Trump vs. World

July 24, 2018
North Korea said to be dismantling key parts of launch site

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea appears to have started dismantling key facilities at its main satellite launch site in a step toward fulfilling a commitment made by leader Kim Jong Un at his summit with President Donald Trump in June.

While Pyongyang could be trying to build trust with Washington as they engage in talks to resolve the nuclear standoff, analysts say dismantling a few facilities at the site alone wouldn’t realistically reduce North Korea’s military capability or represent a material step toward denuclearization. And they expressed concern that the work is being done without verification.

The North Korea-focused 38 North website said commercial satellite images from July 20 to 22 indicate the North began dismantling key facilities at the Sohae launch site. The facilities being razed or disassembled include a rocket engine test stand used to develop liquid-fuel engines for ballistic missiles and space-launch vehicles and a rail-mounted processing building where space launch vehicles were assembled before being moved to the launch pad, according to the report.

“Since these facilities are believed to have played an important role in the development of technologies for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, these efforts represent a significant confidence building measure on the part of North Korea,” analyst Joseph Bermudez wrote in the report.

An official from South Korea’s presidential office said Tuesday that Seoul has also been detecting dismantlement activities at the Sohae launch site but did not specify what the North was supposedly taking apart.

Other analysts said North Korea is giving up little in dismantling the rocket engine test site when it’s clear the country is satisfied with its current design of long-range weapons and could easily build other similar facilities if needed in the future.

Adam Mount, a senior defense analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, said it’s also troubling that the North has been apparently allowed to duck verification by unilaterally dismantling parts of its nuclear and missile facilities without the presence of international inspectors. In May, North Korea invited foreign journalists to observe the destruction of tunnels at its nuclear testing ground, but did not invite outside experts capable of certifying what had been destroyed.

“The actions at Sohae are a helpful signal that Pyongyang wants to continue negotiations, but do not in themselves advance nuclear disarmament,” Mount said in an email. “North Korea still has not disclosed or offered to dismantle facilities that produce or store nuclear or missile systems, or the means to transport the missiles. So far, the facilities dismantled have been peripheral to these core functions.”

Lee Choon Geun, a missile expert at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute, said the North’s supposed move to dismantle the rail-mounted processing building was the more meaningful development as it potentially indicated to broader dismantlement activities at the site.

“If North Korea goes further and dismantles the entire Sohae site, that would meaningfully reduce the country’s long-range missile capability by eliminating a facility where it could fire multiple ICBMs in succession,” Lee said. “The North can also fire ICBMs from transporter erector launchers, but their technology with these vehicles isn’t stable.”

However, Mount said the military consequences of a broader dismantlement would be “marginal.” North Korea has invested a great deal of effort in ensuring its missiles can be fired from austere locations and doesn’t require a site like Sohae, he said.

“Dismantling a test site does not seriously constrain the existing arsenal or even future designs,” said Mount. “While it would be a significant step for the regime to shut down its space launch programs, it has always argued that these programs are distinct from military ones. Easing the missile threat would require restrictions on the number, types, or capabilities of missiles or the vehicles that transport and fire them.”

After his summit with Kim in Singapore on June 12, Trump said he was told by Kim that the North was “already destroying a major missile engine testing site” without identifying which site. The leaders concluded their summit by declaring their vague aspirational goal of moving toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, but there’s lingering doubts on whether Kim would ever agree to fully give up the nuclear weapons that he may see as a stronger guarantee of his survival than whatever security assurances the United States can provide.

In late 2017, Kim declared his nuclear weapons and missile program was complete, following a torrent of nuclear and missile tests that included the detonation of a purported thermonuclear warhead and flight tests of three developmental ICBMs potentially capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. Kim announced the mission of his nuclear testing site as finished weeks before inviting foreign journalists to observe the destruction of the tunnels.

The South Korean presidential official, who didn’t want to be named, citing office rules, said the supposed dismantlement activities shows the North is moving gradually.

“We need further analysis to figure out why the North didn’t turn the dismantlement activities into an event and whether the country is trying to control the speed of the process to maintain a pace it wants,” he said.   Source


July 9, 2018
Nato summit: Donald Trump says Germany is ‘captive of Russians’

US president says Berlin’s relationship with Moscow is ‘inappropriate’ in tirade on opening day of summit

Donald Trump has launched an extraordinary tirade against Germany on the opening day of the Nato summit in Brussels, accusing Berlin of being a “a captive of the Russians” because of its dependency on energy supplies.

At his first meeting of the summit, with the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, Trump described the relationship between Germany and Russia as “inappropriate”.

Europeans brace for worst from Trump at stormy Nato summit
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Nato officials had been nervously awaiting the first meeting as an indicator of how Trump – who arrived in Brussels on Tuesday night – would behave over the next two days. Within minutes they had their answer.

This summit is shaping up to be the most divisive in Nato’s 69-year history. Normally, Nato summits are mostly fixed in advance and proceed in an orderly fashion. Trump’s first words signalled this one was not going to be like that.

He complained that German politicians had been working for Russian energy companies after leaving politics and said this too was inappropriate. Germany was totally controlled by Russia, Trump said.

With Stoltenberg looking on uncomfortably throughout, the US president was unrelenting. “I think it is very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia,” Trump said. “We are supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions dollars a year to Russia.

“We are protecting Germany, we are protecting France, we are protecting all of these countries and then numerous of the countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia where they are paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia. I think that is very inappropriate.”

He added: “It should never have been allowed to happen. Germany is totally controlled by Russia because they will be getting 60-70% of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline.

“You tell me if that’s appropriate because I think it’s not. On top of that Germany is just paying just a little bit over 1% [of GDP on Nato defence contributions] whereas the United States is paying 4.2% of a much larger GDP. So I think that’s inappropriate also.”

His comments were linked to his push for other European countries – particularly Germany – to pay more for Nato’s defence needs.

“I think it is unfair,” Trump said. Other US presidents had raised European defence spending levels in the past but he was intent on dealing with it. “We can’t put up with it,” he said.

Germany’s plan to increase its defence expenditure to the Nato target of 2% of GDP by 2030 was not good enough, Trump said. “They could do it tomorrow.”

Stoltenberg seemed surprised by the force of Trump’s remarks. He attempted to respond, saying mildly: “Even during the cold war, Nato allies were trading with Russia.”

Asked about Trump afterwards, he responded diplomatically, restricting himself to saying the US president’s language had been “direct” and “frank”.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, will get a chance to respond when she and Trump have a one-to-one meeting scheduled for later on Wednesday. There had already been expectations it would be a testy encounter, and this appears even more likely after Trump’s opening remarks.

According to reports in the US media, Trump is keen to see Merkel replaced as chancellor. His outburst could be part of a strategy to try to undermine her at a time when she is domestically vulnerable.

Merkel has been one of the most outspoken critics of Trump among European leaders. The two clashed at the G7 summit in Canada last month. That summit ended in disarray in a spat between Trump and Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister. Nato officials are clinging to hopes that this summit will not end the same way.

Trump’s criticism of a Germany deal with Russia on energy appeared to relate to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline direct to Germany.

Just before he and Stoltenberg sat down to breakfast, Trump claimed the US was paying a disproportionate share of European defence and this was unfair to the US taxpayer.

Europe would have to step up, he said. “They will spend more. I have great confidence they’ll be spending more.”     Source

July 9, 2018
Trump Still Distorting NATO Spending

President Donald Trump continues to wrongly claim that the United States is paying as much as 90 percent of the cost of operating the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

In reality, the U.S. share of the commonly funded NATO budget is currently just over 22 percent, according to the most recent figures from NATO.

Trump’s complaints about NATO spending are actually based on how much the U.S. spends on its own defense compared with what other member nations spend on theirs.

Still, the U.S. share of total defense spending by all alliance members in 2017 was an estimated 67 percent, according to inflation-adjusted figures from NATO.

Trump’s most recent criticism of NATO came in a series of morning tweets on July 9, just days before he attends a two-day summit in Brussels with other NATO leaders.

He wrote that it “is not fair, nor is it acceptable” that “The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other Country.”

