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China’s more rational response to the North Korean situation

China and the North Korean nuclear challenge, In Beijing’s eyes, the status quo is preferable to the upheaval that would result from action to topple Kim, Japan Times, BY RAMESH THAKUR, 17 Aug 17 GUANGZHOU, .ON A SUPERFICIAL READING, CHINA IS FEELING THE SQUEEZE TO TAKE EFFECTIVE ACTION TO BRING NORTH KOREA TO HEEL OVER ITS ROGUE NUCLEAR PROGRAM. ON A DEEPER READING, CHINA’S GAINS FROM THE CRISIS EXCEED THE COSTS. ON A WIDER READING, WASHINGTON DAILY VINDICATES PYONGYANG’S NUCLEAR CHOICES……..

Stability and conflict-avoidance in its immediate region remains a vital national interest for China’s development and peaceful rise. Heightened tensions over North Korea’s nuclear antics risk an uncontrolled armed conflict, strengthened U.S.-Japan-South Korea alliances and enhanced prospects of nuclear breakouts by Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

But China’s leverage over Pyongyang, although greater than that of others, is limited. Pyongyang has proven indifferent to what others think and impervious to external pressure. With 80 percent of trade with China, more U.N. sanctions amount to more sanctions on China. It is cost-free for Washington and Western countries to engage in virtue signaling by enacting still tougher international sanctions whose costs have to be borne by China.

If the sanctions succeed in destroying North Korea’s economy and engineer a collapse, millions of desperate refugees will flood into China and a crucial geographical buffer against U.S. forces will disappear.

By what right does Washington tolerate nuclear weapons in the hands of its ally Israel but demand that China force a rollback of North Korea’s? In Beijing’s eyes, the U.S. provokes a crisis but holds China responsible for solving it. U.S. threats also stir memories among elderly Chinese of how they were treated in the early year’s of China’s own nuclear program.

Any further weakening of Pyongyang’s links with Beijing and Moscow will feed North Korea leader Kim Jong Un’s siege paranoia and solidify reliance on nuclear weapons as the only assured guarantee of regime and personal survival. The U.S. record of infidelity to political package deals — the 1954 Geneva accords on Indochina, understandings with Russia on Eastern Europe on ending the Cold War, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s abandonment of his nuclear program — inspires distrust. Every fresh bellicose threat from Washington deepens Pyongyang’s dependence on and attachment to a nuclear deterrent that can strike the U.S. mainland.

On balance, therefore, in China’s calculation the status quo of a nuclearized North Korea, however unpalatable, is preferable to the upheaval that would result from military strikes or regime collapse. This is consistent with the sober conclusion of The Economist that all options for dealing with North Korea are bad but blundering into a war would be the worst………

Chinese President Xi Jinping is the very model of a circumspect, calm and statesmanlike leader urging restraint in rhetoric and action by both sides and calling for a phased program (freeze-for-freeze) to reduce tensions. Each new step on the escalation ladder does further damage to the U.S. reputation for responsible leadership while boosting China’s profile and prestige. It also obscures China’s own past culpability in enabling North Korea’s nuclear program while underlining the history of U.S. forcible regime change as the main driver of Pyongyang’s nuclear pursuit.

This, in turn, this amplifies the larger narrative of the diminishing U.S. presence in Asia…..

Japan and South Korea have managed to live for years with the reality of vulnerability to North Korea’s nukes. There is no reason why the U.S. cannot learn to do the same. Kim should be left in no doubt that an attack on any of the three allies would bring instant military strikes and elimination of the regime. But there will be no preventive strikes. Instead a policy of containment — which requires credible threats, not bluster — will be instituted along with risk avoidance and crisis stability measures that served all sides well during the Cold War.

The only genuine progress on eliminating nuclear threats will be a universal ban treaty followed by a verifiable and enforceable plan for destroying and dismantling nuclear weapons programs in all countries.

Professor Ramesh Thakur is director of the Center for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament in the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2017/08/17/commentary/world-commentary/china-north-korean-nuclear-challenge/#.WZYqftIjHGg

August 18, 2017 Posted by | China, North Korea, politics international | Leave a comment

In order to defy Trump, Kim Jong-un will probably target waters near Guam

Ex-CIA analyst Bruce Klinger predicts Kim Jong-un will target Guam to defy Trump. Australian Financial Review, by John Kehoe, 13 Aug 17, Kim Jong-un will probably defy Donald Trump and soon try to land missiles in waters near the US Pacific island of Guam to show off strength and test the US President’s resolve, according to one of the world’s top North Korean analysts.

