Posted tagged ‘Trump and China’

Secret Document Reveals China Covertly Offering Missiles, Increased Aid to North Korea

January 2, 2018

Secret Document Reveals China Covertly Offering Missiles, Increased Aid to North Korea, Washington Free Beacon, January 2, 2017

Chinese President Xi Jinping / Getty Images

CIA spokesmen had no immediate comment on the document that could not be independently verified.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman did not return emails seeking comment.

Former State Department intelligence official John Tkacik, a China affairs specialist, said the document appears genuine and if confirmed as authentic would represent “a bombshell” disclosure.

Tkacik told the Free Beacon the document, may be “evidence that China has no real commitment to pressuring North Korea to give up nuclear weapons, and indeed sees North Korean nuclear arms as an additional strategic threat to the United States, one that China can claim no influence over.”

“Reading between the lines, it is clear that China views North Korea as giving it leverage with the U.S., so long as the U.S. believes that China is doing all it can do,” Tkacik said.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said if the document is authentic, “it reveals China’s policy to be completely cynical and utterly detached from its publicly stated position.”

“The White House would have to react accordingly,” he added.

********************************

China’s Communist Party adopted a secret plan in September to bolster the North Korean government with increased aid and military support, including new missiles, if Pyongyang halts further nuclear tests, according to an internal party document.

The document, labeled “top secret” and dated Sept. 15—12 days after North Korea’s latest underground nuclear blast—outlines China’s plan for dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue. It states China will allow North Korea to keep its current arsenal of nuclear weapons, contrary to Beijing’s public stance that it seeks a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

Chinese leaders also agreed to offer new assurances that the North Korean government will not be allowed to collapse, and that Beijing plans to apply sanctions “symbolically” to avoid punishing the regime of leader Kim Jong Un under a recent U.N. resolution requiring a halt to oil and gas shipments into North Korea.

A copy of the four-page Chinese-language document was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon from a person who once had ties to the Chinese intelligence and security communities. An English translation can be found here.

CIA spokesmen had no immediate comment on the document that could not be independently verified.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman did not return emails seeking comment.

Disclosure of the document comes amid reports China is continuing to send oil to North Korea in violation of United Nations sanctions, prompting criticism from President Trump. Trump tweeted last week that China was caught “red handed” allowing oil shipments to North Korea.

“There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korean problem if this continues to happen,” the president stated on Dec. 28.

Release of the classified internal document is unusual since China’s communist system imposes strict secrecy on all party policies. Exposure of the secret Central Committee directive could indicate high-level opposition within the party to current supreme leader Xi Jinping, who has consolidated more power than any leader since Mao Zedong.

China: Pressure on North Korea won’t work

China’s leaders, according to the document, concluded that international pressure will not force North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, estimated to be at least 20 warheads.

As a result, the Central Committee of the party directed its International Liaison Department, the organ in charge of communicating with foreign political parties, to inform Pyongyang of China’s continued backing.

The head of the Liaison Department, Song Tao, visited Pyongyang Nov. 17 and met with senior North Korean officials. North Korean state media did not provide details of the talks, other than to say issues of mutual concern were discussed.

The directive appears written in response to the United Nations Security Council resolution passed after the Sept. 3 North Korean nuclear test. Included among the resolution’s new sanctions are restrictions on oil and gas transfers, including a ban on transferring oil between ships in open ocean waters.

On the U.N. requirement to shut down oil and gas transfers from China to North Korea, the party document said after North Korean businesses in China will be closed under the terms of the latest U.N. resolution, “our country will not for the moment restrict Korea from entrusting qualified Chinese agencies from trade with Korea or conducting related trade activities via third countries (region).”

A directive ordered the Liaison Department to offer a promised increase in aid for “daily life and infrastructure building” and a one-time increase in funds for North Korea of 15 percent for 2018. Chinese aid will be then be increased annually from 2019 through 2023 by “no less than 10 percent over the previous year.”

The Chinese also promised the North Koreans that in response to calls to suspend all banking business with North Korea that the financial ban will “only apply to state-owned banks controlled by the central government and some regional banks.”

On military support, the document reveals that China is offering North Korean “defensive military construction” and “high level military science and technology.”

The weaponry will include “more advanced mid- and short-range ballistic missiles, cluster munitions, etc.,” the document said.

“Your department should at the same time seriously warn the Korean authority not to overdo things on the nuclear issue,” the document says.

“Currently, there is no issue for our country to forcefully ask Korea to immediately and completely give up its nuclear weapons. Instead, we ask Korea to maintain restraint and after some years when the conditions are ripe, to apply gradual reforms and eventually meet the requirement of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.”

Beijing to warn Kim of ‘punitive measures’

The document then directs the Liaison Department to warn that if North Korea insists on acting rashly, further punitive measures will be imposed on senior North Korean leaders and their family members.

The directive lists “requirements” for the Liaison Department to pursue, including informing the North Koreans of China’s “determination to protect the Korean government on behalf of the Central Committee of CPC.”

