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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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Foreign Banks Are Embracing Russia’s Alternative To SWIFT, Moscow Says

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative.

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Via Zerohedge


On Friday, one day after Russia and China pledged to reduce their reliance on the dollar by increasing the amount of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan (a goal toward which much progress has already been made over the past three years), Russia’s Central Bank provided the latest update on Moscow’s alternative to US-dominated international payments network SWIFT.

Moscow started working on the project back in 2014, when international sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea inspired fears that the country’s largest banks would soon be cut off from SWIFT which, though it’s based in Belgium and claims to be politically neutral, is effectively controlled by the US Treasury.

Today, the Russian alternative, known as the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, has attracted a modest amount of support within the Russian business community, with 416 Russian companies having joined as of September, including the Russian Federal Treasury and large state corporations likeGazprom Neft and Rosneft.

And now, eight months after a senior Russian official advised that “our banks are ready to turn off SWIFT,” it appears the system has reached another milestone in its development: It’s ready to take on international partners in the quest to de-dollarize and end the US’s leverage over the international financial system. A Russian official advised that non-residents will begin joining the system “this year,” according to RT.

“Non-residents will start connecting to us this year. People are already turning to us,”said First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia Olga Skorobogatova. Earlier, the official said that by using the alternative payment system foreign firms would be able to do business with sanctioned Russian companies.

Turkey, China, India and others are among the countries that might be interested in a SWIFT alternative, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out in a speech earlier this month, the US’s willingness to blithely sanction countries from Iran to Venezuela and beyond will eventually rebound on the US economy by undermining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

To be sure, the Russians aren’t the only ones building a SWIFT alternative to help avoid US sanctions. Russia and China, along with the European Union are launching an interbank payments network known as the Special Purpose Vehicle to help companies pursue “legitimate business with Iran” in defiance of US sanctions.

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative. For one, much of Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and oil.

And as Russian trade with other US rivals increases, Moscow’s payments network will look increasingly attractive,particularly if buyers of Russian crude have no other alternatives to pay for their goods.

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US leaving INF will put nuclear non-proliferation at risk & may lead to ‘complete chaos’

The US is pulling out of a nuclear missile pact with Russia. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty requires both countries to eliminate their short and medium-range atomic missiles.

The Duran

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Via RT


If the US ditches the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), it could collapse the entire nuclear non-proliferation system, and bring nuclear war even closer, Russian officials warn.

By ending the INF, Washington risks creating a domino effect which could endanger other landmark deals like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and collapse the existing non-proliferation mechanism as we know it, senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said on Sunday.

The current iteration of the START treaty, which limits the deployment of all types of nuclear weapons, is due to expire in 2021. Kosachev, who chairs the Parliament’s Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that such an outcome pits mankind against “complete chaos in terms of nuclear weapons.”

“Now the US Western allies face a choice: either embarking on the same path, possibly leading to new war, or siding with common sense, at least for the sake of their self-preservation instinct.”

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump announced his intentions to “terminate” the INF, citing alleged violations of the deal by Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly denied undermining the treaty, pointing out that Trump has failed to produce any evidence of violations. Moreover, Russian officials insist that the deployment of US-made Mk 41 ground-based universal launching systems in Europe actually violates the agreement since the launchers are capable of firing mid-range cruise missiles.

Leonid Slutsky, who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament’s lower chamber, argued that Trump’s words are akin to placing “a huge mine under the whole disarmament process on the planet.”

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The deal effectively bans the parties from having and developing short- and mid-range missiles of all types. According to the provisions, the US was obliged to destroy Pershing I and II launcher systems and BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missiles. Moscow, meanwhile, pledged to remove the SS-20 and several other types of missiles from its nuclear arsenal.

Pershing missiles stationed in the US Army arsenal. © Hulton Archive / Getty Images ©

By scrapping the historic accord, Washington is trying to fulfill its “dream of a unipolar world,” a source within the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“This decision fits into the US policy of ditching the international agreements which impose equal obligations on it and its partners, and render the ‘exceptionalism’ concept vulnerable.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denounced Trump’s threats as “blackmail” and said that Washington wants to dismantle the INF because it views the deal as a “problem” on its course for “total domination” in the military sphere.

The issue of nuclear arms treaties is too vital for national and global security to rush into hastily-made “emotional” decisions, the official explained. Russia is expecting to hear more on the US’ plans from Trump’s top security adviser, John Bolton, who is set to hold talks in Moscow tomorrow.

President Trump has been open about unilaterally pulling the US out of various international agreements if he deems them to be damaging to national interests. Earlier this year, Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. All other signatories to the landmark agreement, including Russia, China, and the EU, decided to stick to the deal, while blasting Trump for leaving.

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Converting Khashoggi into Cash

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose.

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The hazard of writing about the Saudis’ absurd gyrations as they seek to avoid blame for the murder of the late, not notably great journalist and Muslim Brotherhood activist Jamal Khashoggi is that by the time a sentence is finished, the landscape may have changed again.

As though right on cue, the narrative has just taken another sharp turn.

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has ‘fessed up (sorta) and admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose:

Y’see, it was kinda’f an ‘accident.’

Oops…

Y’see the guys were arguing, and … uh … a fistfight broke out.

Yeah, that’s it … a ‘fistfight.’

And before you know it poor Jamal had gone all to pieces.

Y’see?

Must’ve been a helluva fistfight.