Ahead of a trip this week to Australia to speak to government officials about the North Korean nuclear crisis, former senior US Central Intelligence Agency officer for Korea, Bruce Klinger, said President Trump could hasten or delay war in attempting to shoot down any missile around the US military island.

“Given the specificity of what North Korea is saying they are thinking of doing and about the number of seconds the flight would take I would think they will launch the missiles towards Guam,” Mr Klinger said in an interview with The Australian Financial Review.

“I don’t think it’s an attack. It would be a very, very provocative demonstration…….

Mr Klinger, who led the CIA’s Korea branch in 1994 when president Bill Clinton nearly went to war with Pyongyang to stop its nuclear weapons program, said it was debatable whether or not the US or its allies should unleash missile defence systems if a North Korean demonstration missile were targeted just outside US territory………

Mr Klinger will visit Canberra and Sydney and consult with government intelligence and defence officials about the rapidly escalating North Korea nuclear weapon crisis.

 He met North Korean officials in Europe earlier this year and recently testified before Congress…….

Unless there was very strong evidence that Mr Kim was about to strike the US, Mr Klinger opposed a preventative US attack and said it could have “catastrophic” consequences for millions of people.

“The President’s trying to demonstrate resolve to our allies and send a signal to North Korea and China,” Mr Klinger said.

“The wording is over the top and distracting.” http://www.afr.com/news/world/asia/excia-analyst-bruce-klinger-predicts-kim-jongun-will-target-guam-to-defy-trump-20170813-gxv3cc

August 18, 2017 Posted by | politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA does not grasp China’s point of view on the North Korea nuclear situation

US Talks to China about North Korea, But Does Not Listen, UCS, GREGORY KULACKI, CHINA PROJECT MANAGER AND SENIOR ANALYST | AUGUST 16, 2017The United States and China both want North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. The North Korean leadership continues to defy them both. The United States says it is willing to risk a war to stop them. China is not.

China’s top priority is preserving the peace, however uneasy that peace might be. A credible North Korean capability to launch a nuclear-armed ICBM may make US officials psychologically uncomfortable. But the Chinese leadership does not feel that increased US anxiety is a sufficient justification for starting a war that could conceivably kill hundreds of thousands of people and collapse Asia’s economy, even if no nuclear weapons were used.

China has made its priorities clear to both the United States and North Korea. An August 10 editorial published in China’s Global Times warned both sides against striking first. The editorial was not an official statement of Chinese government policy but it almost certainly was reviewed and approved at the highest level. It suggested to the leadership in Pyongyang that, “If North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral”. It also suggested to Washington that, “If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.”

China has also made it clear that it will not agree to sanctions that strangle North Korea’s economy. China supports economic penalties that punish North Korea for defying the United Nations and continuing its testing programs. And China is willing to work with the United States and the international community to deny North Korea access to critical technologies. But on August 5th, in an official statement made at the time of the vote on the latest round of UN sanctions, China emphasized, as it has many times in the past, that China “did not intend to negatively impact such non-military goods as food and humanitarian aid.”

US Refusal to Listen

Though China’s position on North Korea is clear and consistent, US policy is based on the assumption that China’s position will change.  On August 13th, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson penned an editorial in which they repeated the claim, believed by most US policy makers and analysts,  that China has “decisive diplomatic and economic leverage over North Korea.” The implication is that China can force the North Korean leadership to abandon its nuclear weapons program. The joint editorial reiterated a US policy announced earlier this year by Secretary Tillerson, who said the Trump administration was engaged in an unprecedented effort to “lean hard into China” in order to pressure its leaders to change their policy.

Presumably this means trying to compel China to take steps to strangle the North Korean economy. The United States reportedly attempted to include a crude oil embargo in the latest round of UN sanctions. But China refused, as it has in the past, to agree to sanctions that would have the kind of suffocating economic impact the United States believes would force North Korea to surrender its nuclear ambitions. In their editorial Tillerson and Mattis told their Chinese counterparts they expect China to “do more” than enforce the current round of UN sanctions. They want China to cut off North Korea’s “economic lifelines.”…..

History may well record that in this particular moment of high tension, China’s president acted with greater patience, skill and prudence than the president of the United States.

