North Korea vows to retaliate against U.S. over sanctions

BBC News reports: North Korea has vowed to retaliate and make “the US pay a price” for drafting fresh UN sanctions over its banned nuclear weapons programme.

The sanctions, which were unanimously passed by the UN on Saturday, were a “violent violation of our sovereignty,” the official KCNA news agency said.

Separately, South Korea says the North has rejected an offer to restart talks, dismissing it as insincere. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: The U.N. Security Council’s move to block countries from buying North Korean coal plugs a large loophole that allowed Chinese companies to import more North Korean coal after the first U.N. ban in 2016.

Previous bans have allowed Pyongyang to sell coal for “humanitarian” trade, but Saturday’s vote banned all coal sales in an effort to choke off funding for Kim Jong Un’s weapons programs, where much of the money was funneled, according to recent U.S. court filings.

The coal trade cited in the court documents accounted for as much as one-third of North Korean exports and helps explain how North Korea continued to develop its weapons programs despite being impoverished and under trade sanctions. The connections to the military also undermine Chinese claims that their imports were benefiting North Korean civilians. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: A Southeast Asian diplomatic meeting quietly turned into the first real multiparty bargaining session in eight years to tackle North Korea’s nuclear program, as the country’s top diplomat held a rare round of talks with his counterparts from China, South Korea and Russia.

The United States and Japan were the only members of the so-called six-party talks on the North’s nuclear ambitions, which ended in failure in 2009, whose diplomats did not meet this week with Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho of North Korea. But Rex W. Tillerson, the American secretary of state, kept the door open for talks, saying at a news conference on Monday that he had no specific preconditions for negotiating with Pyongyang.

“Well, the best signal that North Korea could give us that they are prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches,” Mr. Tillerson said.

But when asked how long such a pause would have to last before talks could go forward, Mr. Tillerson demurred. [Continue reading…]

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UN Security Council imposes punishing new sanctions on North Korea

The New York Times reports: The United Nations Security Council on Saturday unanimously adopted a resolution to impose the most punishing sanctions yet against North Korea over its repeated defiance of a ban on testing missiles and nuclear bombs.

The resolution, intended to press North Korea to renounce its nuclear militarization, could reduce the isolated country’s already meager annual export revenue by $1 billion, or about a third of its current total.

Ambassador Nikki R. Haley of the United States, which introduced the resolution, said its adoption by all 15 Council members signified what she called “a strong, united step toward holding North Korea accountable for its behavior.”

Ms. Haley described the new penalties, which the United States painstakingly negotiated with China, North Korea’s most important trading partner, as “the most stringent set of sanctions on any country in a generation.” She also said they would give North Korea’s leaders “a taste of the deprivation they have chosen to inflict on the North Korean people.” [Continue reading…]

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Here’s the real reason Anthony Scaramucci hates Reince Priebus

HuffPost reports: In the public feud between Anthony Scaramucci and Reince Priebus, what hasn’t been fully explained is why Scaramucci so dislikes the president’s now-former chief of staff — a man he alternates between calling “Reince Penis” and “Rancid Penis,” according to an adviser to the White House.

The acrimony first surfaced during the presidential transition. The two men had been cordial before then. They met six years ago, when Scaramucci was a fundraiser for presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Priebus was chair of the Republican National Committee. They interacted peaceably during Donald Trump’s campaign as Scaramucci made the rounds on television and at donor events.

After Trump’s victory, Priebus was named chief of staff, and Scaramucci, according to someone close to the transition, was assured that he was also in line for a big position within the administration. (Sources for this story requested anonymity to discuss the details of sensitive conversations.)

While preparing for his move into government, Scaramucci struck a deal — which is still under regulatory scrutiny — to sell his stake in his hedge fund, SkyBridge Capital, to Chinese conglomerate HNA Group and another company. He assumed that he’d be put in charge of the public liaison office, a job that Valerie Jarrett held in the Obama administration. He had it all mapped out, according to the White House adviser. He identified 2,500 influential business leaders across the United States and had come up with a clever name for them: Trump Team 2,500. He believed these people would help pressure Congress into supporting the president’s agenda.

But Scaramucci’s plans were foiled in early January. That’s when Priebus, according to a confidant of both Scaramucci and the president, told Trump, “He played you.”

