Top nuclear boss advising May on protecting atomic industry from Brexit blow Energy Voice Alan Shields, 26 Mar 17 The German head of one of the UK’s top nuclear companies is counseling Prime Minister Theresa May’s government on what needs to be done to protect a global hub for the industry from Brexit.
With European Union leaders congregating to celebrate the Treaty of Rome’s 60th anniversary, Urenco Ltd.’s Chief Executive Officer Thomas Haeberle said he’s cautiously optimistic that new rules can be negotiated to guarantee the flow of nuclear materials in and out of the U.K. after the nation leaves the bloc.
“We are making the U.K. government, which is also our shareholder, aware of the requirements our business needs to fulfill in the context of Brexit and of leaving Euratom,” said Haeberle, referring to the European Atomic Community, a part of the EU’s bedrock agreement signed on March 25, 1957 – 26/03/20
Just as bankers have made London a global financial hub, nuclear workers have turned Britain into a central cog servicing the world’s flow of atomic materials. Urenco, the world’s second-biggest maker of reactor fuel, runs a factory in Capenhurst and oversees its global distribution network from Stoke Poges outside of London.
Owned by the U.K. and Dutch governments as well as German utilities EON SE and RWE AG, Urenco has set up a working group that “deals with all the risks and the possible mitigations,” Haeberle said. He spoke with Bloomberg a week before the EU celebrates Euratom’s 60th anniversary, his first interview since becoming CEO in January 2016.
Euratom’s main function is to safeguard nuclear fuel, making sure it isn’t diverted to make weapons. The U.K. will lose that service once it departs the EU. Nuclear fuel suppliers and power plants need certification from Euratom or whatever system succeeds it to buy material on the open market.
For Urenco’s business to continue uninterrupted after the U.K. leaves the EU, negotiators will have to seal new agreements with governments around the world setting out the new regulatory system Britain will follow after it leaves Euratom……..
Companies like Urenco face a potentially “high impact” from Brexit, Moody’s Investors Service wrote in a May 22 note saying that the overall credit impact from leaving the EU will be modest. Urenco, which has 2.1 billion pounds ($2.6 billion) of outstanding debt is rated Baa1, two grades above junk by Moody’s…… https://www.energyvoice.com/otherenergy/134874/top-nuclear-boss-advising-may-protecting-atomic-industry-brexit-blow/
North Korea’s nuclear program poses an “imminent” threat that nonetheless requires the United States, China, and other countries to respond with a “staged approach” that includes sanctions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a rare encounter with the media.
Tillerson, speaking to the conservative Independent Journal Review in an interview published Saturday, also said that U.S.-China relations appear to be at a historic inflection point that must be carefully managed.
China’s foreign minister, meanwhile, urged the United States to remain “cool-headed” on the issue of North Korea and to consider going ahead with talks with Pyongyang.
The U.S. secretary of state is in the final stages of a trip to Asia, having made stops in Japan and South Korea and, this weekend, in China. A good chunk of his discussions have focused on how to handle the challenge posed by the government in Pyongyang, whose recent ballistic missile tests have alarmed the international community.
Tillerson repeatedly framed the North Korean threat as “imminent,” and during his trip he has ruled out negotiations with the country while leaving open the possibility of a pre-emptive military strike to eliminate its nuclear program.
But in his interview with IJR, Tillerson did not promise any imminent public response by the U.S. and others, aside from the ongoing diplomatic flurries. Instead, he said there had to be a “staged approach” to North Korea, one that involves enforcing, and possibly enhancing, international sanctions, while persuading Pyongyang that giving up its nuclear weapons would help it on other levels………
Tillerson also downplayed, but did not entirely rule out, suggestions that Japan and South Korea should develop their own nuclear weapons in a bid to stave off the North Korean threat…….
China’s sway over North Korea is perhaps the most urgent issue the two countries must tackle, Tillerson said. The secretary of state indicated that the Trump administration believes China must do more to enforce sanctions on North Korea, which relies on Beijing as an economic lifeline.
