Posts Tagged ‘Mike Pompeo’

Real progress needed at Trump-Kim II: analysts — Is China the real Winner?

January 19, 2019

The planned second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un needs to make tangible progress on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons if it is to avoid being dismissed as “reality TV”, analysts say.

Their summit in Singapore in June was undoubtedly historic, the first ever encounter between the leaders of two nations whose forces — backed by arrays of allies from each side of the Cold War — fought each other to a standstill decades ago.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has sought to engage the North, hosting three summits with Kim

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has sought to engage the North, hosting three summits with Kim Pyeongyang Press Corps/AFP/File

The world’s media were transfixed as the pair shook hands on the verandah of a historic hotel and strolled together in its grounds, before Trump held an hour-long press conference extraordinary even by his own unique standards.

But the agreement they signed was long on rhetoric and short on details, with Kim pledging to work towards the “denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

Progress has since stalled as Pyongyang and Washington disagree over what that means and how to achieve it, with each accusing the other of dragging their feet and acting in bad faith.

Critics say North Korea has made no concrete commitments and is unlikely to surrender its atomic arsenal, while Washington’s policy of maintaining pressure through isolation and sanctions has left Pyongyang seething.

Even so the White House said Friday Trump would meet the North Korean leader again “near the end of February” at a location yet to be announced.

“Now the hard work begins,” said Harry Kazianis of the Center for the National Interest in Washington.

Image result for Harry Kazianis, photos

Harry Kazianis

“Both nations must now show at least some tangible benefits from their diplomatic efforts during a second summit, or risk their efforts being panned as nothing more than reality TV.”

– Tangible measures –

The North has carried out six nuclear tests and launched missiles capable of reaching the entire US mainland, but the exact size of its atomic armoury remains unconfirmed.

“All efforts should be poured into having the North come to the table with a complete list of its nuclear arsenal,” Kim Sung-han, professor of international relations at Korea University, told AFP.

The declaration would be a tangible step in itself, he said, adding Trump should not lift sanctions or agree to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War — when hostilities stopped in a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty — for “anything other than the list”.

When South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has sought to engage the North as he brokered the talks process, went to Pyongyang in September for his third summit with Kim, his host offered to shutter a missile-testing site and the Yongbyon nuclear complex if the US takes unspecified “corresponding measures”.

Washington has repeatedly said it expects the North to give up its nuclear arsenal, doggedly developed over decades by the Kim dynasty, at a vast cost in resources and isolation, and multiple sets of international sanctions.

But the North sees denuclearisation more broadly, seeking an end to the sanctions and what it sees as US threats against it — sometimes referencing Washington’s military deployments in the wider region, such as Japan and Guam.

An absence of a clearly-worded agreement will raise scepticism over Pyongyang’s sincerity, pointed out Lim Eul-chul, professor of North Korean studies at Kyungnam University.

“If the wording of a second summit agreement is similar to the June 12 statement, it will make it very difficult for Trump to defend his North Korea policy,” he said.

Pyongyang might agree to shut down the Yongbyon complex and a missile test centre in the presence of international inspectors, Lim said, but “only if Washington eases sanctions and agrees to the end-of-war declaration”.

And some analysts have raised concerns about recent Trump administration comments about removing the threat to the US, suggesting that could imply the North giving up its intercontinental ballistic missiles while retaining its bombs and the ability to threaten its near neighbours.

– Good to talk? –

The issues are complex and the details will be key. But unlike other such diplomatic processes, there have not been repeated rounds of lower-level talks to prepare for the second Kim-Trump summit.

Stephen Biegun, the US special representative on North Korea, is to attend a conference in Sweden starting Saturday that will involve Pyongyang officials.

He is expected to sit down with Choe Son Hui, a top North Korean diplomat intimately involved in the US-North Korean relationship.

For the next summit to go well, Biegun and Choe “need to spend scores of hours talking in the next weeks”, tweeted Ankit Panda of the Federation of American Scientists.

But there was a “fundamental tension” between the two sides, MIT professor Vipin Narang responded: “For the summit to be worthwhile for the US, the working level talks have to make a lot of progress. But for the summit to be worthwhile for NK, they want to make as little progress as possible”.



