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So what happened to Donald Trump’s Korean War 2.0?

The fact that April has passed with no military action in the Korean Peninsula taking place and the crisis unresolved shows talk of unilateral US military action was a bluff.

Alexander Mercouris

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News that North Korea has tested a ballistic missile which hit the Sea of Japan 500 kilometres from the Russian coastline begs the question of what happened to the great crisis in the Korean Peninsula that the world media was talking about so excitedly throughout much of April?

As The Duran’s readers may recall, during April the headlines were filled with stories of North Korea planning a sixth nuclear test, of President Trump warning of the US being prepared to take unilateral action if North Korea’s nuclear programme was not stopped, of the the US carrier Carl Vinson with its accompanying “armada” closing on North Korea and of the US submarine USS Michigan with its vast battery of cruise missiles doing the same, of the entire US Senate being called to the White House to be briefed about the threat from North Korea, of the ‘Mother of All Bombs’ being dropped on ISIS in Afghanistan as a ‘warning’ to North Korea, and of Wang Yi – China’s Foreign Minister – warning that war might break out on the Korean Peninsula at any moment.

In the event April has passed with no sign of a North Korean nuclear test and no military action by the US.  North Korea since then has dropped out of the news whilst South Korea has elected a new more liberal minded President – Moon Jae-in – who seems intent on reducing tensions in the Korean Peninsula, has spoken of his desire to travel to North Korea to meet with Kim Jong-un, and who within a day of his inauguration spoke over the telephone with Russia’s President Putin, with the Kremlin’s summary of their conversation containing these interesting words that appear to signal Moon Jae-in’s strong opposition to any attack on North Korea

While exchanging views on the situation on the Korean Peninsula, both leaders underlined the importance of finding ways to resolve the crisis politically and diplomatically.

(bold italics added)

Whilst unilateral military action against North Korea by the US against South Korean opposition might in theory be possible, in practice it would be politically extremely difficult.  The fact that President Moon Jae-in appears to oppose it makes it extremely unlikely it will happen.

So why did the war that seemed so near to happening in April never happen?

I have already said why I strongly doubt the widely held view that all the talk of war in April was to provide political cover for the US to deploy THAAD to South Korea.  Briefly, THAAD was going to be deployed anyway and there was no need for the US to escalate tensions to such extraordinary levels in order to achieve it and the risk involved in escalating tensions was far too great to justify doing it for such a purpose.

There is a possibility that war was averted because North Korea was deterred by the threats issuing from the US, and that this explains why it did not carry out a nuclear test.  Alternatively it may be that US threats scared China to threaten North Korea with all embracing sanctions – including supposedly a 6 month embargo on oil supplies – and that it was this which caused North Korea to put off conducting a nuclear test, which in turn took away the reason for the US to carry out a military attack.

However the problem with these theories is that we do not actually know that North Korea was planning a nuclear test in April and was deterred by the US and/or China from carrying it out.

North Korea never announces its nuclear tests in advance and when they take place it usually comes as a surprise.  Contrary to what is often claimed, there is no exact correlation between North Korean nuclear tests and North Korean public holidays, with only one nuclear test – the last test, which took place on 9th September 2016 – being held on the same day as a North Korean public holiday (the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean Republic).  The fact that North Korea was due to celebrate two important public holidays in April – the anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birth on 15th April and the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean army on 21st April – is not in itself a reason to think that a further nuclear test was planned for April to coincide with either of these days, despite widespread suggestions in the media that that was the case.

North Korea has carried out five nuclear tests in the eleven years since its first nuclear test on 9th October 2006, with two tests (one allegedly of a hydrogen bomb and one allegedly of a miniaturised nuclear device suitable for use in a missile warhead) carried out in 2016.  A sixth test in April 2017 would have meant three tests over a period of fifteen months, which would have signalled a very marked acceleration in North Korea’s nuclear test programme.  Whilst that is possible it is actually unlikely especially as computer simulations well within the abilities of North Korea’s computer technology make nuclear tests far less important today than they were during the time of the US’s and of the USSR’s nuclear test programmes in the 1950s.

