Posts Tagged ‘U. S.’

US first-quarter growth revised up sharply to 1.2%

May 26, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | GDP growth in President Donald Trump’s first quarter was 1.2 percent, according to the Commerce Department

WASHINGTON (AFP) – 

The US economy grew much faster than originally reported in the first quarter due to sharp increases in business and consumer spending, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

The revised data mean GDP growth in President Donald Trump’s first quarter was 1.2 percent, half a percentage point higher than the first report, which had US economic expansion at its slowest pace in three years.

Businesses fixed investment rose at the fastest pace in five years, which helped put a far rosier on the January-March period.

Analysts had been expecting a revision of only a tenth of a point.

The result was still far slower than the final three months of 2016, when GDP grew 2.1 percent but analysts say first quarters have trended low in recent years.

Having risen to office with an agenda of economic revival, Trump has pledged to return the world’s largest economy to annual expansion of three percent or more.

The administration is counting on that robust growth — which economists say may not be realistic — to help pay for a proposed military buildup and multi-trillion-dollar tax cuts.

The revised GDP estimate, based on a more complete set of a data than was available in April, also reflected a smaller decrease in spending by state and local governments than originally reported. The Commerce Department will revise the data again in June.

Economists have been expecting a rebound in the April-June period, but a key indicator for the first month of the second quarter was only fair.

In a separate report, Commerce Department figures showed a dip in civilian aircraft sales helped depress orders for big-ticket US-manufactured goods in April, marking the first decline in five months.

The slowdown was smaller than analysts were expecting but appeared larger due to the steep upward revision in March’s numbers.

Total orders for durable goods fell by 0.7 percent in April to $231.2 billion, down from March’s robust 2.3 percent gain, and the slowest expansion since November.

An analyst consensus forecast had called for a far greater decrease of 1.8 percent last month.

The decline was largely driven by 9.2 percent drop in orders for civilian aircraft, but there were other signs of weakness.

Excluding the volatile transportation category, durables orders fell 0.4 percent, their biggest monthly decline in 10 months. Excluding defense, orders were also down 0.8 percent.

The electronics sector was a bright spot, with sales of communications equipment rising 4.2 percent, the strongest rate in a year. Computer sales also gained 1.4 percent, the biggest jump since July.

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How Obama’s ‘smart power’ helped seed the Manchester attack

May 26, 2017

Editorial
The New York Post

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The hunt for the terror network behind the Manchester attack is now focusing on Libya, where bomber Salman Abedi’s father and brother were arrested Thursday and from which Abedi himself had only recently returned.

That’s hardly surprising: South Manchester is home to one of the world’s largest Libyan expatriate communities, which in recent years has become a prime recruiting ground for young jihadists.

And Libya itself is the base for an ISIS external-operations wing tasked with plotting terrorist attacks in Europe. Indeed, since the fall of Moammar Khadafy, Libya has become a haven for Islamist terrorist groups.

Such is the result of Barack Obama’s failed policy — which he so confidently announced would prove smarter than his predecessor’s mistakes in Iraq, only to be proved horribly wrong.

Obama (with a huge push from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) effectively brought about regime change in Libya, while avoiding the kind of occupation that proved so deadly and costly to the Bush administration after it ousted Saddam Hussein.

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Yet all that did was create a huge vacuum, rapidly filled by civil war among various militias as well as ISIS and other extremists.

Libya’s anarchy is also responsible for a good part of the refugee flows that threaten to overwhelm Europe.

And it’s not as if no one saw it coming. On the contrary, the State Department’s top Middle East hand warned from the start that Libya’s post-Khadafy leadership was hopeless, leaving the country prey to becoming the failed state it now is.

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In short, Obama and Bush made the same mistake: They had no real plan for what came next after a despot’s ouster.

Bush eventually stabilized Iraq, though it turned south again after Obama withdrew the last few thousand US troops. Obama, by contrast, essentially gave up on Libya after an al Qaeda offshoot stormed the US consulate in Benghazi in 2012, killing the US ambassador and three others.

