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Will North Korea test a nuclear weapon while Trump is in Asia?

The big question looms over Trump’s first Presidential visit to Asia.

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While the substance of Donald Trump’s first Presidential trip to Asia will be largely predictable, one issue surrounding the trip carries an element of surprise: Sill North Korea test a nuclear weapon or ballistic missile while Trump is in the region?

The DPRK has a history of conducting powerful weapons tests during, after or just before prominent regional events. Most recently, this came to fruition when Pyongyang successfully tested its first hydrogen bomb hours before the BRICS summit commenced in Xiamen, China.

With the US once again flying nuclear capable B-1B Lancers near North Korea in what can only be described as a simulated bomb drop exercise, shortly before Donald Trump takes off for his trip to Asia which includes a visit to South Korea, it is fair to say that provocation is in the air.

North Korea already authored a kind of “greeting card” for Trump, which said that the US President is a “nuclear war maniac” who is “incurably mentally deranged”.

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

The question now is, will North Korea do for Trump’s visit what it did for the BRICS summit? The following items must be considered when speculating on such an event:

1. China’s anger 

It is no secret that ever since Kim Jong-un assumed power after the death of his father, China’s relations with the DPRK have plummeted. While unlike the US, China continues to respect North Korea’s sovereignty, China incrasingly considers the DPRK to be a regional headache, at a time when regional stability is Beijing’s paramount consideration, not least to insure the smooth construction of the One Belt–One Road trading and infrastructure mega-project.

At the same time, China is deeply offended by the Trump administration’s patronising rhetoric which not so subtly indicates that the DPRK is a uniquely Chinese responsibility, something which is objectively untrue, especially in 2017 when the DPRK continues to become increasingly self-sufficient and with China less and less interested in good relations with the government in Pyongyang.

CONFIRMED: North Korea has enough oil to survive embargo

Nevertheless, were North Korea to test a weapon or missile during or surrounding Trump’s visit to the region, China would be angered by the DPRK’s breaking of the regional equanimity that China has invested a great deal of political capital in. Such a weapons test would equally inure Chinese wrath for feeding the mythical narrative from the Trump White House that China is some how impotent when it comes to “controlling” the DPRK.

From Pyongyang’s perspective, there are pros and cons to angering China. The obvious cons involve further alienating a powerful neighbour and a possible vital partner, one which could be an economic lifeline should the economic situation in the DPRK deteriorate.

Geopolitical expert Andrew Korbyko describes this mentality in the following way:

“North Korea acutely understands this state of affairs, hence why it assumed that it could do whatever it wanted in terms of weapons tests and the like while taking the aforesaid Chinese aid for granted, but that appears to be changing now because of just how much he’s embarrassed China, which admittedly seems to have been on purpose.

It can never be known with any certain degree of accuracy what Kim Jong-Un or his junta backers are thinking, but observations about North Korea’s behavior suggest that it’s intentionally trying to irk China a bit because it might have gotten too paranoid about the prospects of Beijing cutting a deal with Washington against Pyongyang. Ironically, however, North Korea appears to be making this fear a self-fulfilling prophecy through its short-term actions of always trying to upstage China in the international arena.

Instead of resulting in more aid, which for all intents and purposes serves the role of bribes for the North Korean “deep state” (permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies), Kim Jong-Un risks forcing China to downscale the said assistance in order to save face in front of the international community and consequently endanger the stability of his country”.

BRICS Summit? What BRICS Summit, Kim just stole the show!

Because of this, Pyongyang will likely factor these considerations into its wider “cost benefit analysis” over a weapons test during the Trump visit.

2. The Russia Factor 

In many ways, the Soviet Union was a far closer ally to the DPRK during the Cold War than China was, both during the Mao era or the reformist Deng era.

Russia maintains better contacts with Pyongyang than most international powers and unlike China, is less offended when the DPRK does something to disturb the would be placidity of East Asia.

Unlike China, Russia, including its President Vladimir Putin, has been very frank about the fact that North Korea has legitimate fears from a US regime which toppled countries that did not have nuclear weapons. In this sense, while Russia condemns all of North Korea’s nuclear and missile testes with the same sincerity as China, Russia also accepts that the DPRK has a legitimate need for a deterrent.

