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Monday, April 17, 2017

ABC sends its Uncle Traveling Matt to Korea

In "Fraggle Rock," Uncle Traveling Matt went into outer space -- which living among humans -- sending back postcards to describe them. He was about as accurate as your typical news anchor describing the last election.

Remember, they said Hillary was a shoo-in.

I do not know what the situation is in South Korea. Neither does Martha Raddatz.

Here is the difference, the woman who nearly broke down and cried on national TV the night her candidate lost, now thinks she knows what the situation is in South Korea because she's there.

Don't be fooled by her being in South Korea on Sunday. I happen to be here too. That gives me absolutely no insight into the situation because I am not an expert on the Korean War, the Korean culture, or the history of Korea.

But like Uncle Traveling Matt, Raddatz plunges forward as an expert in everything.

From ABC This Week:
RADDATZ: Hello, from Seoul, South Korea. It's evening here in this city of 10 million people on high alert on a weekend of escalating tensions. Hours ago, there was yet another North Korean missile launch, the fifth of 2017. This time, it blew up seconds after leaving the launch pad. U.S. officials believe it was likely a medium-range ballistic missile of the kind we have seen before.
But, still, the latest launch rattled nerves, especially after the Sunday appearance Saturday of what could be new long-range weapons at North Korea's big anniversary parade, canisters that appear large enough to house a missile capable of hitting the United States. You can see them there rolling past North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Green camo on huge transporters.
If he, indeed, has a missile big enough to reach the United States, and if he can make a warhead small enough to fit on it, will the U.S. be forced the respond?
This hour, all the angles on the most important story in the world right now. And the urgent questions: How far along is North Korea's nuclear program? Are the new missiles we saw at Saturday's parade real? Does Donald Trump have a firm red line? Is there room for negotiation or are Trump and Kim on a collision course?
Vice President Mike Pence arrived here in Seoul today, the start of a ten-day Asia tour. And with China warning both sides to cool it, North Korea is at the top of the administration's agenda. In a moment, we'll talk to Trump National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, a powerful voice in the president's inner circle. He's in Afghanistan, where the United States just proved what it can do with the "mother of all bomb" strikes on ISIS, a dramatic show of American firepower.
But we begin with North Korea's warning that it will annihilate military bases here in South Korea. They said in minutes if the U.S. tries to take out its nuclear program.
We visited the most important of those front line bases, Osan Air Base, just south of Seoul, 48 miles from the border with North Korea. We got exclusive and unprecedented access.
It is big-foot journalism. The big star TV hops on the plane, lands in the middle of the action, and gets VIP treatment. Her "exclusive and unprecedented access" is marketing talk. Scott Pelley at CBS or Brian Williams at NBC could get such access, too. This is very, very precedented.

Her description of Seoul as a "city of 10 million people on high alert on a weekend of escalating tensions" may be true, but it is not what I am seeing.

I am not really sure that foreign correspondents stationed there do much good. They live in slivers of countries -- the Manhattans -- not keenly tuned in to the western Pennsylvanias that can prove pivotal. This is a long-standing argument.

Where journalists can help is by looking at what has come before, and Josh Meyers of Politico did just that:
Even as Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping pledge to stop North Korea’s fast-advancing nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, there’s one uncomfortable secret that neither leader has publicly acknowledged: Chinese banks and businesses are playing key roles in providing Pyongyang with access to the global markets they need to acquire critical parts and technologies.
For at least a decade, North Korea has sidestepped U.S. and United Nations sanctions against its own trading and financial institutions by establishing a global network of front companies, shell companies and third-country agents to seek parts, technology and financing for its weapons programs, according to interviews with current and former counterproliferation officials and congressional documents.
These front companies rely on assistance provided by Chinese banks to gain access to U.S. and global financial systems, often by conducting transactions in U.S. dollars, and on Chinese businesses to obtain weapons parts, according to those sources.
In a little-noticed letter sent to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in February, six senators called on the administration to target Chinese banks and other entities as a way of effectively cutting off North Korea’s access to hard currency it uses to finance its illicit weapons-of-mass-destruction programs.
“With the risks of proliferation and war now at a critical stage,” they wrote, “we have no more time to waste on inaction.”
So, the solution to a military problem may be financial.

Six decades ago, when China was just as bad off as North Korea, it had no interest making peace. China backed the Norks. China had nothing to lose.

Now it does.

My guess is the Korean War will end soon (it is in its 64th year of ceasefire) without another shot fired.

But we shall see what happens.

The original, "Trump the Press" chronicled and mocked how the media missed Trump's nomination.

It is available on Kindle, and in paperback.
Then came "Trump the Establishment," covering the election, which again the media missed.

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  1. Starve the Beast. Worked with the USSR in the 80s and will work with the Norks too. Someone get a list of any and all U.S. Companies doing business with the Norks. We'll publicize it and then let the boycott begin.

    1. The US companies are not likely selling to North Korea directly. The DPRK sets up shell companies and a series of cut-outs to make the purchases. When you discover the shells and ban them, a new series of shells and cut-outs are used.

      It is a slow and thankless process that won't end until the Kim regime is gone.

      -Mikey NTH

  2. Without this their missile program doesn't "fly." They need foreign components. Probably the same for their nuclear program. If China doesn't crack down on their banks, we can.

  3. Without this their missile program doesn't "fly." They need foreign components. Probably the same for their nuclear program. If China doesn't crack down on their banks, we can.

  4. One thing to remember about the Chinese that make it to the top. They know the fate of prior Chinese that made it. They also know about the ones who made it out and how they prep their exit by building nests in other countries. A few nests have likely been constructed in NK. Defunding the shadow enterprises and fronts will involve convincing these Chinese to give up on the billions they have put into constructing those nests because Lil Kim is not going to just give them their money back. The bargain basement will turn out to have been too expensive for them.

  5. Don, do they still do the national air-raid preparedness drills in S. Korea on the 15th of each month? I visited Seoul in '86 and they did one at night---all the lights in the buildings and city streets were cut off and MP's all over the city were making people pull their cars over, get out and get inside stores and other buildings. The other thing that struck me was how major intersections didn't have pedestrian overpasses like in Japan---instead they had underpasses which could fill in as an air-raid shelter in an instant---you went down the stairs and crossed a wide expanse under the intersection to get to the far side of the street. They took the threat of war very seriously in S. Korea!