June 11, 2018

World updates on Security

The Early EditionJune 11, 2018   

Be sure to visit www.justsecurity.org 

   

G-7 SUMMIT

A fraught G-7 summit at the weekend pitted President Trump against major U.S. allies. Trump reversed his decision to endorse the final communique and launched an unprecedented attack via Twitter on the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on trade policy and tariffs, Vivian Salama and Paul Vieira report at the Wall Street Journal.

Trump accused Trudeau of being “dishonest” and “weak” and White House officials made similarly strong criticisms, including the top trade adviser Peter Navarro who said that “there’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad-faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.” Damian Paletta and Joel Achenback report at the Washington Post.

The president’s comments on Trudeau were partly motivated by the desire not to “permit any show of weakness on a trip to negotiate with North Korea,” Trump’s chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow said yesterday, linking the planned June 12 summit between the president and North Korea leader Kim Jong-un with the president’s approach to the G-7 summit. Eli Watkins reports at CNN.

Kudlow defended Trump’s decision not to sign the communique – which was drafted after much negotiation with the hope of finding a consensus – saying that Trudeau’s comments on trade were a “betrayal.” Noah Weiland report at the New York Times.

“Canada does not believe that ad hominem attacks are a particularly appropriate or useful way to conduct our relations with other countries,” the Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said yesterday in response to comments by Kudlow and Navarro. Miles Parks reports at NPR.

Trump’s comments have brought relations between the U.S. and its closest allies to a new low. The French President Emmanuel Macron said the U.S. faced a “united front” from its allies, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was “a sobering experience” when Trump decided to reverse his decision on the communique, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged that there were moments of “intense debate” at the summit and the British Prime Minister Theresa May expressed “deep disappointment” at the U.S. approach to tariffs. Chris Giles reports at the Financial Times.

“Sometimes I get the impression that the U.S. president believes that only one side wins and the other loses,” Merkel said yesterday, indicating that tensions with the U.S. may cause Europe to reassess its security needs. Matthew Karnitshnig reports at POLITICO.

Trump doubled-down on his criticisms of the G-7 in a series of messages on Twitter yesterday, also attacking the European Union (E.U.), and Germany in particular, for its funding of the N.A.T.O. military alliance. Euan McKirdy reports at CNN.

Russia would be happy to host the G-7 summit in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters yesterday, responding to Trump’s suggestion that the G-7 should be made the G-8 and Russia be readmitted to the group of industrialized nations. Russia was expelled from the group in 2014 due to its annexation of the Crimea, Denis Pinchuk reports at Reuters.

“President Trump is turning our foreign policy into an international joke,” Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Friday, criticizing Trump for his suggestion that Russia should be readmitted to the G-7.  Jordain Carney reports at the Hill.

“Expanding the G-7 to the G-8 now would be a mistake,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.0 said yesterday, adding that Russia is “no friend” of the United States. Brett Samuels reports at the Hill.

Chinese newspapers portrayed the G-7 summit as having “ended in disarray” in contrast to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (S.C.O.) summit, which was also held at the weekend, with the China Daily newspaper saying that the G-7 summit “has served as another reminder that it is the Trump administration that is challenging the international rules-based order.” Reutersreports.

“The president’s outbursts turned the summit into the G-6 vs. G-1,” Max Boot writes at the Washington Post, warning that the wider implication of Trump’s comments may be the end of the Atlantic alliance.

Trump’s attitude at the G-7 summit has raised concerns about his summit with Kim. Ishaan Tharoor provides an analysis at the Washington Post.

   

TRUMP-KIM SUMMIT

President Trump arrived in Singapore yesterday for a potentially historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un – the first ever meeting between a sitting American president and a North Korean leader. Trump has declared that he did not need to prepare for the two-day session, Motoko Rich reports at the New York Times.

Trump claimed yesterday that he will know “within the first minute” whether Kim is serious about denuclearization, adding when asked how: “just my touch, my feel…that's what I do.” A complete transcript of the press conference is provided by Callum Borchers at the Washington Post.

“I feel that Kim Jong-un wants to do something great for his people,” Trump remarked as he left the G-7 summit for Singapore, adding that “there’s a good chance it won’t work out. There’s probably an even better chance it will take a period of time.” Bryan Harris and Demetri Sevastopulo report at the Financial Times.