On August 14th, as tensions began to subside, an editorial in the overseas edition of China’s People’s Daily chastised both the United States and North Korea for “playing a game of chicken on the Korean peninsula.” That’s not the language of a country that lacks confidence in its current position or is overly concerned about upsetting the United States. http://allthingsnuclear.org/gkulacki/us-talks-to-china-about-north-korea-but-does-not-listen

August 18, 2017 Posted by | China, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani calls on European Union to actively support Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)

Iran’s Rouhani urges EU’s active role in JCPOA implementation, Trend, 16 August 2017 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called on the European Union to play a more active role to help the full implementation of the country’s nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), for the benefit of the Middle East and Europe, PressTV reported.

“The full implementation of the JCPOA benefits the EU and the region, so it is essential that the EU step up its efforts and role in this regard,” Rouhani said during a meeting with the new Austrian ambassador to Tehran, Stefan Scholz, on Wednesday.

Rouhani said the post-JCPOA era had offered a good opportunity for the further promotion of ties between Iran and the European countries, including Austria. Hailing Austria’s successful hosting of the Iranian nuclear negotiations, Rouhani said all parties would reap the benefits of the JCPOA.

“The JCPOA is a win-win agreement, which on the one hand, removed false concerns of certain Western countries, and on the other hand, lifted cruel sanctions against the Iranian nation,” the Iranian president said, adding that the agreement had brought about peace and provided a suitable economic condition for investors.

He said Iran was keen to seize the post-JCPOA opportunities for investment and expand economic ties, especially banking transactions.

The Austrian envoy, for his part, lauded the Tehran-Vienna ties as deeply-rooted and based on mutual respect, and said his country supported Iran’s policies at the international arena……https://en.trend.az/iran/politics/2787546.html 

August 18, 2017 Posted by | EUROPE, Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

China again urging calm dialogue, not angry words and actions, on the Korean peninsula

China urges all sides to put out fire, not add to flames, in North Korea standoff, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-missiles-china-idUSKCN1AV0N5?il=0Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Writing by Philip Wen; Editing by Nick Macfie, BEIJING (Reuters) AUGUST 15, 2017– China on Tuesday reiterated calls for restraint on the Korean peninsula, saying it hoped all sides could put out the flames, not add oil to the fire, with their words and actions.

Speaking at a daily press briefing in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying urged a peaceful resolution of the standoff.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has delayed a decision on firing missiles towards Guam while he waits to see what the United States does next, the North’s state media said on Tuesday, as South Korea’s president said Seoul would seek to prevent war by all means.

August 16, 2017 Posted by | China, politics international | Leave a comment

If USA imposes new sanctions, Iran could abandon the nuclear agreement

Iran could quit nuclear deal in ‘hours’ if new U.S. sanctions imposed: Rouhani,  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-rouhani-idUSKCN1AV0LWDUBAI (Reuters), 14 Aug 17  – Iran could abandon its nuclear agreement with world powers “within hours” if the United States imposes any more new sanctions, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday.“If America wants to go back to the experience (of imposing sanctions), Iran would certainly return in a short time — not a week or a month but within hours — to conditions more advanced than before the start of negotiations,” Rouhani told a session of parliament broadcast live on state television.

Iran says new sanctions that the United States has imposed on it breach the agreement it reached in 2015 with the United States, Russia, China and three European powers in which it agreed to curb its nuclear work in return for the lifting of most sanctions.

The U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on six Iranian firms in late July for their role in the development of a ballistic missile program after Tehran launched a rocket capable of putting a satellite into orbit.

In early August, U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law new sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea passed by the U.S. Congress. The sanctions in that bill also target Iran’s missile programs as well as human rights abuses.

The United States imposed unilateral sanctions after saying Iran’s ballistic missile tests violated a U.N. resolution, which endorsed the nuclear deal and called upon Tehran not to undertake activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such technology.

It stopped short of explicitly barring such activity.

Iran denies its missile development breaches the resolution, saying its missiles are not designed to carry nuclear weapons.

“The world has clearly seen that under Trump, America has ignored international agreements and, in addition to undermining the (nuclear deal), has broken its word on the Paris agreement and the Cuba accord…and that the United States is not a good partner or a reliable negotiator,” Rouhani said.

Trump said last week he did not believe that Iran was living up to the spirit of the nuclear deal.

August 16, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

What would be the process, if Trump decides to launch anuclear attack?

President Trump holds the ‘nuclear football’ but what is the process to launch an attack? 9 News, Aug 15, 2017 On January 20 Donald Trump was inaugurated as President, giving the former reality star the sole authority to launch a nuclear attack.

After being sworn in, an aide who had arrived with outgoing president Barack Obama carrying a satchel containing a briefcase, known as “the nuclear football”, moved quietly to Trump’s side.

