Where to Order

Little Madmen: Correspondents' Tales

Donald Kirk and Kisam Kim explain in detail the campaign of the president of Korea for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Caught between huge conflicting forces, people look with foreboding on the gathering clouds of war
1.Points of Crisis
The rise of Kim Dae Jung and the high price of his failed drive for reconciliation with North Korea
Three contributions on Korea -- North, South and Kim Dae Jung -- for this massive five-volume work on human rights issues worldwide
Dispelling myths about the sinking of the South Korean navy corvette the Cheonan in March 2010
Memories of the Vietnam War and its aftermath from the arrival of U.S. forces to the release of the last U.S. POWs
The Vietnam War as it spread through Cambodia and Laos into northern and northeastern Thailand
Washington's pact with Pyongyang won't help the starving children
2.Covering Korea
Q&A, Asia-Pacific Businss & Technology Report
Looking back to the Old Days: A Correspondent's Field Manual; A Reader’s Guide to Real News:
Korea through the eyes of correspondents who were there, 1871-2006
Following the story
How the news goes in and out of the Hermit Kingdom
3. Business and Economy
The Rev. Moon's empire bouncing back in South Korea
Play-by-play account of the meltdown that nearly bankrupted the South Korean economy
The story of North Korea's 105-story white elephant
An unauthorized study of Korea's largest business group, its triumphs and failures, and the peasant's son who founded it
The ultimate business reference to the Philippines, providing practical advice from leading experts
Iraq and South Korea face contrasting economic problems and issues, as seen in these articles for Institutional Investor
4. Seoul-Searching
I.--Heart and Seoul: From the ashes of war, Korea's capital rises like a phoenix to world-class. II.--Three Perfect Days: Wining, dining, sightseeing and strolling around one of the world's oldest and greatest capitals

Hither and Yon

The Seoul Air Show, an exercise by U.S. ‘decapitation’ team and daydreams of a Trump-Kim sit-down at the DMZ

October 21, 2017

Tags: f35, f22, Seoul Air Base, air show, Trump, Moon Jae-in, Kim Jong-un, Shinzo Abe, Xi Jinping, Panmunjom, decapitation, war games, Korea

October 20, 2017
Special to WorldTribune.com

By Donald Kirk

The line-up of warplanes on display beside the runway at Seoul Air Base has got to be intimidating. The sight of the latest American F35s and F22s along with all those South Korean fighters may frighten anyone contemplating war on the Korean Peninsula. They’re parked near spacious exhibition halls where manufacturers from dozens of nations show off aircraft components, and entire planes and helicopters, for potential buyers from around the world.

The Seoul Air Show this week could hardly be better timed. While planes of all sorts are strutting their stuff, roaring around above spectators, about 40 U.S. and Korean warships are churning the surf off both coasts in what is ostensibly a training mission but is really a show of force.

On the first day of the air show and the war games came news that Donald Trump will be in Seoul next month meeting President Moon Jae-In and addressing the National Assembly.

The visit should solidify ideas and strategy while North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un shows no signs of compromising on his nukes and missiles.

Trump will get to Seoul after a couple of days in Tokyo hosted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and his next stop after Korea will be Beijing and another conversation with President Xi Jinping, whom he hosted at Mar-a-Lago in April.

It’s as though Korea were on the cusp of war or peace. Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have all said they’re ready for anything, and the presence of some of the most advanced air and naval hardware in and around South Korea sends a message that Kim Jong-Un is not likely to ignore.

How Kim responds while Trump is courting the leaders of all the countries surrounding him is another matter. It’s quite possible Trump’s travels through the region, also including stops in Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia, won’t have the least effect on his defiance of global pressure in either the United Nations or the region.

It will be interesting, though, to see if Trump makes a quick trip to Panmunjom for a first-hand look at the North Koreans across the line. That’s a standard stop for high-level visitors, a chance to shake a symbolic fist at North Korea and utter a few fiery words. Or he could actually soften the rhetoric, come out with a message of goodwill and turn the occasion into a chance to lessen tensions.

It’s possible, with that goal in mind, to engage in a little wishful thinking. How about if Trump said he would like to meet Kim Jong-Un?

What if he suggested in advance that maybe he and Kim sit down for a talk at Freedom House on the line between the two Koreas? Why, they might even munch on hamburgers as Trump suggested last year during his presidential campaign.

Ok, let’s get serious. A Trump-Kim summit is not remotely possible. The last thing Kim is going to do is go to Panmunjom to meet the American president. Still, it’s nice to imagine the possibilities.

Think how simple it could be to open up the border to mail and commerce, tourism and reunions of long-lost relatives, not just a reunion every now and then, depending on the whims of the North Korean leadership, but every day, every weekend.

Then there’s the other scenario, which is equally fanciful. The U.S. navy has a submarine off the east coast from which a “decapitation” team is said to be operating.

Maybe they’re acting out landings on the beach, then sneaking up to knock off their imaginary target. Probably no word, aside from Trump’s threat to “totally destroy” North Korea, so enrages the North Koreans as “decapitation.” It’s not hard to understand why.

There’s an aura of make-believe, though, about the whole show. It’s as if the Americans and South Koreans were staging a great circus. We don’t get to see what those ships at sea are doing, but the planes that crisscross over South Korea just below the north-south line, warning Kim Jong-Un, are there in all their glory this week at Seoul Air Base.

Seeing them bright and shining on the tarmac, one forgets the holy hell they might inflict if Trump’s summits with regional leaders do not go well and he goes for the military option.

Donald Kirk, www.donaldkirk.com, has been covering war and peace in the region for decades.

This n That

Dancing to a new tune

On Forbes' Rich List

The Sewol Tragedy