“How’s that?” Trump asked Priebus, according to the same source, who has spoken to several people within the White House about the conversation.

Priebus then told Trump that he felt Scaramucci had been offered too much for SkyBridge by HNA Group. The deal, he implied, smelled bad — as if the Chinese might expect favors from within the administration for that inflated price. The source also said that Priebus mentioned there was email traffic between Scaramucci and the Chinese proving this. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: Allies to Priebus said he told them he had resigned on Thursday, concluding that the internal chaos would only escalate. One Priebus friend said the chief of staff had described the situation as “unsustainable,” saying he felt demeaned by the president’s treatment of him and was frustrated that he could not assert control over basic White House functions, such as policy development, communications and even White House announcements — which sometimes were made impulsively by the president, such as this week’s announcement to ban transgender people from serving in the military.

But some White House officials said the decision for Priebus to depart was made by Trump — a decision that had been a couple weeks in the making — and that the president forced him on Friday. These officials noted that Priebus presided over the morning senior staff meeting and accompanied Trump to a law enforcement event in New York.

Regardless, his final departure was a humiliating coda for what had been a largely demeaning tenure during which Priebus endured regular belittling and emasculation from rival advisers — and even, at times, the president himself.

When Air Force One touched down Friday afternoon at Andrew’s Air Force Base, Priebus, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and social media director Dan Scavino all loaded into a Suburban. But moments later, Miller and Scavino hopped out of the vehicle, and as word trickled out about the chief of staff’s ouster, reporters inched close to snap photos of Priebus, who sat alone on the rain-soaked tarmac. Priebus’ vehicle then pulled out of the presidential motorcade, which proceeded along to the White House without him.

“I think any observer — including one that did not speak English and knew nothing about politics and came from another planet and solar system — could, after observing the situation in the White House, realize the White House is failing,” said one informal White House adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share a candid assessment. “And when the White House is failing, you can’t replace the president.” [Continue reading…]

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How to take down Kim Jong Un — without firing a shot

Tom Malinowski writes: At my Senate confirmation hearing a few years ago, I made a promise to the panel deciding my fate: never to use the phrase “there are no good options.” After all, if there were obvious solutions to the hardest—and most interesting—problems we face in the world, they would already have been found. Our job in the U.S. government—I served in the State Department as an assistant secretary focused on human rights—was not to make excuses in such situations, but to use whatever inherently limited tools we had to try to make things better, and to avoid making them worse.

North Korea tests this proposition like nothing else. Since its latest provocative missile test, thoughtful observers have pointed out that neither sanctions nor diplomacy are likely to dissuade Kim Jong Un from deploying nuclear weapons that can reach the United States, that we cannot depend on China to stop him for us, but that the alternative of a military strike on North Korea could cause a war that would lay waste to our ally South Korea. When it comes to North Korea, the phrase “there are no good options” has become a mantra.

Though we’ve been slow to admit it, the reasons have been plain for some time. Kim Jong Un, like all totalitarian leaders, wants above all to ensure his survival. He is convinced that a nuclear strike capability is necessary to deter the United States and South Korea from threatening his regime, and to extract concessions that might prolong its life. There is nothing crazy about this conviction. And because the matter is existential for Kim, more economic pressure will not change his mind. His regime survived a famine and can risk economic hardship. What he apparently will not risk is following the example of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qadhafi, who gave up nuclear programs and found themselves defenseless against foreign interventions that claimed their lives.

But there is an opportunity in Kim’s obsession with survival. While he assumes the United States would not start a catastrophic war to stop his nuclear program, he also knows that were he to start that war, the U.S. would have no reason to hold back. We could, and likely would, destroy his regime. This means that even if we can’t prevent North Korea from gaining the ability to hit us or our allies, we can deter it from actually doing so, and thus have time to pursue, by means more effective than sanctions and less dangerous than war, our ultimate goal of a reunified Korea that threatens no one.

Kim is right to feel insecure. His life depends on the preservation of a regime, and of a country, that are both artificial constructs. There is no good reason for the existence of a North Korean state that is vastly poorer than its ethnically identical South Korean neighbor, other than to enable his family to rule. To hold on, the Kim regime has thus had to do more than make the North Korean people afraid of its executioners; it has tried to maintain a total information blockade to keep them from knowing just how artificial this situation is.

