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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 20, 2017

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOftz57BjeA

Trump visited China in friendship and peace. His granddaughter sang in Mandarin. Her video was played at a high profile state banquet. Everyone seemed happy.

In South Korea, President Moon, likely to go down in history as a failed diplomat-wannabe, rehashed South Korean hard feelings against the Japanese. His country— threatened by his enemy to the north, backed by its ally, China—is cozying-up with China.

Trump was en route to visit the DMZ in Korea, but heavy fog forced Marine One to turn around. The US president returned home and China sought to strengthen relations with North Korea.

Regardless of whatever happens in and between the US, Japan, China, and North Korea, South Korean President Moon will go down in history as a capitulator who let a century-old vendetta guide him into the friend of his enemy. While the Western press narrative is to paint China as the bad guy, Moon is the real bad guy because he is the only leader in Asia who shows weakness.

China would do well to learn from Moon's errors. Every bit of progress China makes with Korea comes from pressing forward and abandoning revenge campaigns of the past. Everything South Korea stands to lose comes from reviving revenge campaigns of the past.

Korea, both North and South, has become an arena. With North Korea's dependency on China and Moon's capitulation, Koreans are no longer players in the game. Either the US or China will be the one to bring peace on the peninsula and the region. The winner will be whoever looks to the future and forgives the past.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 13, 2017

At the APEC summit in Vietnam, Putin told Trump that Russia had not interfered in the 2016 election. Putin was sincere. At the same time, Taiwan is beefing-up cybersecurity, ostensibly to counter "daily" and "Russian style" attacks originating in China. If everyone's rhetoric holds true, that means that there aren't any threats at all.

Trump offered to help settle disputes in the South Sea. The Philippines' finance minister complemented Trump on knowing "the art of the deal". The Filipino president does not want any problems in the South Sea. China would rather settle disputes one-to-one. Will everyone get what they want? We'll have to see. This is a chance for China also to earn compliments about negotiation skill from Filipino leadership.

Trump was very friendly in China. He underscored the importance of cooperation between the US and China. It was one of the kindest things he ever said. He publicly conducted himself in some of the kindest ways he ever has since running for office. China received him with respect and his public appearances went smoothly. If there ever was a good chance for peace, now is the best chance there has been for a long while and is probably the best chance there will yet be for a long while.

Will things go peacefully? We'll see.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 6, 2017

While America faces its own falling "houses of cards", Asian empires face their own truth. With three aircraft carriers, and a fourth soon on the way, the US military presence in Asia is the highest it has been in a long while. Trump is currently making the longest presidential visit to Asia since 1992. It's a bold move, something the hermit kingdom wouldn't dare.

The bold visit to the region is part of a greater strategy, make no mistake. On the one hand, Trump gains respect if he only launches an attack in a region he has already visited. On the other hand, the enormous military presence makes it clear who can't win, no matter the losses. Arguably, the military buildup wasn't so much preparation for an invasion as it was to make the way for a visit from the president. A presidential visit to the region shows solidarity on Trump's part: North Korea's days are numbered. That level of confidence outshines both Kim John Un and Xi Jinping.

Make no mistake, Trump's visit serves not only to understand leaders, not only to court favor with his voter base, but also to gain respect from the people living in Asia—both in the countries he visits and the countries he does not.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 30, 2017

In the daily governance of Hong Kong, China has proven itself as a competent overseer. Hong Kong's "Basic Law", a kind of mini-constitution imposed not by referendum, keeps the SAR autonomous. Hong Kongers have only two reasons for complaint, having not chosen the Basic Law for themselves and the gentrification of Chinese money re-defining native Hong Kongers as a new lower class living among some of the most expensive real estate in the world.

Crud hit the fan, however, when Beijing decided to "vet" Hong Kong politicians in advance. The Basic Law makes no direct provision for advanced-vetting, a statutory or policy decision heavily subject to interpretation. Youth are often quick to complain. In the minds of Hong Kong youth, Beijing's advanced-vetting policy is a violation of the Basic Law. Accordingly, Hong Kong youth have no interest in learning about the Basic Law from Beijing.

