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China and North Korea: unhappiest of allies

North Korea far from being a Chinese “attack dog” or satellite is a vehemently independent country, which China is trying to rein in. US threats are simply making that more difficult.

Alexander Mercouris

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As China makes no effort to hide its growing exasperation with both Washington and Pyongyang, now is perhaps a good moment to discuss the complex relationship between China and North Korea.

Korea borders China and relations between China and Korea have an exceptionally long history, to the very start of the Korean state at roughly the time the Roman empire was forming in Europe.  Any visitor to Korea – North or South – cannot fail but notice the huge and deep influence on Korea of Chinese culture.  By comparison US influence in South Korea seems ephemeral.

This long interaction has not however always been happy with the Koreans – a proud and passionate people – often allied to China, but also sometimes resisting Chinese attempts to dominate them.

This provides the essential background to understanding the present relations between North Korea and China.  Though both are nominally Communist countries and though China’s military intervention in 1950 was critical to North Korea’s survival, the North Korean leadership is wary of China and resistant to any Chinese action which it sees as intended to dominate itself.

This is what ultimately lies behind Kim Il-sung’s Juche ideology.  Its extreme doctrine of national self-reliance is ultimately an expression of North Korea’s determination to maintain the greatest possible distance that it can from China, the one country which could theoretically achieve political and economic dominance over it.  Since total independence from China can for North Korea however never be more than an aspiration this is never expressed openly, leading to confusion in the West about what Juche actually means.  However North Koreans and China’s leadership can hardly have any doubts about it.

That Juche is in fact a doctrine intended to keep North Korea independent of China is incidentally shown by North Korean practice during Kim Il-sung’s lifetime.  In reality far from being totally self-reliant or even aspiring to be so, up to the point when the USSR collapsed North Korea was actually tightly integrated into the Soviet economy.  Only after the USSR collapsed did the extent of this – and of the closeness of Soviet and North Korean political ties – become clear.  Since Juche was and is aimed first and foremost at China, this did not worry Kim Il-sung or his officials over-much, if it concerned them at all.

North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme follows the same rationale.  The solution to increasing US pressure which might have been followed by a more conventional regime after the USSR collapsed would have been to ally North Korea closer to China.  China after all is in a position to provide North Korea with all the economic assistance it needs and to provide it with security guarantees.  However that would have made North Korea dependent on China, and potentially subservient to it.  Since that would have been contrary to the North Korean leaders’ determination to achieve the greatest possible degree of independence from China, they chose to seek security by developing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons instead.

Since North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme is as much intended to assert North Korea’s independence from China as it is to deter the US, it is completely unsurprising that the Chinese oppose it.  Besides from their point of view by increasing regional tensions it works against Chinese interests.

The Chinese for example have in recent years been working hard to develop a close relationship with South Korea.  North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme has put that in jeopardy and has tightened South Korea’s connections to the US.

The Chinese also cannot be happy that North Korea’s development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons is increasing the prospects that countries which might be feel threatened by North Korea – such as South Korea and Japan – might decide at some point to acquire their own ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons as well.

In the case of Japan – which conducted a prolonged and horrific war of aggression against China during the first half of the twentieth century –  and with which China still has extremely prickly relations, the prospect of Japan one day acquiring ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons which could potentially reach China is for the Chinese leadership and people an especially great cause for concern.

China therefore has good reason to dislike the North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme and to want to end it.  However precisely because the North Koreans have developed their ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme in part in order to distance themselves from China, China has only limited leverage over North Korea to end it – a point the Chinese repeatedly make but which the West is deaf to.

In reality, far from North Korea being China’s “attack dog” – as some Western commentators profess to think – the truth is almost the diametric opposite, and the whole thrust of Chinese policy for years has not been to incite North Korea forward but to rein it in.

Indeed this truth is so obvious to anyone who makes any serious study of Chinese-North Korean relations, that it says much about the delusional quality of Western discourse about North Korea and China that so few can see it.

However if China and North Korea have a tense relationship – and have had one ever since the Korean War – there is also despite the tension and the at times mutual dislike between a shared dependence – much as there was between China and North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

China is indeed North Korea’s most important economic partner and the main source of such technology as North Korea imports, though the extent of this may be exaggerated since the whole point of Juche – still very much the dominant policy and ideology of North Korea – is to limit this as much as possible.  China’s role in the North Korean economy – and its trade with North Korea – may only look big because everyone else’s is so small.  The fact that North Korea’s annual exports last year were said to be just $3 billion shows how unimportant to North Korea’s economy foreign trade actually is.  My guess is that the only product North Korea buys from China that really matters to North Korea, and which it would struggle to replace internally, is oil.  Importantly the Chinese have consistently ruled out the idea of an indefinite embargo on their oil exports to North Korea precisely because they know that that is the one step which might cause an internal crisis there which could put Kim Jong-un’s position in jeopardy.

