Doing Without Mr. Kim

The Chinese don’t really believe North Korea will collapse after Kim Jong Il passes from the scene:

Beijing isn’t alarmed about North Korea’s stability should Mr. Kim pass from the scene and believes Washington is overplaying the security implications, they said.

“Acting on a belief that Kim is ill and North Korea will descend into chaos invariably affects domestic outcomes in Pyongyang, and that violates China’s own principle of noninterference” in other’s internal affairs, said Zhuang Jianzhong, vice director of the Center for National Strategic Studies at Shanghai’s Jiaotong University. Based on those considerations, Beijing’s default response will be to do nothing, he said.

They’re probably right. Just as the regime in Cuba has shown no signs of falling apart now that Fidel’s on the sidelines, I suspect the Norks can figure out a succession. The Sovs and their satellites collapsed as a result of demoralization, which there’s not much sign of in the holdouts.

China-Taiwan Accord

Nothing but good news in the latest deal between China and Taiwan:

The direct sea links alone will cut shipping costs by around $36 million a year, according to estimates from Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council. This is no small change: More than 40% of Taiwanese exports went to China in 2007, and two-way trade was $130.2 billion — yet the trade and the traders had to travel through a third country, usually Hong Kong. The number of direct charter flights will increase to 108 per week from 36, and new air routes will cut hours off flying times. … 

Credit goes to Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou for smoothing the waters. Elected in March on a platform of better relations with the mainland, Mr. Ma made it clear he wanted to negotiate on cross-Strait economic, transportation and cultural links on the basis of the “1992 Consensus,” under which the two sides agreed to disagree about what constitutes “China.” The Chinese delegation’s very presence in Taipei this week suggests negotiations on an equal footing. That’s a big change.

China and Taiwan will integrate peacefully as long as the mainland’s government continues to moderate over time. And as Thomas Barnett says, “The big-war scenario is dead.”

Never Trust Air You Can’t See

The city motto of Los Angeles seems to be China’s national ethos as well, as the smog problem in Asia gets worse:

The brownish haze, sometimes in a layer more than a mile thick and clearly visible from airplanes, stretches from the Arabian Peninsula to the Yellow Sea. In the spring, it sweeps past North and South Korea and Japan. Sometimes the cloud drifts as far east as California.

The report identified 13 cities as brown-cloud hot spots, among them Bangkok, Cairo, New Delhi, Tehran and Seoul, South Korea.

To be fair, it’s obviously not just the Chinese who are contributing to such a large-scale problem. But it illustrates that Bush was onto something when he administered the coup de grace to Kyoto on the grounds that it excluded China and India. Meaningful environmental treaties have to take in the big developing economies too.

Preemptive Strike

Noah Shachtman at Wired and the gang at Inside Defense take note of some incoming potshots the USAF general in command of the missile defense program has lobbed at the incoming administration:

Lt. Gen. Trey Obering appeared to take a veiled shot at the incoming national security team yesterday, calling their knowledge about the interceptor effort “dated.”

Fair enough, but what follows isn’t:

Obering “warned against moving away from the proposed deployment of missile defense assets in Europe,”Inside Defense reports. Such a move, the general said, “would severely hurt, No. 1, our ability to protect our deployed forces in that region and our allies and our friends in that region from what we see as an emerging threat.” 

Uh, that’s a political decision, general, meaning it’s above your pay grade. You get the same say on those as everyone else, meaning one vote.

Blanket Pardon?

Mark Benjamin at Salon thinks Bush is planning a wide-ranging pardon of all in his administration who might’ve been involved in torture. That’s certainly been a possibility all along, and the president’s pardon power is wide-ranging. But I should think it’s at least arguable that it has to be exercised on behalf of specific, named individuals. That makes a long-shot court challenge to an all-encompassing pardon for a class of individuals at least theoretically possible, if someone can be found who has standing. That’s probably a bigger uncertainty than the actual merits.

Scratch Two

The Brits enter the anti-piracy fight with a bang. Good for them. This isn’t a problem that’ll be solved bloodlessly.

Sonar, Subs & Whales

Galrahn dives into the Supreme Court’s USN sonar decision. I haven’t read the opinion yet but respect G’s technical expertise. Start your research here. I will say I consider the opinion a good thing. You don’t want to go into ASW not knowing how to use active.

Not a Good Idea, But Funny

Davenoon at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

I should note that in 2002, I promised a friend that if I could procure a wealthy benefactor to retire my student loans and provide me with a $10,000 annual stipend, I’d be willing to change my legal name to “Albert Qaeda” for five years, with an option to renegotiate after three.