Posts Tagged ‘Trump’

Getting an Edge in the Long Afghan Struggle

June 23, 2017

Trump’s early approach holds promise if backed with a sustained, and sustainable, commitment.

An Afghan man reacts at the site of a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

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June 22, 2017 6:32 p.m. ET

Can the U.S. succeed in Afghanistan? Not without a sustained, and sustainable, commitment. President Trump’s decision to give Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to add several thousand more U.S. troops to the 8,400 currently deployed is encouraging—but only if it is a first step in a comprehensive approach.

Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, should also receive greater leeway in the use of U.S. and NATO air power. And officials should remain open to the possibility of reconciliation with some insurgents, probably just those that break off from the central Taliban.

An intensified military effort could arrest the gradual loss of territory held by the government in recent years—now estimated by U.S. Central Command at only 60% of the country—and to regain battlefield momentum. Congress should enable all this by appropriating the $5 billion or so a year above current levels that such a strategy will require.

America’s leaders should not lose sight of why the U.S. went to, and has stayed in, Afghanistan: It is in our national interest to ensure that country is not once again a sanctuary for transnational extremists, as it was when the 9/11 attacks were planned there. We have been accomplishing that mission since the intervention began in October 2001. Although al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is diminished, it could rebound if given the opportunity. Islamic State could expand its newfound Afghan foothold as well.

The augmented troop levels Mr. Trump has authorized would be only 12% to 15% of the peak U.S. force levels, in 2010-11. The country can sustain that level of commitment. While all casualties are tragic, our losses in Afghanistan would likely remain far fewer than the losses from another major terrorist attack in the U.S.

Today the U.S. and its coalition partners lack the capacity to train and assist Afghan forces adequately in the field. As recently as 2015, the allied forces did not even have a full-time advisory presence for the main Afghan army corps in Helmand province. Largely as a result, the Taliban gained control of much of the province. Nor did the coalition have adequate advisers to help the smaller Afghan formations near Kunduz before that city fell to the Taliban in 2015. It was later liberated only at high cost, especially to Afghan forces and civilians. Restrictions on coalition air power reduced America’s ability to help Afghan partners.

Adding some 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. and allied troops could provide the capacity for several dozen deployable mentoring teams. That is far from enough to assist each Afghan brigade or battalion. But it could support the units that are engaged in the toughest fights and are most intensively involved in rebuilding their capabilities. Supporting those teams logistically and with air power, and providing quick-reaction forces in several parts of the country to help them if they get in trouble, would drive additional requirements for coalition troops into the low thousands.

On the civilian side, President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah need to continue their efforts against corruption, which have shown gradual, modest results to date. With U.S. help, they need to reform the electoral commissions that will oversee parliamentary and presidential elections over the next two years.

Then there is Pakistan, where the U.S. needs a tougher approach. Washington reduced aid to Islamabad by more than half over the past five years. More can be cut. President Trump and Congress could also designate Pakistani individuals and organizations supporting the Taliban and impose sanctions on them. The U.S. could show less restraint in striking Taliban targets within Pakistan.

There are carrots available too: trade concessions, increased aid, more assistance to the Pakistani army’s fight against internal extremists, dialogue with New Delhi to mitigate Pakistan’s worries about India’s role in Afghanistan. But these must come on the condition that Islamabad put greater pressure on the Taliban (whose headquarters is in the Quetta area) and on the Haqqani insurgent network (in North Waziristan). None of this will work unless Pakistani leaders recognize that allowing these groups’ leaders sanctuary on their soil is foolish and dangerous. Given the way extremist groups collaborate in Central and South Asia, that approach will inevitably continue to backfire. After all, the greatest existential threat Pakistan faces is internal extremism, not India.

President Trump’s early approach holds promise. In Afghanistan today, the military needs to revisit the phase of the mission it largely skipped in the years after the surge of 2010-12 or so, when it downsized too quickly and too far. This approach will not achieve “victory” in Afghanistan, after which all troops can be withdrawn. That is an impossible goal in the near-term. But it will be sustainable and it can improve the prospects of shoring up our eastern flank in the broader battle against Islamist extremism—a fight that likely is to be a generational struggle.