Now, as Benny Avni notes, Libya is where ISIS’s leaders will likely flee once they’re driven out of Iraq and Syria.

So much for Obama-era “smart power.”

http://nypost.com/2017/05/25/how-obamas-smart-power-helped-seed-the-manchester-attack/

Trump, G7 Leaders Seek Deals on Terrorism, Trade, Climate

May 26, 2017

TAORMINA, Sicily — The differences are well-known: climate change, trade and migration threaten to throw a summit of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies off its consensus game, with U.S. President Donald Trump cast as the spoiler-in-chief. But it may not play out exactly that way, according to long-time G7 observers.

“It is a forum made for Donald Trump’s particular style. It is highly informal, highly interactive and they speak in very colloquial language to each other,” said John Kirton, director of the G7 Research Group at the University of Toronto. “It is the ultimate lonely hearts club. No one understands how tough it is to have the top job except the peers with the top job in other countries.”

While Trump has met all of the leaders one on one, this will be the first time all seven are around the same table, including also newcomers Emmanuel Macron of France, Theresa May of Britain and the Italian host, Paolo Gentiloni — forging a new dynamic after a year of global political turmoil amid rising nationalism.

Climate policy promises to be the real buzzkill at the G7 party. Endorsing measures to combat terror is expected to find easy agreement, especially after the attack on an English pop music concert killed 22 people Monday night. But some of the trust that fuels such meetings was undermined by a leak of British intelligence in the Manchester attack blamed on a U.S. official, prompting the Britain to decide not to share further intelligence in the case. Trump is also going against the grain on trade with more protectionist stand

His pending review of U.S. climate policies and decision not to make up his mind before Taormina has braced environmentalists for the possibility of bland language that says little after years of increasingly stronger commitments to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and emissions of in greenhouse gases under the Paris Agreement.

“What we do not want to see is a false compromise on nothing,” said Tobias Muenchmeyer, a political expert for Greenpeace. “We want to see determination and commitment over unity,” with the other partners going ahead without the United States.

Trump’s attempts to impose a U.S. travel ban on some Muslim countries contrast with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s position that immigration is a source of strong, sustainable inclusive growth. Sicily is on the front lines in Europe’s migration crisis, the first landfall for most of the more than 180,000 migrants who arrived in Italy last year — and the reason the Italian government chose Sicily as the backdrop for this summit.

Kirton said Trump has demonstrated the ability to come to bilateral agreements, and it is possible that Taormina will yield deals for which he can claim credit at home. But his volatile style could upend even summit decisions.

“It is always possible the president will change his mind even before he lands in Washington and fire off some more tweets,” Kirton said.

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ABC News

President Donald Trump will continue his marathon of meetings with world leaders Friday on the fifth stop of his overseas trip in Taormina, Italy, when he attends his first Group of Seven(G7) summit.

The annual meeting convenes the leaders of the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy and Canada to discuss and promote solutions for major world issues.

But in contrast to the collaborative and at times even playful demeanor leaders would assume during the eight years President Barack Obama was in office, Trump’s emergence so far on the diplomatic circuit has shown his willingness to use the meetings to confront world leaders and openly express his grievances.

Trump’s speech at the opening of a new NATO memorial Thursday aimed to publicly call out countries who may not have paid their full share in recent years. It also rattled some diplomatic experts over the president’s decision to not explicitly express the U.S. commitment to NATO’s Article 5 collective defense treaty.

A key issue expected to be on the summit’s agenda is Trump’s weighing of whether to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, a decision that several leaders of the G7 countries have expressed could significantly undermine global efforts to combat climate change.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters aboard Air Force One Wednesday that the president would make his decision whether to exit the treaty upon his return to the U.S.

Also under the microscope during Trump’s meetings have been his body language and interactions with other heads of state. In particular reporters and social media have pointed out his lengthy handshake with newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron, his alleged “shove” to move in front of Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic and his face-to-face with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, who expressed dismay over an alleged U.S. leak of British intel from the investigation into the Manchester bombing.

