The Issue is Iran NOT Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (WorldPost illustration/Getty)

This is the weekly roundup of The WorldPost, of which Nathan Gardels is the editor in chief.

Negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear and missile program is the only alternative to war. But attempting to renegotiate the Iran deal, as U.S. President Donald Trump has called for, would open a can of worms that would likely kill the hard-won agreement to stem nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Furthermore, unraveling the done deal with Iran would doom a potential deal with North Korea because Pyongyang would suspect that whatever is agreed can be changed unilaterally by the U.S. down the road.

“With tensions running high around North Korea’s nuclear program, the world cannot afford another nuclear crisis,” writes Federica Mogherini, the E.U. foreign policy chief who was a key negotiator of the Iran deal. “The nuclear agreement with Iran is working: it has ensured that Iran’s nuclear program is and will remain exclusively peaceful. … The deal is not based on trust. It is based on the most intrusive monitoring regime ever set up in history.”

Mogherini was in Washington this week to lobby the U.S. Congress not to dismember the agreement, whose fate now rests in their hands after Trump’s decertification. Her message is loud and clear: “Renegotiation is not an option. I say this out of realism and experience. It took us 12 years to agree on extremely dense and complex technical details in a process that required all outstanding issues to be tackled in parallel. Unilaterally reopening discussions on this or that paragraph is simply impossible.”

Hong Seok-Hyun, South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s former special envoy to the U.S., weighs in from Seoul on the way forward after Trump’s visit there this week. Hong is relieved that Trump’s rhetoric “was admirably restrained. He did not threaten to completely destroy North Korea, as he did in his United Nations address in September. He didn’t call North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ‘Little Rocket Man’ again.”

South Korea’s immediate aims are twofold, according to Hong. First, it must work with others to stop Kim from achieving his ultimate goal of attaining the capacity to strike the U.S. “If the U.S. mainland faces a direct threat from North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles, confidence in Washington’s nuclear umbrella and extended deterrence to South Korea will be shaken,” Hong worries, since the U.S. will likely protect itself first, leaving South Korea vulnerable. Second, South Korea must also avoid a war on Korean soil aimed at taking out the North’s nukes because it would be catastrophic for its citizens. Hong welcomed Trump’s declaration that the objective of stronger sanctions and the threat of force is to bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table.

Yet what the American president didn’t say worries Hong: “I expected to hear — but did not — an explicit declaration from Trump that even if the day comes that North Korea completes and deploys an intercontinental ballistic missile that can strike the U.S. mainland, Washington’s nuclear umbrella will protect South Korea and Japan. If the U.S. doesn’t make this clear, the South Korean and Japanese people will start asking why they can’t develop their own nuclear weapons for protection.”

Hong also laid out several key steps going forward, including a hotline with Pyongyang to prevent war by accident or miscalculation; a special envoy to meet and confirm in person that the U.S. is not seeking regime change; and South Korea to maintain a united front of pressure on North Korea by avoiding a rift between the U.S. and Japan on one side and China and Russia on the other.

The mastermind behind Xi Jinping’s power

As Trump tours Asia this week, his most important stop was to Beijing, where he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Among the most daunting challenges in understanding China today is fathoming the thinking behind Xi’s broad initiatives — most notably strengthening the Communist Party’s grip by cracking down on civil society and the media while drawing on the tradition of Confucian ethics to fight corruption. Fortunately, Wang Huning, a top party ideologist just elevated to the seven-member Standing Committee of the Politburo that rules the Middle Kingdom, has left a long paper trail that provides the best insight we are likely to get into the mindset of China’s leadership.

“Wang’s writing over the years is so strikingly parallel to the policies Xi has adopted,” notes scholar and diplomatic translator Yi Wang, “that he is regarded by many as the brain behind the throne, the mandarin behind the emperor. What Wang has written offers huge clues to understanding where China is headed.”

A sampling of the scholar’s contributions:

  • In a book entitled “America Against America,” based on his travels in the U.S., Wang “compares American democracy and elections to shareholders in a corporation. In theory, he observes, all shareholders have a say; in reality, minority shareholders control the company.”
  • Wang “argues against ‘grafting’ Western-style democracy onto the Chinese system, stressing instead that political democratization should not overstep the country’s developmental level, or ‘ba miao zhu zhang,’ a Chinese proverb that means to ‘help a seedling grow taller by pulling it out of its soil.’ He maintains that political reform should not be pursued at the expense of stability and that strong, unified central leadership is crucial to further reforms, which should be led by inter-party democratization rather than initiated from the outside. Such expositions were characterized by Chinese commentators in the 1980s and 90s as the ‘new authoritarianism,’ although Wang himself rejected that label.”
  • “Following China’s Confucian tradition, [Wang] also calls for moral education to raise the moral standards of the whole society and especially of officials who he believes must ‘internalize’ ethical behavior.”