North Korea has repeatedly said that it will not be deterred from carrying out nuclear tests because of threats of military action by the US.  North Korea took the unusual step at the beginning of May of also publicly criticising China for threatening sanctions in the event of a further nuclear test.  Reuters reports parts of the commentary of the Korean Central News Agency (North Korea’s official news agency) as saying the following

The KCNA commentary charged that the Chinese articles had attempted to shift the blame to Pyongyang for “deteriorated relations” between China and North Korea and U.S. deployment of strategic assets to the region.

It also accused China of “hyping up” damage caused by North Korean nuclear tests to China’s three northeastern provinces.

Chinese state media calls for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program were “a wanton violation of the independent and legitimate rights, dignity and supreme interests” of North Korea and constituted “an undisguised threat to an honest-minded neighboring country which has a long history and tradition of friendship,” it said.

The KCNA commentary said calls by “some ignorant politicians and media persons” in China for stricter sanctions on North Korea and not ruling out military intervention if it refused to abandon its nuclear program, were “based on big-power chauvinism.”

It said North Korea’s nuclear program was needed for the “existence and development” of the country and “can never be changed nor shaken.

“The DPRK will never beg for the maintenance of friendship with China,” the commentary said.

(bold italics added)

These words are an emphatic rejection by North Korea of Chinese calls for North Korea to slow down or halt its nuclear weapons programme.  Perhaps the words are bluff, but they strongly suggest that Chinese pressure to slow down or stop North Korea’s nuclear test programme is being resisted – or more probably rejected – in which case Chinese pressure almost certainly was not the reason North Korea did not carry out a nuclear test in April.

Obviously without access to classified intelligence information about the state of North Korea’s nuclear test programme it is impossible to say with any certainty whether or not North Korea planned a nuclear test in April.  However on balance it seems most likely that it did not.

It is difficult to avoid the impression that the reason no war happened in the Korean Peninsula over the course of April is because none was ever intended and that the threats of war that were issuing from the US over the course of that month were simply bluff, intended to intimidate China rather than North Korea.  If so then the reason why there has been no war and why the whole Korean crisis has abruptly dropped out of the news is because when China called the US’s bluff – during the telephone conversation between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump on 23rd April 2017 – the US had no option but to switch the whole ‘crisis’ off.

In a sense this is reassuring.  That Donald Trump was bluffing became increasingly obvious as the whole fake ‘crisis’ unfolded.  The fact that he pulled back shows that he knows how to do this when his bluff is called and moreover that he does it without rancour.

However it is never wise to fabricate an international crisis involving a nuclear armed state like North Korea as a bluff, especially if doing so is inevitably going to lead to the bluff being called.  Hopefully the President has learnt his lesson, and we will see a more conventional approach to diplomacy from the Trump administration in future.

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Bill Rood
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Bill Rood

The bluster on DPRK was simply to distract the US sheeple from the failure of the April 6 Tomahawk cruise missile attack on the al-Shayrat airbase. It needed to be forgotten, and quickly was.

Gonzogal
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Gonzogal

” simply to distract the US sheeple from the failure of the April 6 Tomahawk cruise missile attack on the al-Shayrat airbase. It needed to be forgotten, and quickly was.”

As well as the failure of the MOAB dropped on Afghanistan!

Night Wind
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Night Wind

I suspect what really happened was when Pence visited South Korea and saw first-hand how unprepared for a major war the US military really is. SK has been investigating the US base as a source of drug trafficking. It came out too during the ‘crisis’ that Okinawa, Alaska and Hawaii had no missile defenses and that our electrical grid is so outdated it has no EMP protection. Also our intel services really don’t know what NK’s capabilities really are.

Hamletquest
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Hamletquest

Also as the US intel services are at war with each other over Trump, they probably don’t have the time nor the inclination to be bothered by NK…

Penrose
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Penrose

Is THAAD operational in South Korea? Then the distraction was successful.

Ngoyo
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Ngoyo

This crisis had nothing to do with DPRK nuclear tests or China. Along with the attack on Syria it was aimed purely at the US domestic audience. Trump was distracting/confusing his domestic opponents and seizing the initiative in the the war with them.

