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Korea Crisis: Trump”losing control of his rhetoric” but without any plan for attack

President Trump’s threats against North Korea conceal the absence of any US intention to attack that country. All they do is play into Kim Jong-un’s hands.

Alexander Mercouris

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Shortly after both the Chinese and the Russians expressed their growing exasperation at the war of words between Washington and Pyongyang – for which they are increasingly blaming Washington rather than Pyongyang – US President Trump and the Pentagon have cranked up the war of words further by making more threats against North Korea, some of which some are taking to mean that a US attack on North Korea is imminent

In reality the US military in the Pacific is always on stand-by to carry out a retaliatory strike on North Korea if North Korea launches an attack.  However as Malcolm Nance, a former US naval intelligence officer, has pointed out there are none of the normal indicators of heightened alert at US bases in the region, and the US military is in no position to launch a pre-emptive all-out war against a nuclear and missile armed North Korea at a moment’s notice that some are afraid of

US Defense Secretary General Mattis appears to be of the same view.  Hours before President Trump’s latest comments this is what he said to reporters in California

My portfolio, my mission, my responsibility is to have military options if you need it.  However, right now, Secretary Tillerson, Ambassador Haley, you can see the American effort is diplomatically led, it has diplomatic traction, it is gaining diplomatic results. And I want to stay right there right now. The tragedy of war is well enough known. It does not need another characterisation beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic.

These are not the words of a general preparing his troops for battle.  On the contrary they show that General Mattis finds the prospect of war with North Korea horrifying, and has no plan for it.

In fact if President Trump’s words are parsed carefully it is clear that he has no plan for an immediate attack on North Korea either.  On the contrary both his tweet which I quoted above and his verbal comments to reporters show that his comments are not intended to prepare the ground for a US attack on North Korea but rather to deter a North Korean attack on the US, and specifically the North Korean threat to launch a missile demonstration against Guam

[If] he does something in Guam it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before what will happen in North Korea,” Mr Trump said. “It’s not a dare. It’s a statement. He’s not going to go around threatening Guam and he’s not going to threaten the United States….

There were no mixed messages.  The people of our country are safe. Our allies are safe. And I will tell you this, North Korea better get their act together or they’re going to be in trouble like few nations ever have been in trouble in this world……

A number of points however need to be made about all this.

Firstly, this is a war of words the President Trump himself has started.

The last North Korean action was the second Hwasong-14 ICBM test on 28th July 2017.  This was followed by the UN Security Council meeting which imposed further sanctions on North Korea on 4th August 2017.

Nothing has happened since then to justify President Trump’s sudden escalation of rhetoric, which began with his “fire and fury” comments of three days ago.  The North Korean threat to launch Hwasong-12 missiles in the direction of Guam was made in response to those comments.

If the rhetoric between the US and North Korea has escalated to unheard of levels over the last few days, the person responsible for that is President Trump.

Secondly, this war of words which President Trump has initiated is not deterring North Korea.  On the contrary it is giving North Korea the attention it wants.  Nothing suits North Koreans better than a rhetorical battle with the US, which not only emphasises North Korea’s importance but which serves to rally China’s and Russia’s support to North Korea’s side.

Thirdly, the war of words looks dangerously like a bluff even if it is actually intended to call North Korea’s bluff.

Just as President Trump lost face when he failed to act on the threats he seemed to be making against North Korea in April, so he risks losing further face if he fails to act now, even if his actual intention is to do no more than deter North Korea from launching its own attack.

Fourthly, the war of words is angering the Chinese and the Russians, and is forcing them to align themselves with North Korea in ways that they would probably not wish to do.  Already the latest verbal exchanges have forced China to say publicly that it will defend North Korea if it is attacked.

In other words instead of isolating North Korea President Trump’s rhetoric is rallying Chinese and Russian support for it.

Fifthly and lastly, President Trump’s rhetoric is causing alarm and dismay not just amongst the US’s friends – who are horrified by the prospect of a war between the US and a nuclear armed North Korea – but within the US itself.  Anyone who has watched the video of General Mattis making his comments to the reporters in California on Thursday (see the link above) can see how unhappy he is.

This is a bad situation for President Trump to position himself into, where more and more people are starting to blame him for the crisis than Kim Jong-un.

Moreover as the Chinese have said, this reckless game of chicken President Trump is playing with the North Koreans runs the real risk of someone doing something really dangerous and stupid in order to avoid losing face, in which case it is easy to see how the situation could spin catastrophically out of control

The real danger is that such a reckless game may lead to miscalculations and a strategic “war.” That is to say, neither Washington nor Pyongyang really wants war, but a war could break out anyway as they do not have the experience of putting such an extreme game under control.