The symbolism was clear: Trump now had complete control of the launch codes for a strategic nuclear strike.

 It was a moment Trump had been waiting for – indeed, even thinking about for a long time……..

And it seems not all US politicians have confidence in the current system.

Ted Lieu – a Democratic member of the US House of Representatives – has filed a proposal to require congressional approval before the president could launch a first nuclear strike, labelling the current process “unconstitutional”.

“Right now one person can launch thousands of nuclear weapons, and that’s the president. No one can stop him. Under the law, the secretary of defense has to follow his order. There’s no judicial oversight, no congressional oversight,” Lieu said.

But what exactly is the current process to launch a nuclear attack? The current approval process dates back to after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan to end World War II.

The Atomic Energy Act of 1946, signed by President Harry Truman, gave the president full responsibility over the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

That means, the president can use nuclear weapons with a single verbal order – an order that cannot be overridden.

Unlike other executive branch decisions, there are very limited checks and balances to launching a nuclear strike.

While Lie argues the current process is unconstitutional, the answer to that is not definitive – with possible answers lying in murky territory.

The American Constitution allows the president to use significant military force without congressional approval, if it is in self-defence.

That suggests North Korea would have to attack the US, or a US territory, such as Guam, first before Trump could legally pull the trigger on a nuclear retaliation.

However, a wrinkle in that comforting thought is the Korean War.

The Korean War which ran from 1950 to 1953 did not ever formally end – rather it ended with an armistice, with a peace treaty scheduled in Geneva in 1954 never being signed by the two parties.

Therefore, Trump could still attack North Korea first using the argument the US is already at war with the despot regime.While Trump may be able to launch a nuclear strike against North Korea on his say alone, the 1973 War Powers Resolution requires the president to have or to gain congressional approval to send troops to a foreign territory for combat purposes.

9RAW: Trump threatens ‘big, big trouble’ for North Korea

While the president can send the troops without the approval of Congress, the president then requires to get a yes otherwise they must terminate combat within 60 to 90 days.

While the Western world watch the continued exchange of verbal blows between North Korea and the US – a comment made by Trump in 1984, at the height of the Cold War, when the now President told a Washington Post reporter he wanted to be put in charge of US-Russia nuclear arms negotiations.

“It would take an hour-and-a-half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles,” Trump said. “I think I know most of it anyway.”

In March last year, Trump asserted he would be the last person to use nuclear.

“I’m not going to take cards off the table. We have nuclear capability,” he said.

“The last person to use nuclear would be Donald Trump. That’s the way I feel. I think it is a horrible thing. The thought of it is horrible. But I don’t want to take anything off the table. We have to negotiate. There will be times maybe when we’re going to be in a very deep, very difficult, very horrible negotiation.”

It’s a negotiation the world is watching now as North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un continues to move ahead with a plan to strike an area around US territory Guam with four missiles.

August 15 could see North Korea begin preparations to launch four intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missiles near Guam, should Kim follow through on his rhetoric.

The rogue state’s head said today he will watch the actions of the United States for a while longer before making a decision, according to North Korea’s official news agency.

Kim said: “The United States, which was the first to bring numerous strategic nuclear equipment near us, should first make the right decision and show through actions if they wish to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula and prevent a dangerous military clash.”The ball seems to be sitting firmly in Trump’s court – and the world watches to see if he becomes the president to open the ‘nuclear football’.http://www.9news.com.au/world/2017/08/15/13/17/trump-north-korea-nuclear-codes

August 16, 2017 Posted by | politics, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Wuth nuclear power fading in Europe, is it time to dissolve Euratom?

Energy Transition 11th Aug 2017, Since the 1950s, the Euratom Treaty has encouraged large investments into
nuclear energy projects and funding for nuclear research. In all this time,
the treaty was never revised to suit present-day demands.

The trend towards cheaper renewable energy is ignored, while millions of euros that go
towards nuclear research are legitimated. Cordula Büsch takes a look at
why the Euratom treaty needs to be reformed, if not abolished.

Theresa May has explicitly mentioned in her letter to the EU Council which officially
triggered article 50 in March that the UK will leave the Euratom treaty,
despite Euratom membership not being connected to EU membership.

Perhaps this can be taken as an opportunity, a wake-up call, to finally discuss the
dissolving of Euratom altogether. Just like the Brexit negotiations, this
will bear many challenges and open questions, such as the future of the
long-term ITER project to build a fusion reactor. In 2012-2013 Euratom
funded the ITER project with the substantial amount of EUR 2.2 billion.

