World View: China-NKorea Relations Sour After Ballistic Missile Test

World View: China-NKorea Relations Sour After Ballistic Missile Test

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Syria shoots down Turkey’s air force jet
  • Turkey’s Erdogan and the ‘Kick the Can Theory’
  • Cyprus plays the Russia card in bailout negotiations
  • US supercarrier leads joint military exercises with South Korea in Yellow Sea
  • China’s relations with North Korea sour after ballistic missile test

Syria shoots down Turkey’s air force jet

A furious Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Friday that Syria had shot down a war plane from Turkey’s air force, and that Syria “had apologized” for it. After spending several hours in a security meeting in Istanbul, he did not repeat the “apology” part, but in the meantime Syria’s military had issued a statement:

Our air defences confronted a target that penetrated our air space over our territorial waters pre-afternoon on Friday and shot it down. It turned out to be a Turkish military plane.

According to Erdogan, the plane went down in the Mediterranean sea about 8 miles away from the Syrian town of Latakia.Erdogan’s statement said:

Following the evaluation of data provided by our related institutions and the findings of the joint search and rescue efforts with Syria, it is understood that our plane was downed by Syria.

Erdogan added that after the appropriate investigations will be completed, Turkey “will determinedly take necessary steps” in response, without saying what they would be. Thers has been some talk that Turkey might invoke the Nato provision that an attack on one Nato country is an attack on all.There are a number of unanswered questions:

  • What was the mission of the Turkish plane?
  • Was it over Syria’s territory, Turkish territory, or international territory when it was shot down?
  • What happened to the two pilots that were flying the plane?

Answers to these questions will determine what happens next. Zaman (Istanbul) and Al-Jazeera

Turkey’s Erdogan and the ‘Kick the Can Theory’

This situation reminds me very much of the situation that followed the March 26, 2010, sinking of a South Korean ship by the North Koreans. ( “18-May-10 News — Korean tensions grow prior to Cheonan announcement”) There were strong demands by the South Korean public to retaliate against the North Koreans. South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak promised “clear and resolute measures” against the responsible parties, once investigations had been completed, but somehow it took a number of months for the investigations to be completed, and by that time, the South Korean public had cooled off. 

Erdogan’s statement appears to me to be similar. The Turkish public is demanding retaliation, but there are signs that Erdogan is going to stall until things cool down, and then no action will be taken.Last year I proposed the “Kick the Can Theory” for the European financial crisis. It says that if you want to know what’s going to happen, just assume that European leaders will look for a way to “kick the can down the road,” meaning that they’ll do the minimum possible to postpone the crisis a little longer, to prevent a current crisis without fixing the problem, so that the crisis will recur in worse form weeks or months later. 

Well, the “Kick the Can Theory” applies to other geopolitical situations, including the Cheonan incident and this new Turkey/Syria incident. If the theory turns out to apply to this case, Erdogan will look for a way to do the minimum possible to kick the can down the road, which is exactly what he appears to be doing so far.

Cyprus plays the Russia card in bailout negotiations

With all the talk about bailing out Greece, Spain and Italy, the situation in Cyprus has gotten little international attention. But Cyprus will go bankrupt by the end of next week, unless it receives €1.8 billion. And it will need €5 billion over the next two years. Cyprus is complaining that it’s another victim of Greece’s financial collapse, since Cyprus banks held a lot of Greek bonds. But apparently the story is more complicated than that. According to some news reports, Cyprus banks continued to heavily purchase Greek bonds during the last two years, when their interest rates were rising from 7% to 10% to 20% to 30% to 40% and more. Cyprus wanted to take advantage of the high interest rates, and they assumed that they wouldn’t lose any money because the EU and the IMF would end up guaranteeing the bonds. 

But those who followed this situation are well aware that holders of Greek bonds ended up taking a 75% “haircut,” losing 75% of their investment. So now Cyprus needs to be bailed out, but they’re afraid to ask the EU for a bailout because they don’t like the austerity measures that would be imposed. So Cyprus Finance Minister Vassos Shiarly has been trying to improve its bargaining position with the eurozone by asking Russia and China for loans, hoping to get better terms than the EU would require. According to government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou:

We are in continuous contact and dialogue with the European partners and the EU’s institutions, and are working simultaneously in the direction of securing a bilateral loan from another country.

Cyprus Mail

US supercarrier leads joint military exercises with South Korea in Yellow Sea

A nuclear-powered American aircraft carrier is in position off the west coast of South Korea leading the largest joint military exercises in history for South Korea and the U.S. About 10 warships and submarines, including the George Washington Carrier Striker Group; 8,000 personnel; and hundreds of combat aircraft from the allies are taking part in the three-day exercises beginning Saturday. In a typical rant, North Korea’s government denounced the exercise as a “reckless provocation,” that is “going against the trend of the times for regional peace and stability, including on the Korean Peninsula.” Korea Times

China’s relations with North Korea sour after ballistic missile test

When North Korea announced plans for a long-range ballistic missile, countries around the world, including China, warned them to call of the test, or they would be further isolated. The test occurred on April 13, and was a humiliating failure. ( “13-Apr-12 World View — North Korean rocket launch a humiliating failure”) It now appears that China is taking a much harder line towards North Korea, and the reason may be that Chinese public opinion is turning sharply against the country. Internet postings such as “Stop food aid and impose sanctions,” are overwhelmingly critical of North Korea, and many use spiteful words. 

Relations became even worse last month when the North Koreans kidnapped Chinese fishermen and humiliated them. ( “18-May-12 World View — Today’s Schadenfreude: North Koreans kidnap 29 Chinese fishermen”) The West has been depending on China to keep North Korea under control, but with a brand-new leader, the youthful Kim Jong-un, it appears that China has less influence on North Korea than ever, and relations are turning hostile. The Asahi Shimbum (Japan)