Donald J. Trump


The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other Country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable. While these countries have been increasing their contributions since I took office, they must do much more. Germany is at 1%, the U.S. is at 4%, and NATO benefits…….

Donald J. Trump


…Europe far more than it does the U.S. By some accounts, the U.S. is paying for 90% of NATO, with many countries nowhere close to their 2% commitment. On top of this the European Union has a Trade Surplus of $151 Million with the U.S., with big Trade Barriers on U.S. goods. NO!

As we have written before, Trump is conflating NATO’s direct and indirect spending to claim that the U.S. “is paying for 90% of NATO.”

In direct costs, the U.S. currently pays about 22 percent of NATO’s “principal budgets” that are funded by all alliance members based on a cost-sharing formula that factors in the gross national income of each country. The principal budget categories include the civil budget, the military budget and the NATO Security Investment Programme (NSIP).

“Direct contributions are made to finance requirements of the Alliance that serve the interests of all 29 members — and are not the responsibility of any single member — such as NATO-wide air defence or command and control systems,” NATO says. “Costs are borne collectively, often using the principle of common funding.”

NATO says its military budget for 2018 is €1.325 billion (or about $1.55 billion). Its civil budget is €245.8 million (or about $289 million). And the ceiling for the NSIP is €700 million (or about $822 million). That means the U.S. share for all three combined would be around $590 million, at most.

Direct spending may also include other “joint funding” projects that are arranged by participating NATO countries, but that are still overseen politically and financially by NATO. Those programs “vary in the number of participating countries, cost-share arrangements and management structures,” NATO says.

Trump, however, is referring to so-called indirect spending, which is the amount that the U.S. and other NATO countries willingly spend on their own defense budgets.

The 90 percent figure cited by Trump is still too high, according to NATO estimates.

In a June 27 update on spending, NATO said: “Today, the volume of the US defence expenditure effectively represents some 67 per cent of the defence spending of the Alliance as a whole.” That disparity “has been a constant,” NATO says, and has only grown since the U.S. began increasing its defense spending after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

All together, the 29 alliance members spent an estimated $917 billion on defense in 2017, and the U.S. portion was about $618 billion.

(NATO says those figures are based on 2010 constant prices and exchange rates. In current prices and exchange rates, the U.S. share would be roughly 72 percent of total defense spending by the alliance.)

Either way, that still isn’t how much the U.S. “is paying for NATO,” as Trump has repeatedly described it.

As NATO said in its June update: “This does not mean that the United States covers 67 per cent of the costs involved in the operational running of NATO as an organisation, including its headquarters in Brussels and its subordinate military commands, but it does mean that there is an over-reliance by the Alliance as a whole on the United States for the provision of essential capabilities, including for instance, in regard to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; air-to-air refuelling; ballistic missile defence; and airborne electronic warfare.”

On the other hand, Trump is right that many countries in the international security alliance come “nowhere close to their 2% commitment.”

In 2006, NATO members agreed to try to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense spending. In 2014, they agreed again to aim to meet that standard by 2024.

But in March, NATO said that only four nations met that guideline in 2017: the U.S. (3.57 percent), Greece (2.36 percent), Britain (2.12 percent) and Estonia (2.08 percent). Poland, at an estimated 1.99 percent of GDP, was just shy of the goal.

Trump is pushing for other countries to spend more on their own defense, while taking credit for some increases that have already occurred.

“While these countries have been increasing their contributions since I took office, they must do much more,” he wrote on Twitter.

There was an estimated 4.87 percent increase in total defense spending by Canada and European allies in 2017, marking the third straight year that defense spending by those countries increased, according to NATO. That was after several years of declines in spending by those countries.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Politico EU’s Confidential podcast this month that he expects eight nations will cross the 2 percent threshold in 2018, which he said was up from three countries in 2014.

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Donald Trump
President of the United States
“By some accounts, the U.S. is paying for 90% of NATO, with many countries nowhere close to their 2% commitment.”

July 9, 2018
Trump Misleads on NATO Spending

President Trump repeated his criticism that other NATO countries spend less than their fair share of the cost of the defense treaty. That’s not how the alliance works.

Donald J. Trump


The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other Country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable. While these countries have been increasing their contributions since I took office, they must do much more. Germany is at 1%, the U.S. is at 4%, and NATO benefits…….

Donald J. Trump


…Europe far more than it does the U.S. By some accounts, the U.S. is paying for 90% of NATO, with many countries nowhere close to their 2% commitment. On top of this the European Union has a Trade Surplus of $151 Million with the U.S., with big Trade Barriers on U.S. goods. NO!


This is misleading.

As a candidate and as president, Mr. Trump has said that NATO member countries have failed to pay their debts to the organization. His claim misrepresents how NATO functions and conflates several different measures of the alliance’s military spending.

In May 2017, The Times’s Peter Baker examined similar claims the president made last year:

NATO has a budget to cover common civilian and military costs, and some NATO-owned assets are also commonly funded when they are used in operations. The United States pays 22 percent of those costs, according to a formula based on national income. None of the NATO allies are in arrears on these contributions.

Mr. Trump is referring imprecisely to a goal NATO has set for each member to spend at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product on its own defense each year. He is correct that only five of the 28 members currently meet that goal, and they are the United States, GreeceBritainEstonia and Poland.

According to the most recent estimates from NATO, the United States spent $618 billion on its own defense last year after adjusting for inflation — or 3.57 percent of its G.D.P. That’s not quite 4 percent, as Mr. Trump said.

Collectively, defense spending by all NATO members in 2017 came to $917 billion. That means the United States’ spending represented 67 percent of the total.

It is true that the United States spends more than any other NATO member — both in total cost and as a percentage of G.D.P. — on its owndefense. It also contributes the most to NATO’s shared costs.

But all other nations pay their portion of the group bill.

In his Monday tweets, Mr. Trump also again exaggerated the United States’ trade deficit with the European Union by $50 billion. It is $101 billion.

Sources: NATO, The New York Times

July 7, 2018
Washington Post
North Korea calls U.S. attitude toward talks ‘gangster-like’ and ‘cancerous,’ rejecting Pompeo’s assessment

TOKYO —In a sharp signal that denuclearization negotiations with North Korea will be drawn out and difficult, Pyongyang on Saturday lambasted the U.S. stance as regrettable, gangster-like and cancerous, directly contradicting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s rosy assessment that his two days of talks had been “productive.”

A harsh statement from an unnamed spokesman for the Foreign Ministry was carried on the state-run Korea Central News Agency just hours after Pompeo left Pyongyang on Saturday and told reporters that significant progress had been made “in every element” of what he characterized as “good-faith negotiations.” Pyongyang crushed that appraisal, saying the United States had betrayed the spirit of the June 12 Singapore summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“The U.S. side came up only with its unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization,” the statement said.

“The issues the U.S. side insisted on during the talks were the same cancerous ones that the past U.S. administrations had insisted on,” it added.

Though North Korea still has faith in Trump, the statement said, it warned that the U.S. approach had brought the two countries to a “dangerous” stage that could “rattle our willingness for denuclearization.”

It was unclear whether the North Korean statement represented potential doom for meaningful negotiations, as some analysts believed, or was just Pyongyang’s standard negotiating style, as others asserted. It exposed the fragility of discussions at the center of Trump’s foreign policy and raised questions about Pyongyang’s intentions.

At the very least, the statement was an embarrassment for Pompeo, who has repeatedly said Kim has assured him personally that North Korea is willing to give up its nuclear weapons. But Pompeo did not meet with the North Korean leader on this trip, as he did on two previous visits and as some administration officials had hoped he would this time as well.

In its return to pre-Singapore bellicose rhetoric, the ministry’s statement also served as a rebuttal to Trump, who has declared the North Korean nuclear threat over and done with, even though nothing in the joint declaration signed in Singapore was definitive. The two countries do not even agree on what the concept of denuclearization means.

Some analysts saw no reason for alarm in Pyongyang’s downbeat version of events, considering it a routine North Korean negotiating tactic rather than a full-blown retreat from Pyongyang’s seeming commitments.

