Saturday, January 28, 2017

Backing away from alliances in Asia? Nope.

Is Fyodor Karamazov actually in charge?

Does he actually want to be?

Trump says what he wants and his leading appointees do what they want.

Apparently.

And not just about torture.

US defence chief heads to Japan and South Korea to strengthen ties

The new US secretary of defence, James Mattis, is to reassure Japan and South Korea of Washington’s commitment to the security of the volatile Asia-Pacific region, despite suggestions by Donald Trump that he was ready to scale down the US’s military presence there.

. . . .

Trump rattled nerves in Tokyo and Seoul during the presidential election campaign when he suggested he would withdraw tens of thousands of troops from Japan and South Korea unless their governments paid more to maintain US forces based there.

In an interview with Fox News last April, he also intimated that the two countries should be able to develop independent nuclear deterrents – a move that would trigger a potentially catastrophic Asia-Pacific arms race.

South Korea hosts about 28,500 US troops, mainly along its heavily armed border with North Korea. Japan is home to about 47,000 US military personnel, more than half of whom are based on the southern island of Okinawa, where a row over the construction of an offshore runway for use by the marines has fuelled anti-US sentiment.

Japanese officials have pointed out that Japan contributes almost 75% of the total cost of hosting US troops in the country. 

. . . .

Japan and South Korea are eager to build on the close military ties they enjoyed under Barack Obama, amid rising tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme and China’s military buildup in the South China Sea.

North Korea has restarted reactor to make plutonium, fresh images suggest

A report by leading US-based nuclear expert Siegfried Hecker published by 38 North in September last year estimated North Korea had stockpiles of 32kg to 54kg of plutonium, enough for six to eight bombs, and had the capacity to produce 6kg, or approximately one bomb’s worth, a year.

North Korea also produces highly enriched uranium for atomic bombs and would have had sufficient fissile material for approximately 20 bombs by the end of last year, and the capacity to produce seven more a year, that report said.

In a New Year speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said his country was close to test launching an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and state media has said a launch could come at any time.

Trump’s defense secretary plans to visit Japan and South Korea next week and concerns about North Korea are expected to top his agenda.

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