This was produced by The WorldPost, a partnership of the Berggruen Institute and The Washington Post.

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North Korea Insists Trump Want Nuclear War

 

North Korea slammed President Donald Trump Saturday accusing him of being a “destroyer” and having “begged” for nuclear war during his first trip to Asia.

“Trump, during his visit, laid bare his true nature as destroyer of world peace and stability and begged for a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula,” a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the state news agency KCNA.

The North Korean spokesman added that nothing would deter Pyongyang from pursuing its nuclear weapons program.

The backlash came days after Trump warned North Korea not to underestimate the United States during a speech to South Korea’s National Assembly on Wednesday.

“The regime has interpreted America’s past restraint as weakness,” Trump said as he wrapped up the South Korean leg of his Asia tour. “This would be a fatal miscalculation. This is a very different administration than the United States has had in the past.

“I say to the North: Do not underestimate us, and do not try us,” he warned North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump called on quick action from world powers to stop supporting North Korea through trade. He also addressed Kim directly, urging him to abandon his regime’s weapons and accept the United States’ offer of a “path to a better future.”

KCNA released the statement as Trump flew to Hanoi, Vietnam, where he is due to attend a state banquet.

A senior U.S. official and a retired U.S. military official briefed on policy told NBC News this week that Trump was engaged in brinkmanship with North Korea to show strength and encourage the regime’s backers to use their leverage over Pyongyang.

But critics say the strategy is unlikely to persuade the Kim regime to abandon its nuclear arsenal and that it also carries the risk of triggering the deadliest conflict since World War II.

Image: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a factory in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a factory in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on November 4, 2017. KCNA / Reuters

The president has previously threatened to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea and warned that he may be forced to “totally destroy” the rogue state.

Pyongyang’s foreign minister in September stated that Trump had “declared war” on his country and that Kim’s regime would consider shooting down American bombers. The White House later described the notion that the U.S. had declared war “absurd.”

Russia and America Prepare for Nuclear War (Daniel 7)

 

Nuclear weapons exercises in both Russia and the United States go mysteriously unreported in leading American newspapers.

Both Russia and the United States undertook major tests of their respective nuclear forces at the end of October 2017. Oddly, that was not sufficiently newsworthy and no coverage appeared in America’s leading newspapers. It’s particularly strange—and even ironic—because the steady drip of articles alleging every type of Russian conspiracy, from manipulation of social media to meetings with senior Trump administration officials to the supposed attempted penetration of voting systems, has been front-page news every day, playing no small part in accelerating the downward spiral in U.S.-Russia relations.

One half expects a spate of new revelations detailing the current administration leaders’ unexplained fondness for borsht and pelmeni. All joking aside, a simple miscalculation in this most crucial bilateral strategic relationship could rather quickly destroy both nations and end life on earth. As long as American media outlets do not cover these nuclear exercises, which are ominous developments, they seemingly can escape any culpability for bringing on the “new Cold War,” its catastrophic risks and the related consequences.

Some would prefer to suggest that cyber tensions, election-interference allegations, accusations regarding nefarious activities in crises from Syria to Afghanistan to North Korea—not to mention the escalating proxy war in East Ukraine—are all discreet and complex issues demanding U.S. strategic attention, that will not, however, cumulatively lead to a U.S.-Russia nuclear showdown. But that all too tenuous assumption is belied by high-level assessments from the Pentagon, as well as these recent nuclear weapons exercises that admittedly have become quite commonplace. Even if the actual chance of military conflict remains thankfully low, it is extremely disturbing, and wholly contrary to the national interest. The stoking of further tensions with Moscow will cost Americans trillions of taxpayer dollars—a fool’s errand if there ever was one.

At one level, this is just a case of bad journalism—the failure to distinguish the titillating (e.g. the Steele dossier) from the truly important (e.g. nuclear force modernization and crisis doctrines). How poorly informed the U.S. political establishment is by such bad choices made regularly in the country’s newsrooms is suggested, for example, by the somewhat remarkable fact that neither the New York Times, nor the Washington Post, bothered to report on President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Iran on November 1 either. If Washington’s so-called “adversaries” are coalescing against it, America, so it seems, will remain blissfully ignorant. The newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta provided significant space to discussing both nuclear exercises. As I have done for years with my Dragon Eye column in sharing insights from Chinese press and academic writings, here I will endeavor in a new column called Bear Cave, to impart some perspective on Russian strategic viewpoints in the hopes of contributing in a small way to deescalating bilateral tensions, which now genuinely threaten world peace and stability.

