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Afghanistan: A war tailor made for Donald Trump AND Steve Bannon

Steve Bannon has said that ‘screwing up’ China’s One Belt–One Road should be a priority for the US. In this sense Bannon is as mainstream and as neo-con as they come.

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In many ways the moral, logistical and ethical simplicity of the Syrian conflict, meant that it was always destined to be the conflict that would wake up at least some in the west, to the nature of how the US and its allies often foment wars by aligning with the most immoral forces on the planet in order to attempt to achieve a geo-strategic goal.

When ordinary Americans and Europeans saw a secular Ba’athsit government in Damascus which protected the rights of ethnic and religious minorities as well as one which gives full rights to women, such people could hardly internalise the idea that  head-chopping, bomb planting, woman enslaving, minority murdering Wahhabi Sunni supremacists were a more ethical or moral option than the secular Ba’athist government–no matter how many times Obama called them ‘moderate rebels’.

READ MORE: 4 reasons the Syrian conflict has grabbed world attention more than Afghanistan

Donald Trump as a candidate and Steve Bannon as a campaign partner and before that a media ally, realised this and pushed an anti-war message in Syria. The message was one which played on the natural tendencies of most Americans to favour a secular/pro-Christian government over an opposition that includes al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Where Bannon carefully swayed secular/pro-Christian US opinion against Obama’s war in Syria, in respect of Afghanistan, the Bannon/Trump message was far more duplicitous, even before the troop surge.

Long before the 2016 US election, Donald Trump and Steve Bannon expressed anti-war sentiments in respect of Afghanistan. The message boiled down to the line from the Vietnam War era Country Joe McDonald song “What are we fighting for, don’t ask me I don’t give a damn, the next stop is Vietnam Afghanistan”.

But while delivering an anti-war message which even in his ‘troop surge’ announcement Donald Trump admitted was his “instinct”, both men were and remain totally in favour of the primary goal of the Afghan conflict: Disrupting China’s One Belt–One Road and specifically the important roles that Pakistan is playing as an important stop long the Belt and Road.

Bannon and Trump are known to hold anti-Chinese views. In a recent interview, one of his first since leaving the White House, Bannon said that one of the primary US policy goals should be to “screw up One Belt–One Road”. 

With Trump’s troop surge in Afghanistan and specifically his threats against Pakistan which includes the stated desire to drag India into the conflict, Bannon just got what he wished for.

The India scenario vis-a-vis Pakistan and China is as follows:

Today, Pakistan is increasingly supportive of proposals by China and Russia which involve a negotiated settlement to the conflict which involves both the current fractious government as well as the increasingly powerful, influential and in many regions popular Taliban factions. Such proposals fit in with Pakistan’s long term strategy in Afghanistan and suit Islamabad’s contemporary regional desire for stability.

While in the 1980s and 1990s India tended to side with Russia, it is looking increasingly likely that India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to take a more American approach to the conflict.

 However, it remains far from certain whether India will commit troops to the recently announced ‘Trump surge’ or whether India can offer anything at a peace keeping table beyond joining with the United States to further alienate Pakistan, causing Islamabad to grow even closer to Beijing than it already is. In this context, growing closer to Beijing also means implicitly growing closer to Moscow as China and Russia have offered similar solutions to the conflict, both of which involve fostering dialogue between the government in Kabul and the Taliban.

China is all too aware that The United States is isolated in the region in respect of a peace process. Iran is increasingly seeing things along the same lines as Russia and China and in any case, the chances of Donald Trump working with Iran anywhere are nil. The lone exception to this pattern of isolation is India. Under Modi, New Delhi may use Trump’s offer to try and upset the status quo of the region in which all of the key powers are increasingly cooperating with China’s One Belt–One Road project, India being the lone country which under Modi is increasingly hellbent on antagonising China at every opportunity.

With this in mind, China has issued the following statement:

“Donald Trump talked about close US-Indian relations, we are glad to see the development of normal and friendly relations between these countries if these relations do not harm other countries’ interests and create positive conditions for regional development”.

China’s position is clear, India is welcome in Afghanistan as such a thing is not up to China in any case and Beijing is comfortable with this reality of international law. What China is not comfortably with is India’s presence in Afghanistan acting as a force which could impede the progress of important projects with Pakistan, namely the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The statement above makes this known implicitly.

In a worst case scenario, India could disrupt a peace process involving dialogue with the Taliban that could distract Pakistan from its long term goals in China. However, Pakistan under its current leadership would appear to be steadfast in its commitments to China. Distractions won’t work as well as they would have done even 10 years ago.