Liaison officials also were tasked with informing the North Koreans of promises of support and aid in exchange for Pyongyang making “substantial compromises on its nuclear issues.”

“According to the current deployment of world forces and the geographic position of the Korean Peninsula, to prevent the collapse of the Korean government and the possible direct military confrontation with western hostile forces led by the United States on the Korean Peninsula caused by these issues, our country, Russia, and other countries will have to resort to all the effective measures such as diplomatic mediation and military diversion to firmly ensure the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and to prevent ‘chaos and war,’ which is also the common position held firmly by our country, Russia, and others,” the report says.

The document states that if the United States “rushes to war” against North Korea, the conflict would have a huge impact on the political and economic state of the region and the world.

“At such a time, the security of Japan and (South) Korea can be hardly taken care of, especially the security of Seoul, the (South) Korean capital,” the document says.

“Also, our country, Russia, and others will absolutely not look on the chaotic situation on the Korean Peninsula without taking any action.”

The document states that China believes that “theoretically” western powers will not use military force to overthrow the Kim Jong Un regime to solve the nuclear issue.

“However, international provocations by Korea via repeatedly conducting nuclear tests has imposed huge international pressure on our country that is continuously accumulating and becoming unbearably heavy,” the document says.

‘Stern warning’ and ‘assurances’

The deal outlined in the document to be communicated to Pyongyang includes a “stern warning” combined with “related assurances to Korea at the same time.”

“That is, currently Korea will not have to immediately give up its nuclear weapons, that so long as Korea promises not to continue conducting new nuclear tests and immediately puts those promises into action, our country will immediately increase economic, trade, and military assistance to Korea, and will add or continue providing the following benefits,” the report states.

The first item then lists greatly increasing trade with North Korea to keep the government operating and to raise the living standard of North Koreans.

“As for products under international sanctions such as crude oil products (except for the related products clearly defined as related to nuclear tests), under the condition of fully ensuring domestic demand of Korea, we will only make a symbolic handling or punishment,” the Party document said.

Past document leaks have included party documents on decision making related to the 1989 military crackdown on unarmed protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square published in the 2001 book The Tiananmen Paper.

A more recent disclosure in October was the release of an internal Communist Party document  authorizing the Ministry of State Security, China’s civilian spy service, to dispatch 27 intelligence officers to the United States to “crush hostile forces.” That document was made public by exiled Chinese businessman-turned-dissident Guo Wengui.

Orville Schell, a China specialist who worked on the Tiananmen Papers, said he could not authenticate the document but said it has “an air of veracity.”

“The language in Chinese is spot on party-speak, and the logic of the argument would appear to be congruent with the current line and what is happening,” said Schell, director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York.

Columbia University Professor Andrew Nathan also could not authenticate the document but said it looks genuine. “The typeface, layout, header, seal, vocabulary, and diction are all those of an official inner party document,” said Nathan who also worked on the Tiananmen papers.

Nathan said the document appeared to be a directive for International Liaison Department director Song Tao’s mission to Pyongyang two months later, and Beijing’s attempt to press North Korea to halt nuclear tests using a combination of incentives and warnings.

The Chinese language version uses some terms that reveal China’s contempt for North Korea, such as the term “ruling authorities” for the Kim regime, something Nathan said is an “unfriendly” tone.

Former State Department intelligence official John Tkacik, a China affairs specialist, said the document appears genuine and if confirmed as authentic would represent “a bombshell” disclosure.

Tkacik told the Free Beacon the document, may be “evidence that China has no real commitment to pressuring North Korea to give up nuclear weapons, and indeed sees North Korean nuclear arms as an additional strategic threat to the United States, one that China can claim no influence over.”

“Reading between the lines, it is clear that China views North Korea as giving it leverage with the U.S., so long as the U.S. believes that China is doing all it can do,” Tkacik said.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said if the document is authentic, “it reveals China’s policy to be completely cynical and utterly detached from its publicly stated position.”

“The White House would have to react accordingly,” he added.

Trump criticizes past N. Korea policies

Trump last week tweeted a video showing then-President Bill Clinton praising the 1994 Agreed Framework that Clinton said would freeze and ultimately dismantle the North Korean nuclear program.

The video also included a clip of Trump on NBC’s “Meet the Press” from 1999 urging action then to stop the North Korean nuclear program in its early stages.

Trump told the New York Times after the tweet he was disappointed China is secretly shipping oil to North Korea. “Oil is going into North Korea. So I’m not happy about it,” he said, adding that he has been “soft on China” for its unfair trade practices and technology theft.

“China has a tremendous power over North Korea. Far greater than anyone knows,” Trump said Dec. 28, adding that “China can solve the North Korea problem, and they’re helping us, and they’re even helping us a lot, but they’re not helping us enough.”

“If they don’t help us with North Korea, then I do what I’ve always said I want to do,” the president added. “China can help us much more, and they have to help us much more … We have a nuclear menace out there, which is no good for China, and it’s not good for Russia. It’s no good for anybody.”