“They’re upping the ante for what they want, and downplaying what we want,” said Bill Richardson, who has negotiated with North Korea for prisoner releases. “This is typical. They’re very skilled at sending messages. And their message is that this negotiation is not going to be easy. And it’s going to be very costly. So you’d better be prepared to deliver.”

But Evans Revere, a former U.S. diplomat with a long history of negotiating with North Korea, said it was evident that the talks in Pyongyang had not gone well — and that it appears North Korea may have no intention of actually denuclearizing in the way the United States would want.

“Pompeo appears to have presented the North Koreans with some demands and requirements for real moves toward denuclearization, as opposed to the symbolic steps and empty language Pyongyang has been using so far. He deserves credit for doing so,” Revere wrote in an email.

“But in doing so, he has elicited North Korean ire, and he has now seen the reality of North Korea’s game plan and intentions that many of us have been describing for some time,” Revere added. “Welcome to our world, Mr. Secretary.”

Pompeo has come under increasing pressure to produce results, with Trump having touted the summit as a game-changing moment that eliminated North Korea’s nuclear threat. The State Department announced the formation of a small working group to work on details. Richardson counseled patience, endurance ­­and restraint.

“The president needs to restrain himself from declaring ‘Mission Accomplished’ when the mission hasn’t really started,” he said.

Pompeo went to Pyongyang hoping to formalize details of what actions North Korea is committed to taking to show its intention to denuclearize. Pyongyang has said it expects sanctions to be lifted in stages as it takes steps toward that goal, though Washington has insisted there will be no sanctions relief until the process has been completed. But the “maximum pressure campaign” the administration adopted to squeeze the North Korean economy through sanctions has eased somewhat already, particularly along the border with China.

Expectations were buoyed in part by national security adviser John Bolton, who said last week that North Korea could accomplish the “bulk” of its denuclearization within a year. Pompeo has been more circumspect, estimating that it will take until the end of Trump’s first term in office, or two and a half years.

“The expectation that Pompeo was going to come home with a dramatic deliverable was unrealistic to start,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

“Yeah, technically, it could be done in a year if North Korea didn’t have its own ideas about the pace and what the United States needs to do to get there. What we’re seeing is the reality of negotiations. It’s not surprising to see the North Koreans push back in reminding the United States it has some steps to take in order to help build a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.”

Analysts say that any final accord between the two nations to eliminate Pyongyang’s sophisticated nuclear and missile arsenal will be a long slog with no guarantee of success.

“While we were hopeful there would be some sort of breakthrough, it seems both sides can’t even agree to what transpired after countless hours of talks — and that is a massive problem,” said Harry Kazianis, an Asia expert at the Center for the National Interest.

Pompeo told reporters Saturday that the two countries would soon hold working-level talks on the destruction of Pyongyang’s testing facility for missile engines. He also said Pentagon officials will meet with their North Korean counterparts on or around July 12 at the demilitarized zone between the Koreas to discuss the return of the remains of U.S. military personnel who died during the Korean War.

Last month, Trump told a crowd of supporters that the remains of 200 service members had “been sent back,” but U.S. military officials later said that was not the case. U.S. officials viewed the handing over of remains as an easy confidence-building measure for North Korea to demonstrate its sincerity, and they have been frustrated with the slowness of Pyongyang’s follow-through.

Ahead of the new round of talks, Kim Yong Chol, North Korea’s septuagenarian former spy chief, teased Pompeo, suggesting that the “serious” negotiations the night before may have caused Pompeo to lose sleep.

“We did have very serious discussion on very important matters yesterday. So thinking about those discussions, you might have not slept well last night,” Kim Yong Chol said.

“Director Kim, I slept just fine,” Pompeo responded, according to a pool report provided by reporters accompanying the secretary of state.

Kim Yong Chol, a regime hard-liner who is careful not to act outside Kim Jong Un’s instructions, said he needed to “clarify” aspects of his nearly three-hour negotiations Friday with Pompeo, a desire the top U.S. diplomat immediately echoed.

“There are things that I have to clarify as well,” Pompeo said.

The display of small talk between North Korean and U.S. officials, a rarity given the infrequent contacts between the longtime adversaries, revealed both the tension at the heart of the nuclear negotiations and the increasing familiarity of the two men, who have become diplomatic counterparts during Pompeo’s three visits to Pyongyang and Kim Yong Chol’s visit to the United States in May.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Pompeo had been “very firm” in seeking three basic goals from the visit: the complete denuclearization of North Korea, security assurances and the repatriation of fallen soldiers’ remains.

Diplomats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive conversations, said the United States continues to struggle to develop a shared understanding of what denuclearization means to North Korea. Maintaining even basic communications has been difficult.

Adding to the pressure on Pompeo is a leaked U.S. intelligence assessment casting doubt on North Korea’s willingness to relinquish its arsenal.

Nauert said Pompeo called Trump on Saturday morning to update him on the talks, a conversation that included Bolton and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly.

Analysts say there are likely to be many more calls like this in the months and probably years to come.

“The North Korea threat still exists,” Kimball said. “North Korea continues to improve its arsenal. This is just the beginning of a long process.”    Source

Morello reported from Washington. Adam Taylor in Seoul contributed to this report.

John Hudson is a national security reporter at The Washington Post covering the State Department and diplomacy. He has reported from a mix of countries including Ukraine, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, and Georgia.

Carol Morello is the diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post, covering the State Department. She previously wrote about demographics and the census. She has worked at The Post since 2000. Before that, she was a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and USA Today.

July 4, 2018
Trump’s WTO threat risks recession, market implosion

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Look for global stock markets to crater and economies to dive into recession if President Trump proceeds with his desire to withdraw from another international accord — this time the World Trade Organization, economic experts tell me.

The big picture: Thus far, Trump has mostly damaged U.S. prestige with his anti-globalization actions, including withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate agreement, as well as threatening to pull out of NAFTA. He’s also caused global stock markets to gyrate by imposing tariffs on Canada, Europe, and China; and oil prices to rise by pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal. But “the financial shock would be very, very large” should he withdraw from the WTO, said Gary Hufbauer of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Show less

What they’re saying:

  • “Business confidence in the system would be severely shaken,” Hufbauer told Axios, and there would be “quite a hit” to long-term investment in plants and equipment. “You don’t need much of a slowdown in these areas, and you have recession.”
  • “If he persists, if this is more than bluster or a negotiating ploy, he is putting the prosperity of the world at risk,” said Brookings’ David Wessel.

The backdrop: Last week, Axios’ Jonathan Swan was leaked draft legislation, ordered by Trump, that would abandon key tenets of the WTO. Swan’s sources tell him that Trump routinely vows to withdraw entirely, and on Monday, the president publicly threatened that “we will be doing something” should the WTO not “treat us properly.”

  • The White House seems to be showing little understanding of the WTO’s history, originating in 1947 along with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as vehicles to prevent any future global war by buoying the economies of the world.
  • What specifically bothers Trump: Analysts say he’s bothered by the fact that the WTO still treats China as a developing country, and wants that to change.

But but but: While Eswar Prasad, a professor at Cornell University, expects a huge fallout, he suggests it will be more muted than a full-scale economic reversal.

  • “Trump’s repudiation of the WTO could prove a body blow to the rules underpinning the global trading system,” Prasad tells me. “The prospect of that and further disruption could hurt the stock market, but is unlikely to derail U.S. growth momentum sufficiently to tip the economy into recession.”

What to watch: The first signal of what’s to come will be Friday, when stiff tariffs ordered by Trump on China take effect, following steel tariffs already enacted on Europe and Canada, along with reciprocal tariffs on the U.S. That is, unless Trump halts U.S. action at the last moment, which some suspect he will.

What’s next: While this already looks like trade war, more is still ahead. Trump has threatened tariffs on another $400 billion in Chinese products should it retaliate against the U.S. If that happens, look for Beijing to respond harshly, perhaps by disadvantaging U.S. companies operating in China.

Other potential impacts:

July 1, 2018
Canada hits $13 billion of US goods with new tariffs

Canada has retaliated against US steel and aluminum tariffs by slapping its own penalties on American exports.

The Canadian government confirmed Sunday that it has imposed tariffs on US exports worth 16.6 billion Canadian dollars ($12.5 billion).