More importantly for North Korea than the economic relationship with China is the fact that China is the regional colossus which came to its rescue in 1950, and which continues to counter-balance the US in the region.  It is because the relationship with China – however tense and unhappy – is crucial to North Korea’s security that North Korea cannot ignore it.

The same is also true for China.  Though China makes no secret of its disapproval of North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme and indeed of its general dislike of North Korea’s entire Juche policy, the fact remains that China considers the survival of an independent North Korea as vital for its national security, just as it did when it intervened militarily to prevent North Korea’s collapse in 1950.

The Chinese have made it very clear what they want to see in the Korean Peninsula: total denuclearisation, with North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and the US withdrawing all its troops from the Korean Peninsula, and with North Korea establishing diplomatic relations with South Korea and the US and reforming its economy and political system on Chinese lines.  The Chinese are no doubt confident that were that to happen the two Koreas – North and South – would be drawn into China’s orbit, and would become for China an important economic partner and a counter-balance to Japan.

In order to achieve this the Chinese will exert pressure on North Korea – including by way of sanctions imposed via the UN Security Council, though they adamantly oppose sanctions imposed unilaterally – but they will act decisively to stop any attempt to overthrow North Korea’s government.

This is a difficult policy to implement given North Korean attitudes to China, if only because it creates a standing temptation to North Korea’s leaders to increase tensions with the US in order to obtain greater support from China.  A wise US policy would understand this, and would see that responding to North Korean actions by increasing tensions further will only increase China’s support for North Korea, which is exactly what North Korea wants.

A much wiser policy – indeed in the context of the regional tensions in the Korean Peninsula the only wise one – is to work with the Chinese to achieve the broad settlement of the conflict in the Korean Peninsula that the Chinese want and which is also in the US interest.  That means doing what the Chinese suggest, which is talking to Pyongyang.

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Putin, Trump meet in Helsinki for first bilateral summit

The Helsinki summit is the first ever full-fledged meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Their previous encounters were brief talks on the sidelines of the G20 and APEC summits in 2017.

Vladimir Rodzianko

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump are meeting in the Finnish capital of Helsinki for their first bilateral one-on-one meeting.

Trump arrived in the Finland capital a day early, while the jet of Putin, who wrapped up his nation’s hosting of the World Cup Sunday, touched down around 1 p.m. local time and the Russian president’s motorcade whisked him straight to the palace where the two world leaders are meeting.

Trump signed an August 2017 law imposing additional sanctions on Russia. The law bars Trump from easing many sanctions without Congress’ approval, but he can offer some relief without a nod from Congress.

Almost 700 Russian people and companies are under U.S. sanctions. Individuals face limits on their travel and freezes on at least some of their assets, while some top Russian state banks and companies, including oil and gas giants, are effectively barred from getting financing through U.S. banks and markets.

The agenda of the summit hasn’t been officially announced yet, though, the presidents are expected to discuss global crises, such as the Syrian conflict and Ukraine, as well as bilateral relations.

Stay tuned for updates…

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“Foreign entity, NOT RUSSIA” hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails (Video)

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx): Hillary Clinton’s cache of 30,000 emails was hacked by foreign actor, and it was not Russia.

Alex Christoforou

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A stunning revelation that hardly anyone in the mainstream media is covering.

Fox News gave Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) the opportunity to explain what was going on during his questioning of Peter Strzok, when the the Texas Congressman stated that a “foreign entity, NOT RUSSIA” hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Aside from this segment on Fox News, this story is not getting any coverage, and we know why. It destroys the entire ‘Russia hacked Hillary’ narrative.

Gohmert states that this evidence is irrefutable and shows that a foreign actor, not connected to Russia in any way, intercepted and distributed Hillary Clinton’s cache of 30,000 emails.

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Via Zerohedge

As we sift through the ashes of Thursday’s dumpster-fire Congressional hearing with still employed FBI agent Peter Strzok, Luke Rosiak of the Daily Caller plucked out a key exchange between Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) and Strzok which revealed a yet-unknown bombshell about the Clinton email case.

Nearly all of Hillary Clinton’s emails on her homebrew server went to a foreign entity that isn’t Russia. When this was discovered by the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), IG Chuck McCullough sent his investigator Frank Ruckner and an attorney to notify Strzok along with three other people about the “anomaly.”

