Trump’s Korea Blunder Is Worse Than It Looks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG NEWS)

 

Trump’s Korea Blunder Is Worse Than It Looks

Kim Jong Un appears shrewd. China is stronger. And U.S. allies know not to trust Washington.

7
So much for gut instincts.

Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

Donald Trump thinks he’s a great negotiator, a brilliant bluffer whose gut instincts are so stellar that ignorance of history and refusal to deal with substantive complexities are irrelevant.

That’s why he bragged he’d win the Nobel Peace Prize for his genius in getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. Except, of course, it didn’t. It’s good his Singapore summit with Kim Jong Un was canceled. The larger picture in this and other major issues is how the American president is remarkably ill-prepared and uninformed.

Incredibly, he might have been outmatched in the June 12 face-off with the “little Rocket Man,” the untested North Korean tyrant. Analysts suggest Kim “has done his homework,” according to Jung Pak, a Brookings Institution scholar who was the North Korea expert at the Central Intelligence Agency and then for the director of National Intelligence. “He’s apparently well read on the issue and pretty comfortable with the technology,” she said.

Pak wasn’t surprised when Trump, after canceling the summit, said the next day that it might be back on. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim held a surprise weekend meeting. A subsequent session now seems likely.

But there’s little reason to believe a U.S. president who governs by bluster and is interested only in whether he gets credit and looks good would be better prepared for any next round. That’s unsettling.

Clearly, the North Koreans played games and were duplicitous; they always do and always are. It’s a brutal, corrupt regime.

Trump and his sycophants claim it was his toughness that scared Kim and forced him to consider negotiations; they say the president showed resolve and guts in walking away.

More likely, this has been Kim’s long-range plan for several years, as Robert Carlin, a former diplomat and intelligence official who has been to North Korea dozens of times, told the Washington Post’s David Ignatius. Kim effectively built up his nuclear arsenal, ignoring threats from Trump and others, and giving himself enough leverage to start to backtrack a bit. The regime supposedly dismantled one its nuclear testing sites last week.

Without question, the economic sanctions, begun under President Barack Obama and toughened by Trump, pressured this economic basket case of a country. And more important than Trump’s “fire and fury” rhetoric was a new South Korean administration willing to deal with its seven-decade-old enemy; a war on the peninsula would topple Kim but at a cataclysmic price.

Trump, being Trump, didn’t have the decency to give the South Koreans advance notice of his plans to cancel the summit. This is a pattern. He surprised our close ally when he impulsively announced he would meet with Kim, though no preparations had been made.

Trump’s hawkish national security adviser John Bolton, eager to sabotage any deal, raised the analogy of Libya, which gave up its nuclear weapons and later, with Western support, was toppled. Vice President Mike Pence weighed in similarly.

“Citing the Libyan example was very counterproductive,” notes Charles Armstrong, a Columbia University professor and Korean scholar. Trump’s clamor about de-nuclearization was a misnomer. Kim might make important concessions, but he’s never going to totally give up his most powerful chip; put yourself in his shoes.

Early last year Trump acknowledged, after China’s Xi Jinping had explained it to him, that the Korean situation was more complicated than he had thought. Unfortunately, the president didn’t seem to learn much, alternately crediting and blaming China for North Korea’s behavior. There is mutual contempt between these two neighbors, but they need each other, a reality reinforced by Trump’s bumbling.

History bores Trump – he seems not to know or care much – and he doesn’t read briefing books. A few months ago in the New Yorker, top aides to former national security adviser H.R.McMaster attested to the president’s shallowness. National security briefings, one former staffer said, had to be boiled down to two or three bullet points, “with the syntactical complexity of ‘See Jane run.'”

The great deal maker has yet to make even a decent deal as president; he hasn’t negotiated anything on health care, immigration or infrastructure, and the trade negotiations with China may be a bust.

In Korea, here’s what his gut instincts, with little knowledge, produced: North Korea is a greater nuclear threat than it was 17 months earlier. Kim Jong Un, depicted then as an irrational roly-poly comic-book figure with weird hair, is seen more as shrewd operative. China’s influence on the Korean peninsula and the region has grown. And as American allies, especially South Korea, painfully learned, Washington is not reliable.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Albert R. Hunt at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katy Roberts at [email protected]

Twitter explains why Trump’s North Korea tweet wasn’t removed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTAN NEWSPAPER ‘DAWN’)

 

Twitter is citing “newsworthiness” and the public interest as reasons why it didn’t remove United States (US) President Donald Trump’s declaration in a tweet that North Korean leaders may not “be around much longer.”

On Saturday, after North Korea’s foreign minister called Trump a “mentally deranged man” at the United Nations General Assembly in response to the latter’s threatening speech, the US president responded on Twitter.

Twitter responded to questions about the policy on Monday, saying in a series of messages on its public policy account that “newsworthiness” is one of the factors it considers in determining if a tweet breaks the platform’s rules.

It says the policy has been internal, but its public-facing rules will be updated to reflect it.

