Korea: April 23, 2003

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 In another show of bravado, North Korea held "long distance reconnaissance flights" over the Sea of Japan. The north is doing this to protest what they see as increased American reconnaissance flights off the North Korean coasts. But using ten MiG-21 and MiG-23 aircraft meant that the longest flight was about 90 minutes. This was considered a long flight by North Korean standards, where fuel shortages have severely limited flying time for North Korean air force pilots. This, in turn, has forced those pilots to fly in a very stiff and predictable pattern, since they don't get enough air time to develop flexibility and combat skills. 

Diplomatic discussions in China between US, Chinese and North Korean representatives began. Not much is expected, the major achievement is getting the Chinese to turn up the heat on the north. China is afraid of  political collapse and over a million refugees pouring across the border into China. There are already 3-400,000 North Korean refugees in China and China doesn't want any more. China also fears the north getting nukes, and possibly using them. That would put refugees, and radioactive fallout, into China. The Chinese have always considered the North Koreans to be a bit odd, and in the last decade the oddness has rapidly grown. Historically, China has viewed the Koreans, in general, as "little brothers," and rambunctious ones at that. 

 

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