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Trump’s deal-making skills have just scored him another defeat

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory




On June 12, United States President Donald J. Trump was supposed to be the first POTUS to get the Korean leadership to sit down at the table of a possible peace treaty and nuclear disarmament. Getting this far into the process has been viewed as historic and unprecedented, which, in a way, it truly is, but has been somewhat of a rocky road and not entirely due to foreign parties.

Trump’s ‘Art’ of Deal Making

Trump has been hailed as the ‘deal maker’, whose use of suspense, pressure, threats, economic knife twisting, and unilateral ‘offers’ as means to threaten the Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, and his regime, has spurred them into opening up and making peace. Trump has issued even more sanctions against North Korea, threatened it with nuclear annihilation on multiple occasions, threatened to walk away from a summit with Kim, if he didn’t think that he would get the results that he wanted (a win for America, or, better put, the better end of the stick), leaving both Kim and the rest of the world in suspense as to whether a peace agreement could be brokered by the Trump administration at all.

But this, of course, took for granted the solidity of the foundations upon which the North Korean resolve for peace and security rested. Here, Trump was under the impression that he could use the threat of nuclear destruction and economic aggression, and suspense about just what he was going to do to try to ‘get the upper hand’ at a potential peace talks summit, and that his tactics and actions wouldn’t have any negative reverberations at any point.

Then, to back it all up, he goes about practicing war on North Korea with military drills right on their border, together with threatening to overthrow Kim’s government after the style of humanitarian regime change that was employed, by the peace loving Americans, in Libya. We could waste lots of ink and pen out thousands of words on the various threats that Trump has made to the DPRK and its leadership, but that’s hardly necessary.

The Bolton Factor

Many analysts are going about laying the blame for the North Korean response to these statements at Bolton’s feet, as if he held the blame for the present down spiral of this process all on his lonesome, and the North Koreans just took his ‘off the cuff’ statements a little too seriously. That might have some grounds if that’s all we heard here, but that’s not the case at all.

Trump and Pompeo were of a similar such sentiment, and Trump issued his remarks mirroring Bolton (sure, he probably got the idea from Bolton in the first place since Trump probably didn’t know what Libya was before Bolton brought it up). As I pointed out last week, Trump echoed Bolton’s statements while seated right next to him during a White House press gathering, saying

“The Libyan model isn’t a model that we have (in mind) at all when we’re thinking of North Korea. If you look at that model with Kadhafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him. Now, that model would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely. But if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong Un is going to be very, very happy.”

If we wanted to take this out of Trump’s mouth, and put into Bolton’s, and cast all the blame at Bolton, then maybe the blame for the collapse in the process up to this point could be blamed on his ill chosen and ill timed comments. Maybe it could be argued that Bolton just gave him the idea, and so it’s still not really Trump’s screw up, but it was instead Bolton’s because he originated the ‘Libya model’ comments. But surely Trump has a brain of his own, right? He can decide whether to echo his security advisor’s opinion or whether to persevere with expressing his own intentions on the subject. After all, Bolton isn’t the one that gets to call the shots; it’s Trump’s signature that makes and, much more often, breaks international agreements, not Bolton’s.

Now, why are ‘Bolton’ comments about the ‘Libya model’ so important, here? Well, that has to do with the fact that Trump basically iterated in his letter to Kim Jong Un, in which he decided not to try to settle out a peace deal, that he was upset at Kim because the DPRK let out a harsh response to the reference to the ‘Libya model’ that Bolton mentioned, and  which Trump, having nothing really original to contribute, decided would be cool to use as a part of his pressure cooking campaign to make the North Koreans crack and give in. So, Trump basically said ‘because you said mean things, I won’t meet with you’. Hence, where we stand today.

The Blame Game

The concern over who said what is essentially all about trying to find some where to lay the blame that doesn’t mean admitting that Trump simply isn’t competent enough to be the one to carry out such high level, qualified, diplomatic arrangements. It wants to defend him against the reality of the situation, and to give him credit that he simply isn’t due.

