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8 points about the crisis in Catalonia

The crisis in Catalonia was provoked by Catalonia’s nationalists, not by the Spanish government, and if handled firmly is neither big nor dangerous

Alexander Mercouris

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As the Catalonia crisis slides towards its climax, a number of misconceptions about it need urgently to be set aside.

(1) The illegality of the independence referendum does matter

Firstly, the crisis was triggered by the decision of Carles Puidgemont and of the Catalan regional government to call an independence referendum which was unconstitutional and therefore illegal.

I am troubled by the willingness of many people to disregard the illegality of the Catalan referendum and to support – apparently without giving much thought to the consequences – what was an exercise in straightforward law breaking.

This has gone along with all sorts of claims that Spain’s constitution can somehow be disregarded in this instance because constitutions supposedly derive their legitimacy from popular consent, which in Catalonia’s case the Spanish constitution is supposedly lacking.

These are wild and dangerous arguments.  Of all political systems democracy is the one which depends most on rigorous observation of the constitution and the law.  When these are disregarded and unconstitutional and illegal actions are taken and become the norm it is democracy itself which breaks down.

That is precisely what happened for example in Ukraine, where the whole root of the present crisis is the Maidan movement’s persistent refusal to respect the outcome of democratic and constitutional elections which it loses, and its willingness – as in its overthrow in February 2014 of President Yanukovych – to use unconstitutional and illegal methods to further its objectives.

The result in Ukraine was to bring the whole constitutional and legal order of Ukraine by 2014 crashing down with an unconstitutional government illegally installed by violent methods triggering secessionist moves by those who felt rightly that their constitutional and democratic rights and protections had been illegally taken from them.

That is absolutely not the situation in Catalonia today, and the parallels some people I suspect are making – if only in their own minds – between the post 2014 independence movements in Crimea and Donbass and the one in Catalonia today are false ones and should be rejected.

The fact that some people in Catalonia are unhappy with the present situation cannot be taken to mean that the constitution of the whole of Spain – of which Catalonia is only a part – no longer has consent or legitimacy and can simply be disregarded and set aside.  That is to privilege the obsessions of a small minority of Spain’s people over those of the great majority, something which would not only make constitutional government in Spain or indeed anywhere else where that principle was applied impossible, but which is in fact the reverse of what democracy is supposed to be.

I would add that the fact that in other more established democracies – such as the United States – the constitution and the law are being repeatedly violated by those in authority is certainly not something which ought to be cited as a precedent for Catalonia to follow.  On the contrary it is a cause for concern about the future of democracy in the United States.

(2) Violence in Catalonia was caused by the staging of an illegal referendum

The single fact which possibly more than any other has caused an outpouring of support for the Catalan independence movement is the appearance of riot police in Catalonia attempting to stop the illegal referendum from taking place.  This has triggered a predictable – and intended – storm of criticism of the Spanish authorities for supposedly responding violently to the Catalan people’s peaceful exercise of their supposed right to vote in the referendum.

This ignores the fact that the reason there was violence in Catalonia was because an act of illegality took place there.  To be clear wherever illegal gatherings happen (Navalny’s protests in Russia and the Maidan movement’s illegal occupation of Kiev’s Maidan Square are cases in point) there is always an inherent potential for violence, and the staging in Catalonia of an illegal referendum is no exception.

One should be very slow in situations like the one in Catalonia before criticising the Spanish authorities and the Spanish police for taking action to uphold the law.

Whilst what riot police do can always be made to look ugly, given that what took place in Catalonia was illegal I do not think that the actions of the Spanish authorities or of the Spanish police were disproportionate or unduly violent.  Reports of serious injuries are very few, and of reports of deaths thankfully there are none.

As was the case during the Slovene crisis of 1991, in Ukraine during the Maidan riots of 2013/2014, during the Libyan and Syrian protests of 2011, and during Navalny’s various protests in Moscow and elsewhere since then, I have no doubt that part of the intention behind the illegal staging of the referendum in Catalonia was precisely to provoke a reaction by the authorities and the police which could be presented to the outside world as a case of the authorities ‘violently cracking down on peaceful protests’.

I am always surprised by how easily manipulated people are by this tactic.