But knowledge—about the prosperity and freedom of their fellow Koreans south of the DMZ, and about the abnormality of their own suffering—is spreading among North Koreans. We are learning more about them, too—they are not brainwashed, “robotic” denizens of an “ant colony,” as they are so often described. They are resilient, increasingly entrepreneurial people with normal aspirations, who will some day want a say in the fate of their country.

No one can predict when and how Kim’s hold will weaken, and it would be foolish to think we can force change from the outside. So if anyone reading this has fantasies about setting up governments in exile or fomenting coups or calling for uprisings, please put them aside—that kind of talk will only get people inside North Korea killed. There are, however, forces in play within North Korea that will probably lead to the end of its regime and its reason to exist as a country. Political change in Pyongyang and the reunification of Korea, as hard as it may be to imagine, is actually much more likely than the denuclearization of the present regime. The central aim of our strategy should be to foster conditions that enable this natural, internal process to move faster, while preparing ourselves, our allies and the North Korean people for the challenges we will face when change comes.

This approach will carry its own risks and costs. And in the meantime, we should continue to oppose North Korea’s nuclear program, using diplomacy and sanctions to manage the danger it poses to us and to our allies. But our primary focus should be on shaping something that can happen in North Korea, rather than expending all our energies on something that will not.

The possibility of change in North Korea arose from its greatest calamity—the famine in the 1990s, in which over a million of its citizens died. Until then, according to defectors, most North Koreans were simply unaware that different ways of life or forms of government existed in the world. Other totalitarian states—Stalin’s in Russia, Mao’s in China, Pol Pot’s in Cambodia—tried to isolate their people from knowledge of the world, but none could sustain the feat long enough (two generations in the case of North Korea) to create a population unable to imagine alternatives.

The famine began to weaken the regime’s hold on its people and their imaginations. As the state-run food distribution system broke down, North Koreans became less trusting of and dependent on their state. Eventually, private markets sprung up around the country. People started crossing the border to China, not just to find food, but to bring back goods to be sold in these markets. From China, they also brought back stories of a country where people could enjoy private lives, choose their professions, own property, travel and learn about the world—like North Korea, a communist dictatorship, but vastly freer than theirs. [Continue reading…]

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How India and China have come to the brink of conflict over a remote mountain pass

The New York Times reports: On a remote pass through Himalayan peaks, China and India, two nuclear-armed nations, have come near the brink of conflict over an unpaved road. It is one of the worst border disputes between the regional rivals in more than 30 years.

The road stands on territory at the point where China, India and Bhutan meet. The standoff began last month when Bhutan, a close ally of India, discovered Chinese workers trying to extend the road. India responded by sending troops and equipment to halt the construction. China, the more powerful of the two, angrily denounced the move and demanded that India pull back.

Now soldiers from the two powers are squaring off, separated by only a few hundred feet.

The conflict shows no sign of abating, and it reflects the swelling ambition — and nationalism — of both countries. Each is governed by a muscular leader eager to bolster his domestic standing while asserting his country’s place on the world stage as the United States recedes from a leading role.

Jeff M. Smith, a scholar at the American Foreign Policy Council who studies Indian-Chinese relations, said a negotiated settlement was the likeliest outcome. But asked whether he thought the standoff could spiral into war, he said, “Yes I do — and I don’t say that lightly.” [Continue reading…]

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The passion of Liu Xiaobo

Perry Link writes: In the late 1960s Mao Zedong, China’s Great Helmsman, encouraged children and adolescents to confront their teachers and parents, root out “cow ghosts and snake spirits,” and otherwise “make revolution.” In practice, this meant closing China’s schools. In the decades since, many have decried a generation’s loss of education.

Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was sentenced to eleven years for “inciting subversion” of China’s government, and who died of liver cancer on Thursday, illustrates a different pattern. Liu, born in 1955, was eleven when the schools closed, but he read books anyway, wherever he could find them. With no teachers to tell him what the government wanted him to think about what he read, he began to think for himself—and he loved it. Mao had inadvertently taught him a lesson that ran directly counter to Mao’s own goal of converting children into “little red soldiers.”

