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Angry China warns US on North Korea: back off and talk or risk disaster

Commentaries in China’s official media show growing Chinese anger at US grandstanding and intransigence on the North Korean issue.

Alexander Mercouris

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If the Chinese or anyone else imagined that the sanctions resolution recently passed by the UN Security Council would calm tensions in the Korean Peninsula, they must by now be disabused of that illusion.

Though there have been no tests by North Korea since the UN Security Council vote – whether of ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons – the rhetoric instead of calming down has become heated.  Moreover for once it is Washington rather than Pyongyang that has taken the initiative in the war of words.

Thus after days of unwise bragging by President Trump about the UN Security Council resolution – which he claims (wrongly) to have sponsored, and which – to their intense irritation – he has “thanked” the Chinese and Russians for – we have had first President Trump’s “fire and fury” comment – which by the way looks to me calculated rather than spontaneous – and an almost equally belligerent statement from the US’s Defense Secretary General Mattis.

By now it should be obvious that there is nothing that delights the North Korean leadership more than calling the US’s bluff, so their response – wild and reckless threats of a missile demonstration around the US’s base in Guam – was exactly as might have been expected.

The US in turn is now responding by leaking plans of its “best of bad options” – attacking North Korea with its B1 bombers – even as everyone acknowledges that such a step is more likely to provoke North Korea than deter it.

It is difficult to discern much method in these actions, but on the assumption that the US has not entirely taken leave of its senses and that there is some thinking behind what it is saying and doing, it is possible to explain them in one of two ways

(1) President Trump and his administration have convinced themselves that it really was their threats and bluster which got the Chinese to agree to the sanctions resolution – even though that is certainly wrong – and that this has emboldened them to raise the temperature further in the belief that by doing so this will increase pressure the Chinese to give them more;

(2) President Trump and his administration have been spooked by the report from the Defense Intelligence Agency – uncorroborated though that is, and based on sources we can only guess – that North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme has advanced much faster than expected, so that North Korea really does now have the capability to strike the US, and are overreacting to this news.

Of course these two explanations are not mutually exclusive, but on balance my opinion is that the more likely of the two – or the more important of the two – is (2).

Regardless, what is clear is that the Chinese are becoming increasingly exasperated and angry about this escalation of the rhetoric coming from Washington.  That this is so is confirmed by commentaries which have in China’s official media, notably the People’s Daily and Global Times.

Turning first to Global Times, an editorial there makes the obvious point that the US can never win a shouting match with North Korea for the simple reason that whilst every threat North Korea makes is immediately transmitted to the people of the US, the North Korean government’s total control of information means that the North Korean people will only hear of US threats against their country if the North Korean governments wants them to

The US can’t usually gain the upper hand in this war of words, as Pyongyang chooses whatever wording it likes, and what Washington says may not be heard by North Korean society. But US opinion has paid great attention to everything North Korea says.

The People’s Daily then made crystal clear China’s total opposition to US military action against North Korea

However, the bottom line on the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula is that there must not be any armed conflict there. There is no room for any related party to play with fire on the issue.

Exercising restraint is needed for making responsible choices to ensure peace, particularly at a moment approaching crisis

In truth it is little short of incredible that the military option against North Korea – a country which is now a nuclear power – is even being discussed.   Even some of Washington’s staunchest media allies understand its utter folly.  Here for example is what the London Times has to say about it in an editorial published today

If it really came to a pre-emptive US strike against Pyongyang, it is South Korea that would feel most of the fire and fury. North Korea has heavy artillery within shooting distance of Seoul, home to 25 million people. Despite the general anxiety about Kim’s intentions, it would be difficult indeed for the White House to sustain regional support for a US-led war…..

……An all-out attack on North Korea would certainly bring the country to its knees, given the overwhelming firepower of the US. The costs in civilian lives and the squandering of trust in the US in the region and across the world would make it a pyrrhic victory and an extraordinary tragedy. The other military option of limited punitive non-nuclear strikes every time Kim tests a missile would merely escalate the conflict without stopping the dictator. Attempting to topple the regime from within is, given Kim’s tight grip on the security machine, unlikely to succeed.

