Posts Tagged ‘Trump administration’

Despite Trump Move, Utilities’ Shift From Coal Is Set to Continue

March 28, 2017

Curbs on carbon emissions may be eased, but companies are sticking with plans to invest in power from gas, wind and solar

Marshall Steam Station, a coal-fired power plant in North Carolina owned by utility Duke Energy.

Marshall Steam Station, a coal-fired power plant in North Carolina owned by utility Duke Energy. PHOTO: ROLF SCHULTEN/GETTY IMAGES

The Trump administration’s expected move to roll back President Obama’s signature climate-change policy may extend the life of some aging coal-fired power plants, but companies and energy experts say it is unlikely to reverse the U.S. utility industry’s shift to natural gas, solar and wind as leading sources of electricity.

President Donald Trump is expected Tuesday to sign an executive order that would begin to reverse the Clean Power Plan, which would have required utilities to reduce power-plant carbon-dioxide emissions to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. The order also rolls back guidance from the Council on Environmental Quality on climate change and rescinds a temporary ban on new coal leases on federal lands, a senior White House official said Monday night.

While the action may give a reprieve to some coal-fired plants facing extinction, large utilities say they will continue long-term investments to generate more power from gas, wind and solar, which are being driven by economic as well as regulatory forces. The White House official said Monday that the order is part of the president’s promise to restore the coal sector, but the official acknowledged that merely repealing the regulations wouldn’t bring back jobs.

Cheap U.S. natural gas unlocked by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has prompted many companies to scrap older coal plants in favor of gas-fired plants, which require fewer workers to operate. Companies are also taking advantage of tax credits for renewable power to build out solar and wind farms, which are becoming more cost-competitive with fossil-fuel generation thanks to economies of scale and advances in technology.

Duke Energy Corp. says it plans to invest $11 billion in natural gas and renewable power generation over the next 10 years, as the company aims by 2026 to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by 35% from 2005 levels.

That represents a long-term company strategy and isn’t likely to change, Duke Chief Executive Lynn Good said in a February interview. The utility’s power generating mix is now 34% coal and 28% natural gas, compared with 61% coal and 5% gas in 2005. By 2026, it estimates gas will be the dominant fuel, followed by coal, nuclear and renewable power.

“Because of the competitive price of natural gas and the declining price of renewables, continuing to drive carbon out makes sense for us,” said Ms. Good. “Administrations will change during the life of our business and our assets, and we’ll continue to move forward in a way that makes sense for our investors and our customers.”

Southern Co. plans to invest at least $1 billion a year over the next five years in new wind farms. It now uses natural gas to generate 47% of its power, with coal providing 31%, nuclear 15%, and hydropower, wind, solar and other renewable sources 7%.

“Going forward, we anticipate an increase in renewable generation capacity and declining utilization of coal,” said Terrell McCollum, a spokesman for the Atlanta-based utility.

U.S. utilities generated more electricity from natural gas than from coal last year. Power from coal plants fell to 3.4 million megawatt-hours a day in 2016 to supply 30% of U.S. generation, down from 33% in 2015, according to the U.S. Energy Department. Natural-gas plants supplied 3.8 million megawatt-hours daily, or 34% of total power supplies this past year, up from 33% the previous year.

Hydropower and other renewables generated 1.7 million megawatt-hours daily, or about 15% this past year, up from 13% in 2015. Nuclear plants contributed 20%, and petroleum and other sources produced the rest.

Without the Clean Power Plan, however, the Energy Department expects coal-fired generation from existing plants to rise and natural gas-fired generation to fall by 2020, followed by another reversal after 2030 when it anticipates gas will exceed coal again.

The extent of a coal recovery will depend largely on the price utilities pay for gas, which averaged about $3 a million British thermal units last year. The department predicts it will rise to more than $4.50 in 2020, and $5 in 2029.

Many energy companies face state requirements to increase renewable power generation and are coming under pressure from large investors such as pension funds and university endowments to clean up their operations.

More pension funds, university endowments and other funds are divesting from companies that burn coal over concerns about the environment, said Fiona Reynolds, managing director at Principles for Responsible Investment, a London-based nonprofit that helps funds figure out how to cut the carbon footprint of their investments. “Investors want to see companies that are moving away from coal, to other energies,” she said.

Nearly 700 institutions worth more than $5 trillion have pledged to divest from fossil fuel companies, according to a December report by consulting firm Arabella Advisors.

Still, some coal plants that are economical to run, particularly those owned by rural electric cooperatives in states where coal is plentiful, are likely to enjoy longer lives without the carbon rule.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative, based in Bismarck, N.D., was among the power generators that fought the Clean Power Plan in court. It was concerned it would be forced to shut down coal plants it is still paying off, and replace them with new gas plants and wind farms, at a cost of $5 billion.

“We’re building natural gas and wind, but that doesn’t mean we would take a perfectly functioning coal facility and not consider that a valuable resource as well,” said Mike Eggl, a spokesman for Basin Electric.

Write to Cassandra Sweet at cassandra.sweet@wsj.com

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After GOP Bill’s Failure, Health-Law Lawsuit Takes Center Stage

March 27, 2017

Republicans could undo much of the Affordable Care Act by stepping up challenge to its insurance subsidies

A lawsuit by House Republicans seeks to stop government payments reimbursing insurers for subsidies that lower costs for about six million people who get insurance on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges.

A lawsuit by House Republicans seeks to stop government payments reimbursing insurers for subsidies that lower costs for about six million people who get insurance on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. PHOTO: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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President Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers, seeking to regroup following the collapse of the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, have an option for gutting the health law relatively quickly: They could halt billions in payments insurers get under the law.