Now, Beijing has planned a Hong Kong -wide broadcast from a Mainlander—a Chinese speaking from Beijing's view—to educate Hong Kong students about the Basic Law. Schools are under no obligation to participate in Beijing's offer, so the public is led to understand. But, when your higher authority vets your politicians without a word-for-word clause to justify it, then invites your school to optionally learn how to follow the law, it is difficult not to feel some kind of pressure to "volunteer".

The best thing for China to earn good will is to rescind the advanced-vetting policy in favor of Hong Kong's local interpretation of the Basic Law and to allow only three schools to listen to the Basic Law address, applying with good reason. That's "basic law" of supply-and-demand economics. But, those ideas may be difficult for the Communist regime to quickly grasp.

So, it looks like China's path ahead will see plenty of conflict and strife. The student objections to the Basic Law seminar will by no means be the last, nor will it be Beijing's last attempt to educate Hong Kong's population.

The US has its own approach to PR. Notice how Korea made fewer Western headlines this week, though the situation is far from finished. Trump's planned visit, purportedly to include the Korean DMZ, is certainly a bold move to demonstrate courage from a leader and to eclipse North soldiers' respect for Kim Jong Un who wouldn't dare to get close. Don't be surprised if Trump walks right up to the border and speaks through a megaphone and says, "Where is Kim Jong Un? He can talk to me. Your leader is a coward. Don't trust him." Don't be surprised. Such a move befits Trump and would begin a cascade of implosion from within the Kim Dynastic ranks.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 23, 2017

Now, North Korea may have biological weapons. Every week, the news is worse and worse. Eventually, a conflict with North Korea will feel more like a relief to the public than an outrage, just from fatigue of bad news overdose. That level of fatigue is—or at least should be—part of military logistics calculation. However, that doesn't indicate whether the US plans a strike, only that increasing public support for action is yet another metaphoric "cannon" aimed at the Korean Peninsula. While the Kim Dynasty may not wise up to the mounting forces at its doorstep, Russia and China know that public support from the US shouldn't be ignored.

China, however is strengthening its long-term ambitions. The incumbent president, Xi Jinping, has been named and received honorary titles that place him above past presidents. There is talk of him becoming a "Chairman", thus equating him to Mao. Don't underestimate the power of a "mere title" in Chinese culture. Even with no written authority behind a title, Chinese culture is and always will be stronger than any law it writes to keep the "legalists" satisfied. Such a long-time leader retaining power compares him to the seemingly lifetime leader in Russia, Putin.

North Korea is a strategic linchpin for the China-Russia powers. Militarily, they cannot allow a united Korea. But, logistically, they may not be able to stop it either. Just as war games often do, propping up a Communist Dynasty may have backfired. That's a lesson to everyone, the US included. The US might not heed warnings when the balance temporarily tips in its favor. Meddling is always a bad idea, whether you win or lose, this time.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 9, 2017

Taiwan publicized reports that China was pushing for its dream of reunification through many venues and in many nations. The fact that China works so diligently through aggressive diplomacy further indicates that the "military option" being less than preferable with North Korea carries some continuity with China's policy concerning Taiwan. That's not to say it is beyond Beijing to decide to strike Taiwan, only that it would demonstrate that China had exhausted other methods it preferred in its determination.

Military deescalation is not out of character with China. Chinese troops were friendly with the defense minister from India in her recent visit to the disputed area. Late August, China halted building the road that India objected to in a way that saved face for China, but also appeased India for the time. This doesn't indicate any change of heart nor indicate that China is not relentless, but the Asian culture of "preferring smoothness" in disputes seems to be holding true with non-volatile land on which China hopes to fly its flag.

Trump's resolve and openness, however, are a contrast to China's. In his "only one thing will work" comment this week, the US president is not afraid to use a military option to bring peace to a region if that region is arming up and dangerous. If the US wins in a conflict with North Korea, the US flag would not fly as the authority on that soil.