In the evening following his meetings, Trump and the first lady will attend a G7 concert by La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra before the leaders and their spouses sit down for dinner.

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America’s prisons are failing. Here’s how to make them work

May 26, 2017

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A lot is known about how to reform prisoners. Far too little is done

 

SHIRLEY SCHMITT is no one’s idea of a dangerous criminal. She lived quietly on a farm in Iowa, raising horses and a daughter, until her husband died in 2006. Depressed and suffering from chronic pain, she started using methamphetamine. Unable to afford her habit, she and a group of friends started to make the drug, for their own personal use. She was arrested in 2012, underwent drug treatment, and has been sober ever since. She has never sold drugs for profit, but federal mandatory minimum rules, along with previous convictions for drug possession and livestock neglect, forced the judge to sentence her to ten years in prison. Each year she serves will cost taxpayers roughly $30,000—enough to pay the fees for three struggling students at the University of Iowa. When she gets out she could be old enough to draw a pension.

Barack Obama tried to reduce the number of absurdly long prison sentences in America. His attorney-general, Eric Holder, told federal prosecutors to avoid seeking the maximum penalties for non-violent drug offenders. This reform caused a modest reduction in the number of federal prisoners (who are about 10% of the total). Donald Trump’s attorney-general, Jeff Sessions, has just torn it up. This month he ordered prosecutors to aim for the harshest punishments the law allows, calling his new crusade against drug dealers “moral and just”. It is neither.

More is not always better

Prisons are an essential tool to keep society safe. A burglar who is locked up cannot break into your home. A mugger may leave you alone if he thinks that robbing you means jail. Without the threat of a cell to keep them in check, the strong and selfish would prey on the weak, as they do in countries where the state is too feeble to run a proper justice system.

But as with many good things, more is not always better (see article). The first people any rational society locks up are the most dangerous criminals, such as murderers and rapists. The more people a country imprisons, the less dangerous each additional prisoner is likely to be. At some point, the costs of incarceration start to outweigh the benefits. Prisons are expensive—cells must be built, guards hired, prisoners fed. The inmate, while confined, is unlikely to work, support his family or pay tax. Money spent on prisons cannot be spent on other things that might reduce crime more, such as hiring extra police or improving pre-school in rough neighbourhoods. And—crucially—locking up minor offenders can make them more dangerous, since they learn felonious habits from the hard cases they meet inside.

America passed the point of negative returns long ago. Its incarceration rate rose fivefold between 1970 and 2008. Relative to its population, it now locks up seven times as many people as France, 11 times as many as the Netherlands and 15 times as many as Japan. It imprisons people for things that should not be crimes (drug possession, prostitution, unintentionally violating incomprehensible regulations) and imposes breathtakingly harsh penalties for minor offences. Under “three strikes” rules, petty thieves have been jailed for life.

A ten-year sentence costs ten times as much as a one-year sentence, but is nowhere near ten times as effective a deterrent. Criminals do not think ten years into the future. If they did, they would take up some other line of work. One study found that each extra year in prison raises the risk of reoffending by six percentage points. Also, because mass incarceration breaks up families and renders many ex-convicts unemployable, it has raised the American poverty rate by an estimated 20%. Many states, including Mr Sessions’s home, Alabama, have decided that enough is enough. Between 2010 and 2015 America’s incarceration rate fell by 8%. Far from leading to a surge in crime, this was accompanied by a 15% drop.

America is an outlier, but plenty of countries fail to use prison intelligently. There is ample evidence of what works. Reserve prison for the worst offenders. Divert the less scary ones to drug treatment, community service and other penalties that do not mean severing ties with work, family and normality. A good place to start would be with most of the 2.6m prisoners in the world—a quarter of the total—who are still awaiting trial. For a fraction of the cost of locking them up, they could be fitted with GPS-enabled ankle bracelets that monitor where they are and whether they are taking drugs.

