NORTH KOREA IS ANGRY AT CHINA FOR INCREASING SANCTIONS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NORTH KOREAN OFFICIAL NEWS AGENCY ‘YONHAP’)

NORTH  KOREA IS ANGRY AT CHINA FOR INCREASING SANCTIONS

2017/04/22

SEOUL, April 22 (Yonhap) — North Korea has apparently asked China not to step up anti-North sanctions, warning of “catastrophic consequences” in their bilateral relations.

Pyongyang issued the warning through commentary written by a person named Jong Phil on its official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), which was released Saturday.

It’s rare for Pyongyang’s media to level criticism at Beijing, though the KCNA didn’t directly mention China in the commentary titled “Are you good at dancing to the tune of others” and dated Friday.

The commentary instead called the nation at issue “a country around the DPRK,” using North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“Not a single word about the U.S. act of pushing the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a war after introducing hugest-ever strategic assets into the waters off the Korean peninsula is made but such rhetoric as ‘necessary step’ and ‘reaction at decisive level’ is openly heard from a country around the DPRK to intimidate it over its measures for self-defense,” the commentary’s introduction in English read.

“Particularly, the country is talking rubbish that the DPRK has to reconsider the importance of relations with it and that it can help preserve security of the DPRK and offer necessary support and aid for its economic prosperity, claiming the latter will not be able to survive the strict ‘economic sanctions’ by someone.”

Then, the KCNA commentary warned that the neighbor country will certainly face a catastrophe in their bilateral relationship, as long as it continues to apply economic sanctions together with the United States.

“If the country keeps applying economic sanctions on the DPRK while dancing to the tune of someone after misjudging the will of the DPRK, it may be applauded by the enemies of the DPRK, but it should get itself ready to face the catastrophic consequences in the relations with the DPRK,” it said.

North Korea watchers here say the commentary appears to be Pyongyang’s response after Chinese experts and media have recently called for escalating sanctions against the North, including the suspension of oil exports, in case of its sixth nuclear test.

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Pakistan Says U.S. Should Change It’s Attitude Toward China’s ‘Belt Road’ Project

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTAN OBSERVER)

US should change its attitude toward CPEC, avoid missing opportunities: Global Times

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Beijing

China and the US should tap the potential for cooperation under the One Belt, One Road (B&R) initiative, taking the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a starting point.
China is overtaking the US as the largest foreign investor in Pakistan. The US has been gradually losing its dominance of foreign direct investment into the South Asian nation at a time when the Pakistani economy is steadily improving, according to an article published in daily ‘Global Times’ here on Monday.
The UK and some other countries are currently eyeing investment opportunities in Pakistan and have expressed an interest in partnering with the CPEC, which is a flagship project of the B&R initiative, but the US has lagged behind.
Washington’s sceptical attitude toward China’s B&R initiative is one of the reasons why US companies have yet to take a bigger share of Pakistan’s burgeoning market. In this context, China and Pakistan could encourage enterprises’ cooperation to allow more US firms to participate in major infrastructure projects under the CPEC.
Companies from China and the US share great potential for cooperation in fields like the green energy sector and it can be expected that business success achieved by US firms in the South Asian country will eventually influence Washington’s attitude toward the CPEC.
We believe that China, which is a latecomer among big powers including the US in terms of developing economic ties with Pakistan, will be happy to see more US firms take part in projects under the CPEC. US companies’ rich experience in investment in the South Asian country could boost the progress of the CPEC.
As for Pakistan, it is clear that Islamabad also hopes its cooperation with Beijing will have a positive effect in persuading other countries to increase their investment in the country.
With its efforts in stepping up industrialization along the CPEC, Pakistan is integrating itself into the global industrial chain.
Although Asia’s integration will be a very slow process, reconstruction of the Asian industrial chain is likely to reshape the global economic landscape. Countries who refuse to participate in the process will suffer as a result.
Hopefully the decreased presence of US investment in Pakistan will ring alarm bells for Washington to rethink its strategy toward the CPEC and other projects in China’s B&R initiative.—APP

A Young Prince is Re-imagining Saudi Arabia

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

A Young Prince is Reimagining Saudi Arabia

Two years into his campaign as change agent in this conservative oil kingdom, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appears to be gaining the confidence and political clout to push his agenda of economic and social reform.