Image result for xi jinping, Kim Jong Un, Great Hall of the people, january 2019, pictures
Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Tuesday. PHOTO: SHEN HONG/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Related image

Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping met in China’s in Dalian, northeast China’s Liaoning Province, on May 7-8, 2018

Otto Warmbier

“In all areas related to the enjoyment of economic and social rights, including health, housing, education, social security, employment, food, water and sanitation, much of the country’s population is being left behind.”


Trump-Kim summit: Second meeting by end of February

January 19, 2019

US President Donald Trump is to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for a second summit by the end of February, the White House says.

The announcement came after Mr Trump met top North Korean negotiator Kim Yong-chol at the White House.

US President Donald Trump (R) meets with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore, 12 June 2018

He had been expected to deliver a letter from Kim Jong-un to Mr Trump.

Little progress has been made on denuclearisation since their historic summit in Singapore last June. No venue has been announced for the new summit.

Speculation is mounting that it could be held in Vietnam.

Kim Yong-chol’s visit to Washington is the first sign of movement in nuclear diplomacy with North Korea for months, BBC state department correspondent Barbara Plett Usher reports.

It is not clear what the reported letter from Kim Jong-un contained. But it was expected to lay the groundwork for another summit, our correspondent adds.

President Trump said he was looking forward to the talks.

His press secretary Sarah Sanders said after the White House meeting that progress in the talks on denuclearisation continued, but added: “The United States is going to continue to keep pressure and sanctions on North Korea.”

What has happened since the last summit?

Not very much was agreed on in the Singapore summit, so there is little to measure success by.

Nukes, Trump Towers and human rights – what might peace look like between the US and North Korea?

Nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled, no detailed account of North Korea’s nuclear facilities has been provided and sanctions are still firmly in place.

Mr Kim however, has been busy boosting his global image. He’s improved relations with neighbouring South Korea, and both countries have destroyed guard posts along the heavily guarded demilitarised zone – and paid trips to each other’s countries.

Ties between North Korea and China also appear to have improved, with Mr Kim making multiple trips to Beijing to meet President Xi.

What was achieved at the Singapore summit?

The summit was historic for the fact that it happened at all – but on paper, all it really achieved was a vaguely-phrased agreement in which both countries agreed to work towards denuclearisation.

Trump Kim summit: Win-win, or a Kim win?

It was never really made clear what denuclearisation would entail – the agreement did not include any timeline, details or mechanisms to verify this process.

If there is a second summit, many will be expecting something more concrete to come out of it. Both North Korea and the US are unlikely to get away with calling another vague agreement a success.

Where is North Korea’s nuclear programme currently at?

North Korea hasn’t conducted a missile test since the summit. It’s also dismantled a nuclear testing site and a key missile engine facility.

It did however test out a new “high-tech” tactical weapon last November – its first official report of a weapons test in a year. This however, was not taken to represent a huge threat.

But it’s still not clear how many nuclear facilities still exist in North Korea.

A report after last year’s summit identified the extent of North Korea’s network of missile bases.

How is North Korea evading sanctions?

However, this is not a breach of the Singapore agreement – as North Korea has not made any commitment to halt any weapons development or shut down its missile bases.

Will the new summit actually happen?

It should. Both sides appear to want it to happen.

The last summit was a rollercoaster in itself – it was cancelled, and then restarted after a hand-delivered letter to Mr Trump from Mr Kim.

It’s not impossible that something similar might happen again – we’ll just have to wait and see. This time, however, a letter appears to have arrived early enough.

See also:

White House announces second Trump-Kim summit

Vietnam ‘willing’ to host Trump-Kim summit: report

January 18, 2019

Vietnam’s premier has said his country is willing to host a much-anticipated second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

One of North Korea’s top generals Kim Yong Chol is expected to meet with Trump at the White House on Friday to hash out details of a second meeting with Kim, including a potential venue.

The coastal city of Danang has been mentioned as a possible venue for the second Trump-Kim summit

The coastal city of Danang has been mentioned as a possible venue for the second Trump-Kim summit AFP/File

The second round of talks follow a historic summit in Singapore last year and are aimed at denuclearisation and ending decades of enmity between the two nations.

