A Peculiar Chess Game in North Korea《奇怪的棋局》

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 6, No. 5, May 2018

By Wei Jingsheng (魏京生)

Wei Jingsheng (魏京生) was the most famous Chinese dissident in 1979, when Deng Xiaoping put him on a nationally televised trial for writing the essay, “The Fifth Modernization: Democracy.” He received 15 years in prison. After meeting with President Clinton’s Assistant Secretary for Human Rights in 1993, he was put back in jail for another 14 years. He served 4 years of his second jail term before being exiled to the United States in 1997. A number of points are new in his latest article, published in English for the first time here. In particular, the discussion of China’s President Xi obstructing the Trump/Kim summit has very serious implications for the future of U.S.-China relations, and the credibility of President Xi as an interlocutor in Korean peace negotiations. Wei Jingsheng’s piece was originally published on Radio Free Asia’s blog and dated May 17, 2018. The article, including its Beijing slang, has been translated into English below.

Chinese human rights activist Wei Jingsheng (left) and American politician US President Bill Clinton talk together in the White House, Washington DC, December 8, 1997. (Photo by Robert McNeely/White House/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images)

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China’s $60 Trillion Estimate Of Oil and Gas In The South China Sea: Strategic Implications

U.S. hydrocarbon estimates imply a maximum of $8 trillion worth of oil and gas in the region, explaining part of the strategic divergence of the two superpowers.

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 6, No. 1, January 2018

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

China’s estimates of proved, probable and undiscovered oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea imply as much as 10 times the value of hydrocarbons compared with U.S. estimates, a differential that has likely contributed to destabilizing U.S. and Chinese interactions in the region. While China estimates a total of approximately 293 to 344 billion barrels of oil (BBL) and 30 to 72 trillion cubic meters (TCM) of natural gas, the U.S. only estimates 16 to 33 BBL and 7 to 14 TCM. Considering that the inflation-adjusted value of oil vacillated between approximately $50 and $100 per barrel (in 2017 prices) since the mid-1970s, U.S. estimates imply a hydrocarbon value in the South China Sea between $3 and $8 trillion, while Chinese estimates imply a value between $25 and $60 trillion. In addition to other factors, China’s greater dependence on oil imports and higher estimates of hydrocarbons in the South China Sea have driven it to invest more military resources in the region. An overly economistic approach by the Obama administration probably led the U.S. to allow China’s expansion in the South China Sea too easily.

Photo taken on June 13, 2015 shows the Xingwang deep-sea semi-submersible drilling platform at Liwan3-2 gasfield in the South China Sea. China’s largest offshore oil and gas producer CNOOC Ltd. announced on July 3, 2015 that its Xingwang deep-sea semi-submersible drilling platform started drilling at 1,300 meters underwater in Liwan 3-2 gas field in the South China Sea. Credit: Xinhua/Zhao Liang via Getty Images.

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China Swaggers, But Time Not On Its Side

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 6, No. 1, January 2018

By Arthur Waldron

I have some thoughts about the “year of doom” 2018 that appeared on the web yesterday. They are as follows:

(1) China has undertaken her dangerous policies for internal reasons. That is how China is. She has no pressing or other need for Scarborough Shoal in the Philippines EEZ, for example.

(2) We know (1) is true because Xi Jin Ping goes on an on about loyalty, reshuffles the army, creates the most boring flag raising ceremony in history, and was reported to get in a fight with a general about whether the army should be made national instead of party. Who after all is going to take a bullet for Xi? We need to get to the root of this domestic phenomenon, but how is an almost impossible question.

(3) China’s tactics have sought to win without fighting by overawing small countries (and not-so-small countries, like India and Indonesia) using their awesome military as no more than a threat and their awesome economy likewise. The problems are (a) even the Philippines is not overawed and China is very much on the wrong side of international law and (b) this is important: China overestimates her own achievements. Maoism was a cesspool. She has gotten out rinsed off, and started some large but financially dodgy corporations. Skyscrapers have sprouted and tilted.

Group of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers in China. Credit: Getty Images.

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Nuclear Deterrence and Four Types of Force: Definitive, Coercive, Catalytic, and Expressive

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 5, No. 6, June 2017

By Captain Robert C. Rubel USN (Ret)

North Korea’s drive to attain a nuclear warfare capability is currently on the front burner in the Pentagon, and is a driver of tensions in East Asia. This has precipitated plenty of dialogue in the national security community, including on the issue of extended deterrence, the policy of the US that threatens nuclear response if an ally is attacked with nuclear weapons. One input from a former colleague at the Naval War College was the final catalyst that got me tapping on the keys. First, he quoted one of his scholars as saying that the real question concerning nuclear weapons “… is whether strategic nuclear forces have any genuine relevance today in the context of deterrence and warfighting, or whether they’re troublesome legacy weapons of a bygone era.” In a subsequent email he said that he was “interested in deterrence stopping all wars, not just nuclear.” It may be that the general umbrella of nuclear deterrence did suppress some wars that might have otherwise taken place during the decades after 1945, but it is almost impossible to know. However, my colleague’s faith in the utility of the manifold uses of deterrence is not that distant from those who advocate tailored deterrence, which is a scaled or graduated deterrence structure that includes the option of preemptive strikes.[1] Tailored deterrence to some extent reflects the logic behind the DoD concept of flexible deterrent options (FDO), which are defined as “…a wide range of interrelated responses that begin with deterrent oriented actions carefully tailored to produce a desired effect.”[2] In my view, such policies would incur considerable risk, as they ascribe, in an a priori manner, effects on an opponent’s political decision making and strategic planning processes in lieu of any specific intelligence (frequently) and certainly without any historical track record, especially in the nuclear arena. In this short article I will discuss a different way to analyze deterrence and gain insight into the thought processes of my colleague.

