U.S. needs to stop Russian electoral interference, NSA’s top civilian leader says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

U.S. needs to stop Russian electoral interference, NSA’s top civilian leader says

March 25 at 6:48 PM
The U.S. government has not figured out how to deter the Russians from meddling in democratic processes, and stopping their interference in elections, both here and in Europe, is a pressing problem, the top civilian leader of the National Security Agency said.The NSA was among the intelligence agencies that concluded that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin ordered a cyber-enabled influence campaign in 2016 aimed at undermining confidence in the election, harming Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and helping elect GOP nominee Donald Trump.“This is a challenge to the foundations of our democracy,” said NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett, 58, who is retiring at the end of April, in an interview at Fort Meade, Md., the agency’s headquarters. “It’s the sanctity of our process, of evaluating and looking at candidates, and having accurate information about the candidates. So the idea that another nation-state is [interfering with that] is a pretty big deal and something we need to figure out. How do we counter that? How do we identify that it’s happening — in real-time as opposed to after the fact? And what do we do as a nation to make it stop?”The lack of answers, he said, “as an American citizen . . . gives me a lot of heartburn.”

Ledgett, known as a straight-shooting, unflappable intelligence professional, began his NSA career in 1988 teaching cryptanalysis — how to crack codes — and rose to become the agency’s top civilian leader . The NSA, with 35,000 civilian and military employees, gathers intelligence on foreign targets overseas through wiretaps and increasingly by cyberhacking. Its other mission is to secure the government computers that handle classified information and other data critical to military and intelligence activities.

Asked whether the NSA had any inkling that the Kremlin was going to orchestrate the release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails last July, he demurred. “I actually don’t want to talk about that.”

At the same time, he said, what Moscow did was “no strategic surprise.” Rather, “what may have been a tactical surprise was that they would do it the way they did.”

Campaigns of propaganda and disinformation, dating back to the Soviet Union, have long been a staple of the Kremlin’s foreign policy. Now, however, it is making effective use of its hacking prowess to weaponize information and combine it with its influence operations, or what intelligence officials call “active measures.”

“In general, if you’re responding to nation-state actions like that, you have to find out what are the levers that will move the nation-state actors and are you able and willing to pull those levers?” said Ledgett when asked how the United States should respond.

The Obama administration slapped economic sanctions on two Russian spy agencies involved in hacking the DNC, three companies believed to have provided support for government cyber operations, and four Russian cyber officials. The administration also ordered 35 Russian operatives to leave the United States and shut down Russian-owned facilities on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and on Long Island believed to have been used for intelligence purposes.

Yet, intelligence officials including NSA Director Michael S. Rogers and FBI Director James B. Comey said on Monday that they believe Moscow will strike again — in 2020, if not in 2018.

So should the government mull other options, such as hacking Russian officials’ emails or financial records and releasing them in a bid to embarrass or show corruption? “I think every element of national power is something we should consider,” he said. “That would probably fall under something like a covert action. But if that’s the right answer, that’s the right answer.”

Ledgett is probably most well-known for leading the agency task force that handled the fallout from the leaks of classified information by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013. The disclosures prompted a national and global debate about the proper scope of government surveillance and led Congress to pass some reforms, including the outlawing of bulk collection of Americans’ phone metadata.

But the disclosures also caused great upheaval in NSA’s collection efforts, hurt morale, and damaged relations with allies and with tech firms that enable court-ordered surveillance, Ledgett said. “It was a terrible time for the agency,” he said.

He oversaw the probe of the internal breach; relations with Congress, the White House, foreign governments and the press; and the effort to prevent a recurrence. “There was a bit of a narrative on the outside about this evil agency that hoovered up all the communications in the world and rooted through them for things that were interesting, and that wasn’t actually true.”

The operational hit was significant, he said. More than 1,000 foreign targets — whether a person or a group or an organization — altered or attempted to alter their means of communications as a result of the disclosures, he said. They “tried with varying degrees of success to remove themselves from our ability to see what they were doing,” he said.

The agency, which has some 200 stations worldwide, reworked capabilities including virtually all of its hacking tools. “In some cases, we had to do things very differently” to gather the same foreign intelligence as before.