More than 40 US steel products attract tariffs of 25%. A tax of 10% has been levied on over 80 other American items including toffee, maple syrup, coffee beans and strawberry jam.

The response from Canada is designed to be proportional, with the new taxes being based on the amount of steel and aluminum shipped last year from Canada to the United States.

US steel tariffs, which went into effect on June 1, are expected to be particularly painful for Canada. It was the largest exporter of steel to the United States by value last year, according to Wood Mackenzie.

US steel tariffs chart

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was necessary for Canada to hold the United States to account.

“I have made it very clear to the president that it is not something we relish doing but it is something that we absolutely will do,” he said in June. “[As] Canadians, we’re polite, we’re reasonable but we also will not be pushed around.”

Related: Trump had a chance to cut Canada’s dairy tariffs. He walked away

US steel and aluminum tariffs have also been levied against Mexico, China, Turkey, India and the European Union. The Trump administration has angered key allies by justifying the tariffs on national security grounds.

Some have already launched retaliatory measures and filed legal challenges with the World Trade Organization.

Last week, the European Union imposed additional tariffs of 25% on US products such as motorcycles, orange juice, bourbon, peanut butter, cigarettes and denim. Mexico has also imposed new tariffs on the United States.

us import click image text 3

Canada and Mexico have the additional challenge of responding to US tariffs while they attempt to renegotiate NAFTA, a major free trade agreement, with the United States.  Source

June 26, 2018
Infrastructure Improvements at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Research Facility

A 38 North exclusive with analysis by Frank V. Pabian, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. and Jack Liu.

Commercial satellite imagery from June 21 indicates that improvements to the infrastructure at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center are continuing at a rapid pace. Modifications to the 5 MWe plutonium production reactor’s cooling system appear complete, but a less-than-normal cooling water discharge from the outfall pipe makes a determination of the reactor’s operational status difficult. The status of the Radiochemical Laboratory—used to separate plutonium from spent fuel rods—remains uncertain, although the associated Thermal Plant has likely continued operations, and a small non-industrial building of an unknown purpose has been newly erected near the cooling tower. Construction continues on support facilities throughout other operational areas of Yongbyon, especially at the Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR), where the new engineering office building appears externally complete and a small building similar to the one observed at the Radiochemical Laboratory has been erected.

Continued work at the Yongbyon facility should not be seen as having any relationship to North Korea’s pledge to denuclearize. The North’s nuclear cadre can be expected to proceed with business as usual until specific orders are issued from Pyongyang.

The 5 MWe Reactor

Modifications to North Korea’s 5 MWe reactor’s secondary cooling loop, which began in March, appear externally complete. A newly in-filled water channel (that includes a newly installed probable weir for controlling water flow) now leads to the pump house from the Kuryong River. (Figure 1) Determining the operational status of the reactor is particularly difficult at this time. Although a small water discharge is visible from the cooling water outfall pipe going into the river, that discharge is less than has been observed previously when the reactor was fully operational. It may simply be that this is all the water needed at this time to carry away the heat from the residual radioactivity in the reactor, if the reactor is currently shut down. Additionally, unlike last February, no visible steam is being vented from the generator building that would confirm that the reactor is operating, but we cannot rule out that this is simply due to the time of year and insufficient image resolution. (Figure 2)

Figure 1. Close-up of new cooling water pump house and in-filled water channel.

Pleaides © CNES 2018, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact

Figure 2. Overview of the 5 MWe reactor.

Pleaides © CNES 2018, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact

The Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR)

The four-story engineering office building at the ELWR is now externally complete, with a newly installed concrete driveway leading directly from the building’s entrance to the reactor’s main entrance. (Figure 3) The necessary infrastructure for reactor operations at the ELWR appears externally complete, but there is no visible evidence yet to suggest that operations have begun.

A new small building with a bluish roof has also been erected near the main construction support yard, where only a foundation was previously visible. The purpose of this small non-industrial type building is unknown, but the building appears similar to one that is also newly erected at the Radiochemical Laboratory.

The Kuryong River reservoir that provides cooling water for the Yongbyon reactors appears to be at its intended design levels, and the river seems to be flowing through the diversion sluiceway of the reservoir dam at capacity. It should also be noted that dredging of the riverbed continues upstream of the reactor area; downriver, other earth movements are ongoing.

Figure 3. New engineering office building externally complete and new small building erected at the ELWR.

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The Radiochemical Laboratory

The operational status of the Radiochemical Laboratory (the reprocessing plant used to separate plutonium from spent fuel from the 5 MWe reactor) remains uncertain given the lack of visible vapor coming from the cooling tower. Nonetheless, the site seems active. A large truck is parked near the spent fuel reception building and two trucks are also visible in the motor pool. Another vehicle is outside the security perimeter wall heading south along the access road.

A small blue-roofed building has been erected at the location where we had previously noted a new foundation just north of the cooling tower. (Figure 4) The building appears identical in size and design to the one described above near the ELWR. (Figure 5) Although it is not absolutely clear what role these buildings might serve, they are non-industrial in design, and could have some kind of hospitality role for senior officials.

Figure 4. Small blue-roofed building at the Radiochemical Laboratory.

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Figure 5. New buildings at the ELWR and Radiochemical Laboratory appear identical in size and design.

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At the associated Thermal Plant, the coal bins appear to have been somewhat depleted, suggesting operations at the Thermal Plant have continued. But given the lack of other operational indicators at the Radiochemical Laboratory—for instance, it is difficult to discern whether or not there is any smoke rising from the smokestack on this image—it is also unclear what operations are being conducted. (Figure 6)

Figure 6. Coal bins appear to be somewhat depleted since early May 2018, no obvious smoke plume observed.

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Uranium Enrichment Plant

The increased roof staining at the northwest corner of the cascade halls, as shown in Figure 7, indicates continued operations at the Uranium Enrichment Plant. The staining is caused by the deposition of water vapor coming from the six cooling units associated with gas centrifuge operations. (Figure 7)

Figure 7. Operations continue at the Uranium Enrichment Plant.

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The Radioisotope Production Facility

Since late 2017, two new buildings have been constructed in the southwest corner of the Radioisotope Production Facility near the end of the rail yard line serving that facility. At least one of these new buildings could be intended to store rail-delivered chemicals to support operations in the main production building, as over the past month, a below-grade pipeline has also been completed that connects them with the main production building, thereby providing a possible means for transferring such chemicals. (Figure 8) Little is known about this facility other than it was constructed in 2015, with various modifications since then. However, it is presumed to be a radioisotope production facility based on the internal layout and features observed remotely during its construction.

Figure 8. Pipeline connecting new buildings and main production building recently completed at the Radioisotope Production Facility.



June 26, 2018
North Korea making ‘rapid’ upgrades to nuclear reactor despite summit pledges

North Korea has continued to upgrade its only known nuclear reactor used to fuel its weapons program, satellite imagery has shown, despite ongoing negotiations with the US and a pledge to denuclearise.

Infrastructure improvements at the Yongbyon nuclear plant are “continuing at a rapid pace”, according to an analysis by monitoring group 38 North of commercial satellite images taken on 21 June.

The cooling system for the plutonium production reactor has been modified and at least two new non-industrial buildings have been built on the site, possibly for use by visiting officials. A new engineering office building has been completed and construction has continued on support facilities throughout the complex, according to a blog post written by Frank V Pabian, Joseph S Bermudez Jr and Jack Liu.

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, has committed to “complete denuclearisation” in meetings with Donald Trump and South Korean president Moon Jae-in, but the details of how and when that will happen have not yet been decided. Kim announced earlier this year the the North’s nuclear arsenal and weapons capable of striking the US were complete, and the North closed its only known nuclear test site in May.

“Infrastructure improvements continue at Yongbyon,” Jenny Town, managing editor of 38 North, wrote on Twitter. “Underscores reason why an actual deal is necessary, not just a statement of lofty goals.”

The status of various parts of the nuclear complex remains unclear, and experts cautioned linking ongoing improvements to negotiations with the US.

“Continued work at the Yongbyon facility should not be seen as having any relationship to North Korea’s pledge to denuclearise,” the experts warned. “The North’s nuclear cadre can be expected to proceed with business as usual until specific orders are issued from Pyongyang.”