Vietnam has cropped up in the swirl of rumours and conjecture over a possible site for the meeting, with the capital Hanoi or the coastal city of Danang seemingly the most likely bases for the summit.

On Thursday Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said he would be open to hosting it.

“We don’t know the final decision. However, if it happens here we will do our best to facilitate the meeting,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

“Vietnam has cooperated well with the US in developing economic and trade relations, as well as in other areas.”

A Vietnamese government source who wished to remain anonymous told AFP “logistical preparations” were under for a Trump-Kim summit although “no official decision” had been made.

“There is lots of work to be done, not only for Danang but some other locations for the event. The Vietnamese side is ready to host… but it is not up to us to decide.”

Like several other Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam maintains diplomatic ties with both communist-run Pyongyang and Washington and is keen to host major global events as it tries to project a more confident global profile.

Communist Vietnam hosted a major Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in the central city of Danang last year attended by global leaders, including Trump.

Hanoi welcomed North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho in November for a visit reportedly aimed at sharing lessons from its economic success story.

The foreign ministry told AFP that Vietnam “supports constructive efforts to solve disputes through peaceful dialogue… on the Korean peninsula in particular,” in a statement earlier this month.

Trump has said he is eager to meet with Kim again after their historic summit in June, the first ever meeting between two sitting leaders from two countries that never formally ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

The leaders agreed on a vaguely-worded statement in which Kim pledged to work towards “the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

But progress has since stalled with the two sides disagreeing over what that means.

Kim is hoping for an easing of international sanctions but the United States insists on maintaining maximum pressure until Pyongyang moves forward on giving up its nuclear weapons.



Top N. Korea official in Washington for talks on new Trump-Kim summit

January 18, 2019

A top North Korean general is in Washington Friday for a rare visit, during which he is expected to meet President Donald Trump as the two countries seek to finalize a new summit aimed at denuclearization and easing decades of hostility.

Kim Yong Chol, a right-hand man to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, arrived Thursday evening in the US capital, the latest peace-making mission just a year after once-soaring tensions began to abate.

The North Korean negotiator abruptly canceled his last planned talks in the United States — a meeting set two months ago in New York with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — and this time the administration has treaded cautiously, not announcing his visit in advance.

Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP (file photo) | North Korea’s Kim Yong Chol (front C) arrives for a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (back R) in Pyongyang on July 6, 2018.

But an American source, who could not be identified as the schedule has not been announced, said that Pompeo would welcome Kim on Friday for a meal in Washington before the two are expected to head together to the White House.

Trump has repeatedly voiced eagerness to see Kim Jong Un again after their landmark June summit in Singapore, the first meeting ever between sitting leaders from the two countries that never formally ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

Trump has repeatedly hailed his diplomacy as a triumph, recently saying there would have been “a nice big fat war in Asia” if it were not for him.

He has said to expect an announcement soon about the second summit, with diplomats seeing Vietnam and Thailand as possible venues.

In a sign that frictions have eased since the official’s no-show in November, Trump — who has mused that he and Kim Jong Un are “in love” — said he received a warm new letter from the North Korean leader earlier this month.

For Trump, the made-for-television summitry with the young and elusive North Korean leader also offers a welcome respite from news at home.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is probing whether Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia, and his insistence that Congress fund a wall on the Mexican border has shuttered the US government for nearly a month.

What does ‘denuclearization’ mean?

For Kim, the stakes are more existential as he seeks guarantees of the survival of his regime.

Kim, backed by ally China as well as South Korea’s dovish government, is also hoping for an easing of international sanctions, but the United States insists on maintaining maximum pressure until Pyongyang moves forward on giving up its nuclear weapons.

In Singapore, Kim promised his “unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

But the two sides appear to have different ideas on how to define that, with the United States expecting North Korea to give up nuclear weapons assembled over decades of work and Pyongyang more broadly seeking an end to what it sees as US threats.

“I think there is somewhat of a general consensus of what denuclearization means. I think there is obviously still disagreement on how to get there — whether denuclearization is the end of the process or the process itself,” said Jenny Town, managing editor of the 38 North web journal on North Korea policy at the Stimson Center.

“Realistically, they can talk about it all they want to, they can define the end goal, but if you don’t have a common understanding of how to get there, you’re not going to reach that common goal,” she said.