The Trump administration has been signaling for months it is prepared to use military force against North Korea to rid the country of nuclear arms and missile delivery systems.

North Korea conducted several long-range missile tests in 2017 that U.S. officials have said indicate rapid progress toward building a missile capable of targeting the United States with a nuclear warhead.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Dec. 29 that he has drawn up military options for operations against North Korea.

“I don’t speculate, as you know, about future operations by our forces,” Mattis told reporters. “But with three U.N. Security Council resolutions in a row, unanimously adopted, each one has put significantly more pressure on the North Korean regime for its provocations, for its outlaw activities. I think you will see increased pressure. What form that pressure takes in terms of physical operations is something that will be determined by the Congress and government.”

Asked if the United States is closer to war with North Korea, Mattis said: “You know, I provide military options right now. This is a clearly a diplomatically led effort with a lot of international diplomatic support. It’s got a lot of economic buttressing, so it’s not like it’s just words. It’s real activities.”

China backs N. Korea as buffer zone

The party directive states that China regards North Korea as a strategic “buffer zone” needed to “fend off hostile western forces.” Ideologically, North Korea also is important to China in promoting its vision of “socialism with Chinese characteristics led by our Party” and identifying North Korea as “irreplaceable.”

According to the document, the Party regards the “continuity of the Korean government,” maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula and one of its unwavering goals.

“This issue is about the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the fundamental interests of our Party, our country, and all Chinese people,” the document concludes, adding that the department should quickly coordinate with the Foreign and Commerce Ministries and other agencies to develop an operational plan to implement the policy “to ensure the sense of responsibility, to strictly maintain related confidentiality, and to seriously accomplish the heavy tasks entrusted by the Central Committee of CPC.”

The document bears the seal of the General Office of the Communist Party Central Committee, the office in charge of administrative affairs. Copies were sent to the administrative offices of the National People’s Congress, State Council, and Central Military Commission.

The internal document states that the new policy toward the North Korean nuclear issue is based on consultations among key power organs within the ruling party, including the Central Committee and State Council, along with what was termed “the guiding spirit” of meetings held by the National Security Commission, headed by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

“After research and assessment, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China decided to authorize your department to lead and organize the communication and coordination work with the Korean administration on its nuclear issues,” the document states.

Expect America’s Tensions with China and Russia to Rise in 2018

December 30, 2017

Expect America’s Tensions with China and Russia to Rise in 2018, Gatestone Institute, John Bolton, December 30, 2017

Yesterday’s 2017 review and forecast for 2018 focused on the most urgent challenges the Trump administration faces: the volatile Middle East, international terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Today, we examine the strategic threats posed by China and Russia and one of President Trump’s continuing priorities: preserving and enhancing American sovereignty.

Russia and China will be among the Trump administration’s key strategic challenges in the coming year. Photo: Wikipedia.

China has likely been Trump’s biggest personal disappointment in 2017, one where he thought that major improvements might be possible, especially in international trade. Despite significant investments of time and attention to President Xi Jinping, now empowered in ways unprecedented since Mao Tse Tung, very little has changed in Beijing’s foreign policy, bilaterally or globally. There is no evidence of improved trade relations, or any effort by China to curb its abuses, such as pirating intellectual property, government discrimination against foreign traders and investors, or biased judicial fora.

Even worse, Beijing’s belligerent steps to annex the South China Sea and threaten Japan and Taiwan in the East China Sea continued unabated, or even accelerated in 2017. In all probability, therefore, 2018 will see tensions ratchet up in these critical regions, as America (and hopefully others) defend against thinly veiled Chinese military aggression. Japan in particular has reached its limits as China has increased its capabilities across the full military spectrum, including at sea, in space and cyberwarfare.

Taiwan is not far behind. Even South Korea’s Moon Jae In may be growing disenchanted with Beijing as it seeks to constrain Seoul’s strategic defense options. And make no mistake, what China is doing in its littoral periphery is closely watched in India, where the rise of Chinese economic and military power is increasingly worrying. The Trump administration should closely monitor all these flash points along China’s frontiers, any one of which could provoke a major military confrontation, if not next year, soon thereafter.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is where China has most disappointed the White House. Xi Jinping has played the United States just like his predecessors, promising increased pressure on Pyongyang but not delivering nearly enough. The most encouraging news came as 2017 ended, in the revelation that Chinese and American military officers have discussed possible scenarios involving regime collapse or military conflict in North Korea. While unclear how far these talks have progressed, the mere fact that China is engaging in them shows a new level of awareness of how explosive the situation is. So, 2018 will be critical not only regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons threat but also whether Sino-American relations improve or take a distinct turn for the worse.

On Russia, the president has not given up on Vladimir Putin, at least not yet, but that may well come in 2018. Putin is an old-school, hard-edged, national interest-centered Russian leader, defending the “rodina” (the motherland), not a discredited ideology. Confronted with U.S. strength, Putin knows when to pull back, and he is, when it suits him, even capable of making and keeping deals. But there is no point in romanticizing the Moscow-Washington dynamic. It must be based not on personal relationships but on realpolitik.