The young prince outlined his plans in a nearly 90-minute conversation Tuesday night at his office here. Aides said it was his first lengthy on-the-record interview in months. He offered detailed explanations about foreign policy, plans to privatize oil giant Saudi Aramco, strategy for investment in domestic industry, and liberalization of the entertainment sector, despite opposition from some people.

Mohammed bin Salman said that the crucial requirement for reform is public willingness to change. “The most concerning thing is if the Saudi people are not convinced. If the Saudi people are convinced, the sky is the limit.” he said.

Change seems increasingly desired in this young, restless country.

A recent Saudi poll found that 85 percent of the public, if forced to choose, would support the government rather than other authorities, said Abdullah al-Hokail, the head of the government’s public opinion center.

He added that 77 percent of those surveyed supported the government’s “Vision 2030” reform plan, and that 82 percent favored entertainment performances at public gatherings. Though these aren’t independently verified numbers, they do indicate the direction of popular feeling, which Saudis say is matched by anecdotal evidence.

“MBS,” as the deputy crown prince is known, said that he was “very optimistic” about President Trump. He described Trump as “a president who will bring America back to the right track” after Barack Obama, whom Saudi officials mistrusted. “Trump has not yet completed 100 days, and he has restored all the alliances of the US with its conventional allies.”

A sign of the kingdom’s embrace of the Trump administration was the visit here this week by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. While the Obama administration had criticized the Saudi war in Yemen, Mattis discussed the possibility of additional US support if the Houthis there don’t agree to a UN-brokered settlement.

(Writer’s note: I traveled to Saudi Arabia as part of the press corps accompanying Mattis.)

Mohammed bin Salman has been courting Russia, as well as the United States, and he offered an intriguing explanation of Saudi Arabia’s goal in this diplomacy.

“The main objective is not to have Russia place all its cards in the region behind Iran,” he said. To convince Russia that Riyadh is a better bet than Tehran, the Saudis have been “coordinating our oil policies recently” with Moscow, he said, which “could be the most important economic deal for Russia in modern times.”

There’s less apparent political tension than a year ago, when many analysts saw a rivalry between Mohammed bin Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is officially next in line for the throne.

The deputy crown prince appears to be firmly in control of Saudi military strategy, foreign policy and economic planning. He has gathered a team of technocrats who are much younger and more activist than the kingdom’s past leadership.

Reform plans appear to be moving ahead slowly but steadily. Mohammed bin Salman said that the budget deficit had been cut; non-oil revenue increased 46 percent from 2014 to 2016 and is forecast to grow another 12 percent this year. Unemployment and housing remain problems, he said, and improvement in those areas isn’t likely until between 2019 and 2021.

The biggest economic change is the plan to privatize about 5 percent of Saudi Aramco, which Mohammed bin Salman said will take place next year. This public offering would probably raise hundreds of billions of dollars and be the largest such sale in financial history. The exact size of the offering will depend on financial-market demand and the availability of good options for investing the proceeds, the prince told me.

The rationale for selling a share of the kingdom’s oil treasure is to raise money to diversify the economy away from reliance on energy. One priority is mining, which would tap an estimated $1.3 trillion in potential mineral wealth.

The Saudi official listed other investment targets: creating a domestic arms industry, reducing the $60 billion to $80 billion the kingdom spends annually to buy weapons abroad; producing automobiles in Saudi Arabia to replace the roughly $14 billion the government spends annually for imported vehicles; and creating domestic entertainment and tourism industries to capture some of the $22 billion that Saudis spend traveling overseas each year.

The entertainment industry is a proxy for the larger puzzle of how to unlock the Saudi economy. Changes have begun.

A Japanese orchestra performed here this month, before a mixed audience of families. A Comic Con took place in Jeddah recently, with audience dressing up as characters from the TV show “Supernatural” and other favorites. Comedy clubs feature sketch comedians (but no female stand-up comics, yet).

These options are a modest revolution for a Saudi Arabia where the main entertainment venues, until recently, were restaurants and shopping malls. The modern world, in all its raucousness, is coming, for better or worse.

King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh hosted a Monster Jam last month with souped-up trucks. There are plans for a Six Flags theme park south of Riyadh.

Maya al-Athel, one of the dozens of young people hatching plans at the Saudi General Entertainment Authority, said in an interview that she’d like to bring a Museum of Ice Cream, like one she found in New York, to the kingdom.