It’s the same stance taken by the Obama administration, which toward the end of its tenure also was increasingly alarmed by the threat posed by North Korea. President Barack Obama is reported to have told Trump that North Korea is the top national security priority facing his new administration. http://www.politico.eu/article/tillerson-says-north-korea-nuclear-program-is-imminent-threat-as-china-urges-talks/
UN Asks U.K. to Pause Hinkley Nuclear Plant Work for Assessment https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-18/un-asks-u-k-to-pause-hinkley-nuclear-plant-work-for-assessment by Grant Smith and Alex Morales March 19, 2017
UN committee calls for halt to allow environmental studies
EDF won approval to build 18 billion-pound plant in September
A United Nations committee asked the U.K. to suspend work on the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant pending assessment of the environmental impact.
The UN Economic Commission for Europe requested the pause, it said in a document on its website. Electricite de France SA, the French state-controlled utility, won approval to build an 18 billion-pound ($22.3 billion) nuclear plant on England’s western coast in September. To help shoulder the construction costs, EDF convinced China General Nuclear Power Corp. to take 33.5 percent of the project.
The UN committee recommended the halt until it established whether “a notification under the Espoo Convention” was useful, according to the statement. The Espoo Convention sets out the obligations of countries to “assess the environmental impact of certain activities,” according to the commission’s website.
How to stop a North Korean nuclear trainwreck, The Hill, BY PHILIP W. YUN, – 03/17/17 The assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the older half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, is yet another bizarre episode in a string of reality TV events that is now commonplace in our public discourse.
It’s easy to get sucked into the intrigue, but it distracts from the big picture: The United States is in the middle of a slow-motion trainwreck with North Korea over its nuclear weapons and missile program. North Korea’s missile tests on Monday are just the latest alarm in what could spiral into a full-blown crisis.
We better start listening.
Unless we do something about it now, a “metal on metal” collision could be in the offing, marked by more North Korean tests and calls within Washington for military strikes to stop them.
Kim Jong Nam’s murder and the subsequent media circus obscure more crucial events: China’s decision last month to ban all coal imports from North Korea; the Feb. 11 test launch of a mobile, land-based, solid-fueled missile; and, critically, the annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises happening this month, that almost certainly sparked last weekend’s tests………
we have no choice but to swallow a bitter pill. Using what little leverage and pressure we have, we must talk with the North Koreans at sufficiently high levels, something we haven’t done for some time.
But we must make these hard choices now — or they will be made for us.
Philip W. Yun is executive director of Ploughshares Fund, a San Francisco-based peace and security foundation. He previously served as senior adviser to the assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and as a senior adviser to two U.S. coordinators for North Korea Policy: former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry and former Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. Yun was a member of a government working group that managed U.S. policy and negotiations with North Korea under President Clinton and was part of the U.S. delegation that traveled to North Korea with then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 2000. http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/defense/324461-how-to-stop-a-north-korean-nuclear-trainwreck
In Asia, on his first major trip overseas as secretary of state, Mr. Tillerson has been heavily scripted in his few public comments, and he has gone out of his way to make sure he is not subject to questions beyond highly controlled news conferences, at which his staff chooses the questioners. In a breach of past practice, he traveled without the usual State Department press corps, which has flown on the secretary’s plane for roughly half a century.
Rex Tillerson Rejects Talks With North Korea on Nuclear Program, NYT, MARCH 17, 2017 SEOUL, South Korea — Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson ruled out on Friday opening any negotiation with North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile programs and said for the first time that the Trump administration might be forced to take pre-emptive action “if they elevate the threat of their weapons program” to an unacceptable level.
Military action against North Korea ‘an option’, warns Rex Tillerson
US secretary of state says policy of strategic patience has ended due to threat posed by Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme, Guardian, Justin McCurry , 17 Mar 17 , A pre-emptive US military strike against North Korea may be necessary if the threat posed by its nuclear weapons programme reaches a level that “requires action”, the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has warned.
Speaking in Seoul on the second day of a visit to the Asia-Pacific region, Tillerson said Washington’s policy of “strategic patience” towards the regime in Pyongyang had ended.
In his strongest comments yet on concerns that North Korea is moving closer towards developing a nuclear strike capability that could threaten the US mainland, Tillerson said “all options are on the table”.