She noted that Americans have traditionally preferred to hash out the details of agreements before big summits, while the type of leader-driven diplomacy favored by Trump is more common in Asia.

“People have been very skeptical of this top-down approach, but we won’t know unless we try it,” she said.

Pompeo in a recent interview voiced hope at reaching a deal with North Korea that would “create a much better, safer America” but cautioned that it was unlikely to be finished during the next summit.


U.S. Calls Canadian’s Death Sentence in China ‘Politically Motivated’

January 17, 2019
Beijing’s action poses global threat, Trudeau minister warns
Tensions escalate further in feud over Huawei executive
Robert Lloyd Schellenberg is seen at the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court in Dalian, China, in this photograph made available on Jan. 14, 2019.Source: Dalian Intermediate People’s Court

The U.S. State Department said a death sentence issued to a Canadian this week in China was a political decision, with Justin Trudeau’s top diplomat calling the detention of two other men a threat to all nations.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, speaking to reporters near Montreal, said Canada is in a “difficult moment” after the arrest of a top Huawei Technologies Co. executive last month in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition request. Nine days after that, a Canadian diplomat and a businessman were seized separately by state security officers in China.

Chrystia Freeland

Photographer: David Kawai/Bloomberg

“Our government has been energetically reaching out to our allies and explaining that the arbitrary detentions of Canadians aren’t just about Canada,” Freeland said Wednesday. “They represent a way of behaving which is a threat to all countries.’’

On Tuesday, she spoke about the escalating tensions with her U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. His office backed Canada’s effort to increase international pressure on China in a summary of the call issued Wednesday morning.

Freeland and Pompeo shared their concerns over the detentions and the “politically motivated sentencing of Canadian nationals,” a State Department spokesman said in the statement. They also reiterated their “commitment to Canada’s conduct of a fair, unbiased, and transparent legal proceeding” in response to the American request to extradite Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of the Chinese telecom giant’s founder.

Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on Jan. 10.

Photographer: Ben Nelms/Bloomberg

Death Penalty

Meng is free on bail pending her next court hearing. But Michael Kovrig, who was on leave from his foreign service posting in Hong Kong, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who ran tours into North Korea, remain in Chinese custody. The third Canadian, Robert Schellenberg, had an earlier 15-year sentence on drug smuggling charges increased to execution after a Chinese court ruled on his appeal Monday.

Michael Kovrig

Source: International Crisis Group

“My first priority by far is to do everything in my capacity to secure the release of the two Michaels as quickly as possible, and to help to save the life of Mr. Schellenberg,” John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, told reporters Wednesday evening before a meeting with Trudeau’s cabinet in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

“I have visited all three of them, I have spoken to all of their families, I will be speaking tomorrow to Mr. Schellenberg’s father, so I am determined to do what I can — and there are various things we are doing — to secure their release and his life. Our work is consumed every day by these priorities.”

Read more about Huawei’s founder breaking his silence on the case

Freeland and Trudeau have also sought support from President Donald Trump and leaders of other nations including Germany, Argentina and New Zealand. Those efforts have drawn fresh rebukes from Chinese officials.

The foreign minister is also talking with Canadian executives with operations in China about how to handle new tensions around international travel. China earlier this week matched a Canadian travel warning about the risk of arbitrary law enforcement.

Another sign of frayed relations came Wednesday with the Globe and Mail newspaper reporting that Canada has protested China’s questioning of Kovrig over his past diplomatic work in that country. Canada brought in Chinese Ambassador Lu Shaye to discuss the case, the newspaper said, citing unnamed officials.

Trudeau accused China last week of violating the principles of diplomatic immunity, and Freeland mentioned international support for that idea too. “Some of the statements from our partners have said that it’s very important that the Vienna Convention be upheld,’’ she said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying has said repeatedly the immunity claim makes Canada a “laughing stock’’ because Kovrig entered the country on a business visa.


U.S., Canada express solidarity amid China’s death sentence for Canadian

January 17, 2019

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Canadian counterpart  Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland expressed solidarity about the treatment of Canadians in China after Canada’s arrest of Huawei Technologies Co HWT.UL chief financial officer, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday.

