North Korea: Missile update. The latest story leaked to Inside The Ring is that the two Musudan intermediate range ballistic missiles have returned to storage after all. Some analysts attribute this action to Chinese pressure on North Korea.
Comment: North Korean apparently stood down the missiles and returned them to storage when it stood down the entire armed forces from high combat readiness on 30 April.
China-North Korea: Update. China’s Foreign Ministry declined Wednesday, 8 May, to confirm the Bank of China’s closure of the account of the North Korean Foreign Trade Bank. In response to a question at Wednesday’s news conference, Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, “For specifics, please refer it to competent Chinese authorities.”
Sources of the Daily NK reported that since 7 May, “other Chinese state banking entities including China Construction Bank have apparently ceased business dealings with North Korean financial entities as well. The banks did so in accordance with guidance handed down by the China Banking Regulatory Commission, and as such is actually a policy of the Chinese government.”
Comment: If the Chinese are exerting economic pressure against North Korea as punishment for refusing to listen to guidance, some reaction by North Korea should become evident soon. Such action would represent a strategic change in China’s relationship with North Korea. More on this later.
China-Japan: The official newspaper, the People’s Daily, on Wednesday published an article advocating a review of Japanese sovereignty over the Ryuku Islands which include Okinawa.
The authors of the article, two scholars at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the Ryukyus were a tributary state of China before Japan annexed the islands in the 1879.
“Unresolved problems relating to the Ryukyu Islands have reached the time for reconsideration,” wrote Zhang Haipeng and Li Guoqiang, citing post-World War II declarations that required Japan to return Chinese territory. The article also repeated Chinese government arguments for China’s historical claims to the Diaoyu/Senkakus.
The Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying repeatedly refused to give a direct answer when asked whether Beijing considers the Ryukyu chain a part of Japan at a regular press briefing on Wednesday.