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NORTH KOREA: A threat and an olive branch to the US

A great deal now depends on how carefully the US reads the North Korean statement and how much it is willing to trust China, Russia and South Korea.

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On the day after South Korean President Moon Jae-in made a strong statement indicating his wish to see “no more war” on the Korean peninsula, North Korean media outlet KCNA released a lengthy statement regarding the stand-off with the US. The tone of the statement is confident and patriotic, but crucially it is one which offers the US a would-be ‘escape clause’ from any actual confrontation. In many ways it is as if North Korea is claiming victory in what thus far as been limited to a highly tense war of words.

The entire statement is reproduced below with the section where Pyongyang offers the United States the ‘escape clause’ highlighted in bold.

“Respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un inspected the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) on Aug. 14.

He waved back to enthusiastically cheering service members and posed for a picture with them.

He went round historical mementoes and data displayed at the Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism Study Hall.

Going round them, he looked back with deep emotion on the great leadership feats of the brilliant commanders of Mt. Paektu, recorded on every page of the history of the KPA Strategic Force displaying its might with the strength unprecedented in the world as a powerful strike service, symbolic of the dignity and power of Korea.

Then he listened to General Kim Rak Gyom’s decision on the Strategic Force’s plan for an enveloping fire at Guam at the command post.

He examined the plan for a long time and discussed it with the commanding officers in real earnest.

He praised the KPA Strategic Force for drawing up a close and careful plan as planned and intended by the Party and examined the firing preparations for power demonstration.

After listening to the commander of the Strategic Force that it is waiting for the order of the Party Central Committee after rounding off the preparations for the enveloping fire at Guam, he said with great satisfaction that the spirit of Hwasong artillerymen is very high and he was freshly determined, seeing by himself the combat preparedness and the sky-high spirit of the Hwasong artillerymen of the large combined unit.

He said that the U.S. imperialists caught the noose around their necks due to their reckless military confrontation racket, adding that he would watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees spending a hard time of every minute of their miserable lot.

He said that he wants to advise the U.S., which is driving the situation on the Korean peninsula into the touch-and-go situation, running helter-skelter, to take into full account gains and losses with clear head whether the prevailing situation is more unfavorable for any party.

In order to defuse the tensions and prevent the dangerous military conflict on the Korean peninsula, it is necessary for the U.S. to make a proper option first and show it through action, as it committed provocations after introducing huge nuclear strategic equipment into the vicinity of the peninsula, he said, adding that the U.S. should stop at once arrogant provocations against the DPRK and unilateral demands and not provoke it any longer.

He said that if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean peninsula and in its vicinity, testing the self-restraint of the DPRK, the latter will make an important decision as it already declared, warning the U.S. that it should think reasonably and judge properly not to suffer shame that it is hit by the DPRK again.

He said that if the planned fire of power demonstration is carried out as the U.S. is going more reckless, it will be the most delightful historic moment when the Hwasong artillerymen will wring the windpipes of the Yankees and point daggers at their necks, underlining the need to be always ready for launching to go into action anytime once our Party decides.

Looking round a military training school and gymnasium, he called for firmly establishing Juche in education and steadily improving the quality of military training and thus preparing all the artillerymen of the large combined units to be fighters capable of waging campaign of brains, who perfectly mastered the modern military science and technology, the enemy’s changed war methods and Korean-style war methods against them.

He underscored the need to certainly establish the system of reeducating commanding officers and technicians of the Strategic Force in line with the modernization and upgrading of ballistic rockets.

Going round the supply service facilities of the large combined unit including the dining hall of sub-unit, he took warm care of the solders’ life as their real father would do.

He enjoyed a performance given by the art squad of the large combined unit at the solders hall.

He expressed satisfaction over the good performance given by members of the art squad through numbers vividly representing the operational mission and features of the Strategic Force and desire, thoughts and feelings of the Hwasong artillerymen, and gave precious teachings for performance.

The Strategic Force has a very important position and duty in carrying out the strategic plans of the Workers’ Party of Korea, he said, stressing the need for the Strategic Force to firmly establish the monolithic leadership system, command and management system of the Supreme Commander over the nuclear force and further complete the Juche-oriented rocket strike methods.