Raj De, a former NSA general counsel, said Ledgett was relied on heavily by both Rogers and Rogers’s predecessor, Keith B. Alexander. “He has really been a source of steadiness for the agency,” said De, now head of the Cybersecurity & Data Privacy practice at Mayer Brown, a global law firm. “What is particularly notable about Rick is his willingness to engage with all types of people, to keep an open mind.”

In December 2013, Alexander, when he was the NSA director, said that Snowden should be given no amnesty. But Ledgett told CBS’s “60 Minutes” then that “my personal view is yes, it’s worth having a conversation about.”

In his interview earlier this week, however, he said what he meant was that by engaging Snowden in conversation, the agency might have been able to learn what material had not been released and where it was.

Today, he said, there is no longer any need to talk to Snowden. “He’s past his usefulness to us.” Snowden, who is living in Moscow under a grant of asylum, has been charged with violating the Espionage Act, and Ledgett said he should not be pardoned. “I’ve always been of the idea that ‘Hey, I think he needs to face the music for what he did.’ ”

Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Erdogan Says Turkey May Hold Referendum On EU Accession Bid

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY) 

Erdogan says Turkey may hold referendum on EU accession bid

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey may hold a second referendum on whether to continue with European Union accession talks following a planned vote on April 16 that could give him sweeping new powers.

“Right now we are holding a referendum on April 16 and after that we could choose to do a second one on the (EU) accession talks and we would abide by whatever our people would say there,” Erdogan told a forum in the southern city of Antalya.

Turkey began EU accession talks in 2005 but they have moved very slowly due to disagreements over Cyprus, human rights and other issues. Relations between Ankara and Brussels have become particularly strained in recent months.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Egypt, Jordan Agree On Importance Of Resuming Negotiations For A Palestinian State

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT AND REUTERS NEWS)

Middle East

Egypt, Jordan Agree on Importance of Resuming Negotiations for a Palestinian State

Ayman al-Safadi, Reuters

Cairo- Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shokry and his Jordanian counterpart Ayman al-Safadi met for three hours in Cairo on Thursday to discuss crises and recent challenges facing the Arab region.

“It’s time to clear up the Arab atmosphere and provide a minimum of consensus on resolutions issued by the Amman summit, to deal with all crises, conflict, war and terrorism tearing the region apart,” said Safadi.

He also pointed to the possibility of reaching Arab unanimity, despite existing differences in a desire “to spare the region further devastation threatening security and stability of Arab states.”

The two FMs held a press conference following talks in Cairo to discuss the latest developments in the region, including the Palestinian peace process and Egyptian-Jordanian relations.

Safadi, who arrived in Cairo early Thursday, hoped the upcoming Arab League summit to be held in March in Amman would enhance joint Arab action in a way that improves capability of addressing crises affecting the Arab world.

Safadi replied to a Syria question with “Jordan is taking part in Astana’s Syria peace talks as an observer and supports any effort that aims at reaching a ceasefire across Syria, especially in the southern region closer to Jordan’s northern border.”

The Astana talks are not an alternative to the Geneva efforts that form the main framework of reaching a political solution to the Syrian conflict, the minister highlighted.

He also said that discussions with Shokry addressed the major challenges facing the Arab world and ways to address them, underlining Cairo’s important role in enhancing the regional stability and security.

Jordanian-Egyptian consultation and coordination not only aim at serving bilateral relations, but also seek to serve the interests of the Arab nation and its peoples to enhance joint Arab action and maintain pan-Arab security, Safadi stressed.

The minister also highlighted the significance of increasing the level of coordination among Arab countries to find solutions to regional crises, especially the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, the Syrian war and the developments in the Libyan arena.

For his part, Shokry expressed hope that the Arab summit will boost joint Arab action and serve Arab national security, voicing Cairo’s readiness to help Amman in organizing the summit.

US Releases $221 Million Fund To Palestine

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Middle East

US Releases $221 Million Fund to Palestine

USAID

Ramallah – US has announced the release of the $221 million for Palestinians, which President Donald Trump had previously frozen and put under review after former US President Obama had ordered at the “last minute” of his presidency.

US State Department had confirmed that the money will be used for services in the West Bank and will not go directly to the authorities’ treasury.

A Palestinian official told Asharq Al-Awsat that most of this money had been allocated to foreign organizations working within the Palestinian territories.