No better proof exists than Russia’s reaction to Trump’s recent decision to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine, which is now a war zone entirely because of Russian aggression. To hear Moscow react to Trump’s weapons decision, however, one would think he was responsible for increased hostilities. President Obama should have acted at the first evidence of Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine, and even Trump’s aid is a small step compared to President Bush’s 2008 proposal to move Kiev quickly toward NATO membership. Nonetheless, every independent state that emerged from the Soviet Union, NATO member or not, is obsessed with how America handles Ukraine. They should be, because the Kremlin’s calculus about their futures will almost certainly turn on whether Trump draws a line on Moscow’s adventurism in Ukraine.

Just as troubling as Russia’s menace in Eastern and Central Europe is its reemergence as a great power player in the Middle East. Just weeks ago, the Russian Duma ratified an agreement greatly expanding Russia’s naval station at Tartus, Syria. In 2015, Obama stood dumbfounded as Russia built a significant air base in nearby Latakia, thus cementing the intrusion of Russia’s military presence in the Middle East to an extent not seen since Anwar Sadat expelled Soviet military advisers and brought Egypt into the Western orbit in the 1970s.

This expansion constitutes a significant power projection for the Kremlin. Indeed, it seems clear that Russia’s support (even more than Iran’s) for Syria’s Assad regime has kept the dictatorship in power. Russia’s assertiveness in 2017 also empowered Tehran, even as the ISIS caliphate was destroyed, to create an arc of Shia military power from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, linking up with Hezbollah in Lebanon. This Russian-Iranian axis should rank alongside Iran’s nuclear-weapons program on America’s list of threats emanating from the Middle East.

Finally, the pure folly of both the U.N. Security Council and the General Assembly crossing the United States on the Jerusalem embassy decision was a mistake of potentially devastating consequences for the United Nations. Combined with the International Criminal Court’s November decision to move toward investigating alleged U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan, there is now ample space for the White House to expand on the president’s focus on protecting American sovereignty.

Trump’s first insight into the rage for “global governance” among the high minded came on trade issues, and his concern for the World Trade Organization’s adjudication mechanism. These are substantial and legitimate, but the broader issues of “who governs” and the challenges to constitutional, representative government from international bodies and treaties that expressly seek to advance global governing institutions are real and growing. America has long been an obstacle to these efforts, due to our quaint attachment to our Constitution and the exceptionalist notion that we don’t need international treaties to “improve” it.

No recent president has made the sovereignty point as strongly as Trump, and the United Nations and International Criminal Court actions in 2017 now afford him a chance to make decisive political and financial responses in 2018. If 2017 was a tumultuous year internationally, 2018 could make it seem calm by comparison.

John R. Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and as undersecretary for arms control and international security affairs at the U.S. Department of State under President George W. Bush. He is now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

This article first appeared in The Hill and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.

Susan Rice Still in Denial Over Failed Tenure

November 15, 2017

Susan Rice Still in Denial Over Failed Tenure, FrontPage MagazineJoseph Klein, November 15, 2017

Evidently, Ms. Rice does not realize that it is unwise to engage in public shaming of the visiting president’s host on what the host considers to be a sensitive matter of inviolate national sovereignty that can be more candidly discussed in private. This is especially true when the visiting president is trying to secure the host’s cooperation on issues of more direct mutual concern such as North Korea.

Rice complains that President Trump failed to mention publicly any concern about the disputed South China Sea issue. Contradicting herself, she then criticizes President Trump further on in the same column for his “hubristic offer late in his trip to mediate China’s disputes with its neighbors in the South China Sea.” Offering to mediate a dispute would appear to show some concern that it be resolved peacefully.

**************************

Susan Rice, former national security adviser and ambassador to the United Nations during the Obama administration, is at it again. Following up on her op-ed column in the New York Times last August in which she advised that we learn to “tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea,” Ms. Rice has written another op-ed column for the New York Times on November 14th entitled “Making China Great Again.”  Her thesis is that “Chinese leaders played Trump like a fiddle, catering to his insatiable ego and substituting pomp and circumstance for substance.” She argues that President Trump “welcomed a rote recitation of China’s longstanding rejection of a nuclear North Korea and failed to extract new concessions or promises.”

Ms. Rice speaks as if she were in the room during the private conversations between President Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping or had the kind of access to intercepted confidential communications she was used to having during her tenure as national security adviser. Alternatively, Ms. Rice may simply be projecting onto President Trump the failures of her own boss Barack Obama in his dealings with China. In any case, as she displayed in her previous column, Ms. Rice simply does not know what she is talking about.

For example, Ms. Rice complains that President Trump failed to mention publicly any concern about the disputed South China Sea issue. Contradicting herself, she then criticizes President Trump further on in the same column for his “hubristic offer late in his trip to mediate China’s disputes with its neighbors in the South China Sea.” Offering to mediate a dispute would appear to show some concern that it be resolved peacefully.