Nonetheless, it should be a necessity to discuss the future of Euratom,
especially now at a time when demands to reform the EU are voiced by the
remaining 27 members. The current trend shows that more European countries
are thriving to shut down their nuclear power plants. There are also more
countries without nuclear power plants among the EU27 than those keeping up
their support of nuclear energy.

With Belgium and Germany joining the group
of countries without nuclear power plants within the next 8 years, this
group will entail 15 member states. The support for nuclear energy is
steadily shrinking and with the UK, a nuclear power nation is soon leaving
the EU, which changes proportionalities within the union. Even France has
issued the Energy Transition for Green Growth bill preparing to cut down
nuclear energy to 50% by 2025.

https://energytransition.org/2017/08/the-euratom-treaty-an-outdated-source-for-legitimisation-of-nuclear-energy/

August 16, 2017 Posted by | EUROPE, politics international | Leave a comment

Avoiding the fate of Saddam Hussein and Gadhafi – this is Kim Jong-un’s nuclear strategy

Kim Jong-un views nuclear weapons as a way to escape fate of Saddam and Gadhafi  North Korea’s nuclear weapons unnerve the world, but are a security blanket for the regime, By Mark Gollom, CBC News   Aug 13, 2017 William Tobey, a nuclear non-proliferation expert who has taken part in past Six Party Talks with North Korea, says anyone who claims to perfectly understand the motivations of the North Korean government, and does not live in Pyongyang, is probably blowing smoke.

But Tobey and most experts agree that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s No. 1 goal is self-preservation. For Kim, the pursuit of nuclear weapons and a missile program is a rational way to stave off attempts by the U.S. to overthrow his regime.

“I think most people ascribe a motivation of regime preservation to their nuclear programs,” Tobey said. “So it would be used to deter any attacks that would be aimed at dislodging the government.”

Nuclear ‘treasure sword’

The North Korean government has said as much in its public statements, Tobey said, and those should be taken “at face value.”

A commentary published by North Korea’s state KCNA news agency in January last year stated that “history proves that powerful nuclear deterrence serves as the strongest treasure sword for frustrating outsider’s aggression.”

The piece suggested North Korea fears suffering the same demise as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya, that neither could “escape the fate of destruction after being deprived of their foundations of nuclear development and giving up undeclared programs of their own accord.”

Philip Yun, a former senior adviser to two U.S. co-ordinators for North Korea at the Department of State, said that he has been in hundreds of hours of negotiations with the North Koreans. “Every single time during that period, they talked about [Slobodan] Milosevic and they talked about Saddam Hussein and subsequently talked about Gadhafi — if they had nuclear weapons they’d still be there.”…….

Preserving the dynasty

If North Korea truly believes an attack is imminent, it would launch its own strike, believing it has nothing to lose, said Tom Collina, director of policy at Ploughshares Fund, a think-tank dedicated to reducing the dangers of nuclear weapons.

But North Korea would not attack “out of the blue,” because it knows that would be suicidal, the end of the regime, he said…….

Tobey said he believes the “no viable options” view is a myth and that the U.S., South Korea and Japan need to step back and take a deep breath. North Korea, he reminded, is a tiny country, with a tiny economy, and it knows the regime would end if it deployed any serious weapons.

“We managed to deter the Soviet Union for decades with basically rough parity in the two military arsenals. There’s no comparison with U.S. and North Korea military capabilities. We can deter them.” http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/north-korea-nuclear-weapons-donald-trump-1.4244020

August 14, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Donald Trump: USA ready to act militarily against North Korea: Merkel calls for de-escalation of the rhetoric

Donald Trump says US military solutions ‘locked and loaded’ against North.  Korea.news.com.au , AUGUST 12, 2017 US PRESIDENT Donald Trump says North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will “regret it and regret it fast” if he attacks the US air bases in Guam or any of America’s allies.

August 12, 2017 Posted by | Germany, Pakistan, politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

What Washington should do about North Korea

Washington Should Step Back In Korea: Is Donald Trump Or Kim Jong-Un More Dangerous? Forbes, 11 AUG 17 “……..,What should Washington do?

