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Donald Trump’s first trip to Asia is set to be a predictable failure

It starts with a “greeting” from North Korea and will end with Trump coming face to face with Asian countries that need and want less and less from the United States.

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Donald Trump is set to begin a trip to several East and South East Asian countries beginning at the weekend. His trip includes stops in Japan, South Korea, Philippines and Vietnam.

In many ways, Trump’s trip can already be consigned to the realm of useless predictability, simply because the countries of Asia are moving in such a way, that regional events are now far more impactful than any statements or actions, short of a war, that any US leader is capable of instigating.

1. Philippines 

The biggest disappointment for Trump will most likely be Philippines. In a short year, due to the epoch shifting leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte, Philippines has shaken its tunnel-vision style relationship with the US and has opened up to new relations with countries across Asia and Eurasia, including China and Russia.

Russia is expanding security ties with the former US colony which saw Russia deliver thousands of free arms to Philippines as well as multiple military vehicles. The recent visit of Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu to Manila as part of a Russian Naval flotilla, is a further sign of Philippines’ historically good relations with Moscow.

Duterte welcomes Russian Naval ships to Philippines as military cooperation pact is signed

During Duterte’s first presidential visit to China, President Xi Jinping hailed Duterte’s rapprochement with Beijing as something that would usher in a “golden era” of good relations between China and Philippines. Already, Chinese firms are preparing to build new modern districts in Manila and China looks to play a vital role in the re-development of Marawi, the southern Philippine city that was recently liberated from the ISIS-Maute group after a five month long siege.

Against this backdrop, there is little the US can do to build new ties with Philippines. While the US still maintains a prominent presence in the country, President Duterte has frequently stated that he remains intent on breaking free of the colonial mentality, in spite of any offers the US might bring.

While Duterte personally loathed Barack Obama, once famously calling him a “son of a whore”, he has frequently said that he respects Donald Trump’s more straightforward rhetoric.

Because of this, it is likely that Duterte and Trump will have a good personal relationship. Leaked transcripts of a phone call between the two already indicates that they enjoy speaking to one another.

However, this will not likely translate into any new meaningful agreements between Washington and Manila, not least because the US Congress has steadfastly worked to undermine Duterte because of his anti-colonial and anti-drug policies.

Trump will end up leaving a country that the US once took for granted, with ultimately nothing to show.

2. South Korea 

If his speech to the UN is anything to go by, Trump’s brief one day visit to South Korea may well become eventful in terms of Trump’s threatening rhetoric against the DPRK (North Korea). However, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in is doing everything he can to turn down the tensions prior to Trump’s visit.

Seoul recently agreed not to install any more US made THAAD missile systems, after complaints from China. This indicates China’s rapidly expanding influence in East Asia, including over countries with deeply intertwined relations with the US.

Furthermore, President Moon stated that his country will never seek to develop its own nuclear arsenal, in a move that appears to be a sign that South Korea does not seek to waste its resources buying expensive US made military technology. Protests against Trump are already being planned by peace activists throughout the country.

Amid Trump’s threats to cancel a US-South Korea free trade deal, Seoul continues to move economically closer to Russia, while consolidating new economic partnerships throughout the world. During his speech at the UN, Moon even acknowledged his willingness to participate in economic cooperation schemes with the DPRK, something first touted by President Vladimir Putin at the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia. President Moon and a delegation from Pyongyang both attended the forum in Vladivostok.

Two Koreas–One Road: The future of cooperation between North Korea, South Korea and Russia

Beyond standard fraternal greetings and expressions of bi-national friendship, Donald Trump will be hosted by a South Korean leader, who unlike his imprisoned predecessor Park Geun-hye, is not sympathetic to militarism and a threatening stance towards the North.

Trump’s visit to South Korea will be largely symbolic of a relationship that South Koreans feel is one sided and increasingly detrimental to the long term interests of East Asian peace.

3. Japan 

Right-wing (by Japanese standards) Prime Minister Shinzō Abe just won a snap election which many say he will try to use to abandon Japan’s constitutionally mandated pacifism. Although the US insisted on a pacific Japanese state after 1945, today, many in the US would like Japan to expand its military position in East Asia in order to present a rival force to China and also the much smaller North Korean military.