“Certainly we do not want to, for things to get to military conflict,” he said at a joint press conference with South Korea’s foreign minister, Yun Byung-se.
“If they elevate the threat of their weapons programme to a level that we believe requires action, then that option’s on the table. “Let me be very clear: the policy of strategic patience has ended. We are exploring a new range of security and diplomatic measures.”
Those words hint at a departure from the North Korea policy pursued by the Obama administration, which sought to use multilateral sanctions to pressure the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, into agreeing to denuclearisation in exchange for aid and investment…….
Aside from repeating that Washington’s policy options remain open, Tillerson has not offered details of how the Trump administrationplans to address the rising threat from North Korean nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles…….
Tillerson faces potentially the most difficult leg of his three-country visit when he arrives in Beijing on Saturday…..https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/17/military-action-against-north-korea-an-option-warns-rex-tillerson
G20 drop reference to climate change http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/g20-drop-reference-to-climate-change/news-story/a5325d34d272030935c7b31033588f5d Reuters March 18, 2017
World financial leaders have dropped a reference to financing climate change from their draft communique, says an official taking part in a meeting of finance ministers and central bankers of the Group of 20 leading economies.
At their last meeting in July 2016 in the Chinese city of Chengdu, the G20 financial leaders said they encouraged all signatories of the Paris Agreement on climate change to bring the deal into force as soon as possible.
“Climate change is out for the time being,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
US President Donald Trump has called global warming a “hoax” concocted by China to hurt US industry and vowed to unpick the Paris climate accord that is supposed to curb rising temperatures.
Can Tillerson Crack North Korea?, Carnegie Endowment For International Peace, RICHARD SOKOLSKY, JOEL WIT , March 15, 2017, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Northeast Asia this week comes as tensions are running high in the region. North Korea recently conducted a simultaneous test of four ballistic missiles that could be used to attack South Korea and Japan, as well as U.S. forces stationed in those countries with nuclear weapons. The impending American deployment of an anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea to defend against a missile attack has provoked China’s strong opposition. South Korean president Park Geun-hye has just been removed from office for corruption, and a presidential election that could bring the opposition party to power will be held in May. While all this is happening, the Trump administration is doing some serious soul-searching about how to deal with North Korea. In short, Secretary Tillerson will face a diplomatic landscape that is littered with landmines on his first big troubleshooting mission overseas.
The diplomatic hat trick the Trump administration needs to pull off is finding a solution that can stop the growth of the North Korean threat, rebuild cooperation with Beijing and gain support from U.S. allies, particularly a new South Korean government. That’s a very tall order, especially since the overwhelming temptation in Washington will be to double down on sanctions, including measures against Chinese banks and businesses that have ties with North Korea, and to ratchet up rhetoric about military options for eliminating Pyongyang’s WMD threat. If that’s all Secretary Tillerson brings to Asia, his mission will fail. He will only create more running room for Pyongyang to move forward with its nuclear and missile programs by making cooperation between Washington and Beijing even more difficult to achieve.
The smart move would be to defuse tensions while laying the groundwork for a strategy that combines threats with leaving the door open a crack for renewed dialogue with North Korea. The first two stops on his trip—Tokyo and Seoul—will provide him with an opportunity to pledge Washington’s firm commitment to their security. But the real centerpiece of Secretary Tillerson’s trip will be Beijing. China’s public proposal last week that the United States suspend its joint military exercises—a key demand by North Korea—in return for Pyongyang suspending its nuclear and missile tests—a move that would serve Washington’s interests—signals that it is willing to play an active, even positive role in avoiding a “head-on collision,” in the words of Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi. While the Trump administration quickly rejected the proposal, rather than just leaving the matter there, Secretary Tillerson should pick up the diplomatic gauntlet.