(3) The Spanish authorities almost certainly had no alternative but to react as they did

Here I must make some qualifications, since I accept that it is possible that the Spanish authorities may have had other more peaceful options than the ones they used in dealing with this crisis.  I do not know enough about the internal situation in Spain to know for sure one way or the other.  However I doubt that the overwhelming majority of those who pronounce confidently on this issue from the other side know much about the internal political situation in Spain either.

Again I feel that far too many people have been in a rush to make assumptions about possible alternative peaceful options for the Spanish government to have used to deal with this crisis, which because of the actual situation today in Spain may not in fact exist.

For example I question whether the fact that the Spanish authorities responded passively to an earlier referendum is as important as some people think.  It is surely possible – even likely – that the political situation in Spain and Catalonia is now such that what it was possible to ignore before is impossible to ignore now.  Giving a proper answer to this question requires a deep knowledge of Spanish domestic politics which I do not have, but which I doubt that most of the people who pronounce on this matter have either.

Ultimately a state which is not prepared to take action to defend the constitutional and legal order upon which it is based has no future.

It was the persistent refusal or inability of Mikhail Gorbachev’s government to act decisively to reassert its authority (derived from the Soviet constitution) in places like the Baltic States, Moldova and the Transcaucasus which in the end undermined its authority across the whole USSR, causing the USSR itself to collapse.

By contrast it was the Chinese government’s determined reassertion of its authority during the Tiananmen protests of 1989 which secured its survival, and China’s stability thereafter.

Ultimately if the Spanish government were to ignore persistent blatant illegality in Catalonia its authority would collapse there, with the likely result that it would in time collapse across the whole of the rest of Spain as well.  Quite possibly that was the point which the Spanish government felt had been reached when this latest illegal referendum was called.

If so then the Spanish government’s decision to send police to Catalonia to reassert its authority and that of the constitution and of the law in the face of what was a concerted illegal challenge to its authority was almost certainly – in terms of its own and the Spanish state’s survival – politically speaking the right one and indeed the only one.

(4) There are no grounds to say that the Spanish courts behaved in a biased way in striking down sections of an autonomy agreement reached between a previous Spanish government and Catalonia

Again it concerns me that so many people have uncritically accepted this claim of Francoist bias on the part of the Spanish judiciary, self-serving on the part of Catalonia’s nationalists though it is.

Ultimately there is no better judge of Spain’s constitution and law than Spain’s own courts.  Possibly some of the judges in those courts are old fashioned people of right wing and conservative views.  However General Franco – Spain’s former fascist dictator – has now been dead for 42 years.  It beggars belief that after 42 years of constitutional democracy (a period longer than Franco’s rule) the entire Spanish legal and judicial system should continue to be permeated with his thinking.

I have seen no sustained legal criticism of the Spanish court decisions which are being objected to, and I see no reason therefore to think that those decisions were either biased or wrong.

The fact that the Catalan authorities secured for themselves in negotiations with an earlier Spanish government more than they may have been legally entitled to under Spain’s constitution does not mean that they are justified now in acting illegally simply because decisions in the courts have gone against them.

No one has a right to act illegally because they lose a case in court – the idea is actually absurd – and elected authorities such as the ones in Catalonia especially should not do so.

(5) the Catalan authorities did not need to act illegally to secure independence or greater autonomy for Catalonia

Again it concerns me how readily the obviously self-serving claim that a resort to illegality is somehow justified because of the supposed impossibility of otherwise extracting concessions from the Spanish state is being accepted.

Spain is not a monolith and Catalonia is one of its biggest provinces and is also its richest province.  That means that a Catalan government committed to the objective of greater autonomy or even independence for Catalonia has any number of legal options it could turn to in order to achieve its objective.

There are for example political forces in the rest of Spain – such as for example Podemos – with which it might be able to ally itself with in order to secure a new Spanish government with which it could negotiate greater autonomy or even independence.   It could also press for changes to Spain’s constitution – which can be amended in a legal and constitutional way, like any other constitution can – to achieve those objectives.

It could incidentally also have chosen to stage the recent vote not as a binding independence referendum but as a non-binding opinion poll in order to show how strong feeling in support of independence within Catalonia is.

Instead the present Catalan government wilfully chose the path of illegality thereby – almost certainly intentionally – triggering the present crisis.

The fact that it chose to act in this way instead of choosing one of the legal and constitutional (though incremental) options available to it makes me in fact question the whole foundation myth of this whole crisis: that there is a strong majority in Catalonia which supports independence from Spain.