My best guess is that what has triggered this sudden explosion of rhetoric is the shock of President Trump and his officials at being told by the Defense Intelligence Agency that the North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear weapons has progressed much further and much faster than expected, so that a scenario where North Korea can strike at the continental US with nuclear missiles – which most US officials thought would not happen for another 20 years – is one which they are facing now.

For President Trump this must be particularly humiliating given that at the start of his Presidency he said North Korea would never be allowed to achieve that sort of capability.

President Trump needs to put this sense of shock and humiliation to one side.

That North Korea now apparently has the continental US within range is not his fault.  It is the fault of his predecessors – most especially of President Obama – whose response to the gathering North Korean crisis was to kick the can down the road.

As for the supposed danger of a North Korean nuclear strike on the US, as I have said repeatedly unless the US attacks North Korea that danger does not exist.

What President Trump needs to do in this situation – which he is perfectly right to say he has inherited – is not crank up the rhetoric to its present dangerous levels.  That only risks war or humiliation and plays directly into Kim Jong-un’s hands.  It is to talk instead.  The recent sanctions resolution passed by the UN Security Council – over sold though it is – gives him the cover to do this.

He should do as the Chinese and Rex Tillerson his own Secretary of State are urging him to do, and start these talks without delay.

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Second Canadian Citizen Disappears In China

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea.

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Via Zerohedge…


For a trade war that was supposed to be between the US and China, Canada has found itself increasingly in the middle of the crossfire. And so after the arrest of a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing in retaliation for the detention of the Huawei CFO in Vancouver, Canada said a second person has been questioned by Chinese authorities, further heightening tensions between the two countries.

The second person reached out to the Canadian government after being questioned by Chinese officials, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said, at which point Canada lost contact with him. His whereabouts are currently unknown and Global Affairs Canada said they are in contact with his family.

“We haven’t been able to make contact with him since he let us know about this,” Freeland told reporters Wednesday in Ottawa. “We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we have also raised this case with Chinese authorities.”

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea. He gained fame for helping arrange a visit to Pyongyang by former NBA player Dennis Rodman, and he met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on that trip, the newspaper reported. Attempts to reach Spavor on his contact number either in China, or North Korean went straight to voicemail.

Spavor’s personal Facebook page contains several images of him with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un including one of him with both Jong-un and former Dennis Rodman at an undisclosed location.

Michael P. Spavor, right, pictured here with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, second from right, and Dennis Rodman.

Another image shows the two sharing a drink on a boat.

The unexplained disappearance takes place after China’s spy agency detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing on Monday, who was on leave from the foreign service. The arrest came nine days after Canada arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of U.S. DOJ. While Canada has asked to see the former envoy after it was informed by fax of his arrest, Canada is unaware of Kovrig current whereabouts or the charges he faces.

“Michael did not engage in illegal activities nor did he do anything that endangered Chinese national security,” Rob Malley, chief executive officer of the ICG, said in a written statement. “He was doing what all Crisis Group analysts do: undertaking objective and impartial research.”

One possibility is that Kovrig may have been caught up in recent rule changes in China that affect non-governmental organizations, according to Bloomberg. The ICG wasn’t authorized to do work in China, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing in Beijing Wednesday.

“We welcome foreign travelers. But if they engage in activities that clearly violate Chinese laws and regulations, then it is totally another story,” he said, adding he had no information on Kovrig specifically.

As Bloomberg further notes, foreign non-governmental organizations are now required to register with the Chinese authorities under a 2017 law that subjects them to stringent reporting requirements. Under the law, organizations without a representative office in China must have a government sponsor and a local cooperative partner before conducting activities. ICG said this is the first time they’ve heard such an accusation from the Chinese authorities in a decade of working with the country. The company closed its Beijing operations in December 2016 because of the new Chinese law, according to a statement. Kovrig was working out of the Hong Kong office.

Meanwhile, realizing that it is increasingly bearing the brunt of China’s retaliatory anger, Trudeau’s government distanced itself from Meng’s case, saying it can’t interfere with the courts, but is closely involved in advocating on Kovrig’s behalf.

So far Canada has declined to speculate on whether there was a connection between the Kovrig and Meng cases, with neither Freeland nor Canadian Trade Minister Jim Carr saying Wednesday that there is any indication the cases are related. Then again, it is rather obvious they are. Indeed, Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016 and worked with Kovrig, says the link is clear. “There’s no coincidence with China.”