Both the governing PML-N and the surging opposition party PTI, led by the charismatic Imran Khan have expressed full support of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Khan in particular seems to be pivoting his traditional views which are deeply sceptical of US power in the region towards one which seeks to equally assure China.

In many ways, the Trump plan could backfire. Pakistan will only grow closer to China and further from the US and likewise, India might feel about the US what many of America’s long-time European allies have felt under Donald Trump. Trump has recently asked the NATO states of Europe to do more for the alliance in terms of both financial contributions as well as ramping up military strength in order for the US to bear less of the costly burden.

Trump has already alluded to the fact that he wants India to ‘do more’ in Afghanistan. Suddenly India’s privilege as a peacemaker (largely unwelcome by Pakistan and China) has turned into a responsibility that realistically New Delhi is not in a position to carry out

Modi may be a man driven by ego more than a pragmatic understanding of economics, but at the end of the day, all men have a price. If Donald Trump asks too much from India, the chips in Afghanistan will fall where they would have fallen in spite of the US and India. The only real result will be India learning that when it comes to geo-politics, America has deputies and servants but never partners or equals.

READ MORE: China tells Trump not to allow India to interfere in regional interests

The stated goal in Afghanistan, to fight both the Taliban and its opponent ISIS simultaneously while propping up an Afghan government which is increasingly unfit for purpose is a goal which the US has set up as a straw-man. Both Trump and Tillerson have stated that they will be willing to negotiate with the Taliban just as soon as they’re done bombing them.

The obvious response from the rest of the world has been, “avoid the bombing and negotiate with moderate rebels within the Taliban now”.

This of course will not be done because it would cease to accomplish the real US goal of prolonging the war in Afghanistan for as long as possible in order to accomplish the following in order from most to least important:

1. Disrupt Pakistan’s progress as a partner of China in One Belt–One Road with a specific emphasis on sowing a lack of confidence over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

2. Disrupt China’s ability to peacefully link Pakistan with Iran as part of One Belt–One Road.

3. Surround Pakistan with Indian troops on all sides with a proposed Indian presence in Pasthunistan (Afghan side of the border).

4. Cause instability in Pakistan with increased drone strikes on Pakistani territory.

5. Make sure that China is out of reach of Afghanistan’s rich resources such as lithium and valuable minerals.  While the US may have to fight blood-for-blood in order to get these resources, in many ways it is more important for the US to prevent China from obtaining them than it is for the US to have easy access to them, a task which is increasingly Quixotic for the US.

6. Keep the CIA’s game of cat, mouse and merchant with Afghan drug lords flourishing for as long as possible.

As geo-political expert Andrew Korbyko writes,

“Trump’s new Afghan strategy is less about changing any of the battlefield dynamics there per se, though it does aim to extract some of Afghanistan’s estimated $1 trillion of minerals, and more about formalizing the US’ pivot from Pakistan to India, the latter of which became an unprecedented military-strategic partner of the US through year’s LEMOA deal and its official attendant designation as the Pentagon’s “Major Defense Partner”.

What Trump really wants to do is put multi pronged pressure on Pakistan as part of the Hybrid War on CPEC [China Pakistan-Economic Corridor] through the American-backed strategic interlinking of its Afghan and Indian neighbors, with the goal being to influence, disrupt, and then ultimately control China’s game-changing corridor to the Indian Ocean through state and non-state proxy warfare”.

Thus it becomes clear that Bannon has clearly positioned himself to have it both ways in Afghanistan. He’ll claim that he is opposed to war in the Middle East and Asia, which in part may be a sincere and in that case positive statement, but his penultimate goal of trying to “screw up One Belt–One Road” is very much the master plan in Afghanistan. Whether it succeeds is another matter.

In this sense Bannon got what he wished for in the short term, but he ought to be careful what he wishes for in the longer term. China is not going to roll over in South Asia, just as Russia did not roll over in respect of Russia’s Syrian ally.

For Bannon and Trump, the ‘worst’ may be yet to come.

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stevek9
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stevek9

‘… the primary goal of the Afghan conflict: Disrupting China’s One Belt–One Road… ‘

You give them way too much credit. That was certainly not the plan 17 years ago. This is just a screw-up from beginning to … maybe there is no end.

plamenpetkov
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plamenpetkov

and if they leave Afghanistan those 1 trillion in rare metals will go to either CHina or Russia and USA cannot allow that. Plus, drugs. Don’t forget the drugs.

BettyTDominique
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BettyTDominique

Party113d

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seby
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seby

pompous fat head banging-on was only against a surge in Afghanistan if it wasn’t done by blackwater or dynacorp, private military contractors. i.e. very expensive mercenaries. I’ve no doubt he has shares in them.