Four separate attempts were also made to notify DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to brief him on the massive security breach, however Horowitz “never returned the call.” Recall that Horowitz concluded last month that despite Strzok’s extreme bias towards Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump – none of it translated to Strzok’s work at the FBI.

In other words; Strzok, while investigating Clinton’s email server, completely ignored the fact that most of Clinton’s emails were sent to a foreign entity – while IG Horowitz simply didn’t want to know about it.

Daily Caller reports…

The Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) found an “anomaly on Hillary Clinton’s emails going through their private server, and when they had done the forensic analysis, they found that her emails, every single one except four, over 30,000, were going to an address that was not on the distribution list,” Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said during a hearing with FBI official Peter Strzok.

Gohmert continued..

“It was going to an unauthorized source that was a foreign entity unrelated to Russia.”

Strzok admitted to meeting with Ruckner but said he couldn’t remember the “specific” content of their discussion.

“The forensic examination was done by the ICIG and they can document that,” Gohmert said, “but you were given that information and you did nothing with it.”

According to Zerohedge “Mr. Horowitz got a call four times from someone wanting to brief him about this, and he never returned the call,” Gohmert said – and Horowitz wouldn’t return the call.

And while Peter Strzok couldn’t remember the specifics of his meeting with the IG about the giant “foreign entity” bombshell, he texted this to his mistress Lisa Page when the IG discovered the “(C)” classification on several of Clinton’s emails – something the FBI overlooked:

“Holy cow … if the FBI missed this, what else was missed? … Remind me to tell you to flag for Andy [redacted] emails we (actually ICIG) found that have portion marks (C) on a couple of paras. DoJ was Very Concerned about this.”

Via Zerohedge

In November of 2017, IG McCullough – an Obama appointee – revealed to Fox News that he received pushback when he tried to tell former DNI James Clapper about the foreign entity which had Clinton’s emails and other anomalies.

Instead of being embraced for trying to expose an illegal act, seven senators including Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca) wrote a letter accusing him of politicizing the issue.

“It’s absolutely irrelevant whether something is marked classified, it is the character of the information,” he said. Fox News reports…

McCullough said that from that point forward, he received only criticism and an “adversarial posture” from Congress when he tried to rectify the situation.

“I expected to be embraced and protected,” he said, adding that a Hill staffer “chided” him for failing to consider the “political consequences” of the information he was blowing the whistle on.

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Donald Trump plays good cop and bad cop with a weak Theresa May (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 55.

Alex Christoforou

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US President Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK was momentous, not for its substance, but rather for its sheer entertainment value.

Trump started his trip to the United Kingdom blasting Theresa May for her inability to negotiate a proper Brexit deal with the EU.  Trump ended his visit holding hands with the UK Prime Minister during a press conference where the most ‘special relationship’ between the two allies was once again reaffirmed.

Protests saw giant Trump “baby balloons” fly over London’s city center, as Trump played was his own good cop and bad cop to the UK PM, outside London at the Chequers…often times leaving May’s head spinning.

Even as Trump has left London, he remains front and center in the mind of Theresa May, who has now stated that Trump advised her to “sue” the European Union to resolve the tense negotiations over Brexit.

Trump had mentioned to reporters on Friday at a joint press conference with Theresa May that he had given the British leader a suggestion that she found too “brutal.”

Asked Sunday on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show what that suggestion was, May: “He told me I should sue the EU. Not go into negotiation, sue them.” May added…

“What the president also said at that press conference was `Don’t walk away. Don’t walk away from the negotiations. Then you’re stuck.”‘

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris summarize what was a state visit like no other, as Trump trolled the UK PM from beginning to end, and left London knowing that he got the better of a weakened British Prime Minister, who may not survive in office past next week.

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Via CNBC

It wasn’t exactly clear what Trump meant. The revelation came after explosive and undiplomatic remarks Trump made this week about May’s leadership — especially her handling of the Brexit negotiations — as he made his first official visit to Britain.

In an interview with The Sun newspaper published Thursday — just as May was hosting Trump at a lavish black-tie dinner — Trump said the British leader’s approach likely “killed” chances of a free-trade deal with the United States. He said he had told May how to conduct Brexit negotiations, “but she didn’t listen to me.”

He also praised May’s rival, Boris Johnson, who quit last week as foreign secretary to protest May’s Brexit plans. Trump claimed Johnson would make a “great prime minister.”

The comments shocked many in Britain — even May’s opponents — and threatened to undermine May’s already fragile hold on power. Her Conservative government is deeply split between supporters of a clean break with the EU and those who want to keep close ties with the bloc, Britain’s biggest trading partner.

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