June 08, 2018

World update on Security: Just Security


   

TRUMP-KIM SUMMIT

“I think I’m very well prepared. I don’t think I have to prepare very much. It’s about attitude,” President Trump said yesterday of his planned June 12 summit meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore, speaking alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and stating that he was “totally prepared to walk away” from the talks but expects the meeting to be a “great success.” Rebecca Ballhaus and Vivian Salama report at the Wall Street Journal.

The summit would “not be just a photo-op,” Trump said, adding that, at a minimum, the talks may be the start of a good relationship and that Pyongyang must commit to denuclearization before the U.S. eases sanctions. Michael Crowley, Cristiano Lima and Louis Nelson report at POLITICO.

Trump told reporters that he would invite Kim to the U.S. if the summit “goes well,” suggesting that the White House could host the North Korean leader. The BBC reports.

“We could absolutely sign an agreement” to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, Trump said, explaining that in a “strange” way, the signing of such an agreement is “probably the easy part” and that normalizing relations with Pyongyang would be much harder. David Smith and Justin McCurry report at the Guardian.

Trump has driven most of the preparation for the upcoming summit and will trust his intuition above detailed briefings about what to expect when he meets Kim, according to aides and former administration officials. Steve Holland reports at Reuters.

“[Trump’s personal lawyer] Rudy [Giuliani] doesn’t speak for the administration when it comes to this negotiation and this set of issues,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday, responding to Giuliani’s comments that Kim “got back on his hands and knees and begged” for the June 12 summit to go ahead when Trump canceled it at the end of May. Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.

Reports of a rift between Pompeo and the White House national security adviser John Bolton on North Korea policy are “a complete joke,” the Secretary of State said at a briefing yesterday, explaining that any disagreements are just natural differences of opinion. Cristiano Lima reports at POLITICO.

Pompeo has asked the U.K. for its nuclear expertise “to dismantle Kim Jong-un’s nuclear missile,” the British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said at a closed-door meeting in London yesterday. Alex Spence reports at BuzzFeed News, revealing Johnson’s range of comments on issues such as Russia, Trump’s approach and China.

The U.S. faces significant challenges when trying to ensure effective verification and inspection of North Korea’s nuclear sites and weapons. Michael R. Gordon, Jessica Donati and Jonathan Cheng explain at the Wall Street Journal.

An overview of the planned summit and the key issues is provided by the BBC.

An explanation of the various views on the possible outcome of the summit is provided by Foster Klug at the AP.

The summit is still a good idea despite the unpredictability of Trump and Kim and the lack of groundwork ahead of the negotiations. Eugene Robinson writes at the Washington Post, arguing that the decades-long policy of refusing direct engagement has been ineffective and that North Korea is “a de facto member of the nuclear club.”

If Trump uses Iran as his “yardstick” for negotiating with North Korea, “he will surely fail,” Wendy R. Sherman, the former under secretary of state for political affairs and leader of the U.S. negotiator on the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement writes at POLITICO Magazine.

   

G-7 SUMMIT

Trump and his foreign counterparts have traded criticism ahead of today’s meeting of G-7 countries in Quebec. The acrimony between the president, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron relates to Trump’s approach to trade and other issues. Kevin Liptak, Michelle Kosinki and Jeremy Diamond report at CNN.

Macron, Trudeau and other leaders could also clash with Trump on his approach to the Paris climate accord and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, with Macron warning in a message on Twitter that the other 6 nations in the G-7 would be prepared to sign an agreement without the U.S. if Trump intends to isolate his country. The BBC reports.

There has been anger among U.S. allies over Trump’s reliance on national security arguments to justify imposing tariffs. Damian Paletta, David J. Lynch and Heather Long report at the Washington Post.

Trump will leave the G-7 summit earlier than planned “in anticipation of his coming meeting with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un Tuesday,” the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said yesterday, but made no mention the war of words with world leaders over Trump’s trade policy. Vivian Salama reports at the Wall Street Journal.

“Our [European] partners probably thought that these counterproductive policies would never affect them,” the Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday, claiming that Trump’s trade policies had given Europe a taste of the way the U.S. had long treated Russia. Anton Troianovski reports at the Washington Post.

   

AFGHANISTAN

The Taliban has not formally responded to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s announcement of a ceasefire from June 12-19. Ghani made the declaration yesterday and the commander of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan Gen. John Nicholson said the U.S. military would honor the ceasefire, Craig Nelson and Habib Khan Totakhil report at the Wall Street Journal.

The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres yesterday welcomed the weeklong ceasefire and urged the Taliban to accept Ghani’s offer to engage in peace talks. The U.N. News Centre reports.