Mr. Petraeus, a retired Army general, commanded coalition forces in Iraq (2007-08) and in Afghanistan (2010-11) and later served as director of the CIA (2011-12). Mr. O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/getting-an-edge-in-the-long-afghan-struggle-1498170753

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in a helicopter over Kabul, April 24.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in a helicopter over Kabul, April 24. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
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Petraeus: Afghan war a ‘generational struggle’ that will not end soon

 

BY LARISA EPATKO  June 16, 2017 at 6:17 PM EDT

The 16-year war in Afghanistan is not going to end any time soon, former CIA Director David Petraeus said Friday in an interview with PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff.

“This is a generational struggle. This is not something that is going to be won in a few years. We’re not going to take a hill, plant a flag and go home to a victory parade,” said Petraeus, who also oversaw U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq during his military career. He is now a partner at KKR global investment firm.

“You know, we’ve been in Korea for 65-plus years, because there’s an important national interest for that. We were in Europe for a very long period of time,” he said. “We’re still there, of course, and actually with a renewed interest now given Russia’s aggressive actions.”

When Woodruff asked if he thought if the U.S. would need to stay in Afghanistan for 60 more years, he said he doesn’t think the U.S. involvement will last that long. But “I think we should not approach this as a year-on-year mission,” he said, noting that kind of instability gives Afghan leaders “the jitters.”

The current U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, has recommended sending 3,000 to 5,000 more troops to the 8,400 already there. Petraeus called the possible increase in forces “heartening” and “sustainable.”

Watch Woodruff’s full interview with David Petraeus on Friday’s broadcast of PBS NewsHour.

Includes video:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/petraeus-afghan-war-generational-struggle-will-not-end-soon/

Vietnam ready to cooperate with Trump administration

May 29, 2017

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Vietnam respects and is ready to work with the new Trump administration, thus boosting the bilateral relationship

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Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. Credit Vietnam News Agency

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Vietnam is ready to cooperate with the administration of United States President Donald Trump, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said ahead of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s visit to the U.S. on May 30- 31, 2017.

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During a regular press meeting on Thursday evening, spokeswoman Hang confirmed that the Vietnamese head of government will pay a visit to the U.S. from May 29 to 31 under the invitation of President Trump.
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The official visit deepen Hanoi’s relationship with its partners, including the U.S., which is in line with the Southeast Asian country’s independent and diverse foreign policies and active international integration, the diplomat stated.
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“Vietnam respects and is ready to work with the new Trump administration, thus boosting the bilateral relationship in accordance with the orientation of the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership launched in 2013,” she continued.
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Within the framework of the visit, PM Phuc is schedule to join talks with the President Trump and meet several U.S. congressmen and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
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During the visit, leaders of the two countries will seek ways to enhance the two nations’ partnership, especially in politics, diplomacy, economy-trade, education, war consequences settlement, and regional and international issues of shared concern, for the sake of peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region and the world, Hang added.
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On top of these activities, the Vietnamese premier is also scheduled to confer with some local business and the Vietnamese community in the North American nation, meeting Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres in New York and attending the 40th anniversary of Vietnam joining the UN.

http://tuoitrenews.vn/politics/41164/vietnam-ready-to-cooperate-with-trump-administration

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The U.S. Air Force's WC-135 Constant Phoenix sniffer plane in a file photo. (Yonhap)

The U.S. Air Force’s WC-135 Constant Phoenix sniffer plane in a file photo. (Yonhap)

An SU-30 fighter jet

An SU-30 fighter jet CREDIT: EPA

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China has built islands by reclamation of sand and coral and has militarized them for People’s Liberationa Army (PLA) use. Seen here, Chinese structures and an airstrip on the man-made Subi Reef at the Spratlys group of islands are shown from the Philippine Air Force C-130 transport plane of the Philippine Air Force during the visit to the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Ano and other officials off the disputed South China Sea in western Philippines Friday, April 21, 2017. Philippine President Duterte on Friday, May 19, 2017, described this as “some kind of armed garrison.” Credit Francis Malasig/Pool Photo via AP — China has now occupied and built up by reclamation seven small reefs and atolls that have been made ready for military use.