Despite the lack of clarity on any nuclear deal, South Korea has pushed ahead with diplomatic efforts. The two sides met for military talks this week aimed at restoring communication lines, and railway officials agreed to explore connecting the two countries by rail.

Checks will begin next month on long-unused lines that once allowed travel across the entire peninsula. Talks began a decade ago, but were suspended amid rising tensions. South Korea already has a gleaming steel and glass station just south of its highly militarised border with the North, with tracks marked for service to the North’s capital, Pyongyang.

Kim singled out the South’s advanced railway infrastructure during his meeting with Moon in April, acknowledging in a rare admission of weakness that the North lagged far behind its neighbour. But progress on the nuclear issue and the lifting of sanctions would have to come before any joint rail projects. Source


June 25, 2018
Harley-Davidson will move some production out of US after retaliatory tariffs

Trump’s tariffs backfire on Harley-Davidson

President Donald Trump’s trade policy is backfiring on Harley-Davidson.

The company is shifting some production of motorcycles for European customers out of the United States to avoid EU retaliatory tariffs.

Harley-Davidson’s move is some of the most direct evidence yet that tit-for-tat trade fights between the United States and other countries have consequences for American companies. Harley-Davidson said it stood to lose as much as $100 million a year.

“Increasing international production to alleviate the EU tariff burden is not the company’s preference, but represents the only sustainable option,” it said in a regulatory filing on Monday. Harley-Davidson’s (HOG)stock tumbled 6%.

In an afternoon tweet, Trump said he was surprised “that Harley-Davidson, of all companies, would be the first to wave the White Flag.”

“Taxes just a Harley excuse – be patient!” he wrote.

The EU began imposing tariffs Friday on $3.2 billion worth of American goods, including motorcycles, orange juice, bourbon, peanut butter, motorboats, cigarettes and denim. They are a response to the Trump administration’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Europe.

For motorcycles, the European bloc raised its 6% tariff to 31%. That will make each bike about $2,200 more expensive to export, Harley-Davidson said.

The company is not raising bike prices for customers or retailers.

“The tremendous cost increase, if passed onto its dealers and retail customers, would have an immediate and lasting detrimental impact to its business in the region,” the company said.

Instead, it will eat $30 million to $45 million for the rest of this year and $90 to $100 million annually.

The company did not say whether any jobs are at risk. Harley-Davidson, based in Milwaukee, employs more than 6,000 people globally. Spokesperson Michael Pflughoeft said the company was “assessing the potential impact” on jobs.

It makes most of its motorcycles in the United States, at plants in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Missouri.

Europe is its second-largest market behind the United States. In 2017, nearly 40,000 European customers bought new Harleys, compared with about 148,000 in the United States.

Europe is becoming more important to the company as US sales slump. Harley-Davidson’s US bike revenue dropped 8.5% last year from 2016, but only fell 0.4% in Europe.

Related: Trump’s tariff fight could hurt the red states that support him

In January, the company said it was closing a factory in Kansas City, Missouri, and consolidating it into a York, Pennsylvania, assembly plant.

Harley-Davidson opened plants in India and Brazil in recent years and is opening another in Thailand this year.

Joe Capra, a spokesperson for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and its 425 union workers at the Kansas City plant, said Monday’s decision did not surprise him.

Capra said Harley-Davidson has not told its Kansas City workers whether the announcement will speed planned layoffs, which are scheduled to begin in August.   Source

June 10, 2018
Trump’s ‘Bully’ Attack on Trudeau Outrages Canadians

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada at a news conference at the G-7 summit meeting in the province of Quebec on Saturday.CreditChristinne Muschi/Reuters

MONTREAL — Canadians have had enough.

It takes a lot to rile people in this decidedly courteous nation. But after President Trump’s parting shots against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the day he left the Group of 7 summit meeting in Quebec, the country reacted with uncharacteristic outrage and defiance at a best friend’s nastiness.

“It was extremely undiplomatic and antagonistic,” Frank McKenna, a former Canadian ambassador to the United States, wrote in an email. “It was disrespectful and ill informed.”

“All Canadians will support the prime minister in standing up to this bully,” he added. “Friends do not treat friends with such contempt.”

Even Mr. Trudeau’s political foes rose to his defense.

“We will stand shoulder to shoulder with the prime minister and the people of Canada,” Doug Ford, the Trump-like renegade who was recently elected premier of Ontario, wrote on Twitter.

Stephen Harper, the former Conservative prime minister whom Mr. Trudeau beat to become prime minister, told Fox News on Sunday that Mr. Trump had made a mistake targeting trade relations with Canada.

“I can understand why President Trump, why the American people feel they need some better trade relationships,” he said. But, he added, “this is the wrong target.”

The ink had barely dried on the communiqué after the G-7 summit meeting in Charlevoix, Quebec, when President Trump berated Mr. Trudeau on Twitter from Air Force One, accusing him of being “very dishonest and weak” and of making up “false statements.”

“Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!” Mr. Trump wrote.

As Canadians were recovering from the sting of those remarks, Mr. Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow piled on, saying on television that Mr. Trudeau had “stabbed us in the back,” betrayed Mr. Trump and made him look weak before his summit meeting on Tuesday with North Korea’s leader.

And Peter Navarro, the president’s top trade adviser, suggested on Fox News Sunday that “there’s a special place in hell” for Mr. Trudeau.

Mr. Trump’s ire appears to have been spurred after Mr. Trudeau said Canada would retaliate against United States tariffs on steel and aluminum products, calling them “kind of insulting” and saying that Canadians “are nice” but “we will not be pushed around.”

These were strong words from the telegenic, soft-spoken leader, who has spent the two-day summit trying to strike a precarious balance between being Canada’s protector-in-chief but not inciting the mercurial American president. But Canadian officials said they were perplexed by Mr. Trump’s reaction since nothing Mr. Trudeau said was new.

From Singapore, where he is scheduled to meet with Kim Jong-un of North Korea for a historic summit, Mr. Trump again took to Twitter on Monday to assail Mr. Trudeau.

“Fair Trade is now to be called Fool Trade if it is not Reciprocal. According to a Canada release, they make almost 100 Billion Dollars in Trade with U.S. (guess they were bragging and got caught!),” Mr. Trump wrote. “Minimum is 17B. Tax Dairy from us at 270%. Then Justin acts hurt when called out!”

Mr. Trump is not exactly popular in Canada. And the Twitter tirade threatened to inflame already boiling resentment of the president, whose anti-immigrant stances and skepticism of climate change have infuriated many in a country that prides itself on its openness and social responsibility.

Pew Research survey published last year found that Canadian antagonism toward Mr. Trump had helped reduce Canadians’ opinions of the United States to a low not seen in more than three decades, with only 43 percent of Canadians holding a favorable view of the country.

Canadians across the political spectrum said that while the world had grown used to Mr. Trump’s social media rants, the ferocity and personal tone of the insults against Mr. Trudeau had crossed a line. Some even asked whether Canadians should boycott United States products and stop traveling south of the border.

Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, told reporters that Canadians should be insulted by Mr. Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum, imposed because, the president said, Canada poses a national security threat to the United States.

“The national security pretext is absurd and frankly insulting to Canadians, the closest and strongest ally the United States has had,” Ms. Freeland said.

As to the biting comments made by Mr. Kudlow, she responded, “Canada does not believe that ad hominem attacks are a particularly appropriate or useful way to conduct our relations with other countries.”

She added, “We particularly refrain from ad hominem attacks when it comes to our allies.”

Ms. Freeland said she planned to continue negotiating with the Americans over trade. “We are always prepared to talk,” she said. “That’s the Canadian way: always ready to talk and always absolutely clear about standing up for Canada.”

But for now, calling the American tariffs illegal and unjustified, she reiterated Canada’s intention to impose retaliatory tariffs, starting July 1, “which is Canada Day,” she noted. “Perhaps not inappropriate.”

For Mr. Trudeau, the G-7 summit meeting has been an important test of his leadership, at home and on the global stage. On Sunday, he continued his schedule, meeting with world leaders and trying to rise above the Twitter insults from his neighbor.