House Republicans were already challenging those payments in court as invalid. Their lawsuit to stop the payments, which they call illegal, was suspended as Republicans pushed to replace the ACA, but it could now resume—or the Trump administration could decline to contest it and simply drop the payments. Mr. Trump could unilaterally end the payments regardless of the lawsuit.

Such actions would stop the government payments reimbursing insurers for subsidies that lower the cost of deductibles, copayments and coinsurance for about six million people who obtain insurance on the ACA’s exchanges.

Insurers would lose billions of dollars in expected funding and would likely flee the ACA’s exchanges, a foundation of the health law where millions of people obtain coverage. Some Republicans have argued that a meltdown of the ACA could force lawmakers—particularly Democrats—back to the bargaining table.

But the path forward is unclear and insurers are pressing for a quick decision on the lawsuit as they decide whether to participate on the exchanges next year.

The subsidies “are really vital,” said Craig Garthwaite, director of the health-care program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “They make the insurance a much more usable product for people. They are a critical part.”

The subsidies decision crystallizes the broader dilemma facing Republicans following their failure to replace the ACA. They have the power to accomplish some of their goals by weakening the law through administrative action. But that risks a backlash from voters who lose insurance.

If the ACA implodes, Republicans say voters would blame Democrats since they enacted the ACA. Democrats say it is the GOP that would suffer if the law collapses on the Republicans’ watch because they hold unified power in Washington.

The office of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) didn’t respond Monday to a request for comment.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that the Trump administration would continue seeking ways to tackle health care, including potentially working with Democrats.

“We’re not saying it’s the end of health care. We are looking for a way forward,” Mr. Spicer said. “A lot of members on both sides have reached out, not just to the president but to members of the team with ways they think would make the bill stronger.”

House Republicans filed the lawsuit seeking to block the ACA subsidies in 2014, when former President Barack Obama was still in office, asserting the payments were made without the required congressional appropriation.

The Obama administration argued the funds were made available in another part of the ACA that provided money from the U.S. Treasury for other subsidies that reduce the cost of health insurance.

A federal judge in 2016 ruled the government payments were improper but let the subsidy payments continue while an appeal was pursued. After Mr. Trump was elected, Republicans requested and received an initial delay in the case.

In February, the Trump administration and House Republicans asked for an indefinite delay, with three-month updates beginning in May, to allow time for a resolution. That could have given Congress breathing room to pass a health bill upending much of the ACA and enacting its replacement.

Following last week’s failure of Republicans to rally around a bill overturning the ACA, the lawsuit is now center stage.

The case could drag out for years. But if the Trump administration settles the suit and drops the appeal, payments would cease and insurers would likely increase premiums or abandon the exchanges. The payments would otherwise amount to roughly $130 billion from 2017 through 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

If the administration ended the payments, Congress would have to approve funding if lawmakers decided they wanted the subsidies to continue. That could be a tough sell because many Republicans are still calling for the ACA to be struck down.

Mick Mulvaney, Mr. Trump’s budget director, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that health care will be revisited when the ACA “breaks,” adding, “Because it’s going to break. And I think that’s the one thing that folks have not started talking about yet.”

Even an uncertain prospect for the payments might be enough to spook insurers from participating in the exchanges in 2018, further imperiling the insurance marketplaces. Insurers must decide by June, or earlier in some states, whether to participate in the exchanges next year.

Funding the cost-sharing reductions is an important piece that will stabilize the markets for 2018, said Kristine Grow, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the major trade association representing insurers.

Humana Inc. has said it is leaving the exchanges and two other insurers, Molina Healthcare Inc. and Anthem Inc., have said they would consider pulling back. Some Republican senators, including Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee, have expressed alarm at the prospect of weakening the ACA exchanges further without a replacement plan.

The administration could continue to make the payments. The Trump administration had taken steps to help woo insurers to participate in 2018, a sign it wanted to stabilize the ACA markets and keep them functioning.

But health analysts say following the GOP’s plan’s defeat, the president could change his approach and seek to undermine the law as a way to restart negotiations. Mr. Trump said in a Saturday tweet that “ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE. Do not worry!”

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has been a critic of the cost-sharing subsidies targeted by the lawsuit.

“Trump has the ability to force Congress back to the bargaining table by ending the Democrats illegal Obamacare bailouts,” said Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute.

For insurers, the decision by the Trump administration will be the clearest signal yet on whether the president is looking to bolster the ACA or tear it down.

“It opens the door to whether they’re looking to expedite the implosion of the ACA or try to make it work,” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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White House Opens Door to Democrats in Wake of Health-Bill Failure

March 27, 2017

Move signals Trump administration is fed up with many factions in House Republican conference

‘I think it’s time for our folks to come together, I also think it’s time to potentially get a few moderate Democrats on board as well,’ White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, seen last week, said Sunday.

‘I think it’s time for our folks to come together, I also think it’s time to potentially get a few moderate Democrats on board as well,’ White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, seen last week, said Sunday. PHOTO: ALEX BRANDON/ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON—The White House sent a warning shot to congressional Republicans that it may increase its outreach to Democrats if it can’t get the support of hard-line conservatives, a potential shift in legislative strategy that could affect drug prices, the future of a tax overhaul and budgetary priorities.

Days after the House GOP health bill collapsed due to a lack of support from Republicans, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus brought up the idea of working with Democrats multiple times, leaving little doubt that the White House intended to send a message to the hard-line Republican flank.

“This president is not going to be a partisan president,” Mr. Priebus said on “Fox News Sunday.” He said that while “I think it’s time for our folks to come together, I also think it’s time to potentially get a few moderate Democrats on board as well.”