DarkEyes
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DarkEyes

Just plain old fashioned psychological warfare. That is all. To be used for “the other activities” carried out by the deep state.

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Photos of swastika on Ukrainian mall stairway creates a stir [Video]

Ukrainian nationalist press in damage-control mode to explain away the Nazi sign, but they forgot the name of the street the mall is on.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the aspects of news about Ukraine that does not make it past the gatekeepers of the American and Western news media is how a significant contingent of Ukrainian nationalists have espoused a sense of reverence for Nazis. The idea that this could even happen anywhere in the world in an open manner makes the claim seem too absurd to be taken seriously. Gone are the days when the Nazi swastika adorned streets and buildings in Europe. Right?

Well, maybe, wrong.

This was seen in Kyiv’s Gorodok (or Horodok, if you insist) Gallery, a shopping center in that city, located on Bandera Avenue.

The pro-nationalist news service UNIAN wasted no time going to press with their explanation of this incident, which admittedly may be accurate:

Children and teenagers who participated in the All-Ukrainian break dance festival held in the Kyiv-based Gorodok Gallery shopping mall were shocked to see a swastika image projected onto an LED staircase.

The mall administration apologized to visitors, explaining saying that their computer system had apparently been hacked.

“The administration and staff have no relation to whatever was projected onto the LED-staircase, and in no way does it support such [an] act. Now we are actively searching for those involved in the attack,” it said in a statement.

According to Gorodok Gallery’s administrative office, it was not the first time a cyber breach took place.

As reported earlier, Ukraine is believed to be a testing ground for cyberattacks, many of which are launched from Russia. Hackers have earlier targeted critical energy infrastructure, state institutions, banks, and large businesses.

This time, it appears, hackers aimed to feed the Kremlin’s narrative of “Nazis in power in Ukraine” and create a relevant hype-driving viral story for Russian media to spread it worldwide.

The Gorodok Gallery also apologized on its Facebook page and said that this was a result of hacking.

But what about the street that the mall is on? From the self-same Facebook page, this is what we see:


To translate, for those who do not read Ukrainian or Russian, the address says the following:

23 Steven Bandera Prospekt, Kyiv, Ukraine 04073

This street was formerly called “Moscow Avenue.” Big change, as we shall see.

Steven Bandera got his birthday designated as a national holiday in Ukraine last December. He is known in Ukraine’s history for one thing. According to the Jerusalem Post:

The street where the shopping mall is located is named for Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who briefly collaborated with Nazi Germany in its fight against Russia.

His troops are believed to have killed thousands of Jews.

Several Israeli papers picked this bit of news up, and of course, the reasons are understandable. However, for the West, it appears possible that this news event will largely go unnoticed, even by that great nation that is often called “Israel’s proxy”, the United States.

This is probably because for certain people in the US, there is a sense of desperation to mask the nature of events that are happening in Ukraine.

The usual fare of mainstream news for the West probably consists of things like “Putin’s military seizes innocent Ukrainian sailors in Kerch incident” or, “Ukraine’s Orthodox Church declared fully independent by Patriarch of Constantinople” (not that too many Americans know what a Constantinople even is, anyway), but the overriding narrative for the American people about this country is “Ukraine are the good guys, and Russia are the bad guys,” and this will not be pushed aside, even to accommodate the logical grievance of Israel to this incident.

If this article gets to Western papers at all, it will be the UNIAN line they adhere to, that evil pro-Russia hackers caused this stairway to have a swastika to provoke the idea that Ukraine somehow supports Naziism.

But UNIAN neglected to mention that the street name was recently changed to Stephan Bandera (in 2016), and no one appears to have hacked this. Nor does UNIAN talk about the Azov fighters that openly espoused much of the Nazi ideology. For nationalist Ukrainians, this is all for the greater good of getting rid of all things Russia.