He wrote on Twitter on Sunday that the agreement at Charlevoix would, among other things, strengthen “our economies,” and protect women and the environment. “That’s what matters.”

Canadian fury at Trump notwithstanding, analysts said it was difficult to overstate the damage that bad relations with him could cause to the Canadian economy. Canada relies on the United States as its only neighbor, its military ally and its largest trading partner.

About 1.9 million Canadian jobs are tied directly to trade with the United States, which absorbs almost three-quarters of Canada’s exports.

“Any Canadian prime minister, no matter what the American president does or says, has to deal with the president of the United States,” said Janice Stein, founding director of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

Nevertheless, some analysts said Mr. Trump’s attack could work to politically embolden Mr. Trudeau, a Liberal, whose popularity has been waning here after a series of missteps and the rise of populism, including Mr. Ford’s recent election as the premier of Ontario.

John J. Kirton, director of the G-7 Research Group at the University of Toronto, a network of people who study the gatherings, said Mr. Trudeau, who faces an election next year, needed to appeal to rural voters in Ontario and Quebec and show he was protecting Canada’s heartland in the face of Mr. Trump’s protectionism.

“Every Canadian prime minister has to be seen to protect the dairy sector,” Mr. Kirton said. Mr. Trump has repeatedly attacked Canada’s tariffs on dairy imports.

Mr. Trudeau has been philosophical about the limits of Canada’s ability to placate Mr. Trump.

“If the expectation was that a weekend in beautiful Charlevoix, surrounded by all sorts of lovely people, was going to transform the president’s outlook on trade and the world,” he said in his final news conference at the summit meeting before the tweet storm, “then we didn’t quite perhaps meet that bar.”    Source


June 6, 2018
CNN: Trump joked about Canada burning White House in War of 1812 in call with Trudeau

President Trump blamed Canada for the burning of the White House in the War of 1812 during a call with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss the administration’s tariffs in Canadian steel and aluminum imports, CNN reported.

Citing unnamed sources, the cable news network reported that Trudeau asked Trump how he could cite national security as a justification for the tariffs, during a “testy” May 25 phone call.

“Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?” Trump reportedly retorted.

When asked if Trudeau took it as a joke, CNN’s source said, “To the degree one can ever take what is said as a joke. The impact on Canada and ultimately on workers in the U.S. won’t be a laughing matter.”

The president was evidently referring to the Aug. 24, 1814, burning of Washington by British troops. After defeating American troops in Bladensburg, Md., British soldiers invaded the city in the only occupation of Washington in American history. The soldiers burned several federal buildings, including the U.S. Capitol and White House (then referred to as the Presidential Mansion).

The attack was in response to an American assault on York, Ontario, but Canada did not yet exist as an independent country and was still a colony in the British Empire during the War of 1812. So, the troops who burned Washington were British, not Canadian.

“His statement was completely inaccurate,” said Maj. Tanya Grodzinski, an associate history professor at the Royal Military College of Canada.

“This was exclusively a British operation,” Grodzinski said of the occupation of Washington. “There were no Canadian troops involved whatsoever.”

Grodzinski said she reacted to the CNN report with disbelief.

“To claim that some incident from 200 years ago is the rationale behind the tariffs is completely unjustified, and it makes me question the basis of his policy and if there’s any thought to it whatsoever,” Grodzinski said.

More: Tariff winners and losers: How Trump’s trade spat could affect shoppers

More: UAW President Dennis Williams praises Trump’s tariff approach on vehicles

Trudeau called it “inconceivable” that national security concerns could be a legitimate reason to impose the tariffs during a press conference last week and said it was “an affront” to Canada, whose soldiers have fought and died alongside Americans in several international conflicts.

In response to the Trump administration’s 25% tariff on steel and 10% on aluminum, Trudeau intends to hit the U.S. with his own 25% steel tariff as well as a 10% tariff on consumer goods from the U.S.

More: Top economic aide Larry Kudlow: ‘Don’t blame Trump’ for trade tensions

More: Trump faces isolation at upcoming G-7 meeting of world leaders in Canada

May 24, 2018
World leaders infuriated over Trump decision to scrap North Korea summit

The Republic of Korea's President Moon Jae-in
The Republic of Korea’s President Moon Jae-in. Photo: Kevin Hagen/Getty Images

Trump had reportedly ordered the White House to release the Kim letter without consulting global allies in order to avoid potential leaks, per the Wall Street Journal, as Trump’s leak-ridden communications team has been the subject of scrutiny and headlines in recent weeks.

The big picture: President Trump’s decision to cancel the widely anticipated June 12 summit with North Korea Kim Jong-un has triggered backlash and outrage among international leaders who are bracing to see what’s next between Trump and Kim. This was billed as a historic summit but now, the Washington–Pyongyang standoff is prompting both sides to get back to basics.

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What they’re saying:

  • South Korea: President Moon Jae-in said at an emergency meeting with his top security officials: “Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of permanent peace are historic tasks that can neither be abandoned nor delayed… I am very perplexed and it is very regrettable that the…summit” won’t go ahead as planned.
  • The United Nations secretary-general: António Guterres via Twitter: “Deeply concerned by cancellation of meeting between President of the US and leader of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.) I urge the parties to continue dialogue to find a path towards the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
  • British Prime Minister: Theresa May, per L.A Times: “We are disappointed… We need to see an agreement that can bring about the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin per the APKim “did everything that he had promised in advance, even blowing up the tunnels and shafts” of the country’s nuclear testing site. “After which, we heard about cancellation of the summit by the United States.
    • He added: “In Russia, we took this news with regret, because we had very much counted on it being a significant step in sorting out the situation on the Korean peninsula and that it would be the beginning of the process of denuclearizing the whole Korean Peninsula.”

May 25, 2018
North Korea says it’s still willing to meet Trump after US President cancels summit

Seoul, South Korea (CNN)North Korea says Kim Jong Un is still willing to meet Donald Trump “at any time,” despite the US President’s abrupt cancellation of what would have been a historic summit between the two leaders, scheduled for June 12.

Kim Kye Gwan, a top official at North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, said Trump’s decision to cancel the talks runs counter to the global community’s wishes for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
“We would like to make known to the US side once again that we have the intent to sit with the US side to solve problem(s) regardless of ways at any time,” said Kim in comments published by the country’s state-run news agency KCNA Friday.
Kim said Trump’s decision is “not consistent with the desire of humankind for peace and stability in the world, to say nothing of those in the Korean Peninsula.”
donald trump kim jong un market north korea meeting
President Trump canceled the summit Thursday in a letter addressed to Kim Jong Un, citing recent hostile comments from top North Korean officials and concern over Pyongyang’s commitment to giving up its nuclear weapons. Trump said it would be “inappropriate” to have the summit given his worries.
The final straw, US officials said, was a statement Thursday from North Korea’s Foreign Ministry calling US Vice President Mike Pence a “political dummy” and hinting that Pyongyang was ready for a “nuclear showdown” should diplomacy fail.
Trump’s administration claimed there had been hiccups behind the scenes. In a background briefing a senior White House official said the North Koreans had failed to turn up to a meeting with a White House official in Singapore to talk planning and logistics. “The North Koreans didn’t tell us anything. They simply stood us up,” the official said.
But despite President Trump’s abrupt cancellation, he appeared to leave the door open for talks to resume at some point, telling reporters Thursday that “if and when Kim Jong Un chooses to engage in constructive dialogue and actions, I am waiting.”

Next steps

With the summit now off, US allies and other stakeholders in the region were left scrambling to figure out their next steps.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who acted as a middleman between Trump and Kim, called an emergency meeting in the middle of the night after the White House went public with the cancellation.
Moon’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha spoke with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo early Friday about President Trump’s sudden decision and the next steps for Washington and Seoul, two longtime allies. According to a South Korean statement, they said both sides should “devote effort to save the dialogue opportunity.”
The US’ other key partner in the region, Japan, was always more skeptical about what could be achieved at the summit. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is among the more hawkish leaders in Asia when it comes to North Korea. His chief spokesman said Friday that the US and its allies must continue the campaign to isolate North Korea diplomatically and pressure it using economic sanctions.
China has always been key to that strategy, as it accounts for nearly 90% of North Korea’s imports, at least on the record.
Beijing hasn’t responded to Trump’s decision to cancel the summit, but some experts say that China may be less willing to enforce tough sanctions if it believes that Washington isn’t committed to pursuing diplomacy alongside sanctions.