Tagging can also be used as an alternative to locking up convicts—a “prison without walls”, to quote Mark Kleiman of New York University, who estimates that as many as half of America’s prisoners could usefully be released and tagged. A study in Argentina finds that low-risk prisoners who are tagged instead of being incarcerated are less likely to reoffend, probably because they remain among normal folk instead of sitting idly in a cage with sociopaths.

Justice systems could do far more to rehabilitate prisoners, too. Cognitive behavioural therapy—counselling prisoners on how to avoid the places, people and situations that prompt them to commit crimes—can reduce recidivism by 10-30%, and is especially useful in dealing with young offenders. It is also cheap—a rounding error in the $80 billion a year that America spends on incarceration and probation. Yet, by one estimate, only 5% of American prisoners have access to it.

The road to rehabilitation

Ex-convicts who find a job and a place to stay are less likely to return to crime. In Norway prisoners can start their new jobs 18 months before they are released. In America there are 27,000 state licensing rules keeping felons out of jobs such as barber and roofer. Norway has a lower recidivism rate than America, despite locking up only its worst criminals, who are more likely to reoffend. Some American states, meanwhile, do much better than others. Oregon, which insists that programmes to reform felons are measured for effectiveness, has a recidivism rate less than half as high as California’s. Appeals to make prisons more humane often fall on deaf ears; voters detest criminals. But they detest crime more, so politicians should not be afraid to embrace proven ways to make prison less of a school of crime and more of a path back to productive citizenship.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “Jail break”
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Trump calls on NATO members to contribute ‘their fair share’

May 25, 2017

US President Donald Trump has once again urged NATO members to pay more, saying 2 percent of GDP was the miniumum. Earlier, EU officials seemed assured that Trump had reversed some of his criticism of the bloc.

Belgien Trump und Stoltenberg (Reuters/C. Hartmann)

US President Donald Trump on Thursday repeated calls for members of the NATO military alliance to pay more, saying that payments must make up for “the years lost.”

Speaking in Brussels at his first NATO summit, Trump said 23 of the 28 NATO allies owed “massive amounts of money” and that this was “not fair to the people and tax payers of the United States.”

He also urged his NATO counterparts to fight terrorism, and to make the management of immigration a priority.

“You have thousands and thousands of people pouring into our various countries and spreading throughout, and in many cases we have no idea who they are,” he said.

Trump repeatedly cited uncontrolled immigration as a major driver of crime and terrrorism during his presidential campaign, and, as president, has tried to introduce a travel ban on people wanting to enter the US from six majority-Muslim countries.

‘Deeply troubling’ leaks

His comments came after he began the meeting by leading a moment’s silence for victims of the Manchester bombing, which he described as “a barbaric and vicious attack on our civilization.”

Ahead of the NATO meeting, Trump issued a written statement in which he called leaks of sensitive British information about the attack to the US press “deeply troubling,” and said he was asking the Justice Department and other agencies to “launch a complete review of this matter.”

The statement comes amid anger from Britain about the intelligence leaks, and a decision by Manchester police to withhold information from the United States about the investigation into this week’s bombing, in which 22 people died.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to confront Trump over concerns that US officials might be behind the leaks to media outlets.

UK | Trauerbekundungen nach dem Anschlag in Manchester (picture-alliance/empics/D. Lawson)

The bomb attack in Manchester was the worst in Britain since the July 7, 2005 attacks

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9/11 memorial

Trump also unveiled a memorial to the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington at the new NATO headquarters,

“The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration as well as threats from Russia and NATO’s eastern and southern borders,” he said at the unveiling.

In his speech at the ceremony, the US president made no explicit reference to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, the mutual defense pact that commits allies to defend any of the 28 members that come under attack. Article 5 has been activated only once – after the 9/11 attacks.

Trump has so far refused to personally commit to Article 5.

‘Implied commitment’

Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, said, however, that Trump’s presence at the event underscored the White House’s “commitments and treaty obligations.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also unveiled a monument comprising parts of the Berlin Wall, intended to symbolize efforts to end the division of Europe.