Kim arrived some hours earlier than Trump, holding a meeting with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and then speeding through the city-state in a limousine convoy en route to the heavily guarded St. Regis hotel. Saphora Smith and Bill Neely report at NBC.   

Trump met with Lee today, sending a message on Twitter stating “great to be in Singapore, excitement in the air!” as the U.S. delegation worked behind the scenes to finalize arrangements for the summit with Kim. David Nakamura and Philip Rucker report at the Washington Post.

Trump struck a positive tone in the lunchtime meeting with Lee, reportedly commenting “we’ve got a very interesting meeting in particular tomorrow, and I just think it’s going to work out very nicely.” Jack Kim, Dewey Sim, Aradhana Aravindan, Joyce Lee, Grace Lee, Matt Spetalnick, David Brunnstrom and Christine Kim report at Reuters.

Foreign policy analysts have predicted that Kim will most likely hope to persuade Trump to agree on key symbolic goals – including a formal end the Korean War – but will attempt to bide time on significant commitments toward denuclearization. David Nakamura reports at the Washington Post.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has claimed ahead of the upcoming summit that Washington’s stance on North Korean denuclearization “remains clear and unchanged,” adding that “the president is well-prepared for tomorrow’s engagement with Chairman Kim,” Michael C. Bender reports at the Wall Street Journal.

North Korean state media has raised the possibility that the isolated nation could “establish a new relationship” with the U.S, with the comments marking a shift in tone after decades of animosity. The BBC reports.

Trump and Kim will discuss a “permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism” on the Korean Peninsula, denuclearization of the Peninsula and other issues of mutual concern, North Korean state media reported today, also adding that Kim was accompanied to Singapore by his Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, Defense Minister No Kwang-chol and sister Kim Yo-jong. Benjamin Haas reports at the Guardian.

Despite a warming in tone between the two sides, it has been reported that Kim is planning to fly back to North Korea in the early afternoon tomorrow, leaving very little time for actual negotiations. Julian Borger and Benjamin Haas report at the Guardian.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in welcomed the summit as a “historic milestone,” but noted that Seoul must be involved in any future negotiations with the North, which could take years. Moon remarked that “the relationship of deep-rooted hostility and the North Korean nuclear issue cannot be resolved in one single action through a meeting between leaders,” Brian Murphy reports at Washington Post.

Beijing is expected to assume a more substantial role in the negotiations around the Korean Peninsula negotiations after Tuesday’s summit, with some Chinese analysts claiming that the role would be as a “guarantor” of progress on denuclearization one the one hand, and the safety of Kim’s regime on the other. Laura Zhou reports at POLITICO.

As the summit draws near there is a possibility that the Chinese administration is getting nervous, with some analysts commenting that leaders in Beijing are anxious about a potential shift in influence on the continent should North Korea and the U.S. come to an agreement. Jane Perlez reports at the New York Times.

Two top senators indicated yesterday that while they agree generally on what a positive nuclear deal with North Korea might look like, they differ markedly on whether such a deal should be backed up with a military plan B. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) made an appeal to Democrats asking: “If diplomacy fails, will you support my efforts to authorize the use of military force as a last resort?” while Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) indicated that he is not ready to back a congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (A.U.M.F.) until he is confident “the path to peace really isn’t obtainable” without military action. Paige Winfield Cunningham reports at the Washington Post.

Across North Korea, there are signs that Trump’s campaign of “maximum pressure” on Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons is weakening ahead of tomorrow’s summit, with speculators buying property along the Chinese-North Korean border, and the South looking to boost engagement. Brenda Goh and Josh Smith report at Reuters.

Supporters of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung will aim to characterize the Trump-Kim summit as the culmination of Dae-jung’s mission and in particular, his “Sunshine” policy – an initiative launched in 1998 aiming to engage with the North. Hyonhee Shin reports at Reuters.

   

TRUMP-KIM SUMMIT: OPINION AND ANALYSIS

Many of Trump's advisers are quietly concerned that he is overly eager to sign a deal with North Korea – a deal that would be the most significant of his career. Jeremy Diamond provides an analysis at CNN 

After the disruption he caused at the G-7 meeting, the summit with Kim provides Trump with a test as to whether he has the capacity and willingness to engage in constructive deal-making. Dan Balz comments at the Washington Post.