The People’s Daily then goes on to point out that it is US intransigence – specifically the US’s failure to abide by the agreements it reached with Pyongyang in the 1990s, and its refusal to negotiate with North Korea since then – which have brought the present situation about

It is fact that the DPRK missile and nuclear programs stalled during bilateral and multilateral talks, but multiplied over the past nine years since the six-party talks came to grinding halt, during which the United States sought to pressure and sanction Pyongyang.

Global Times for its part makes the point that all the threats and sanctions the US has thrown at North Korea have failed to prevent or even slow down its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme

Since 2006 when North Korea conducted the first nuclear test, the US and North Korea have been engaged in a longstanding battle of wills. As North Korea’s nuclear and missile technologies develop, it is more difficult for the US to win the battle over North Korea. Washington has underestimated Pyongyang’s disregard for all the prices it has to pay in its pursuit of nuclear weapons and missiles.

Yet despite the dismal failure of this approach, the US still persists with it, still expecting in the face of all experience that will time succeed

However, Washington only wants to heighten the sanctions and military threats against Pyongyang, which is adding fuel to the flames. The North Korean nuclear issue is heading toward confrontation.

More and more analysts tend to believe that no matter what warnings the US sends or however tough the UN Security Council sanctions are, there is little possibility of Pyongyang stopping its missile launches.

Both Global Times and the People’s Daily then point to the only feasible solution to the crisis: the resumption of direct talks between North Korea and the US.  Both however make the point that in order for these talks to succeed the US must bring itself to acknowledge North Korea’s security concerns.

Here is how Global Times puts it

North Korea has almost been completely isolated by the outside world. Under such extreme circumstances, Pyongyang will weigh all its possible options. Washington should stimulate Pyongyang’s desire to engage with the outside world and return to the international community…..

Now it is time the US seriously responds to North Korea’s concerns for national security.

Whilst the more authoritative People’s Daily goes further and expresses itself in more detail, setting out clearly the nature of North Korea’s security concerns and the North Korean realities the US must accept

….. the Untied States, it should commit itself to realizing the fundamentals it has recently reiterated on the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, including seeking no regime change in the DPRK nor a speedy Korean reunification.

It is advised that Washington, Seoul and Pyongyang take into serious consideration China’s proposal that they start from addressing their pressing security concerns to build up mutual trust, effectively paving the way for restoring talks.

The People’s Daily also restates what China sees as the essential precondition for the success of any talk

Pyongyang should suspend its ballistic missile and nuclear programs while Washington and Seoul suspend their joint military drills.

The alternative is a drift towards armed confrontation in which North Korea is outmatched by the US but arguably has far less to lose.  Here is how Global Times explains it

Despite overwhelming strength of the US, Pyongyang can risk everything if there is a showdown between it and Washington. The US should avoid such a scenario and it needn’t feel disgraced because of it.

(bold italics added)

To the Chinese all this must seem so obvious that they are probably baffled by the US leaders’ inability to understand it even when it is so patiently spelt out for them.

Like the Russians the Chinese – highly realistic and rational people that they are – probability find it difficult to understand how the constant need to appear “strong” and “tough” drives the actions of US politicians, even when those actions lead to results which are totally – and predictably – disastrous for the US.

The simple fact is that no-one loses an election in the US because they are perceived to be “strong” and “tough”, or wins an election when they are perceived to be “weak” and “soft”, and that fact is enough to precondition the US to seek confrontation rather than compromise.

One however senses in these commentaries that Chinese patience with the US is now wearing extremely thin.  With the Chinese perhaps sensing that opinion in East Asia is turning against Washington on the Korean issue, Chinese willingness t0 go on working with Washington on the Korean issue may be near its end point.

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The conclusion of Russiagate, Part II – news fatigue across America

The daily barrage of Russiagate news may have been a tool to wear down the American public as the Deep State plays the long game for control.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Presently there is a media blitz on across the American news media networks. As was the case with the Russiagate investigation while it was ongoing, the conclusions have merely given rise to a rather unpleasant afterbirth in some ways as all the parties involve pivot their narratives. The conclusion of Russiagate appears to be heavily covered, yet if statistics here at The Duran are any indication, there is a good possibility that the public is absolutely fatigued over this situation.