However, Japan’s legislative system and constitution makes it incredibly difficult for Abe to enact de-pacification. Additionally, there is little popular support for such a measure. Furthermore, while Abe’s victory is being hailed by many as a landslide, his party actually won six fewer seats than in the previous 2014 elections.

In this sense, while Trump and Abe may be speaking in similar tones, it is difficult to see what will come of the visit, especially since Donald Trump withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership, a would-be free trade agreement whose aim was to rival One Belt–One Road in the Pacific. Ultimately, Trump withdrew citing domestic concerns about offshoring industrial jobs.

In this sense, friendly stagnation may well be the atmosphere surrounding Trump’s time in Tokyo.

4. Vietnam 

It’s something of an ironic fact that a US President may find himself more welcome in a Communist Vietnamese state that was the location of multiple US war crimes during the 1960s and 1970s, than in traditionally pro-US nations in Asia.

In spite of the past, Vietnam has largely embraced trade with the US as part of its post-Cold War economic liberalisation. Moreover, Vietnam is the country whose regional disputes with China continue to be felt most strongly and in this sense Washington and Hanoi have found common cause.

Even though China is Vietnam’s number one trading partner, the ancient and modern rivalry between the two states still factors heavily for the leadership in Hanoi.

In this sense, it will be interesting to see how much Donald Trump indulges the leadership of Vietnam in anti-Chinese rhetoric. As Trump continues to vacillate between patronising and insulting China, Beijing will be keenly listening to what he says when in Vietnam. If he takes things too far in respect of anti-Chinese rhetoric, China will be deeply displeased, especially if Trump comes out swinging in respect of Vietnam’s dispute with China over South China Sea territorial and maritime rights.

Thus, the only country on his visit where anything even slightly positive might transpire, is one where Trump ought to be more diplomatic and less excitable than in any of the others.

CONCLUSION: 

The foregone conclusion of failure which is all but implicit in Donald Trump’s trip to Asia, is not entirely his fault. Barack Obama’s once touted ‘pivot to Asia’ ended up with Asian countries moving further away from the US. By the end of Obama’s term, China was not only the uncontested king of the region, with many strengthened alliances as well as new partnerships, but Obama threw away a great deal of good will that had existed with China, even under the George W. Bush administration.

With China and Russia working to make Asia and Eurasia less and less dependant on the US Dollar, Washington not only has less to receive but less to give Asia. The gradual decline of America’s presence in Asia is already underway.

Russia and China actively collude to bring down the only thing America cares about

To cap things off, North Korea has published the following statement ahead of Donald Trump’s visit. It serves as a kind of ‘greeting card’ ahead of a trip that will bear few fruits for anyone:

“The mouth of Trump, master of invective ill-famed for spouting bellicose and irresponsible rhetoric, caused trouble again.

At a recent interview with Fox News, he said the U.S. is incredibly well prepared to cope with the “north’s provocation” and anyone will be “greatly shocked” to know about it.

It is nothing surprising as he reeled off the rhetoric calling for “totally destroying” a sovereign state at a UN arena, obliged to discuss peace issue, only to throw the world into consternation.

But what is worthy taking note of is his sordid wordplay before his Asian junket.

Maybe, he wanted to threaten the DPRK, embolden his stooges like Japan and south Korea and show off his “might”.

But this only proves that he has a serious headache and is pushed into the corner because of the DPRK.

Now he is introducing nuclear carrier task force and other massive strategic hardware into waters off the Korean peninsula while spreading such ambiguous phrases as “calm before storm” and “only one effective way”. He is, at the same time, making all desperate efforts to make the whole world join it in putting sanctions and pressure on the DPRK, only to see it proving ineffective.

Instead, he disclosed his true nature as a nuclear war maniac before the world and was diagnosed as “incurably mentally deranged”.

The CNN recently carried out an opinion poll and 63 percent of respondents denounced Trump’s DPRK policy as “imprudent one which escalates tension”.

There are strong assertions within the U.S. political circle calling on Trump to take his hands off Korea, and experts on the Korean issue are denouncing Trump for trying to settle the “nuclear issue of the north”, whose solution has been failed despite scores of years of endeavors, with a few improvised words. They comment that Trump is too incompetent to play the role of standing in confrontation with the DPRK as it becomes a hard challenge even to president possessed of abilities and judgment.