“We want to boost the culture of entertainment,” said Ahmed al-Khatib, a former investment banker who’s chairman of the entertainment authority. His target is to create six public entertainment options every weekend for Saudis. But the larger goal, he said, is “spreading happiness.”

The instigator of this attempt to reimagine the kingdom is the 31-year-old deputy crown prince. With his brash demeanor, he’s the opposite of the traditional Bedouin reserve of past Saudi leaders. Unlike so many Saudi princes, he wasn’t educated in the West, which may have preserved the raw combative energy that is part of his appeal for young Saudis.

The trick for Mohammed bin Salman is to maintain the alliance with the United States, without seeming to be America’s puppet. “We have been influenced by US a lot,” he said. “Not because anybody exerted pressure on us — if anyone puts pressure on us, we go the other way. But if you put a movie in the cinema and I watch it, I will be influenced.” Without this cultural nudge, he said, “we would have ended up like North Korea.” With the United States as a continuing ally, “undoubtedly, we’re going to merge more with the changes in the world.”

Mohammed bin Salman is careful when he talks about religious issues. So far, he has treated the religious authorities as allies against radicalism rather than cultural adversaries. He argues that extreme religious conservatism in Saudi Arabia is a relatively recent phenomenon, born in reaction to the 1979 Iranian revolution and the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Sunni radicals later that year as a reaction to the Shi’ite radicalism.

“I’m young. Seventy percent of our citizens are young,” the prince said. “We don’t want to waste our lives in this whirlpool that we were in the past 30 years. We want to end this epoch now. We want, as the Saudi people, to enjoy the coming days, and concentrate on developing our society and developing ourselves as individuals and families, while retaining our religion and customs. We will not continue to be in the post-’79 era,” he concluded. “That age is over.”

The Washington Post

Sierra Leone: VP Sam Sumana Has His Diplomatic Passport Withdrawn

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘GLOBAL TIMES’ FROM CHINA)

MANJOROKA

The Return Of VP Sam Sumana & The Withdrawal Of His Diplomatic Passport

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By Sorie Fofana………………………..

During his Presidential campaign in the run-up to the 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, Hon. Ernest Bai Koroma made series of overseas trips to Europe and the United States of America.

As Leader of the Opposition and APC Member of Parliament, he was entitled to a Service Passport.

During one of his foreign tours, he arrived in London on his way to Freetown. On the day he was due to fly out of London, Mr. Koroma realized that, he needed some consular assistance at the Sierra Leone High Commission in London.

V.P. Sam Sumana

V.P. Sam Sumana

The Consular Section at the Sierra Leone High Commission in London normally closes to the public between 1pm and 3pm. Unfortunately it was during that break period that, Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma and some of his supporters in the UK arrived at the Chancery Building at 41 Eagle Street, Holborn, London in 2006.

Normally, no one is allowed in the building (especially in the Consular Section) during that time (1pm and 3pm).

One of his supporters, Alim Bangura (he is now one of his body guards) had accompanied him to the Chancery Building on that day.

Alim was (is) a very good friend of mine. He telephoned me to complain that, they needed access to the Consular Section but they had been denied such access. I came down from my office to meet with them. It was quite a relief when Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma saw me. I never knew that, he was the one that needed consular assistance.

Alim told me that, Mr. Koroma wanted some consular assistance but they had not been allowed into the building because of the break period.

I allowed them in the building and took them to the Consular Section and explained to the Assistant Consular Officer that, Mr. Koroma needed urgent consular assistance as he was due to fly out of the United Kingdom that day. And I introduced him as a Member of Parliament and the Leader of the Opposition in Sierra Leone.

The Assistant Consular Officer said that, he needed to be instructed before he could offer any sort of assistance to Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma.

I told him that, as a diplomatic staff, I could guaranty that Mr. Koroma was what he said he was.

After I insisted that, he must obey my instruction, the Assistant Consular Officer agreed to render the much-needed assistance to Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma.

I accompanied them out of the building and advised them to use the tube instead of driving in the crawling London vehicular traffic to Gatwick International Airport.

One year later, Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma visited the High Commission in London as the elected President of the Republic of Sierra Leone.