President Donald Trump could face hurdles in enacting his agenda if he can’t broaden his coalition, even though Republicans control both chambers of Congress. Markets have rallied since his election on the prospects that he would drive through tax cuts, boost infrastructure spending and cut regulations, giving a jolt to the economy.

The unraveling of the health bill last week calls into question how easily that broader agenda will be achieved, and could lead some investors to moderate their enthusiasm. The health bill was pulled from the House floor shortly before the markets closed on Friday, meaning that Monday will provide a more complete picture of investor sentiment.

On Friday, Mr. Trump repeatedly said he was willing to work with Democrats on a new health bill. Earlier this month, he met with House Democrats and told them he wanted to work with them on legislation to allow the government to negotiate for lower drug prices. Mr. Trump has also repeatedly talked about a large infrastructure project to rebuild the nation’s roads and bridges—a measure that also could bring both sides to the table.

Whether the Trump administration can work with Democrats remains an open question, but Mr. Trump will have two opportunities in coming months to shift his legislative strategy.

The first comes over a spending bill that will need to be passed to replace a current measure that runs through April 28. Congress and the White House will have to sort through divides over whether to increase military spending at the expense of domestic programs, a perennial fight.

The White House and Republicans have also made an overhaul of the tax code their next big legislative priority, a matter that is particularly fraught.

If Mr. Trump produces a middle-class tax cut, there could be Democratic support. But his campaign plans featured significant rate cuts for high-income households, including a repeal of the estate tax. Tax policies along those lines wouldn’t find much favor among Democrats.

“I don’t think they’re headed in the right direction,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said on ABC’s “This Week.” “They’re going to repeat the same mistake they made on Trumpcare with tax reform.”

Mr. Trump has also flashed signs of ambivalence about working with Democrats. On Saturday, he said that unified Democratic opposition was the reason the health bill was pulled, and he has also called Mr. Schumer the Democrats’ “head clown.”

But the president and Mr. Schumer have known each other for years, and Mr. Trump has met with Senate Democrats such as Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.).

The opening of the door to potential collaboration between Mr. Trump and Democrats took place against a backdrop of Republican infighting over whom to blame for the collapse of the health bill and where to go next.

The president on Sunday took to Twitter to criticize hard-line conservatives—known as the House Freedom Caucus—who had worked to topple the GOP health plan.

“Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club for Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!” Mr. Trump wrote.

While hard-line conservatives said that legislation didn’t go far enough to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, some middle-of-the-road Republicans said that the White House had them driven away by making too many concessions to conservatives. The main concession offered last week was to strike a requirement that insurers offer plans that cover 10 essential health benefits, including maternity and mental-health services.

“A lot of the concessions that the White House was making at the end of this process were to try to appease and placate the hard right,” Rep. Charlie Dent (R., Pa.) said on “Meet the Press.”

Hard-line conservatives are defending their role in bringing down the House GOP health plan last week. Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), a former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said on “Fox News Sunday” that his group of 30 to 40 lawmakers had done the right thing because the House GOP plan fell short of party ideals.

“Instead of doing the blame game, let’s get to work,” Mr. Jordan said.

Mr. Ryan also ended up in the middle of the burgeoning controversy over who is to blame. On Saturday, Mr. Trump told his followers to “watch @JudgeJeanine on @FoxNews tonight at 9:00 P.M.” On that show, host Jeanine Pirro started her segment by saying that “Paul Ryan needs to step down as Speaker of the House” because he didn’t deliver the votes to pass the health legislation and had sold Mr. Trump “a bill of goods.”

White House officials said that Mr. Trump harbored no bad feelings toward Mr. Ryan and had promoted the show simply to help out the host.

“I’ve never seen the president, for a second, try to blame Paul Ryan for this,” Office of Management and Budget Director Director Mick Mulvaney said on “Meet the Press.”

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Mr. Ryan, said that he and the president had spoken on Sunday. “The president was clear his tweet had nothing to do with the speaker,” she said. “They are both eager to get back to work on the agenda.”

The Trump administration on Sunday provided a reminder for Democrats about why they have opposed his presidency. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt told ABC’s “This Week” that on Tuesday, Mr. Trump is expected to sign an executive order to undo President Barack Obama’s plan to curb global warming.

“If anything, Democrats are feeling greater pressure from their activist base, which has tasted victory on health care and is even more convinced now in the wisdom of an outright resistance strategy,” said Brian Fallon, a longtime Democratic aide who is now the senior adviser to Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC.

Write to Siobhan Hughes at siobhan.hughes@wsj.com

Appeared in the Mar. 27, 2017, print edition as ‘Trump Considers Bipartisan Outreach.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/white-house-opens-door-to-democrats-in-wake-of-health-bill-failure-1490547877

Trump Administration Grants Permit to TransCanada for Keystone Pipeline

March 24, 2017

Pipeline project still faces opposition from two U.S. states as well as environmentalist groups

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President Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 24 supporting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.  Evan Vucci/AP

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Updated March 24, 2017 8:50 a.m. ET

The Trump administration has signed a presidential permit for TransCanada Corp. to build Keystone XL, bringing the mammoth oil pipeline a step closer to fruition more than a year after former President Barack Obama blocked its construction..

In addition to resistance from environmental groups, the Keystone project faces state-level legal challenges in Nebraska and South Dakota that could cause further delays. If completed as planned, it would send up to 830,000 barrels of oil a day, mostly from Canada’s oil sands, to Steele City, Neb., where it would link to existing pipelines to Gulf Coast refineries.

TransCanada said Friday it will continue to engage key stakeholders and neighbors along the pipeline’s planned route throughout Nebraska, Montana and South Dakota to obtain the necessary permits and approvals.

Environmentalists have urged the rejection of the pipeline as part of a commitment to fighting climate change, while fossil-fuel companies argue such projects are essential for energy security and the economy.