Caution, always the watchword when dealing with North Korea, should be reflected in the secretary’s counterproposal. Rather than dive headlong into new negotiations, step one should be “talks about talks”: unconditional preliminary discussions to see if North Korea is willing to put its nuclear weapons program on the table. “Unconditional” is the key word. While the United States has insisted in the past that North Korea agree ahead of time to focus on giving up its nuclear weapons, Pyongyang’s view is that talks should be held without preconditions. There seems to be little if no downside in adopting that approach, since the North Koreans understand that their program will be Washington’s number one topic for discussion. Step two in this process will be a decision by President Trump and Kim Jong-un, based on the results of these preliminary talks, whether formal negotiations should resume. If North Korea proves willing to address Washington’s WMD concerns, formal negotiations can start. If North Korea is not serious, the United States should then move on to putting greater diplomatic pressure on China, enacting new sanctions, and taking further measures to protect Seoul and Tokyo.
Whether the Trump administration adopts this approach or just presses the policy default button—more sanctions and military measures—is the $64,000 question. Consequential secretaries of state solve the thorniest and most important national security problems through patient, skillful diplomacy and negotiations. Fair or not, Secretary Tillerson has been pilloried by the press and pundits as missing in action. This sensitive diplomatic mission offers him an opportunity to show his mettle. The last thing Washington needs, at a time when America’s global leadership and position in Asia is under challenge, is for Secretary Tillerson to leave the region empty-handed, or in worse shape than he found it.
This piece was originally published by the National Interest. http://carnegieendowment.org/2017/03/15/can-tillerson-crack-north-korea-pub-68278
Tillerson concedes US efforts to ‘denuclearise North Korea’ have failed
US secretary of state starts four-day Asia-Pacific trip by calling for new approach towards Pyongyang’s weapons programme, Guardian, Justin McCurry , 16 Mar 17 The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has conceded that 20 years of US attempts to “denuclearise” North Korea have failed, and called for a new approach towards the regime’s nuclear weapons programme.
Speaking in Tokyo at the start of a four-day visit to Japan, South Korea and China, Tillerson said on Thursday: “I think it’s important to recognise that the political and diplomatic efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to the point of denuclearisation have failed.
“That includes a period where the United States has provided $1.35bn in assistance to North Korea as an encouragement to take a different pathway.
“In the face of this ever-escalating threat, it is clear that a different approach is required. Part of the purpose of my visit to the region is to exchange views on a new approach.”
Tillerson said he and his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, had discussed a fresh approach to North Korea’s “dangerous and unlawful” nuclear programme, but neither revealed details.
US administration officials have said that all options are on the table, including military strikes, but Tillerson indicated that Washington would continue to demand the full implementation of UN sanctions and press China to make more effective use of its leverage with the North Korean regime.
Calls for an alternative to the multinational sanctions supported by previous Japanese and US administrations have grown amid worrying evidence that the measures have not prevented North Korea from edging closer to its aim of developing nuclear weapons capable of striking the US mainland.
Japan and South Korea, which host tens of thousands of American troops, are within range of North Korean missiles…….
China has objected to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) missile defence system, describing its advanced radar as a threat to its own security. Military officials in the US and South Korea insist that Thaad’s sole purpose is to thwart missile attacks from North Korea……..
Tillerson said making Japan the first stop on his visit “does underscore the importance that the United States places on the Japanese-US relationship, but also the importance of the Asia-Pacific region to the United States. The US-Japan alliance remains the cornerstone of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Tillerson was due to hold talks with Japan’s prime minister, Shinzō Abe, on Thursday evening. On Friday, he will meet South Korea’s acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, and visit the demilitarised zone – the heavily armed border separating South and North Korea.
In Beijing at the weekend, Tillerson is expected to attempt to calm Chinese fears over Thaad, play down talk of a possible trade war between the world’s two largest economies, and finalise plans for the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, to visit Trump in April. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/16/tillerson-concedes-us-efforts-to-denuclearise-north-korea-have-failed
UN nuclear disarmament talks: UK Government not attending discussions labelled ‘reckless and irresponsible’ ‘I don’t think it’s taking nuclear disarmament seriously,’ Green Party leader Caroline Lucas tells The Independent Harriet Agerholm @HarrietAgerholm 15 Mar 17 The Government has been called “reckless and irresponsible” after it refused to send a single representative to United Nations (UN) talks about a ban on nuclear weapons.
