense of urgency.

Labelling China a threat would only escalate tension and become a self-fulfilling prophecy, [Bruce Klingner at the Heritage Foundation] said. But moves to strengthen Japan-South Korea military cooperation represent long-range goals for the U.S. and its democratic Asian allies to hedge against China’s massive and growing military.

The US has to tread a delicate line between hedging against and placating China’s ambitions and Japan will play an important role in maintaining that balance. That will require a lot of foreign policy savvy on the Japanese side, something that was in short supply in 2010.

Written by James

2011/01/13 at 11:02