 (Smart money is on China right now)

FILE - Vietnam People's Navy personnel carry their country's national flag.

 (Contains links to several earlier related stories)

FILE photo p rovided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac —  A Chinese Coast Guard boat approaches Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines, by international law. China says it is happy to control fishing in the South China Sea. Credit: Renato Etac

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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

Trump slams Germany’s US trade surplus — “The Germans are bad, very bad,” Trump was quoted as saying.

May 26, 2017

During meetings with EU leaders, US President Donald Trump threatened to curb the sale of millions of German cars in the US. In comments leaked to German press he said Germany was acting in a bad way.

Deutschland Autos Export (picture-alliance/dpa/I. Wagner)

While in Brussels Thursday US President Donald Trump told European leaders that Germany was being unfair with its trade arrangements, German media reported on Thursday.

“The Germans are bad, very bad,” Trump was quoted as saying by respected news weekly “Der Spiegel.”

“Look at the millions of cars they sell in the US. Terrible! We’ll stop that,” Trump said, according to sources inside who spoke with the magazine.

Similar complaints against Germany’s trade surplus at the Brussels meeting were reported by Bavarian daily “Sueddeutsche Zeitung.”

Trump reportedly made it clear that the reduction of the US trade deficit was a high priority for him, during a meeting with the President of the EU Council Donald Tusk and President of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker. Other EU leaders joined the meeting later.

Juncker reportedly defended the Germans, saying free trade was a good thing for everyone.

$64 billion deficit

In 2016, Germany exported goods worth 253 billion euros ($270 billion) more than it imported.

This has given rise to criticism by the Trump administration, IMF chief Christine Lagarde and French President Emmanuel Macron. Trump’s top trade advisor, Peter Navarro accused Germany of exploiting a “grossly undervalued” euro to boost its exports. 

According to US figures government figures, Germany had a $64 billion trade surplus with the US in 2016.

Fact check: German-American trade

Trump has previously condemned German car-makers for importing cars into the US, threatening them with a 35 percent tariff.

trump merkel

The remarks took place during a meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk on the sidelines of a Nato summit  CREDIT: REUTERS

“If you want to build cars in the world, then I wish you all the best. You can build cars for the United States, but for every car that comes to the USA, you will pay 35 percent tax,” Trump told German tabloid “Bild” in January in remarks translated into German.

“I would tell BMW that if you are building a factory in Mexico and plan to sell cars to the USA, without a 35 percent tax, then you can forget that,” Trump said.

In March Trump signed executive orders to initiate a large-scale review of the causes of the American trade deficits with some of its largest trading partners – including China and Germany – and order stricter enforcement of US anti-dumping laws to prevent foreign manufacturers from undercutting US companies by selling goods at an unfair price.

In April Germany’s finance minister rejected US claims that Germany’s trade surplus was a sign of unfair policies and called on the Trump administration to remain engaged in trade liberalization.

In public comments after Thursday’s meeting Tusk said the two sides agreed on a number of issues and reaffirmed counter-terrorism cooperation, but clashed on others.

Later in the day Trump met with NATO leaders and repeated calls for members of the military alliance to pay more, saying that payments must make up for “the years lost.”

http://www.dw.com/en/trump-slams-germanys-us-trade-surplus-as-bad/a-38986975

See also The Telegraph:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/26/germans-bad-really-bad-donald-trump-tells-eu-officials/

Israel in rare overture to Palestinians ‘at Trump request’ — Improving the Palestinian economy and facilitating crossings are among the first steps

May 22, 2017

AFP

© POOL/AFP | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem May 21, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – 

Israeli ministers have approved measures aimed at improving the Palestinian economy and facilitating crossings, rare moves said to be at Donald Trump’s request hours ahead of the US president’s arrival.

An Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity that ministers were responding to a Trump request to present him with “confidence-building measures” ahead of his talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Tuesday.

In what the official described as a “gesture for Trump’s visit, which does not harm Israel’s interests”, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet on Sunday approved the enlargement of a Palestinian industrial zone on the edge of the southern West Bank.

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He said that the possibility of extending Israel Railways services to the northern West Bank city of Jenin would also be examined.

They also gave the nod to streamlining transit procedures at Shaar Ephraim, a busy crossing point in the northern part of the occupied West Bank for Palestinian labourers with permits to work in Israel.

The official said that opening hours for passage across the main Jordan River bridge linking the Palestinian territory and the neighbouring kingdom were to be extended to 24/7.

There would also be reforms to Palestinian land use in urban areas in the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control.

He did not elaborate but Israel’s Haaretz daily said the intention was to allow construction of “thousands of Palestinian homes” in the area where for years it has been almost impossible for Palestinians to get Israeli permits to build on their own land.

Haaretz said that at Sunday night’s meeting Education Minister Naftali Bennett and deputy foreign minister Ayelet Shaked, of the religious-nationalist Jewish Home party, “objected vehemently” to the building plans.

In an apparent attempt to calm opposition from within Netanyahu’s coalition government, seen as the most right-wing in the country’s history, the security cabinet also approved setting up a committee to work for retroactive legalisation of wildcat Israeli construction in the West Bank, the official said.

Israeli Intel Experts Alarmed by Trump Leak but Play Down Any Damage

May 17, 2017

By REUTERS

MAY 17, 2017, 6:51 A.M. E.D.T.

JERUSALEM — Israeli intelligence experts are gravely concerned that U.S. President Donald Trump’s sharing of classified information with Russia may have compromised an Israeli agent, but don’t expect any long-term consequences for intelligence cooperation.

Trump has confirmed via Twitter that during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the White House last week he shared information related to a potential airline plot by Islamic State, thought to involve a laptop bomb.

The New York Times, citing a current and a former U.S. official, reported on Tuesday that the information Trump divulged came from an Israeli intelligence asset based in Islamic State-held territory in Syria.

Israeli officials have declined to confirm whether they were the source of the information Trump shared, but have been quick to say counter-terrorism coordination with the United States is strong.

 

Putin tells the West to ‘stop intimidating North Korea’

May 15, 2017

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North Korea Hwasong-12 missile launch May 14, 2017 — Landed in the Sea of Japan just 50 miles from the Russian port of Vladivostok

  • Putin spoke about latest North Korean missile test at Chinese economic summit
  • Said it is ‘unacceptable’ to intimidate regime as West called for fresh sanctions
  • Denied that test posed a threat to Russia despite missile landing near east coast 
  • Putin joined China and South Korea in calling for fresh talks with Kim Jong-un 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told world leaders to stop ‘intimidating’ North Korea following the dictatorship’s latest missile test.

Putin said attempts to bully Kim Jong-un‘s regime were ‘unacceptable’, though he admitted the missile test was equally wrong.

America and South Korea led calls for fresh sanctions after Kim tested a newly developed Hwasong-12 ballistic missile on Sunday, which the dictator claimed was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the US.

Vladimir Putin has said it is 'unacceptable' to try and intimidate North Korea after the dictatorship carried out a ballistic missile test on Sunday

Vladimir Putin has said it is ‘unacceptable’ to try and intimidate North Korea after the dictatorship carried out a ballistic missile test on Sunday

Putin speaks at an economic forum in China

Putin said the missile test had not posed a threat to Russia

Putin denied that the missile test had posed any threat to Russia, despite the projectile landing around 60 miles off the country’s east coast

Putin said peaceful dialogue with the North, a position supported by China's Xi Jinping (pictured right), is the only way to resolve the situation

Putin said peaceful dialogue with the North, a position supported by China’s Xi Jinping (pictured right), is the only way to resolve the situation

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North Korea — The Hwasong-12 type missile launched Sunday morning by the DPRK was among those paraded in Pyongyang last month

Putin said: ‘We are categorically against the expansion of the club of nuclear powers. We consider (the missile test) counter-productive, harmful and dangerous’.