The Foreign Office revealed that no one from the UK attended a February meeting ahead of the negotiations and no one would go to the discussions when they take place later this month.
It was responding to a parliamentary question by Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, who told The Independent that it showed the Government was being “massively hypocritical” and failing in its commitment to working towards a world without nuclear weapons. …..
Donald Trump sends B-52 NUCLEAR BOMBERS to South Korea after North fires missiles at Japan and US warns of ‘overwhelming’ response https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3049573/donald-trump-sends-b-52-nuclear-bombers-to-south-korea-after-north-fires-missiles-at-japan-and-us-warns-of-overwhelming-response/
Secretary of Defence James Mattis said the US “remains steadfast in its commitment” to the defence of its allies By Jon Lockett 9th March 2017
Though the movement is the product of laudable motives, the ban treaty is likely to have little influence on the nuclear powers’ strategic force-structure decisions, which are the product of a complex mix of strategic and political considerations. On the other hand, a variety of nonproliferation problems would be unaffected by the ban or even worsened. For example, the creation of an alternative treaty structure governing nuclear weapons could lead to “forum-shopping,” in which a state might hope to dilute international condemnation over its noncompliance with the strict verification requirements
of the existing Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by participating in the new nuclear weapons ban treaty.
There is a relatively simple fix: Pro-ban states should insist that the new treaty contain an article reaffirming all participants’ obligations to the NPT. The article should include provisions that automatically rescind standing in the ban treaty should the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) find a signatory to be noncompliant with its NPT obligations.
The ban treaty will remain controversial. It should not be controversial, though, to say that a treaty aspiring to a nuclear-free world should first do no harm to the existing tools we have to prevent the spread of nuclear materials and technology to new states, which are centered around the NPT.
Negotiations on the text. At this early date, with negotiations on the text yet to begin, little is known about the format or content of the nuclear weapons ban treaty. The drafters will have to resolve an underlying tension. A simple and largely rhetorical treaty would maximize the number of signatories, and avoid blowback from states that resist new legal obligations. At the same time, some states will want the treaty to demonstrate substantive progress. This could include any number of steps, ranging from directly strengthening nonproliferation norms and institutions to encouraging the International Court of Justice to reconsider its 1996 decision—which found that nuclear deterrence is legally permissible—on the grounds that the ban movement represents an evolution of international customary law and norms of behavior. The stated aims of the movement and a desire for a greater number of signatures suggest that a simpler text is more likely. In any event, the treaty is unlikely to provide for development of a framework for verifiable disarmament.
Nuclear weapon states have largely declined to participate in the ban process (though the United States, the United Kingdom, India, and Pakistan sent delegations to the ban movement’s final preparatory conference in Vienna in 2014). Concerned that confrontational rhetoric from some ban states signals a desire to achieve a treaty at any cost, the nuclear weapon states have expressed concern that the ban movement “may negatively affect the prospects for consensus at future NPT Review Conferences.” Observers in nuclear weapon states and elsewhere remain concerned that ban treaty negotiations could undermine the authority of NPT obligations, establish conflicting obligations, erode the effectiveness of the existing NPT system to resolve nonproliferation concerns, lead to a destabilizing counterreaction in nuclear weapon states, or distract attention from other critical priorities for nuclear governance and strategic stability.
Forum-shopping under a ban treaty. Treaty proponents have denied that their pursuit of a ban would distract from the broader nonproliferation agenda, noting that many ban states have supported the treaty precisely because they are committed to nonproliferation. However, their good intention is not sufficient to ensure the ban treaty’s complementarity with the existing NPT regime. If negotiators do not include specific provisions in support of the NPT, they could inadvertently do it substantial harm by creating an opportunity for nuclear aspirants to “forum-shop.”……..
The NPT system—and the arsenal of other tools it enables, through the IAEA and other organizations—is irreplaceable. A nuclear weapons ban treaty will have its best chance to promote a world free of nuclear weapons if it strengthens the NPT. http://thebulletin.org/nuclear-weapons-ban-should-first-do-no-harm-npt10599
Donald Trump says nuclear threat from North Korea has entered ‘new phase’
US president told Japanese PM he is ‘100%’ with Tokyo as US moves Thaad missile defence system into South Korea following Pyongyang missile launches, Guardian, Justin McCurry The threat posed by North Korea to the US and its allies has entered a “new phase”, Donald Trump said on Tuesday, a day after the regime test-launched four ballistic missiles towards Japan.