China is preparing for a routine leadership review. Much of the top brass under Xi Jinping will rotate out, but he himself is not set to retire anytime soon. While there may be some changes in temperature, there will be no change in the speed or direction China has been taking.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 2, 2017

Things are stepping-up in Korea. The US is gearing up for a "military option". The question is how China will respond. China's approach with Taiwan is a contrast of priorities or a strong indication about China's approach with North Korea. If China won't take harsh action to stop a nuclear North Korea, then logically China should not be painted as a "hostile villain" over TAO (Taiwan Affairs Office) statements concerning Taiwan.

China has a reputation to defend, which includes normal political posturing. If China were to ignore a nuclear North Korea, but attack Taiwan during a time of no military conflict, that would seem to the world as "inconsistent". The Taiwan situation hit many headlines this week.

Taiwan's new Premier William Lai commented this week about "status quo". He shared his personal opinion at an early stage in his tenure, more or less observing that China and Taiwan behave as if they are already sovereign and that the main two political parties in Taiwan hold a policy that Taiwan has a government with a constitution that considers itself sovereign. Lai's comments focused on observing "status quo", added that, personally, he is "pro-independence", and that he will remain in-step with Taiwan's President Tsai, regardless of his own career and personal views.

Lai admitted that he should have kept his personal views to himself, but indicated that such transparency of his personal view is part of an ingenuous disclosure when legislators are inquiring about him as a recently approved for his public office. Needless to say, China was not pleased. Beijing responded with some simple public statements.

How serious China is about any intent to start a war to reclaim Taiwan? The first sober question would be about preparatory military exit strategy. Arguably, the US has more at stake in Taiwan than in North Korea.

Taiwan has more than a few F-16s, Apache helicopters, and other military and naval assets—all supplied by the US. If China's government were to exert power over Taiwan, that would change status quo—something Premier William Lai says would require a vote in Taiwan. But, the question few people ask is what to do with all those F-16s, helicopters, and naval assets.

If China truly intended to "go to the mattresses" to change status quo with Taiwan, at the very top of its statement would be a plan to first send all of that military equipment back to the United States, to gut technology from all military installations in Taiwan, and to provide to move nearly all adult men in Taiwan to any country other than China. Adult men in Taiwan serve "compulsory" military time in a military that used US military tech. That means nearly half of Taiwan's entire adult population would be a security threat if governed by a regime seated in Beijing.

Beijing has presented no such "exit strategy" for US military assets in Taiwan. That does not mean Beijing is not deserving of "respect"—the foremost question on many minds in Beijing. It simply raises questions about how much the "Taiwan question" has been thought through.

Even with all that is happening in North Korea, more security eyes should be turned to how China will deal with Taiwan once North Korea stops making headlines—or more importantly, when North Korea makes far more headlines than it already does.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 25, 2017

China is taking a turn for the better over North Korea's "Rocket Man". Stronger sanctions, limits on trade, cutting off oil, halting banking—it was all a wise move on China's part.

At the United Nations, North Korea made no new friends. They made no indications of any change of heart. North Korea shares the same view of President Trump as the American Left: that he is crazy and irrational and should be called the types of names expected on an elementary school playground.

Even China's new best buddy, Russia, is concerned for stability in the region. It's not a threat. It doesn't sound like a threat. Russia is genuinely concerned. Conflict with North Korea is, indeed, a nosedive and it does affect all Koreans, both North and South, as well as Japan, Russia, and, of course, China. Ending trade is the best bet.

Keeping North Korea alive and kicking as a China-Russia buddy is no longer a reasonable "hopeful". Now, it's about damage control. China is being urged to consider cleaning up the dismembered parts of a soon-to-be-former North Korea to avoid other problems.

Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is expected to call an election. There's no better time to get re-elected than when the backyard "Rocket Man" is firing missiles over your country and Russia and China won't do anything about anything except cut off trade with "Rocket Man". So, from this week's ongoing drama with North Korea, Japanese Prime Minister Abe is likely to remain in office and China got more involved.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 18, 2017

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LSM7VtOn4Q

China's situation is growing more and more similar to North Korea's. They seek to "match" the US in military strength, but aim to do so without US economics. Without the economics it will be hard to match anything. Slowly, but surely, the US is chipping away at money going into China.

Stocks were up in China, especially recently. Shenzhen is fairing quite well. But, Trump managed to block a Chinese company from buying a US chip maker, Lattice. This is just the beginning, not only for blocked deals both in the US and elsewhere, but also in bad international press against China.

Taiwan isn't helping. 500 Taiwanese in New York protested the island not being a UN member, claiming that Palestine is not a state, but has a membership. If Taiwan were to join the UN, it would be in the top 25% largest populations. But, pushing these matters will likely have no impact, other than bad press against China.

This week, North Korea launched again, scaring Japanese even more, making it even harder to defend the Kim Dynasty. China doesn't want to lose a "buffer" that would put a stronger US ally on its border, nor deal with an influx of refugees. But, China may have more than the situation with the US and North Korea to worry about. The dormant volcano on North Korea's side of the China border has been rumbling.

There's nothing like a small "act of God" to settle all disputes.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 11, 2017

The North Korean situation makes much more sense when seen from the perspective of a film director performing a social experiment. Film makers, directors, actors, screen writers—they love to do good "real life" research. If one was making a movie simulating culture in a story such as Orwell's 1984, North Korea would be a perfect laboratory.

Looking at North Korea through this lens, some predictions could be made. What outside forces and events would be necessary to watch a "hermit kingdom" implode?

Another perspective could be from, say, China's view. China rightly fears that it is surrounded by US allies—Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan... India is a "frenemy" of the US, but more of an "enemi-friend" from China's view. Then, there is Korea. If the North were provoked to invade the South, that would be "plus one" ally for China and "minus one" ally for the United States, at least on China's border. "Gain more land to win the war" is an old school strategy from Westpoint, a strategy that Grant had to put aside at Gettysburg.

So, the jockeying in the West Pacific could be more predictable by thinking of international policy for North Korea as Film Maker vs Westpoint China. One set of policies wants the North to be easily provoked into decimating the South to win a land war in Asia. The other set of policies initiates "outside force" to carefully study an implosion of the North—and that includes allowing the North to be provoked, but on a controlled terms.

This week, North Korea made even more threats. So, the theorem of Film Maker vs Westpoint China can be put to the test in weeks to come, watching international policies provoke the North to attack and pressure the North to implode. While that transpires, international support from common folk to see North Korea's dynasty come to an end only grows, and the international press certainly doesn't do anything to shift sentiment the other direction.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 4, 2017

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQy0_XBp_Ks

Korea's situation is amplifying. We know this. North Korea is making more threats than ever with it's "boy king" on the iron clad throne. We know that military options are 1. relevant and 2. undesirable. The Pentagon consistently barks about "military options", while "economic options" stay on the table—don't overlook how talk of military bolsters economic action. Rather than reviewing the obvious, consider North Korea through the eyes of the White House—viewing both economics and security—and from the rest of the world.

As the Pentagon, economists, and surrounding nations sees things, not China, but specifically the Communist Party seated in Beijing, is viewed as the "menace of Asia", venturing into increased trouble with Vietnam, India, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Myanmar, Malaysia, Mongolia, Africa, Europe, and others. North Korea has six months of oil remaining, and China does 90% of North Korea's trade. No Beijing Communist Party feeding the Kim Dynasty equals no Kim Dynasty nukes. That's how the Pentagon, the US Treasury, and many surrounding nations view China and North Korea.

It will never be said, just as much as it will always be considered: North Korea is a stepping stone to facing the Beijing Communist Party. For the Pentagon, it's practice and demonstration. For economics, North Korea is an excuse to cut off trade with China who manufactures technology, but does not develop their own, and uses copied technology with trade money to make it more difficult for their neighbors to sleep at night. Right or wrong, justified or not, that's how others view China these days.