In any event, had Ms. Rice bothered to take a look at the White House’s detailed public read-out of the meetings between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, she would have found that the South China Sea issue was indeed discussed at some length: “President Trump underscored the critical importance of the peaceful resolution of disputes, unimpeded lawful commerce, and respect for international law in the East and South China Sea, including freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea, and raised concerns about militarization of outposts in the South China Sea.”

Evidently, Ms. Rice does not realize that it is unwise to engage in public shaming of the visiting president’s host on what the host considers to be a sensitive matter of inviolate national sovereignty that can be more candidly discussed in private. This is especially true when the visiting president is trying to secure the host’s cooperation on issues of more direct mutual concern such as North Korea.

Ms. Rice argues that there was not enough diplomatic preparation for the summit meeting between the two heads of state to yield anything worthwhile in substance. Again, she did not do her homework. Here for her edification is a relevant excerpt from the White House read-out that describes how China and the United States have structured their interactions since President Xi’s meeting last April with President Trump in Florida: “During their April meeting, the two presidents set up the United States-China Comprehensive Dialogue with four pillars: the Diplomatic and Security Dialogue; the Comprehensive Economic Dialogue; the Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Dialogue; and the Social and Cultural Dialogue. Each of these dialogues have met since April, to prepare for President Trump’s state visit and produce meaningful results.”

Ms. Rice complains that “Mr. Trump showered President Xi Jinping of China with embarrassing accolades” and that “scenes of an American president kowtowing in China to a Chinese president sent chills down the spines of Asia experts and United States allies who have relied on America to balance and sometimes counter an increasingly assertive China.” That unsubstantiated assertion does not square with the warm reception and praise that President Trump received from the leaders of such allies as Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Australia during his trip. It is also curious that Ms. Rice would criticize pomp and ceremony surrounding a state visit involving a U.S. president and President Xi. After all, Barack Obama lavished President Xi with a star-studded formal White House state dinner and a 21-gun salute during the Chinese president’s visit to Washington in 2015. Also, when Ms. Rice laments that President Trump “hailed Mr. Xi’s consolidation of authoritarian power,” did she somehow forget Obama’s similar praise of President Xi in 2014?  “He has consolidated power faster and more comprehensively than probably anybody since Deng Xiaoping,” Obama said back then, referring to China’s leader from 1978 to 1992. “And everybody’s been impressed by his … clout inside of China after only a year and a half or two years.”

Then there is the North Korean crisis, upon which Susan Rice opines that President Trump failed to make any progress with President Xi. Ms. Rice had contributed to the worsening of the North Korea problem in the first place by helping to formulate and sell the flawed approach known as “strategic patience” that guided Obama’s feckless foreign policy in North Korea. In doing so, the Obama administration allowed China to continue doing business as usual with North Korea. That stopped under President Trump. Even before President Trump arrived in Beijing, he had managed to wrest more concessions from China regarding its dealings with North Korea than Obama had managed to do in eight years. President Trump’s “strategic impatience” has already paid off with new UN sanctions that even Ms. Rice had to concede in her August op-ed column were “especially potent, closing loopholes and cutting off important funding for the North.”

Since August, with the help of the able diplomacy of the current U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, the UN Security Council has unanimously imposed even tighter restrictions on exports to and imports from North Korea, as well as on North Korean workers continuing to live and work in other countries and earn foreign currency for use by the cash-starved North Korean regime. President Trump reportedly asked for even more stringent measures during his private talks in Beijing with President Xi that would increase China’s economic pressure on North Korea. Also, they discussed the full and strict implementation of all UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea passed to date, with which China has shown evidence of compliance.

By contrast, the Obama administration indulged itself with the fantasy that UN resolutions and multilateral or bilateral agreements on paper are an end unto themselves. Susan Rice boasts in her November 14th column, for instance, of what she called the “historic United States-China deal on climate change, which led to the Paris Agreement.” In reality, this 2015 deal was an example of how Chinese leaders played Obama like a fiddle.

China, the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases, promised only that its total carbon dioxide emissions would peak by 2030. Obama committed the United States to significant emissions cuts of 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, during the same period that China’s emissions would still be rising. Obama also committed to transfer many billions of dollars more of American taxpayers’ money to developing countries who have made meaningless, non-binding pledges that would do nothing to change the trajectory they were on anyway. The Paris Agreement that Susan Rice is so proud of drastically tied down only the developed countries’ fossil fuel use in the immediate future while picking their taxpayers’ pockets at the same time. President Trump wisely pulled the plug on the U.S.’s involvement in a massive give-away to bribe the so-called developing nations to play along with a feel-good “universal” agreement.

Susan Rice is using the platform provided her by the New York Times to criticize President Trump for one main reason. She sees President Trump’s attempt to confront the issues head-on that his predecessor repeatedly glossed over as an attack on the Obama administration’s ‘legacy.’ What she is defending, however, is a failed foreign policy and misnamed “National Security Strategy” her office issued in 2015. In her November 14th op-ed column, she provides a checklist of all the problems she says President Trump should have addressed with China’s president, many of which he did. However, there is no self-assessment of all the missed opportunities during the Obama administration to move the ball forward on any of these problems, particularly North Korea.