  • President Trump should stop competing in the crazed rhetoric contest. Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un shouts to get noticed and divert attention from his country’s many weaknesses. America’s president needs do neither. To the contrary, by doing so the U.S. leader demeans himself and his country.
  • The U.S. should begin phasing out both its security treaty with and military garrison in the ROK. Seoul long has been able to defend itself. America’s defense commitment is what puts this nation in the middle of one of the world’s worst geopolitical hotspots. Protecting prosperous and populous friends is not worth the risk of nuclear war.
  • Washington should sit down with the People’s Republic of China, acknowledge its interests, and offer to make a deal. For instance, propose an American military withdrawal from the Korean peninsula in exchange for greater Chinese pressure on the North. The U.S. cannot expect the PRC to drop its only ally and aid American attempts at regional containment because that’s what Washington desires.
  • American policymakers should consider whether encouraging South Korean and Japanese development of countervailing nuclear arsenals is better than maintaining an increasingly frayed “nuclear umbrella” over Washington’s allies. Frankly, neither Seoul nor Tokyo is worth risking the loss of Los Angeles or Seattle. There are no good solutions to a nuclear DPRK. Further proliferation might be the best “second best” answer available.
  • Negotiate with North Korea. Talking would reduce the sense of threat felt by the North. Dialogue also would explore areas of potential agreement even if Pyongyang refuses to consider abandoning its nukes and missiles. For instance, a verifiable freeze would be uncomfortable, but the U.S. and world would be better off facing a North with a stable nuclear arsenal of 20 weapons than one of, say, 100 weapons and growing, which some analysts fear could be the case in just a few more years.
  • Despite the global freak-out over the war of words between Supreme Leader Kim and President Trump, there is good news. Pyongyang wants to avoid, not wage, war against America. (Hopefully the Trump administration also wants to avoid a conflict.) If the U.S. was not “over there,” seemingly threatening military action and regime change, the DPRK almost certainly would ignore Washington. But as long as the U.S. is present militarily, prepared to intervene in any conflict, and ever-ready to oust offending governments for any number of reasons, the Kim regime will look to deterrence as its only sure defense.

    Peace should remain America’s overriding objective regarding the Korean peninsula. That would most likely be achieved by Washington calming its rhetoric and stepping back militarily. If President Trump really wants to put America first, he will move the U.S. out of the firing line in Korea and Northeast Asia.https://www.forbes.com/sites/dougbandow/2017/08/11/washington-should-step-back-in-korea-is-donald-trump-or-kim-jong-un-more-dangerous/#20326a737df1

August 12, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Facing reality: North Korea already is a nuclear weapons state

Treating North Korea as another rival nuclear power would involve using the tools the U.S. has employed for decades to deal with such adversaries: containment, deterrence, and measures designed to lower the risk of a small incident escalating into an all-out confrontation. It might be the least bad option there is left

Is It Time to Accept the Reality of a Nuclear-Armed North Korea? By John Cassidy, 12 Aug 17, “…….A year ago, the Institute for Science and International Security estimated that Pyongyang had between thirteen and twenty-one nuclear warheads; since then, the number has likely grown. Last month, the North Koreans carried out two tests of ballistic missiles that, at least in theory, could hit parts of the U.S. mainland. The tests were apparently successful. And, according to a recent report in the Washington  Post, the Defense Intelligence Agency believes that Kim’s regime has developed a miniature nuclear warhead that could soon be fitted to these long-range missiles……In a presentation to the Asia Society last week, John Park, a director of the Korea Working Group at the Belfer Center, pointed out the Kim had been entirely consistent in his desire to obtain a nuclear deterrent, which, in addition to safeguarding his regime, would enable North Korea to avoid a costly conventional-arms race and focus on economic development. Park said that many Chinese officials privately sympathized with the North Korean policy………

August 12, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Why Washington should step back in Korea

Washington Should Step Back In Korea: Is Donald Trump Or Kim Jong-Un More Dangerous? Forbes, 11 AUG 17, President Donald Trump has put all of Asia and much of the world on edge. All week he’s gone mano-a-mano with Kim Jong-un, blustering like the frightened head of an international micro-state instead of the representative of the world’s most important and powerful nation. Who imagined that people around the globe would be left wondering who was more stable: the 33-year-old “Supreme Leader” of the world’s only communist monarchy or the duly elected president of the United States, long considered the leader of the free world?

There is no contest between the two nations, which helps explain North Korea’s bluster as it attempts to develop a deterrent against U.S. attack. America’s GDP last year was almost $19 trillion, around 650 times that of the North. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s 25 million produce about as much as the residents of Anchorage, Alaska, or Portland, Maine. A weltmacht the DPRK is not.

Although North Korea devotes something like a quarter of its GDP to the military, its conventional armed forces are characterized more by quantity than quality. The DPRK probably has around 20 nukes, though they are of uncertain status and deliverability. Its practical missile capabilities are greatest at shorter ranges. Although Pyongyang is developing missiles capable of reaching America, they are not yet capable of successfully carrying warheads or targeting cities or bases.

