Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Radio Cairo Podcasts

Radio Cairo‘s modulation on shortwave remains bad, but there are currently podcasts available, containing the Egyptian foreign broadcaster’s North American service programs.

This letter,containing a valid QSL card, came in only 72 days after I sent a reception report, early in 2015

This letter,containing a valid QSL card, came in only 72 days after I sent a reception report, early in 2015

Downloads available →there, on Radio 360, a media website. Still no great audio as far as Cairo is concerned, but much better than what most of us are probably used to.

Be prepared for a distorted calibration tone during the first two minutes and 35 seconds on the “Monday, 14.03.2016” recording, which actually contains the Sunday program (March 13, 2016).

Friday, March 11, 2016

Tai De’s Landlust: Guns and Beauties

OK. The lad here is having fun with a lady who (I seem to understand) supports the wrong party and the wrong contender for the Republican presidential nomination (not a democrat, and besides, a right-wing goofball named Ted Cruz.

The good news is: the fun-having lad there respects peoples’ right to bear arms. The bad news is: the lady he’s joking about, named Jamie Gilt, who “jacks up her four-year-old” for some unforgettable drills at an 0.22 was reportedly shot in (or rather through her seat, her back and her complete torso by that four-year-old, from the back seat. No, not with that 0.22, but with a 0.45. So it wasn’t exactly the gun he was meant to operate.

But the irony, you know. The little story has an irresistable moral, or so thinks the Breakfast Club:

The poor child couldn’t make a choice, they say.

Oh well, you know … when I was a four-year-old child, I was forced to eat chemical extra food, because at the time, the industry in Germany who produced it even sold it, and my chemicals-lovin mom bought that.

I think it’s perfectly OK to train a four-year-old on a cute little 0.22, as long as he wears adequate earplugs and knows how to use chopsticks. And when an accident happens, an accident happens. If an aggreessive idiot overtakes me on the country lane with 150 mph and crashes into a deer and ends up in a ditch, I will do my best to get him out of the water and to keep him from drowning.

And that would be that. No funny news, no appearance in the >>Donkey of the Day<<, provided that the police keep their mouths shut about the event, too.

Let’s sum it up: Jamie Gilt looks good, she loves guns, she loves her spoilt brat who – surprise, surprise! – was toying around with even bigger guns than she’d let him have in the back seat, and shit happens.

And she looks good. That’s even worse. A woman who smells like a tea partisan and who’s looking good. And possibly loaded. I mean, people without much money could hardly afford to be in the nutrition supplement trade, a trade that hardly supports you for one week a month. Looks more like a hobby to me.

So people don’t like her. And therefore, they make a big fuss about her.

And I’m making a nice little fuss about her, too, because I find her likeable.

If I was twenty years younger and if she had watched out four years ago, I’d propose to her.

But anyway, Ms Gilt – how about a nice holiday? We can spend ours in Venice, and little Gilt can spend his in Sandhurst. On a shooting range.


Let’s hope it isn’t THAT bad

Friday, March 4, 2016

On the Eve of NPC Session: a Public Opinion Workforce that puts the Party’s Mind at Ease

The “two sessions” season is upon Beijing: both the “Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference” (CPPCC) and the “National People’s Congress” (NPC, China’s “parliament”) are holding plenary sessions this month. The CPPCC opened on Thursday, and the NPC is scheduled to begin tomorrow.

The Herald, a paper from Zimbabwe, published an online article today that reads as if it had come from the CCP central office by fax and had been published without any changes made to it.

China’s press and broadcasting services will be full of opium info smoothies for the people anyway: Xi Jinping made sure of that in February, inspecting the “People’s Daily”, Xinhua newsagency, and CCTV. And not only CCTV – who had actually been visited by Xi -, but China Radio International (CRI) staff, too, did what good journalists or reporters in the land of socialism with Chinese characteristics have to do: they held meetings, summarizing the spirit of the important talk given by Xi on a party conference concerning news and public opinion work, and drafting roadmaps for their own work.