Speaking during a press briefing on Wednesday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters that to his understanding the money had been released, but also said that the issue was still under review.

“220.3 million that was released was for West Bank programs such as water, infrastructure, education, renewable energy, civil society, municipal governance, and the rule of law, as well as Gaza recovery. And a smaller amount was to go directly to Israeli creditors of the Palestinian Authority as well as East Jerusalem hospitals. None of the funding was to go directly to the Palestinian Authority,” explained Toner.

The official stated that these funds were never assigned to the authority and were not a donation from former President Obama.

“We don’t know why Trump decided to freeze them, and then released them,” said the official.

He added that the majority of these funds will be given to international organizations in Palestine. “Most of the money will be given to United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for projects within the Palestinian authorities,” according to the official.

The funds included $180 million from USAID, $25 million to support Palestinian hospitals and $45 million to pay for fuel purchased from Israel.

He then explained that the funds were supposed to be given before the end of 2016, but they were delayed until Obama ordered the transfer, few hours before leaving the White House.

On January 20, and just few hours before Trump’s inauguration, Obama informed the congress that he will send the money. The money was frozen after the Congress’ recommendation as a punishment for the authorities’ attempts to join UN organizations and for instigation.

Though it is not legally binding, the White House abode by the Congress’ decision. Hours before Trump’s arrival, former US secretary of state John Kerry informed the Congress of the transfer.

Trump’s administration then announced it had frozen the grant in order to make adjustments to ensure it complies with the new administration’s priorities.

The relations between Trump’s administration and the Palestinian authority are not exactly strong, despite the few meetings made. Major conflict rose when Palestine stated it won’t accept any solution other than the two-state solution, while Trump declared it is not the only solution available.

Palestinians are afraid Trump will transfer the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, warning that this will be an admission that Quds is Israel’s capital, thus ending any US role in the peace process.

Yet, Palestinians are seeking better relations with the US. Chief of Palestinian Intelligence Majid Faraj met with US security officials.

Then, US Director of CIA Mike Pompeo met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. But, till now, no contact has been established at the level of the White House or the State Department.

A Scourge To Human Morality: 110 Women And Children Have Starved To Death In Somalia In Last 48 Hours

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

MAR 5 2017, 3:06 PM ET

Somalia: 110 Dead From Hunger in Past 48 Hours in Drought

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Somalia’s prime minister announced Saturday that 110 people have died from hunger in the past 48 hours in a single region as a severe drought threatens millions of people across the country.

It was the first death toll announced by Somalia’s government since it declared the drought a national disaster on Tuesday. The United Nations estimates that 5 million people in this Horn of Africa nation need aid, amid warnings of a full-blown famine.

Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire spoke during a meeting with the Somali National Drought Committee. The death toll he announced is from the Bay region in the southwest part of the country alone.

Somalia was one of four regions singled out by the U.N. secretary-general last month in a $4.4 billion aid appeal to avert catastrophic hunger and famine, along with northeast Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. All are connected by a thread of violent conflict, the U.N. chief said.

The U.N. humanitarian coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, was expected to visit Somalia in the next few days.

Image: Abdullahi Mohamud, 5, cries next to his mother Sahro Mohamed Mumin, 30, and brother, Abdulrahman Mahamud, 2, as a nurse struggles to find a vein for an injection at a government run health clinic in Shada, Somalia.
Abdullahi Mohamud, 5, cries next to his mother Sahro Mohamed Mumin, 30, and brother, Abdulrahman Mahamud, 2, as a nurse struggles to find a vein for an injection at a government-run health clinic in Shada, Somalia. Andrew Renneisen / Getty Images

Thousands have been streaming into Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in search of food aid, overwhelming local and international aid agencies. Over 7,000 internally displaced people checked into one feeding center recently.

The drought is the first crisis for Somalia’s newly elected Somali-American leader, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. Previous droughts and a quarter-century of conflict, including ongoing attacks by extremist group al-Shabab, have left the country fragile. Mohamed has appealed to the international community and Somalia’s diaspora of 2 million people for help.

About 363,000 acutely malnourished children in Somalia “need urgent treatment and nutrition support, including 71,000 who are severely malnourished,” the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network has warned.