Great Expectations
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Great Expectations

It seems you were right all along, seby, about Trump. There’s no point in remaining optimistic about Trump. He’s a tool.

seby
Guest
seby

I don’t know about being right GE. If I was, I take no pride. I never really had much hope in the son of a robber baron. Plus knowledge of tiny hands tRump own history prior, one shouldn’t have been too optimistic. See work of the late Wayne Barrett. I believe in the end he was part of the controlled opposition, like I also believe bernie sanders is. Killary wasn’t let in on it. She thought the powers that should not be, had lined her up for the first female US president. They knew, like the people, she was poison.… Read more »

Great Expectations
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Great Expectations

The extent to which there is controlled opposition is unbelievable, once you start realising what is going on. These global elites really do have everyone looking in the wrong direction, while they steal every drop of wealth they can from us all. No wonder they have no respect for human life except their own. And that is the one saving grace, as far as war mongering to the point of a nuclear holocaust is concerned, I think. Having learned recently that the whole Soviet era was a controlled opposition and Lenin and Stalin were bought and paid for, and there… Read more »

seby
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seby

“deplorables” of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains!

GeorgeG
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GeorgeG

Very good Mr. Garrie, and Mr. Korybko. — The “fog of war” is lifting on the phoney “generals” vs. “anti-globalist”/Breitbart clique dichotomy. Still, I am not satisfied, perhaps I am insatiable. The analysis here, all fine and good: India will not be able to deliver etc. But from the “bird’s eye view” all we get is a geopolitical lineup with some dynamics. This shows the US is once again miscalculating its way into its own disaster. What we do not yet know, but what we need to know in order to guage the extent of spill-over of the US’ desperate… Read more »

samo war
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samo war

banoon is banan ?comment image

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Skripal and Khashoggi: A Tale of Two Disappearances

Two disappearances, and two different responses.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Two disappearances, and two very different responses from Western governments, which illustrates their rank hypocrisy.

When former Russian spy Sergei Skripal went missing in England earlier this year, there was almost immediate punitive action by the British government and its NATO allies against Moscow. By contrast, Western governments are straining with restraint towards Saudi Arabia over the more shocking and provable case of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The outcry by Western governments and media over the Skripal affair was deafening and resulted in Britain, the US and some 28 other countries expelling dozens of Russian diplomats on the back of unsubstantiated British allegations that the Kremlin tried to assassinate an exiled spy with a deadly nerve agent. The Trump administration has further tightened sanctions citing the Skripal incident.

London’s case against Moscow has been marked by wild speculation and ropey innuendo. No verifiable evidence of what actually happened to Sergei Skripal (67) and his daughter Yulia has been presented by the British authorities. Their claim that President Vladimir Putin sanctioned a hit squad armed with nerve poison relies on sheer conjecture.

All we know for sure is that the Skripals have been disappeared from public contact by the British authorities for more than seven months, since the mysterious incident of alleged poisoning in Salisbury on March 4.

Russian authorities and family relatives have been steadfastly refused any contact by London with the Skripal pair, despite more than 60 official requests from Moscow in accordance with international law and in spite of the fact that Yulia is a citizen of the Russian Federation with consular rights.

It is an outrage that based on such thin ice of “evidence”, the British have built an edifice of censure against Moscow, rallying an international campaign of further sanctions and diplomatic expulsions.

Now contrast that strenuous reaction, indeed hyper over-reaction, with how Britain, the US, France, Canada and other Western governments are ever-so slowly responding to Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi case.

After nearly two weeks since Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, the Saudi regime is this week finally admitting he was killed on their premises – albeit, they claim, in a “botched interrogation”.

Turkish and American intelligence had earlier claimed that Khashoggi was tortured and murdered on the Saudi premises by a 15-member hit squad sent from Riyadh.

Even more grisly, it is claimed that Khashoggi’s body was hacked up with a bone saw by the killers, his remains secreted out of the consulate building in boxes, and flown back to Saudi Arabia on board two private jets connected to the Saudi royal family.

What’s more, the Turks and Americans claim that the whole barbaric plot to murder Khashoggi was on the orders of senior Saudi rulers, implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The latest twist out of Riyadh, is an attempt to scapegoat “rogue killers” and whitewash the House of Saudi from culpability.

The fact that 59-year-old Khashoggi was a legal US resident and a columnist for the Washington Post has no doubt given his case such prominent coverage in Western news media. Thousands of other victims of Saudi vengeance are routinely ignored in the West.

Nevertheless, despite the horrific and damning case against the Saudi monarchy, the response from the Trump administration, Britain and others has been abject.