Indeed, propaganda for audiences abroad appear to matter more than during the Hu Jintao era – or maybe it’s simply that propaganda in general matters more than during the pre-Xi decade. Xi, as quoted by a SARFT online article, republished by Xinhua on February 25:

Under the new historical circumstances, it is the duty and obligation of the party’s news and public opinion work to uphold the banner, to keep to a hopeful lookout, to revolve around the center, to serve the general situation,to unite the people, to encourage the morale and to strengthen moral attitude, to strengthen cohesion and integration, to clarify errors, to discern right and wrong, to link China and the world abroad, and to connect the world.

在新的时代条件下,党的新闻舆论工作的职责和使命是:高举旗帜、引领导向,围绕中心、服务大局,团结人民、鼓舞士气,成风化人、凝心聚力,澄清谬误、明辨是非,联接中外、沟通世界。

[…]

The key for competition among the media is the competition of talents, and at the core of media superiority is the superiority of talents. With greater acceleration [than so far], a workforce for news and public opinion work must be trained whose political determination, routine and methodology can put the party’s and the people’s mind at ease.

媒体竞争关键是人才竞争,媒体优势核心是人才优势。要加快培养造就一支政治坚定、业务精湛、作风优良、党和人民放心的新闻舆论工作队伍。

Beautiful tomorrow. What could possibly go wrong under such auspicious arrangements?

Friday, February 26, 2016

Korean Peninsula: Deploy THAAD if you have to, but provide China with an Explanation

The prospect of a North Korean nuclear arsenal can’t be promising in Beijing’s view – but appears to be preferrable to a scenario where the regime in Pyongyang would collapse and give way to South Korea’s political system, with US military close on its heels.

Given that, it is no great surprise that China doesn’t agree to sanctions that could endanger the very survival of the North Korean regime. And given that, the sanctions Beijing agreed to anyway, in negotiations with Washington’s mission to the UN that were concluded on Thursday, look as if they were unusually biting after all, even if stopping short of causing Pyongyang fatal or near-fatal calamities. After all, the sanctions’ effect depends not only on what the Security Council agrees to, but also on how far North Korea’s trading partners, including China, are prepared to go in implementing them.

What made Beijing agree to the resolution draft that should be voted on shortly? Not least fear of a regional arms race.

A Foreign Ministry official confirmed that China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin requested a meeting with South Korea’s Ambassador to Beijing Kim Jang-soo,

KBS World Radio, South Korea’s foreign broadcasting service, reported on Febuary 9.

The official told Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency that China conveyed its stance on the launch of the THAAD negotiations during that meeting. Asked about what stance China had expressed, the official said it is not appropriate to reveal content from consultations held via diplomatic channels,

the KBS report continued.

The confirmation came as China’s Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that Liu urgently summoned the South Korean ambassador and protested the launch of South Korea-U.S. negotiations on deploying the U.S. THAAD system on the Korean Peninsula.

In her speech to parliament, South Korean president Park Geun-hye also conjured THAAD:

The Government is making sure our military readiness posture is solid and is also making thorough preparations for nonmilitary provocations including cyber- attacks and acts of terrorism in public places.

To maintain robust deterrence against the North, the Government is enhancing the Korea-U.S. combined defense capability and engaging in consultations with the United States to improve our alliance’s missile defense posture. The start of formal consultations to deploy the THAAD system to US Forces Korea, as announced on February 7, is also part of these efforts.

Eleven days earlier, Park had been on the phone, talking to Chinese party and state leader Xi Jinping. The conversation didn’t appear to bear fruit, and certainly not the way Park had hoped for. China was “still unprepared” to “think about this in larger strategic terms”, Yonhap newsagency quoted Jonathan Pollack of the Brookings Institution. Pollack was also quoted as pointing out

how much effort Park has put in to strengthen relations with China and build personal ties with Xi, including her attendance at a massive Chinese military parade in September that was shunned by Western leaders.

“President Park’s expectation, I think legitimate expectation, was that she wanted a different answer from China. She’s made a lot of commitment to China,” the expert said, noting that Park risked domestic and international criticism to attend the September parade.

“She expected something in return, and so far, she has not received that,” he said.

Broadly speaking, Seoul’s plans for tough sanctions against Pyongyang had been frustrated. But there was a pressure point on Beijing. While Seoul had reportedly long been reluctant – or ambiguous – about the idea of deploying THAAD as part of American military defense, the South Korean leadership quickly warmed up to it during the past six or seven weeks.