But, he added: ‘We must stop intimidating North Korea and find a peaceful solution to this problem.’

Speaking at a Chinese economic summit, Put also denied that the test had posed any threat to Russia, despite the weapon landing 60 miles off his nation’s east coast.

The Russian premier said peaceful talks must be held to resolve escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Putin joins China and new South Korean president Moon Jae-in in calling for talks with the North.

If discussions could be arranged, it would mark the first significant development in diplomacy with North Korea since the nation pulled out of six-party talks in 2009.

President Trump said earlier this month that he would be willing to participate in talks ‘under the right circumstances’, though his administration said that possibility was slim after the missile launch.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, told ABC’s ‘This Week’ that ‘having a missile test is not the way to sit down with the president, because he’s absolutely not going to do it.’

North Korea test-fired a Hwasong-12 ballistic missile on Sunday (pictured), believed to be the longest-range weapon ever developed by the regime

North Korea test-fired a Hwasong-12 ballistic missile on Sunday (pictured), believed to be the longest-range weapon ever developed by the regime

Kim Jong-un was pictured celebrating with his officials after the launch, and vowed to carry out more missile tests and nuclear detonations

Kim Jong-un was pictured celebrating with his officials after the launch, and vowed to carry out more missile tests and nuclear detonations

Experts believe the North’s new missile is the longest-range weapon ever successfully tested by the isolated nation.

After being fired from a launch pad in the Kusong region early on Sunday, the projectile travelled around 500 miles before dropping into the Sea of Japan.

Analysts say the missile was fired at an upward trajectory to artificially limit its range during the test. Fired in a straighter line, they estimate it would have a range of at least 2,500 miles.

While that is significantly longer than the rage of its other missiles, it still falls around 3,000 miles short of the US mainland.

Kim Jong-un personally oversaw the missile launch on Sunday, and was pictured celebrating with his officials afterward.

The ruler also pledged further missile tests and nuclear detonations, despite repeated warnings by President Trump.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4506816/Putin-calls-end-intimidation-North-Korea.html#ixzz4hAgO0YM8
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 (Published May 05, 2017)

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When Iran attempted to launch a cruise missile from a “midget” submarine earlier this week, Pentagon officials saw more evidence of North Korean influence in the Islamic Republic – with intelligence reports saying the submarine was based on a Pyongyang design, the same type that sank a South Korean warship in 2010.

Donald Trump Considering “Massive” White House Staff Shake Up; Could Fire Priebus, Bannon, Spicer, and Others

May 14, 2017

GETTY

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At the urging of longtime friends and outside advisers, most of whom he consults after dark, President Trump is considering a “huge reboot” that could take out everyone from Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon, to counsel Don McGahn and press secretary Sean Spicer, White House sources tell me.

Trump is also irritated with several Cabinet members, the sources said.

“He’s frustrated, and angry at everyone,” said one of the confidants.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer could be replaced.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer could be replaced. PHOTO: ANDREW HARRER/BLOOMBERG NEWS

The conversations intensified this week as the aftermath of the Comey firing pushed the White House from chaos into crisis. Trump’s friends are telling him that many of his top aides don’t know how to work with him, and point out that his approval ratings aren’t rising, but the leaks are.

“The advice he’s getting is to go big — that he has nothing to lose,” the confidant said. “The question now is how big and how bold. I’m not sure he knows the answer to that yet.”

If Trump follows through, his innermost White House circle would shrink from a loop to a straight line of mid-30s family members with scant governing experience: Jared and Ivanka. So while the fighting and leaking might ease, the problems may not because it’s the president, not the staff, calling the shots.

One note of caution: Trump often talks about firing people when things go south and does not follow through on it. So it’s possible these conversations are his way of venting, and seeking reassurance.