Generally speaking a resort to illegality by a nationalist movement only takes place within a democratic and constitutional framework when the nationalist movement itself doubts that it has the support it says it does.  The intention is to use illegality to provoke a reaction from the authorities in order to polarise opinion and harden support behind the nationalist movement.

That for example was what lay behind the resort to illegality in Ukraine in 2004 and 2014, and it seems to me that that is what we are seeing being attempted in Catalonia now.

(6) Negotiations may not offer a solution

The claim that negotiations are the route out of the crisis is something which is always said in crises of this sort, and it perhaps the most dangerous myth of all.

The proper solution of the crisis in Catalonia is not negotiations.  It is a return to legality.

When President Yanukovych of Ukraine in 2014 sought to negotiate with the leaders of the Maidan movement who were acting illegally he did not secure a peaceful or proper solution to the crisis in Ukraine.  He secured instead his own downfall and that of the whole constitutional order of Ukraine.

In this case if the Catalan government persists in its claim that the illegal referendum has given Catalonia a ‘right’ to secede from Spain then negotiations between it and the Spanish government become unwise and even dangerous, since they can appear to be legitimising that objective and the way the Catalan government is going about achieving it.  In that case the ‘negotiations’ simply become a mechanism to achieve Catalan independence from Spain.  Anyone who observed Puidgemont’s speech to the Catalan parliament can see that that is exactly the agenda he is following.

Again it puzzles me that some people are unable to see behind this – wholly transparent – agenda, and construe a purported ‘offer’ from Puidgemont for talks – be it noted on his terms – as a ‘last chance for Spain’ when it is in reality the precise opposite.

The Spanish government’s challenge to Puidgemont – to clarify whether he has declared independence or not – by contrast makes total sense, as does the Spanish government’s eight day ultimatum to the Catalan government to scrap its independence declaration or face the consequences.

(7) This is not a major crisis in Spain and for the European Union

Though here I cannot be sure I suspect that the claim that this is a big or serious crisis is the biggest myth of all.

The Spanish government has threatened the Catalan government with the imposition of direct rule from Madrid unless it backs down and cancels its independence declaration.  It has also made it fairly clear that it is considering legal proceedings against the Catalan officials – including Puidgemont – who were responsible for the referendum and for the independence declaration.

This is being universally reported as taking Spain into ‘uncharted waters’, supposedly causing a huge crisis in Catalonia and Spain and ultimately for the EU.

I am not sure why.  No doubt the imposition of direct rule by Madrid would meet with opposition in Catalonia.  However short of a resort to outright violence I have no doubt the resources of the Spanish state would enable it to prevail quickly in the event of a stand-off.  Catalan society is divided on the independence question – with much of Catalonia’s working class said to be opposed – so it is difficult to see how opposition could be sustained for very long.

Needless to say if there is a resort to violence the resources of the Spanish state will quickly contain it.  A Spanish state that was able to defeat the challenge of Basque terrorism can certainly counter any threat of violence coming from within Catalonia.  I would add that in the event that they were to resort to violence – which I think is very unlikely – the Catalan nationalists would quickly lose support within Catalonia itself.

Here it is essential to make a point made previously by Haneul Na’avi.  The Catalan independence movement is in no sense a revolutionary movement.  It is not calling for a revolutionary transformation of Catalan or Spanish society.  Mostly it is a conservative middle class movement anxious to shore up the economic and cultural privileges of Catalonia’s conservative middle class.  That all but excludes any real possibility of it posing any true sustained challenge either to the Spanish state or to the EU or to the neoliberal global order, always provided that the Spanish government keeps its head and preserves its domestic support.

As for the European Union, the Catalan nationalists have pledged their loyalty to it.  Apparently they hope this will win them sympathy and support from the European Union, just as it did for Slovenia in 1991.

In that they are likely to be disappointed.  Though there may be some officials within the EU bureaucracy in Brussels who are sympathetic to Catalonia’s cause, the most powerful EU states – Germany, France and Italy, all of which face potential challenges from independence movements of their own – are all but certain to side with Spain, their fellow EU state, against them.

The basic lesson of the last 25 years is that no secessionist movement strongly opposed by the government of the state it is looking to secede from can win independence unless it has strong support from powerful outside powers.  As of this moment the Catalan independence movement has no such support – or none that matters – and unless that changes  – and there is no reason to think it will – that dooms its independence bid to certain failure.