And Beijing – not terribly successfully, it seems – tried to find an effective line in its communications with South Korea. In a meeting with Kim Jong-in, leader of South Korea’s largest opposition party, Chinese ambassador Qiu Guohong (邱国洪) – quoted by Chosun Ilbo as in turn quoted by Huanqiu Shibao

[…] emphasized that Sino-South Korean relations could thus be negatively affected, as mentioned at the beginning of this [Huanqiu, that is] article. The [Chosun Ilbo] report says that Qiu Guohong had expressed the Chinese position in three points. Firstly, the South Korean government says it would limit the radar reach and lower the performance of ‘THAAD’, but the Chinese government cannot possibly believe that. As a friend, China can believe South Korea’s promises, but the problem is that America has all powers in the deployment, the upgrades, and adjustments made to ‘THAAD’. In the end, China and Russia would become target objects, too.” Secondly, this [THAAD] issue would destroy the regional strategic balance, cause an arms race, and fire up nervousness and disquiet.” Ambassador Qiu reminded the South Korean side of the question of how South Korea’s seucrity should, under such circumstances, be guaranteed? His last point was that “the South-Korean-American consultations concerning ‘THAAD’ had, to some extent, dispersed the international community’s unanimous reaction concerning sanctions against North Korea. Without this issue, maybe there would be a new, passed, UN resolution already.”

[…..] 强调,中韩关系可能因此受到负面影响,这就出现了本文开头的一席话。报道称,邱国洪就中方立场大致说明了3点:首先,“韩国政府虽然声称会缩短预警雷达的探测距离,降低‘萨德’性能,但中国政府无法相信。作为好朋友,中国可以相信韩国的承诺,但问题是美国拥有部署、升级、调整‘萨德’的所有权利,最终中国和俄罗斯也会成为瞄准对象”;其次,该问题会“打破地区的战略均衡,引发地区军备竞赛,助长紧张和不安”。邱大使提醒韩方,如果出现这样的局面,韩国的安全是否能得到保障?最后一点是,“韩美协商‘萨德’问题相当于分散了国际社会对朝鲜制裁的一致应对。如果没有该问题,新的联合国决议案可能已经获得通过”。

The South Korean government wasn’t amused and summoned Qiu to the foreign ministry on Wednesday to discuss his comments during his talks with the country’s opposition leader. This was no dramatic response to a questionable Chinese move, but an unusually strong reaction by South Korean standards, in its relations with Beijing. And there is no indication that Seoul will drop the idea of THAAD deployment again, after what appears to have been a successful game of hardball with Beijing, forced upon the clestial kingdom by three unruly barbarians: America, South Korea, and – not least – the North Korean “ally”.

On Thursday, the day when Beijing’s and Washington’s missions to the UN agreed to the resolution draft on sanctions against North Korea, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi apparently struck a more conciliatory tone, saying that the decision was ultimately up to South Korea, and China understood the desire of the United States and South Korea to ensure the defense of their own countries. However, China’s legitimate security concerns also needed to be taken into account, Reuters quoted Wang as saying – an explanation must be provided to China.

Friday, February 19, 2016

“Social Credit System”

If you want to read only one thing about China this weekend, this is what you should read: a translation – by China Copyright and Media – of a State Council Notice concerning Issuance of the Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System. If you haven’t read it before, that is.

It’s kind of old news (from 2014), but I haven’t noticed this document before. It covers all areas of public and private life: finance, products and services, “soft power”, government and administration, work and product safety, pricing and monetary policies, medical services, industrial relations, education and science, environmental protection, “disclosure of false information” etc., and, of course, the internet:

Credit construction in the area of Internet applications and services. Forcefully move forward the construction of online sincerity, foster ideas of running the Internet according to the law and using the Internet in a sincere manner, progressively implement the online real-name system, perfect legal guarantees for the construction of online credit, forcefully move forward the construction of online credit supervision and management mechanisms. Establish online credit evaluation systems, evaluate the credit of the operational behaviour of Internet enterprises and the online behaviour of netizens, and record their credit rank. Establish network credit files covering Internet enterprises and individual netizens, vigorously move forward with the establishment of exchange and sharing mechanisms for online credit information and corresponding credit information in other areas, forcefully promote the broad application of online credit information in various areas of society. Establish online credit black list systems, list enterprises and individuals engaging in online swindles, rumourmongering, infringement of other persons’ lawful rights and interests and other grave acts of breaking trust online onto black lists, adopt measures against subjects listed on black lists including limitation of online conduct and barring sectoral access, and report them to corresponding departments for publication and exposure.