In contrast, Washington spends upwards of 100 times as much as Pyongyang on the military. One carrier group possesses sufficient firepower to devastate the DPRK. And the U.S. sports the world’s most sophisticated nuclear arsenal. Only a few of America’s 1411 warheads would be necessary to turn Kim Jong-un’s kingdom into a proverbial “lake of fire,” which Pyongyang has so often threatened to do to others.

Of course, critical to deterrence is whether Kim recognizes the actual balance of power. Some Americans worry that he may believe his government’s bombastic, splenetic, confrontational, and fantastic rhetoric. But the near hysterical language with which Pyongyang addresses the world is not new. Even without deployable nuclear weapons and capable missiles the DPRK promised to destroy its opponents. A few years ago the North circulated a video purporting to show the planned destruction of New York City. Brinkmanship long has been the chief hallmark of North Korean policy.

 Moreover, there is no evidence that the North’s Supreme Leader is blind, ignorant, or suicidal, even though he is calculating, cruel, and ruthless. But so far he has played a weak hand well. He succeeded his father in December 2011 when just shy of his 28th birthday. Surrounded by experienced, tough, and older associates of his father, he out-maneuvered them all, even executing some 140 top officials, including his uncle and supposed mentor.

Kim’s byungjin policy, essentially “parallel development” of both the economy and nuclear weapons, so far has succeeded. Far more than his father he has pursued economic reform, with positive results which I observed while visiting the capital in June. In fact, the Bank of [South] Korea reports that 2016 saw the North’s fastest growth in 17 years. (Overall the DPRK remains poor, especially the countryside, where those of dubious ideological reliability are contained.) Moreover, nuclear and missile developments proceed faster than ever. Kim clearly prefers his virgins in this world rather than the next, and thus can be deterred.

Nor is the regime’s desire for nukes and missiles evidence of insanity. (The fact that a political system is criminal does not mean that it is irrational.) The DPRK once matched South Korea but over the last half century has fallen dramatically behind: the Republic of Korea possesses about 40 times the GDP and twice the population of the North. The ROK is technologically advanced, integrated into the international system, beneficiary of abundant economic and diplomatic support, and, most important, backed by the globe’s super/hyperpower.

In Pyongyang North Korean officials denounced Washington’s “hostile policy,” backed by “military threats” and “nuclear threats.” All of which is true, though, of course, the U.S. responded to the DPRK’s own “hostile” behavior. The U.S. intervened to defend the Republic of Korea after the 1950 North Korean invasion and would have liberated the entire peninsula had China not entered the conflict. Gen. Douglas MacArthur then advocated using nuclear weapons, a threat also employed by the incoming Eisenhower administration to “encourage” Beijing to conclude an armistice.

Once that agreement was reached, the U.S. forged a “Mutual Defense” treaty (in practice it runs only one way, of course) with the South and maintained a garrison, backed by nuclear weapons on the peninsula (since withdrawn), joint military exercises with the South, and ample reinforcements nearby. Such measures obviously threatened the North Korean regime.

Ironically, the end of the Cold War enhanced the danger facing Pyongyang. First Moscow and then Beijing opened diplomatic relations with South Korea, while the U.S. and Japan continued to isolate the DPRK, leaving the latter truly alone, without any real allies or even friends, other than fellow impoverished but brutal hellholes such as Cuba.

Moreover, after the demise of the Soviet Union America no longer restrained itself militarily. Indeed, no nation has used force more often over the last three decades. Washington ousted governments in Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya; threatened an invasion to overthrow Haiti’s government; sought to capture de facto rulers in Somalia; dismantled Serbia; and backed the overthrow of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Washington used non-military means to support “color revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine and later encourage a street revolution against the latter’s elected president. Kim has good reason to be paranoid, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

At the time Pyongyang took special note of America’s and Europe’s willingness to take advantage of Libyan Muammar Khadafy’s weakness and enable his ouster by armed opponents. This after he was rewarded by Washington and feted in Europe for trading away his government’s missiles and nukes and battling al-Qaeda. So much for Washington keeping its deals.