President Trump is willing to make hard choices if he is convinced that in the end they will advance America’s vital national interests and the welfare of the American people, which he values above all else. This is very refreshing after experiencing eight years of Obama’s and Rice’s ‘leading from behind,’ ‘strategic patience,’ apologies for past U.S actions, and muddled thinking.

Military options strengthening Trump’s diplomatic hand with North Korea?

October 9, 2017

Military options strengthening Trump’s diplomatic hand with North Korea? Fox News via YouTube, October 9, 2017

(Please see also, Britain leaks battle planning for war North Korea. — DM)

 

The Kerfuffle Before the Storm

October 8, 2017

The Kerfuffle Before the Storm, PJ MediaClaudia Rosett, October 7, 2017

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, center, poses for a group photo with Senior Military leaders and spouses in the State Dining Room of the White House on Oct. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The first priority for any president inheriting this virulent global mess should be to try as far as possible to reclaim America’s credibility; to persuade America’s enemies  that the bargain sale on U.S. interests is over, and America will, if necessary, wield its full military might to defend itself, its allies and interests. That is vital to deterrence, which — if genuinely effective — is vastly preferable to war.

The conundrum is how America can regain the credibility needed for deterrence, without having to resort to war in order to prove the point. For instance, unless Kim Jong Un truly believes that the U.S. might actually attack North Korea despite the potential horrific cost, why should he back down? Why should he worry about U.S. warships and submarines in the region? It’s an impressive show of military hardware, but is it a credible threat?

For an American president faced with this problem, one move worth attempting would be to gather America’s top military commanders for a meeting at the White House, followed by a dinner with their spouses, and invite the press to come witness and report on this conclave. If, in the midst of this genial scene, the president mentions that this is the calm before the storm, it may be baffling and frustrating to reporters — whose job includes nailing down details. But in capitals such as Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang, it might just help prompt a rethink about the assumption — gleaned from their success in rogue ventures during the tenure of Obama — that America is a hamstrung giant.

There’s always the possibility that it was more than a broad warning — that perhaps Trump is indeed about to launch a specific military action. But to whatever extent this cliffhanger helps concentrate minds in Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang on just how unpleasant it could be to provoke an American storm,  it was an important message. Quite possibly a bid to avert a war, rather than start one. Worth the kerfuffle in the press.

***********************************

With the phrase “the calm before the storm,” President Trump on Thursday evening kicked off one of the biggest media kerfuffles since his late-night tweet in May about “the constant negative press covfefe.” That mysterious locution produced a spate of stories speculating sardonically on what the president meant. We’re now hearing a similar round of mockery. But this was no late-night typo in a tweet, and while offended members of the media default to derision, it’s worth considering that the president quite likely sent a useful message to an audience that extends way beyond the White House press corps.

The setting was a dinner for top U.S. military commanders and their spouses, hosted by Trump in the White House State Dining Room. Trump invited reporters in for a brief photo-op. Flanked by military officials who have dedicated themselves to defending America and winning its wars, all gathered with their spouses under a big portrait of President Lincoln. Trump asked the reporters, “You guys know what this represents?”

“Tell us, sir,” said one of the reporters.

“Maybe it’s the calm before the storm,” said Trump. A reporter asked, “What storm?” Trump gave the oblique reply, “We have the world’s greatest military people in this room, I will tell you that.” A reporter asked, again, “What storm?” Trump said, “You’ll find out.”

The entire exchange lasted about 30 seconds. The reporters were thanked and dismissed. The media were left to speculate on whether the “storm” referred to impending military action again North Korea, or maybe plans to back away from President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, or something else, or nothing at all. Asked again by reporters on Friday what he meant by “the calm before the storm,” Trump again declined to clarify, saying again, “You’ll find out.”

This has been playing as a crazy-Trump story. CNN came out with the headline: “Trump is treating a potential war like a reality show cliffhanger,” and warned, “This is no reality show… His words — whether he means them as a tease, a threat or something in between — can have very real consequences.” Esquire called Trump “Our Reality TV President” and asked, “Will the season finale involve nuclear war with North Korea?” The New York Times called Trump’s comment “ominous.” NBC called it “provocative.” Politico called it “unprompted.” The Huffington Post, in a headline, called it “Bizarre.”

I’d call it smart. We don’t know precisely what the president had in mind. But we do know — or we ought to know — this: In world politics, there is a gathering storm that threatens America and our allies. There is a rising network of tyrannies hostile to American interests and values, including most prominently Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. The U.S. superpower can face down any one of these actors if it must, but the disturbing trajectory is that for years now — whatever their differences — they have effectively been making common cause against America and the requirements of a free and peaceful world order. They do illicit business together; they often back each other diplomatically, and they learn from each other just how much it is possible to get away with. Russia and China have been carrying out joint military maneuvers. North Korea, longtime weapons dealer to Iran, is cultivating an arsenal of nuclear missiles. The threats compound.