互联网应用及服务领域信用建设。大力推进网络诚信建设,培育依法办网、诚信用网理念,逐步落实网络实名制,完善网络信用建设的法律保障,大力推进网络信用 监管机制建设。建立网络信用评价体系,对互联网企业的服务经营行为、上网人员的网上行为进行信用评估,记录信用等级。建立涵盖互联网企业、上网个人的网络 信用档案,积极推进建立网络信用信息与社会其他领域相关信用信息的交换共享机制,大力推动网络信用信息在社会各领域推广应用。建立网络信用黑名单制度,将 实施网络欺诈、造谣传谣、侵害他人合法权益等严重网络失信行为的企业、个人列入黑名单,对列入黑名单的主体采取网上行为限制、行业禁入等措施,通报相关部 门并进行公开曝光。

Thanks to Smukster for his advice.

 

____________

Updates/Related

Spektrum der Wissenschaft, “Digitales Manifest”, Dec 21, 2015

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Controversy that could tear Syria apart

Is this really a good time for Bashar to go on a ski holiday?

Is this really a good time for Bashar to go on a ski holiday?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Pope and China: “Inexhaustible Wisdom”

In Order of Publication (from January 2015 to February 2016)

Ma Ying-jeou, speaking at a Dinner banquet in Italy, March 18, 2013

Pope Francis is the first pontiff from Latin America, as well as the first from the Society of Jesus. He is humble and amicable, shows special concern for the poor, and leads a frugal life, traveling by public transport to and from work. He also attaches great importance to international poverty reduction. Meanwhile, the Republic of China has provided humanitarian relief, through the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, to those affected by the Italian earthquake. We have aided refugees in the border areas of Syria and South Sudan. Assistance has also been extended to Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad for national greening projects aimed at combating desertification, as well as to Colombia for a community reconstruction plan. These all clearly reflect the role that the ROC plays as a provider of humanitarian aid.

Huanqiu Shibao online, January 20, 2015

Huanqiu online report, Ge Peng reporting — According to an Agence-France Presse report on January 20, Pope Francis, on his return flight from the Philippines, told reporters that the reason for not having met the Dalai Lama in December hadn’t been because he “feared China”, but just because no arrangements for a meeting had been made.

【环球网报道 记者 葛鹏】据法新社1月20日报道,教皇方济各20日从菲律宾飞回梵蒂冈后对记者表示,他在去年12月时未会见达赖喇嘛并不是因为“害怕中国”,只是并未安排会见。

The Dalai Lama had been in Rome last month [i. e. in December] to attend a Nobel Peace Prize winners’ summit. Francis said: “Some papers wrote that the reason I hadn’t met him was out of fear of China. This proposition is wrong. He has previously suggested a meeting, but the time hasn’t come yet, and we are still in touch.”

达赖喇嘛上个月曾到罗马参加诺贝尔和平奖获奖者峰会。方济各说:“有的报纸说我没和他见面是因为害怕中国,这种说法是错误的,他此前曾提出和我会谈,但还没到时候,我们还在接触。”

When asked about Sino-Vatican relations, he said: “Chinese people are polite, we are also very courteous, and we are slowly approaching each other.

当被问及中国和梵蒂冈的关系时,他说:“中国人很有礼貌,我们也很客气,我们在慢慢接近。”

On his flight back from Manila and across China, just as he did with other countries [whose airspace] he passed, he sent a telegram to Chinese state chairman Xi Jinping, expressing his good wishes to the Chinese people.

在方济各从马尼拉飞回经过中国时,他同飞经其他国家一样,向国家主席习近平发了一封电报,向中国人民表示祝福。

Dalai Lama candels October U.S. Visit, September 25, 2015

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is in the United States for a medical check-up. The doctors have advised His Holiness to rest for the next several weeks. As a result, His Holiness’ planned October U.S. visit has been cancelled. We deeply regret the inconvenience caused by this decision and apologize to all the people who have worked so hard in organizing the visit as well as to the public. We thank you for your support and understanding.