The figurative digital ink wasn’t even dry on that whopper before American politicos in both parties were calling it out:

  • “To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement,” tweeted Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement. Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince. It’s hard to find this latest ‘explanation‘ as credible.”
  • California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the new Saudi explanation is “not credible.” “If Khashoggi was fighting inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him,” Schiff said. “The kingdom and all involved in this brutal murder must be held accountable, and if the Trump administration will not take the lead, Congress must.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan must think he’s already died and gone to his eternal recreation in the amorous embraces of the dark-eyed houris. The acid test for the viability of Riyadh’s newest transparent lie is whether the Turks actually have, as they claim, live recordings of Khashoggi’s interrogation, torture, murder, and dismemberment (not necessarily in that order) – and if they do, when Erdogan decides it’s the right time to release them.

Erdogan has got the Saudis over a barrel and he’ll squeeze everything he can out of them.

From the beginning, the Khashoggi story wasn’t really about the fate of one man. The Saudis have been getting away with bloody murder, literally, for years. They’re daily slaughtering the civilian population of Yemen with American and British help, with barely a ho-hum from the sensitive consciences always ready to invoke the so-called “responsibility to protect” Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, Syria, Xinjiang, Rakhine, and so forth.

Where’s the responsibility not to help a crazed bunch of Wahhabist head-choppers kill people?

But now, just one guy meets a grisly end and suddenly it’s the most important homicide since the Lindbergh baby.

What gives?

Is it because Khashoggi was part of the MSM aristocracy, on account of his relationship with the Washington Post?

Was it because of his other, darker, connections? As related by Moon of Alabama: “Khashoggi was a rather shady guy. A ‘journalist’ who was also an operator for Saudi and U.S. intelligence services. He was an early recruit of the Muslim Brotherhood.” This relationship, writes MoA, touches on the interests of pretty much everyone in the region:

“The Ottoman empire ruled over much of the Arab world. The neo-Ottoman wannabe-Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan would like to regain that historic position for Turkey. His main competition in this are the al-Sauds. They have much more money and are strategically aligned with Israel and the United States, while Turkey under Erdogan is more or less isolated. The religious-political element of the competition is represented on one side by the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘democratic’ Islamists to which Erdogan belongs, and the Wahhabi absolutists on the other side.”

With the noose tightening around Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), the risible fistfight cock-and-bull story is likely to be the best they can come up with. US President Donald Trump’s having offered his “rogue killers” opening suggests he’s willing to play along. Nobody will really be fooled, but MbS will hope he can persuade important people to pretend they are fooled.

That will mean spreading around a lot of cash. The new alchemy of converting Khashoggi dead into financial gain for the living is just one part of an obvious scheme to pull off what Libya’s Muammar Kaddafi managed after the 1988 Lockerbie bombing: offer up some underlings as the fall guys and let the top man evade responsibility. (KARMA ALERT: That didn’t do Kaddafi any good in the long run.)

In the Saudi case the Lockerbie dodge will be harder, as there are already pictures of men at the Istanbul Consulate General identified as close associates of MbS. But they’ll give it the old madrasa try anyway since it’s all they’ve got.Firings and arrests have started and one suspect has already died in a suspicious automobile “accident.” Heads will roll!

Saving MbS’s skin and his succession to the throne of his doddering father may depend on how many of the usual recipients of Saudi – let’s be honest – bribery and influence peddling will find sufficient pecuniary reason to go along. Saudi Arabia’s unofficial motto with respect to the US establishment might as well be: “The green poultice heals all wounds.”

Anyway, that’s been their experience up to now, but it also in part reflects the same arrogance that made MbS think he could continue to get away with anything. (It’s not shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, but it’s close.) Whether spreading cash around will continue to have the same salubrious effect it always has had in the past remains to be seen.

To be sure, Trump may succeed in shaking the Saudi date palm for additional billions for arms sales. That won’t necessarily turn around an image problem that may not have a remedy. But still, count on more cash going to high-price lobbying and image-control shops eager to make obscene money working for their obscene client. Some big American names are dropping are dropping Riyadh in a sudden fit of fastidiousness, but you can bet others will be eager to step into their Guccis, both in the US and in the United Kingdom. (It should never be forgotten how closely linked the US and UK establishments are in the Middle East, and to the Saudis in particular.)

It still might not work though. No matter how much expensive PR lipstick the spinmeisters put on this pig, that won’t make it kissable. It’s still a pig.

Others benefitting from hanging Khashoggi’s death around MbS’s neck are:

  • Qatar (after last year’s invasion scare, there’s no doubt a bit of Schadenfreude and (figurative) champagne corks popping in Doha over MbS’s discomfiture. As one source close to the ruling al-Thani family relates, “The Qataris are stunned speechless at Saudi incompetence!” You just can’t get good help these days).

Among the losers one must count Israel and especially Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. MbS, with his contrived image as the reformer, was the Sunni “beard” he needed to get the US to assemble an “Arab NATO” (as though one NATO weren’t bad enough!) and eliminate Iran for him. It remains to be seen how far that agenda has been set back.

Whether or not MbS survives or is removed – perhaps with extreme prejudice – there’s no doubt Saudi Arabia is the big loser. Question are being asked that should have been asked years ago. As Srdja Trifkovic comments in Chronicles magazine:

“The crown prince’s recklessness in ordering the murder of Khashoggi has demonstrated that he is just a standard despot, a Mafia don with oil presiding over an extended cleptocracy of inbred parasites. The KSA will not be reformed because it is structurally not capable of reform. The regime in Riyadh which stops being a playground of great wealth, protected by a large investment in theocratic excess, would not be ‘Saudi’ any longer. Saudia delenda est.”

The first Saudi state, the Emirate of Diriyah, went belly up in 1818, with the death of head of the house of al-Saud, Abdullah bin Saud – actually, literally with his head hung on a gate in Constantinople by Erdogan’s Ottoman predecessor, Sultan Mahmud II.

The second Saudi state, Emirate of Nejd, likewise folded in 1891.

It’s long past time this third and current abomination joined its antecedents on the ash heap of history.

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