President Trump has blustered that there “will be severe consequences” for the Saudi regime if it is proven culpable in the murder of Khashoggi. Trump quickly qualified, however, saying that billion-dollar arms deals with the oil-rich kingdom will not be cancelled. Now Trump appears to be joining in a cover-up by spinning the story that the Khashoggi killing was done by “rogue killers”.

Britain, France and Germany this week issued a joint statement calling for “a credible investigation” into the disappearance. But other than “tough-sounding” rhetoric, none of the European states have indicated any specific sanctions, such as weapons contracts being revoked or diplomatic expulsions.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “concerned” by the gruesome claims about Khashoggi’s killing, but he reiterated that Ottawa would not be scrapping a $15 billion sale of combat vehicles to Riyadh.

The Saudi rulers have even threatened retaliatory measures if sanctions are imposed by Western governments.

Saudi denials of official culpability seem to be a brazen flouting of all reason and circumstantial evidence that Khashoggi was indeed murdered in the consulate building on senior Saudi orders.

This week a glitzy international investor conference in Saudi Arabia is being boycotted by top business figures, including the World Bank chief, Jim Yong Kim, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Britain’s venture capitalist Richard Branson. Global firms like Ford and Uber have pulled out, as have various media sponsors, such as CNN, the New York Times and Financial Times. Withdrawal from the event was in response to the Khashoggi affair.

A growing bipartisan chorus of US Senators, including Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Chris Murphy, have called for the cancellation of American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as well as for an overhaul of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Still, Trump has rebuffed calls for punitive response. He has said that American jobs and profits depend on the Saudi weapons market. Some 20 per cent of all US arms sales are estimated to go to the House of Saud.

The New York Times this week headlined: “In Trump’s Saudi Bargain, the Bottom Line Proudly Stands Out”.

The Trump White House will be represented at the investment conference in Saudi Arabia this week – dubbed “Davos in the Desert” by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He said he was attending in spite of the grave allegations against the Saudi rulers.

Surely the point here is the unseemly indulgence by Western governments of Saudi Arabia and its so-called “reforming” Crown Prince. It is remarkable how much credulity Washington, London, Paris, Ottawa and others are affording the Saudi despots who, most likely, have been caught redhanded in a barbarous murder.

Yet, when it comes to Russia and outlandish, unproven claims that the Kremlin carried out a bizarre poison-assassination plot, all these same Western governments abandon all reason and decorum to pile sanctions on Russia based on lurid, hollow speculation. The blatant hypocrisy demolishes any pretense of integrity or principle.

Here is another connection between the Skripal and Khashoggi affairs. The Saudis no doubt took note of the way Britain’s rulers have shown absolute disregard and contempt for international law in their de facto abduction of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. If the British can get away with that gross violation, then the Saudis probably thought that nobody would care too much if they disappeared Jamal Khashoggi.

Grotesquely, the way things are shaping up in terms of hypocritical lack of action by the Americans, British and others towards the Saudi despots, the latter might just get away with murder. Not so Russia. The Russians are not allowed to get away with even an absurd fantasy.

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US-China trade war heats up as surplus hits record $34 Billion (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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According to a report by the AFP, China’s trade surplus with the United States ballooned to a record $34.1 billion in September, despite a raft of US tariffs, official data showed Friday, adding fuel to the fire of a worsening trade war.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured sharply this year, with US President Donald Trump vowing on Thursday to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink.
The two countries imposed new tariffs on a massive amount of each other’s goods mid-September, with the US targeting $200 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing firing back at $60 billion worth of US goods.

“China-US trade friction has caused trouble and pounded our foreign trade development,” customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Friday.

But China’s trade surplus with the US grew 10 percent in September from a record $31 billion in August, according to China’s customs administration. It was a 22 percent jump from the same month last year.

China’s exports to the US rose to $46.7 billion while imports slumped to $12.6 billion.

China’s overall trade — what it buys and sells with all countries including the US — logged a $31.7 billion surplus, as exports rose faster than imports.

Exports jumped 14.5 percent for September on-year, beating forecasts from analysts polled by Bloomberg News, while imports rose 14.3 percent on-year.

While the data showed China’s trade remained strong for the month, analysts forecast the trade war will start to hurt in coming months.

China’s export jump for the month suggests exporters were shipping goods early to beat the latest tariffs, said ANZ’s China economist Betty Wang, citing the bounce in electrical machinery exports, much of which faced the looming duties.

“We will watch for downside risks to China’s exports” in the fourth quarter, Wang said.

Analysts say a sharp depreciation of the yuan has also helped China weather the tariffs by making its exports cheaper.

“The big picture is the Chinese exports have so far held up well in the face of escalating trade tensions and cooling global growth, most likely thanks to the competitiveness boost provided by a weaker renminbi (yuan),” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.

