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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 25-Feb-2018
25-Feb-18 World View -- China angrily demands that the US retract the new North Korea sanctions

Web Log - February, 2018

25-Feb-18 World View -- China angrily demands that the US retract the new North Korea sanctions

As North Korea's 'charm offensive' fades, decision time for military action approaches

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

As North Korea's 'charm offensive' fades, decision time for military action approaches

Picture of North Korean vessel conducting ship-to-ship transfer of goods with the Panama-flagged KOTI in order to evade sanctions (Dept. of Treasury)
Picture of North Korean vessel conducting ship-to-ship transfer of goods with the Panama-flagged KOTI in order to evade sanctions (Dept. of Treasury)

There's a growing feeling that the "crunch time" with North Korea is close. Already, as we reported two days ago, the North is sending its most notorious military general to lead the North Korean delegation in the Winter Olympics in Seoul on Sunday. Kim Yong-chol is the North Korean general who masterminded the devastating attacks on South Korean targets in 2010, and the North is insulting the South by sending him to the closing ceremony, and is signaling that its "charm offensive" has ended.

Because of the North's charm offensive, South Korea and the US agreed to postponed their planned joint military drills until March 18, when the Olympics and Paralympics games finally end. It's believed that South Korea and the US have agreed on a date around April 1 to restart them, and that will infuriate the North Koreans.

As we've also reported, North Korea has resumed development of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, even as the "charm offensive" was in progress.

We've known for a long time that at some point, the US is going to face a stark choice: Either accept a nuclear North Korea with an arsenal of nuclear-tipped missiles pointed at the United States, and accept that this nuclear missile technology will be sold to any nation or terrorist group willing to pay cash, or take military action, a "bloody nose attack" on North Korea that will disable their nuclear missile development, at least for a while.

We've known this for some time, and now we've almost completely run out of time. One choice or the other will have to be made soon. And obviously there's only one choice. Numerous administration officials have made it clear that North Korea will not be permitted to have a nuclear weapon and ballistic missile system that can reach the United States. Newsweek and Fox News

New Trump administration sanctions target companies trading with North Korea

The Trump administration's announcement on Friday of new sanctions has the feel of desperation, and last desperate attempt to avoid having to make the stark choice just described. Furthermore, president Donald Trump warned of an unnamed "phase two," presumably a military action, that could be "very, very unfortunate for the world" if the sanctions did not work.

The new sanctions don't directly target North Korea. Instead, they target shipping, trading companies and vessels that from other countries that have been used to allow the North Koreans to cheat on the existing sanctions.

A particular practice that the sanctions target is ship-to-ship transfers. A ship carrying goods that are bound for North Korea does not actually dock in North Korea. Instead, the ship has a rendezvous with a North Korean ship in the middle of the sea, and the goods are transferred from the first ship to the North Korean ship. At the same time, goods from the North Korean can be transferred to the other ship for illegal export.

At a briefing, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stood next to enlarged photos from December 2017 that he said revealed ship-to-ship transfers of fuel and other products destined for North Korea in an attempt to evade sanctions. The picture at the beginning of this article depicts such a December 9 rendezvous between a North Korean vessel and the Panama-flagged KOTI, for an illegal ship-to-ship transfer.

The sanctions are aimed at ships located, registered or flagged in numerous countries, including China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Marshall Islands, Tanzania, Panama and the Comoros.

Examples of international shipping companies that are sanctioned include the following:

Mnuchin said he could not rule out the prospect of the United States boarding and inspecting North Korean ships.

The announcement stops short of a full blockade of North Korea, as that could be considered an act of war. Reuters and Dept. of Treasury

China angrily demands that the US retract the new North Korea sanctions

China angrily denounced the latest American sanctions on North Korea. It was China's latest in a series of denunciations of any sanctions against North Korea not imposed within the framework of the United Nations. As I explained recently, Russia and China have adopted a policy of using the UN Security Council to control US foreign policy by demanding that any action be approved by the UNSC where they have a veto. However, Russia and China feel free to take any illegal action they wish without asking for UNSC approval. So this is another example of that policy.

China's Foreign Ministry issued this statement on Saturday:

"The Chinese government has been comprehensively and strictly implementing the Security Council resolutions on the DPRK and fulfilling its international obligations, and never allows any Chinese citizen or company to engage in activities in violation of the Security Council resolutions. If any breach of the Security Council resolutions and Chinese laws and regulations is found out through investigation, the Chinese side will seriously deal with it in accordance with laws and regulations.

The Chinese side firmly opposes the US imposing unilateral sanctions and "long-arm jurisdiction" on Chinese entities or individuals in accordance with its domestic laws. We have lodged stern representations with the US side over this, urging it to immediately stop such wrongdoings so as not to undermine bilateral cooperation on the relevant area."

Reports indicate that South Korea, Singapore, Japan and other Asian countries are endorsing the US-imposed sanctions, and are willing to cooperate in enforcing them. China evidently is not.

Mnuchin said he could not rule out the prospect of the United States boarding and inspecting North Korean ships, but this presumably does not apply to China's ships. However, there are Chinese companies targeted in the sanctions, and they will be prohibited from financial transactions in US banks and elsewhere. This is one more potential flash point and the growing North Korea crisis, which may be close to the day of its dénouement. Foreign Ministry of China and VOA and Reuters

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 25-Feb-18 World View -- China angrily demands that the US retract the new North Korea sanctions thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Feb-2018) Permanent Link
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