And it all could take a while: Trump heads out on his first international trip at the end of the week. Also, there’s an internal argument for minimizing drama by cutting people out of the information flow rather than firing them. So the existing structure may get “one more college try,” a trusted adviser said.,

Friends say that if Trump goes with a grand shakeup, his implicit message would be: “I get it. I’m moving on. I get that I can do a better job.” A top aide added: “He’s never going to say he did a bad job.”

The sources say Trump feels ill-served by not just his staff but also by several of his Cabinet officials. Trump has two complaints about Cabinet members: Either they’re tooting their own horns too much, or they’re insufficiently effusive in praising him as a brilliant diplomat, etc. Among the cross-currents:

  • His friend Wilbur Ross at Commerce this week took what was perceived as a victory lap on a China trade announcement that does little new in actuality.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a big announcement about increasing prison sentences, at the same time that Jared is working on criminal-justice reform.
  • HHS Secretary Tom Price shares the blame for the glacial pace of health-care legislation.

No Cabinet member is expected to go this soon, but a West Wing shuffle looks likely. One obstacle to recruiting new top aides is finding people who would have real clout with a president not prone to enforced order.

One of the few top officials winning Trump’s praise is SecState Rex Tillerson, who’s on “Meet The Press” this morning (taped yesterday in Texas) defending his boss.

This story was first published in Axios AM, our early morning guide to important news in business, politics, tech and media. Sign up here.

https://www.axios.com/scoop-trump-irked-at-cabinet-and-staff-mulls-sweeping-shake-up-2407137307.html

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China urges restraint over North Korea missile test even as Pyongyang remains defiant

May 14, 2017

Missile launched on day of China’s ‘Belt and Road’ summit reflects Pyongyang’s determination to push on with its nuclear ambitions, analysts say

By Liu Zhen
South China Morning Post

Sunday, 14 May, 2017, 4:16pm
Passengers watch a news report on North Korea’s missile test at a railway station in Seoul on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

China called on Sunday for restraint after North Korea’s latest missile test on Sunday, warning against raising tensions over the Korean Peninsula.

In his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, President Xi Jinping said the North Korean nuclear issue should be resolved through political means.

“The two countries, which have been committed to seeking a political solution to the Syrian conflict and the Korean Peninsular nuclear issue, have played the role of ‘ballast stone’ in safeguarding regional and global peace and stability,” Xinhua cited Xi as saying.

Observers said the test early on Sunday proved that recent positive signs were not lasting for long, and Pyongyang was buying time for its nuclear ambition.

 South Korea’s new president Moon Jae-in reacts to North Korea’s ballistic missile launch on Sunday South Korea. Photo: Bloomberg

The missile was fired at 4.27am HK time, flew for about 30 minutes and reached an altitude of more than 2,000km before it landed in the Sea of Japan.

It took place just a couple of hours before China kicked off its biggest diplomatic event of the year, the Belt and Road Forum, when President Xi Jinping laid out his grand vision of boosting connectivity with nations from Asia to Europe and beyond.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said China opposed the missile test as it violated United Nations Security Council resolutions, and called on all parties to exercise restraint and do nothing to further worsen regional tensions.

Pyongyang’s chief nuclear negotiator Choe Son-hui said North Korea was ready to hold talks with the United States “if the conditions are mature”. A North Korean delegation is also attending the belt and road summit, where Pyongyang is expected to ask Beijing to tone down economic sanctions against the regime.

The forum also raises the possibility of officials from North Korea, China, United States, Russia, South Korea and Japan holding informal discussions on the sidelines of the event.

Sun Xingjie, a Korean affairs specialist at Jilin University, said the timing of the missile test reflected

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s determination to push ahead with his nuclear and missile programme.

“Shallow appeasement cannot bring peace,” Sun said, adding that as Kim saw signs that the situation in the peninsula were calming down, he seized the chance to the push forward his tests.

“It is actually perfect timing. Xi Jinping’s top priority these days is hosting the OBOR summit, and Donald Trump is bothered by the FBI chief saga … nobody has kept an eye on Kim,” Sun said.