In phone talks on Tuesday, Trump told Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, that the US stood “100%” with Tokyo after three of the intermediate-range missiles landed in the sea off Japan’s north-west coast.
“President Trump told me that the United States was with Japan 100%, and that he wanted his comments to be communicated to the Japanese people,” Abe told reporters at his residence. “He said he wanted us to trust him as well as the United States 100%.
“Japan and the United States confirmed that the latest missile firing by North Korea … is a clear challenge to the region and the international community, and that its threat has entered a new phase.”
The comments came as the US said the “first elements” of its controversial missile defence system had arrived in South Korea on Tuesday. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) anti-missile system is meant to intercept and destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles during the last part of their flights, the US Pacific Command said in a statement.
“Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday’s launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy Thaad to South Korea,” US Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris said.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing military sources, said the system could be operational as early as April, well ahead of schedule.
Trump and Abe spoke as the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, declared the launches a success and warned that they were part of a training exercise for an attack on US military bases in Japan, home to almost 50,000 American troops.
“The four ballistic rockets launched simultaneously are so accurate that they look like acrobatic flying corps in formation,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim as saying. The regime also released images of the missile launches, with a smiling Kim in attendance.
The launches were seen as a protest against the start of joint military exercises involving South Korea and the US that Pyongyang regards as a rehearsal for an invasion of North Korea.
A day after operation Foal Eagle began last Wednesday, North Korea’s army, deploying the same vitriolic language it reserves for the annual drills, warned that it was ready to “immediately launch its merciless military counteractions” if South Korean or US forces fired “even a single shell” into waters near the divided Korean peninsula…….
Trump has yet to state how he intends to address the growing North Korean threat from ballistic missiles, amid evidence that the regime is edging closer to acquiring the ability to marry a miniaturised nuclear warhead with a long-range missile capable of striking the US mainland.
The UN has imposed six rounds of sanctions since the North conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, but they have failed to dent the regime’s quest to build what it claims is a “defensive” nuclear arsenal.
Trump has not publicly commented on Monday’s missile launch, but his ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said on Twitter that the world “won’t allow” North Korea to continue on its “destructive path”.
Choi Kang, an analyst at the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said the launch was a warning to Tokyo. “North Korea is demonstrating that its target is not just limited to the Korean peninsula any more but can extend to Japan at any time and even the US,” he said. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/07/donald-trump-threat-north-korea-new-phase
North Korea warns joint US-South Korea military exercises are pushing region to ‘nuclear disaster’ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-07/nkorea-us-skorea-exercises-leading-to-nuclear-disaster/8330554 North Korea has warned that US-South Korean military exercises — which it called “the most undisguised nuclear war manoeuvrers” — are driving the Korean Peninsula and north-east Asia towards “nuclear disaster”.
- North Korea’s UN ambassador warns that “it may go over to an actual war”
- The White House announces more defence capabilities to be deployed to the region
- The raised tensions follow another series of North Korean ballistic missile tests
- On Monday some 50,000 North Koreans rally in support of mobilisation efforts
North Korea’s UN ambassador, Ja Song-nam, said in a letter to the UN Security Council on Monday the US was using nuclear-propelled aircraft carries, nuclear submarines, nuclear strategic bombers and stealth fighters in the joint exercises that began on March 1.
“It may go over to an actual war,” he warned of the military drills.
“Consequently, the situation on the Korean Peninsula is again inching to the brink of a nuclear war.”
Mr Ja again urged the Security Council to discuss the US-South Korea exercises and warned if it ignored North Korea’s request as it had in the past it would demonstrate the UN’s most powerful body was only a “political tool” of the United States.
The ambassador said the United States sought to convince public opinion that the joint exercise was a response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons, but said the US and South Korea carried out military drills numerous times before Pyongyang possessed its “nuclear deterrent”.