He’s not some grand chess master, meticulously planning and strategizing every little minute detail in order to carry out some master program to accomplish amazing feats. No, if that were the case then he wouldn’t have made the snap decision to strike Syria on such flimsy grounds as an unverified tweet and withdrawn from the Iran deal, or thrown trade tariffs around like confetti. His other blunders were being overlooked by most of the world on the basis that he hadn’t sufficiently messed enough things up to the degree that it literally threatened the present world order, but lately, that’s just what he’s been doing.

If other members of the Trump campaign, whether it’s Bolton, Pompeo, Haley, or Mattis, are steering Trump on issues this important, and he is really this gullible, clueless, and without a strategy to approach them, then one really has to admit that he’s purely not competent enough to carry out his duties as the POTUS and to exercise America’s influence across the globe and everywhere America’s tentacles reach.

So, trying to cast blame around at other members of the Trump cabinet doesn’t exonerate Trump from having some role of incompetence here. If we take Trump as his word, that he cancelled the meeting because someone, somewhere, half the world away, said something mean, then he’s showing that he doesn’t have a thick enough skin to really handle the responsibilities of his job, and the criticism that necessarily will and does daily come forth. In politics, you can’t exist without triggering a critical response from someone, somewhere, and that’s just how it is. Therefore, the blame game doesn’t really change the facts of the matter.

The American Deep State and the Status Quo Incentive

In reality, however, while Trump may indeed be that naive and gullible, and this was probably really part of his logic for bucking the process so far, the American deep state likely had other reasons for seeing this process collapse, and is ‘highly likely’, to use Theresa May’s infamous words, responsible, at least for some part, for this turn of events.

Here, one might speculate that maybe it was the US’s famed military industrial complex, that wants to maintain the status quo in order to keep selling weapons, conducting military drills, constructing more military bases, around the DPRK, and, by extension, Russia, to justify the bloated US defense budget and the missile defense net aimed at ‘defending’ against Russian ‘aggression’, while preserving America’s military hegemony and presence in the region.

The China angle

Given Trump’s remarks about suggesting that China was steering the DPRK on movements throughout this process, we may here be able to glean that Washington, or the Deep State, or however one wants to perceive it, as has already revealed on multiple occasions, perceives China as a security and economic threat to America’s global economic hegemony, and believes that China is playing too big of a role, one that could result in America not getting the biggest and best part of the deal.

But it’s really kinda hard to argue here that America could or even should get a ‘better’ part of the arrangement, since America openly has the least to be gained by a peace agreement being brokered on the peninsula at all. All America really gets is a decreased threat of a nuclear strike and the opportunity to allow a peace treaty to manifest, but would likely have to withdraw its military presence from the area. This may mean that America just doesn’t see the military and political value in resolving the tensions between the Koreas and a nuclear disarmament by the DPRK.

China, however, has a lot more to gain by seeing peace develop here. It gets to realize a decreased risk of nuclear violence, originating with the North Korean regime, the possibility to gain market access to North Korea and a land route with the South, providing a generous economic opportunity, and the ability to incorporate the Korean peninsula into its panAsian economic initiatives.

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

But rather than make that possibility less of a potential reality by withdrawing from the peace process, in much the same manner as was pursued in the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord, the JCPOA, Trump is effectively leaving the way wide open for the Chinese, and the Russians, who would also be a part of such initiatives, to walk in and help broker a deal.

If this were to happen, it could be orchestrated without the input of the American deep state, and without the need to credit Trump with achieving something that is essentially a northeast Asian affair, both economically and politically. Therefore, rather than potentially scoring himself a landmark victory here, Trump is effectively ensuring a diplomatic defeat by allowing his geopolitical rivals the open opportunity to do what he has now refused.




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Charles Pettibone

Well, this didn’t age well.