Now, Xi Jinping addresses an assembly over the BRICS bank group, while still not having dealt with the menace in its own back yard. Without a word being mentioned, Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa—and the nations who trade with them—will view China as being the "maker of promises that won't be kept".

China had so much going for it, as did the Communist Party in Beijing. They had trade, they had marked-off territory that no one encroached. But, it wasn't "what they deserved by rite", thereby provoking them into too much venture and not enough housecleaning. Make no mistake, North Korea is only the tip of the iceberg marking regional vendettas that loom beneath the surface, both militarily and economically. The US is not as friendly as it seems, "considering either" economics "or" military; it has already been implementing both as part of a greater regional ambition.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, August 21, 2017

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLgXeodbJTM

After President Trump warned that North Korea must never make any more threats, North Korea is making more threats than ever. Trump mentioned Hawaii and Guam in his warning, North Korea mentioned Hawaii and Guam in this week's threats. Again, another US ship in the 7th Fleet crashed into a merchant ship, the USS John S. McCain, right in China's back yard near Singapore. And, the Navy was sure to announce it to the world through Twitter—another blatant attempt to look incompetent if there ever was one. North Korea and possibly China may even believe it.

China is running into PR problems with the West. Of course, the Communist Party has their reasons, but the press wall between China and non-China makes it difficult to get the story straight.

Hong Kong Umbrella movement leader Joshua Wong was imprisoned this week, along with other leaders. China is not hiding the changes they are making in Hong Kong, even though the agreement between Britain and China was that no such changes would be made for 50 years as a condition of the handover. China has its reasons, but Britain would have no trouble convincing the public that the agreement that Hong Kong belongs to China has been invalidated.

India paid China money to collect annual rainfall data to prepare for seasonal floods. China has not fulfilled it's contract to deliver the data India already paid for. The data relates to water flowing from China into India. Central territory of interest is Tibet. India provides such downstream data to two of its neighbors at no cost. This week, Chinese troops reportedly walked into India for a few hours, resulting in a few stones being thrown. China has its reasons, but India would have no trouble convincing the public that the agreement of data exchange between China and India to avoid dangerous flash-food incidents has been invalidated.

China has its reasons, but the West also has its reasons and China faces enemies on many sides. Vietnam is getting cozy with the US. India is getting irritated. And, North Korea's status quo is past being defensible. If China were to find itself in a war, it would already be surrounded. But, rather than bolstering the home front, China is engaging in "venture wars", seeking to have its flag flown over more territory. Such was the choice of King Richard in his Crusades, which arguably cost him France. Of course, it was his by rite, just as it is China's by rite.

As things look, the Pacific conflict will likely draw China in on many sides. If China doesn't win, those many sides will be fighting over many pieces; India may claim Tibet, Britain may reclaim Hong Kong, and Taiwan may sue for normalization with China.

It would be great if it didn't come to that. But, then so would be a lot of things.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, August 14, 2017

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACyV1rT872s

A campaign is slowly mounting its ground swell against Philippine President Duterte concerning his past corruption. The Philippines is littered with classic "mafia-machine" style corruption, making it generally easy to find scandals on politicians. This has been building against the new Filipino president since about the same time the Philippines has needed aid from the US against ISIS, all while the Filipino president campaigns on a continued platform of moving away from the US so as not to be "dependent" on anyone, a normal sentiment in Filipino populism.

A similar media war is mounting against both China and North Korea. This week, they came together in a story about "Made in China" -labeled goods actually being made in North Korea. Also, an old story was rehashed about the Chinese using "scientific underwater drones" in the South Sea, which could be used for military purposes, if nothing more than to make underwater maps for the Chinese and to spot American submarines.

It's not far-fetched or newsworthy to claim that the Chinese could use academic or scientific tools for the military. China wouldn't be the first to perform military operations in the name of "science". China's diesel-powered aircraft carrier, the Soviet-made Liaoning, was purchased from Russia to be little more than a "floating museum". Now, it has been reverse-engineered to model at least four more aircraft carriers from China. China's underwater drones first made headlines not long after the Chinese captured a similar drone from the US.

There seems to be a trend that China's tech is reverse-engineered, not invented. More interestingly is the role the US has played. Better said, how the US has played China. It wasn't fair, but it was avoidable.

China wouldn't have most of its tech or its money for these military aggressions if American tech companies weren't outsourcing jobs to China. Companies only did that because Americans were obsessed with saving a few pennies on their goods. The country learned to copy those goods and took American money doing it, then got a big wallet, then got a big head. If the US had confronted "Shame" culture in its cultural exchanges—government, business, and otherwise—and educated whatever Chinese people they met in daily dealings and insisted on using the Biblical view of "repentance unto hope", China's government wouldn't be trying to "save face" quite so much and might even be cleaning things up at home a bit more.

Then, we have foiled military operations, this week, a crash in Australia. A truly-gone-awry military operation won't be so easily plastered across headlines. The West is trying to look weak in the eyes of the Chinese while mounting a press war against China and North Korea to stir popular support for action. That action is, indeed, becoming necessary, but only after unnecessary trade money and methods made it so.

The swelling conflict in the Pacific could have all been avoided if Americans had simply insisted on paying a few more pennies to buy American. But, it's too late to turn back. Now, American taxpayers will have to pay for an expensive, otherwise unnecessary war against their manufacturer.

Everyone is accountable for their own choices, but the US knew better. Americans know the Bible's teaching "to get one's own life in order first" and to confront "Shame" by teaching the good news of "forgiveness". But, the US didn't do that with China, not in business and not even the Christians in dealing with Chinese churches in America. While it is all sad, the bigger victim is China.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, August 7, 2017

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Oe2jS-iOds

If North Korea heeds China's urges to back down on its nuclear program, it would be a welcome first. China requested the US back down its military activity in South Korea. Russia does not want North Korea's economy to become worse. Much has been claimed about the purported, will-be effectiveness of new UN sanctions against North Korea, but history provides little to no basis that North Korea heeds any warnings or follows any step toward deescalation.

Though historically bleak, this effort from the international community is the best well-mounted push for peace ever seen for the Korean situation. Even Taiwan is urging North Korea to back off. While this may set the stage for some kind of "breakthrough" in negotiations, the bigger and less-acknowledged stage being set is war. With the best-made good-will effort having been made to stop North Korea's nuke program, one missile launch would prove all the yea-sayers wrong. That threat could wake up North Korea to climb down out of the tree—the hidden threat of war that every peaceful stance veils.

Any peace offering indeed doubles as a hidden war threat by definition. But, fools don't believe in what they can't see. So, we'll see.

Remember, though, how fools surrender: in childlike tears.

If North Korea fires even one more missile, buckle up and grab the popcorn for an immanent Trump "it didn't work, so now we will" speech. If that happens, not only will North Korea's position be untenable, but so will it be for everyone who claimed that negotiations would stop the missile launches.

In these tense times, China is making no new friends. Old border disputes with India are rehashing and ramping up. The VPN crackdown makes sense since no government should be circumvented, the most-ignored question is whether there should be a need in the first place. There are numerous reports of Chinese students being denied travel documents to study at universities in Taiwan. Of particular interest is National Cheng Kung University in Tainan. Tainan's Mayor, William Lai is the most popular of any and in the same semi-pro-independence party, DPP, as Taiwan's president. And, Tainan's small airport was used by the US in the Vietnam war. Other than that, there's little to explain why the third-top school seems to be a top target for denied travel from China.

With stronger rhetoric about military and not letting any China-claimed land go, with action concerning Taiwan, and militarized border crossings with India, it is clear that China intends to take a lead role in conflict on multiple fronts. All depending on how things develop in the Korea situation, China could face a clear third front.

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