Much will depend on how the Spanish government handles the situation over the next few weeks.  Provided it keeps its nerve and avoids being provoked into either excessive overreaction or unnecessary concessions, the strong odds seem to me to be that it will prevail, and that following a few days or even weeks of protests its imposition of direct rule on Catalonia will be seen to be successful.

In that case after a short time I would expect opinion in Catalonia – already divided on the independence question – to start to swing back towards the government, and the crisis in Catalonia to subside.

(8) Russia does not support Catalan independence 

It is actually ridiculous to waste time on this point and I only do so because a few people in Spain and the US who have lost all touch with reality appear to believe it.

The Russian government’s position is that the crisis in Catalonia is a strictly Spanish internal matter.  However in private I have no doubt the Russian government’s sympathies are not with the Catalans but with Spain.

Though the two countries are hardly close, relations between Russia and Spain are cordial, with Spain being one of those countries which in 2014 expressed doubts about the wisdom of the EU imposing sanctions on Russia.

Beyond that however is the overriding concern for Russia that the break up of Spain would increase regional instability – something the Russians deeply mistrust – without conferring on Russia any obvious advantages.  To be clear, quite how a pro-EU, right wing, Atlanticist independent Catalonia – which is what Puidgemont says he wants – would benefit Russia completely escapes me.

I am sure that no one in authority in Moscow wants to see that, and the Russian government’s repeated public pronouncements that it wants to see the crisis in Catalonia resolved peacefully within the framework of Spain constitution and its law should be accepted as its true position.

Summary

Internal crises in various states like the one in Spain and Catalonia blow up from time to time.  In my opinion when they do they pose little danger to world peace or to the international system unless they directly impact on the national security interests of the Great Powers.

In Catalonia’s case neither the US nor Russia – the two Great Powers which in this region matter – have any interest in an independent Catalonia, whilst the two other Great Powers – China and India – are certain to oppose it, and the dominant regional power – Germany – is certain to oppose it also.

That almost certainly means that provided the authorities in Madrid keep their nerve they should be able to contain this crisis with little difficulty. Whilst the challenge of Catalan nationalism will doubtless continue for a time to pose problems for the Spanish state, there is no reason to think it cannot surmount them.

As for Mariano Rajoy – Spain’s much maligned Prime Minister – the high probability is that he will emerge from this crisis with his popularity and authority enhanced amongst Spain’s people, so that he will win a victory in the election which he is likely to call soon.  In saying this I should make clear that (1) for entirely different reasons unrelated to the Catalan crisis I neither like nor support Rajoy; and (2) that it is important to stress that for Rajoy it is ultimately the support he gets in Spain from its people and from the leading Western powers which matters, and not what the international liberal commentariat says about him.

It is essential when discussing a crisis like this to keep a clear head.  Crises of this sort only start to become dangerous when the myths conjured up by those who intentionally trigger them start to become accepted as facts.  That is what happened disastrously in 1991 in Yugoslavia and in 2014 in Ukraine.

There is no reason to do this in Catalonia’s case and thankfully the indifference of the Great Powers to this crisis makes it unlikely it will happen.

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Russia ranks HIGHER than Switzerland in these areas of doing business

Some curious things happened with several businesspeople who attended World Cup events in Russia.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin

One of them was a distinctly renewed interest in doing business inside the country, and another was the realization to what extent perceptions have been tainted by media and political rhetoric directed against any real or imagined nastiness attributed to Russia these days.

These past few weeks have been invaluable, at the very least by affording a clear picture of Russia through which almost all anxiety-ridden preconceptions were illuminated and dispelled. More disturbing was the fact that the several businesspeople I was dealing with were furious. They were livid for being played for fools, and felt victimized by the dismally untrue picture painted about Russia and Russians in their home countries, both by their own politicians and the press.

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Most felt that they have been personally sanctioned by their own countries, betrayed through lack of clear unbiased information enabling them to participate and profit from Russia opportunities these past three growth years in spite of “sanctions”.

The door to doing good business in Russia has been and is open, and has been opening wider year after year. That is not just “highly likely”, but fact. Consistently improving structures, means and methods to conduct business in Russia sustainably, transparently and profitably are now part of the country’s DNA. It is a process, which has been worked on in the west for more than a century, and one, which Russia has only started these past 18 years.

