Still Another Major Concern — Rising Tensions in Asia
Author: Greg Valliere
June 17, 2020
THERE’S SO MUCH HAPPENING NOW — a spike in covid-19 cases, urban unrest, the welcome surge in retail sales — that the world hasn’t focused on what the Washington Post reports in a headline this morning:”The Drums of War in Asia Grow Louder.”
SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO is on a hastily scheduled trip to Hawaii to meet with his Chinese counterpart today. The Chinese requested the meeting, ostensibly to ease trade disputes — or will they discuss the rapidly deteriorating climate between China and India, and North Korea’s escalation of tensions with South Korea?
WHENEVER THE WORLD SEEMINGLY IGNORES North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, he seeks attention. Sure enough, with the world focusing on the pandemic and protests, Kim has struck, blowing up a facility used by officials from the north and south, in a public relations stunt aimed distracting North Korea’s long-suffering citizens as the economy deteriorates there.
MORE IMPORTANTLY, Kim has blown up the reconciliation that South Korean President Moon Jae-in painstakingly developed in the past two years. The mercurial Kim apparently will take several provocative steps — he will redeploy troops to the border, reinstall guard posts there and resume military exercises at front-line areas. And Kim will nullify tension-easing deals reached with South Korea in 2018.
WHAT COMES NEXT? Kim obviously wants to extract concessions, but neither the U.S. nor the South will respond to blackmail. A worst-case scenario is a North Korean missile test that sends rockets into the Sea of Japan, which could raise the threat of a retaliatory strike at the North’s missile facilities. The more likely scenario is an escalation of threats and sanctions.
HOSTILITIES ALREADY ARE UNDERWAY in a remote area of the Himalayas, where Indian and Chinese troops clashed this week for the first time since 1975. Indian officials reported 20 fatalities, while claiming that the Chinese suffered at least 43 dead or wounded.
THIS DISPUTE, over land and borders in the Galwan Valley, can eventually be negotiated, most experts believe, but perhaps after more skirmishes between the two nuclear-armed powers. China seems to be the aggressor, and the Indian media is demanding retaliation.
SO WE THINK POMPEO and Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, will talk about more than just trade today, as tensions rise on the Korean Peninsula and in the Himalayas. And there are other issues — the treatment of Hong Kong dissidents, skirmishes in the South China Sea, etc. The threat of a miscalculation and a flare-up has risen significantly in the entire region.
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