“In this case, they couldn’t grab a Canadian diplomat because this would have created a major diplomatic incident,” he said. “Going after him I think was their way to send a message to the Canadian government and to put pressure.”

Even though Meng was granted bail late Tuesday, that did not placate China, whose foreign ministry spokesman said that “The Canadian side should correct its mistakes and release Ms. Meng Wanzhou immediately.”

The tension, according to Bloomberg,  may force Canadian companies to reconsider travel to China, and executives traveling to the Asian country will need to exercise extra caution, said Andy Chan, managing partner at Miller Thomson LLP in Vaughan, Ontario.

“Canadian business needs to look at and balance the reasons for the travel’’ between the business case and the “current political environment,’’ Chan said by email. Chinese officials subject business travelers to extra screening and in some case reject them from entering, he said.

Earlier in the day, SCMP reported that Chinese high-tech researchers were told “not to travel to the US unless it’s essential.”

And so, with Meng unlikely to be released from Canada any time soon, expect even more “Chinese (non) coincidences”, until eventually China does detain someone that the US does care about.

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Multipolar World Order in the Making: Qatar Dumps OPEC

Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The decision by Qatar to abandon OPEC threatens to redefine the global energy market, especially in light of Saudi Arabia’s growing difficulties and the growing influence of the Russian Federation in the OPEC+ mechanism.

In a surprising statement, Qatari energy minister Saad al-Kaabi warned OPEC on Monday December 3 that his country had sent all the necessary documentation to start the country’s withdrawal from the oil organization in January 2019. Al-Kaabi stressed that the decision had nothing to do with recent conflicts with Riyadh but was rather a strategic choice by Doha to focus on the production of LNG, which Qatar, together with the Russian Federation, is one of the largest global exporters of. Despite an annual oil extraction rate of only 1.8% of the total of OPEC countries (about 600,000 barrels a day), Qatar is one of the founding members of the organization and has always had a strong political influence on the governance of the organization. In a global context where international relations are entering a multipolar phase, things like cooperation and development become fundamental; so it should not surprise that Doha has decide to abandon OPEC. OPEC is one of the few unipolar organizations that no longer has a meaningful purpose in 2018, given the new realities governing international relations and the importance of the Russian Federation in the oil market.

Besides that, Saudi Arabia requires the organization to maintain a high level of oil production due to pressure coming from Washington to achieve a very low cost per barrel of oil. The US energy strategy targets Iranian and Russian revenue from oil exports, but it also aims to give the US a speedy economic boost. Trump often talks about the price of oil falling as his personal victory. The US imports about 10 million barrels of oil a day, which is why Trump wrongly believes that a decrease in the cost per barrel could favor a boost to the US economy. The economic reality shows a strong correlation between the price of oil and the financial growth of a country, with low prices of crude oil often synonymous of a slowing down in the economy.

It must be remembered that to keep oil prices low, OPEC countries are required to maintain a high rate of production, doubling the damage to themselves. Firstly, they take less income than expected and, secondly, they deplete their oil reserves to favor the strategy imposed by Saudi Arabia on OPEC to please the White House. It is clearly a strategy that for a country like Qatar (and perhaps Venezuela and Iran in the near future) makes little sense, given the diplomatic and commercial rupture with Riyadh stemming from tensions between the Gulf countries.

In contrast, the OPEC+ organization, which also includes other countries like the Russian Federation, Mexico and Kazakhstan, seems to now to determine oil and its cost per barrel. At the moment, OPEC and Russia have agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day, contradicting Trump’s desire for high oil output.

With this last choice Qatar sends a clear signal to the region and to traditional allies, moving to the side of OPEC+ and bringing its interests closer in line with those of the Russian Federation and its all-encompassing oil and gas strategy, two sectors in which Qatar and Russia dominate market share.

In addition, Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey (a future energy hub connecting east and west as well as north and south) and Venezuela. In this sense, the meeting between Maduro and Erdogan seems to be a prelude to further reorganization of OPEC and its members.

The declining leadership role of Saudi Arabia in the oil and financial market goes hand in hand with the increase of power that countries like Qatar and Russia in the energy sectors are enjoying. The realignment of energy and finance signals the evident decline of the Israel-US-Saudi Arabia partnership. Not a day goes by without corruption scandals in Israel, accusations against the Saudis over Khashoggi or Yemen, and Trump’s unsuccessful strategies in the commercial, financial or energy arenas. The path this doomed

trio is taking will only procure less influence and power, isolating them more and more from their opponents and even historical allies.

Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi, the Eurasian powerhouses, seem to have every intention, as seen at the trilateral summit in Buenos Aires, of developing the ideal multipolar frameworks to avoid continued US dominance of the oil market through shale revenues or submissive allies as Saudi Arabia, even though the latest spike in production is a clear signal from Riyadh to the USA. In this sense, Qatar’s decision to abandon OPEC and start a complex and historical discussion with Moscow on LNG in the format of an enlarged OPEC marks the definitive decline of Saudi Arabia as a global energy power, to be replaced by Moscow and Doha as the main players in the energy market.

Qatar’s decision is, officially speaking, unconnected to the feud triggered by Saudi Arabia against the small emirate. However, it is evident that a host of factors has led to this historic decision. The unsuccessful military campaign in Yemen has weakened Saudi Arabia on all fronts, especially militarily and economically. The self-inflicted fall in the price of oil is rapidly consuming Saudi currency reserves, now at a new low of less than 500 billion dollars. Events related to Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) have de-legitimized the role of Riyadh in the world as a reliable diplomatic interlocutor. The internal and external repression by the Kingdom has provoked NGOs and governments like Canada’s to issue public rebukes that have done little to help MBS’s precarious position.

In Syria, the victory of Damascus and her allies has consolidated the role of Moscow in the region, increased Iranian influence, and brought Turkey and Qatar to the multipolar side, with Tehran and Moscow now the main players in the Middle East. In terms of military dominance, there has been a clear regional shift from Washington to Moscow; and from an energy perspective, Doha and Moscow are turning out to be the winners, with Riyadh once again on the losing side.

As long as the Saudi royal family continues to please Donald Trump, who is prone to catering to Israeli interests in the region, the situation of the Kingdom will only get worse. The latest agreement on oil production between Moscow and Riyad signals that someone in the Saudi royal family has probably figured this out.

Countries like Turkey, India, China, Russia and Iran understand the advantages of belonging to a multipolar world, thereby providing a collective geopolitical ballast that is mutually beneficial. The energy alignment between Qatar and the Russian Federation seems to support this general direction, a sort of G2 of LNG gas that will only strengthen the position of Moscow on the global chessboard, while guaranteeing a formidable military umbrella for Doha in case of a further worsening of relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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Truth and Free Speech Are Being Taken Away From Us

A population that does not respect and defend free speech, debate, and truth will not long have the liberty that results from free speech, debate, and truth.

Paul Craig Roberts

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Authored by Paul Craig Roberts:


Dear Readers:

This is my quarterly request for your support.

Many supporters are now monthly donors. This call is a reminder to those who respond to the quarterly requests and to the many who are yet to respond. In keeping with a decision made by the regular donors, those of limited means are exempt from the request.

Free speech and the ability to speak truth are being shut down. It is happening with the complicity of the print and TV media, the liberal/progressive/left, the US Department of Justice (sic), the law schools and bar associations, Congress, and the federal judiciary.

The attack on Julian Assange is the arrow aimed at the heart of the ability to publish the truth. If a journalist can be indicted for espionage for publishing leaked documents that a corrupt government has classified in order to conceal its crimes, the First Amendment is dead.

Moreover, as the claim is that government was harmed by Wikileaks publishing the truth, Assange’s secret indictment sets the precedent that truth is harmful to government. This precedent will be extended to include the publication of any information or opinion, classified or not, that the government regards as harmful. The media then officially becomes what it mainly already is in effect—a Ministry of Propaganda for the government and those who control it.

As a person who has held high security clearances, I can say with confidence that no more than one percent of classified information falls in the realm of national security. Most classification is simply to prevent the people and Congress from knowing what is going on. Classification allows the various components of government to put the spin where they want it. “National security” has always been an excuse accepted by patriots for the government to conceal its wrong doings and hidden agendas.

Give thought to the alleged harm done by Wikileaks publishing the information leaked by Bradley Manning and the Clinton emails that were downloaded onto a thumb drive and not hacked as security experts have proved. Give thought to the documents proving the warrantless and thereby illegal spying by the NSA that Edward Snowden revealed. How was government hurt by the information? Government should have been hurt, but it was not. The presstitutes did not take up the issue. No one in government was punished for the war crimes, lies, and illegal and unconstitutional acts that the publication of the leaked documents revealed. None of Washington’s vassal governments renounced its vassalage on the basis of the information that revealed they were spied on and deceived. Washington’s vassal governments already knew that Washington lies and deceives them. The Chancellor of Germany simply accepted that Washington listens to her private telephone calls. Vassals simply accept indignities as a consequence of their vassalage. The only people punished were those who revealed the truth—Manning, Snowden, and Assange.