True, there are sanctions, counter-sanctions, and regulations governing them that must be studied carefully. However if you are not a bank or doing business with those persons deemed worthy of being blacklisted by some countries “sanctions list”, in reality there are no obstacles that cannot be positively addressed and legally overcome despite the choir of political nay-sayers.

READ MORE: Russia just dumped $80 BILLION in US debt

The days of quickly turning over Russia opportunities into short-term cash are rapidly fading, they are a throwback to the 1990’s. Today the major and open opportunities are in the areas for Foreign Direct Investments. The nature of FDI is long term to make regularly recurring sustainable returns on investment.

Long term, Russia always was and increasingly confirms that it is a vibrant and attractive market. There is a significant consumer market with spending power, a well-educated workforce, a wealth of resources and the list goes on. The economic obstacles encountered have largely been imposed from without, and not from the dynamics and energies of the Russian economy itself.

Eventually sanctions will end, although the timeline is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile business continues, and any long-term engagement within Russia by establishing a working presence will yield both short and long-term investment rewards. These will only be amplified when the sanctions regimes are removed. In any event, these aspects are long-term investment decisions and one of the criteria in any risk assessment.

For some added perspective, Russia is ranked by the Financial Times as the No.2 country in Europe in terms of capital investments into Europe. It has a 2017 market share of 9% (US$ 15.9 billion) and includes 203 business projects. This is 2% higher than 2016 and better that 2014/2015 when sanctions were imposed.

Another item of perspective is the Country Risk Premium. All investors consider this when calculating the scope for long-term return on investments. What may surprise some is that Russia is no longer ranked as a very high-risk country. For comparisons sake: The risk premium for Germany is zero (no extra risk), the risk premium for Italy is 2.19%, and for Russia, it is 2.54%. When compared to politically popular investment destinations like Ukraine the risk premium is 10.4%  – food for thought. Bottom line is that the risks of investing in Russia are a smidge higher than investing in Italy.

Russia is ranked 35 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings. The ranking of Russia improved to 35 in 2017 from 40 in 2016 and from 124 in 2010. It may also surprise some to learn that as concerns protecting the rights of minority investors, paying taxes, registering property and some other aspects of the World Bank comparisons, Russia comes out better than Switzerland (See: Rankings).

From operational standpoints, establishing an invested presence in Russia does not mean one must adopt Russian managerial methods or practices. The advantages for established foreign companies is that their management culture is readily applied and absorbed by a smart and willing workforce, enabling a seamless integration given the right training and tools.

The trend towards the ultimate globalization of business despite trade wars, tariffs, sanctions and counter-sanctions is clear. The internet of the planet, the blockchain and speed of information exchange makes it so whether we wish it or not. Personally, I hope that political globalization remains stillborn as geopolitics has a historical mandate to tinker with and play havoc with international trade.

Russia occupies a key strategic position between Europe and Asia. The “west” (US/Europe) have long had at times rather turbulent relationships with China. At the same time the Chinese are quite active investors in both the US and Europe, and western companies are often struggling to understand how to deal with China.

The answer to this conundrum is Russia: this is where East and West will ultimately come together with Russia playing a pivotal role in the relations between the west and China. At the end of the day, and taking the strategic long-term economic view, is what both Chinese and Western companies are investing in when they open their activities in Russia.

If long-term commitment and investment in Russia were simply a matter of transferring funds then I would not be bothering with this opinion article. Without a doubt, there are structural issues with investing in Russia. A still evolving and sometimes unclear rule of law, difficulties obtaining finance for investments directed towards Russia, the unique language and culture of business in the country. Nevertheless, companies that have an understanding and vision of global strategy will manage with these issues and have the means to mitigate them.

Money and other invested resources do not and should not play politics; any investment case when evaluated on objective financial criteria will reveal its fit, or lack of, within a company’s global strategic business objectives. The objective criteria for Russia over any long term horizon is both convincing and strong. This has been repeated by all of the businesspeople I have met with these past few weeks. Without doubt we shall see some new companies coming into the Russian market and objectively exploring the gains their playing fair business football here will yield.

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Media meltdown hits stupid levels as Trump and Putin hold first summit (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 58.

Alex Christoforou

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It was, and still remains a media meltdown of epic proportions as that dastardly ‘traitor’ US President Donald Trump decided to meet with that ‘thug’ Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Of course these are the simplistic and moronic epitaphs that are now universally being thrown around on everything from Morning Joe to Fox and Friends.

