By Clay Chandler
August 26, 2017

 

I’m writing from Hong Kong today where we, like Texans, are smack in the middle of tropical storm season. On Wednesday, we weathered Typhoon Hato, the strongest storm to hit this city in 18 years and a rare “No. 10,” the Hong Kong observatory’s highest classification of typhoon intensity. In Hong Kong, Hato battered buildings, overturned cars, and flooded parking garages, wreaking more than a billion dollars in property damage. The destruction was even greater in Macau, the nearby gambling Mecca, and across the mainland border in Guangdong province. In total, Hato killed 16 people in southern China and as I write another typhoon is closing in. (I live in small seaside village that’s often the frontline for approaching storms; a friend posted this video of Hato pounding the beach across the street from our house.)

As the world prays for Texas, a different kind of storm is gathering over the Korean peninsula. On Saturday shortly before 7 a.m. Korea-time North Korea launched three short range missiles, defying repeated warnings from the United States and South Korea. The U.S. Pacific Command said one of the missiles exploded immediately after take off but the other two traveled about 155 miles before splashing down, a range that would be far enough to reach not only Seoul but also an advanced missile-defense system the U.S. has begun installing in South Korea. The launch comes only days after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson praised North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for showing restraint by not launching a missile since its last ICBM test in July. At a campaign rally this week, President Trump said Kim is “starting to respect us” and expressed hope that perhaps “something positive can come of that.”

Meanwhile, tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program are taking a toll on the South Korean economy. The Wall Street Journal reports this week that China has launched an unofficial campaign to punish South Korean companies for Seoul’s support for installation of the missile-defense program. The Journal says China sales of Korean products like Kia and Hyundai autos have taken a nose dive this year.

That has to make it all the more painful for—and baffling to—Seoul that Trump is moving to curb U.S. trade with Korea as well. On Thursday, Trump threatened to terminate the U.S. trade agreement with South Korea declaring it a “horrible deal” that had left Americans “destroyed.”

Enjoy the weekend!

Clay Chandler
@claychandler
clay.chandler@timeinc.com

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