Trump is increasing “carrot-and-stick pressure” on Kim, whilst simultaneously dialing down expectations for what their first meeting can realistically produce. Jonathan Allen provides an analysis at NBC.

That modest vision now set out by Trump contrasts with the “stratospheric goals” he set when he originally agreed to the summit on March 8, Eliana Johnson comments at POLITICO.

There remains a huge gulf between the U.S. and North Korea on the issue of denuclearization, and the fact that Trump and Kim have decided to start the summit alone without top advisers or nuclear specialists suggests that the real motivation on this occasion is to develop a personal rapport and stage a global spectacle. Philip Rucker, Anne Gearan and John Hudson comment at the Washington Post.

“Denuclearization” and “peace treaty” are difficult to define, argues Rick Gladstone at the New York Times, who explains the terms and why the particular sequence of events is importance.

The hardest part about disarming North Korea may be finding out what Pyongyang’s weapons actually are and where they are kept, Jonathan Cheng argues at the Wall Street Journal.

It is not yet clear whether  Trump intends to raise human rights at tomorrow’s summit, but a predictable failure to do so will come back to haunt him, Michael Kirby, chair of the U.N. commission of inquiry on human rights in North Korea, comments at the Washington Post.

Despite the “Little Rocket Man” and “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” taunts of the past, there are a number of similarities between Trump and Kim, who both have nuclear weapons and both combine barbs with praise in their diplomatic posturing. Philip Rucker comments at the Washington Post.

A peaceful Korean Peninsula is a fundamental aspiration for Chinese people, argues Fu Ying at the Washington Post, adding further that the fundamental component for a successful summit will be empathy on the part of the leaders.

An examination of key foreign-policy moments from Trump’s first 16 months reveals six methods he employs in diplomatic relations. Michael C. Bender, Dion Nissenbaum and Michael R. Gordon provide an analysis at the Wall Street Journal.

Kim is on a “diplomatic blitz,” and has proven himself to be both more brutal and more tactical than expected.  John Lyons comments at the Wall Street Journal.

Japan currently stands to lose from the U.S.-North Korean talks, and Trump has displayed too little consideration for Japan’s interests, Yoichi Funabashi comments at the New York Times.

The 2015 Iran nuclear deal looms over Trump’s talks with Kim, comments Nahal Toosi at POLITICO, who argues that “even getting a deal with North Korea that mirrors the one with Iran would be a major accomplishment”.

An explainer of the “people, problems and possibilities” of the Trump-Kim summit is provided at the Guardian.

An interactive timeline of the steps leading up to the summit is provided by Joshua Berlinger at CNN.

   

IRAN

“The U.S. efforts to impose its policies on others are expanding as a threat to all,” the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (S.C.O.) summit yesterday, pointing to Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal as an example of U.S. “unilateralism.” Reutersreports.

Rouhani also praised China and Russia for their efforts to preserve the 2015 agreement in his comments at the summit. Al Jazeerareports.

   

SYRIA

Syrian rebel forces attacked two pro-government villages in northwestern Idlib province, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said yesterday, stating that the attack prompted heavy retaliatory airstrikes on opposition-held villages. Reutersreports.

At least 16 people have been killed and 18 wounded by Syrian government airstrikes on the opposition-held villages, Syria’s Civil Defense, known as the White Helmets, said yesterday. Al Jazeera reports.

The U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Panos Moumtzis, has warned of a bloodbath in Idlib if major powers do not take action, saying the 2.5 million people in the province have “no place else to go” within their homeland. Reuters reports.

“We may not have seen the worst of the crisis” in Syria, Moumtzis added, explaining that a military escalation was “much more complicated and brutal” in Idlib. The APreports.

The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres yesterday called for a full investigation into reported attacks on a village in northern Idlib last week, reminding parties that the province is part of a “de-escalation zone” agreed by parties in the Kazakh capital of Astana. The U.N. News Centre reports.

“They [Russia] never, during our relation, try to dictate, even if there are differences,” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview published yesterday, explaining that differences between the various parties – include “Russia-Syria, Syria-Iran, Iran-Russia, and within these governments” – is “very natural.” Reuters reports.