The Assistant Consular Officer did not go to work on the day President Koroma officially visited the Chancery Building at 41 Eagle Street with a retinue of his newly appointed Cabinet Ministers including Alhaji Alpha Kanu (Presidential Affairs Minister), Hon. Alhaji Ibrahim Kemoh Sesay (Minister of Transport and Aviation) and Mrs. Zainab Hawa Bangura (Minister of Foreign Affairs).

The rest, as they say, is history.

Sam Sumana’s Return

After almost one year in self-imposed exile in Ghana, the elected former Vice President of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Chief Samuel Sam Sumana returned home on Thursday April 13, 2017. He received a tumultuous welcome from his supporters, both at Lungi and in Freetown.

VP Sam Sumana was driven in a huge motorcade to his private residence at Hill Station.

Diplomatic Passport

As Vice President, Chief Sam Sumana was a diplomatic passport holder. His spouce is also entitled to a diplomatic passport.

It is understood that, on arrival at Lungi International Airport on Thursday 13th April, 2017 VP Sam Sumana’s diplomatic passport was withdrawn from him by a senior Immigration official apparently acting on orders from State House.

Is This The Way To Treat A Former Vice President?

Why did the government decide to withdraw VP Sam Sumana’s diplomatic passport at the Lungi International Airport? Why didn’t the government authorize the Immigration Department to write to VP Sam Sumana, officially withdrawing from him the privilege of carrying a diplomatic passport?

Why didn’t the government wait until the passport expires and decide not to renew it again? This is not the way to do politics. Absolutely not!

How would President Koroma feel if he leaves office and all his privileges and entitlements are withdrawn from him?

How many sacked Ministers and diplomats have retired their diplomatic passports to the Immigration Department after they left office?

Sam Sumana: The Presidential Candidate

A new political party or movement calling itself C4C (Coalition for Change) has chosen VP Sam Sumana as their Presidential candidate for the March 7, 2018 elections. No matter what anybody says, VP Sam Sumana has suddenly become a key stakeholder in the politics of Sierra Leone. Afterall, he is no longer an ordinary Sierra Leonean. He has served as Vice President of Sierra Leone for almost seven years. Such a man cannot be easily dismissed. He is a Politician with a strong political base.

Those people in the APC who are victimizing and even harassing their opponents in other political parties must not forget that, they will not be in power forever.

The outcome of the 2018 elections can go either way. So, people like Albert Logus Koroma and Karamoh Kabba must be very careful the way that they conduct themselves during this election campaign period.

Those victimizing and molesting Ambassador Alimamy Petito Koroma, Hon. Ibrahim Bundu and others in the APC should think twice and remember that, nothing last forever.

May common sense prevail!

U.S. Delivers 3 F-35 Fighter Jets To Israel

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

Middle East

US Delivers 3 F-35 Fighter Jets to Israel

Tel Aviv- Three US F-35 stealth fighter planes are on their way from the United States to Israel to join two other warplanes which landed in the country last year, The Israeli air force has announced.

The five fighter jets are part of a deal to provide Israel with 50 jets by 2021. Israel is set to receive six to seven per year, until the first batch of 33 jets is delivered.

The five F-35 (known by its Hebrew name “Adir” or “Mighty) jets will participate for the first time in the Air Force Flyover during Independence Day.

Once the jets arrive in Israel, they will not leave except for combat missions.

The defense ministry says the Jewish State depends on such planes as a “deterrent force against a possible Iranian threat.”

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which costs 90 million dollars each and is capable of carrying 16 tons of missiles, is known for having a long flight range.

The F-35 was designed to strike ground targets and for air-to-air combat. It can also sneak undetected behind enemy radar.

Israel receives annually 3.8 billion dollars of US military assistance.

It is the first country after the US to have in its possession the F-35 stealth fighter planes.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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President Trumps Stupidity/Ignorance About Korea/China Triggers Public Outrage In South Korea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE KOREA TIMES NEWS)

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk together at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. The U.S. is piling the pressure on Beijing to use its clout with North Korea to rein in its nuclear and missile programs. / AP-Yonhap


US president’s gaffe triggers public uproar here

By Yi Whan-woo

U.S. President Donald Trump has suffered a serious dent in his credibility among South Koreans after he “lied” about the whereabouts of a U.S. Navy strike group and quoting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s alleged false claim that “Korea actually used to be a part of China.”

