GDI Risk Advisory Group

Posts Tagged ‘North Korea’

A Killing in North Korea: Father’s Legacy

In China, Intelligence, North Korea on December 27, 2013 at 3:45 am

Korea is Best KoreaWhile many stories are coming out of the Korea’s regarding the recent execution of Jang Song Thaek, the uncle of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, the real reason has yet to come to light.  With a stories that contain womanizing, greed and internal struggles, it is easy to overlook a significant point. Uncle Jang had power and was attempting to grow it.  Kim Jong Un was tired of having to deal with this threat that his father left him by keeping the uncle in this most powerful position.  So Kim had Jang removed.  With this in mind, the big issue  lies with the Chinese connection, and the strong relationship Uncle Jang had with Beijing.  By executing Jang and his closest associates, Kim Jong Un destroyed a critical conduit with Pyongyang’s closest ally.  So to take such a drastic measure as to remove the 2nd most powerful man in North Korea, Kim had to believe Uncle Jang was doing something worse than drinking and fooling around on his wife.  Indications are that Jang and his closest advisors were most likely conducting coup like activities…and that is most likely ‘why’ he was killed.  So what does this mean to regional and global security?  Does China still have the ability to control North Korea the next time they threaten the South or Japan with missiles?  Even more important, do we have a dictator going off the rails with little or no control?  If this was the coup it appears to have been, what opportunity was missed that might have changed the direction of North Korea’s leadership?  One can only speculate.

Here is some media looking at the incident from various angles to add color to the picture.

PLA General tests Reform Waters; Supports American- style Democracy in China

In China, Global Economy, Intelligence, International Relations, military, PLA, Uncategorized on August 15, 2010 at 9:30 pm

PLA General backs the American Dream

General and scholar test reform waters

PLA Political Commissar  [Lieutenant, not Full General as reported by the Age article below] General Liu Yazhou seems to be constantly pushing boundaries. He argues his points in a recent report by Hong Kong-based magazine Phoenix. He seems to have been able to freely comment on a systemic shift for China to move forward since 2007. Since 2007 the Commissar has be redesignated from the Air Force.

He’s not the only notable figure challenging reforms. For more, check out this article by the Asia Times Online – General and scholar test reform waters (Asia Times, 09 August 2010).  It is noteworthy that one is a military man and the other, an economist. As an observer with vested interest, I am of Chinese ethnicity.  I am still not sure if reform that essentially transforms all significant global powers today to one of American-style democracy will work. I understand where they are coming from, and the Chinese overseas I have met over the course of the past two years are quite happy with the status quo (i.e. Communism with Chinese characterstics – translated Authoritarian Capitalism a la Singapore style, arguably). That being said, I have not visited China since 2002. I shall verify this when I travel to China again this year.

The Chinese are notoriously resistant toward adopting ideals not self-generated. So, why not find a balance between the two?  The Chinese have been a collectivist society for the past few millennia.  Such a wholesale reform to one of individualism, just twenty years after opening up to the world, is going to be a challenging one with many contemporary implications.

Sun Yat-Sen tried it in the early 20th century with Western-influenced nationalism based on democratic ideals, but corruption, far worse than ever before, emerged and set China into further turmoil. It started with civil war involving war lords initially, and then the fight between the Nationalists and Communists.  Key to this is that Sun sought reform against a dynasty that was plunging China into darkness on all fronts – social, economic, political, military – the list is endless.

Today is quite different. Communism 1.0 may have been a disaster with the Cultural Revolution and the like, but Communism 2.0 today really is a marked improvement.

The bigger question is this – how is it that such reports see the light of day in supposedly ‘fully’ authoritarian China?

”If a system fails to let its citizens breathe freely and release their creativity to the maximum extent, and fails to place those who best represent the system and its people into leadership positions, it is certain to perish…’

CONTRIBUTOR:  Wandering China is a Foresight Perspective contributor and comes to us as a researcher on Chinese politics, international relations and security.  Thanks for the piece WC. 

North Korean Artillery and the U.S.S. George Washington; A Prelude to Something

In Defense, Global Economy, Intelligence, International Relations, Nuclear Arms on August 10, 2010 at 4:49 am

Amid tensions with S. Korea, N. Korea fires artillery into the sea

Won Snaps Seven Day Advance on North Korea Artillery Fire

US aircraft carrier visiting Vietnam

Everything you see in the media links above has happened in the last several days.  Some events have been reported within the last hour.  We have the North Koreans firing artillery off the coast toward the area the U.S. and South Korea just concluded naval exercises.  We have anger from China for the lack of U.S. support for their claims over the South China Sea (namely the Paracel and Sprately Islands), and now we have the U.S.S. George Washington in Vietnam to be followed by the U.S.S. John McCain as a show of unity in a regional partnership designed to provide balance between the U.S. and China in the region.  The only problem?  The U.S. is about 5 years late for this engagement and the balance of power has been leaning in Beijing’s favor for some time now.

The territorial claims to the South China Sea have been made by Beijing for several years.  The attempts by the U.S. to tether itself to Vietnam, a valuable ally wanting stability and staking claim to the South China Sea resources, are important but very antagonistic to the Chinese.  So, enter North Korea.  By using the instability between North and South Korea as leverage, the Chinese will be able to stir up all the problems necessary to keep the U.S. on its heels in this situation.  Even if it means taking the Koreas to the brink of conflict.  In other words, China cannot back out of its territorial claim and save face.

Look for Secretary Clinton and the folks at Foggy Bottom to work some deal on how the U.S. can back out of its position on the disputed islands, and maybe even allow some leeway on China’s enforcement of the new sanctions against Iran.  That should give China a chance to reign in North Korea for now.  The real issue here is that, short of going to war with China or North Korea, the U.S. comes to the table with a weak hand.  And China takes on an all new position of power.