The Latest: S. Korea Shuts Down Tourist Points Near Border

The Latest: S. Korea Shuts Down Tourist Points Near Border

South Korea Shuts Down Tourist Points Near Border
South Korea Shuts Down Tourist Points Near Border

SEOUL, South Korea — The latest on North Korea's announcement that it conducted a hydrogen bomb test on Wednesday (all times local):

1 p.m : South Korea has blocked civilians from visiting a tourist observatory and other locations near the border with North Korea in response to tensions following the North's purported nuclear test.

An official from the South's Paju City said Saturday that Dora Observatory, which looks across the Demilitarized Zone, and a museum made from an old North Korean infiltration tunnel have been shut down since Friday, when the South restarted propaganda broadcasts through loudspeakers near the border.

South Korean officials say there have been no disruptions so far at an industrial park jointly operated by the rivals in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

Officials say 512 South Koreans stayed at the park overnight, and 479 of them were scheduled to return to the South later on Saturday. Another group of 269 South Koreans have been permitted to enter Kaesong on Saturday.

There are fewer South Koreans at the park than usual, because South Korea began limiting entry to the area after the North announced a nuclear test on Wednesday.

South Korean companies — mostly small- and medium-sized — make products such as watches and fashion goods with cheap labor from North Korea. The park, which employs about 53,000 North Koreans, is the last major inter-Korean project from the era of rapprochement.

— Tong-hyung Kim, Seoul

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North Korea Goes Nuclear. What Will China Do About This?

North Korea Goes Nuclear. What Will China Do About This?

Hong Kong (CNN)As world powers work to verify North Korea's claims that it has tested a hydrogen bomb, others are asking what the country's only real ally -- China -- will do.

On Wednesday, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement that it "firmly opposes" this and any future nuclear tests by North Korea.

Spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters that Beijing had not been given advanced warning of the test and would be summoning Pyongyang's ambassador to lodge a protest.
Speaking to CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room" Wednesday, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said that North Korea was Beijing's problem to fix.

"If they don't solve that problem, we should be very tough on them on trade -- meaning, start charging them tax or start cutting them off. You'd have China collapse in about two minutes," he said.

TIMELINE: North Korea's nuclear program

"If there was ever a moment for the Chinese to decide that now is the time that we really have to do something, this is it," said Mike Chinoy, former CNN international correspondent and the author of "Meltdown: The inside story of the North Korean nuclear crisis."

"The North Korean insult to China and Xi Jinping personally is really egregious. Xi Jinping is not a guy that takes this stuff lying down."
"The North Koreans really don't like the Chinese," said Chinoy.

"They resent the hell out of the Chinese. They hate the idea that the Chinese can come in and tell them what to do.

And the reality is the Chinese can't."

Relations between Pyongyang and Beijing have been frosty since Kim Jong Un succeeded his late father as dictator, promptly purging several key government figures -- such as his uncle Jang Song Thaek -- with strong ties to China.

Kim has never visited China as leader, nor has he met President Xi Jinping, despite reportedly lobbying to do so for several years.
China views Kim Jong Un as a "very rogue, irresponsible and brattish leader," said Lee Jung Hoon, professor of International Relations at Yonsei University.

Last month, Kim's personal Moranbong girl band flew to Beijing to play a series of shows, before abruptly canceling the tour and returning to North Korea.

A dispatch by China's state-run Xinhua news agency later cited "communication issues at the working level" as the reason for the cancellation, which came in the same week North Korea first claimed it had added the hydrogen bomb to its arsenal.

Why does China support North Korea?
"The relationship is basically dysfunctional, but it serves everyone's interests," said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

North Korea serves as a buffer for China between it and key U.S. ally -- and mutual defense signatory -- South Korea.

More than anything else, Beijing wants stability on its border, which, nuclear tests notwithstanding, Pyongyang largely provides.
"What China does not want is a dramatic implosion of North Korea, or a kinetic weapons war on its doorstep," said Jasper Kim, director of the Center for Conflict Management at South Korea's Ewha University.

A strong nuclear weapons program strengthens Kim Jong Un's regime and stabilises his rule, making it far less likely that he could be overthrown -- from inside or out -- and plunge the country into chaos, potentially sending millions of refugees pouring across the Chinese border.

North Korea is also a major tool for Beijing "in the bigger chess game of U.S.-China relations in the Asia Pacific region," said Yonsei's Lee.

History also plays a part, though less and less as the current generation of North Korean and Chinese leaders are more detached from the Korean War, during which Mao Zedong sent troops to support Kim Il Sung.

Beijing's dilemma
North Korea is one of the most sanctioned countries on Earth, with the United Nations, the U.S., European Union, and a host of other countries all imposing strict restrictions on doing business with the government or North Korean companies.

However, while Beijing has supported previous U.N. resolutions imposing greater sanctions, Chinoy says that actual "enforcement of sanctions on the Chinese side has not been that rigorous."

China could also stop state-owned and private firms from doing business in North Korea, such as in 2013, when the Bank of China stopped dealings with the North Korea Foreign Trade Bank, cutting Pyongyang off from a key source of foreign currency.

"My guess is China will do something tough and nasty but it won't be tough and nasty enough to make a difference," Chinoy said.

What happens next?
"A key barometer of how angry the Chinese are will be how much and in what way they try to water down any U.N. resolution," said Chinoy.