But this experience only partly explains Liu’s stout independence. It also seems to have been an inborn trait. If there is a gene for bluntness, Liu likely had it. In the 1980s, while still a graduate student in Chinese literature, he was already known as a “black horse” for denouncing nearly every contemporary Chinese writer: the literary star Wang Meng was politically slippery; “roots-seeking” writers like Han Shaogong were excessively romantic about the value of China’s traditions; even speak-for-the-people heroes like Liu Binyan were too ready to pin hopes on “liberal” Communist leaders like Hu Yaobang. No one was independent enough. “I can sum up what’s wrong with Chinese writers in one sentence,” Liu Xiaobo wrote in 1986. “They can’t write creatively themselves—they simply don’t have the ability—because their very lives don’t belong to them.” [Continue reading…]

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Liu Xiaobo’s fate reflects fading pressure on China over human rights

The New York Times reports: Liu Xiaobo, China’s only Nobel Peace Prize laureate, catapulted to fame in 1989, when the Communist Party’s violent crackdown on protests in Tiananmen Square created an international uproar.

Now, nearly three decades later, Mr. Liu has died of cancer while in state custody, a bedridden and silenced example of Western governments’ inability, or reluctance, to push back against China’s resurgent authoritarians.

Mr. Liu’s fate reflects how human rights issues have receded in Western diplomacy with China. And it shows how Chinese Communist Party leaders, running a strong state bristling with security powers, can disdain foreign pleas, even for a man near death.

“It’s certainly become more difficult,” said John Kamm, an American businessman and founder of the Dui Hua Foundation, who for decades has quietly lobbied China to free or improve the treatment of political prisoners. He said his attempts to win approval for Mr. Liu to leave China for treatment, as Mr. Liu and his wife requested, got nowhere.

“I tried my best. I did everything I could,” he said before Mr. Liu died. “Things are pretty difficult right now. It’s hard for me to get the kinds of responses I need.” [Continue reading…]

Nicholas Kristof writes: The Mandela of our age is dead, and Liu Xiaobo will at least now find peace after decades of suffering outrageous mistreatment by the Chinese authorities.

Liu, 61, is the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in custody since the Nazi era, and his death is an indictment of China’s brutal treatment of one of the great figures of modern times.

Even as Liu was dying of cancer, China refused to allow Liu to travel for treatment that might have saved his life. In a move that felt crass and disgusting, the Chinese authorities filmed the dying Liu without his consent to make propaganda films falsely depicting merciful treatment of him.

In the coming weeks, China will probably try to dispose of Liu’s remains in a way that will prevent his grave from becoming a democratic pilgrimage spot. The authorities no doubt will attempt to bully and threaten Liu’s brave widow, Liu Xia, and perhaps confine her indefinitely under house arrest to keep her silent.

Will Western leaders speak up for her? I fear not, any more than they forcefully spoke up for Liu Xiaobo himself. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s plan to work with Putin on cybersecurity makes no sense. Here’s why

Henry Farrell writes: During the Obama administration, the United States and China reached an agreement on how to deal with contentious issues in cybersecurity. Both the United States and China hack into each other’s systems on a regular basis. The agreement was not intended to stop this but to prevent it from getting out of control in ways that might damage bilateral arrangements. Thus, the agreement created a kind of hotline for communication and information sharing about potentially problematic behavior, as well as a continuing dialogue on cyber issues. It also ruled out efforts by state actors to steal intellectual property (the United States had persistently complained that Chinese state hackers stole U.S. companies’ secrets and passed them on to Chinese competitor firms). To the surprise of many in the United States, the agreement seems to have helped moderate Chinese efforts to steal commercial secrets, although there is disagreement over whether this was because China was shamed and wanted to preserve honor, or alternatively used the agreement to impose control over unruly hackers.

Either way, this deal worked — to the extent it did work — because both states had roughly convergent interests over a very limited set of issues. It did not involve the exchange of truly sensitive information — China does not trust the United States with details of its defenses against cyberattacks, and the United States does not trust China. Instead, the two sides have looked to manage their disagreement, rather than engage in deep and extensive cooperation.