In this sense, a DPRK weapons test during a Trump visit would expose the limitations of US treats as well as the limitations of Chinese economic carrots and stick tactics. This would have the effect of enhancing Russia’s role as a preferred mediator in any future agreement, such as the tripartite economic cooperation scheme between Moscow, Pyongyang and Seoul, that President Putin presented during September’s Eastern Economic Forum, an event attended by a North Korean delegation and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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

In this sense, North Korea may determine that angering China and exposing the weakness behind US threats to the DPRK, may pay off in the medium term as Russia’s stoicism in the face of such things appears to be more enduring than that of any other nation.

Russia itself would prefer the DPRK not to conduct any tests, but even if they do, Russia will not respond vengefully nor hysterically, something which works in the favour of all concerned regional players, including the DPRK.

3. The Trump Factor 

If one is to take Donald Trump’s ‘reality tv’ style threats against North Korea at face value, there is nothing more that Trump would love, than to launch a cowboy crazy attack on North Korea, ordered while he is in Asia.

The issue here is that for all of Trump’s bluster and threats, he has yet to make good on them outside of the area on continued sanctions. Furthermore, Trump’s embattled but still standing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is careful to counter Trump and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley’s hysterical threats with a far more measured and generally anti-war approach. It is also widely believed that Generals Kelly, Mattis and McMaster who are thought to hold the real power in the Trump White House, are ultimately less trigger happy than their Dr. Stranglove stereotypes would suggest.

With China stating that it will not allow a US attack on North Korea, unless North Korea strikes first (a nucleartest is not considered a strike in this scenario), Trump’s Asia visit could actually ignite a wider war in the region.

Because of the unpredictability of the Trump administration, there is an element of a ‘game of chicken’ to this scenario. Ultimately however, while Trump would scream and shout if North Korea did test a weapon during or surrounding his visit, conventional wisdom still dictates that the US would bark but not bite as a result.

Conclusion: 

The state of US relations with Asia have become so lacklustre and so predictable, that it is something of an irony that the most ‘exciting’ thing about Donald Trump’s first visit to Asia is playing the guessing game about North Korea’s possible nuclear or missile tests. This is a comment both on the state of America’s increased irrelevance in Asia, as well as the fact that for all the rhetoric and bluster on all sides, North Korea is capable of deterring military action from major superpowers.

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Macron offers crumbs to protestors in bid to save his globalist agenda (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 36.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at French President Macron’s pathetic display of leadership as he offers protestors little in the way of concessions while at the same time promising to crack down hard on any and all citizens who resort to violence.

Meanwhile France’s economy is set for a deep recession as French output and production grinds to a halt.

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Europe Has A New Problem: Macron’s “Populism” To Blow Out French Budget Deficit Far Beyond Italy’s

Via Zerohedge


As if Brussels didn’t have its hands full already with Italy and the UK, the European Union will soon be forced to rationalize why one of its favorite core members is allowed to pursue populist measures to blow out its budget deficit to ease domestic unrest while another is threatened with fines potentially amounting to billions of euros.

When blaming Russia failed to quell the widespread anger elicited by his policies, French President Emmanuel Macron tried to appease the increasingly violent “yellow vests” protesters who have sacked his capital city by offering massive tax cuts that could blow the French budget out beyond the 3% budget threshold outlined in the bloc’s fiscal rules.

Given the concessions recently offered by Italy’s populists, Macron’s couldn’t have picked a worse time to challenge the bloc’s fiscal conventions. As Bloomberg pointed out, these rules will almost certainly set the Continent’s second largest economy on a collision course with Brussels. To be clear, Macron’s offered cuts come with a price tag of about €11 billion according to Les Echos, and will leave the country with a budget gap of 3.5% of GDP in 2019, with one government official said the deficit may be higher than 3.6%.

By comparison, Italy’s initial projections put its deficit target at 2.4%, a number which Europe has repeatedly refused to consider.

Macron’s promises of fiscal stimulus – which come on top of his government’s decision to delay the planned gas-tax hikes that helped inspire the protests – were part of a broader ‘mea culpa’ offered by Macron in a speech Monday night, where he also planned to hike France’s minimum wage.

Of course, when Brussels inevitably objects, perhaps Macron could just show them this video of French police tossing a wheelchair-bound protester to the ground.

Already, the Italians are complaining.  Speaking on Tuesday, Italian cabinet undersecretary Giancarlo Giorgetti said Italy hasn’t breached the EU deficit limit. “I repeat that from the Italian government there is a reasonable approach, if there is one also from the EU a solution will be found.”