And, perhaps, folks, that is by design.

Joseph Goebbels had many insights about the use of the media to deliver and enforce propaganda. One of his quotes runs thus:

The best propaganda is that which, as it were, works invisibly, penetrates the whole of life without the public having any knowledge of the propagandistic initiative.

and another:

That is of course rather painful for those involved. One should not as a rule reveal one’s secrets, since one does not know if and when one may need them again. The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, it should be a big lie, and one should stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.

If there has ever been a narrative that employed these two principles, it is Russiagate.

A staggering amount of attention has been lavished on this nothing-burger issue. Axios reports that an analytics company named Newswhip tallied an astounding 533,074 web articles published about Russia and President Trump and the Mueller investigation (a number which is being driven higher even now, moment by moment, ad nauseam). Newsbusters presently reports that the networks gave 2,284 minutes to the coverage of this issue, a number which seems completely inaccurate because it is much too low (38 hours at present), and we are waiting for a correction on this estimate.

Put it another way: Are you sick of Russiagate? That is because it has dominated the news for over 675 days of nearly wall-to-wall news cycles. The political junkies on both sides are still pretty jazzed up about this story – the Pro-Trump folks rejoicing over the presently ‘cleared’ status, while of course preparing for the upcoming Democrat / Deep State pivot, and the Dems in various levels of stress as they try to figure out exactly how to pivot in such a manner that they do not lose face – or pace – in continuing their efforts to rid their lives of the “Irritant-in-Chief” who now looks like he is in the best position of his entire presidency.

But a lot of people do not care. They are tired.

I hate to say it (and yes, I am speaking personally and directly), but this may be a dangerous fatigue. Here is why:

The barrage of propaganda on this issue was never predicated on any facts. It still isn’t. However, as we noted a few days ago, courtesy of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, at present, 53% of US registered voters believe that the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

That means 53% of the voting public now believes something that is totally false.

Many of these people are probably simply exhausted from the constant coverage of this allegation as well. So when the news came out Sunday night that there was no evidence of collusion and no conclusive evidence, hence, of obstruction of justice by the Trump Administration – in other words, this whole thing was a nothing burger – will this snap those 53% back into reality?

Probably not. Many of them may well be so worn down that they no longer care. Or worse, they are so worn out that they will continue to believe the things they are told that sustain the lie, despite its being called out as such.

C.S. Lewis wrote about this peculiarity of human nature, in particular in the seventh book of his Chronicles of Narnia. After a prolonged and fierce assault on the sensibilities of the Narnians with the story that Aslan, the Christ figure of this world, was in fact an angry overlord, selling the Narnians themselves into slavery, and selling the whole country out to its enemy, with the final touch being that Aslan and the devilish deity of the enemy nation were in fact one and the same, the Narnians were unable to snap back to reality when it was shown conclusively and clearly that this was in fact not the case.

The fear that was instilled from the use of false narratives persisted and blocked the animals from reality.

Lewis summarized it this way through the thoughts of Tirian, the lead character in this tale:

Tirian had never dreamed that one of the results of an Ape’s setting up as a false Aslan would be to stop people from believing in the real one. He had felt quite sure that the Dwarfs would rally to his side the moment he showed them how they had been deceived. And then next night he would have led them to Stable Hill and shown Puzzle to all the creatures and everyone would have turned against the Ape and, perhaps after a scuffle with the Calormenes, the whole thing would have been over. But now, it seemed, he could count on nothing. How many other Narnians might turn the same way as the Dwarfs?

This is part of the toll this very long propaganda campaign is very likely to take on many Americans. It takes being strongly informed and educated on facts to withstand the withering force of a narrative that never goes away. Indeed, if anything, it takes even more effort now, because the temptation of the pro-Trump side will be to retreat to a set of political talking points that, interestingly enough, validate Robert Mueller’s “integrity” when only a week ago they were attacking this as a false notion.

This is very dangerous, and even though Mr. Trump and his supporters won this battle, if they do not come at this matter in a way that shows education, and not merely the restating of platitudes and talking points that “should be more comfortable, now that we’ve won!”