That doesn’t appear to be what Trump wants

As Trump has described his discussions with Putin, both want something much more far-reaching than the deal that Obama reached with China. Instead of setting up dialogue, Trump wants to engage in true cooperation. He wants to set up a joint “unit” that would handle election security issues so as to prevent hacking. This unit would, furthermore, be “impenetrable.”

Critics in the United States have unsurprisingly interpreted this proposal as a transparent ploy by Trump to sideline accusations that Russian hackers helped him win the presidential election. However, even if Trump’s proposal is taken at face value, it doesn’t make much sense.

U.S. officials don’t trust the Russians

If the proposed cybersecurity unit were to work effectively, the United States would need to share extensive information with Russia on how U.S. officials defend elections against foreign tampering. The problem is, however, that information that is valuable for defending U.S. systems is, almost by definition, information that is valuable for attacking them, too. This is one reason U.S. officials have not previously proposed any far-reaching arrangement with Russia on cybersecurity. Providing such information would almost certainly give the Russians a map of vulnerabilities and insecurities in the system that they could then exploit for their own purposes.

It would not only provide the fox with a map of the henhouse, but give him the security code, the backdoor key, and a wheelbarrow to make off with the carcasses. [Continue reading…]

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Graham Allison’s trap

Michael Vlahos writes: How do you turn a metaphor into an axiom? Try: “Strategist appropriation.” When writing on politics and war, this means lardering your first few graphs with maxims from so-called “masters of war,” preferably Sun Tzu or Clausewitz. Their unassailable wisdom gives your argument the burnish of authority.

Graham Allison, an academic with plenty of his own Harvard authority, goes a step further. He suggests that the great historian (and not so great general), Thucydides, like Clausewitz and Sun Tzu, offers not just quotable truths but also a fundamental law about how wars often happen: The Thucydides Trap.

Allison argues that when rising powers threaten the position of established powers, the inevitable competition can lead to conflict and, eventually, war. Twenty-five hundred years ago, top dog Sparta became fearful and envious of Athens’ rising wealth and arrogant pride. Two towering city-states became trapped in a thirty-year war whose consequences were tragic. Thucydides tells their story.

Allison insists history bears Thucydides out: Head-butting between rising and established powers leads to war 75 percent of the time. Terrible wars happen because powers get ensnared into tragedy. Today, he warns, China and the United States are caught in yet another such historic trap.

But we need to see that Thucydides was not writing history. In fact, he sought to transform the experience of his life into a story of such heroic pathos that it would stand high on the ridgeline, right alongside the Greco-Roman Ur-gospel and ultimate “fall of the city” tragedy—the Iliad. Having failed as an Athenian general, Thucydides, as the Bard himself, wrote an epic that, like the immortal Iliad, would live for the ages:

“In fine, I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time.”

He pretty much succeeded. Thucydides’ history of the Peloponnesian War is incontestably great writing and superb storytellling. But rather than history, it might better be termed, “non-fictive literature.” It sings like grand opera. It is staged as high tragedy. Only a story “bigger than life” could be a “possession for all time,” because it had to speak across time, to all mankind.

If this were Hollywood, the movie would begin with the splash title: “Based on a true story.”

Allison forces this story of Athens’ pride and Sparta’s envy into his law about how great-power wars happen. Yet this is a sleight-of-hand. Allison presents the Trap as though it were Thucydides’ creation, rather than Allison’s appropriation of Thucydides. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s lack of a North Korea strategy is drawing China and Russia closer

Isaac Stone Fish writes: In a dramatic change, the most shocking response to North Korea’s 3 July missile test – which some analysts think demonstrates Pyongyang’s ability to strike Alaska or Hawaii with a ballistic missile – came not from Donald Trump, but from Beijing and Moscow.

Trump’s Twitter response to the launch contained his typical combination of bluster, insult and prodding. “Does this guy have anything better to do with his life,” Trump said on 3 July, probably referring to the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, adding, “perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”

By a happy coincidence for the two countries, the launch occurred during Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow. Hours before the launch, the Chinese Communist party secretary told Russian media that Sino-Russian strategic ties “are at the best point in history”, and the launch offered the two sides an occasion to demonstrate their closeness.

In a joint statement, China and Russia’s foreign ministries warned the situation on the Korean peninsula was so tense “it could lead to an armed conflict”. And it chastised the “relevant parties” – Trump, as well as Kim – to “refrain from provocative actions and warlike remarks”.