This trend accelerated dramatically during the years of America’s policies of retreat, appeasement, and surrender under President Obama. China, as part of its military buildup, sped up its construction of artificial islands topped with military bases clearly designed to threaten freedom of navigation along vital shipping routes in Southeast Asia. Russia snatched Crimea from Ukraine, and got away with it. Terrorist-sponsoring Iran extended its reach in the Middle East, and is currently benefitting from a rotten nuclear deal that paves its way to the bomb, accessorized with ballistic missiles. Syria disintegrated into war, which opened the way for both the rise of ISIS and military inroads by Vladimir Putin’s Russia into the Middle East. Libya, with America leading-from-behind, disintegrated into terrorist-infested chaos.

And North Korea, which had carried out one nuclear test in 2006 on the watch of President Bush, conducted four more tests during the tenure of Obama, along with scores of ballistic missile tests, while Kim Jong Un consolidated his hold on the totalitarian throne inherited in 2011 from his father. Taking advantage of Obama’s “strategic patience” to ramp up a rogue nuclear program, Kim Jong Un’s regime was ready to greet the Trump administration with an arsenal that by now appears quite convincingly to include long-range missiles, miniaturized warheads and the hydrogen bomb.

None of this is a figment of Trump’s imagination. Neither is it a prop on some reality TV show. It is real.

This is not of Trump’s making. But given the rate at which the threats and crises have been compounding, it falls to him to cope with a greatly emboldened group of increasingly well armed and predatory powers. This has been made all the more difficult by the enormous amount of U.S. credibility that was squandered by Obama — who gutted the U.S. military, bore passive “witness” to upheaval in Iran, erased his own red line over chemical weapons in Syria, threw away the hard-won progress in Iraq, bungled Afghanistan and Libya, promised (and delivered) flexibility to Putin, deferred to China, embraced Cuba, shrugged off the rising nuclear threat of North Korea, and assured the American public that the tide of war was receding.

The first priority for any president inheriting this virulent global mess should be to try as far as possible to reclaim America’s credibility; to persuade America’s enemies  that the bargain sale on U.S. interests is over, and America will, if necessary, wield its full military might to defend itself, its allies and interests. That is vital to deterrence, which — if genuinely effective — is vastly preferable to war.

The conundrum is how America can regain the credibility needed for deterrence, without having to resort to war in order to prove the point. For instance, unless Kim Jong Un truly believes that the U.S. might actually attack North Korea despite the potential horrific cost, why should he back down? Why should he worry about U.S. warships and submarines in the region? It’s an impressive show of military hardware, but is it a credible threat?

For an American president faced with this problem, one move worth attempting would be to gather America’s top military commanders for a meeting at the White House, followed by a dinner with their spouses, and invite the press to come witness and report on this conclave. If, in the midst of this genial scene, the president mentions that this is the calm before the storm, it may be baffling and frustrating to reporters — whose job includes nailing down details. But in capitals such as Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang, it might just help prompt a rethink about the assumption — gleaned from their success in rogue ventures during the tenure of Obama — that America is a hamstrung giant.

Whether that was Trump’s intention, I don’t know. It sure looked that way. In the phrase that so alarmed CNN and Esquire, there was a useful ambiguity. Trump didn’t guarantee a storm; he merely suggested it could happen. Surrounded by his top military commanders, in the seat of American power that is the White House, the commander-in-chief prefaced his statement about “the calm before the storm” with “maybe.” It was, in a genteel and peaceful setting, a warning not to mess with America.

There’s always the possibility that it was more than a broad warning — that perhaps Trump is indeed about to launch a specific military action. But to whatever extent this cliffhanger helps concentrate minds in Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang on just how unpleasant it could be to provoke an American storm,  it was an important message. Quite possibly a bid to avert a war, rather than start one. Worth the kerfuffle in the press.

U.S. Threatens to Cutoff China, Russia for Undermining Sanctions Against North Korea

September 12, 2017

U.S. Threatens to Cutoff China, Russia for Undermining Sanctions Against North Korea, Washington Free Beacon, September 12, 2017

(Please see also, UN Passes Mega-Ultra Toughest-Ever North Korea Sanctions, Again.– DM)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un attends a meeting with a committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea about the test of a hydrogen bomb / Getty Images

“Unfortunately, I cannot tell the committee today that we’ve seen sufficient evidence of China’s willingness to truly shut down North Korea’s revenue flows, to expunge North Korean illicit actors from its banking system, or to expel the various North Korean middlemen and brokers who are continuing to establish webs of front companies,” he said.

*****************************

The Trump administration on Tuesday threatened to cut off from the U.S. financial system Chinese and Russian companies helping North Korea smuggle coal overseas to circumvent international sanctions on Pyongyang’s nuclear activities.