Giving teachings of great trust that he remains confident thanks to the KPA Strategic Force, reliable treasured sword guaranteeing the everlasting future of the country and nation, he expressed expectation and belief that all the officers and men of the Strategic Force would bring about a fresh turn in rounding off combat preparations, bearing in mind the important mission they have assumed before the Party, the country and the people.

The officers and men of the KPA Strategic Force, who received great trust from him, were firmly determined to score the final victory in the standoff with the U.S. by scorching with super strong strike the targets in south Korea, Japan, operational area in the Pacific and the U.S. mainland, flying the sacred red flags of the Party and flags of the supreme commander at every matchless launching pad once he gives an order.

Accompanying him were KPA Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong So, director of the KPA General Political Bureau, and Kim Jong Sik, vice department director of the C.C., the Workers’ Party of Korea”.

At first glace, the statement would appear to be a further threat to the United States as it confirms that North Korea is ready and able to strike at the US territory of Guam. However, on closer inspection, the statement, in spite of its dramatic language, actually presents the United States with an opportunity to withdraw from its own military plans to strike North Korea, plans which the US has stated in terms as explicit as North Korea and return to a dialogue based peace process which is advocated by China, Russia, South Korea and also Philippines.

The United States, particularly under Donald Trump, will almost certainly be unwilling to de-escalate the crisis without its own face-saving dramatic rhetoric on the subject.  However, events from June and July of 2017 do attest to the fact that under certain conditions, the Trump administration is able to engage in a geo-political climb-down while still affording Trump the much coveted ‘victory lap’ designed for domestic consumption.

Just over a week prior to Donald Trump’s scheduled meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, the United States through Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley threatened Syria with preemptive military action for a chemical weapons attack that never happened and objectively never could happen.

The entire story vanished once Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin agreed to jointly enforce a ceasefire in a new de-escalation zone in south western Syria, along with Jordan.

Thus the Trump administration went from a position of seemingly inevitable strikes against Syrian Arab Republic targets to a position in where the US became integrated into a largely Russian authored Syrian peace process.

There exists the possibility that the Trump administration could now do something similar in respect of North Korea. After weeks of dramatic threats, could it now be possible for the US to agree on the commencing of  multi-party talks between Pyongyang, Seoul, Beijing and Moscow?

It is entirely possible, but there remains a possibility that if the seemingly inexperienced Trump administration misreads the North Korean statement as a fully-fledged new threat, things could continue to de-escalate.

It all depends on how much America is willing to read between the lines of Pyongyang’s statement and how much America is wiling to do in East Asia what it did in southern Syria, namely, surrender the initiative to parties whose knowledge, experience and vested interests in the conflict is more relevant and more informed than that of the United States.

 

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Brexit Withdrawal Agreement may lead to Theresa May’s downfall (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has been published and as many predicted, including Nigel Farage, the document is leading to the collapse of Theresa May’s government.

During an interview with iTV’s Piers Morgan, remain’s Alistair Campell and leave’s Nigel Farage, were calling May’s Brexit deal a complete disaster.

Via iTV

Alastair Campbell: “This doesn’t do remotely what was offered…what is the point”

“Parliament is at an impasse”

“We have to go back to the people” …”remain has to be on the ballot paper”

Nigel Farage:

“This is the worst deal in history. We are giving away in excess of 40B pounds in return for precisely nothing. Trapped still inside the European Union’s rulebook.

“Nothing has been achieved.”

“In any negotiation in life…the other side need to know that you are serious about walking away.”

“What monsieur Barnier knew from day one, is that at no point did Theresa May intend to walk away.”

“Fundamental matter of trust to the electors of our country and those who govern us.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, and why the deal is a full on victory for the European Union and a document of subjugation for the United Kingdom.