The cost of Russiagate may be far higher than anyone wants it to be. And yes, speaking personally, I understand the fatigue. I am tired of this issue too. But the temptation to go silent may have already taken a lot of people so far that they will not accept the reality that has just been revealed.

Politics is a very fickle subject. Truth is extremely malleable for many politicians, and that is saying it very nicely. But this issue was not just politics. It was slander with a purpose, and that purpose is unchanged now. In fact things may even be more dangerous for the President – even risking his very life – because if the powers that are working behind the people trying to get rid of President Trump come to realize that they have no political support, they will move to more extreme measures. In fact this may have already been attempted.

We at The Duran reported a few months ago on a very strange but very compelling story that suggested that there was an attempted assassination and coup that was supposed to have taken place on January 17th of this year. It did not happen, but there was a parallel story that noted that the President may have been targeted for assassination already no fewer than twelve times.  Hopefully this is just tinfoil-hat stuff. But we have seen that this effort to be rid of President Trump is fierce and it is extremely well-supported within its group. There is no reason to think that the pressure will lighten now that this battle has been lost.

The stakes are much too high, and even this long investigation may well have been part of the weaponry of the group we sometimes refer to as the “Deep State” in their effort to reacquire power, and in their effort to continue to pursue both a domestic and geopolitical agenda that has so far shown itself to be destructive to both individuals and nations all over the world.

Speculation? Yes. Needless? We hope so. This is a terrible possibility that hopefully no reasonable person wants to consider.

Honestly, folks, we do not know. But we had to put this out there for your consideration.

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Parliament Seizes Control Of Brexit From Theresa May

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Schaeuble, Greece and the lessons learned from a failed GREXIT (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 117.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine a recent interview with the Financial Times given by Wolfgang Schäuble, where the former German Finance Minister, who was charged with finding a workable and sustainable solution to the Greek debt crisis, reveals that his plan for Greece to take a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone (in order to devalue its currency and save its economy) was met with fierce resistance from Brussels hard liners, and Angela Merkel herself.

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Via FT

“Look where we’re sitting!” says Wolfgang Schäuble, gesturing at the Berlin panorama stretching out beneath us. It is his crisp retort to those who say that Europe is a failure, condemned to a slow demise by its own internal contradictions. “Walk through the Reichstag, the graffiti left by the Red Army soldiers, the images of a destroyed Berlin. Until 1990 the Berlin Wall ran just below where we are now!”

We are in Käfer, a restaurant on the rooftop of the Reichstag. The views are indeed stupendous: Berlin Cathedral and the TV Tower on Alexanderplatz loom through the mist. Both were once in communist East Berlin, cut off from where we are now by the wall. Now they’re landmarks of a single, undivided city. “Without European integration, without this incredible story, we wouldn’t have come close to this point,” he says. “That’s the crazy thing.”

As Angela Merkel’s finance minister from 2009 to 2017, Schäuble was at the heart of efforts to steer the eurozone through a period of unprecedented turbulence. But at home he is most associated with Germany’s postwar political journey, having not only negotiated the 1990 treaty unifying East and West Germany but also campaigned successfully for the capital to move from Bonn.

For a man who has done so much to put Berlin — and the Reichstag — back on the world-historical map, it is hard to imagine a more fitting lunch venue. With its open-plan kitchen and grey formica tables edged in chrome, Käfer has a cool, functional aesthetic that is typical of the city. On the wall hangs a sketch by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who famously wrapped the Reichstag in silver fabric in 1995.

The restaurant has one other big advantage: it is easy to reach from Schäuble’s office. Now 76, he has been confined to a wheelchair since he was shot in an assassination attempt in 1990, and mobility is an issue. Aides say he tends to avoid restaurants if he can, especially at lunchtime.

As we take our places, we talk about Schäuble’s old dream — that German reunification would be a harbinger of European unity, a step on the road to a United States of Europe. That seems hopelessly out of reach in these days of Brexit, the gilets jaunes in France, Lega and the Five Star Movement in Italy.

