Tag Archives: China

Has the dictator gone MAD?

Kim Jong Un certainly must know why they called it “mutually assured destruction” back during the Cold War.

Surely he understands that MAD means what it assures, that anyone who launches a nuclear missile at a nuclear power is going to get wiped off the face of the planet.

The MAD policy prevented a nuclear holocaust when the world comprised just two superpowers. U.S. presidents and Soviet dictators knew the consequences of such foolishness.

But … here we are. The North Korean dictator/fruitcake/goofball keeps making some, oh, so very provocative statements about how he would respond to U.S. attempts to prevent him from developing a nuclear-strike capability.

Kim Jong Un said he would launch a missile at the USS Carl Vinson carrier battle group that is steaming (finally!) toward the Korean Peninsula. He keeps arguing that his nukes are for “defensive purposes only,” meant to deter some perceived aggression from South Korea.

It’s all just so much MADness coming out of the mouth of the son and grandson of two prior North Korean dictators.

This brings me to my point. All the bluster and bravado that pours out of Kim Jong Un’s pie hole cannot actually mean he would he do what he says he would do. Or can it?

Military rivalries are nothing to trifle with. I recall vividly a statement I received from a Taiwanese government official with whom I was discussing the tense standoff that exists between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China.

The PRC has long threatened to use military force to “take back” the island nation formed in 1949 at the end of a bloody civil war on the Chinese mainland. Would the PRC actually risk nuclear confrontation with the United States, which has a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan?

The Taiwanese official said his government takes any threat from China “very seriously” and was prepared to respond accordingly.

So should the United States be prepared to respond to the rantings of the North Korean MADman.

They call it “MAD” for a damn good reason, Mr. Dictator.

Trumpkin to Trump: Don’t compare us to China!

I have a lot of friends in the Texas Panhandle who are Trumpkins, devotees of Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States.

No surprise there, eh? The Panhandle voted about 80 percent in favor of the Republican president, which is about normal for this region of the country.

One of those Trumpkins traveled recently to China, spending two weeks in the People’s Republic, touring the giant nation north to south.

We spoke about his trip upon his return to the United States and he offered an interesting and — to my ears — welcome rebuke of Trump’s longstanding assertion about the United States.

Trump insists he will “make America great again.” He peddles ball caps with that message on them. His ardent followers cheer for his exhortations while wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the mantra.

My friend said China in no way compares to this country. He talked of the massive cities containing tens of millions of residents in each of them. “Four hundred square feet” is considered a roomy apartment, he said. Chinese are stacked on top of each other. They ride around on packed buses. “I didn’t see any ‘neighborhoods,'” my friend told me.

“I don’t ever want to hear Trump try to compare us to China,” he said. “There is no comparison!”

As for the ongoing declaration about “making America great again,” my friend speaks with utmost clarity. “America is great!” he told, with his voice rising. Yes, pal. I get it! I agree with you! I disagree with you fella, Trump!

Well …

It seems that at least one Trumpkin hasn’t quite swilled the entire jug of Kool-Aid.

U.S., Vietnam enter new partnership


Who would have thought that two nations that killed thousands upon thousands of the others’ citizens could reach this point?

The United States has lifted its 50-year-long arms embargo against Vietnam.

My initial reaction: Wow!

President Obama went to Hanoi over the weekend and announced the lifting of the embargo. He’s thinking strategically, of course. Vietnam has grown quite concerned about China’s increasing aggressiveness in Southeast Asia. For that matter, U.S. officials are concerned as well.

So, the arms embargo will enable U.S. manufacturers to sell weapons to Vietnam, giving that country some needed assistance in case China decides to take its aggressiveness to another, more dangerous level.


Forty-one years ago, North Vietnamese tanks and other armored vehicles rolled into Saigon, stormed the presidential palace in what was then South Vietnam. Troops struck the South Vietnamese flag and ran up the communist flag in its place.

The war ended right then.

However, it has continued to simmer at some level in the hearts of many Americans.