A further sad fact about this is the near impossibility of getting assuredly honest and neutral information about this and other similar happenings. Both Ukrainian nationalists and Russian media agencies have dogs in the race, so to speak. They are both personally connected to these events. However, the Russian media cannot be discounted here, because they do offer a witness and perspective, probably the closest to any objective look at what is going on in Ukraine. We include a video of a “torchlight march” that took place in 2017 that featured such hypernationalist activity, which is not reported in the West.

More such reports are available, but this one seemed the best one to summarize the character of what is going on in the country.

While we do not know the motive and identities of whoever programmed the swastika, it cannot really be stated that this was just a random publicity stunt in a country that has no relationship with Nazi veneration.

The street the mall is on bears witness to that.

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It’s Back to the Iran-Contra Days Under Trump

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Wayne Madsen, via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Showing that he is adopting the neoconservative playbook every day he remains in office, Donald Trump handed the neocons a major win when he appointed Iran-contra scandal felon Elliott Abrams as his special envoy on Venezuela. Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to two counts of withholding information on the secret sale of US weapons for cash to help illegally supply weapons to the Nicaraguan right-wing contras, who were battling against the government of President Daniel Ortega. Abrams would have headed to a federal prison, but President George H. W. Bush, an unindicted co-conspirator in the scandal, issued pardons to Abrams and his five fellow conspirators – former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, and former Central Intelligence Agency officials Alan Fiers, Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, and Clair George – on Christmas Eve 1991, during the final weeks of Bush’s lame duck administration.

Abrams escaped being charged with more serious crimes by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh because he cut a last-minute deal with federal prosecutors. Trump, who has made no secret of his disdain for cooperating federal witnesses, would have normally called Abrams a “rat,” a gangster term meaning informant. The man who helped engineer the pardons for Abrams and his five convicted friends was none other than Bush’s Attorney General, William Barr, who has just been sworn in as Trump’s Attorney General. Trump, who is always decrying the presence of the “deep state” that thwarts his very move, has become the chief guardian of that entity.

During a recent hearing of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, newly-minted congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, reminded her colleagues and the world about the sordid background of Abrams.

Omar zeroed in on Abrams’s criminal history:

“Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful.”

Abrams, as is the nature of neocons, refused to respond to Omar and cited her comments as “personal attacks.”

Abrams’s and his fellow criminals’ use of mercenaries and “death squads” to conduct secret wars in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s has made a re-entrance under Trump. Abrams was brought on board by neocons like National Security Adviser John Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to oversee a US military build-up in Colombia, said to be 5000 US troops, to support Venezuelan paramilitary and military efforts to topple President Nicolas Maduro. Abrams and Bolton are also believed to have retained the services of another unindicted conspirator in the Iran-contra affair, Michael Ledeen, a colleague of the disgraced and convicted former Trump National Security Adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Ledeen and Flynn co-authored a book titled, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies.” The book contains nothing more than the standard neocon tripe one might expect from the likes of Ledeen.

An official investigation of the Iran-contra scandal by the late Republican Senator John Tower of Texas concluded that Abrams’s and Ledeen’s friend, Iranian-Jewish middleman Manucher Ghorbanifar, a long-time Mossad asset and well-known prevaricator, was extremely instrumental in establishing the back-channel arms deals with Iran. Ghorbanifar has long been on the CIA “burn list” as an untrustworthy charlatan, along with others in the Middle East of similar sketchy credentials, including the Iraq’s Ahmad Chalabi, Syria’s Farid “Frank” Ghadry, and Lebanon’s Samir “Sami” Geagea. These individuals, however, were warmly embraced by neocons like Abrams and his associates.

Abrams, whose links with Israeli intelligence has always been a point of consternation with US counter-intelligence officials, is part of an old cabal of right-wing anti-Soviet Democrats who coalesced around Senator Henry Jackson in the 1970s. Along with Abrams, this group of war hawks included Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, William Kristol, Douglas Feith, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Abram Shulsky, and Paul Wolfowitz. Later, this group would have its fingerprints on major US foreign policy debacles, ranging from Nicaragua and Grenada to Lebanon, Iraq, and Libya. Later, in December 2000, these neocons managed to convince president-elect George W. Bush of the need to “democratize” the Middle East. That policy would later bring not democracy but disaster to the Arab Middle East and North Africa.