“Germany will not forget the contribution NATO made in order to reunify our country. This is why we will indeed make our contribution to security and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg,” she said.

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Read: Trump says NATO is ‘no longer obsolete’

Belgien Brüssel NATO-Gipfel Gruppenfoto (Picture alliance/dpa/B. Doppagne/BELGA)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (in red) also unveiled a memorial to the Cold War

 

Differences remain with EU

Earlier in the day, Trump met with EU officials in Brussels in a bid to smooth over relations after he championed Brexit and criticized the bloc on the campaign trail.

Belgien Tusk empfängt Trump in Brüssel (Reuters/F. Lenoir)

Trump met with EU leaders ahead of a NATO summit

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Trump met with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, with the two sides agreeing on a number of issues and reaffirming counter-terrorism cooperation.

But after the meeting, Tusk said there were also differences over several key issues.

“We agreed on many areas, first and foremost on counter-terrorism. Some issues remain open, like climate and trade. And I am not 100 percent sure that we can say today – we means the president and myself – that we have a common position, common opinions about Russia,” said Tusk.

Trump has softened his criticism of NATO and the European Union since coming to office, and EU officials suggested that he expressed concern on Thursday that Brexit could cost US jobs.

European leaders have also been urging Trump to keep US commitments to the Paris climate deal to reduce greenhouse gases.

Read more: Ex-US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief pleads for Paris climate deal

 tj, cw/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

http://www.dw.com/en/trump-calls-on-nato-members-to-contribute-their-fair-share/a-38983673

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China’s Xi Says Navy Should Become World Class

May 24, 2017

BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country’s navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.

China’s navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.

With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.

Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should “aim for the top ranks in the world”, the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit.

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President Xi Jinping (centre), who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, pictured during his inspection of the PLA Navy headquarters, in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua

Trump’s 3% Growth Target Looks Out of Reach

May 24, 2017

President has to identify some wellspring of workers or productivity that his predecessors have missed

President Donald Trump released his first budget on Monday.

President Donald Trump released his first budget on Monday. PHOTO: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS
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Updated May 23, 2017 12:20 p.m. ET

Great leaders, whether of sports teams, companies or countries, set audacious goals to spur followers on to great accomplishments. But the goal isn’t enough: A leader also needs a credible path to achieve it.

That’s the problem with President Donald Trump’s first budget. It sets a worthy objective of sustained 3% economic growth, but offers no rigorous plan to back it up.

To listen to budget director Mick Mulvaney, the main thing holding the U.S. economy back is a bad attitude. Projections by the previous administration and the Congressional Budget Office of 1.9% long-term growth were “sad,” he told reporters Monday.

“That assumes a pessimism about America, about the economy, about its culture, that we’re simply refusing to accept. We believe that we can get to 3% growth and we don’t believe that’s fanciful.”

Mr. Trump—moving in the opposite direction of President Barack Obama —promises lower taxes and less regulation, which should increase business investment and thus worker productivity. Moreover, a less-generous social safety net could prod some people back to work. More workers who are more productive are the ingredients of faster growth.

Yet there are good reasons independent economists think the U.S. can’t return to its historic growth of 3%. The U.S. working-age population grew 1.2% a year from 1950 through 2000. With the baby boomers retiring and families shrinking, it will grow less than 0.3% a year over the next decade. To make a credible case for 3% growth, Mr. Trump has to identify some wellspring of workers or productivity, that is output per worker, that his predecessors have missed.

Mr. Mulvaney thinks prodding many people off social safety-net programs and back to work will be good for them, and for growth.

In principle, that’s true, but the magnitudes are doubtful. About half of household heads on food stamps and three quarters of those on Medicaid already work, says Robert Moffitt, an economist at Johns Hopkins University. At most, 13 million recipients of Medicaid and 6.5 million recipients of food stamps don’t work (and the two groups overlap). The growth of people on disability insurance can be slowed with tougher eligibility, but experience suggests getting existing recipients off is almost impossible.