Iran-allied militias have been posing as Syrian army fighters in order to avoid Israeli air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, according to multiple rebel commanders. In response to allegations of Iran-backed forces using Syrian uniforms, an Israeli official said: “You can be sure that Israel is very much aware of basically everything happening in our backyard,” Raja Abdulrahim reports at the Wall Street Journal.

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]

   

YEMEN

Clashes erupted between the Saudi-led coalition and Iran-backed Houthi rebels near the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah over the weekend, according to military sources. The violence took place amid U.N. attempts to negotiate a ceasefire to avert an attack on the strategic city, Reuters reports.

More than 600 people have been killed on both sides in recent days as the Saudi-led coalition and government forces close in on Hodeidah, according to Yemeni officials. Ahmed Al-Haj reports at the AP.

The U.N. special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, other U.N. officials and aid groups have embarked on an urgent diplomatic effort to avert a possible U.A.E. attack on Hodeidah, with fears that an attack on the city would lead to a dire humanitarian crisis and upend attempts to bring an end to the Yemeni conflict. Dion Nissenbaum reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The U.K.’s Department for International Development warned that a military assault on Hodeidah “now looks imminent” in a note to aid agencies yesterday, indicating that pressure on the U.A.E. to agree a ceasefire have not been fruitful and that the U.S. has not been willing to push Saudi Arabia on the issue to an extent that may jeopardize Washington-Riyadh relations. Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.

Houthi rebels killed three civilians in southern Saudi Arabia, the Saudi-led coalition spokesperson Col. Turki al-Malki said Saturday night. Al Jazeera reports.

   

AFGHANISTAN

The Taliban declared on Saturday a three-day ceasefire with Afghan government forces to coincide with the Eid al-Fitr Muslim religious holiday, but insisted that the militants would continue to attack foreign forces. Akhtar Mohammad Makoii reports at the Guardian.

A suicide bombing has killed 13 people and injured over 25 today in the Afghan capital of Kabul near a ministry, with the Islamic State group claiming responsibility for the attack. Qadir Sediqi reports at Reuters.

   

ISRAEL-PALESTINE

Palestinians gathered at the Israel-Gaza border on Friday, where according to the Gazan health ministry, 618 people were injured and four people killed. The protests were much smaller than the May 14 demonstration which drew over 40,000 people, Felicia Schwartz and Abu Bakr Bashir report at the Wall Street Journal.

A White House spokesperson denied that the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner had expressed “annoyance” over a Kuwaiti-drafted U.N. Security Council resolution on last month’s violence between Israel and Palestine, which saw dozens of Palestinian protestors killed by Israeli forces at the border with Gaza. Al Jazeera reports.

   

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

“After more than a year of investigations by Cuba and the United States … there are no credible hypotheses nor scientific conclusions that justify the actions taken by the U.S. government against Cuba,” the Cuban foreign ministry said in a statement yesterday, referring to the mysterious health symptoms suffered by dozens of U.S. diplomats and their families at the embassy in Havana in 2016 and a statement by the State Department on Friday that a further two Cuba-based functionaries had suffered similar symptoms. Reuters reports.

British Members of Parliament have called for an investigation into the links between the Brexit donor Arron Banks and the Russian government after leaked emails indicated connections between Russian and the campaign for the U.K. to exit the European Union. One of the emails show that Banks shared at least one phone number for the Trump transition team with the Russians, Dan Sabbagh, Robert Booth and Iain Campbell report at the Guardian.

Staff Sgt. Alexander Conrad was identified as the U.S. soldier killed in a firefight with al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militants in Somalia on Friday. Julia Manchester reports at the Hill.

Government officials have been piecing together papers shredded by the Trump administration due to requirements under the Presidential Records Act, which provides that the White House must preserve all materials that the president touches – a requirement that is at odds with the president’s habit of ripping up papers once he’s done with them. Annie Karni reports at POLITICO.

An explanation of the reason why Taiwan is back in the spotlight and the implications for U.S.-China relations is provided by Tom Mitchell, Demetri Sevastopulo and Edward White at the Financial Times.

The Senate should keep missile-defense provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act and the U.S. should be encouraged by the legislation to increase testing of missile-defense systems. The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes

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