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Coming in at 585 pages, the draft agreement will be closely scrutinized over the coming days but here are some of the highlights as outlined by Zerohedge

  • UK and EU to use the best endeavours to supersede Ireland protocol by 2020
  • UK can request extension of the transition period any time before July 1st, 2020
  • EU, UK See Level-Playing Field Measures in Future Relationship
  • Transition period may be extended once up to date yet to be specified in the text
  • EU and UK shall establish single customs territory and Northern Ireland is in same customs territory as Great Britain

The future relationship document is less than seven pages long. It says the U.K. and EU are seeking a free-trade area with cooperation on customs and rules: “Comprehensive arrangements creating a free trade area combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation, underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition.”

The wording might raise concerns among Brexiters who don’t want regulatory cooperation and the measures on fair competition could amount to shackling the U.K. to EU rules.

As Bloomberg’s Emma Ross-Thomas writes, “There’s a clear sense in the documents that we’re heading for a customs union in all but name. Firstly via the Irish backstop, and then via the future relationship.”

Separately, a government summary of the draft agreement suggests role for parliament in deciding whether to extend the transition or to move in to the backstop.

But perhaps most importantly, regarding the controversial issue of the Irish border, the future relationship document says both sides aim to replace the so-called backstop – the thorniest issue in the negotiations – with a “subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.”

On this topic, recall that the U.K.’s fear was of being locked into the backstop arrangement indefinitely in the absence of a broader trade deal. The draft agreement includes a review process to try to give reassurance that the backstop would never be needed. Basically, the U.K. could choose to seek an extension to the transition period – where rules stay the same as they are currently – or opt to trigger the backstop conditions. In fact, as Bloomberg notes, the word “backstop,” which has been a sticking point over the Irish border for weeks, is mentioned only once in the text.

As Bloomberg further adds, the withdrawal agreement makes clear that the U.K. will remain in a single customs area with the EU until there’s a solution reached on the Irish border. It’s what Brexiteers hate, because it makes it more difficult for the U.K. to sign its own free-trade deals, which they regard as a key prize of Brexit.

Predictably, EU Commission President Juncker said decisive progress has been made in negotiations.

Meanwhile, as analysts comb over the documents, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group, has already written to Conservative lawmakers urging them to vote against the deal. He says:

  • May is handing over money for “little or nothing in return”
  • The agreement treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K.
  • It will “lock” the U.K. into a customs union with the EU
  • It breaks the Tory election manifesto of 2017

The full document…

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran

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Via RT


Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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Five Saudis Face Death Penalty Over Khashoggi Killing; Crown Prince Cleared

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime.”

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Via Zerohedge


Saudi Arabia public prosecutor Sheikh Shaalan al-Shaalan said on Thursday that the kingdom will seek the death penalty for five suspects among the 11 charged in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirming suspicions that members of the murder squad purportedly sent to “interrogate” Khashoggi will now themselves face beheadings as the Saudi Royal Family closes ranks around the Crown Prince, per the FT.

As for Mohammed bin Salman who runs the day to day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter and is the de facto head of OPEC, the prosecutor said had “no knowledge” of the mission, effectively absolving him of any domestic suspicion, if not international.

The charges were handed down after the kingdom dismissed five senior intelligence officers and arrested 18 Saudi nationals in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Saudi insider-turned-dissident journalist disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would have allowed him to marry his fiance. Khashoggi was a legal resident of Virginia.

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime,” according to CNN.

The prosecutor said that the former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.

They were divided into three groups, the Saudi Public Prosecutor said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.

It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecutor said.

The Saudis stuck by latest (ever changing) narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom, Shaalan said. The team killed him after the talks failed and his body was handed to a “collaborator” in Turkey, he said.

Asked whether Saud al-Qahtanti, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shaalan said that a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information. The former adviser was now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges.

Al-Shaalan did reveal that a total of 21 suspects are now being held in connection with the case. Notably, the decision to charge the 5 comes after National Security Advisor John Bolton repudiated reports that a recording of Khashoggi’s murder made by Turkish authorities suggested that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was behind the murder plot.

But as long as OPEC+ is planning to do “whatever it takes” to boost oil prices, the US’s willingness to give the Saudis a pass could always be tested if crude prices again turn sharply higher.

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