“Even if the delegation of six nations met in Beijing there would be no common ground to start talks,” Sun added. “If the other countries fail to act in concert, North Korea will probably keep using this tactic, pretending to be talking while carrying out more tests.”

 A news bulletin on a television screen at a subway station in Seoul shows footage of North Korea’s ballistic missile launch on Sunday. Photo: Bloomberg

Pyongyang’s latest provocation was unlikely to reignite a military confrontation, said Cai Jian, deputy head of Korean Studies at Fudan University.

“China has made clear a military solution is not possible,” he said. “And, in the short term, North Korea’s missile capability is still some distance from Washington’s red line – where it presents a real threat to US territory.”

The US Pacific Command said it was assessing what type of missile was tested on Sunday but noted it was “not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile”.

“Basically, Pyongyang wanted to grab as many chips as possible before sitting down at the negotiating table,” Cai said.

China was also unlikely to upgrade its current sanctions on Pyongyang as long as there was no sixth nuclear test, Cai added.

“Missile tests are fundamentally different from a nuclear test, and China will only stick to the United Nations resolution,” he said.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2094267/china-again-calls-restraint-after-north-korean-missile

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G7 vows cyber action as partners warm to team Trump

May 13, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Angus MACKINNON | US Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin snaps a picture with his smartphone at the end of a G7 summit of finance ministers where they pledged to combat cyber crime

BARI (ITALY) (AFP) – 

G7 finance chiefs vowed Saturday to unite against cyber crime as they wrapped up talks marked by signs of a thaw in the frosty relations between the US administration and its main partners.

The focus on cyber crime followed a globe-spanning wave of cyber attacks that hit computer systems in nearly 100 countries on Friday, notably disrupting Britain’s health service and bringing production at carmaker Renault to a standstill in France.

The ministers said in a statement that cyber incidents represent a growing threat to their economies and that tackling them should be a priority.

“We know nothing about it but of course we want to know how they hacked into very secure systems,” said Ignazio Visco, governor of the Bank of Italy.

“At the moment it seems not to have created any problems for the financial system.”

Italian finance minister Pier Carlo Padoan joked that the attacks had been perfectly timed.

“We tried to convince everyone we organised it to show how important the Italian agenda is,” he quipped at the end of two days of discussions in a Norman fortress on Italy’s southern Adriatic coast.

The isue has been on the agenda of the G7 for some time, with the primary focus on the potential threat of hackers being able to infiltrate the computer systems that run the international banking system, capital and equity markets.

– Trump tax cuts –

In concrete terms, the ministers mandated experts to continue their work on assessing the nature of the threat. Padoan said progress would be reviewed again when G7 leaders, including Donald Trump and new French President Emmanuel Macron, meet in Sicily at the end of this month.

Differences between the Trump administration and the rest of the G7 on free trade, the importance of multilateral institutions and climate change were again sidestepped, as they were at the G20 meeting in Germany earlier in the year.

But participants in the talks said relations with the US team led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, making his G7 debut, were improving as familiarity breeds mutual confidence.

“With Steven Mnuchin, our relations are improving every time we meet,” Padoan said.

“Of course there are differences and divergences … but we are working well together on common areas of concern and joint measures.”

Mnuchin said he “couldn’t be happier with the last two days.”

He felt people were becoming “more comfortable” with the goals of the new administration and said there had been much interest in Trump’s plans to slash taxes.

Padoan said Mnuchin had told them tax reform would be “neither short nor simple” in light of opposition in Congress.

“People have a level of understanding of Trump’s policies,” Mnuchin said. “On the trade side, our objective is to grow exports, to give more opportunities to American workers to make things and sell them.”

– ‘Trade not free, fair’ –

Officials from the big European economies, Canada and Japan remain concerned about a lack of visibility over how Trump plans to implement his ‘America First’ agenda.

On that score, several senior European officials said they had been reassured by news of a new US-China trade deal, which they interpreted as a sign of flexibility and pragmatism on the part of the new administration, potentially suggesting fears of a new era of protectionism had been overstated.

“It is an encouraging sign,” Padoan said.