South Koreans have been familiar with Trump’s credibility gap and flip-flops on many issues in the U.S. _ his use of incorrect information and data as well as unsubstantiated claims.

But they have been bewildered this time as his latest remarks poses a challenge to the security of the Korean Peninsula and South Korea’s national interests, according to analysts, Thursday.

Regarding the course of the U.S Navy strike group led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, Trump said last week that “We’re sending an armada” to waters off the peninsula.

His bravado added to concerns over a U.S. pre-emptive attack against North Korea, something his administration has repeatedly warned of in the wake of its missile strike on Syria.

It also stoked fears over a possible war here, fueling speculation that erratic North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may take Trump at his word and risk an attack on South Korea and the American troops stationed here in advance.

The U.S. flotilla, however, turned out to be sailing in the Indian Ocean, thousands of kilometers southwest of the peninsula.

“The public are obviously concerned about whether Seoul can rely on the Trump administration in deterring North Korea’s growing military aggression and preventing China from distorting history to control the peninsula,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.

“I’d say Trump proved his incompetence as commander-chief if he really did not know the location of the U.S. strike group. He also deceived South Koreans if he actually knew where it was.”

The White House did not clarify whether it was a verbatim account of Chinese President Xi Jinping or Trump’s own description when the latter said “Korea actually used to be a part of China” during an April 12 Wall Street Journal interview.

But his comment still shocked South Koreans after Quartz, an online news website, published an article on Trump’s ignorance Tuesday that went viral.

The Wall Street Journal interview dealt with the summit between the two leaders at Trump’s resort in Florida from April 6 to 7.

Speaking of Xi’s lesson on Sino-Korean history, Trump said, “He then went into the history of China and Korea. Not North Korea, Korea. And you know, you’re talking about thousands of years…and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China. And after listening for 10 minutes, I realized that it’s not so easy.”

Trump also angered the South Koreans as his words came amid deteriorating relations between Seoul and Beijing amid China’s economic retaliation for the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery here.

Critics claimed Trump echoed the Chinese-centric version of regional history and also appeared to be siding with Beijing’s project suspected of distorting history to eventually assimilate North Korea.

“It hurts the South Korean people’s feelings while stirring up distrust toward the U.S. concerning its North Korea policies,” said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean Studies at Dongguk University.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it is using “various diplomatic channels” involving both the U.S. and China to verify the facts on Trump’s comment.

“We’ll take measures that are necessary as soon as we find out the related facts,” ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck said Thursday.

On the same day, the Chinese foreign ministry refrained from answering queries about Xi’s alleged false claim. Instead, its spokesman Lu Kang told South Koreans “not to be worried” about the incident.

Meanwhile, political parties here lodged protests, asking both the U.S. and China to clearly explain the truth behind Trump’s remark.

“Republic of Korea nationals as well as people of intellectual sensibility are embarrassed and surprised by the incident,” Democratic Party of Korea chief spokesman Youn Kwan-suk said in a press briefing.

“Our country’s fate will not be in the hands of other countries. The Korean people will determine it. The party is making clear that we will take a leading role over issues on the prosperity of the peninsula and inter-Korean unification.”

The People’s Party called the remarks “a diplomatic gaffe.”

South Korea and Japan Feel Betrayed By “The Clown” (Trump)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SOUTH KOREAN NEWS AGENCY TPM)

Let’s stop for a moment and note that President Trump and his skeletal foreign policy team have accomplished the fairly difficult feat of deeply alienating South Koreans (and seemingly many Japanese as well) while notionally protecting them from the threat of a militaristic and aggressive North Korea.

As the AP noted here yesterday, countries in the region are looking at Trump as, to quote the AP, “Unpredictable. Unhinged. Dangerous.” Consider that this is in a confrontation with Kim Jong-un. North Korea under the Kim dynasty has specialized in extremely provocative, high risk gambits. Thirty four years ago, they blew up several members of the South Korean cabinet in a bomb attack in Rangoon. Kim Jong-un apparently just had his half brother killed in a poison attack in Kuala Lumpur. Trump has strong competition in the unpredictable and unhinged and dangerous department.

