North Korea catches America’s attention

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from JohnBrianShannon.com

Review: North Korea Invades South Korea in 1950

Let us never forget that it was North Korea, acting with the approval of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin that attacked a peaceful South Korea on June 25th, 1950 — an invasion that was opposed by all UN member nations except China, which later provided significant support to the North Korean side.

In all, more than 2.5 million civilians and over 1 million military personnel were killed (some 32,975 military personnel are still listed as ‘missing’) for a likely total of 3.5 million deaths attributable to the Korean War.

However, a since reclassified report said that 4.4 million deaths occurred as a result of the Korean War (and that number includes those who died from lack of food, water, medicine, or proper sanitation as a direct result of the war) and the responsibility for those deaths lay squarely on the people who initially approved the unprovoked invasion of South Korea: Kim Il-sung of North Korea, Joseph Stalin of the USSR, and while providing only minimal support at the beginning of the war it was China’s Mao Zedong who provided a dramatic increase in men and matériel to fight the UN force defending South Korea.


Armistice Signed in 1953

Since July 27, 1953 an armistice has remained in place between North Korea, China and Russia on one side of the conflict, and the countries of the United Nations on the other.

NOTE: An armistice is regarded as a state of ‘ceasefire’ and is also called a ‘cessation of hostilities’ but it isn’t an actual long-term peace agreement.


Not at War, But Not at Peace

From June 1954 when the official negotiating teams representing both sides wrapped up their work because they were unable to forge a long-term peace agreement due to the intransigence of North Korea’s political leaders (although North Korea’s military agreed on the need for a durable peace agreement during negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland “the Geneva Conference (1954)” and in fact, covertly floated the idea of UN powers helping them to stage a coup in North Korea) the Korean War hasn’t officially ended, although it’s important to remember that there has been no actual combat between the two sides in all those years, but there have been many instances of irritation between the former combatants.


A Country on a Permanent War Footing

In North Korea, the war never ended. At least the war mindset never ended. It’s a country that still prepares for war and it’s a country that expects to be attacked on any given day of the year. The economy is a ‘war economy’ which means that aside from growing food to feed its citizens and building homes to shelter them, everything is geared towards preparing for war.

“Women must serve in the army for about seven years, and men for 10 years.” — Newsweek

‘No country in the world could successfully invade and occupy North Korea’ it has been said by many experts. Every adult in the country has served a minimum of seven years in the North Korean military, and some have served their whole lives. The standing army numbers 1.1 million with another 7.7 million army reservists that can be called-up instantly.

Every city, every village, every building, every street, every farm area has been designed to favour the defenders, including some bridges, buildings and roads prewired with explosives to destroy them and there are estimated to be as many as 20-million land mines installed in forested land and in (what appears to be) agricultural belts. When you add that to the fact that every adult has served in the army and knows where to access those controls and their associated explosives, it makes war in the north a virtual death trap for any invading army, no matter how large or powerful.

All of their serious military facilities are deep underground — so far down that only repeated direct hits with nuclear weapons will shake those underground buildings enough to kill everyone inside. And even then, some may still survive if they’re strapped in and not bouncing off the walls or ceilings hard enough to break their necks during the shaking. And if they’re alive, they can still push buttons. The kind of buttons we don’t like.

The North Korean air force is small and it has few 4th and 5th-generation aircraft, but it’s designed for, and their pilots are expert at, the close air support role, which is another important factor to consider for any country considering invasion of North Korea.

The North Korean Navy is tiny, but the ace up its sleeve is a large fleet of highly-modified Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines, some of which have been modified to accept ballistic missiles (although every attempted launch to date has failed) and the Kilo’s are generally noted for their stealth and are notorious for their ability to covertly deliver troops or supplies to any coast in the world. The USSR built hundreds of these small, but excellent submarines and conducted secret operations on every continent. Yes, every continent.

The Soviet Navy never installed ICBM missile tubes in Kilo-class subs, but the North Korean navy did. So, it’s just a matter of time before North Korea figures out the technical bits related to launching ballistic missiles from underwater.

NOTE: The Soviet Navy preferred to create a whole new class of submarine (the Akula-class) from which to launch ICBM’s and was an excellent decision from every conceivable safety standpoint.

The book on North Korea’s military is this: ARMY: The army is an extremely well-trained and capable army — one of the largest in the world — and it is well dug-in and the entire country has been set up to foil invasion. AIR FORCE: Small, but extremely well-trained for the close air support mission, and very capable in that role. NAVY: Small, almost non-existent surface fleet, but well trained for coastal reconnaissance — but their submarine fleet is large, with growing size and capability, and their capabilities are regularly underestimated by other countries.