The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

[Note: there apparently were no meeting plans – the Dalai Lama would have visited Philadelphia after Pope Francis]

Ma Ying-jeou responds to Pope’s 2016 World Peace Day Message, January 27, 2016

The president said as peace also requires consensus and collaboration, he proposed the East China Sea and South China Sea Peace Initiatives to address tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.

Based on clearly defined concepts, those initiatives “call on all parties concerned to exercise restraint, shelve disputes and use peaceful means such as consultation and dialogue to resolve conflict,” he added. The president said over the last seven years, he has done his utmost to encourage peaceful interaction between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and overcome numerous obstacles.

In particular, his November 2015 meeting with mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Singapore serves as a positive example of settling disputes through peaceful means for other regions facing similar difficulties.

Taiwan Today / RoC Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Guanchazhe online, February 3, 2016

This translation doesn’t necessarily mirror the pope’s actual wording. The Asia Times interview can be found there. The Asia Times reporter Guanchazhe referred to is Francesco Sisci.

According to foreign media reports, Roman Catholic Pope Francis, on the eve of China’s traditional New Year – Spring Festival – expressed long-standing admiration for China’s “great culture” and “inexhaustible wisdom”, and his “best greetings and wishes to Chairman Xi Jinping and all Chinese people”. This was another step that raised speculation about the Vatican and China rapidly improving relations.

据外媒报道,在中国传统新年——春节来临之际,罗马天主教皇方济各(Pope Francis)在接受媒体采访时,向中国的“伟大文化”和“无穷尽的智慧”表达了长久以来的“钦佩之情”,表达了“对习近平主席和所有中国人民最美好的问候与祝福”。此举进一步增加了梵蒂冈和中国可能会迅速改善关系的猜测。

The Hong Kong [paper] “Asia Time”, on February 2, published online the content of an interview conducted with Pope Francis on January 28.

教皇方济各在1月28日接受了香港《亚洲时报》(Asia Time)的采访,这家媒体星期二(2月2日)通过互联网公布了采访的内容。

Francis said in the interview that to him, China had always been place to think of when greatness was mentioned, that [he saw] China as a great country.

方济各在采访中说,中国对于他来说一直是一个说到伟大就会想到的地方,是一个伟大的国家。

Vatican Holy See spokesman Lombardi said that the Pope’s interview was significant. However, the situation of Catholicism in China and the issue of bishops in China appointed by the Holy See weren’t mentioned in the interview.

梵蒂冈教廷新闻官龙巴蒂(P. Federico Lombardi)表示,这次教皇的采访意味深长。不过,有关中国天主教状况及教廷任命中国主教的话题没有在这次采访中提及。

That the Pope shows friendliness to Beijing isn’t news: [events] from his greetings from a flight through Chinese airspace in August 2014 when he sent a greetings telegram to Xi Jinping, to a Vatican delegation’s visit to Beijing in October 2015 showed the Vatican’s gradual rapprochement to Beijing.

教皇方济各向北京示好并非新闻:从2014年8月飞越中国领空、向习近平发问候电报,到梵蒂冈代表团2015年10月访问北京,这一切都显示着梵蒂冈与北京的渐行渐近。

[…]

In his speeches, Francis repeatedly called for world peace, tolerance and respect in his speeches. This includes tolerance and harmony between different ideological camps like East and West. During his visit to South America in September 2015, he met with Cuban leader Raoul Castro and revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. Also, according to American sources, the Vatican played a key role in the diplomatic “thaw” between Washington and Havana.

方济各还在讲话中反复呼吁世界的和平、宽容与尊重。这其中也包括东、西方不同意识形态阵营的宽容与融合。在他2015年9月访问南美期间,他与古巴领导人劳尔·卡斯特罗以及革命领袖菲德尔·卡斯特罗会面。另外据美国方面称,方济各和梵蒂冈在华盛顿与哈瓦那的外交“融冰”中发挥了关键作用。

The “Asia Time” reporter addressed the Chinese family planning issue, as the Pope resolutely opposes abortion. Francis first discussed issues of aging [populations] in different regions, and of [people not wanting] children, and then talked about China. “Not having many children is of course very painful, because this way of an upside-down pyramid, the parental and great-parental generations all lean on one child. This is fatiguing, harsh, and confusing, it’s not natural.” But the Pope also said that nowadays, there was some change in China in this regard.