“This is a significant milestone for the Keystone XL project,” TransCanada Chief Executive Russ Girling said in a press release. “We greatly appreciate President (Donald) Trump’s administration for reviewing and approving this important initiative, and we look forward to working with them as we continue to invest in and strengthen North America’s energy infrastructure.”

Write to Anne Steele at Anne.Steele@wsj.com

 

US bans laptops, tablets from cabins on flights from Middle East, North Africa

March 21, 2017
 Image may contain: 1 person, suit

U.S. Homeland Securuty Secretary John Kelly

WASHINGTON – Travellers flying to the US from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa will have to store most larger electronic devices in checked baggage under a new rule issued by the Trump administration.

The Department of Homeland Security issued an emergency directive at 3am New York time on Tuesday (3pm Tuesday, Singapore time) to carriers that fly between the airports located in eight countries and the US, reported Bloomberg.

Any electronic device larger than a mobile phone – such as laptop computers and portable DVD players – will have to go in the airplane’s cargo hold in a move to address potential security threats, according to administration officials who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity Monday evening.

The airports are located in eight countries – Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Morocco.

The affected airports are: Queen Alia International Airport, Cairo International Airport, Ataturk International Airport, King Abdulaziz International Airport, King Khalid International Airport, Kuwait International Airport, Mohammed V Airport, Hamad International Airport, Dubai International Airport, and Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Officials did not list any immediate, specific threats on the call, but rather said the new rule was based on “evaluated intelligence.” Such electronic devices have been implicated in previous attacks on airlines, one official said, pointing to a February 2016 flight by Somali-owned Daallo Airlines in which a passenger hid a bomb in a laptop computer.

TERRORIST TARGETS

“We have reason to be concerned about attempts by terrorist groups to circumvent aviation security and terrorist groups continue to target aviation interests,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Implementing additional security measures enhances our ability to mitigate further attempts against the overseas aviation industry.”

US domestic flights or flights originating in the US are not affected, according to the statement. Among the nine airlines that will have to comply are three Persian Gulf-area carriers that have grown rapidly in recent years: Emirates, Etihad Airways PJSC and Qatar Airways Ltd. The major US airlines frequently complain that the three Gulf carriers have used generous government subsidies to buy airplanes and compete unfairly.

Other airlines affected by the rule are: Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudia Airlines, Kuwait Airways and Royal Air Maroc.

The US began talking with affected airlines Sunday, one US official on the briefing call said. Airlines will have 96 hours to comply with the directive, and airlines that refuse could see their authority to fly to the US revoked.

The Homeland Security Department statement suggested that some items, such as mobile phones, were left off the restricted list for reasons of practicality.

“They can’t cover everything, they can’t control all vulnerabilities,” said Richard Bloom, an aviation security and terrorism expert at Embry – Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida.

Some of the devices that will be stored in cargo holds will contain lithium ion batteries, which have been implicated in airplane fires. The Federal Aviation Administration bans the storing of spare lithium ion batteries that are not installed from cargo holds. The International Civil Aviation Organization also advised global regulators last year to ban carrying bulk shipments of lithium ion batteries in the cargo holds of passenger jets.

But CNN quoted a US aviation official as saying that electronic devices spread out across a person’s luggage pose far less of a threat than palettes of lithium ion batteries.

There are also advantages to screening items in checked baggage instead of as carry-on luggage, reported Associated Press. It said most major airports in the US have a computer tomography or CT scanner for checked baggage, which creates a detailed picture of a bag’s contents. They can warn an operator of potentially dangerous material, and may provide better security than the X-ray machines used to screen passengers and their carry-on bags.

But the measures are likely to have limited success in curbing the terrorist threat since people will still be able to connect via hubs such as Frankfurt to target American passengers or reach the US, said Mark Martin, an aviation consultant in Dubai. He added that “when it comes to aviation, there’s a very thin line between paranoia and precaution”.

The move would be the latest by President Donald Trump’s administration to limit what it says are national security threats coming from a range of nations in the Middle East and Africa. The president earlier this month signed a second travel ban restricting entry into the US by people from six predominantly Muslim countries. That order, like the first, has been held up by the courts.

http://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/us-to-impose-cabin-ban-on-large-electronic-devices-on-middle-east-flights

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US envoy says US-EU trade deal still alive

March 21, 2017

AFP

© AFP | A container ship is moored up in Liverpool, north-west England
BRUSSELS (AFP) – Negotiations for a mega US-EU trade deal are still alive after they were suspended over elections and public opposition on both sides of the Atlantic, a senior US diplomat said Tuesday.EU officials had feared US President Donald Trump would abandon the four-year talks for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) after he withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“I would really take issue with the notion that the TTIP is dead,” said Adam Shub, who is running the US mission to the European Union pending Trump’s appointment of a new ambassador.

“We are reviewing it. You know the president’s position on TPP, but TTIP is not in that category,” Shub told the foreign affairs committee in the European parliament.

Most Europeans had assumed that Trump would kill the TTIP deal in the same way he quashed the similar TPP accord with Asia just days after taking office in January.

Tuesday’s surprise twist came after the Trump administration ruffled feathers at G20 talks over the weekend by refusing to condemn protectionism in a final statement.

Talks with the EU were put on the “backburner” or “freezer” because of elections on both sides of the Atlantic, Shub said.

“I think it was our perception that, due to the difficulty with the upcoming German election, the Netherlands election,  the French election, this was not the best climate to continue a trade negotiation that was perceived in many parts of the public as something very, very different,” he added.

“One has to be an optimist,” Shub added.

Shub said a clearer position would emerge once the Trump administration appoints a new trade representative to replace Michael Froman, who served under President Barack Obama.