Nuclear weapons obviously offer North Korea a useful tool to defend itself in a dangerous and uncertain part of the world. Even China is at best a frenemy and Kim wants to rule an independent nation, not a de facto Chinese province. Nukes also give Pyongyang status, enable neighborly extortion, and please the military. While alone they provide local deterrence, Kim no doubt fears the attitude expressed by a shockingly callous Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who assumed the U.S. could freely attack the North since the conflict would be in Northeast Asia, “not here in America.” Long-range missiles would allow North Korea to share the slaughter with the U.S. homeland…….https://www.forbes.com/sites/dougbandow/2017/08/11/washington-should-step-back-in-korea-is-donald-trump-or-kim-jong-un-more-dangerous/#20326a737df1

August 12, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | 2 Comments

President Donald Trump’s “loose rhetoric” on North Korea could have deadly consequences

Trump’s rhetoric could see U.S. ‘blunder into a war’ with North Korea, warns former negotiator, CBC Radio, 11 Aug 17 U.S. President Donald Trump’s “loose rhetoric” on North Korea could have deadly consequences, says the former U.S. defence secretary who negotiated with Pyongyang for the Clinton administration.

“In any war with North Korea, North Korea would surely lose. They know that, so they’re not seeking a war,” William Perry told As It Happens guest host Rosemary Barton.

“But we could blunder into a war, and this kind of loose rhetoric probably makes that more likely than less likely.”

‘Even with conventional weapons, it could be at least as bad as the first Korean War, in which more than a million people died.’– William Perry, former U.S. defence secretary 

Perry says he came close to brokering a deal with the regime in 1999 to not develop a nuclear arsenal, but negotiations came to a halt when George W. Bush took over the White House from Bill Clinton.

He spoke with Barton about the escalating threats being exchanged by Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un. Here is part of their conversation. …….

Unlike the first Korean War, this one always has the potential of escalating into a nuclear war.

I do not believe that North Korea would initiate any attack with nuclear weapons because I do not believe the leadership is suicidal. They’re not seeking martyrdom; they’re seeking to preserve the regime in power. But they’re playing a very dangerous game.

Do you think, as some have suggested, there would be any consideration or benefit to an American pre-emptive strike?

That would be exceedingly dangerous. It would almost certainly lead to a North Korean military response on South Korea

That could very well then escalate into a general Korean war, with the horrible consequences of the first Korean War and beyond that.

We have learned today, according to an Associated Press report, that the Trump administration has had some backchannel diplomacy with North Korea for a number of months with Joseph Yun, the U.S. envoy for North Korea. What does that tell you?

I would certainly hope it were true that besides dealing with this with bluster, we’re dealing with it with a sober, cautious attempt to enter into a dialogue with North Korea to see if we can resolve this crisis through diplomacy instead of through a military conflict. That’s why Yun is over there — to see if he can find a peaceful solution…….http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-friday-edition-1.4201412/trump-s-rhetoric-could-see-u-s-blunder-into-a-war-with-north-korea-warns-former-negotiator-1.4201420

August 12, 2017 Posted by | politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

China’s economic advantage in control of rare earths

Control of rare earths gives China a fresh economic advantage, Las Vegas Sun, By Llewellyn King, Aug. 10, 2017……China controls the world’s production and distribution of rare earths. It produces more than 92 percent of them and holds the world in its hand when it comes to the future of almost anything in high technology.

Rare earths are great multipliers and the heaviest are the most valuable. They make the things we take for granted, from the small motors in automobiles to the wind turbines that are revolutionizing the production of electricity. For example, rare earths increase a conventional magnet’s power by at least fivefold. Strategically, they are the new oil.

Rare earths are also at work in smartphones and computers. Fighter jets and smart weapons, like cruise missiles, rely on them. In national defense, there is no substitute and no other supply source available…….

If President Donald Trump — apparently encouraged by his trade adviser Peter Navarro, and his policy adviser Steve Bannon — is contemplating a trade war with China, rare earths are China’s most potent weapon.

A trade war moves the rare-earths threat from existential to immediate.

In a strange regulatory twist the United States — and most of the world — won’t be able to open rare-earths mines without legislation and an international treaty modification. Rare earths are often found in conjunction with thorium, a mildly radioactive metal and a large regulatory problem.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency have defined thorium as a nuclear “source material” that requires special disposition. Until these classifications, thorium was disposed of along with other mine tailings. Now it has to be separated and collected. ….

Meanwhile, future disruptions from China won’t necessarily be in the markets; they could be in the obscure but vital commodities known as rare earths: China’s not-quite-secret weapon. https://lasvegassun.com/news/2017/aug/10/control-of-rare-earths-gives-china-a-fresh-economi/

August 12, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, China, politics international, RARE EARTHS | Leave a comment