亚洲时报》记者在采访中提及中国的计划生育问题,因为天主教的教义坚决反对堕胎。方济各先是谈到世界各地的人口老龄化和不愿意要小孩儿问题,然后才讲到中国。“不能多要小孩这个问题,当然非常令人痛苦,因为这样金字塔倒了过来,父辈、祖父辈的负担都在一个孩子身上。这是累人的、苛刻的、令人迷惘的,不是自然的。”但是教皇也表示,中国在这方面如今有所改变。

Francis said, “so long as there is improvement and onward movement, I’m not worried, because this testifies that they are making [or creating] history. I believe that China moving forward is their great position. … to be in charge of choosing ones own road is healthy and useful. We have taken this road, it hasn’t led through perfectly, so others may be opened.”

方济各说,“只要是在进步、在向前走,我就不担心,因为这证明了他们正在创造历史。我认为,中国人在向前走,这也是他们伟大的地方。……对自己选择的路负责是健康、有益的。我们走了这条路,没有完全走通,所以现在其他可能被开辟出来”。

At the end of the interview, the Pope “send his best greetings and wishes to Xi Jinping and all Chinese people.” He said that “I hope they will never lose their historical awareness that they are a great nation, that they will not forget their nation’s history of sublime wisdom, that they will make their own considerable contributions to the world. The world relies on your extraodinary wisdom. On the eve of this new year, I hope you will keep this awareness, that you will continue to move forward, and together with everyone make a common cause of taking care of our common home and common people.

在采访的结尾,教皇向“习近平主席和所有中国人民致以最美好的问候与祝福”。他表示,“我祝愿他们永不丢失自己是个伟大民族的历史意识,不忘记自己民族智慧的崇高历史,体认到自己必能对世界贡献良多。世界仰赖你们超凡绝伦的智慧。在这新年之际,愿你们怀着这份意识,持续向前迈进,与众人同心协力照料我们的共同家园和黎民百姓。”

The BBC quoted sources saying that before publication of Francis’ [interview], a Chinese delegation had visited the Vatican in January. According to other unconfirmed news, the Vatican has already reached an agreement with Beijing, allowing the Pope to appoint bishops in China.

英国广播公司引述的消息说,在教皇方济各的上述谈话发表之前,曾经有一个中国代表团在今年1月访问过梵蒂冈。证实的消息说,梵蒂冈已经同北京达成协议,允许教皇在中国任命主教。

Some comments say the Vatican’s settlement with Beijing was welcomed by many Chinese Catholics, but was also met with many [religious practitioner’s] opposition worrying that the Vatican was sacrificing their interests.

有评论指出,梵蒂冈同北京的和解受到许多中国天主教徒的欢迎,但是也受到许多教徒的反对,他们担心梵蒂冈牺牲他们的利益。

Concerning relations with China, there are also two opposing points of view within the Vatican. One group believes that treating China requires flexibility, thus earning Catholic followers greater freedoms. Another group believes that China’s regime has shown absolutely no change.

梵蒂冈内部有关中国问题也存在着两种对立的观点。一派认为,对待中国应该表现出灵活性,以便能让中国的天主教徒获得更大的自由。但是另一派认为,中国的政权根本没有发生变化。

____________

Related

Garden of Growing Imams, Sept 17, 2014
Retired Pope’s unachieved Dream, Mar 13, 2013
Certifying Living Buddhas (in Chinese), Garze Daily, Dec 2010

____________

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Korean Peninsula: no Pain, no Denuclearization

North Korea’s “Historical Moment”

On February 7, North Korea launched a missile. Pyongyang referred ot it as a satellite launch, and that’s how they had registered it with the International Maritime Office in London, a few days earlier.

But the world appeared to be in disbelief. One month earlier, on January 6, North Korea had conducted a nuclear test, and given that space rockets’ and ballistic missiles’ technological platforms are quite similar to each other, it is believed that Pyongyang chose the space option (a three-stufen rocket) rather than a (two-stufen) missile so as to circumvent UN Security Council restrictions on its missile program.

Beijing, too, expressed disbelief and “regretted” the satellite launch which, as the foreign ministry spokesperson emphasized, had been based on ballistic-missile technology.