“France has several times breached the 3% deficit. Italy hasn’t done it. They are different situations. There are many indicators to assess.”

Still, as one Guardian columnist pointed out in an op-ed published Tuesday morning, the fact that the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) organizers managed to pressure Macron to cave and grant concessions after just 4 weeks of protests will only embolden them to push for even more radical demands: The collapse of the government of the supremely unpopular Macron.

Then again, with Brussels now facing certain accusations of hypocrisy, the fact that Macron was pressured into the exact same populist measures for which Italy has been slammed, the French fiasco raises the odds that Rome can pass any deficit measure it wants with the EU now forced to quietly look away even as it jawbones all the way from the bank (i.e., the German taxpayers).

“Macron’s spending will encourage Salvini and Di Maio,” said Giovanni Orsina, head of the School of Government at Rome’s Luiss-Guido Carli University. “Macron was supposed to be the spearhead of pro-European forces, if he himself is forced to challenge EU rules, Salvini and Di Maio will jump on that to push their contention that those rules are wrong.”

While we look forward to how Brussels will square this circle, markets are less excited.

Exhausted from lurching from one extreme to another following conflicting headlines, traders are already asking if “France is the new Italy.” The reason: the French OAT curve has bear steepened this morning with 10Y yields rising as much as ~6bp, with the Bund/OAT spread reaching the widest since May 2017 and the French presidential election. Though well below the peaks of last year, further widening would push the gap into levels reserved for heightened political risk.

As Bloomberg macro analyst Michael Read notes this morning, it’s hard to see a specific near-term trigger blowing out the Bund/OAT spread but the trend looks likely to slowly drift higher.

While Macron has to fight on both domestic and European fronts, he’ll need to keep peace at home to stay on top. Remember that we saw the 10Y spread widen to ~80bps around the May ’17 elections as concerns of a move toward the political fringe played out in the markets, and the French President’s popularity ratings already look far from rosy.

And just like that France may have solved the Italian crisis.

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Watch: Democrat Chuck Schumer shows his East Coast elitism on live TV

Amazing moment in which the President exhibits “transparency in government” and shows the world who the Democrat leaders really are.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the reasons Donald Trump was elected to the Presidency was because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – against Democrat policy decisions and “stupid government” in general.

One of the reasons President Donald Trump is reviled is because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – in the American political scene.

In other words, there are two reactions to the same characteristic. On Tuesday, the President did something that probably cheered and delighted a great many Americans who witnessed this.

The Democrats have been unanimous in taking any chance to roast the President, or to call for his impeachment, or to incite violence against him. But Tuesday was President Trump’s turn. He invited the two Democrat leaders, presumptive incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and then, he turned the cameras on:

As Tucker Carlson notes, the body language from Schumer was fury. The old (something)-eating grin covered up humiliation, embarrassment and probably no small amount of fear, as this whole incident was filmed and broadcast openly and transparently to the American public. Nancy Pelosi was similarly agitated, and she expressed it later after this humiliation on camera, saying, “It’s like a manhood thing for him… As if manhood could ever be associated with him.”

She didn’t stop there. According to a report from the New York Daily News, the Queen Bee took the rhetoric a step below even her sense of dignity:

Pelosi stressed she made clear to Trump there isn’t enough support in Congress for a wall and speculated the President is refusing to back down because he’s scared to run away with his tail between his legs.

“I was trying to be the mom. I can’t explain it to you. It was so wild,” Pelosi said of the Oval Office meet, which was also attended by Vice President Pence and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “It goes to show you: you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

This represented the first salvo in a major spin-job for the ultra-liberal San Francisco Democrat. The rhetoric spun by Mrs. Pelosi and Chuck Schumer was desperate as they tried to deflect their humiliation and place it back on the President:

With reporters still present, Trump boasted during the Oval meeting he would be “proud” to shutdown the government if Congress doesn’t earmark cash for his wall before a Dec. 21 spending deadline.

Pelosi told Democrats that Trump’s boisterousness will be beneficial for them.

“The fact is we did get him to say, to fully own that the shutdown was his,” Pelosi said. “That was an accomplishment.”

The press tried to characterize this as a “Trump Tantrum”, saying things like this lede:

While “discussing” a budgetary agreement for the government, President Donald Trump crossed his arms and declared: “we will shut down the government if there is no wall.”

While the Democrats and the mainstream media in the US are sure to largely buy these interpretations of the event, the fact that this matter was televised live shows that the matter was entirely different, and this will be discomfiting to all but those Democrats and Trump-dislikers that will not look at reality.