Now North Korea has Nuclear Bombs and ICBM’s

Now that North Korea has admitted to having a small number of nuclear bombs and is testing advanced missiles, its leader has decided to use his nation’s war economy and military to get what he wants for his country.

That’s the basic psychology at work there, and we’ve seen this before. In fact, every war begins the same way.

Except, because negotiations between the UN nations and North Korea have been practically non-existent, nobody really knows what Kim Jong-un wants!

Obviously he wants something or he wouldn’t be firing nuclear-capable missiles across Japanese airspace or threatening the United States with nuclear missile attack.

And we don’t even know what the man wants…


At the Very Least, We Should Find Out What Kim Jong-un Wants

There’s no doubt that he will continue to improve the technology and capability of his submarine fleet. There’s no doubt his ICBM programme will continue to improve and there’s no chance of staging a coup in that country as the citizens and the military command are simply too loyal to the ‘Dear Leader’ as he’s known to his people.

So, as we’re stuck with him until he eventually passes away and North Korean politics becomes a lot more mainstream, we might as well engage in some high level diplomacy and find out what he wants. Perhaps he has some legitimate grievances and not-as-legitimate grievances, and some reasonable requests of the international community.

It costs nothing to talk. But not talking might result in nuclear war, especially if the present lack of communication continues past the time that Kim Jong-un’s ICBM’s become nuclear-capable and can travel thousands of miles.


Who Should Talk to North Korea?

In the war that was the Korean War, it was the UN member nations (with the exception of the USSR and China) that fought back against the North Korean invasion of South Korea — therefore, it was a war between the UN (minus two members) and North Korea — and therefore, any diplomatic initiatives which at this point are strongly advised, must be presented to North Korea by the United Nations.

At present, there’s nothing. Not even a weekly phone call.

Which is very distressing if you’re a person who happens to know what the stakes are.


Time is On Our Side

In the long run, if the rhetoric is kept to a low level and if high level diplomatic engagement becomes a number one priority for the United Nations negotiating teams and communications staff, and if reasonable requests from Jong-un are approved, all of us, including those in North Korea, will get to live. Yes, nuclear war is like that.

Constant diplomacy works every time but only because diplomacy takes place between human beings on both sides of any issue or conflict — and not between opposing computers. The application of professional diplomacy to any problem can solve anything, given enough effort and time.

Here’s the equation:
Conflict between humans + Diplomacy/Human Psychology = Positive Outcome

It’s just that it takes a high level of commitment to stick to it, and each and every action (not words, but actions) taken by the Jong-un regime will need to be carefully weighed and North Korea ‘punished’ or ‘rewarded’ as appropriate, using ‘soft power’ only, and we need to realize it’s going to take some amount of time.

The best way that human beings learn anything is via ‘carrot and stick’. Reward a person (even foreign dictators) every time they do something right (within reason) and punish them every time they do something wrong (within reason) and you are training that person to be your ally. Yes, with the right diplomacy, time is on our side.


Related Article:

This Week in Brexit: The Conservatives weak negotiating hand

by John Brian ShannonReposted from LetterToBritain.com

This Week in Brexit

One of the reasons that I’m a Theresa May fan is that she took a highly principled position by calling an election prior to Brexit, presumably to further legitimize her premiership with voters and thereby gain a stronger negotiating hand heading into Brexit negotiations.

Prior to becoming Prime Minister, Theresa May had been an MP for 20 years and served as Home Secretary for 6 years — and only then was she named to the post of Prime Minister by the Conservative Party when former PM David Cameron stepped down. Which is to say, Theresa May is as legitimate as any UK Prime Minister ever appointed (but not elected to) the PM’s chair.

Nevertheless, at the most important political moment in since the end of WWII, Theresa May decided to further legitimize her premiership by calling a snap election and (hopefully) cause her party to rally ’round her in time for the upcoming Brexit negotiations. Thereby empowering Britain in its dealings with the European Union.

By any definition it was an admirable plan.


It Worked! (Somewhat)

Except for the Conservative MP’s that didn’t campaign hard for her and were only interested in maintaining their position as a Member of Parliament, and excepting the millions of former UKIP voters — only some of them supported the Conservatives on election day.

All in all, a surprising result.