Related image

In a phone call on Tuesday, the two diplomats “expressed their concerns about the arbitrary detentions and politically motivated sentencing of Canadian nationals” in China, the department said in a statement. The two supported Canada’s legal proceedings and the United States’ extradition request for Huawei official Meng Wanzhou.

Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Doina Chiacu


US says satellite attempt shows Iran threat

January 16, 2019

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday accused Iran of posing a missile threat after Tehran defied his warnings and tried to put a satellite into orbit, albeit unsuccessfully.

Pompeo renewed his charge that the launch defied UN Security Council resolution 2231 of 2015, which endorsed an international agreement, from which the United States has withdrawn, on ending Iran’s nuclear weapons.

“In defiance of the international community & UNSCR 2231, Iran’s regime fired off a space launch vehicle today,” Pompeo tweeted.

“The launch yet again shows that Iran is pursuing enhanced missile capabilities that threaten Europe and the Middle East,” he wrote.

Related image

Another satellite, named Doosti, was waiting to be launched.

Under the nuclear deal – which Washington pulled out of last spring before reimposing sanctions – the country is “called upon” to refrain from work for up to eight years on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons.

Related image

Former Iranian President and father of Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

President Hassan Rouhani said Washington was waging an economic war against Tehran in order to get concessions on the missile program, but “is not able to build a wall around Iran”.

Related image

Iran-backed Houthis fighters in yemen launch a ballistic missile into Saudi Arabia

The reaction was relatively muted for a member of President Donald Trump’s administration, which has ramped up pressure for months on Iran in hopes of crippling its economy and scaling back its influence in the region.

Iran’s telecommunications minister said the country successfully launched the Payam satellite but that it failed to be placed into orbit.

The United States and Israel say Iran can use technical know-how from satellite launches to develop long-range missiles, an opinion not shared by all Western experts.

Iran says it has the right to satellite launches as well as missile tests, saying it needs to defend itself against real threats and that the activities do not involve a nuclear component.



Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel had attacked Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria hundreds of times. (AFP)

Russia Challenges U.S. Compliance With Nuclear Treaty

January 15, 2019

Moscow escalates dispute over New Start arms deal with letter to Senate committee

Image result for B-52, pictures, LANCE CHEUNG, ZUMA PRESS

Under the New Start accord with the Russia, the U.S. developed procedures to convert B-52H bombers so the aircraft can‘t fire nuclear-armed cruise missiles. PHOTO: LANCE CHEUNG/ZUMA PRESS

Russia has stepped up criticism of U.S. efforts to implement a major strategic arms treaty with an unusual message to lawmakers accusing Washington of undermining the agreement.

The dispute centers on the procedures the U.S. has devised to shrink its long-range nuclear forces under the New Start treaty, an accord that has regulated the arms race with Moscow since 2011, as the two sides approach a decision on whether to extend the pact.

The procedures had been debated for several years by American and Russian experts behind closed doors—until Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov toughened the stance in late December by calling the U.S. practices a violation of the treaty.

Related image
After Sergei Ryabkov in late December called U.S. practices a violation of the New Start accord, the State Department called in a Russian Embassy official to clarify if the deputy foreign minister, shown here at a briefing in November, was speaking for himself or his government. PHOTO:SERGEI FADEICHEV/ZUMA PRESS

The comments transformed the discussions by specialists into a political conflict that has added to tensions between Washington and Moscow.

Russian officials reinforced Mr. Ryabkov’s complaint by sending U.S. lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee an 11-page paper that exposes confidential diplomatic discussions between the U.S. and Russian officials over how to reduce the nuclear arms covered by the accord.

The document includes a subtle but unmistakable warning: that the failure to resolve the dispute could damage the prospects for renewing the New Start treaty when it expires in two years.

“In the worst case scenario these problems might potentially disrupt prospects for its extension after 2021,” says the Russian paper, which is dated December and was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The paper suggests that Moscow doesn’t intend to let the matter drop.


“We cannot confirm full implementation by the United States of its obligations,” it states. “We shall continue to point out this situation in the course of bilateral contacts on all levels, as well as direct the attention of the international community to this absolutely abnormal state of affairs.”