Because of a lack of clean water in many areas, there is the additional threat of cholera and other diseases, U.N. experts say. Some deaths from cholera already have been reported.

The government has said the widespread hunger “makes people vulnerable to exploitation, human rights abuses and to criminal and terrorist networks.”

The U.N. humanitarian appeal for 2017 for Somalia is $864 million to provide assistance to 3.9 million people. But the U.N. World Food Program recently requested an additional $26 million plan to respond to the drought.

Former St. Louis Reporter Arrested For Making Bomb Threats Against Jewish Institutions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

New York (CNN) A former reporter who was fired for fabricating sources was arrested Friday and accused of making some of the bomb threats against Jewish institutions that have so rattled Jews recently.

Juan Thompson, 31, was charged with one count of cyber-stalking for making at least eight threats as part of an attempt to intimidate a particular person after their romantic relationship ended, according to a criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of New York.
The accusation against Thompson accounts for just a small minority of the 101 total bomb threats that have been received by Jewish institutions since 2017 began, according to data from the JCC Association of North America.
“No one has been arrested for making the nationwide robocall JCC threats,” New York State Police’s Beau Duffy said. “That’s still an active FBI investigation.”
The complaint alleges Thompson had emailed and phoned in threats to the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish institutions. Some of those threats mentioned a “Jewish Newtown,” according to the complaint, an apparent reference to the infamous 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Thompson made some of the threats in the victim’s name, while others were made in his own name, according to the complaint. Thompson then claimed that those threats had actually been made by the victim in an attempt to frame him, the complaint alleges.
It could not be immediately determined if Thompson has an attorney.
Jewish community centers and schools have been the targets of a series of bomb threats made via telephone since 2017 began, sparking fears of rising anti-Semitism around the country.

Juan Thompson

Thompson’s arrest, in St. Louis, was the result of the ongoing investigation into those bomb threats, officials said.
“Thompson’s alleged pattern of harassment not only involved the defamation of his female victim, but his threats intimidated an entire community,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a statement.

Former reporter

Thompson previously worked as a reporter for The Intercept, the online news publication, according to previous CNN reporting and a review of Thompson’s Twitter account.
Several tweets from his Twitter account, @JuanMThompson, are referenced in the criminal complaint. That Twitter account is linked to articles bearing his byline at The Intercept.
Thompson was fired from the website in 2016 for fabricating quotes, The Intercept’s editor-in-chief wrote at the time in a special note to readers. He had worked there from November 2014 until January 2016.
In one story, Thompson quoted a man he identified as the cousin of Dylan Roof, the man convicted of killing nine people at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Intercept editors retracted that story after members of Roof’s family said they did not know of that cousin.

Jewish groups react

Evan Bernstein, the New York regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, praised the arrest of Thompson but noted that the threats remained an issue.
“The diligence of law enforcement at such a critical time for the Jewish community is very reassuring,” said Bernstein. “Just because there’s been an arrest today around our bomb threat does not mean that the threats have disappeared or will stop.”

FBI director James Comey met with JCC leaders on Friday.

Leaders in the Jewish community met with FBI director James Comey on Friday to discuss the recent spate of threats against Jewish institutions, according to the JCC Association of North America.
The JCC released a photo of the meeting and said in a press release that leaders had the “highest confidence” that the FBI would resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
Despite the many threats, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller affirmed that there has been “no specific, credible threat of violence” made to Jewish institutions in New York.

Mogadishu Somalia: Car Bomb Rips Apart Open Air Market: 18 Dead And 25 Injured

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

By Feisal Omar | MOGADISHU

A blast from a suicide car bomb ripped through a market in Somali capital Mogadishu on Sunday, killing 18 people and wounding at least 25, a local official said, days after the country elected a new president.

Casualties were confirmed by Ahmed Abdulle Afrax, the mayor of Wadajir, the district of the city where the bombing happened.

“I was staying in my shop when a car came in into the market and exploded. I saw more than 20 people lying on the ground. Most of them were dead and the market was totally destroyed,” witness Abdulle Omar said.

Al Shabaab, the Islamist insurgent group that is fighting the U.N.-backed Somali government, did not immediately claim responsibility.

