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Kim-Trump summit: Democrats put Partisanship before prospects for peace

In 1972 Democrats were able to praise Nixon for going to China, but the reaction to Trump’s summit in Singapore shows how far we’ve come since then

Joe Lauria

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This article was first published by Consortium News and is republished with the author’s permission.

When Richard Nixon returned to Washington after his historic 1972 trip to China, he was welcomed with strong support from Democrats.

“From the initial Congressional reaction, it was apparent that the President, home from his China trip, would find broad bipartisan support for his move toward closer relations with Peking,” The New York Times reported on Feb. 29, 1972.

Even Democratic Senate leaders Edward Kennedy and Mike Mansfield praised Nixon’s diplomatic gamble.

Forty-six years later President Donald Trump took a similar political risk in agreeing to the first ever summit with a North Korean leader. Cautious optimism emerged from the summit that peace on the Korean peninsula may finally be within reach 65 years after a truce silenced the guns of the Korean War.

But instead of the support Nixon received from the opposition party, Trump has been blasted by Democrats, who’ve put any prospect for peace behind their partisan quest to regain power.

“It sure looks as if President Trump was hoodwinked in Singapore,” wrote liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on Tuesday. “Trump seemed to believe he had achieved some remarkable agreement, but the concessions were all his own.”

“Kim seems to have completely out-negotiated Trump, and it’s scary that Trump doesn’t seem to realize this,” Kristoff wrote.

Nixon toasting Zhou.

The Times editorial board was even harsher. “President Trump was on his best behavior, as is so often the case when he is dealing with dictators,” it wrote. “Mr. Trump was even more effusive about Mr. Kim after their session, sounding more like he was deconstructing a blind date than analyzing a diplomatic meeting.”

In case the reader didn’t get the message the editorial went on: “Whatever he does or does not understand about history or policy or statecraft, Mr. Trump has a keen sense of how to engage authoritarian thugs who crave respect and legitimacy. It’s how he’s wired.”

And then it piled on: “Mr. Trump has a deep and abiding fondness for strongmen … The more ruthlessly they have had to act to hold on to power, the more he respects them.”

“Dealing with men like Mr. Kim is, on some level, comfortable ground for Mr. Trump,” the Times editorial said. “Such negotiations are a higher-stakes, global version of the world he came up in, one of cutthroat real estate developers and shady businessmen and mobsters. … The world sneers at strongmen like Mr. Kim, Mr. Putin and Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, regarding them as uncivilized thugs, and Mr. Trump feels similarly disrespected. Dispositionally speaking, these are Mr. Trump’s people.”

A Beginning, Not an End

There wasn’t a word about what the two leaders agreed to in Singapore, namely the start—not the end—of what Trump called “an arduous process” that could lead to peace on the Korean peninsula. Trump could not have been clearer. He even said he could be wrong if the agreement is not realized.

The Times editorial never mentioned the agreement. In essence both sides agreed to work towards a peace treaty to end the Korean War, and the U.S. agreed to provide security guarantees to North Korea in exchange for the denuclearization of the peninsula. This was always meant to be a broad agreement on principles at the summit to kick start the indeed arduous negotiations to follow.

That the Times editorial board purposely ignored this fact to score cheap partisan points could not be clearer. The risks inherent in war on the peninsula, which should be of bi-partisan concern, were apparently of no concern to the editors on Eighth Avenue who decidedly took the low road.  By contrast, the 1972 Times editorial said Nixon’s summit, though it was only the start of negotiations, contained “concrete achievements.” And Times‘ columnist James Reston called the summit “Mr. Nixon’s Finest Hour.”

Senate Democrats were no less uncharitable to Trump, seizing what they thought was an opportunity to score partisan points, while ignoring the promise the summit holds. “What the United States has gained is vague and unverifiable at best,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “What North Korea has gained, however, is tangible and lasting. By granting a meeting with Chairman Kim, President Trump has granted a brutal and repressive dictatorship, the international legitimacy it has long craved.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said: “In his haste to reach an agreement, President Trump elevated North Korea to the level of the United States while preserving the regime’s status quo.”