File photo taken in October 2015 in Pyongyang is of a North Korean intermediate-range ballistic missile on display during a military parade. Photo by Kyodo News via Getty Images

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Critical Comments On ‘US Policy Toward China: Recommendations For A New Administration’

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 5, No. 2, February 2017

By James E. Fanell

Below are the critical comments I provided to Dr. Orville Schell, the co-chair of the recent Asia Society and University of California, San Diego report US POLICY TOWARD CHINA: RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A NEW ADMINISTRATION. While there are sections of the work that I agree with, I still fundamentally disagree with the overall foundation of the document’s recommendations which I believe are designed to sustain the past 40 year of a policy that promotes unconstrained “engagement” with the PRC.  As such, I’ve gone through the entire document and extracted several statements and paragraphs that I disagree with and a few that I agree with.  While I will provide comments for each specific reference issue, I can summarize my dissent of the report in the following major themes:

1.  Unconstrained Engagement.  Engagement with China is asserted to be the primary goal of US relations with China without providing evidence for that assertion.  Or worse, suggesting things are actually going well, contrary to all objective evidence.

2.  “The Relationship” is the #1 Priorty.  “The relationship” is prioritized as being equal to or more important than U.S national security.  There is no clear articulation that U.S. National security should be the #1 national security priority for the US and that our relationship with China should be judged through that lens, not through the lens of sustaining “the relationship” at all costs.

3.  Do Not Provoke.  America should not “provoke” China, but again, there is no evidence to support why this position will benefit U.S. national security interests.

4.  Dissent Not Welcome.  While I appreciate inclusion of Ambassador Lord’s dissenting opinion on North Korea, clearly the study did not value, or include, dissenting opinions, especially in the Asia-Pacific Regional Security and Maritime Dispute sections.

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South Korean public opinion shifts towards independent nuclear capability

Gallup opinion polls conducted following North Korea’s third nuclear weapons test found that approximately 64% to 66.5% of South Koreans believe South Korea should develop an independent nuclear weapons capability. They want the capability to defend against North Korea if the United States unexpectedly withdraws its security commitment to South Korea (New York Times).

The United States is fully committed to the defense of South Korea, and North Korea is well aware of this fact. For this reason, South Koreans should not be overly concerned with the latest North Korean antics. The United States stands firmly with its ally South Korea.

Nevertheless, South Koreans are understandably uncomfortable having an unpredictable and highly belligerent nuclear-armed neighbor to the North. South Korean nuclearization would be a major blow to nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The nonproliferation regime works because member countries show self-restraint by not developing independent nuclear weapons. Rather, they entrust their defense to a close security partnership with the United States, NATO, and other friendly alliances.

If the strength of the alliance is not apparent to the voting population of a non-nuclear country — in this case South Korea — then it is incumbent upon the stronger member of the alliance to take greater measures to display that commitment. These measures should include improved specification of treaty obligations, greater numbers and quality of forces deployed to South Korea, higher levels of South Korean inclusion and diplomatic collaboration in U.S. foreign policy decision-making, and improved diplomatic relations overall through improved trade relations. Deepening all facets of the relationship between South Korea and the United States will enhance the trust required for South Koreans to place the security of their nation in the hands of the United States.

Not taking proactive measures to improve the trust of South Koreans in the United States risks nuclearization of South Korea, which by example, will exponentially increase the risk of further global WMD proliferation. South Korea is a highly respected member of the international community. South Korean nuclearization will erode the taboo against proliferation, making it seem a respectable option for many small and medium-sized nations. We cannot afford the increased risk of nuclear war that this entails.

North Korean Nuclear Threats

North Korea issued a nuclear threat against the United States and South Korea today, the latest in a long series of such threats emanating from the small rogue nation in East Asia (Wall Street Journal). The UN was already in the process of tightening sanctions, but nothing that will drastically alter the status quo. These threats are geared to galvanize public support within North Korea for the leadership, as well as potentially garner minor material concessions from the West. The most likely scenario is no change, but given the country’s new youthful leadership (Kim Jong Eun), costly missteps are possible. That Kim Jong Eun lacks missile capabilities to deliver nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to his targets does not mean that he could not deliver WMD via simpler methods such as  cargo container or by smuggling the material on fast boats from neighboring countries. Port and major cities in the US, South Korea, and Japan have a miniscule but persistent and catastrophic risk from North Korean WMD delivery.