Al Shabaab has been able to carry out increasingly deadly bombings despite losing most of its territory in the country to African Union peacekeepers supporting Somali government.

This month, Somalia elected a new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. The dual U.S.-Somali citizen and former prime minister is better known by his nickname, “Farmajo”.

The Horn of Africa country has been torn apart by civil war since 1991. Aid agencies are warning that a severe drought has placed large swathes of the country at risk of famine.

(Writing by Katharine Houreld; editing by Jane Merriman)

China Is Getting Tired Of North Korea’s Little Fat Boy With The Bad Haircut

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Beijing (CNN) China says it will halt all coal imports from North Korea from Sunday for the rest of 2017, amid growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula following Pyongyang’s most recent missile test last week.

China’s Ministry of Commerce, in a public notice jointly issued with the country’s customs agency Saturday, said the decision was made to comply with a UN Security Council resolution that China helped draft and pass last November.
Resolution 2321 imposed some of the toughest sanctions yet against the North Korean regime, after it disregarded an earlier UN ban to test what it said was a nuclear warhead in September 2016.
“Imports of coal produced in North Korea — including shipments already declared to the customs but yet to be released — will be suspended for the remainder of this year,” said the statement posted on the ministry’s website.
North Korea sanctions: what’s next?
North Korea claimed success in its February 12 test of a new medium long-range ballistic missile, the Pukguksong-2. China voiced its opposition to the launch and joined other members of the UN Security Council in condemning Pyongyang’s action.
When reports first surfaced last week that authorities in an eastern Chinese port rejected a coal shipment from North Korea, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official declined to confirm the story but reiterated Beijing’s long-held position.
“China fully, earnestly and faithfully enforces relevant Security Council resolutions, which include clear provisions on North Korea’s coal exports,” said ministry spokesman Geng Shuang last Wednesday.

 Strained relations

In their first meeting, new US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday stressed to the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, the growing threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
Tillerson urged China to “use all available tools to moderate North Korea’s destabilizing behavior,” said acting US State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
While pledging to strictly implement UN-imposed sanctions, Wang told reporters in Germany — where both he and Tillerson were attending a G20 ministerial conference — that there is still hope to resolve the North Korea nuclear issue through diplomacy, and Beijing is willing to facilitate multilateral talks, according to a statement released by the Chinese foreign ministry.
In late January, several Chinese ministries jointly issued an extensive list of prohibited items for export to North Korea in compliance of Resolution 2321.
That ban covered military-civilian dual-use articles related to weapons of mass destruction — including not only chemicals and weapons technologies, but also design software, high-speed cameras and truck chassis.
A foreign ministry official pointed to the list at the time as clear evidence to rebut skepticism over China’s determination to implement UN sanctions against North Korea, its neighbor and longtime communist ally.
Beijing remains Pyongyang’s biggest trade partner, providing an economic and political lifeline to the increasingly isolated regime.
China views North Korea as a strategic buffer between itself and South Korea, which has a sizable US military presence. It also fears a potential refugee crisis on its doorstep if the Pyongyang regime suddenly collapses.
Bilateral relations have become strained, however, since North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, came to power following his father’s death in late 2011.
The Chinese leadership is said to be growing frustrated with Kim’s defiant stance on the nuclear issue and the resulting instability in Northeast Asia.

EXCLUSIVE: Shadowy Iranian Republican Guard General visits Moscow, violating Sanctions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS AND ‘OUTBRAIN’)

IRAN

EXCLUSIVE: Shadowy Iranian general visits Moscow, violating sanctions

A shadowy Iranian general responsible for the deaths of nearly 500 Americans traveled to Moscow Wednesday to meet with high-ranking Russian officials — a trip that violated multiple United Nations resolutions forbidding him from leaving his country, multiple western intelligence officials with direct knowledge of the visit told Fox News.

RUSSIAN SPY SHIP SPOTTED CLOSER TO USA, NEAR NAVY SUBMARINE BASE

Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani arrived in Terminal A of Vnukovo airport outside Moscow on Feb. 14 on Mahan Air WD084 at 12:13 p.m. local time and was scheduled to remain in Russia for a few days for meetings, officials said.

Soleimani is visiting Moscow to express his displeasure with the Russian government over their relationship with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, mainly regarding weapons deals and strengthening economic ties, sources told Fox News.