But what’s really driving anxiety and anger is this issue with the confusion over the whereabouts of the Carl Vinson and its carrier strike group. As I argued yesterday (and as I think is consensus opinion), the false impression seems to have been more a matter of internal confusion than intentional deception. But the South Korean press and public seems to see it very differently. Headlines in South Korea are saying that Trump lied and as this article in the Times put it, “South Koreans feel cheated after U.S. Carrier Miscue.”

Of all Trump goofs and scandals, this seems to be one of the more innocent ones in terms of intent. Maybe we’ll learn otherwise but I don’t think this was intentional. But when you’re talking tough and getting into stand offs over nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and a major global city vulnerable to overwhelming artillery fire, you’ve got to have your shit together. You need clarity about what you’re doing and you need to be know what you’re doing and appear to know what you’re doing. Deception is an inherent part of military affairs. Strategic ambiguity is too. But if you’re going to be bluff or deceive, you need to make sure people think you were doing it on purpose. Small errors and confusions can have very, very big consequences. We can parse different quotes from the White House and Pentagon and see how the confusion arose. But step back. When you find out that the global hegemon ‘said’ its ships were in one place when they were actually thousands of miles away, that seems either weirdly duplicitous or stupid in a way that invites mockery or fear.

Here’s text from the Times about one South Korean paper’s coverage …

On Wednesday, after it was revealed that the carrier strike group was actually thousands of miles away and had been heading in the opposite direction, toward the Indian Ocean, South Koreans felt bewildered, cheated and manipulated by the United States, their country’s most important ally.

“Trump’s lie over the Carl Vinson,” read a headline on the website of the newspaper JoongAng Ilbo on Wednesday. “Xi Jinping and Putin must have had a good jeer over this one.”

“Like North Korea, which is often accused of displaying fake missiles during military parades, is the United States, too, now employing ‘bluffing’ as its North Korea policy?” the article asked.

Then there’s this from the political front …

“The 50 million South Koreans, as well as many common-sensical people around the world, cannot help but feel embarrassed and shocked,” said Youn Kwan-suk, spokesman of the main opposition Democratic Party, which is leading in voter surveys before the May 9 presidential election.

The quote from the Democratic Party spokesman centers not just on the Carl Vinson goof but a statement from President Trump claiming that Korea “used to be part of China.” The quote actually comes from the full quote version of his description of that ‘nobody could have known how complicated Korea could be’ exchange he had with President Xi of China at Mar a Lago. Quoting the President from his interview with the Wall Street Journal …

He then went into the history of China and Korea. Not North Korea, Korea. And you know, you’re talking about thousands of years …and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China. And after listening for 10 minutes I realized that not — it’s not so easy. You know I felt pretty strongly that they have — that they had a tremendous power over China. I actually do think they do have an economic power, and they have certainly a border power to an extent, but they also — a lot of goods come in. But it’s not what you would think. It’s not what you would think.

To the extent we can collapse thousands of years of history into simple yeses and nos, Korea was never part of China. It’s a complicated question if you want to dig into it because the two countries’ histories are deeply intertwined. But again, short version: Korea was never part of China. And Koreans, with a strong sense of national identity, certainly don’t think that Korea was ever part of China. It must be even more bewildering and jarring to see that the President thinks this on the basis of a ten minute conversation with the President of China.

To get the full picture of what happened here, it’s important to understand that the reports of the carrier group returning to Korean waters stirred pretty intense anxiety in the first place. That doesn’t mean it was a good or bad idea. Stand-offs provoke tension even when they’re necessary and well-thought-out. But people in the region seemed to be more afraid of precipitous action from President Trump than North Korea – already a bad sign. Finding out that the US either lied or miscommunicated internally about where its ships even were just adds more fuel to the fire.

At the moment, there seems to be an active debate in the region about whether the deception was intentional and whether the US’s two key regional allies were in on it.

As one Japanese expert quoted in the Times puts it, “When it comes to matters that concern Japan, the two militaries communicate essentially in real time.” Given the depth of the US-Japan security relationship, it would be hard to believe this isn’t the case. (Hard for me to believe it’s not the same in the US-ROK (South Korea) military to military relationship.) This same expert argued that by letting the misconception persist, the Japanese were in essence cooperating with the US deception aimed at overawing the North Koreans – one that in a narrow sense may actually have worked. But this means or seems to mean that the Japanese and South Koreans were tacitly furthering a US deception or misdirection – not realizing that it wasn’t so much a deception on the US part as simply a confusion within the US government. As another Japan expert, Narushige Michishita at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo puts it with some understatement: “Whatever the case, whether it was deliberate misinformation or a miscommunication between the Pentagon and the White House, it’s quite serious. It undermines the credibility of U.S. leadership.”