Frankly, I am one who is glad to see this relationship take the next logical step. We’ve already restored diplomatic relations with our former enemy; that rapprochement took 20 years since the end of the shooting.

The president has opened the door to Cuba, another nation with which we had zero relations for more than five decades. You’d have thought, listening to critics of that deal, that Obama had signed a pact with Satan himself.

However, we never went to all-out war with the Cubans. We did go to war with the Vietnamese and it cost both nations dearly.

Does this shore up our alliance structure in a part of the world that President Obama has placed greater emphasis? One can hope so.

It also sends a clear message to China, with which Vietnam also has gone to war in recent years.

It’s far better to have the Vietnamese on our side in this dicey world of geopolitical maneuvering.


Complicated relationship may get really testy


The world is full of complicated bilateral relationships: Greece and Turkey, India and Pakistan, Israel and Egypt.

A pair of nations, though, may have witnessed an event that makes their stunningly complex relationship even more so.

Taiwan has just elected its first female president, Tsai Ing-wen. It’s not her gender that complicates matters. It’s her longstanding support for something that sends government officials in the People’s Republic of China into orbit: Taiwanese independence.

Tsai leads the Democratic Peoples Party, which long has advocated that Taiwan declare its independence from the PRC.

However, there’s this tiny problem (actually, it’s huge). China considers Taiwan to be a “renegade province” that belongs to the mainland government, the communists who took over the country in a bloody civil war right after World War II.

The Kuomintang, which governed China, fled to Taiwan in 1949 and set up a new government.

For more than six decades, China has declared it wanted Taiwan back. Meanwhile, Taiwan grew into a powerhouse nation all on its own, independent of China.

Tsai’s victory isn’t likely to produce a declaration of independence in the next week, month or perhaps even a year from now.

However, it strains to the max a relationship that had been showing signs of thawing in recent years.

Allow me a bit of personal privilege here.

I’ve visited Taiwan five times as a journalist, dating back to 1989. I returned in 1994, 1999, 2007 and 2010. I have seen a country that has grown tremendously just since my first visit.

Taiwan had functioned under martial law until 1989. The ruling party felt it necessary to impose strict curfews and restrictions on its citizens, given the tremendous threat of violence posed by the giant neighbor on the other side of the Taiwan Strait.

The island has functioned famously since martial law was lifted.

But the threat of military action persists. The Taiwanese officials I have visited over many years have told me they take those threats seriously and have built a muscular military apparatus quite capable of inflicting damage on any nation in the world. The Taiwanese also have a defense pact with another significant nation: the United States of America, which has pledged to come to Taiwan’s defense in the event of war with, um, the PRC.

President-elect Tsai isn’t likely to do anything rash. At least that’s my hope.

Taiwan already is shut out of virtually all international associations: the United Nations evicted Taiwan in 1971 when it admitted the PRC; the United States severed official diplomatic relations with Taiwan when it recognized the PRC; the World Health Organization bans Taiwan’s participation.

The international community follows what’s called a “one-China policy,” meaning that the only “China” it recognizes is the big one, the PRC.

That’s all fine, except that Taiwan is, well, Taiwan. Most of its 24 million residents were born on the island and they have diminishing links with the mainland.

Yes, Taiwanese still speak Chinese. Their names look and sound Chinese. However, the country has developed into an entity that — for all intents — is independent already from China.

The problem remains, though, that it cannot declare officially its independence as long as those big, bad commies on the mainland keep threatening military action.

As China has shown over many years, it doesn’t like being lectured by other nations about how to conduct its affairs.

You want complicated? This Taiwan-China thing goes beyond my understanding of the word.

U.S. need not continue pointless embargo

The United States embargo against Cuba did not work.

It won’t work in the future.

So, the president of the United States made a calculation: If the sanctions are being enforced by just one nation in the world, ours, what is precisely the point of continuing a policy that the entire rest of the world is ignoring?


Let’s put it another, harsher, way: One definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

OK, our Cuba policy wasn’t exactly insane. It just nutty.