Some blame Schäuble himself for that. He was, after all, the architect of austerity, a fiscal hawk whose policy prescriptions during the euro crisis caused untold hardship for millions of ordinary people, or so his critics say. He became a hate figure, especially in Greece. Posters in Athens in 2015 depicted him with a Hitler moustache below the words: “Wanted — for mass poverty and devastation”.

Schäuble rejects the criticism that austerity caused the rise of populism. “Higher spending doesn’t lead to greater contentment,” he says. The root cause lies in mass immigration, and the insecurities it has unleashed. “What European country doesn’t have this problem?” he asks. “Even Sweden. The poster child of openness and the willingness to help.”

But what of the accusation that he didn’t care enough about the suffering of the southern Europeans? Austerity divided the EU and spawned a real animus against Schäuble. I ask him how that makes him feel now. “Well I’m sad, because I played a part in all of that,” he says, wistfully. “And I think about how we could have done it differently.”

I glance at the menu — simple German classics with a contemporary twist. I’m drawn to the starters, such as Oldenburg duck pâté and the Müritz smoked trout. But true to his somewhat abstemious reputation, Schäuble has no interest in these and zeroes in on the entrées. He chooses Käfer’s signature veal meatballs, a Berlin classic. I go for the Arctic char and pumpkin.

Schäuble switches seamlessly back to the eurozone crisis. The original mistake was in trying to create a common currency without a “common economic, employment and social policy” for all eurozone member states. The fathers of the euro had decided that if they waited for political union to happen first they’d wait forever, he says.

Yet the prospects for greater political union are now worse than they have been in years. “The construction of the EU has proven to be questionable,” he says. “We should have taken the bigger steps towards integration earlier on, and now, because we can’t convince the member states to take them, they are unachievable.”

Greece was a particularly thorny problem. It should never have been admitted to the euro club in the first place, Schäuble says. But when its debt crisis first blew up, it should have taken a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone — an idea he first floated with Giorgos Papakonstantinou, his Greek counterpart between 2009 and 2011. “I told him you need to be able to devalue your currency, you’re not competitive,” he says. The reforms required to repair the Greek economy were going to be “hard to achieve in a democracy”. “That’s why you need to leave the euro for a certain period. But everyone said there was no chance of that.”

The idea didn’t go away, though. Schäuble pushed for a temporary “Grexit” in 2015, during another round of the debt crisis. But Merkel and the other EU heads of government nixed the idea. He now reveals he thought about resigning over the issue. “On the morning the decision was made, [Merkel] said to me: ‘You’ll carry on?’ . . . But that was one of the instances where we were very close [to my stepping down].”

It is an extraordinary revelation, one that highlights just how rocky his relationship with Merkel has been over the years. Schäuble has been at her side from the start, an éminence grise who has helped to resolve many of the periodic crises of her 13 years as chancellor. But it was never plain sailing.

“There were a few really bad conflicts where she knew too that we were on the edge and I would have gone,” he says. “I always had to weigh up whether to go along with things, even though I knew it was the wrong thing to do, as was the case with Greece, or whether I should go.” But his sense of duty prevailed. “We didn’t always agree — but I was always loyal.”

That might have been the case when he was a serving minister, but since becoming speaker of parliament in late 2017 he has increasingly distanced himself from Merkel. Last year, when she announced she would not seek re-election as leader of the Christian Democratic Union, the party that has governed Germany for 50 of the past 70 years, Schäuble openly backed a candidate described by the Berlin press as the “anti-Merkel”. Friedrich Merz, a millionaire corporate lawyer who is the chairman of BlackRock Germany, had once led the CDU’s parliamentary group but lost out to Merkel in a power struggle in 2002, quitting politics a few years later. He has long been seen as one of the chancellor’s fiercest conservative critics — and is a good friend of Schäuble’s.

Ultimately, in a nail-biting election last December, Merkel’s favoured candidate, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, narrowly beat Merz. The woman universally known as “AKK” is in pole position to succeed Merkel as chancellor when her fourth and final term ends in 2021.

I ask Schäuble if it’s true that he had once again waged a battle against Merkel and once again lost. “I never went to war against Ms Merkel,” he says. “Everybody says that if I’m for Merz then I’m against Merkel. Why is that so? That’s nonsense.”

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