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

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

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

The Duran



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10 percent of American F-22 fighter jets damaged by Hurricane Michael

Part of the reason the F-22’s were left in the path of the storm is that they were broken and too expensive to fix or fly.

Seraphim Hanisch



Note to the wise: When a hurricane comes, move your planes out of the way. Especially your really expensive F-22 fighter planes. After all, those babies are $339 mil apiece. Got the message?

Apparently the US Air Force didn’t get this message. Or, did they find themselves unable to follow the message?

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The Washington Times reported Tuesday that between 17 and 20 of these top-of-the-line fighter jets were damaged, some beyond the point of repair, when Hurricane Michael slammed ashore on Mexico Beach, Florida, not far from the Tyndall Air Force Base in the same state. The Times reports that more than a dozen of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the extremely fierce storm:

President Trump’s tour Monday of devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael took him close to Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base, where more than a dozen F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the powerful storm.

The pricey fighter jets — some possibly damaged beyond repair — were caught in the widespread destruction that took at least 18 lives, flattened homes, downed trees and buckled roads from Florida to Virginia.

The decision to leave roughly $7.5 billion in aircraft in the path of a hurricane raised eyebrows, including among defense analysts who say the Pentagon’s entire high-tech strategy continues to make its fighter jets vulnerable to weather and other mishaps when they are grounded for repairs.

“This becomes sort of a self-defeating cycle where we have $400 million aircraft that can’t fly precisely because they are $400 million aircraft,” said Dan Grazier, a defense fellow at Project on Government Oversight. “If we were buying simpler aircraft then it would be a whole lot easier for the base commander to get these aircraft up and in working order, at least more of them.”

This is quite a statement. The F-22 is held to be the tip of the American air defense sword. A superb airplane (when it works), it can do things no other plane in the world can do. It boasts a radar profile the size of a marble, making it virtually undetectable by enemy radars. It is highly maneuverable with thrust-vectoring built into its engines.

However, to see a report like this is simply stunning. After all, one would expect that the best military equipment ought to be the most reliable as well. 

It appears that Hurricane Michael figuratively and physically blew the lid off any efforts to conceal a problem with these planes, and indeed with the hyper-technological basis for the US air fighting forcesThe Times continues:

Reports on the number of aircraft damaged ranged from 17 to 22 or about 10 percent of the Air Force’s F-22 fleet of 187.

The Air Force stopped buying F-22s, considered the world’s most advanced fighter jets, in 2012. The aircraft is being replaced by the F-35, another high-tech but slightly less-expensive aircraft.

Later in the tour, at an emergency command center in Georgia, Mr. Trump said the damage to the F-22s couldn’t be avoided because the aircraft were grounded and the storm moved quickly.

“We’re going to have a full report. There was some damage, not nearly as bad as we first heard,” he said when asked about the F-22s, which cost about $339 million each.

“I’m always concerned about cost. I don’t like it,” Mr. Trump said.

Still, the president remains a fan of the high-tech fighter jet.

“The F-22 is one of my all-time favorites. It is the most beautiful fighter jet in the world. One of the best,” he said.

The Air Force managed to fly 33 of the F-22s to safety, but maintenance and repair issues kept 22 of the notoriously finicky aircraft on the ground when the powerful storm hit the base.

About 49 percent of the F-22s are out of action at any given time, according to an Air Force report this year.

This is a stunning statistic. This means that of the 187 planes in existence, 90 of them are not working. At their cost, that means that over thirty billion dollars worth of military equipment is sitting around, broken, just in airplanes alone.

As a point of comparison, the entire Russian military budget for 2017 was $61 billion, with that budget producing hypersonic missiles, superb fighter aircraft and tanks. Russian fighter planes are known for being able to take harsh landing and take-off conditions that would cripple the most modern American flying machines.

It would seem that Hurricane Michael exposed a serious problem with the state of readiness of American armed forces. Thankfully that problem did not arise in combat, but it is no less serious.

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