Brussels and Washington had sought to get the TTIP deal through by the time Obama left office but fell short.

Kim Jong-Un releases propaganda video where North Korea ‘blows up’ an US aircraft carrier

March 21, 2017

No automatic alt text available.

  • North Korea media published a video depicting the bombing of a US air carrier
  • The country has threatened to use ‘rockets tipped with nuclear warheads’
  • It warned it could reduce the US to ‘ashes’ if ‘even a single bullet at the country’
  • Chilling threat came before Pyongyang carried out tests on new rocket engines

Kim Jong-Un released a military propaganda video depicting North Korean troops blowing up a US aircraft carrier.

The strange clip posted on Saturday by state media shows fictional footage of North Korean troops joyously destroying American planes and bombers.

A female narrator gleefully exclaims over the war footage ‘a knife will be stabbed into the throat of the carrier, while the bomber will fall from the sky after getting hit by a hail of fire’ according to Yonhap News Agency.

North Korea ‘blows up US carrier’ in new propaganda video
The military propaganda video shows North Korean troops targeting American planes 

The military propaganda video shows North Korean troops targeting American planes

The female narrator says 'a knife will be stabbed into the throat of the carrier, while the bomber will fall from the sky after getting hit by a hail of fire'

The female narrator says ‘a knife will be stabbed into the throat of the carrier, while the bomber will fall from the sky after getting hit by a hail of fire’

Hoards of North Korean troops are seen cheering on the destruction of American air carriers in the propaganda video 

Hoards of North Korean troops are seen cheering on the destruction of American air carriers in the propaganda video

The video shows ‘Foal Eagle’ military drills with America and South Korea which have long angered the North Korean government according to Newsweek.

Uriminzokkiri, the YouTube page where the video was published, has hosted other controversial clips which depict North Korean troops bombing America.

In 2013 it published a video showing a North Korean man dreaming of missiles raining down upon Washington, D.C. and New York.

The video comes as Kim threatened to reduce the US ‘to ashes’ with nuclear weapons if American fires ‘even a single bullet’ at North Korea.

Pyongyang said it would use its ‘invincible Hwasong rockets tipped with nuclear warheads’ to defend its territory as tensions with South Korea continued to escalate.

It comes as Seoul insisted North Korea’s latest rocket-engine test showed ‘meaningful’ progress and as an an analyst said the secretive state had taken a dangerous step towards its goal of developing a rocket that could hit the United States.

Kim Jong-Un has threatened to reduce the US 'to ashes' with nuclear weapons if American fires 'even a single bullet' at North Korea. He is pictured yesterday inspecting the ground jet test of newly developed high-thrust engine at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in North Korea

Kim Jong-Un has threatened to reduce the US ‘to ashes’ with nuclear weapons if American fires ‘even a single bullet’ at North Korea. He is pictured yesterday inspecting the ground jet test of newly developed high-thrust engine at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in North Korea

Pyongyang said it would use its 'invincible Hwasong rockets tipped with nuclear warheads' to defend its territory as tensions with South Korea continued to escalate. Pictures show rocket engine tests yesterday

Pyongyang said it would use its ‘invincible Hwasong rockets tipped with nuclear warheads’ to defend its territory as tensions with South Korea continued to escalate. Pictures show rocket engine tests yesterday

The statement, from Kim Jong-Un’s Foreign Office, was released earlier this month before the latest tests.

It said: ‘The Korean People’s Army will reduce the bases of aggression and provocation to ashes with its invincible Hwasong rockets tipped with nuclear warheads and reliably defend the security of the country and its people’s happiness in case the US and the south Korean puppet forces fire even a single bullet at the territory of the DPRK.’

Last night, the North’s KCNA news agency said its new rocket engine would help the state achieve world-class satellite-launch capability, indicating a new type of rocket engine for an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The North’s announcement of a successful engine test came as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Beijing at the end of his first visit to Asia for talks dominated by concern about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes.

‘Through this test, it is found that engine function has made meaningful progress but further analysis is needed for exact thrust and possible uses,’ Lee Jin-woo, deputy spokesman for the South Korean defence ministry, told a regular briefing.

Kim Jong-Un grins after watching new rocket engine launch
It comes as Seoul insisted North Korea's latest rocket-engine test showed 'meaningful' progress and as an an analyst said the secretive state had taken a dangerous step towards its goal of developing a rocket that could hit the United States. Kim Jong-UN is pictured, centre, with his officials yesterday

It comes as Seoul insisted North Korea’s latest rocket-engine test showed ‘meaningful’ progress and as an an analyst said the secretive state had taken a dangerous step towards its goal of developing a rocket that could hit the United States. Kim Jong-UN is pictured, centre, with his officials yesterday

State-run North Korean media reported that leader Kim Jong Un had hailed the successful test of a new high-thrust engine at its rocket launch station (pictured) as 'a new birth' of its rocket industry

State-run North Korean media reported that leader Kim Jong Un had hailed the successful test of a new high-thrust engine at its rocket launch station (pictured) as ‘a new birth’ of its rocket industry

State-run North Korean media reported that leader Kim Jong Un had hailed the successful test of a new high-thrust engine at its rocket launch station as ‘a new birth’ of its rocket industry.

Lee said the test featured a main engine supported by four supplementary engines.

However, he did not elaborate on the progress the test showed the North had made, nor comment on whether the engine could be used for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), saying the South Korean military was conducting analysis.

U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters he held meetings on North Korea at the weekend at his Florida resort. While he did not refer specifically to the rocket-engine test, he said Kim Jong Un was ‘acting very, very badly’.

A South Korean analyst said the test was an ominous development.