Mainstream media shills, and even intelligent alternative news political commentators, are all towing the same line, “thug” and “traitor”, while no one has given much thought to the policy and geo-political realities that have brought these two leaders together in Helsinki.

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou provide some real news analysis of the historic Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki, without the stupid ‘thug’ and ‘traitor’ monikers carelessly being thrown around by the tools that occupy much of the mainstream media. Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

And if you though that one summit between Putin and Trump was more than enough to send the media into code level red meltdown, POTUS Trump is now hinting (maybe trolling) at a second Putin summit.

Via Zerohedge

And cue another ‘meltdown’ in 3…2…1…

While arguments continue over whether the Helsinki Summit was a success (end of Cold War 2.0) or not (most treasonous president ever), President Trump is convinced “The Summit was a great success,” and hints that there will be a second summit soon, where they will address: “stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace, North Korea and more.”

However, we suspect what will ‘trigger’ the liberal media to melt down is his use of the Stalin-esque term “enemy of the people” to describe the Fake News Media once again…

 

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While US seeks to up the ante on pressure on the DPRK, Russia proposes easing sanctions

These proposals show the dichotomy between the philosophy of US and Russian foreign policy

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The United States last week accused the DPRK of violating refined petroleum caps imposed as a part of UN nuclear sanctions dating back to 2006, and is therefore submitting a proposal to cut all petroleum product sales to North Korea.

The Trump administration is keen on not only preserving pressure on North Korea over its nuclear arms development, but in increasing that pressure even as DPRK Chairman, Kim Jong-Un, is serially meeting with world leaders in a bid to secure North Korea’s security and potential nuclear disarmament, a major move that could deescalate tensions in the region, end the war with the South, and ease global apprehensions about the North’s nuclear arsenal.

Meanwhile, Russia is proposing to the UNSC sanctions relief in some form due to the North’s expressed commitment to nuclear disarmament in the light of recent developments.

Reuters reports:

MOSCOW/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia’s envoy to North Korea said on Wednesday it would be logical to raise the question of easing sanctions on North Korea with the United Nations Security Council, as the United States pushes for a halt to refined petroleum exports to Pyongyang.

“The positive change on the Korean peninsula is now obvious,” said the ambassador, Alexander Matsegora, according to the RIA news agency, adding that Russia was ready to help modernize North Korea’s energy system if sanctions were lifted and if Pyongyang can find funding for the modernization.

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

China tried late last month to get the Security Council to issue a statement praising the June 12 Singapore meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and expressing its “willingness to adjust the measures on the DPRK in light of the DPRK’s compliance with the resolutions.”

North Korea’s official name is Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

But the United States blocked the statement on June 28 given “ongoing and very sensitive talks between the United States and the DPRK at this time,” diplomats said. The same day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi about the importance of sanctions enforcement.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to informally brief U.N. Security Council envoys along with South Korea and Japan on Friday.

Diplomats say they expect Pompeo to stress the need to maintain pressure on North Korea during his briefing on Friday.

In a tweet on Wednesday Trump said he elicited a promise from Russian President Vladimir Putin to help negotiate with North Korea but did not say how. He also said: “There is no rush, the sanctions remain!”

The United States accused North Korea last week of breaching a U.N. sanctions cap on refined petroleum by making illicit transfers between ships at sea and demanded an immediate end to all sales of the fuel.

The United States submitted the complaint to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee, which is due to decide by Thursday whether it will tell all U.N. member states to halt all transfers of refined petroleum to Pyongyang.

Such decisions are made by consensus and some diplomats said they expected China or Russia to delay or block the move.

When asked on June 13 about whether sanctions should be loosened, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: “We should be thinking about steps in that direction because inevitably there is progress on the track that should be reciprocal, that should be a two-way street. The other side should see encouragement to go forward.”

The proposals of both the United States and Russia are likely to be vetoed by each other, resulting no real changes, but what it displays is the foreign policy positions of both nuclear powers towards the relative position of the DPRK and its rhetorical move towards denuclearization. The US demonstrates that its campaign of increased pressure on the North is necessary to accomplishing the goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula, while Russia’s philosophy on the matter is to show a mutual willingness to follow through on verbal commitment with a real show of action towards an improved relationship, mirroring on the ground what is happening in politics.

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