‘Bold decision’

Analysts said North Korea’s response to Trump’s letter was fairly measured, especially when compared to Pyongyang’s usual bombastic rhetoric.
The two countries have traded insults in the past with Trump calling Kim “little rocket man” and a “sick puppy,” and North Korean state media referring to the US President as a “dotard.” But in recent months, as relations improved, they’ve moderated their language with respect to their leaders.
Even after the talks were canceled, North Korean foreign ministry official Kim Kye Gwan complimented the US President on his willingness to take a risk and meet with Kim Jong Un.
“We have inwardly highly appreciated President Trump for having made the bold decision, which any other US presidents dared not, and made efforts for such a crucial event as the summit,” Kim Kye Gwan said in Friday’s statement.
“We remain unchanged in our goal and will to do everything we could for peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and humankind, and we, broad-minded and open all the time, have the willingness to offer the US side time and opportunity.”

Nuclear sites ‘destroyed’

Hours before Trump canceled the summit, Pyongyang held a ceremonial dismantlement of its Punggye-ri nuclear test site which it has billed as an example of its “commitment to building a nuclear free peaceful world,” as one North Korean official at the site put it.
Kim Jong Un announced last month that the site would be shuttered, as it has served its purpose and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program was advanced enough that it no longer needed to set off nukes undergorund.
International journalists, including a crew from CNN, watched as a series of explosions appeared to destroy three of four tunnels at the site — the North Koreans said the fourth tunnel, used for the country’s first nuclear test in 2006, had already been destroyed.
Though there were no nuclear or nonproliferation experts on the trip to verify if the site was actually rendered unusable — something the White House said that North Koreans promised them — the decision to invite foreigners to watch North Korea blow up the tunnels at one of the country’s most secretive sites holds symbolic importance.
The CNN team spent about nine hours at the site, during which they were briefed by the deputy director of North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Institute — who declined to give his name to the visiting journalists — and allowed to inspect the tunnels.
“The dismantling of the nuclear test ground conducted with high level of transparency has clearly attested once again to the proactive and peace-loving efforts of the government of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea),” the official from North Korea’s nuclear weapons institute said.

High hopes

Both sides had high hopes for what would have been a historic summit between the two leaders after Trump unexpectedly accepted an offer from Kim for face-to-face talks in early March.
It would have been the first encounter between a sitting US President and North Korean leader but plans began to unravel after North Korea objected to joint US-South Korean military drills and comments from senior members of the Trump administration.
After a successful summit between Moon and Kim, a pledge from the young North Korean leader to shutter his nuclear test site and refrain from launching missiles, and the decision to free three Americans held in North Korea, things seemed to be proceeding well until Pyongyang’s shift in tone last week.
But some analysts believe that Pyongyang’s recent provocative language wasn’t meant to push Washington to cancel the meeting, but rather to voice their displeasure after Vice President Pence and Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, brought up the case of Libya when discussing North Korea.
Former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi agreed to give up his nuclear weapons but less than a decade later was ousted from power and killed with the help of NATO-backed forces.
Trump and Kim Jong Un's ups and downs
Trump and Kim Jong Un’s ups and downs 02:38
North Korea has long cited Libya as an example to show why it needs nuclear weapons to deter the United States.
“They were trying to signal to Washington that they were very displeased about all this talk about Libya, which is obviously a nightmare scenario for North Korea, said Sue Mi Terry, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former CIA analyst.
“I think that message didn’t come across to Washington … the North Koreans were trying to send a signal and something was lost in translation.”   Source


May 15, 2018
US blocks United Nations call for independent probe into Gaza deaths

  • The United States blocked a United Nations (UN) Security Council statement drafted Monday that called for an independent investigation into the deaths of at least 58 Palestinians along the Israeli-Gaza border.
  • Monday represented the bloodiest day of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2014.
  • The unrest coincided with the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, a Trump administration directive widely condemned by the international community.

A Palestinian man uses a slingshot during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza strip east of Khan Yunis on May 14, 2018, as Palestinians protest over the inauguration of the US embassy following its controversial move to Jerusalem.

Said Khatib | AFP | Getty Images
A Palestinian man uses a slingshot during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza strip east of Khan Yunis on May 14, 2018, as Palestinians protest over the inauguration of the US embassy following its controversial move to Jerusalem.

The United States blocked a United Nations (UN) Security Council statement drafted Monday that called for an independent investigation into the deaths of at least 58 Palestinians along the Israeli-Gaza border.

Monday’s violence followed several weeks of mass protests in the Israeli-blockaded territory of Gaza, which is governed by militant Islamist group Hamas. The unrest coincided with the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, a Donald Trump administration directive widely condemned by the international community.

“The Security Council expresses its outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians exercising their right to peaceful protest,” a draft of the statement read, which was seen and reported by AFP. “The Security Council calls for an independent and transparent investigation into these actions to ensure accountability.”

The U.S. has used its veto power 43 times against UN resolutions concerning Israel.

More than 2,400 people were reported injured as Israeli Defense Forces fired live bullets into crowds of protesters, the majority of whom were unarmed. At least eight children under the age of 16 were killed, according to Palestine’s envoy to the UN.

The draft statement also referred to the protests as “peaceful,” a clear point of contention between opposing sides in the conflict. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday called the killings an act of self-defense, blaming the violence on Hamas, which the U.S. designates as a terrorist organization. The claim was echoed by the White House.

Smoke rises as Israeli soldiers are seen on the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip, Israel.

Amir Cohen | Reuters
Smoke rises as Israeli soldiers are seen on the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip, Israel.

“The Hamas terrorist organization declares it intends to destroy Israeland sends thousands to breach the border fence in order to achieve this goal,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter. “We will continue to act with determination to protect our sovereignty and citizens.” Since the 1990s, hundreds of Israelis have been killed in terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas.

Jerusalem embassy opening

Monday represented the bloodiest day of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2014, which was launched in response to Hamas rockets fired across the Israeli border. That conflict saw more than 10,000 Gazans and 70 Israelis killed.

Fighting erupts every few years in the poverty-stricken Gaza Strip, but clashes hit a multi-year high Monday as Ivanka Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin inaugurated the new embassy in Jerusalem, which both Israelis and Palestinians see as their spiritual capital.

Trump in December broke with decades of U.S. foreign policy, declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel and enraging Arab and Muslim communities around the world. Shortly after the announcement, 128 countries voted in a non-binding UN resolution calling on the U.S. to reverse its move.

Broad international consensus does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, and leaves the status of Jerusalem to negotiations. Palestinians envision East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and have been advocating for statehood — sometimes violently — for more than half a century.

Several European leaders on Monday expressed concern over the violence, reiterating their support for a “two-state solution.”

Senior White House Adviser Ivanka Trump and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stand next to the dedication plaque at the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, during the dedication ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018.

Ronen Zvulun | Reuters
Senior White House Adviser Ivanka Trump and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stand next to the dedication plaque at the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, during the dedication ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018.

Trump pledged the embassy move as part of his campaign, as well as pledging an ambitious plan for Middle East peace, for which Monday’s events don’t bode well.

But this seems to have been lost on the White House, whose spokesperson Raj Shah said: “The actions today, both the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem and these tragedies in southern Israel, we don’t think will impact the peace plan.” It was the first time a U.S. official referred to Gaza as “southern Israel.”

More than 40 Palestinians had already been killed during six weeks of “right to return” protests culminating on May 15, which for residents of the occupied territories marks the day they lost their land and homes during the establishment of the Israeli state.

Decades of conflict

Some 5 million Palestinian refugees remain eligible for services under the UN Relief Works Agency and qualify as “persons… who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” Some 1.5 million live in 58 recognized Palestine refugee camps across the Levant region, including in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian territory of Gaza was occupied by Israel following the Six-Day War of 1967, which saw the nascent state capture the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Syria’s Golan Heights and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. The Sinai was eventually returned to Egypt in 1982. Though Israeli troops left Gaza in 2005, Israel still retains control of Gaza’s airspace and coastline, leading the UN to continue referring to it as an occupying power there. The annexations remain controversial, and have continued to affect regional geopolitics to this day.