The striking thing about their statement is not only the language – mild when compared with Trump’s tweets, but surprisingly strident from China’s normally staid foreign ministry – but that Moscow and Beijing took the unusual step of issuing one together. [Continue reading…]

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Kim Jong Un has nukes, now he has an ICBM, and he will use them to threaten the U.S.

Jeffrey Lewis writes: North Korea wanted a nuclear weapon that could reach the United States for a very simple reason: Kim Jong Un and his cronies in Pyongyang watched as the United States assembled a massive invasion force against Saddam Hussein in Iraq, then used airpower to aid the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. The latter was especially frightening for the North Koreans, because Gaddafi had abandoned his WMD programs in a disarmament deal and was then offered up by the Bush Administration as an intermediary who would vouch to North Korea that the U.S. keeps its promises.

The deal ended with Gaddafi’s gruesome death on camera. North Korea doesn’t plan to wait around like Saddam or Gaddafi. Instead, once a war starts, North Korea plans to hit U.S. forces in South Korea and Japan with everything it has, including nuclear weapons, hoping to shock the United States and blunt an invasion. U.S. officials often dismiss that possibility by saying it would be suicide for Kim. But Kim is counting on nuclear-armed ICBMs that can target the United States to ensure that Trump realizes that suicide would be mutual.

Trump doesn’t have the slightest idea what to do about this. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, having said we are done talking about North Korea, said nothing. But then again, I am yet to be convinced Tillerson is actually alive and this isn’t some reboot of the Weekend at Bernie’s franchise set at the State Department. Nope, there is no plan.

To the extent that there is any coherent Trump approach, one might infer from his tweets that he believes his new friend, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, will bail him out like his Korea policy was an underwater condo development. But Xi’s interest is transactional and it isn’t clear to me that China is worse off if North Korea can threaten the United States with nuclear weapons. Moreover, if Beijing had so much sway over North Korea, Kim wouldn’t have sent to two assassins to rub VX in the face of his half-brother living under Chinese protection.

It’s not just Trump, though—the Obama Administration didn’t know what to do, either. The idea that the United States could work through China or use cyber-attacks to halt North Korea’s missile program was just a collective exercise in denial that our effort to prevent a nuclear-armed North Korea was an abject failure. For eight damned years, I kept hearing about strategic patience in one form or another.

While I think we did have a chance to pick some different outcome in the mid-1990s, the window for denuclearization closed a long time ago. If Kim Il Sung once calculated that he could trade nuclear weapons he had not built for international recognition of his bizarre little dictatorship, his grandson has clearly decided that real nuclear weapons are a lot better than promises on paper. That is our new reality. [Continue reading…]

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Tensions with North Korea could get ‘out of control’, China tells UN

AFP reports: China’s ambassador to the United Nations has warned of “disastrous” consequences if world powers fail to find a way to ease tensions with North Korea which he said could “get out of control”.

Ambassador Liu Jieyi made the remarks a day after US president Donald Trump spoke by phone with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the threat posed by North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests.

“Currently tensions are high and we certainly would like to see a de-escalation,” Liu told a news conference at UN headquarters as China takes over the security council presidency in July.

“If tension only goes up … then sooner or later it will get out of control and the consequences would be disastrous,” he said. [Continue reading…]

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North Korea launches missile that could strike Alaska; Trump launches more tweets

 

In January, Donald Trump said “it won’t happen,” but now it’s happened:

Quartz reports: For years, North Korea has been doggedly working toward fielding an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the US. Today (July 4), it says it achieved that goal.

North Korea said in a television broadcast that it fired an ICBM called the Hwasong-14 late morning local time from its western region. The missile traveled some 930 km (580 miles) at a maximum altitude of 2,802 km for about 40 minutes, before landing in the Sea of Japan. David Wright, co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that if the missile had been sent on a standard trajectory, it would likely have been able to hit any target in Alaska. But with a maximum range of about 6,700 km (4,163 miles), it would not be able to hit the US mainland or the bigger islands of Hawaii.

News of North Korea’s ICBM success could kick off a serious escalation between the nation and its neighbors plus the US, which have been pressuring Pyongyang over its weapons programs.