The Cuban people deserve to be free. President Obama has declared his intention to keep applying the pressure on Cuba’s leaders to give Cubans basic human rights that others in civilized nations ought to enjoy. The best way for the United States to apply that pressure is to engage the Cubans directly through diplomatic missions. So, let’s start that project.

Our non-relationship has lasted 50 years. It began when the Cold War was going full bore. That “war” has ended. Cuba is a Third World country that does business with Canada and Mexico, North America’s other two giant nations. It also does business with virtually the entire world.

Only the United States enforces this so-called “embargo.”

It is good that we end it. The sooner the better.

As the president noted, if we can engage nations such as China and Vietnam — two nations we have fought on the battlefield — surely we ought to do the same with Cuba.

Yes, we won the Cold War

Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States will begin normalizing relations with its long time enemy Cuba brings to mind a truism that plays into this development.

It is that the Cold War is over. We won! The communists lost it.

Indeed, long before the Cold War was declared over — with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 — we had relations with communist countries. China and the Soviet Union are the two examples.

The president noted today that we even restored relations with Vietnam, a nation with which we fought a long and bloody war that cost more than 58,000 American lives.

Cuba? Until today, it remained on our list of nations non grata.

And why? Well, it didn’t pose a military threat. Its economy is in shambles. Its people still are suffering from lack of freedom and the depravity brought on it by the repressive economic policies of the Marxists who run the island nation.

We’ve made our point. Our system is better than their system.

We outlasted the communists by forcing the Soviet Union to spend money on its military while its people suffered. Then came its restructuring and its newfound openness policies.

All the while, we maintained an embassy in Moscow and they had one in Washington.

The Cubans? We continued to punish them.

President Obama has done what should have been done — could have been done — many years ago.

It’s no doubt going to anger many members of the Cuban-American community who hate the communists who govern the nation of their birth. Will it matter in the grand scheme to the president? Not one bit. He’s a lame duck. He’ll be out of office in two years. The Cuban-American voting bloc supports Republicans overwhelmingly as it is.

The normalization should proceed quickly nonetheless. We won the Cold War. It’s time to move on.


Shocking! GOP opposes U.S.-China climate deal

Does it surprise anyone at all that congressional Republicans would be highly critical of a deal struck this week between the United States and China to cut carbon gases over the next couple of decades?

I didn’t think so.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the incoming chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, wasted little time in calling the pact a “non-binding charade.”


And the deal is … ?

President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed the nations should cut carbon emissions by as much as 30 percent by 2030. Inhofe — one of the Senate’s premier climate change deniers — said China will continue to build coal-fired power plants and has “no known reserves” of natural gas on which to rely.

He calls the deal a fraud.

Inhofe also says the results of the mid-term elections repudiated the president’s policy agenda on such issues as climate change and that, by golly, he’s going to roll those policies back once he becomes chairman of the Senate environment panel.

I’ll add as an aside that there’s a certain irony in handing over the chairmanship of a key congressional environmental committee to someone who keeps dismissing the notion that Earth’s climate is changing and that there just might be a human cause to much of the warming that’s occurring — the current bitter cold snap that’s gripped much of the nation notwithstanding.

Obama said this in announcing the agreement in Beijing: “As the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers and emitters of greenhouse gases, we have a special responsibility to lead the global effort against climate change.”

And we have this, then, from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy: “The president appears to be undeterred by the American people’s clear repudiation of his policies of more regulations and higher energy costs.”

Higher energy costs? McCarthy needs to ponder the ongoing trend in fossil fuel prices. They’ve gone down, Mr. Majority Leader.

I get that China doesn’t engender a lot of trust among many Americans. Count me as one who is skeptical of Beijing’s commitment to do what it promises to do.

At least we’ve got them on the record to cut carbon gases. Let’s hold them to that pledge.


Are we really a second-rate power?

You hear it frequently these days from right-wing talking heads, politicians and a few “expert observers” that the United States is in danger of becoming a second-rate military power.