China watches in frustration as North Korea crisis enters dangerous spiral

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST AND FROM THE GOOGLE+ BLOG OF ANDY TAI)

 

China watches in frustration as North Korea crisis enters dangerous spiral


An Air Force B-1B Lancer refuels near the East China Sea last week. U.S. bombers accompanied by fighter jets flew off the east coast of North Korea on Saturday in a show of force designed to project American military power in the face of Pyongyang’s weapons programs, the Pentagon said. (Peter Reft/AFP/Getty Images)
 September 24 at 8:08 AM
 The view from China could hardly be much worse: the leaders of North Korea and the United States threatening to rain down total destruction on each other, while U.S. bombers and fighters stage a show of military might close to China’s shores.In public, China’s foreign ministry has calmly advocated restraint and warned Pyongyang and Washington not add to fuel to the fire. But behind closed doors, experts said Sunday, it is as frustrated with North Korea, and with the situation, as it has ever been.

As North Korea’s dominant trading partner, China is widely seen as the key to solving the crisis, yet experts say its influence over Pyongyang has never been lower.

Unwilling to completely pull the plug, it has nevertheless agreed to a stiff package of sanctions at the United Nations and implemented them with unprecedented determination, experts say.

So far, all that has achieved is to alienate its neighbor and erstwhile friend.

 Play Video 1:13
Trump praises China for economic measures against North Korea
While meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sept. 21, President Trump thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping for ordering Chinese banks to stop doing business with North Korea. (The Washington Post)

“The North Koreans have figured out that the Chinese are genuinely in a bind,” said Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney. “Having cried wolf for so long about having limited influence, the Chinese genuinely do have limited influence in North Korea right now. It’s not just weasel words.”

The key step that China hesitates to take is to cut off crude oil exports to North Korea. On Saturday, it announced that it would limit exports of refined petroleum products and ban exports of condensates and liquefied natural gas to comply with the latest U.N. sanctions. It will also ban imports of textiles from North Korea.

But it is not prepared to do anything that might bring down the regime, potentially bringing refugees streaming across its border and unifying the peninsula under an American-friendly government.

North Korea’s leaders, experts in brinkmanship, know that full well, and this knowledge has allowed them to call China’s bluff repeatedly.

But just in case, they are also thought to have stockpiled between six and nine months of oil supplies — enough to keep the military and key industries going for some considerable time, Graham said.

On Saturday, North Korea’s foreign minister warned that a strike against the U.S. mainland is “inevitable” because President Trump mocked leader Kim Jong Un with the nickname “little rocket man.”

In response to Ri Yong Ho’s threats at the United Nations, Trump tweeted: “If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”

U.S. bombers, escorted by fighter jets, flew off the North Korean coast in a show of force on Saturday, while in Pyongyang, tens of thousands of people staged a mass rally to express support for “final victory” over the United States and call for the annihilation of the enemy, the state Korean Central News Agency reported.

“This is a disaster for all parties, and for China for sure,” said Lu Chao, a Korean Peninsula expert at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences in Shenyang. “Although there is no imminent sign of an outbreak of war, partial conflicts, especially between the South and North Korea on the sea where boundaries are not set, are very likely to occur.”

Next month, China’s Communist Party leadership meets for a key congress in which President Xi Jinping is due to be confirmed for another five-year term as Communist Party general secretary.

At home and abroad, there has been a big effort to project confidence and control, and to ensure calmness and stability, in the run-up to this meeting. That effort has been felt in every arm and at every level of government here. But Pyongyang simply isn’t listening.

Its sixth and most recent nuclear test was staged earlier this month at a time when Xi was hosting leaders from BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) nations at a key summit — an insult the face-conscious Chinese would have felt deeply.

Xi has never met Kim, and the two men are believed to hold each other in contempt. China’s attempts to send an envoy to Pyongyang to calm the situation have been rebuffed.

Some experts say Beijing has only itself to blame, for helping North Korea in the past and allegedly enabling the regime to develop its missile program. Yet there is no doubt it is now paying a price.

China has watched in alarm and anger this year as South Korea installed an American missile defense system that it fears could be used to spy on Chinese territory. It will also not have welcomed U.S. warplanes flying close to its shores this weekend.

South Korea’s presidential office said Seoul and Washington had coordinated closely over the deployment of the U.S. bombers, calling it one of the most effective countermeasures against the advancement of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, South Korean media reported.

While Seoul co-operates with Washington, Pyongyang is freezing out Beijing.

On Saturday, KCNA issued a list of diplomatic missions that had held celebrations earlier this month to mark the 69th anniversary of the founding of the Republic. The list included 17 nations — but pointedly not China.

The deterioration in relations between Beijing and Pyongyang erupted much more forcefully into the open Friday when KCNA angrily rebuked its Chinese state media counterparts for threatening, insulting and undermining their country. In a piece entitled “Rude Deed of Shameless Media,” it took aim at the Chinese Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily, for arguing in favor of sanctions.

“The party organ of the socialist country bragging long history denounced socialist Korea so maliciously in collusion with the imperialists,” KCNA wrote.

In China, experts said North Korea has resolved to continue development of its nuclear and missile program — at least until it can put a nuclear warhead on a missile capable of reaching the United States — despite whatever external pressure is applied.

“Sanctions, in my view, will not reverse North Korea’s resolute determination,” said Shen Dingli, deputy dean of Fudan University’s Institute of International Studies in Shanghai.

But Lu at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences insisted sanctions would work — at least by encouraging North Korea to one day return to talks.

“The sanctions that have been imposed will have a significant impact on North Korea’s economy, making them reconsider benefits and losses, and choose between being an enemy of the international community or sitting back at the negotiating table,” he said.

“I believe that one day North Korea will be at the table. ”

Shirley Feng contributed to this report.

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