The questions asked at Trump’s post-summit press conference is illustrative of the partisan nature of today’s press. He was repeatedly asked about giving away the store without getting anything in return. But Trump made clear he had already gotten the return of three American prisoners, had gotten a commitment for the remains of Americans killed in the Korean War to be returned, and most crucially, a promise to begin the task of denuclearization.

America’s devastation of North Korea. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Yes it’s a promise. But the process has to begin somewhere. The very hard work to make that happen will begin now, and no peace loving person would not want to give it a chance instead of seeking to gain  short-sighted partisan advantage.

Trump said sanctions would remain and that war games with South Korea could resume if the deal does not materialize. After the devastation wrought by the United Sates on North Korea 65 years ago Trump incredibly agreed that those war games were seen as provocations by the North. He is being roasted for putting himself in the position of his adversary and seeing things as they do—a fundamental principle of diplomacy, and presumably journalism too.

The press also badgered Trump about North Korean human rights. They wanted to know how he could make a deal with such a repressive country. Would the alternative be war to enforce human rights? Trump said human rights were raised with Kim but were separate from the imperative of denuclearization. He felt that if peace were achieved and the North Korean economy improved (with the likely participation of U.S. corporations) that human rights would improve.

Turning the Tables

I’m disappointed Kim Jong-un did not take the opportunity to raise with Trump the utterly dismal US human rights record, from mass incarceration of millions to rampant police murder of Black citizens,” tweeted Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the website The Electronic Intifada. “Any credible deal must be predicated on US respecting its own people.”

Journalist Max Blumenthal tweeted: “The US committed genocide during the Korean War, killing 20% of North Korea’s population, burning literally all of its cities to the ground w/ napalm, & nearly nuking it. Today it threatens w extermination. Reporters must ask Kim how he can make peace with such a brutal country.”

“Democrats attacking Trump from the Right on Korean Summit,” added writer and filmmaker Tariq Ali in a tweet. “Pity Obama didn’t have the guts to visit Teheran.”

What we are witnessing is an inability, or unwillingness, to break down Trump’s positions and examine each one individually, something that Democrats like Ted Kennedy were able to do with Nixon. But we are in a totally different era. A non-partisan approach to Trump would be able to decry his positions on climate, torture, health insurance, taxes, immigration, Iran and Palestine, and yet welcome his stated desire to lessen tensions with Russia and North Korea.

Instead we get tweets like this from former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh: “America is the brightest, most benevolent nation on earth. North Korea is the darkest, most horrific regime on Earth. We just gave them equal billing. We just sat at a table with them. There had better be something really, really good coming in return.”

Clearly some criticism of Trump for meeting Kim is bipartisan, but none of the praise is. Such an attitude of Walsh’s, andThe New York Times, rests on a misunderstanding of America that is intended to reflect well on those who conveniently leave out the darkest chapters of America’s history, of which there have been far too many. The napalming and destruction of North Korea is among them, but hardly alone.

Deleting the context of decades of election meddling, coup plotting, assassinations and invasions of sovereign lands in the reporting and editorials of august organs like the Times, indeed in the entire corporate media, leaves Americans with a comic book understanding of their history, cast adrift in a bubble from the reality of the rest of the world.

Attacking other nations’ human rights record while ignoring one’s own, or one’s allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, is classic projection designed to wash one’s conscience clean. It helps to hold a position in the post-War Western-dominated international system making it easy to convince oneself of one’s righteousness, though self-reflection would reveal that that system has become a grotesque image of its former self.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

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The only thing right about this is that the real peace maker is Kim not Trump, he had to swallow his hate for a country that utterly destroyed his and never offered any reparation, destroyed nuclear test site, released prisoners, and restarted summit talks after Trump threw his childish temper tantrum. Despite his young age he showed to be the wisest. Kim for the Nobel!

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

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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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

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“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

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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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