A reminder from the ‘Stache that this morning’s saber-rattling about the U.S. naval exercises planned for Sunday is much ado about nothing — provided that we don’t end up appeasing them by canceling the exercises or moving them to another location. There’s no way they’ll be canceled; as explained previously, The One can’t afford to lose face here any more than Kim junior can. I wonder, though, if we’ll see them quietly moved, or even if they’ve already been moved. Wouldn’t be the first time, if so: Remember that a joint U.S./South Korean naval exercise was moved in July from the Yellow Sea, located between China and North Korea, to the Sea of Japan after China protested. Obama can’t afford to cave again under the circumstances and the Chinese seem to realize it, which is why their protest of these new exercises is a tad more muted than last time:
Beijing’s protest, in a statement from the Foreign Ministry Friday, was noticeably more restrained than when the U.S. announced similar plans, involving the same aircraft carrier, in July.
The statement also appeared to offer all sides a face-saving compromise, by implying China did not oppose exercises outside its “exclusive economic zone,” a term of international maritime law that generally extends 200 nautical miles from a country’s coast…
The U.S. and South Korea have not said exactly where the exercises will take place, but one high-level South Korean official said they would be off South Korea’s southwest coast, far from the disputed maritime border with North Korea…
This time, the U.S. and South Korea are pressing ahead with their plans in what U.S. officials say is a strong signal not just to North Korea, but also to China, its old Communist ally and key sponsor.
So there’s the compromise. The exercises will be held far from North Korea but within the Yellow Sea this time, which is Obama’s way of showing China that NorK aggression necessarily means a more intrusive U.S. presence in the region. If they don’t want us in their backyard then they need to tighten the leash on the Kim family.
As for how China’s saving face in all this, it seems to involve a two-step process of refusing to condemn North Korea’s attack and pushing the line in state media that South Korea started it by conducting artillery drills in the area. Why NK would respond to a drill by bombarding an island full of civilians is left unexplained, natch. And read this report from Reuters about South Korean media claiming that Kim may have visited the North Korean base that fired the shells just one day before the attack. Whether that’s SK propaganda or real evidence that North Korea planned this whole “misunderstand,” I leave for you to judge.