Washington imprisoned Manning and seeks to imprison Assange for damage that Washington did not suffer.

As a country loses its liberty, legal scholars who formerly would have protected liberty turn against it in order to curry favor with power. Recently, I read a specious legal argument that the First Amendment did not really protect Ellsberg and the New York Times when the Pentagon Papers were published, but that no president wanted to be the first one to break the tradition of extending such protection. The author claims that Assange is not protected by the First Amendment even though he is a journalist. The author of the article did not realize that his argument means that journalists have squatters’ rights in First Amendment protection. For the Justice Department to bring a case against Assange means overturning a right that is ensconced in common law as well as in the Constitution.

Washington has shown that it is not interested in any rights but its own to do what it wants. The George W. Bush regime overturned the Constitutional protection of habeas corpus when the regime declared that it could detain citizens indefinitely in prison without presentation of evidence to a court. The Obama regime destroyed due process and the Constitutional right to life when the regime declared that it could assassinate citizens on suspicion alone. Both regimes ignored statutory and Constitutional prohibitions on torture and only punished those who revealed the torture. If Bush and Obama had the right to torture, what was the point of prosecuting those who revealed that torture happened?

As the truth revealed by Wikileaks has had no adverse consequence for Washington, what is the point of Washington’s assault on Assange? In part it is revenge on an individual brazen enough to stand up to Washington, and in part it is to criminalize the telling of truth that is critical of the government.

Once there was a time when the media would have been up in arms in defense of Assange and press freedom. That was before the media was illegally concentrated in a few hands by the Clinton regime and before the media became concentrated ideologically. The media hates Donald Trump and thereby hates Assange for publishing the Hillary emails that the media believes cost Hillary the election. The media is much more intent on helping the Deep State deep-six Assange than the media is in defending its First Amendment protections.

The liberal/progressive/left sees it the same way. The politics of the liberal/progressive/left is Identity Politics, and Identity Politics hates white fly-over America that elected Trump. This is why the media and the liberal/progressive/left are helping the military/security complex tie Assange to Trump, Putin, and “Russiagate.” The Guardian newspaper has destroyed what little credibility it still had by publishing obviously false information concocted to connect Assange to “Russiagate.” See: https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/11/30/the-guardian-is-a-professional-liar-not-a-newspaper/and http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50715.htm

The military/security complex planted on its media assets the fiction that Assange fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy to escape prosecution for rape.The presstitutes consistently repeat the lie, as Harriet Alexander in the UK Telegraph does, that “Mr Assange fled to the embassy to avoid charges of rape, sexual molestation and coercion. All charges were dropped by May 2017” (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50716.htm ).

There were never any such charges filed against Assange. Assange took asylum in the embassy, because it was clear that he was going to be extradited to Washington where he would get a show trial as a spy. It is not possible that Harriet Alexander and the editors at the Telegraph do not know this. Nevertheless, they repeat the lie, the purpose of which is to put Assange in a bad light that will aid his conviction on false charges.

Washington knew that it could tell this lie about Assange raping women because Washington knew that #MeToo and other radical feminists believe that that is what men do, and that #MeToo would be delighted to have yet another celebrity provided for their denunciation.

Washington also knew that its media whores hated Assange for having the integrity and courage that they do not have and that they would willingly stomp him to death with their hobnailed boots.

The US Justice (sic) Department knows it has concocted a false case and intentionally kept it secret, but has no worry because insouciant Americans will believe its indictment regardless.

The judiciary will permit the false case to be tried in a federal court because every judge wants to be elevated rather than criticized and even framed, and the jury will be too afraid to go against Assange’s public conviction in the media to find him innocent.

The jury’s guilty verdict will murder the First Amendment, but the jury will be able to go home to their neighborhoods without being ostracized.

It is not only the government that is attacking free speech. Free speech is under full scale attack by everyone who claims to be “offended,” by the invention of “hate speech” to control what can be said about “victim groups,” by the Israel Lobby that is having laws passed that prohibit the boycotting of Israel for its mistreatment of Palestinians and by equating criticism of the Israeli government with anti-semitism. ( See, for example, https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-film-the-israel-lobby-does-not-want-you-to-see/5661958 ). Twitter, Facebook, and Google are all active in deciding what can and cannot be said. (See, for example,https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/11/30/stating-the-fact-that-men-are-not-women-gets-feminist-banned-from-twitter/ ). Public forums are denied to people who are disapproved of by other people.

A population that does not respect and defend free speech, debate, and truth will not long have the liberty that results from free speech, debate, and truth. This website respects truth, and it requires your support.

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