‘This was a comprehensive test for the first-stage rocket for an ICBM, and that is why it was dangerous,’ said Kim Dong-yub, an analyst at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies.

‘It appears that North Korea has worked out much of its development of the first-stage rocket booster.’

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile launches in defiance of U.N. sanctions, and is believed by experts and government officials to be working to develop nuclear-warhead missiles that could reach the United States.

North Korean leader Kim said in January his country was close to test-launching an ICBM. That would put parts of the United States in range.

Last week, Tillerson issued the Trump administration’s starkest warning yet to North Korea, saying in Seoul that a military response would be ‘on the table’ if it took action to threaten South Korean and U.S. forces.

North Korean leader Kim said in January his country was close to test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile. That would put parts of the United States in range

North Korean leader Kim said in January his country was close to test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile. That would put parts of the United States in range

The United States has long called on China to do more to rein in its ally, North Korea. China resents being pressed to do more, saying the problem is between North Korea and the United States, although it too objects to the North’s nuclear programme.

No formal agreements were announced during Tillerson’s visit to China although the two sides said they would work together to try to make North Korea take ‘a different course’.

China has called for a dual-track approach on North Korea, urging it to suspend its tests and the United States and South Korea to suspend military exercises so both sides can return to talks.

Beijing has also been infuriated by the deployment of an advanced U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea, which it says will both harm China’s own security and do nothing to ease tensions.

China says the system’s powerful radar will extend into the country’s northeast and potentially track Chinese missile launches, and maybe even intercept them. Russia also opposes the system, for the same reasons.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4333616/Kim-Jong-releases-anti-American-propaganda-video.html#ixzz4bwuQBOGS
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NORTH Korea has pledged to launch a nuclear strike on the US if a “single bullet is fired” as US forces flood the Korean Peninsula.

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USS Carl Vinson refuels USS O’Kane

North Korea Uses a Page From Iran’s Propaganda Plan: Blow up US aircraft carrier and shoot down bomber in propaganda video

March 21, 2017

North Korea Uses a Page From Iran’s Propaganda Plan: Blow up US aircraft carrier and shoot down bomber in propaganda video

Snaps from the secretive state’s recent ballistic missile launches are shown alongside a haunting message

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KIM Jong-un has released a propaganda video showing a US aircraft carrier being blown up and a bomber shot down in flames.

Snaps from the secretive state’s recent ballistic missile launches are shown alongside the haunting message: “A knife will be stabbed into the throat of the carrier.”

It comes after the leader threatened to reduce the US “to ashes” as tensions with North Korea continue to increase.

The shocking video goes on to declare: “The bomber will fall from the sky after getting hit by a hail of fire.”

Footage also shows the USS Carl Vinson nuclear-powered aircraft carrier up in flames.

Includes video:

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3137810/north-korea-propaganda-us/

Related:

File picture of a North Korean Musudan missile

Intermediate-range Musudan missile launch in North Korea. EPA photo

NORTH Korea has pledged to launch a nuclear strike on the US if a “single bullet is fired” as US forces flood the Korean Peninsula.

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor and water

USS Carl Vinson refuels USS O’Kane

Divisions on Trade Dominate G-20 Global Summit

March 20, 2017

Mnuchin persuades fellow finance chiefs to drop disavowal of protectionism from G-20 communiqué, but concerns remain about conflicts

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Updated March 19, 2017 7:58 p.m. ET

BADEN-BADEN, Germany—World finance chiefs struggled during a weekend of tense talks to find common ground on boosting trade in a global economy that is finally showing faint signs of momentum.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, rejecting a concerted effort by rivals here, got finance officials to drop a disavowal of protectionism from a closely watched policy statement issued by the Group of 20 industrialized and developing nations.

For Washington, the watered-down language that emerged in their communiqué ensures the U.S. can still use sanctions or other policy tools to punish trade partners and thwart economic policies the Trump administration believes to be unfair.

Despite the pressure Mr. Mnuchin faced, Washington showed it still holds significant sway as the world’s consumer of last resort: The G-20 adopted a pledge to promote fairness as it pursued economic growth.

G-20 officials warned the U.S. risks starting a tit-for-tat trade war if it acts too aggressively, but Mr. Mnuchin said Washington wants to avoid trade wars while seeking to rebalance off-kilter economic relationships.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe greeted each other at the opening of the CeBIT trade fair in Hannover, Germany, on March 19.Photo: Peter Steffen/Zuma Press

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who chairs the G-20 this year, signaled her frustration with global tensions over trade on Sunday, two days after a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, which at times appeared strained. Mr. Trump said after that meeting that he supported free and fair trade, but talks on a trans-Atlantic deal between the U.S. and European Union appear stalled.

“In times when we have to fight with many people about free trade, open borders, democratic values, it’s a good sign that Germany and Japan don’t fight,” she said after a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Hannover, Germany.

Without mentioning the U.S. or Mr. Trump, her remarks seemed to be directed that way. “We want free, open markets.… We don’t want to build up any barriers,” Ms. Merkel said.

Mr. Trump has made trade a centerpiece of his economic agenda—vowing to win better treatment from rivals including Germany, China and Mexico.

“The United States has been treated very, very unfairly by many countries over the years,” Mr. Trump said in Washington on Friday before meeting with Ms. Merkel. “That’s going to stop.”

But the president hasn’t made it clear how hard he will push to win better trade terms or what tactics he will employ, leaving U.S. trade partners uncertain and at times frustrated.

Mr. Trump has vowed to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement and has threatened different measures—including tariffs on U.S. imports and punishment for U.S. companies that outsource jobs—to improve the U.S. trade position.

Saturday’s G-20 statement dropped an earlier commitment to “resist all forms of protectionism,” wording that appeared in a similar communiqué forged by finance officials in Chengdu, China, last July.