This marks North Korea’s 13th missile test in 2017, and its fourth since president Moon Jae-in took power in South Korea in May, according to Shea Cotton, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California. [Continue reading…]

Last month, Jeffrey Lewis wrote: North Korea’s test of an ICBM will complete the development of a nuclear arsenal with a defined strategic role. It is the final step in building an arsenal that can deter and, to use another term of art, repel an American invasion. If deterrence were to fail, and an invasion were underway, North Korea already plans the widespread use of nuclear weapons against U.S. forces in South Korea and Japan. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: As news of the test broke, but before North Korea claimed it was an ICBM, Trump took to Twitter, calling out North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and appearing to once again urge China to do more to pressure him. “North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?” Trump wrote.

“Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer,” he continued. “Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared to share Trump’s frustration, if not his tone. In remarks to the press, he vowed to work closely with the United States and South Korea, but called on China and Russia to do more.

“I’d like to strongly urge international society’s cooperation on the North Korea issue and urge China’s chairman, Xi Jinping, and Russia’s President Putin to take more constructive measures.”

In a daily press conference, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, condemned the test but countered that Beijing had “spared no effort” in its fight. [Continue reading…]

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Trump is handing the world to China, says UN secretary-general

Politico reports: Can António Guterres scare Donald Trump into taking the United Nations seriously?

Since taking office in January, the United Nations secretary-general has done his level best to build a decent working relationship with the new administration. He has kept criticisms of the White House’s nationalist agenda to a bare minimum. While pleading with Washington to refrain from deep cuts to the U.N. budget, he has worked assiduously to build a rapport with U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley. Testifying in Congress on Tuesday, Haley noted that Guterres had agreed that the U.S. could safely make some cuts to its funding of blue-helmet peace operations – a message likely to rile up other U.N. members who may have to make up the difference.

But there are limits to even the most discreet international civil servant’s patience. Over the last month, Guterres has been trying out a new message: Trump is handing the world to China.

The secretary-general, who is also visiting Washington this week for consultations on Capitol Hill, tried out this line for the first time in late May. Speaking on the eve of President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement, he warned that if the U.S. created a “geostrategic vacuum” by giving up its global role, “I guarantee that someone else will occupy it.” He clearly implied this would be Beijing.

Guterres, who was once a professional physicist, summoned up the vacuum metaphor in a mid-year press conference last week, but with more of a pro-American twist. “I don’t think this is good for the United States,” he said of other powers’ potential power grab, “and I don’t think this is good for the world.”

Many pundits have highlighted how China is benefiting from Trump’s foreign policy mess in far starker terms. But it is striking that a U.N. secretary-general is talking even this frankly about geostrategic power shifts. Whatever the U.N.’s conservative foes say about the organization, international officials hate criticizing America in public. The U.S. remains the organization’s predominant funder. Washington has been brutal with previous secretaries-general who have criticized its policies, as Kofi Annan did over Iraq.

So Guterres will not have played the China card lightly. He is not the sort of politician who picks unnecessary fights. A former Portuguese prime minister with decades of experience in top-level political wheeling and dealing, the secretary-general prefers to work quietly behind closed doors. [Continue reading…]

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China breaks ground on first ‘Forest City’ that fights air pollution

inhabitat reports: A pollution-fighting green city unlike any before is springing to life in China. Designed by Stefano Boeri Architetti, the first “Forest City” is now under construction Liuzhou, Guangxi Province. The futuristic city will use renewable energy for self sufficiency and be blanketed in almost 1 million plants and 40,000 trees—a sea of greenery capable of absorbing nearly 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide and 57 tons of pollutants annually.

Commissioned by Liuzhou Municipality Urban Planning for the north of Liuzhou along the Liujiang river, the 175-hectare Liuzhou Forest City will be the first of its kind that, if successful, may raise the bar for urban design worldwide. This first Chinese Forest City will host 30,000 people in a community where all buildings are entirely covered in nearly a million plants of over 100 species, as well as 40,000 trees, that produce approximately 900 tons of oxygen. The use of greenery-covered facades builds on Stefano Boeri’s previous works, including the Vertical Forest residential building in Milan. [Continue reading…]

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China makes leap toward ‘unhackable’ quantum network

The Wall Street Journal reports: Chinese scientists have succeeded in sending specially linked pairs of light particles from space to Earth, an achievement experts in the field say gives China a leg up in using quantum technology to build an “unhackable” global communications network.