It is unclear what the ceasefire could mean for the prospect of peace talks, particularly as the Taliban has been making gains on the battlefield. Mujib Mashal reports at the New York Times.

At least three people have been killed by attackers in Afghanistan’s eastern Nagarhar province today. The attack was targeted at a lawmaker who was not at home at the time and no one has immediately claimed responsibility, the AP reporting.

Afghan security forces killed 10 Taliban militants today in eastern Nangarhar province, according to an official. Reutersreports.

Gen. Nicholson today said that U.S. forces would intensify their efforts against the Islamic State group in the southern part of Nangarhar province. Robert Burns reports at the AP.

   

SYRIA

At least 35 people have been killed and 8o wounded in an airstrike on a town in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province, paramedics and the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said today, with the Observatory saying that the airstrike was carried out by Russian warplanes. The AP reports.

The head of the Manbij Military Council in northern Syria said that no Turkish troops or allied Syrian fighters would be deployed inside the town in accordance with a deal struck between Turkey and U.S. that expects the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish Y.P.G. militia withdraw from the area. Sarah El Deeb reports at the AP.

Russian troops will stay in Syria “for as long as it is to Russia’s advantage, and to fulfil our international responsibilities,” President Vladimir Putin said yesterday, adding that his country is not building “long-term [military] installations” and could withdraw forces at short notice. Al Jazeera reports.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 41 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between May 25 and May 31. [Central Command]

   

IRAN

“Iran is not the same country that it was a few months ago,” Trump claimed yesterday, saying that the U.S. decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal had already curbed Iran’s activities in the Middle East. Mark Landler reports at the New York Times.

Trump suggested yesterday that special counsel Robert Mueller should investigate the waiver issued by the Obama administration in early 2016 to allow the Iranian government to briefly access newly unfrozen funds from an Omani bank. Louis Nelson reports at POLITICO.

   

ISRAEL-PALESTINE

Significant Palestinian protests at the Israel-Gaza border are expected today. The APreports.

The Israeli military has warned Gazan residents to stay away from the border fence. They urged people not to become “a tool” of the militant Palestinian Hamas group and not to further the agenda of Iran whose mission is to “inflame tensions in the region for the sake of its religious and sectarian interests,” the BBC reports.

The Israeli military published a video yesterday attempting to portray the Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar as a “human shield” for Hamas. The 20-year-old was killed by Israeli forces last week and her death has sparked widespread outrage and condemnation, Herbert Buchsbaum reporting at the New York Times.

   

YEMEN

A provision limiting U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen has been included in the annual defense policy bill being considered by the Senate this week. Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.) has withdrawn 71 of its staff from Yemen due to security threats and has urged all parties to the conflict to provide “concrete, solid and actionable guarantees so that it can continue working in Yemen.” Al Jazeera reports.

   

RUSSIA

Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to host a meeting with Trump this summer, a request that the White House has said it is considering. Bojan Pancevski and Peter Nicholas report at the Wall Street Journal.

Putin yesterday demanded that Russia take part in the investigation into the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia and to be given consular access to Yulia. Andrew Roth reports at the Guardian.

   

TRUMP-RUSSIA

Trump allies have lashed out at House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for backing Rep. Trey Gowdy’s (R-S.C.) assessment of the F.B.I.’s role in the investigation into the Trump campaign and possible links to Russia. Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian report at the Washington Post.

Former Senate Intelligence Committee aide James Wolfe was arrested yesterday on charges of lying to the F.B.I. about his contacts with reporters as part of an investigation into classified information leaks. The court documents describe contacts between Wolfe and a reporter who published an article about the attempts by Russian spies to recruit the former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page in 2013. Adam Goldman, Nicholas Fandos and Katie Benner report at the New York Times.

   

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said yesterday that it would help the U.S. to understand the unexplained health symptoms suffered by U.S. employees working at the consulate in Guangzhou. The incident bears similarity to the mysterious symptoms suffered by American diplomats and their families in Cuba in 2016, Jane Perlezx and Steven Lee Myers report at the New York Times.

Infrastructure work has taken place at the Guantánamo detention facility as the Trump administration seeks to keep the jail open and allow the Pentagon to bring new prisoners there. Ben Fox reports at the AP.

Google said yesterday that it would not allow its artificial intelligence (A.I.) products to be used in military weapons and has set out a new set of ethical principles and guidelines. Douglas MacMillan reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Many staff members at the State Department have expressed disappointment about the hiring practices under Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s leadership. Officials welcomed Pompeo’s comments on staffing following former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s departure, but some have felt let down that more positions have not been opened. Robbie Gramer reports at Foreign Policy.

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