North Korea sent the letter on the manoeuvrers hours after North Korea fired four banned ballistic missiles earlier on Monday, in apparent reaction to the US-South Korean exercises.
Three of them landed in waters Japan claims as its exclusive economic zone, South Korean and Japanese officials said.
US President Donald Trump discussed plans to respond to the recent missile launches with South Korea’s acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, an official at Mr Hwang’s office said.
Mr Trump also had a phone call with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, reaffirming its alliance with Tokyo and condemning North Korea’s tests as a threat to regional security.
THAAD deployment begins
The US started to deploy the first elements of its advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system to South Korea in response to the missile tests, US Pacific Command said.
“Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday’s launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea,” US Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris said in a statement.
South Korea’s media cited the nation’s military as saying the THAAD deployment would be complete in one to two months and would be operational as early as April.
The move by the US military is likely to deepen the brewing conflict between South Korea and China, which has angrily opposed the THAAD deployment as destroying regional security balance.
Meanwhile, North Korean authorities gathered more than 50,000 people together on Monday to make a show of support for the country’s latest mobilisation campaign.
Mr Ja said the main reason the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) — the country’s official name — was equipping itself “with nuclear attack capabilities” and strengthening its nuclear deterrent forces was in self-defence against what he called the US “extreme anti-DPRK hostile police and nuclear threats and blackmails as well as manoeuvrers to enforce its nuclear weapons”.
North Korea’s UN Mission also issued a press statement denouncing and rejecting a report by the Security Council’s panel of experts that monitors UN sanctions against the DPRK.
The experts said North Korea was flouting sanctions by trading in prohibited weapons and other goods and using evasion techniques “that are increasing in scale, scope and sophistication”.
The DPRK Mission again insisted the sanctions “have no legal basis at all” and violate the country’s “lawful rights”.
White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon recently asserted that “deconstruction of the administrative state” was a primary goal of the Trump administration. And he meant it literally, which, when it comes to foreign policy, has potentially dangerous repercussions for the United States and the world.
Immediately after taking office, Donald Trump forced resignations by a number of top level State Department management officials. When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson came on board, he engaged in an abrupt reorganization of remaining management without explanation. And as of yet, the Trump team has put forth nominees for only 7 of the 118 positions within the State Department that require Senate confirmation. The majority of leadership positions remain unfilled, including almost every Ambassadorship.
One mid-level officer at State offered a troubling observation:
They really want to blow this place up. I don’t think this administration thinks the State Department needs to exist. They think Jared [Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law] can do everything. It’s reminiscent of the developing countries where I’ve served. The family rules everything, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs knows nothing.
During the campaign, Trump was asked who he consults with on foreign policy:
I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things. I know what I’m doing and I listen to a lot of people, I talk to a lot of people and at the appropriate time I’ll tell you who the people are. But my primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff.
Trump has also engaged his son-in-law in foreign policy, to the extent that Kushner has been characterized as “a shadow secretary of state, operating outside the boundaries of the State Department or the National Security Council.”
Simultaneous with his gutting of the State Department, Trump has also expressed his intention to seek an additional $54 billion in funding for the Defense Department.
Bruce Bartlett, a historian and economist, and a former aide to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, commented on the situation:
Statements about what U.S. foreign policy will look like under the Trump administration have been vague but deeply disconcerting. He has expressed deep-seated nationalism and an intention to change dramatically the role of the U.S. as a world leader. He has expressed doubt about U.S. commitment to long-standing allies, including NATO, and repeatedly asserted a desire to move closer to adversaries like Russia. He has casually discussed the use of nuclear weapons, including saying in one interview, “Somebody hits us within ISIS, you wouldn’t fight back with a nuke?” and reportedly asking three times in a single security briefing “why can’t” the U.S. use nuclear weapons.
Former foreign partners of the U.S. are already “weighing contingency plans and bracing for the worst” with regard to the Trump administration. Regardless of political party, Trump’s affection for military options, including nuclear weapons, and his intentional destruction of the mechanisms of diplomacy are a combination that should send a chill up the spines of all of us.
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