Most other G-20 officials pressed Mr. Mnuchin at the meeting to preserve that reference, but failed, a senior G-20 official said.

“It was not the best communiqué that was ever produced by the G-20, certainly,” the EU’s economics commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, said in an interview.

Although the G-20’s commitments aren’t binding, the promises made member countries lend the group power through diplomatic peer pressure. Past U.S. administrations believe, for example, the G-20 was effective in prodding China to appreciate its exchange rate and nudging the European Union to build a better financial firewall against sovereign-debt risks.

At a press conference on Saturday, Mr. Mnuchin said earlier language on protectionism “was not necessarily relevant from my standpoint.” He also said some global trade agreements weren’t being enforced, and that the new administration would be aggressive in doing so.

Cross-border trade terms can be beneficial to both the U.S. and other nations, Trump’s economic envoy said. “We can do that in a way that‘s good for the American worker, good for our companies and that’s good for our counterparties,” he said.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who hosted the Baden-Baden gathering, had hoped Mr. Trump’s top economic envoy would offer a vision of U.S. trade policy that tempered the most aggressive threats by the president and White House officials, including unilateral tariffs and other punitive sanctions against trade partners.

But the G-20 treasury chiefs reached an impasse.

Mr. Schäuble said at a press conference that Mr. Mnuchin appeared to have no mandate to negotiate any new or creative commitments on trade.

“Sometimes you have to limit yourself at such a meeting to not asking too much of one partner. You can’t ask too much of him anyway because he would then simply not agree to it,” Mr. Schäuble said.

In failing to secure a written agreement from the U.S. that would repeat past G-20 vows to reject protectionism in all its forms, many officials said they were departing confused about where the Trump administration will ultimately land on trade policy.

The Treasury secretary advanced his boss’s view, promoting “free and fair trade.”

Mr. Moscovici, a former French finance minister, described Mr. Mnuchin as “a man who wants constructive engagement,” who came to Europe “in listening mode.” He said the meeting wasn’t confrontational, and that it was a time “to try to identify with the new administration.”

Still, Mr. Moscovici regretted the absence of a clearer mention of fighting protectionism or climate change, and pledged that the EU would push back against measures that undermined open and functioning markets.

At the meeting, Brazil Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles told the G-20 about his country’s own experience with protectionism, as the country has just experienced its worst recession on record.

“We had adopted during the last years some protectionist measures for some sectors of the economy and the net result was not positive,” Mr. Meirelles said in an interview. “At the end of the day, the products became more expensive and Brazil…became less competitive. In Brazil, we are moving toward a more open trade policy.”

China was among the most vocal advocates for preserving the protectionist language, even though the country’s industries, cross-border cash flows and exchange rate are still tightly managed by the Communist Party.

“China is positioning itself as an advocate for a free and open economy,” said former top U.S. Treasury diplomat Nathan Sheets. “But in order for that to be credible, China would have to complement it with true steps to open up and liberalize its economy.”

G-20 officials said they see both a new U.S. administration struggling to get up and running and competing power centers with different views on trade.

“Nobody knows what the endgame is,” a senior G-20 official said. “Either the meeting is several months too early or it’s perfect timing,” giving the G-20 an opportunity to help temper U.S. policy before it is cemented.

Investors are still confused, for example, about the administration’s dollar policy, having been given different signals from Mr. Trump and his lieutenants.

Asked who markets should heed, Mr. Mnuchin said: “They should listen to the president first and listen to me as well.”

Evidence that it may just be too soon for the U.S. to offer the G-20 anything substantive on trade, financial regulation, tax overhauls and other policies, Mr. Mnuchin relied on senior civil servants to conduct much of the detailed negotiations at the meeting. The secretary’s international diplomats have only recently been nominated and still must go through a lengthy confirmation process.

If trade czar Peter Navarro and Steve Bannon, a top Trump adviser and self-described economic nationalist, have their way, many officials fear the White House could trigger a trade war. The administration has advocated applying unilateral actions that eschew a rules-based multilateral order, including submission to the World Trade Organization’s authority.

Others in the administration, including Mr. Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, hold a more internationalist view of the world. If they prevail in guiding administration policy, many G-20 officials see fiery campaign rhetoric being tamed in the coming months.

Mr. Schäuble said all G-20 delegations had agreed on opposing protectionism, but that it wasn’t always clear what they meant.

Some countries are worried that failure to temper aggressive trade policy could not only trigger a round of retaliatory tariffs and a rise in other trade barriers that would damage global growth, but it also could exacerbate geopolitical tensions.

Last week, for example, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raised the option of a pre-emptive strike against North Korea because Pyongyang’s nuclear-missile program poses a growing threat to U.S. ally South Korea.

China traditionally is able to strong-arm Pyongyang into cooling hostilities. But if U.S.-China trade tensions escalate, Beijing may in the future be less cooperative in playing that role, some analysts warn, raising the risk of a dangerous regional conflict.

The U.S. delegation found a rare ally in Japan, which came to Mr. Mnuchin’s defense, saying talks over American protectionism were overblown.

“I feel that many of those talks are exaggerated and made up,” Finance Minister Taro Aso said, adding that a summit meeting held earlier this year between Messrs. Trump and Abe involved “no discussions whatsoever that smacked of protectionism.”

Still, the International Monetary Fund is worried.

“We should collectively avoid self-inflicted injuries,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde warned the group. Global cooperation can boost world growth, she said, but “the wrong ones could stop the new momentum in its tracks.”

—Andrea Thomas, Todd Buell and Takashi Nakamichi
contributed to this article.