In his first comment on the trade deal’s substance, Mnuchin hailed the opening of China’s beef market as “a big deal for US farmers.”

“We don’t want to be protectionist but we reserve the right to be. We believe trade is not free and fair.”

On the global economy, the ministers noted that recovery was gaining momentum but that output remains below potential in many countries “with the balance of risks tilted to the downside”.

There were also important discussions on the sidelines of the meeting about debt relief for Greece.

Talks between the leadership of the IMF and Eurozone lenders did not wrap up a deal to proceed with a new bailout package for the debt-plagued country.

But a green light for the 86-billion-euro package, the third international rescue of the Greek economy since 2010, is now expected to be issued on May 22, potentially bringing an end to the painful cycle of austerity Greece has endured for a decade.

by Angus MACKINNON

US and China announce deal aimed at reducing trade gap

May 12, 2017

AFP, Reuters and The Associated Press

© JIM WATSON, AFP file US President Donald Trump (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) shaking hands during dinner at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida on April 7, 2017

Beijing and Washington on Friday unveiled a trade deal aimed at reducing the US trade deficit with China, as the Kushner family’s real estate company abandoned a controversial business proposal targeting Chinese investors.

The trade deal would give US beef, natural gas and certain financial services access to China‘s massive market of 1.37 billion people. In exchange, the US would lift barriers to Chinese cooked chicken products.

The deal seems to be part of warming trade relations between the US and China. Despite President Donald Trump’s aggressive rhetoric against China throughout the US presidential campaign, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping launched a 100-day action plan on economic cooperation last month.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the two countries “enjoy very close economic cooperation”.

“The two sides decided to press ahead with this economic plan and … much progress has been made in a short amount of time,” Geng told reporters during a regular press conference on Friday.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters at the White House that Friday’s deal will help reduce the US trade deficit with China, which reached nearly $350 billion last year.

Ross called the agreement a “herculean accomplishment” and “more than has been done in the whole history of US-China relations on trade.”

Meaty details

Under the agreement, China will authorise US beef imports by July 16 while the United States will lift barriers on Chinese cooked poultry exports “as soon as possible”.

China banned US beef following a case of mad cow disease in the United States in 2003.

Beef is rising in popularity in China. The country’s residents are projected to eat roughly 8 billion kilograms of the meat this year, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service. That’s up more than 40 percent in the past five years.

The deal also has implications for US natural gas and financial services. Chinese companies would be allowed to buy liquefied natural gas from the US, while US firms providing credit rating services and electronic payment services would gain greater access to Chinese markets.

‘Paltry trade benefits’

However, experts said the deal would fail to substantially reduce the US trade deficit with China, which is by far the biggest imbalance America has with any country.

A report by Capital Economics consultancy expected “paltry trade benefits” from the deal because it would amount to “just a few billion dollars.”

The agreement “won’t make any meaningful difference to the bilateral trade imbalance, which could still trigger a flare-up of tensions between the two sides in the future,” it said.

Kushner family withdraws from investment-visa swap

But trade with China hit a snag for one particular company Friday.

The real estate company owned by the family of US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser withdrew from a controversial sales pitch to Chinese investors involving US visas.

Nicole Kushner Meyer, the sister of White House aide Jared Kushner, had headlined events in Beijing and Shanghai last weekend that encouraged Chinese businessman to invest more than $150 million in a US luxury apartment complex.

In exchange, investors would be eligible for the US’s EB-5 visa program that offers US residency in exchange for at least $500,000 investment in a US business that must also create at least 10 American jobs.

Meyer’s participation raised conflict-of-interest concerns after it emerged that she had mentioned her brother’s name during the sales pitch for the investment-visa exchange.

Kushner, who is married to the president’s daughter Ivanka, resigned as chief executive of Kushner Companies in January in order to begin his job as White House adviser. His work involves serving as a liaison between the administration and Beijing.

The Meyer and the Kushner family company will not attend a series of events advertising the investment program this weekend, James Yolles, spokesman for the firm, said.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP, and AP)