“With global growth likely to cool further in the coming quarters and US tariffs set to become more punishing, the recent resilience of exports is unlikely to be sustained,” he said.

According to Bloomberg US President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement isn’t that different from the North American Free Trade Agreement that it replaced. But hidden in the bowels of the new trade deal is a clause, Article 32.10, that could have a far-reaching impact. The new agreement requires member states to get approval from the other members if they initiate trade negotiations with a so-called non-market economy. In practice, “non-market” almost certainly means China. If, for example, Canada begins trade talks with China, it has to show the full text of the proposed agreement to the U.S. and Mexico — and if either the U.S. or Mexico doesn’t like what it sees, it can unilaterally kick Canada out of the USMCA.

Although it seems unlikely that the clause would be invoked, it will almost certainly exert a chilling effect on Canada and Mexico’s trade relations with China. Forced to choose between a gargantuan economy across the Pacific and another one next door, both of the U.S.’s neighbors are almost certain to pick the latter.

This is just another part of Trump’s general trade waragainst China. It’s a good sign that Trump realizes that unilateral U.S. efforts alone won’t be enough to force China to make concessions on issues like currency valuation, intellectual-property protection and industrial subsidies. China’s export markets are much too diverse:

If Trump cuts the U.S. off from trade with China, the likeliest outcome is that China simply steps up its exports to other markets. That would bind the rest of the world more closely to China and weaken the global influence of the U.S. China’s economy would take a small but temporary hit, while the U.S. would see its position as the economic center of the world slip into memory.

Instead, to take on China, Trump needs a gang. And that gang has to be much bigger than just North America. But most countries in Europe and East Asia probably can’t be bullied into choosing between the U.S. and China. — their ties to the U.S. are not as strong as those of Mexico and Canada. Countries such as South Korea, Germany, India and Japan will need carrots as well as sticks if they’re going to join a U.S.-led united trade front against China.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the escalating trade war between the United States and China, and the record trade surplus that positions China with a bit more leverage than Trump anticipated.

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Via Zerohedge Trump Threatens China With More Tariffs, Does Not Seek Economic “Depression”

US equity futures dipped in the red after President Trump threatened to impose a third round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in U.S. politics was a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

During the same interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, in which Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the Saudis are found to have killed WaPo reported Khashoggi, and which sent Saudi stock plunging, Trump said he “might,” impose a new round of tariffs on China, adding that while he has “great chemistry” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and noting that Xi “wants to negotiate”, he doesn’t “know that that’s necessarily going to continue.” Asked if American products have become more expensive due to tariffs on China, Trump said that “so far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.”

“They can retaliate, but they can’t, they don’t have enough ammunition to retaliate,” Trump says, “We do $100 billion with them. They do $531 billion with us.”

Trump was also asked if he wants to push China’s economy into a depression to which the US president said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the U.S.

“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday. So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.

Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, “but I think China meddled too.”

“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia.

Shortly before an audacious speech by Mike Pence last weekend, in which the US vice president effectively declared a new cold war on Beijing (see “Russell Napier: Mike Pence Announces Cold War II”), Trump made similar accusations during a speech at the United Nations last month, which his aides substantiated by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.

Meanwhile, in a rare U.S. television appearance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. said Beijing has no choice but to respond to what he described as a trade war started by the U.S.

“We never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests,” said China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Cui also dismissed as “groundless” the abovementioned suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that China has orchestrated an effort to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs. Pence escalated the rhetoric in a speech Oct. 4, saying Beijing has created a “a whole-of-government approach” to sway American public opinion, including spies, tariffs, coercive measures and a propaganda campaign.

Pence’s comments were some of the most critical about China by a high-ranking U.S. official in recent memory. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo got a lecture when he visited Beijing days later, about U.S. actions that were termed “completely out of line.” The tough words followed months of increases tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing that have ballooned to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

During a recent interview with National Public Radio, Cui said the U.S. has “not sufficiently” dealt in good faith with the Chinese on trade matters, saying “the U.S. position keeps changing all the time so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities.”

Meanwhile, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will “probably meet” at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in late November. “There’s plans and discussions and agendas” being discussed, he said. So far, talks with China on trade have been “unsatisfactory,” Kudlow said. “We’ve made our asks” on allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, he added. “We have to have reciprocity.”

Addressing the upcoming meeting, Cui said he was present at two previous meetings of Xi and Trump, and that top-level communication “played a key role, an irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward.” Despite current tensions the two have a “good working relationship,” he said.

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Massacre in Crimea kills dozens, many in critical condition

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

The Duran

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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