They express grave concern that the commander in chief, Barack Obama, seeks to “deliberately” reduce America’s standing in the world because of some trumped-up “anti-American bias” they’ve attached to the man.

I heard U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry express those concerns recently, although he did so with a good measure of class and decorum. He isn’t pounding on the same drum that many lunatics on the right are beating.

Thornberry — who’s set to become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee next year — did suggest that China is growing its defense budge at a far greater rate than the United States and is concerned that the communist dictatorship may be about to surpass us as the pre-eminent military power on Earth.

He’s not alone in saying these things.

I dug into my World Almanac and Book of Facts and found a few interesting numbers. They relate to defense spending.

In 2012, China spent just a shade less than $90 billion on its defense establishment; Russia — which 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney said is our “No. 1 geopolitical adversary” — spent $52 billion. That’s around $142 billion spent between these two fearsome foes.

The U.S. defense budget for 2012? $739 billion.

Are the Russians and Chinese getting so much more bang for the buck — pardon the pun — that we should worry that either of them is going to surpass us in military strength? I hardly think that’s the case.

I totally get, however, that in this new world of vaguely defined enemies and an international war against terror, that it is next to meaningless to measure military strength vis a vis our “traditional” foes.

Let’s cool our jets just a bit, though, when suggesting that the United States of America is no longer capable of defending itself against any foe.

We’re still pouring lots of money into our national defense and we’re still getting a damn good return on that investment.


Try crossing this ‘red line’

It appears another nation has drawn a “red line” across which no one should dare cross.

President Obama drew one involving the use of chemical weapons by Syria; he threatened to respond militarily when the Syrians crossed the line, asked Congress for permission to act and then watched as the Russians intervened to work out a diplomatic solution.

Now come the Chinese regarding their neighbor North Korea. China’s foreign minister, Wang Wi, declared that the People’s Republic has drawn a red line as it regards war on the Korean peninsula.


The PRC will have none of it, Wang said.

What does it mean? Well, some observers — such as Secretary of State John Kerry — see it as a possible shot across North Korea’s bow, a warning to take down its nuclear weapons program.

If the PRC is as close to the loons in North Korea as it is believed, then the Chinese know that North Korean dictator/madman/lunatic Kim Jong Un is capable of just about any foolish act. That just might include striking South Korea militarily, crossing the red line that the North Koreans’ allies in Beijing said they must not cross.

The world knows that North Korea set such a precedent in 1950 when it invaded the south and started the Korean War, an intense and bloody conflict that killed more than 40,000 Americans in just three years. And oh yes: China sent in its troops, too, to aid the North Koreans.

Still, I am inclined to believe Wang Yi when he draws such a line.

Another war in Korea will have far more serious consequences for the entire world. If Kim Jong Un ignores the warning from the PRC, then he is crazier than the world thinks he is — and that’s really saying something.

North Koreans prove again their PR insanity

Merrill Newman is on his way home after being held captive in North Korea.

In a bizarre tale — as if anything involving North Korea is ever not bizarre — Newman, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran, admitted to committing dastardly acts while fighting that war. The North Koreans, out of the goodness of their hearts, accepted his “apology” and let him go.


And what did this man do, according to the North Koreans? He committed “hostile acts” against them.

OK, let me see if I have this straight.

The North Koreans invaded South Korea in 1950, igniting a ferocious conflict that would last three years. United Nations forces, led by the United States, intervened on the South’s behalf. They fought bloody battles against the North Korean army, which later was aided by a massive force from the People’s Republic of China.

Is there anything non-hostile about any of this?

Newman had been recorded making some kind of apology for his actions while serving in the Korean War. He read the script. His reading of it sounded for all the world like one of those bogus “confessions” we heard during the Vietnam War by captured U.S. service personnel.

Well, now the North Koreans have “deported” Newman.

They can call it whatever they want. I prefer to call it a ridiculous public relations stunt gone bad.