Pyongyang’s claim that it had tested a hydrogen bomb was met with skepticism in the West, in Japan, and South Korea, and at least semi-officially – via the world of Chinese science, as usual – Beijing expressed doubt, too.

He wouldn’t rule out that North Korea mastered a bit of hydrogen-bomb technology already, PLA Academy of Military Science researcher Du Wenlong told CCTV, but the available data “didn’t support a ‘hydrogen-bomb test’”.

There were no such doubts about North Korean television’s wonderweapon: “Heaven and earth are shaking because of the historical moment”, announced Ri Chun-hee, a veteran presenter, re-emerged from retirement for the festive occasion.

South Korea’s Reaction

And South Korea’s leadership was steaming with anger. If it was up to the South’s foreign minister, Yun Byung-he, the North Korean leadership would be entering a world of pain:

“I believe it is time for the international community to show zero tolerance to North Korea’s uncontrolled provocations”, he told the Munich Security Conference in Munich on Thursday, and: “it is time now to inflict unbearable pain on Pyongyang, to make them take the right strategic decision, as Iran has done.”

South Korea sees itself affected by Pyongyang’s nuclear test more immediately as other neighbors or opponents taking part in the six-party talks on the Korean peninsula’s denuclearization. Different from the world outside the peninsula, reunification of the two Koreas is on the agenda, even if outside the South Korean government, considerable doubts are expressed concerning the use and feasibility of such unification.

There was a special relationship between South Korea and Germany, because of the painful experience of division, South Korean president Park Geun-hye said during a visit to Berlin, in March 2014.

Her demand that “meticulous preparations” should be made for making Korean unity happen was probably meant seriously then, and still is. Basically, the situation on the Korean peninsula isn’t that different after the North’s fourth nuclear test, anyway: America and China can agree to a common denominator concerning sanctions against Pyongyang, but no sanctions that would call the continuation of the North Korean regime into question.

Besides, flashes of official Korean anger – northern or southern – might be considered a ritual. As German sinologist Oskar Weggel observed decades ago, student protests in [South] Korean cities always took the same shape and followed the same script, while life continued as normal just next to where young people were battling it out with the police. 1)

But for some South Korean companies, life may be anything but normal now. An industrial park jointly run in Kaesong, by North and South Korea, has ceased operation last week. On Thursday, Pyongyang deported all the South Korean employees to the South, after South Korea had stopped production. The South Koreans’ apparent attempt to take their assets and stock across the border to the South reportedly didn’t succeed: according to Radio Japn news on Friday, the North Korean committee for reunification announced that South Korean assets in Kaesong would be frozen, and also on Friday, China Radio International’s Mandarin service reported that the South Koreans had only been allowed to take personal belongings with them. The industrial park had been sealed off as a military zone – chances are that this halt will last longer than a previous one in 2013.

Valued more than 500 million USD in 2015, inter-Korean production in Kaesong may be considered less than decisive, in macro-economic terms. However, according to South Korean broadcaster KBS’ German service, South Korean opposition criticized the production halt in Kaesong as the governing party’s “strategy” for the upcoming parliamentary elections in April. Also according to KBS, Seoul feels compelled to take relief measures for companies invested in Kaesong. All companies residing in the industrial park are granted a moratorium on loan repayments, and companies who took loans from an inter-Korean cooperation fund may also suspend interest payment.

Chinese-North Korean Relations

China had “total control” of North Korea, Donald Trump claimed in a CNN interview – there would be nothing to eat in North Korea without China. If you go by statistics, Trump appears to have a point.

From 2009 to 2011, North Korean exports (imports) to (from) China rose from 348 mn (1.47 bn) USD to 2.5 bn (3.7 bn) USD. In total, North Korea’s exports (imports) reached a value of 3.7 bn (4.3 bn) USD.2) Even after a contraction of North Koran-Chinese trade in 2014 and 2015 to 2.3 bn (2.6 bn) USD by 2015, there’s hardly a way to reject the notion of North Korean dependence on China.

North Korea also depends on China in military terms. An American-led attack on Pyongyang – be it to occupy the North, be it for the sake of “regime change”, is hardly conceivable – directly or indirectly, Beijing’s nuclear umbrella protects the regime.