There appears to be a twofold accomplishment for the President in this confrontation:

  1. The President revealed to his support base the real nature of the conversation with the Democrat leadership, because anyone watching this broadcast (and later, video clip) saw it unedited with their own eyes. They witnessed the pettiness of both Democrats and they witnessed a President completely comfortable and confident about the situation.
  2. President Trump probably made many of his supporters cheer with the commitment to shut down the government if he doesn’t get his border wall funding. This cheering is for both the strength shown about getting the wall finished and the promise to shut the government down, and further, Mr. Trump’s assertion that he would be “proud” to shut the government down, taking complete ownership willingly, reflects a sentiment that many of his supporters share.

The usual pattern is for the media, Democrats and even some Republicans to create a “scare” narrative about government shutdowns, about how doing this is a sure-fire path to chaos and suffering for the United States.

But the educated understanding of how shutdowns work reveals something completely different. Vital services never close. However, National Parks can close partly or completely, and some non-essential government agencies are shuttered. While this is an inconvenience for the employees furloughed during the shutdown, they eventually are re-compensated for the time lost, and are likely to receive help during the shutdown period if they need it. The impact on the nation is minimal, aside from the fact that the government stops spending money at the same frenetic pace as usual.

President Trump’s expression of willingness to do this action and his singling out of the Dem leadership gives the Democrats a real problem. Now the entire country sees their nature. As President Trump is a populist, this visceral display of Democrat opposition and pettiness will make at least some impact on the population, even that group of people who are not Trump fans.

The media reaction and that of the Democrats here show, amazingly, that after three years-plus of Donald Trump being a thorn in their side, they still do not understand how he works, and they also cannot match it against their expected “norms” of establishment behavior.

This may be a brilliant masterstroke, and it also may be followed up by more. The President relishes head-to-head conflict. The reactions of these congress members showed who they really are.

Let the games begin.

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French opposition rejects Macron’s concessions to Yellow Vests, some demand ‘citizen revolution’

Mélenchon: “I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.”

RT

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Via RT…


Macron’s concessions to the Yellow Vests has failed to appease protesters and opposition politicians, such as Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who called for “citizen’s revolution” to continue until a fair distribution of wealth is achieved.

Immediately after French President Macron declared a “social and economic state of emergency” in response to large-scale protests by members of the Yellow Vest movement, promising a range of concessions to address their grievances, left-wing opposition politician Mélenchon called on the grassroots campaign to continue their revolution next Saturday.

I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.

Macron’s promise of a €100 minimum wage increase, tax-free overtime pay and end-of-year bonuses, Mélenchon argued, will not affect any “considerable part” of the French population. Yet the leader of La France Insoumise stressed that the “decision” to rise up rests with “those who are in action.”

“We expect a real redistribution of wealth,” Benoît Hamon, a former presidential candidate and the founder of the Mouvement Génération, told BFM TV, accusing Macron’s package of measures that benefit the rich.

The Socialist Party’s first secretary, Olivier Faure, also slammed Macron’s financial concessions to struggling workers, noting that his general “course has not changed.”

Although welcoming certain tax measures, Marine Le Pen, president of the National Rally (previously National Front), accused the president’s “model” of governance based on “wild globalization, financialization of the economy, unfair competition,” of failing to address the social and cultural consequences of the Yellow Vest movement.

Macron’s speech was a “great comedy,”according to Debout la France chairman, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who accused the French President of “hypocrisy.”

Yet many found Melanchon’s calls to rise up against the government unreasonable, accusing the 67-year-old opposition politician of being an “opportunist” and “populist,” who is trying to hijack the social protest movement for his own gain.

Furthermore, some 54 percent of French believe the Yellow Vests achieved their goals and want rallies to stop, OpinionWay survey showed. While half of the survey respondents considered Macron’s anti-crisis measures unconvincing, another 49 percent found the president to be successful in addressing the demands of the protesters. Some 68 percent of those polled following Macron’s speech on Monday especially welcomed the increase in the minimum wage, while 78 percent favored tax cuts.

The Yellow Vest protests against pension cuts and fuel tax hikes last month were organized and kept strong via social media, without help from France’s powerful labor unions or official political parties. Some noted that such a mass mobilization of all levels of society managed to achieve unprecedented concessions from the government, which the unions failed to negotiate over the last three decades.

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