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela. They have old scores to settle with Nicaraguan President Ortega. The initiation of “regime change” operations in Nicaragua, supported by the CIA and the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami, have been ongoing for more than a year.

The Trump administration has already achieved a regime change victory of sorts in El Salvador. Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, who was expelled from the formerly-ruling left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) party and joined the right-wing GANA party, was recently elected president of El Salvador. Bukele has quickly re-aligned his country’s policies with those of the Trump administration. Bukele has referred to President Maduro of Venezuela as a “dictator.” He has also criticized the former FMLN government’s recognition of China and severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan. It will be interesting to see how a sycophant like Bukele will politically survive as Trump continues to call hapless asylum-seeking migrants from his country, who seek residency in the United States, “rapists, gang monsters, murderers, and drug smugglers.”

Another country heading for a US-installed “banana republic” dictator is Haiti. President Jovenal Moise has seen rioting in the streets of Port-au-Prince as the US State Department removed all “non-essential” personnel from the country. Moise, whose country has received $2 billion in oil relief from Venezuela, to help offset rising fuel prices, has continued to support the Maduro government. However, at the US-run and neo-colonial artifice, the Organization of American States (OAS), Moise’s envoys have been under tremendous pressure to cut ties with Venezuela and recognize the US puppet Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president. Moise’s refusal to do so resulted in armed gangs hitting the streets of Port-au-Prince demanding Moise’s resignation. It is the same neocon “regime change” playbook being used in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

There will be similar attempts to replace pro-Maduro governments in his remaining allies in the region. These include Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Abrams was also brought in as an adviser on Middle East policy in the George W. Bush administration. The carnage of Iraq is a stark testament to his record. In 2005, it was reported that two key Bush White House officials – Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams – gave a “wink and a nod” for the assassinations by Israeli-paid operatives of three key Lebanese political figures seeking a rapprochement with Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah – Member of Parliament Elie Hobeika, former Lebanese Communist Party chief George Hawi, and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In 2008, a United Nations panel headed by former Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare later concluded Hariri was assassinated by a “criminal network” and not by either Syrian and Lebanese intelligence or Lebanese Hezbollah as proffered by Abrams and his friends in Washington.

Representative Omar was spot on in questioning why Abrams, whose name is as disgraced as his two fellow conspirators – Oliver North and John Poindexter – whose criminal convictions were overturned on appeal, is working for the Trump administration on Venezuela. The answer is that the neocons, who can sense, like raptors, Trump’s political weakness, have filled the vacuum left by top-level vacancies in the administration.

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Putin: If mid-range missiles deployed in Europe, Russia will station arms to strike decision centers

Putin: If US deploys mid-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to respond.

RT

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Via RT…


If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will respond by stationing weapons aimed not only against missiles themselves, but also at command and control centers, from which a launch order would come.

The warning came from President Vladimir Putin, who announced Russia’s planned actions after the US withdraws from the INF Treaty – a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow which banned both sides form having ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles and developing relevant technology.

The US is set to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty in six months, which opens the possibility of once again deploying these missiles in Europe. Russia would see that as a major threat and respond with its own deployments, Putin said.

Intermediate-range missiles were banned and removed from Europe because they would leave a very short window of opportunity for the other side to decide whether to fire in retaliation after detecting a launch – mere minutes. This poses the threat of an accidental nuclear exchange triggered by a false launch warning, with the officer in charge having no time to double check.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapon systems, which can be used not only against the territories from which this direct threat would be projected, but also against those territories where decision centers are located, from which an order to use those weapons against us may come.” The Russian president, who was delivering a keynote address to the Russian parliament on Wednesday, did not elaborate on whether any counter-deployment would only target US command-and-control sites in Europe or would also include targets on American soil.

He did say the Russian weapon system in terms of flight times and other specifications would “correspond” to those targeting Russia.

“We know how to do it and we will implement those plans without a delay once the relevant threats against us materialize,”he said.

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