Just as a point of perspective, here’s the online front page of The Korea Times, an English language Korean news publication, that I just grabbed as I was writing.

International misunderstandings happen. It is always surprising to see, even in the gravest historical crises, how much of a role chance and accident play in outcomes, sometimes tragic outcomes. That said, this is the kind of stuff that happens when you have a clown serving as President, large numbers of top position at the key departments unfilled and a climate of back-stabbing and organizational chaos.

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China Is Getting Fed Up With North Korea’s Little Fat Boy With The Bad Haircut

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) China may be getting fed up with continued nuclear bluster from long-time ally North Korea and tilting toward the United States.

A day after North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister said Pyongyang would test missiles weekly and use nuclear weapons if threatened, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing was “gravely concerned” about North Korea’s recent nuclear and missile activities.
In the same press conference, spokesman Lu Kang praised recent US statements on the North Korean issue.
“American officials did make some positive and constructive remarks… such as using whatever peaceful means possible to resolve the (Korean) Peninsula nuclear issue. This represents a general direction that we believe is correct and should be adhered to,” Lu said.

Watch: N. Korea performance shows US in flames

 Watch: N. Korea performance shows US in flames

That direction was not evident from North Korean leadership, as state-run TV highlighted a propaganda video showing missile strikes leaving the US in flames.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol ratcheted up the rhetoric in an interview with the BBC.
“If the United States is reckless enough to use military means, it would mean from that very day an all-out war,” Han said.
Statements of that vein do not help the situation, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Trump: North Korea pushed off by past presidents

 Trump: North Korea pushed off by past presidents

“China firmly opposes any words or actions that would escalate rivalry and tension,” Lu said.
US President Donald Trump has been pressing China to rein in North Korea, suggesting that doing so could ease US-China relations over trade and other issues.
Experts point out that China also wants to prevent North Korea from becoming a full-fledged nuclear power — and certainly wants to prevent a war on its southern border that could send millions of refugees flooding into China and potentially risk bringing a US military presence to China’s borders.

North Korean Official Threatens ‘Weekly’ Missile Tests as White House Condemns Launches

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

North Korean Official Threatens ‘Weekly’ Missile Tests as White House Condemns Launches

2:20 PM ET

A North Korean official said the country will continue to test missiles regularly, as both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence warned the country against such launches.

“We’ll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis,” North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-Ryol told the BBC, warning that an “all-out war” will result if the United States takes military action.

A North Korean test missile failed on Sunday. Last week, Trump dispatched a strike fleet toward the Korean peninsula.

During a visit to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea this weekend, Pence warned North Korea to stop its “reckless” development of nuclear weapons.

“The era of strategic patience is over,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “President Trump has made it clear that the patience of the United States and our allies in this region has run out and we want to see change. We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons, and also its continual use and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable.”

“Gotta behave,” Trump said Monday at the White House when asked if he had a message for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

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5 Things We’re About to Learn About Syria, Putin and Trump

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

Opinion

5 Things We’re About to Learn About Syria, Putin and Trump

As a result of the US airstrikes against the Syrian regime forces last week, we are all about to learn a great deal. It is, surely, too soon to know precisely what impact the strikes ordered by President Donald Trump will have on the regime and where the Syrian civil war is heading. This is largely because key players including the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, Russia, Iran and the Syrian opposition — not to mention the US — are still plotting their next moves.

But it seems certain that the events of the coming weeks will help answer five crucial questions about the civil war and the various actors that are now struggling to shape the outcome of that conflict.

First, how much of a gambler is Vladimir Putin? The Russian president has gained a reputation over the past three years as a shrewd risk-taker, able to outmaneuver his opponents with the well-timed coup de main.

Now, the Trump administration has demonstrated that it is willing to use force against Putin’s ally in Damascus, and that it is prepared to risk significantly higher tensions with Moscow. During the Barack Obama presidency, in other words, Putin confronted a US that was predictably — if perhaps understandably — prudent. Now he faces a president whose risk calculus is far harder to discern.