Perhaps three terrorist incidents in the UK within 90 days of the election changed the mood of the electorate, or maybe when confronted with an actual Brexit complete with veiled threats emanating from some EU capitals it’s possible some British voters felt cowed into lowering their Brexit expectations.

If so, that would be a shameful indictment on the British people, the people who succeeded admirably even after suffering horribly in two world wars and are a people who carry-on through all manner of terror attacks, other social upheavals, recessions, and Britain’s famously inclement weather.


Now with a ‘weaker hand’ Theresa May must pull-off a reasonable Brexit

How to do more, with less? That’s the job facing Prime Minister Theresa May over the next five years.

It’s an unenviable position for a longstanding British MP (20 years) with 6 years as Home Secretary to her credit and 1 year as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who deserved better from her party and from voters.

At least 42.4% of UK voters agree with Theresa May (see BBC election chart here) which was a gain of 5.5% for the Conservatives since the last election when David Cameron became Prime Minister. The business community likes the progress on the economy, and she is highly regarded by foreign leaders.

She deserves better than she’s gotten.


Methinks there are strings being pulled in places that we know not…

But just for the record, let’s look at a July 17 poll result from an internationally recognized polling firm.

One year on from the Brexit vote and business sentiment remains high
One year on from the Brexit vote and business sentiment remains high

One year on from the Brexit vote and business sentiment remains high (Says it all, doesn’t it?) Click image to enlarge.


Another chart for the doubters

One thing that Britons have every right to be proud of is the National Healthcare Service (NHS) and in recent years it has begun to score well in the prestigious Commonwealth Fund rankings. In fact, the 2017 ranking puts the NHS in 1st place over 10 other wealthy nation healthcare systems. But you’d never think it because (according to some) the NHS is falling apart at the seams.

Just as former PM David Cameron was rightfully proud of the 2013 Commonwealth Fund ranking (1st place) so Prime Minister Theresa May should feel proud of the 2017 NHS ranking (1st place) even as some of the countries named in the study improved on their 2013 rankings.

UK and 10 other countries, Health Care System Performance Rankings
UK and 10 other countries, Health Care System Performance Rankings

UK and 10 other countries, Health Care System Performance Rankings, courtesy of the Commonwealth Fund (2017) Click image to enlarge.

For comparison purposes, I’ve included the 2013 Commonwealth Fund ranking graphic below.

UK tag, The Commonwealth Fund 2013 International Health Policy Survey in Eleven Countries, courtesy of the Commonwealth Fund (2013)
The Commonwealth Fund 2013 International Health Policy Survey in Eleven Countries, courtesy of the Commonwealth Fund (2013)

The Commonwealth Fund 2013 International Health Policy Survey in Eleven Countries, courtesy of the Commonwealth Fund (2013) Click image to enlarge.


One more chart that uses actual facts to combat negative perceptions — shows how well the UK is faring

This chart shows GDP in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) which illustrates that purchasing power of both UK citizens and expats is increasing — even though (according to some) the sky is falling every day!

UK GDP per capita Purchasing Power Parity PPP
UK GDP per capita Purchasing Power Parity PPP

UK GDP per capita Purchasing Power Parity PPP. Source: tradingeconomics.com Click image to enlarge.

With all of that going for the UK in 2017 (and more positives that I haven’t included because I don’t want to drown you in charts) you’d think that Prime Minister Theresa May would get plenty of respect from her party, from certain media outlets and from voters.

But apparently in the United Kingdom, almost-perfect scores aren’t good enough to get the Prime Minister the majority she needed to allow the country to cruise through Brexit. And that’s a shame.

This Week in Brexit: Trump Promises a Trade Deal

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from LetterToBritain.com

This Week in Brexit

On the sidelines of the G20 Hamburg summit, U.S. President Trump found time to meet with UK Prime Minister May and to offer welcome words that the United States will sign a bilateral trade deal with the UK as soon as Brexit is complete.

It’s very good news for the UK and also for PM Theresa May (who has had a rough time in domestic politics of late) and it was obvious that the U.S. president went out of his way to assure Ms. May that a reciprocal trade agreement — one that works for both America and for Britain — is one of his administration priorities.

So much of the UK’s post-Brexit success will hinge on bilateral trade accords because no matter how good the final Brexit agreement, there will be some amount of economic adjustment for Britain in the months following Brexit. A quick trade agreement with the United States will not only ease the Brexit transition, but also  improve the UK (and America’s) economy indefinitely.