Trump administration officials have reacted sharply to the Russian moves, asserting that Moscow is trying to divert attention from longstanding U.S. allegations that Russia has violated another arms-control deal, the 1980’s-era accord on intermediate-range forces, known as the INF treaty.

Image result for INF treaty, Iskander missiles, pictures

Russian Iskander missile — A subject of the INF treaty

“The U.S. is in full compliance with its New Start obligations,” said a senior State Department official. “This is the result of the pressure we are applying on the INF violation.”

But with the INF treaty on the verge of collapse, arms-control experts said the escalating debate over New Start could undermine chances for preserving the last major nuclear-weapons accord between the U.S. and Russia.

Image result for Putin, nuclear weapons, photos

“What was once a technical implementation issue has now become a political one,” said Pranay Vaddi, a former State Department official who is at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The stakes in the strategic relationship couldn’t be higher.”

While U.S.-Russian relations have been buffeted by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its interference in the 2016 election, Moscow and Washington have been carrying out New Start, which entered in to force in 2011, with little drama.

In February 2018, the two sides declared that they had met the treaty’s requirement that each side reduce its deployed force to 1,550 warheads and 700 long-range missiles and bombers. Unlike with the INF treaty, the State Department has certified that Russian government is adhering to New Start.

But New Start has its critics, including national security adviser John Bolton and President Trump, who called it a “one-sided deal” in 2017.

The White House is in the early stages of considering whether to keep the accord, which can be extended for up to five years by mutual consent after it expires in February 2021.

The technical issues at the center of the debate have a long history. When Obama administration officials were negotiating the New Start treaty, they sought a way to reduce the number of nuclear warheads without destroying the costly bombers and submarines that carry them.

The result was a provision that allows the U.S. develop ways to convert dozens of its B-52H bombers to a nonnuclear role by making changes to the aircraft so they can‘t fire nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

The U.S. has also reduced the number of launch tubes on its Trident II submarines from 24 to 20. This was done by sealing four of the tubes and removing components that would enable them to fire ballistic missiles.

U.S. officials say the arrangements are adequate and comply with the treaty. But Russian experts have complained they are hard to verify and easy to reverse.

In an effort to assuage Moscow’s concerns, the Russian paper reveals, the Trump administration offered in December 2017 to provide a written commitment by a cabinet-level official that it wouldn’t reverse the changes during the duration of the treaty. It also offered to let the Russians took a closer look at the white steel cover used to seal the submarine launch tubes.

The U.S. proposal, which was made while Rex Tillerson was secretary of state and Jim Mattis was secretary of defense, was made on the condition that these steps would settle the dispute and no further negotiation would be required.

The Russians responded that these moves were a step in the right direction, but insisted on additional steps such as looking inside the submarine missile launchers the U.S. has converted.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a summit with President Trump in Helsinki in July that Russia was interested in extending New Start. But he added there were still some questions on compliance “for experts to decide.”

Mr. Ryabkov’s statement that the U.S. has violated the accord raised the stakes. The day after his comments, the State Department called in a Russian Embassy official to clarify if the deputy foreign minister was speaking for himself or his government.

So far, Russia hasn’t responded, U.S. officials said.

Some Trump administration officials see the Russian complaints as an attempt to politicize procedural nuclear questions and rewrite the terms of a treaty about which they already have questions.

“Russia appears to be intent on undermining yet another arms control agreement with its specious rhetoric,” said a senior Trump administration official.

Supporters of New Start assert that it is vital to preserve the agreement and that the differences can be worked out.

“Russian concerns about U.S. conversion of nuclear systems to nonnuclear functions are well-known and can and should be resolved in a professional manner and without delay,” said Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan organization that supports arms control.

Sergey Koshelev, the deputy chief of mission at the Russian Embassy, declined to respond to specific questions. He said New Start issues should be resolved “in a mutually acceptable way.”

Write to Michael R. Gordon at

Erdogan ‘saddened’ by Trump threat to ‘devastate’ Turkish economy

January 15, 2019

Turkish president discussed possible safe zone for Kurds in phone call with president Trump

By Laura Pitel in Istanbul

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he discussed the idea of setting up a 20-mile safe zone in northern Syria during a “positive” phone call with Donald Trump on Tuesday. Mr Erdogan said that he had been “saddened” by Mr Trump’s threats, issued on Twitter on Sunday night, to “devastate Turkey economically” if it followed through on a threat to attack Kurdish forces in north east Syria.

