Northeast Asia news items

North Korea-South Korea military tensions; South Korea Japan China trilateral meeting in Seoul

S. Korea, U.S. stage joint air drills amid tension over failed N.K. satellite launch

SEOUL, May 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korean and U.S. military aircraft have staged regular combined live-fire drills to strengthen readiness against North Korean threats, Seoul's Air Force said Tuesday, amid heightened tensions over Pyongyang's failed satellite launch.

More than 90 aircraft, including the South's F-35A stealth fighters and the U.S. A-10 attack aircraft, have been mobilized for the four-day exercise that began Monday over waters off South Korea's west coast, according to the Air Force.

The exercise is focused on strengthening the participating pilots' strike capabilities and bolstering readiness against possible enemy provocations, it said.

This week's drills will take place in the wake of North Korea's botched attempt to launch a military spy satellite into orbit Monday night.

The article below cites the 20 combat aircraft figure participating in the joint US- South Korean exercise since Monday. Yonhap reports 90 aircraft in the exercise. US media are apparently following the 20 aircraft figure. There were more short range ballistic missile launches from North Korea as well:

South Korea says North Korea has fired a missile toward its eastern waters

SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea’s military says North Korea has fired at least one ballistic missile toward its eastern waters, adding to a streak of weapons demonstrations that has raised tensions.

...

Japan’s coast guard issued a maritime safety advisory saying North Korea launched a possible ballistic missile. The coast guard minutes later said the suspected missile was believed to have already landed but urged ships to exercise caution if they find any fallen objects. There were no immediate reports of damage.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have increased in recent months as the pace of both North Korea’s weapons testing and South Korea’s combined military exercises with the United States and Japan have intensified in a cycle of tit-for-tat.

Thursday’s launch came after North Korea flew hundreds of trash-carrying balloons toward the South since Tuesday night in a retaliation against South Korean activists flying anti-North Korean propaganda leaflets across the border.

The above appears to be a preliminary report of the later missile launches by North Korea.

South Korea says North Korea has fired barrage of missiles toward its eastern waters

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea on Thursday fired a barrage of suspected ballistic missiles toward its eastern sea, according to South Korea’s military, days after its attempt to launch a military reconnaissance satellite ended in failure but still drew strong condemnation from its rivals.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected the North firing around 10 projectiles that appeared to be short-range ballistic missiles from an area near its capital, Pyongyang. It said the suspected missiles flew around 350 kilometers (217 miles) before landing in waters off the North’s eastern coast. It said the South Korean military has increased surveillance and vigilance and is closely sharing information with the United States and Japan.

This article reports that the joint combat aircraft exercise began near South Korea's border with the North, hours before the failed satellite launch. Using that sort of description suggests that the exercise may have taken place in the former buffer zones around the DMZ and Northern limit line in the West Sea. The government of Yoon Seok-yeol initially abandoned the provisions of the 9.19 north south military agreement restricting military aircraft flights in buffer zones north and south of the designated demarcation lines. (the US opposed this restriction as well). The North then indicated it considered the entire agreement void, which originally was the intention of the Yongsan presidential office, they didn't want to abide by any of the agreements provisions. Anything former president Moon arranged was anathema to the Yoon administration. These tit for tat balloon flights over the DMZ by both sides also violate the 9.19 agreement which has ceased to exist at this point. Both sides have also flown drones over the DMZ into the others territory.

South Korea says the North has flown balloons carrying trash over the border

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea flew hundreds of trash-carrying balloons toward South Korea in one of its most bizarre provocations against its rival in years, prompting the South’s military to mobilize chemical and explosive response teams to recover objects and debris in different parts of the country.

The ballooning campaign came as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urged his military scientists to overcome a failed satellite launch and continue developing space-based reconnaissance capabilities, which he described as crucial for countering U.S. and South Korean military activities, state media said Wednesday.

In his first public comments about the launch failure, Kim also warned of unspecified “stern” action against South Korea over an exercise involving 20 fighter jets near the inter-Korean border hours before North Korea’s failed launch on Monday. In a speech Tuesday, Kim called the South Korean response “hysterical insanity” and “a very dangerous provocation that cannot be ignored,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said Wednesday.

There is a reference later in the article above to the South Korean "defector groups" sending of propaganda balloons across the DMZ which prompted the North Korean "trash balloon" response.

China, Japan and South Korea Hold Regional Summit Overshadowed by U.S.

The leaders of South Korea and Japan on Monday sought to restore economic cooperation with China, their biggest trading partner, after years of souring relations, but their three-way talks were overshadowed by heightened tensions between China and the United States, Seoul and Tokyo’s most important military ally.

The trilateral meeting — featuring President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan and Premier Li Qiang, the second-highest official in China — was the first in four and a half years.

Talks focused mainly on areas where common ground could more easily be found, such as protecting supply chains, promoting trade and cooperating on the challenges of aging populations and emerging infectious diseases. The leaders tiptoed around thorny regional security issues like Taiwan​ and North Korea​.

“The three nations agreed to expand practical cooperation in a way their people can feel its benefits,” Mr. Yoon said during a joint news conference with Mr. Kishida and Mr. Li, announcing 2025 and 2026 as the “years of cultural exchanges” among the three nations.

Yoon is trying to walk back damage that has been done to South Korea's trade balance and economy, caused by his pro-Japanese, pro-US policies, aligning South Korea with their anti-China posture. Yoon's comments were definitely directed to his domestic audience. It remains to be seen what progress will be made in these talks where the parties agreed to further dialogue.

more on the three way meeting in Seoul:

China premier agrees on cooperation with Seoul, Tokyo but issues veiled rebuke against their US ties

South Korea, Japan and the U.S. have long urged China — North Korea’s major ally and economic pipeline — to use its leverage to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear ambitions. But China is suspected of avoiding fully implementing U.N. sanctions on North Korea and sending clandestine aid shipments to its impoverished, sociality neighbor to stay afloat and continue to serve as a bulwark against U.S. influence on the Korean Peninsula.

In a bilateral meeting with Li on Sunday, Yoon asked China to contribute to promoting peace on the Korean Peninsula, while speaking about North Korea’s nuclear program and its deepening military ties with Russia.

After meeting with Li on Sunday, Kishida also told reporters that he expressed serious concerns about the situations in the South China Sea, Hong Kong and China’s northwestern Xinjiang region. He said Japan was closely monitoring developments on self-governed Taiwan as well.

Kishida referred to China’s military assertiveness in the South China Sea, clampdowns on pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong and human rights abuses against minorities in Xinjiang. Last week, China also launched a large military exercise around Taiwan to show its anger over the inauguration of the island’s new president who refuses to accept its insistence that Taiwan is part of China.

The title is editorial spin. Kishida was the most provocative player there; he repeated standard imperial US-Japanese talking points. Don't think he'll accomplish much positive with that attitude of his.

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