Yet, Trump behaves as if he will do something big, while bluffing about “full preparedness” and “big shock”. He absolutely needs medicine for curing his psychical disorder.

He even affirmatively estimated and encouraged “China’s participation in sanctions on the DPRK”, and said that “China is truly helping the U.S. over the north Korea issue”. These brownnosing words are utterly sickening and disgusting.

Trump’s wild outbursts are just the hysteric spasmodic symptom of his discomfort and fear after finding that his strategy does not work on the DPRK and the DPRK is getting stronger, instead.

Incompetent ones are apt to make a false show of power.

Now is high time that the U.S. pondered over the might of the DPRK’s state nuclear force”.

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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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Saudi Arabia trying to squirm free of Khashoggi murder (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 2.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at Saudi Arabia’s possible admission to killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi…accidentally, while they were torturing the man inside the consulate in Istanbul.

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Via Zerohedge

Even before the publication of last night’s Saudi trial balloon hinting that the kingdom would soon acknowledge that the extrajudicial killing of Jamal Khashoggi – the insider-turned dissident journalist who walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week and never walked back out – was the result of a “botched” kidnapping attempt carried out by “rogue killers” (despite reports that the US intelligence community knew that Khashoggi was being “targeted”), two realities had become increasingly clear. One: That the Saudis would avoid responsibility for the killing by pinning it on some unfortunate underling, and two: that there would be few, if any, lasting diplomatic repercussions.

And as more media organizations confirmed reports about Saudi’s plans to spin Khashoggi’s murder as a botched interrogation (we can only imagine what was said in that room to justify the use of such extreme violence), CNN calculated the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh for approximately 15 minutes early Tuesday, following his 12-hour-plus flight to the kingdom.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meeting with King Salman of Saudi Arabia lasted no more than 15 minutes, CNN estimates based on the time the top US diplomat’s motorcade arrived at the royal court and departed.

The motorcade arrived at the royal court at 11:42 a.m. (4:42 a.m. ET) and left 26 minutes later. There is a fair distance to walk from where the motorcade dropped Pompeo off to where he met the king.

While Trump said on Monday that Pompeo would travel to Turkey “if necessary”, the Saudi’s decision to “come clean” about Khashoggi’s death pretty much rendered Pompeo’s fact-finding mission unnecessary.More important are developments in Turkey, where the joint Saudi-Turkish “investigation” is turning its attention toward the home of the Saudi consul, where a black diplomatic van that departed the Saudi consulate just under two hours after Khashoggi entered was captured on camera disappearing into a garage. Some speculate that this is where the killers finished disposing of Khashoggi’s body. This comes after a “nine-hour” search of the Saudi consulate building that, according to leaks published in Al-Jazeera, turned up “evidence of tampering” by the Saudis. On Tuesday, Turkey’s foreign minister clarified that Saudi had yet to admit its role in Khashoggi’s disappearance and probable death.

Turkish investigators will carry out a search of the Saudi Consul General’s residence on Tuesday as the probe into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi continues, according to a Turkish diplomatic source.

CCTV footage released to the media from the day the Washington Post writer vanished show movement of vehicles from the consulate building to the Consul General’s residence nearby.

As speculation mounts that the incident could unseat the increasingly authoritarian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (who has already marginalized or incapacitated nearly every threat to his rule), it’s looking more likely that neither the US nor the rest of the Western world will do much to punish the world’s most important oil exporter, which can “weaponize” the oil market seemingly on a whim.

Any punishment for this flagrant violation of human rights will need to come, therefore, from the private sector, which, according to Bloomberg, could sabotage MbS’s grand Vision 2030 plan, which aims to remake the Saudi economy via a flood of foreign direct investment:

The economic strategy of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, known as MBS, is to make investment the main engine of economic growth instead of government spending, but the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi could frustrate these ambitions. Foreign direct investment, a key part of the plan to reinvent Saudi Arabia’s economy, declined sharply in 2017 and is unlikely to return to previous levels, leaving the government’s target for 2020 beyond reach, according to analysis by Bloomberg Economics. Increased policy uncertainty and, after the Khashoggi incident, the risk of reputational damage to foreign companies working in Saudi Arabia won’t help.

 

 

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