The title of the Nezavisimaya Gazeta piece may itself convey some frustration with the pointlessness of the mutual show of force: “Moscow and Washington Frightened One Another with Nuclear Might.” In a rare bit of Russian optimism, the article observes that U.S. Strategic Command had actually informed the Russian Ministry of Defense regarding the nuclear exercises in advance in conformity to the START-3 Agreement. As a seeming point of pride regarding Russian status, the article observes pointedly that Beijing was not so informed, since it is not a party to such agreements. Dismissing any “politically correct blather” of antiterrorism doctrines for nuclear forces, this analysis suggests that “in fact, both Washington and Moscow were training for an exchange of nuclear blows against one another.”

The Russian analysis concedes that the Global Thunder exercise organized by U.S. Strategic Command “looks like a saber-rattling by the Americans of a nuclear cudgel in response to Russian training and combat launches of ballistic and cruise missiles last week.” In the Russian exercise, according to the article, four intercontinental ballistic missiles were apparently launched. Lest anyone be confused regarding the payload, the article explains these missiles are “intended to carry nuclear warhead payloads.” Three missiles were launched from submarines (both Northern and Pacific fleets), while the fourth was a Topol rocket fired from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. The exercise also involved a sortie of Russian bombers of several types and so the “entire nuclear triad of Russia was tested.” This exercise was undertaken with the direct participation of the supreme commander of the Russian armed forces President Vladimir Putin, according to the article, as if to underline that he is the only world leader who could likely reduce nearly the entire U.S. homeland to glowing rubble well inside of an hour.

Happily, the article does mention some additional context for the recent U.S. nuclear tests, including the ongoing North Korea crisis, which the Nezavisimya Gazeta article states was “provoked by Pyongyang.” And yet the next sentence states quite unequivocally that Moscow is “extremely nervous” regarding the continuous buildup of U.S. forces in Northeast Asia. That point raises yet another cost of the new Cold War. In addition to the risk of catastrophic war and enormous resources wasted on military rivalry, we may add the further escalation of regional conflicts, whether in the Middle East or Northeast Asia, that have resulted from deepening mistrust among the great powers, which now seem more interested in the concept of “relative gains,” vice genuine conflict management.

The Sixth Seal Is Past Due (Revelation 6:12)

nyc earthquake, new york city earthquake risk, nyc earthquake threat, earthquakeNew York City is Past Due for an Earthquake

by , 03/22/11
filed under: News

New York City may appear to be an unlikely place for a major earthquake, but according to history, we’re past due for a serious shake. Seismologists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory say that about once every 100 years, an earthquake of at least a magnitude of 5.0 rocks the Big Apple. The last one was a 5.3 tremor that hit in 1884 — no one was killed, but buildings were damaged.

Any tremor above a 6.0 magnitude can be catastrophic, but it is extremely unlikely that New York would ever experience a quake like the recent 8.9 earthquake in Japan. A study by the Earth Observatory found that a 6.0 quake hits the area about every 670 years, and a 7.0 magnitude hits about every 3,400 years.
There are several fault lines in New York’s metro area, including one along 125th Street, which may have caused two small tremors in 1981 and a 5.2 magnitude quake in 1737. There is also a fault line on Dyckman Street in Inwood, and another in Dobbs Ferry in Westchester County. The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation rates the chance of an earthquake hitting the city as moderate.
John Armbruster, a seismologist at the Earth Observatory, said that if a 5.0 magnitude quake struck New York today, it would result in hundreds of millions, possibly billions of dollars in damages. The city’s skyscrapers would not collapse, but older brick buildings and chimneys would topple, likely resulting in casualities.
The Earth Observatory is expanding its studies of potential earthquake damage to the city. They currently have six seismometers at different landmarks throughout the five boroughs, and this summer, they plan to place one at the arch in Washington Square Park and another in Bryant Park.
Won-Young Kim, who works alongside Armbuster, says his biggest concern is that we can’t predict when an earthquake might hit. “It can happen anytime soon,” Kim told the Metro. If it happened tomorrow, he added, “I would not be surprised. We can expect it any minute, we just don’t know when and where.”
Armbuster voiced similar concerns to the Daily News. “Will there be one in my lifetime or your lifetime? I don’t know,” he said. “But this is the longest period we’ve gone without one.”
Via Metro and NY Daily News
Images © Ed Yourdon