But he said that the two leaders had reached an understanding “of historic importance” during a telephone conversation on Monday. “It was a positive phone call,” Mr Erdogan said, according to a report of his comments by BBC Turkish. “He once again confirmed his decision to withdraw from Syria.”

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, above, described his phone call regarding safe zones in Syria with US president, Donald Trump, as positive. (AFP)

The Turkish leader said that Mr Trump had raised the prospect of “a safe zone, to be created by us, along the border with Turkey” on the Syrian side. “We agreed that our teams’ discussions on all the subjects on the agenda will continue,” he said. In a tweet after their call, Mr Trump said that he had advised the Turkish president on “where we stand on all matters including our last two weeks of success in fighting the remnants of ISIS, and 20 mile safe zone.”

He added: “Also spoke about economic development between the US & Turkey — great potential to substantially expand!” Turkey has for years supported the idea of a safe zone in northern Syria. Mr Trump appears to have seized upon the idea as a way of containing the backlash after his abrupt announcement last month that US troops would withdraw. Kurdish forces played a central role in the US-led campaign against Isis jihadis.

The forces have warned that the American pullout is a betrayal that leaves them vulnerable to an attack by Turkey, which views Kurdish militias as domestic terrorists who represent a security threat. Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, told reporters in Riyadh this week that discussions on the creation of a buffer zone were ongoing.

“We want to make sure that the folks who fought with us to down [Isis] have security . . . and also that terrorists acting out of Syria aren’t able to attack Turkey,” he said.

“We want a secure border for all the parties.” Some military analysts believe that a negotiated agreement to create such a zone could be a realistic compromise, allowing Turkey to protect its border without triggering a full onslaught by the Turkish military that would risk angering the US.

Many questions remain, however, about who would monitor the area, what would happen if Kurdish armed groups refused to give up territory, and whether the plan would be accepted by the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who is his most important backer.


Turkey vows to continue fight Kurdish militia after Trump threat

January 14, 2019

Spokesperson for Turkish leader Erdogan says US needs to honor its strategic partnership, can’t be allied with ‘terrorists’

A Turkish convoy of trucks carrying tanks destined for Syria is pictured near the town of Reyhanli, Turkey, September 13, 2018. (Ersin Ercan/DHA via AP)

A Turkish convoy of trucks carrying tanks destined for Syria is pictured near the town of Reyhanli, Turkey, September 13, 2018. (Ersin Ercan/DHA via AP)

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey on Monday vowed to continue fighting a US-backed Kurdish militia which it views as a terrorist group after US President Donald Trump warned of economic devastation if Ankara attacks Kurdish forces as American troops withdraw.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter that there was “no difference” between the Islamic State extremist group and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia.

“We will continue to fight against them all.”

Turkey’s response came after Trump on Sunday warned on Twitter: “Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds.”

“Mr @realDonaldTrump Terrorists can’t be your partners & allies. Turkey expects the US to honor our strategic partnership and doesn’t want it to be shadowed by terrorist propaganda,” Kalin said in a tweet to the US president.

Turkey views the YPG as a “terrorist offshoot” of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.

But Washington has been working closely in recent years with the YPG, providing military support and training, in the fight against IS in Syria.

Kalin said that it was “a fatal mistake to equate Syrian Kurds with the PKK,” saying that Turkey fought against terrorists not Syrian Kurds.

American support to the YPG has been one of the main sources of tension between Turkey and the US, but there appeared to be some improvement on the issue after Trump said last month 2,000 American troops would withdraw from Syria.

Ankara welcomed the pullout decision after Erdogan told Trump in a phone call last month that Turkey could finish off the last remnants of IS.

However, there has been growing friction between Turkey and the US over the fate of the YPG, especially after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo previously said Washington would ensure Turkey would not “slaughter” Kurds.

And before a visit to Ankara last week, White House National Security adviser John Bolton said the US retreat was conditional on the safety of the Kurdish fighters, provoking angry retorts from Turkish officials.