MIDEAST PEACE MAY NOT COME FROM TWO-STATE SOLUTION, WHITE HOUSE SAYS

The CIA would not immediately answer a request for comment. A State Department spokesman said he was unaware of the visit.

This is Soleimani’s third trip to Moscow following visits in April and July last year. Soleimani is thought to be the mastermind behind Iran’s proxy war in Syria in order to prop up the Assad regime. Soleimani met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu days after the Iranian nuclear deal was agreed to in Vienna. Iran has been a key ally along with Russia in Syria, working together to shore up support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against opposition fighters, some of whom are backed by the United States.

The Quds Force, which Soleimani heads, is the special operations wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, responsible for supporting terrorist proxy forces across the Middle East. Soleimani reports directly to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Soleimani was first designated a terrorist and sanctioned by the U.S. in 2005 for his role as a supporter of terrorism. In October 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department tied Soleimani to the failed Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States at a popular restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Testifying before Congress last year, former Secretary of State John Kerry said Soleimani and the Quds Force would continue to face sanctions even after some UN sanctions were lifted on Iran following the landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers, including the United States.

UN Resolution 1747 prohibits Soleimani to travel, and any country that lets him transit or travel is also defying sanctions. Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and would be a aware of the restrictions against meeting him.

During his confirmation hearing before Congress in 2015, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said many Americans were killed by Iranian-backed forces under the command of Soleimani.

“The number has been recently quoted as about 500. We weren’t always able to attribute the casualties we had to Iranian activity, although many times we suspected it was Iranian activity even though we didn’t necessarily have the forensics to support that,” Dunford told lawmakers.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry said five days after Soleimani’s Moscow visit that he would never receive sanctions relief.

“Under the United States’s initiative, Qassem Soleimani will never be relieved of any sanctions,” Kerry said.

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

China’s Government Says That The U.S. Is Responsible For North Korea’s Missile Issues

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

CHINA says the root cause of North Korea’s missile launches is Pyongyang’s friction with the United States and South Korea.

North Korea fired a banned ballistic missile on Sunday, its first test since US President Donald Trump took office. The missile, launched as Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Florida, is believed to have flown about 500 kilometers before splashing down in international waters.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the launch violated UN Security Council resolutions that call for an end to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.

Trump has complained that Beijing is not doing enough to put pressure on Pyongyang. Beijing counters that its influence is overstated and suggests Washington’s refusal to talk directly to North Korea is impeding progress toward a solution.

“The root cause of the nuclear missile issue is its differences with the US and South Korea,” Geng told reporters.

Geng said China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has been “completely and comprehensively” implementing Security Council resolutions on the nuclear issue.

He said Beijing “has been striving for a settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue by proactively engaging in mediation and promoting peace talks.”

Although generally dismissive of sanctions, Beijing has signed on to successive rounds under the UN Security Council, and last month banned more items from being exported to North Korea, including plutonium and dual-use technologies that could aid its nuclear program.

Geng urged all sides to refrain from provocative actions and said China would continue to participate in Security Council discussions in a constructive and responsible way.

Beijing appears concerned that the US and South Korea will speed up the planned deployment of an advanced missile defense system in South Korea that the two allies said was designed to counter a missile attack from North Korea. Beijing objects to the system because it would possibly be able to observe Chinese military movements.

Shi Yuanhua, a Korean studies professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, said that from Pyongyang’s perspective it was a good time to launch a missile because the new US administration hadn’t decided what approach to take with North Korea, and Beijing was at odds with Washington and Seoul over the anti-missile system.

“Whether or not to abandon nuclear weapons concerns North Korea’s core national interests and there is no way for China to get it to change its stance with a few words of persuasion, and it can’t solve the problem by applying a ban on exports,” Shi said.

“The key for solving the problem lies in the hands of the US. If the US is willing to sit and talk with North Korea, China will be happy to promote it,” he added.

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Vaca Cut Point

11785 5th Ave Ocean Marathon, Florida 33050

The Godly Chic Diaries

Smiling • Writing • Dreaming

ThumbWind

Fun in Michigan's Upper Thumb

Broken Cookies Taste Just as Sweet

there are no perfect experiences in life, but there is still much to savor

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