All the same, it is wrong to believe that Beijing wielded substantial influence over Pyongyang’s behavior. Neither economic nor military support from Beijing has been able to satisfy Pyongyang. Given Chinese reform and opening up “to the West”, or to international markets, since 1978, China’s leaders are considered weaklings by North Korean peers, despite some private-economy tries of their own. To consider oneself an economic or military dwarf, but a giant of ideological purity vis-à-vis China has some tradition in Korea.

That China has joined several initiatives – resolutions and sanctions – against North Korea hasn’t been a confidence-building measure for the neighbor and ally either.

That Pyongyang, under these circumstances, keeps striving for nuclear arms, come what may, is only logical – at least by the regime’s own interest –, and not negotiable, unless the regime falls. There are no conceivable guarantees – be it from Beijing, be it from Washington – that could make the North Korean political class abandon their nuclear goal.

American-Chinese Relations

No matter if there ever was or wasn’t a Western “guarantee” to the former USSR not to expand NATO eastward: a precondition for any feasible arrangement of that kind – in east or west – would be a situation where all parties involved would see themselves in a position to enter a non-aligned status, or to maintain one. There is no way that this could currently be done in East Asia. Even as there is no structure comparable to NATO in East Asia – and South-East Asia, for that matter -, none of China’s neighbors will discard the option to play America and China off against one another, thus increasing its own leeway – neither North Korea as China’s current “ally”, nor any other state within the former Chinese imperial state’s range of influence. And neither America nor China – strategic rivals of one another – would abandon the option to establish or to maintain alliances in Asia, based on partnership or on hegemony.

If the North Korean regime collapsed, there would be no guarantees for China that a North Korean power vacuum wouldn’t be filled by South Korea and the United States. And if China invaded Korea’s north preemptively, it wouldn’t only violate its own attitude of non-interference, but it would risk war, or at least a crash in its economic relations with America and many other countries. Not least, a Chinese invasion would harden an antagonism against China that already exists among former tributary states.

From China’s perspective, there is therefore no convincing alternative to the incumbent North Korean regime. The status quo costs less than any conceivable alternative scenario.

America knows that, too, and a newly lected president Trump would get real very quickly, or America would lose a great deal of influence in the region.

Frustrations

Last week’s developments will be most frustrating for the South Korean government, particularly for president Park. Her public-support rate will hardly depend on national reunification drawing closer, but it will depend on a reasonably relaxed co-existence with the North, including at least a few fields of cooperation, as has been the case in the Kaesong Industrial Park. The South Korean opposition’s accusations against the government to have stopped production carelessly or intentionally, it’s exactly because levelling such accusations can damage the government’s reputation with the electorate.

A phone call between Park and Chinese party and state leader Xi Jinping didn’t provide Park with good news either, let alone progress in her efforts to influence the North through international channels. China was still “not prepared” to change its …. Toward North Korea, an editorialist for South Korea’s Yonhap newsagency stated cautiously, adding a quote from Jonathan Pollack who had emphasized how Park had made efforts for good relations with Beijing, even by attending the Chinese military parade in September, commemorating the end of World War 2.

Pyongyang is hardly at risk to suffer from unbearable pains, as demanded by South Korea’s foreign minister in Munich.

But Beijing, too, can’t be happy with the situation. It offends face-conscious Chinese people to be fooled, on the world stage, by a gang – that’s how many Chinese view North Korea’s “elites”. The effects of North Korea’s behavior also strengthen the hand of the US in the region. Just as Pyongyang helps itself to a Chinese military umbrella without much cost (if any), most other neighbors afford themselves, to varying degrees, an American umbrella. Even Japan and South Korea, facing North Korean nuclear armament, might work to defuse mutual antagonism, as feared by Chinese military professor Zhang Zhaozhong, in 2010. Preparedness to improve Japanese-South Korean relations appears to be on the increase.

Besides the – aggressive indeed – role played by China in the South China sea, North Korea’s attitude remains another strong anchor point for America’s military and political presence in the Far East.

___________

Notes

1) Oskar Weggel: “Die Asiaten”, Munich 1989, 1994, 1997 p. 148
2) FAO/WFP Group and Security Assessment Mission to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Rome, Nov 28, 2013, p. 7

____________

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 54 other followers

%d bloggers like this: