Thursday, January 19, 2017

surprised and a little impressed

Otherwise-undistinguished UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is either pulling some cynical political ploy, or he's actually grown a pair of wrinkled old balls: Ban has come out strongly in favor of THAAD deployment in South Korea. Well, good for him.

For those who don't know anything about Ban: in 2007, Ban succeeded Kofi Annan as UN secretary-general. Now at the end of his term of service, he may be eyeing a run at the presidency of South Korea. A bland, generally unremarkable politician who has apparently earned the moniker "slippery eel," Ban isn't known for staking out firm, clear positions that could make him a figure of controversy.* That's what makes his THAAD position so surprising to me: I'd never have expected him to come out one way or another on the deployment of a missile-defense system in the ROK. THAAD is a thorny issue: many irrational South Koreans are protesting it, having been hoodwinked by the local press into believing the defense system emits harmful radiation that will slowly spread cancer among the populace. The prospect of THAAD in Korea also upsets China, which is constantly wary of any threats to its interior.** Korean leftists who kowtow to China are therefore upset because China's upset.

The big rumor is that Korea's dominant conservative party, Saenuri, wants to woo Ban to run for president under its aegis, but I find this bizarre because Ban has always struck me as more of a milquetoast leftist than as a rightie. But what do I know about Korean politics? Almost nothing, really, but it'll be interesting to watch this drama play out.

*To be clear, Ban's "slippery eel" moniker has more to do with his avoidance of press questions than with his amorphous or limp-wristed policy positions.

**Yes, yes: THAAD is purely defensive, but tell China that.

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