It was a classy thing for Mr. Trump to do for Theresa May knowing that her domestic political fortunes have taken a hit. Let’s hope the Prime Minister is able to return the favour at some point during the Trump administration. That sort of respect makes for strong allies.

During WWI, but especially during WWII the relationship between America and Britain was raised to a very high level by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Harry S. Truman, and in the postwar era during a time of unprecedented economic growth, President Ike Eisenhower continued the wise course set by his predecessor.

However, it could’ve so easily gone the other way if the leaders hadn’t gotten along.

Both sides would’ve missed geopolitical opportunities of huge importance such as the formation of NATO, the establishment of the Nuremberg trials and the creation of other institutions and agreements such as Bretton Woods and the IMF. Without the ambition of the UK and the power of the United States those things simply wouldn’t have occurred.

Millions of Americans and Britons prospered over the past 72 years because their postwar political leaders *didn’t drop the ball* and made a conscious decision to *make the best of the postwar relationship* for their respective people.


What Kind of Free Trade Agreement Should Prime Minister May and President Trump pursue in the post- Brexit timeframe? (Hint: A ‘Win-Win‘ agreement)

Present-day Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau was still in school when Canada first approached the European Union to ask about a bilateral trade deal, and that many years later it still hasn’t come into effect. (It’s about to, they say)

It will have taken eight years to hammer out and begin to abide by, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) which arrives so late in the game and market conditions do change over time (remember way back to the 2008/09 financial crisis when the CETA agreement was first floated?) that some of the hard-won negotiating points are no longer relevant and may never be finalized.

Canada, EU to provisionally apply CETA in September (CBC)

I’m sure it’s a fine agreement and congratulations are due. However, with America and Britain at the controls of a mutually beneficial trade agreement between two friendly Anglophone nations, it should take less than a year from first discussion to signed agreement.

Though we don’t know what shape an Anglo-American trade agreement might look like from our vantage point in July of 2017, probably the best idea would be for both sides to embrace reciprocity and fair dealing in all trade matters as a way to enhance both economies, and as a way to later attract other Anglophone nations such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand to sign on to such an agreement.

Hitting the Right Note with Commonwealth of Nations member India

What a great thing it would be if all Commonwealth nations eventually agreed to sign on to a U.S. / UK trade agreement. Commonwealth of Nations member India has 1.5 billion consumers alone!

Both America and Britain could add 5% to their respective GDP just on the improved trade flows of doing business in the booming Indian economy.

“Although India’s rapid population growth is part of what accounts for the forecasted jump […] that is only part of the story. Drastic improvement in terms of per-person productivity due to capital investments and better technology will play an even more important role.

“PwC predicts that India’s economy will grow by about 4.9% per year from 2016 to 2050, with only 0.7% of that growth caused by population growth.

“India’s economy is currently the third-largest in the world, and is expanding at an estimated annual growth rate of 7.1% for the 2016-17 financial year. —  India’s economy is forecast to surpass that of the US by 2040  (Quartz)

Both America and Britain just need to hit the right note with India — a respectful note — in order to profit from the massive growth that is available in that burgeoning country.

Working out an Anglo-American trade agreement with a view to adding all Commonwealth member nations within 24 months, guarantees that other powerful trade blocs don’t beat the Anglo-American alliance to supply the rocketing Indian economy with much-needed goods and services.

Projected growth for selected countries – As measured by Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)

UK Brexit free trade deal with United States and with Commonwealth partner India
UK Brexit free trade deal with United States and with Commonwealth partner India.


It’s so obvious but still worth repeating; ‘Hitch your wagon to the fastest horses if you want to place well in the race.’

Britain has the Commonwealth of Nations connections, Britain needs a trade agreement with NATO ally America and with Commonwealth partner India, and the United States wants to increase mutually beneficial trade with Britain and its 2-billion-strong Commonwealth partners.

In all of human history, rarely has such a synergistic match-up suddenly appeared where different but extremely valuable benefits are available to all three parties.

Just as nobody predicted the massive Japanese economic boom which began to form the day after WWII ended, an Anglo-American trade agreement, followed by a Commonwealth trade agreement (before other trade blocs grab the low-hanging fruit!) could match or exceed the massive performance statistics of the postwar Japanese economy.

Dear United States and Commonwealth of Nations, Let’s not miss this rather obvious ‘Win-Win-Win’ opportunity!

Will Theresa May and Donald Trump Solve the #1 Challenge of Our Time?

by John Brian Shannon – Originally posted at LetterToBritain.com

UK Prime Minister Theresa May was invited to the White House on January 27 to be the first foreign leader to meet with the new American president, Donald Trump.