According to diplomatic sources, China tried unsuccessfully to block a U.N. Security Council meeting on the human rights situation in North Korea last month.

The Security Council held an emergency meeting on Wednesday, the first step towards imposing new sanctions. In a statement, the Council reiterated its intention to take "further significant measures" against North Korea.

"This is one of the few occasions in the world where China, U.S., Russia really need to agree on something," said Victor Gao, director of the China National Association of International Studies.


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Why did it take Turkey just 17 seconds to shoot down the Russian warplane SU-24?

Why did it take Turkey just 17 seconds to shoot down the Russian warplane SU-24?

Russian President gave orders to shoot down Russian Warplane
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says he gave the order to fire himself. Photograph: Umit Bektas/Reuters
Even if Turkey is right that a Russian fighter jet strayed into its airspace, the plane was within Ankara’s borders for just 17 seconds before being attacked – and was making no hostile moves against the Turks.

Airspace incursions, granted usually in less politically tense contexts, happen all the time, and generally you’d expect warning shots to be fired and then attempts to force the intruder to leave or to land.

That the Turks shot down the jet and did so within 17 seconds – with the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, saying he gave the order to fire himself – suggests very strongly they were waiting for a Russian plane to come into or close enough to Turkish airspace with the aim of delivering a rather pyrotechnic message.
Turkish military releases audio recordings said to be warnings to Russian jet
In this respect, it is understandable that the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, called the attack a provocation and an ambush.

Moscow may have been foolish to let its planes stray so close to the border – doubly so if its rules of engagement allowed pilots to dip into Turkish airspace when it was operationally useful (as is likely). But Turkey’s response went way beyond the usual practice.

In 2012, the Syrians shot down a Turkish jet which had entered its airspace, and Erdoğan’s furious response at the time was that “a short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack”.

(At the time, the then Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen called it “another example of the Syrian authorities’ disregard for international norms”. There hasn’t been a similar critique of Ankara.)

Yet no one wants this conflict to escalate, and both Ankara and Moscow are working to that end. Presumably Erdoğan feels satisfied the point has been made, and presumably Moscow, while no doubt harbouring its grudges, is aware it has a great deal of lost diplomatic ground to make up and wants to be able to strike a deal with the west over Syria and Ukraine.

Soldier Gives His tribute to the Pilots who dies in the SU 24 crash
Photographs of the pilot Oleg Peshkov, left, and rescuer Alexander Pozynich at a monument to Soviet officers in Moscow. Photograph: Ivan Sekretarev/AP
To this end, while Putin was angry (“a stab in the back”) and Erdoğan obstinate(“everyone should respect the right of Turkey to defend its borders”), their respective foreign ministers are doing what foreign ministers do and trying to bring things back to the diplomatic track.
Analyst Pavel Felgenhauer has suggested that “further dogfights are possible during which Russian planes will attack Turkish planes in order to protect our bombers. Sea battles between the Turkish and Russian fleets are possible”.

But in fact, the mechanisms in place to control conflict remain robust. Nato is aware that Turkey is an ally, but is not piling in to increase the tension; Russia knows that while it may have a certain moral authority in this incident, but if it turns to military pressure then Nato must back its maverick ally.

There are striking similarities between Erdoğan’s Turkey and Putin’s Russia, not least their ability and propensity to move conflicts into the covert arena. While Russia’s intervention in Syria may have cynical intent, the Turks are acting in support of their national interests in Syria with equal ruthlessness.

Vladimir Putin speaks during a press conference in Ankara
Vladimir Putin speaks during a press conference in Ankara, Turkey in 2014. Photograph: Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images
Ankara is often guilty of neglecting attacks on Isis and hitting the Kurds (who are in so many ways the most effective force against the jihadists) instead, smuggling weapons in the guise of humanitarian convoys (something we saw the Russians doing in Ukraine), and being willing to support groups which are often jihadist in their own terms. Turkish military intelligence organisation (MIT) is every bit as cynically opportunist as the Russian military spy agency (GRU), and Erdoğan every bit as erratic, brutal and ambitious as Putin.

As the analysts Fiona Hill and Kemal Kirişci have put it, “the personalities and political styles of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian president Vladimir Putin seemed to complement if not mirror each other” such that these “similarities … have now come into play in a dramatic way.”

While the overt clashes may be headed off by the usual machinery of diplomacy, both countries – with large, extensive, secretive and brutal intelligence apparatuses and a history of working with both gangsters and terrorists – may well instead simply transfer these tensions to the covert arena.

In Syria itself, the Russians are likely to put greater emphasis on attacking those groups under Ankara’s patronage. A strike on a Turkish aid convoy may be the first manifestation of this.

Meanwhile, the Turks will presumably arm and encourage those groups most able to give the Russians a bloody nose.

In this way, what wasn’t really a proxy war before is likely to become one.

Meanwhile, Moscow may put greater emphasis on countering Turkey’s efforts to establish regional influence (Azerbaijan is an obvious place of contention) and could support problematic non-state actors inside Turkey, from Kurds to criminals (at least, those criminals not already tied to the Turkish state).

This is a conflict that Ankara triggered and while it is being managed it is not going to go away. Nor is it just going to become another chapter in the histories of Russo-Ottoman rivalry. Expect to see this play out in snide, deniable, but nonetheless bitter actions for months to come.


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