Gaza’s 1.8 million residents live in the small 225 square-mile enclave, making it one of the most densely-populated territories on earth. Thirty-nine percent of the population lives below the poverty line, more than half lack access to reliable electricity, and unemployment stands at 42 percent, according to the UN.

Israeli forces kill dozens in Gaza - here's the latest

Israeli forces kill dozens in Gaza – here’s the latest  

May 10, 2018
The Hill
Merkel: Europe can no longer rely on US protection

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that Europe can no longer count on the United States to protect it, urging the continent to “take destiny into its own hands.”

“It is no longer such that the United States simply protects us, but Europe must take its destiny in its own hands. That’s the task of the future,” she said during a speech honoring French President Emmanuel Macron, according to Agence France-Presse.

Her sharp comments came days after President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal, angering European allies who are parties to the 2015 pact.

Macron echoed Merkel, saying European nations should not allow “other major powers, including allies” to “put themselves in a situation to decide our diplomacy [and] security for us.”

Merkel, Macron and other European leaders visited the White House over the past few weeks to try to persuade Trump to remain in the agreement, to no avail.

Merkel and Macron released a joint statement with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday saying they will remain in the agreement aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

“This resolution remains the binding international legal framework for the resolution of the dispute about the Iranian nuclear programme. We urge all sides to remain committed to its full implementation and to act in a spirit of responsibility,” the leaders said in a statement.

The German leader made similar comments last spring after the U.S. president brought his “America First” message to a summit of NATO allies, accusing them of not spending enough on their own defense.

–Updated at 9:49 a.m.  Source

April 6, 2018
Trump wants to protect farmers from Chinese trade retaliation. That may create a bigger problem

  • President Donald Trump, in protecting U.S. farmers from tariffs by China, may end up inviting more economies into the trade spat, experts said Friday.
  • If Trump administration chooses to subsidize American farmers further, other agricultural exporters could retaliate with subsidies and tariffs of their own, the experts explained.
  • However the U.S. protects its farmers is unlikely to be effective because China can always impose counter-measures, said Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific chief economist at IHS Markit.

President Donald Trump, wanting to protect U.S. farmers from China’sthreatened tariffs, may end up pitting his country against many more nations in a trade spat that has hit global markets and worried the international business community, experts said Friday.

If the Trump administration chooses to subsidize American farmers further, that could trigger retaliatory tariffs and subsidies in major exporters of agricultural products such as the European Union and Brazil, the experts added.

An additional agricultural subsidy from the U.S. “brings third parties into the dispute, who could be expected, at a minimum, to complain to the World Trade Organization,” said Simon Baptist, Asia managing director and chief economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

“It is basically impossible for the U.S. to be confident that any actions it takes will protect its agricultural sector from Chinese tariffs, given the ways that other countries will respond to it.”-Simon Baptist, Asia managing director and chief economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit

Chad P. Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, sounded a similar warning. In a Twitter post, he said additional subsidies for American farmers would escalate trade tensions beyond the two largest economies in the world.

Farmers in Europe, CanadaAustralia, Brazil and Argentina who have been “suffering because of Trump subsidies” would demand retaliatory actions from their governments, Bown said.

Chad P. Bown


How THIS escalates beyond US-China
• Trump slaps tariffs on China
• China retaliates on US agriculture
• Trump subsidizes US agriculture to pay them off
• Farmers in EU, CAN, AUS, BRA, ARG, etc – now suffering because of Trump subsidies – demand retaliatory tariffs/subsidies

There have already been complaints about American agriculture on the world stage.

Chinese state-run media Global Times said in an editorial last month that subsidies from the U.S. government have given American soybean farmers an unfair competitive advantage in selling to China. Subsequently, Beijing on Wednesday announced tariffs on 106 U.S. products, including soybeans — the most valuable U.S. agricultural export to China.

In response, Trump on Thursday proposed an additional $100 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese products and asked the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture “to use his broad authority to implement a plan to protect our farmers and agricultural interests.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture told Reuters after the president’s statement that it first needs to “see the reaction of what tariffs will be and what the reaction of markets are” in deciding on ways to shield farmers from the trade conflict.

Trump can’t really help US farmers after all

Whatever measures the USDA eventually comes up with, it’s unlikely that they would be effective because China can always impose counter-measures, experts said.

Such tit-for-tat could actually benefit other agricultural exporters because China may end up buying more from them instead of the U.S., Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific chief economist at IHS Markit, told CNBC in an email.

Soybeans are harvested near Princeton, Ill.

Soybean farmer: China is going against middle America  

“Chinese tariffs on U.S. agricultural products will likely result in significant trade diversion to other agricultural exporters, as Chinese buyers switch import orders for items such as beef, wine, fruits, soybeans and cereals to other nations such as Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and the EU,” he said.

That would mean the U.S. loses market share in a major consumer, even if additional subsidies help its farmers stay competitive internationally, Baptist said.

“It is basically impossible for the U.S. to be confident that any actions it takes will protect its agricultural sector from Chinese tariffs, given the ways that other countries will respond to it,” he added.    Source

April 1, 2018
China targets US meat, fruit in retaliation against tariffs on Chinese goods

“We don’t want a trade war, but we are absolutely not afraid of it,” a senior Chinese spokesman said as US tariffs entered force in late March. Beijing’s retaliatory measures appear to make good on that promise.

China said it will start taxing $3 billion (€2.4 billion) of imports of US meat, fruit and other goods beginning Monday in response to US tariffs on Chinese goods.

The announcement follows weeks of Chinese threats to introduce the measures amid a deepening trade dispute between Beijing and Washington.

Read more: Vice Premier Liu He says China ready to ‘defend itself’ against US tariffs

What China is targeting:

  • China’s Customs Tariff Commission will target a total of 128 US goods.
  • It will increase the tariff rate on eight US imports, including pork, by 25 percent.
  • A new 15 percent tariff will be placed on 120 other US goods, including fruits.

Read more: Did Donald Trump really just launch a trade war with China?

Why this matters: Beijing’s move is the latest escalation in its trade dispute with Washington. US President Donald Trump announced a 25 percent tariff on foreign steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports beginning March 23 with temporary exemptions for some countries but none for China. The US has separately threatened to impose some $50 billion (€40.6 billion) in tariffson Chinese goods over alleged misuse of US intellectual property.

Swine’s significance: China is the world’s top consumer of pork. Beijing’s tariff on pork imports is likely to hurt the US pork industry, which has already been put under pressure recently by weaker demand from China. The US exported $1.1 billion in pork products to China in 2017.

China ‘not afraid’ of trade war: Analysts have warned that the US tariffs on foreign goods could spark a global trade war as other countries retaliate with their own tariffs. A Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman said in late March: “We don’t want a trade war, but we are absolutely not afraid of it.”

Read more: Asian markets jittery over trade war fears

amp/aw (AP, dpa, AFP)
Video & Source

March 22, 2018
Explore all $506 billion in goods that the US imported from China in 2017

US president Donald Trump apparently isn’t done implementing protectionist trade measures. This week, his administration is expected to announce $30 billion in new duties on the US’s largest trading partner, China.

Unlike the mostly tax-free treatment of the US’s next largest trading partners, Canada and Mexico, $207.9 billion worth of the $505.6 billion of goods that China sent to the US in 2017 was subject to some level of tariff. The US assessed $13.5 billion in tariffs on Chinese products last year, before collecting punitive measures such as anti-dumping taxes.

Quartz gathered import data from the US Census Bureau comprising 11,741 hierarchical product categories, the amount imported, and the tax assessed. Every product the US buys at least $1 million worth from China is shown below through the lens of the Harmonized System, the international standard for categorizing and taxing traded goods.

The data are plotted along two axes: how much money the US sends to China for those products, and what portion of all international purchases come from China. Policy makers consult both of these factors when determining which products or categories to levy duties upon.  Read more


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