Marshall Billingslea, the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for terrorist financing, provided Congress with intelligence images mapping North Korea’s illicit shipping networks used to mask the origin of exported coal to China and Russia.

The images appear to expose China and Russia’s covert hand in undermining international pressure on the Kim Jong Un regime to give up its nuclear ambitions, despite the two nations voting publicly on several occasions at the United Nations Security Council to strengthen sanctions.

“North Korea has been living under United Nations sanctions for over a decade and it has nevertheless made significant strides toward its goal of building a nuclear tipped ICBM,” Billingslea testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, referring to the regime’s pursuit of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States mainland.

“I urge anyone in the financial services industry who might be implicated in the establishment of shell or front companies for [North Korea], and anyone who is aware of such entities, to come forward with that information now, before they find themselves swept up in our net,” he said.

The Treasury Department estimates North Korean coal shipments bring in more than $1 billion in annual revenue for the regime, in part enabling Kim Jong Un to generate income used to fund ballistic missile and nuclear programs. Though the UN Security Council over the past month has passed two separate sanctions packages targeting North Korea’s coal industry, illicit coal-smuggling networks through China and Russia have watered down the impact, according to the Trump administration.

Citing the intelligence images provided to Congress on Tuesday, Billingslea said North Korean shipping vessels routinely shut off their transponders in violation of international maritime law to avoid detection as they move from North Korea into Chinese or Russian ports to offload sanctioned coal.

The Treasury Department is also tracking North Korea’s effort to penetrate the international financial system through shell companies based in China and Russia to help conceal the regime’s overseas footprint. Billingslea warned the Trump administration will punish any company in violation of UN sanctions by choking it off from the U.S. financial market.

Though he lauded China for supporting a recent round of UN sanctions, he said Beijing has not yet shown it is serious about cutting off North Korean funding.

“Unfortunately, I cannot tell the committee today that we’ve seen sufficient evidence of China’s willingness to truly shut down North Korea’s revenue flows, to expunge North Korean illicit actors from its banking system, or to expel the various North Korean middlemen and brokers who are continuing to establish webs of front companies,” he said.

Donald Trump Wins Round One with North Korea

August 11, 2017

Donald Trump Wins Round One with North Korea, BreitbartJoel B. Pollak, August 11, 2017

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Update: Fourth, the Chinese government is now indicating that it will not defend North Korea from a retaliatory strike if the regime attacks the U.S. (which includes Guam). The Global Times, which reflects the view of the Chinese government, indicated that China would stop the U.S. from trying to overthrow the North Korean regime but would not defend North Korea if it struck the U.S. first. That is a significant change from the status quo ante.

The situation remains unstable, and could escalate. But Trump’s rhetoric is not, as former Obama adviser Susan Rice claims, the problem. In fact, it is part of the solution. It has, at the very least, restored some of our deterrence.

*****************************************

The mainstream media are aghast at President Donald Trump’s comments on North Korea as he promises “fire and fury” and warns that American military solutions are “locked and loaded.”

The political elite, and the foreign policy establishment, oscillate between bitter scorn and sheer panic at his tactics. But one does not have to be convinced of Trump’s rhetorical genius to note that he has already re-framed the conflict in a way that is advantageous to the U.S.

First, Trump has radically changed the costs of a potential conflict, for both sides. The dominant paradigm of nuclear face-offs is mutually assured destruction (MAD), which is why the Soviet Union and the U.S. never attacked each other during the Cold War. Most of the discussion about North Korea has followed the same pattern, because of the threat of ICBMs to the U.S. mainland. After Trump threatened to annihilate North Korea, however, Kim Jong-un threatened to attack … Guam. Trump doubled down, indicating that a North Korean attack on Guam would trigger an attack against the regime. That shifted the costs of a war radically in our favor and against theirs.

Second, it is noteworthy that the North Korean threat to Guam did not refer to nuclear weapons, but rather hinted at conventional missile strikes. There is no way to know for sure that the regime would not use nuclear weapons, if indeed the North Koreans can miniaturize them, but a conventional attack is certainly less serious than a nuclear one. In threatening the most violent possible attack, Trump elicited a response that is significantly less threatening.

Third, Trump diverted attention away from North Korea’s more vulnerable neighbors, South Korea and Japan. Of course the North Koreans could attack them if the U.S. launched a war. But instead of talking about the potential deaths of millions of people in densely-populated areas, the world is now talking about the qualms felt by a few people on a remote island. That makes Trump’s words look less scary, and eases pressure for the U.S. to back down.

Update: Fourth, the Chinese government is now indicating that it will not defend North Korea from a retaliatory strike if the regime attacks the U.S. (which includes Guam). The Global Times, which reflects the view of the Chinese government, indicated that China would stop the U.S. from trying to overthrow the North Korean regime but would not defend North Korea if it struck the U.S. first. That is a significant change from the status quo ante.

The situation remains unstable, and could escalate. But Trump’s rhetoric is not, as former Obama adviser Susan Rice claims, the problem. In fact, it is part of the solution. It has, at the very least, restored some of our deterrence.