Write to Ian Talley at ian.talley@wsj.com, Tom Fairless at tom.fairless@wsj.com and Andrea Thomas at andrea.thomas@wsj.com

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Vietnam steps up islands battle with Beijing in South China Sea

March 20, 2017

Hanoi presses for return of strategic archipelago central to regional security dispute

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The captain of a Vietnamese Coast Guard vessel patrols waters near the Paracel Islands © Bloomberg

MARCH 18, 2017

By: Michael Peel in Da NangFinancial Times (FT)

Dang Cong Ngu ruled a South China Sea archipelago for Vietnam for five years — but never once set foot in the place.

The now-retired 63-year-old governor of the disputed Paracel Islands was a king without a kingdom, railing from onshore exile against China’s capture of a strategic outpost central to the battle for Asia’s seas.

“We must fight to bring the territory back to the motherland,” a still-fiery Mr Dang declared in his old office, a poster proclaiming “The Paracels belong to Vietnam” in the background.

“All Vietnamese, regardless of ethnicity, living inside or outside the country, know that’s the right thing to do.”

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Map showing disputed claims in the South China Sea. Includes locations for Reed Bank and Benham Rise, where Chinese survey ships were seen last year, according to the Philippine government. AFP

The elder statesman’s tough talk underscores why analysts see the islands and other China-Vietnam territorial disputes as potential flashpoints for confrontation that could pit Beijing against not just Hanoi but the new administration in Washington.

Vietnam fought a border war with China as recently as 1979 — and, like other Southeast Asian countries, it is waiting nervously to see how Donald Trump’s government deals with Beijing and its territorial ambitions.

China’s Xi Jinping is set to meet Mr Trump in the US next month. Jonathan London, a Vietnam specialist at the Netherlands’ Leiden University, said: “For Hanoi and the Vietnamese, Beijing’s claims and its efforts to enforce these through aggressive practices remain clear and present threats to national security and sovereign interests.

The great unknown in all of this is how the Trump administration will manage its relations with Hanoi — and in the region more broadly.”

Vietnam’s lost province

Hanoi this week called for Beijing to stop running cruise ship trips to the Paracels, which are known as Hoang Sa in Vietnamese and the Xisha islands in Chinese. Those tours are part of a broader effort by Beijing to press its territorial claims to more than 90 per cent of the South China Sea, by building military facilities and artificial islands around the region.

The great unknown in all of this is how the Trump administration will manage its relations with Hanoi — and in the region more broadly Jonathan London, Vietnam specialist

The Paracels are a strategic way station south-east of China’s Hainan Island and its nuclear submarine fleet, in a wider seaway crucial to international trade. Beijing has built harbours, helipads and an air base in the archipelago, according to a report published last month by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

China last year deployed anti-aircraft missiles in the Paracels and recently cleared still more land in preparation for possible further construction, according to satellite images, the latest of them released this week.  Communist-ruled Hanoi has made its own military preparations by strengthening ties with a range of international powers, including its former enemy the US.

It has also increased security co-operation with Japan and India, which are both trying to curb Chinese expansion in the region.  Another element of Hanoi’s response is to maintain the bureaucratic fiction of its rule over the Paracels, which South Vietnamese forces lost to China in a 1974 battle while they were sliding to civil war defeat.

The Paracel administration’s headquarters in the Vietnamese coastal town of Da Nang is filled with maps, photos and other historical documents ostensibly in support of its claim.

Le Dinh Re, a former South Vietnamese naval officer, recalled rescuing troops defeated by the Chinese in 1974. “I didn’t think China would still be there after 43 years,” said Mr Le, 73.

“I really hope that one day I can set foot in Hoang Sa.”

The deployment of a Chinese oil rig in the area three years ago triggered anti-Beijing protests. Mobs later ransacked or torched hundreds of foreign-owned businesses in Vietnam’s industrial zones.

Image may contain: ocean, sky, water and outdoor

A Chinese marine surveillance vessel sail in the South China Sea. In the background is an oil rig China illegally deployed in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone in May 2014.

Nowadays Vietnamese fisherman at a Da Nang boat repair yard complain that they are chased away from the Paracels by Chinese vessels.

Authorities say one large fishing boat was deliberately rammed: the plan is to put it in a new Da Nang museum devoted to the islands and Vietnam’s imagination of them.

“Our fishing boats are wooden and their vessels are steel, so we have no solution to this,” lamented Nguyen Vu, 35. “It’s our traditional fishing area, so we will never give it up.”

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China has rejected both Vietnam’s Paracel sovereignty arguments and a wider ruling made by an international court in July against most of its South China Sea territorial claims.

Beijing argues that the US is the aggressor in Asia because of its warship deployments and military bases around the region.

China says it is committed to a long-planned code of conduct for countries in the region.  Hanoi is now sensitively placed as the Southeast Asian capital most publicly at odds with China’s maritime ambitions, after Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte sought to repair his country’s relationship with Beijing.

Vietnam’s belligerence is necessarily tempered by China’s far greater firepower — and by longstanding trade, cultural and political links between the two countries. But those caveats may yet be swept aside in this high-stakes and fast-evolving battle to rule the waves.

Former governor Mr Dang says the Paracels’ administration-in-exile will push ever harder to build diplomatic and legal pressure on China to hand the islands over. “Ours is an extremely difficult and complex mission,” he said.

“We must use all means that we can to regain Vietnamese sovereignty over Hoang Sa.”

Additional reporting by Khac Giang Nguyen

https://www.ft.com/content/32abaea8-0924-11e7-97d1-5e720a26771b

See also:

https://amti.csis.org/paracels-beijings-other-buildup/

Related:

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Seismic Research Vessel of the type used by China before mining the sea bed. Ships like this one from China have been seen at Benham Rise east of Luzon in Philippine waters

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On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.

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