It’s always an honour to be the first invitee of the new president, and the timing couldn’t be better as the Western economic order is beginning to churn.

In the West, the past 70 years have been a relatively stable era with increasing wealth (although since the Reagan-era tax cuts, obscene inequality has become a destabilizing force) and social mobility has increased dramatically since the creation of the internet.

This combination could prove extraordinarily useful to motivate leaders to provide the kind of leadership required of the times — or 2017 could prove to be the pivotal moment in the unravelling of the Western democracies.

President Trump wasn’t elected U.S. president because American citizens were bored by the Democrats.

Americans voted Trump/Pence to overthrow the existing plutocracy in Washington, not to overthrow foreign governments.

Regardless how many Middle Eastern conflicts the West has prosecuted, the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. But this time the problems are here at home, not in some faraway country.

Americans voted for Barack Obama (2008 and 2012) and now Donald Trump (2016) in large part to stop the unfolding economic disaster in the West. Britons may have held similar ideas to American voters about a sustainable economic plan when they voted for Brexit.

Will Prime Minister of Britain Theresa May and President of the United States Donald Trump work together to solve the existential challenge of our time? Image displays the share of the world’s total wealth for the Top 1% vs. the Bottom 99%. Image courtesy of OXFAM
Will Prime Minister of Britain Theresa May and President of the United States Donald Trump work together to solve inequality, the existential challenge of our time? Image displays the share of the world’s total wealth for the Top 1% vs. the Bottom 99%. Image courtesy of OXFAM.

The chart below (from 2010) reveals the bottom 80 percent of Americans share just 7 percent of the nation’s wealth, but it’s much worse now (in 2017) and this phenomenon is no longer confined to the United States.

Theresa May must work with Donald Trump to roll back record inequality
Britain’s Theresa May must work with U.S. president Donald Trump to roll back record inequality that will eventually destroy the entire middle class. You can see the bottom 80% compete for only 7% of America’s total wealth. (This image is from 2010. It’s actually much worse now)

That trend will not change until politicians are bigger than the challenges that confront them, and actually do something about the record inequality sweeping the West.

It’s not a call to ‘do something, anything, anything at all’ — as some so-called ‘solutions’ might be worse than the problem.

But what citizens of the Western nations require is an acknowledgement by politicians of the sheer scale of the problem, and some initial steps to slow the rapid transfer of wealth away from the bottom three quintiles to the top 1 percent. (Even tiny baby-steps are preferable to the decades-long stony silence on the matter)

Theresa May and Donald Trump must ensure that globalization and free trade work for everyone.
Britain and the United States must ensure that globalization and free trade work for everyone. Image courtesy of the New York Times, You can’t feed a family with GDP by Neil Irwin.

Inequality ignored, will only result in citizens ‘giving up’ on their governments and ‘giving up’ on democracy — and we know how that will end. Badly. For everyone.

Including powerful politicians who serve for amazingly short stints of time in office. Once you’re in politics, four years pass by like a long summer!

Today’s toxic combination of ultra-low taxes on the rich and unrestricted globalization aren’t working for 3/5ths of the population. In 10 years, it won’t be working for 4/5ths of the population. And let’s remember, all of them are voters.

Here’s how that looks

In 2016, more than 50 percent of the world’s wealth was owned by the 1 percent.
By 2030, more than 70 percent of the world’s wealth will be owned by the 1 percent.
By 2045, more than 85 percent of the world’s wealth will be owned by the 1 percent.

Put another way; Do you really want to live in a world where 8 billion people are fighting over the then-remaining 30 percent of the world’s wealth?

Can you imagine what it’s going to look like in 2045 when 9 billion people are fighting over the then-remaining 15 percent of the world’s wealth?

At that time, you’d better be living on an island in the mid-Pacific that doesn’t appear on any map, in a castle with 100-metre high concrete walls.

I respectfully suggest to Prime Minister Theresa May and President Donald Trump that if inequality isn’t addressed this year, it’ll be too late. Just look for a remote island in the Pacific Ocean… now, before the rush begins.

The time involved in getting new legislation passed, combined with the lag time involved for it to take effect during the following fiscal cycle, is years after the day it is first discussed.

Can Theresa May and president Donald Trump cooperate to solve record inequality.

Let’s hope that January 27, 2017 will come to be known as, ‘The day the decline of the bottom-three quintiles was halted and reversed’ by these two great leaders.

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