The result is an important breakthrough that establishes China as a pioneer in efforts to harness the enigmatic properties of matter and energy at the subatomic level, the experts said.

In an experiment described in the latest issue of Science, a team of Chinese researchers used light particles, or photons, sent from the country’s recently launched quantum-communications satellite to establish an instantaneous connection between two ground stations more than 1,200 kilometers (744 miles) apart.

Using the quantum properties of tiny particles to create a secure communications network is scientifically and technically demanding, according to security researchers, and China is years away from being able to build one.

If China ultimately succeeds, such a system could undermine U.S. advantages in penetrating computer networks.

The Pentagon, in an annual report on China’s military delivered to Congress last week, described the quantum satellite launch in August as a “notable advance in cryptography research.”

While the U.S. is also pursuing quantum communications, it has concentrated more attention and resources on research into quantum computing. European physicists have developed many of the theories and basic practices underlying quantum encryption, but their Chinese counterparts are better-funded with government resources.

Disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 about U.S. spying on Chinese networks rattled Beijing, and have pushed the country to bolster cybersecurity measures in a variety of ways.

“The Snowden revelations undoubtedly played a part in the drive towards quantum technologies, as it revealed the degree of sophisticated threat Chinese counterespionage and cyberdefenses were facing,” said John Costello, a fellow specializing in China and cybersecurity at the nonpartisan Washington-based think tank New America. [Continue reading…]

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China rethinks its global role in the age of Trump

David Shambaugh writes: In his short time in office, President Donald Trump has done a good job of making China great again. His isolationist rhetoric and unilateral actions — such as pulling out of the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership — have made it much easier for China to advance its claim to global leadership, as dismayed U.S. allies and partners proclaim that the U.S. can no longer be “completely depended on,” as German Chancellor Angela Merkel put it. In stark contrast to Trump, China has reaffirmed its commitments to free trade, globalization and the battle against climate change.

China’s case is made more plausible by its markedly increased involvement in what is known as “global governance.” China is no longer the free-rider on the Western-built global system that it had long been. President Xi Jinping has received numerous expert briefings and has convened Politburo meetings on global governance. As a result, China has substantially increased involvement in areas such as climate change, global health, international peacekeeping, anti-piracy, anti-corruption, disaster relief, economic governance, development aid, energy security and multilateralism.

In part, this reflects Xi’s own “China Dream” for his nation’s place in the world. Xi expertly staked out China’s leadership potential at the World Economic Forum in Davos in February in a speech that attracted much international attention. China’s new activism is also due to its sensitivity to foreign criticism for not acting like a true great power (it has a psychological obsession with being seen as one), as well as China’s huge financial wherewithal and the increased professionalism of Chinese bureaucracies. [Continue reading…]

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On climate change, Jerry Brown acts as a world leader (because Trump can’t) in talks with China

The New York Times reports: Gov. Jerry Brown of California should be fading quietly into the final days of his career. After 40 years in public life, Mr. Brown, 79, a Democrat, is in the final stretch as the state’s chief executive. He has been talking about the Colusa County family ranch where he wants to retire. And a battery of younger politicians is already battling to succeed him.

But instead, Mr. Brown was in China on Tuesday, emerging as a de facto envoy from the United States on climate change at a time when President Trump has renounced efforts to battle global emissions. In a meeting packed with symbolism — and one that seemed at once to elevate the California governor and rebuke Mr. Trump — President Xi Jinping of China met with Mr. Brown, at the governor’s request, at the very moment China prepares to take a more commanding role in fighting climate change.

“California’s leading, China’s leading,” Mr. Brown said at a wide-ranging and at times feisty news conference after he met with Mr. Xi. “It’s true I didn’t come to Washington, I came to Beijing. Well, someday I’m going to go to Washington, but not this week.”

Mr. Brown has long used his platform as governor to advocate emission reduction policies, both in his state and globally. But the decision by Mr. Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, on the eve of Mr. Brown’s trip here, gave an already planned visit new visibility. [Continue reading…]

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