So how will Putin respond? Will he double down on support for Assad — perhaps by helping the Syrian regime harass or target US aircraft — in hopes that he can still out-escalate the Americans? Or will he seek to reduce tensions — perhaps by shoving Assad toward renewed negotiations with the opposition — in hopes of avoiding a sharper showdown with Washington?

Second, how crafty is Assad? The Syrian leader was once seen as the mild-mannered ophthalmologist and a would-be reformer; now he is perhaps the greatest butcher of the young 21st century. Yet brutality aside, Assad’s strategic acumen has so far remained difficult to discern. He has proven a far more skillful survivor than nearly anyone would have predicted in 2011, but his heavy-handedness also helped turn what were at first peaceful protests into a zero-sum civil war; and he has now managed, through ghastly chemical attacks, to turn the initially friendly Trump administration against his remaining in power. So is Assad a shrewd if morally abhorrent statesman, or simply another dictator who substitutes savagery for strategy?

What he does next will tell us a great deal. If Assad confines himself to a symbolic and non-escalatory response, if he desists from using chemical weapons, if he at least feigns a willingness to negotiate with the opposition, he may be able to escape the noose once again — and perhaps even return to the less spectacular forms of murder that the international community has proven willing to tolerate for more than six years. If, however, he lashes out, whether by continuing to use chemical weapons or by seeking to extract revenge on the US, he may succeed in eliciting the decisive international intervention the has so far managed to avoid.

The answers to these first two questions will also bear heavily on the answer to a third: How slippery is the slope? The Obama administration’s go-to argument against military intervention was always that the options that could be executed at a tolerable cost were unlikely to alter the trajectory of the civil war in any meaningful way — and that a first step was thus likely to lead inexorably to pressures to take a second step and then a third.

Proponents of military intervention, in contrast, argued that a bold but limited American stroke could dramatically shift the psychology of the conflict and put Assad and his patrons on the defensive. No second or third step would be necessary, this argument went, because the first step — if executed with sufficient skill and resolve — would be sufficient.

We are about to find out which thesis is correct. Perhaps even the very limited American intervention undertaken to date will force Russia to rethink its support for Assad, or force Assad to accept that he cannot use the only weapons — his chemical arsenal — that might allow him to reconquer remaining rebel-held territories. Perhaps Trump’s limited engagement will thereby create a new strategic equilibrium more favorable to an acceptable political settlement or some other tolerable outcome.

Alternatively, perhaps the psychological impact of the strikes will be equivalent to their military impact — which is to say, not much. Perhaps the strikes will even cause Russia and Iran to redouble their own efforts to checkmate US intervention. In that case, Trump would soon be confronted with the question of whether to double down or risk looking the paper tiger, and the slope may come to seem slippery indeed. The first scenario would make Obama’s caution from 2011 through 2016 look excessive in retrospect; the latter would make it seem fairly wise after all.

These questions, in turn, relate to a fourth key issue: Is a negotiated settlement even possible? Over the past six years, myriad diplomatic and political processes have been launched in hopes of bringing about an end to the civil war. Every single one has failed. In the weeks preceding Assad’s latest chemical weapons attack, it did seem that the conflict was perhaps reaching a new equilibrium, with the regime largely having consolidated control over the western spine of the country, and various opposition forces controlling their own chunks of territory in other areas. But with Assad still determined — at least rhetorically — to retake the entire country, and with many opposition groups still vehemently opposed to his remaining in power, the prospects for turning that equilibrium into a sustainable settlement remain uncertain at best.

The question now is whether the strategic shock of US strike can create a new diplomatic context in which the parties — particularly the regime — are more amenable to compromise. Or, alternatively, will the aims of Assad and the opposition — not to mention the outside parties supporting them — remain so divergent and intractable that no negotiated settlement is possible?

Finally, as these issues come into sharper focus, we will also learn more about a fifth crucial question: Is the Trump administration capable of effective strategy?

Crises can be clarifying moments. They can cast new light on the contours of an ongoing conflict; they can lay bare the characteristics — and competence — of the parties involved. The Syria crisis is the acid test of the Trump administration: We are about to find out whether the president and his advisers can make the grade. Given the outsized role that the US plays not just in Syria but around the world, this may well be the most important question that the Syria crisis will help us answer.

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