When welfare was cut off in the 1990s for single mothers able to work, the share of those not working dropped by up to a third. That kind of effect on 13 million Medicaid recipients or 6.5 million food-stamp participants would generate only a modest, and one-off, boost to a labor force of 160 million. The effect on gross domestic product would be even more muted because, Mr. Moffitt notes, these workers have extremely low skills and thus productivity.

Nor would repealing the Affordable Care Act do the trick. The CBO estimates its health-insurance subsidies, which become less generous as wages rise, discourage work and would eventually reduce employment by 2 million. But little of that has been felt yet, and in any case, the Republican replacement plan maintains some of those subsidies.

One safety-net reform that would meaningfully expand the labor force would be a higher retirement age for Social Security and Medicare. But Mr. Trump promised not to touch either and his budget, it declares, “does not.” He is also deporting more illegal immigrants, another restraint on labor force.

Lowering corporate tax rates in theory would make many more capital projects profitable, bolstering productivity meaningfully. But the budget doesn’t include a tax reform plan. It merely assumes reform will be “deficit neutral,” then simply extrapolates today’s tax take, as a share of GDP, out for the next 10 years.

Mr. Trump has proposed steep cuts to personal and corporate tax rates that even optimists think will add trillions to the deficit. The Tax Foundation, a pro tax-cut think tank, reckons lowering the corporate rate to 15% as Mr. Trump wants would only raise growth to 2.3% from 1.9%, and that boost would peter out once all the newly profitable capital projects had been undertaken.

Even that is probably high. Most large U.S. trading partners have slashed their own corporate rates but none has enjoyed a noticeable growth dividend as a result. Businesses generally report that tax rates are unimportant in deciding whether to invest; customer demand is paramount.

Mr. Trump is intent on limiting regulation. As with taxes, this goes in the right direction, but the benefits are potentially slim.

Sam Batkins of the American Action Forum, a conservative think tank, says the administration has already slowed the production of new rules, but actually repealing significant rules is hard because it requires Congress.

Marcus Peacock, a regulatory expert at George Washington University who advised Mr. Trump’s incoming administration, recently told a conference, “They’re looking for opportunities that are going to make existing regulations more efficient,” such as through less paperwork.

Presidents are supposed to be optimists, and Mr. Trump would hardly be the first to fall short of his target. But a great deal is at stake with this one. Many of his other promises rely heavily on the 3% growth goal. For example, the budget is supposed to balance by 2027, with the help of nearly $600 billion a year in added revenue attributable solely to a more aggressive growth forecast.

Until Mr. Trump presents a credible vision for achieving that growth, the rest of his promises are best viewed with deep skepticism.

Write to Greg Ip at greg.ip@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/nice-3-target-mr-trump-how-will-you-get-there-1495550536

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North Korea, if left unchecked, on ‘inevitable’ path to nuclear ICBM: U.S.

May 24, 2017

Reuters

By Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali | WASHINGTON

North Korea, if left unchecked, is on an “inevitable” path to obtaining a nuclear-armed missile capable of striking the United States, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart told a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

The remarks are the latest indication of mounting U.S. concern about Pyongyang’s advancing missile and nuclear weapons programs, which the North says are needed for self-defense.

U.S. lawmakers pressed Stewart and the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to estimate how far away North Korea was from obtaining an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could reach the United States.

They repeatedly declined to offer an estimate, saying that doing so would reveal U.S. knowledge about North Korea’s capabilities, but Stewart warned the panel the risk was growing.

“If left on its current trajectory the regime will ultimately succeed in fielding a nuclear-armed missile capable of threatening the United States homeland,” Stewart said.

“While nearly impossible to predict when this capability will be operational, the North Korean regime is committed and is on a pathway where this capability is inevitable.”

The U.N. Security Council is due to meet on Tuesday behind closed doors to discuss Sunday’s test of a solid-fuel Pukguksong-2 missile, which defies Security Council resolutions and sanctions. The meeting was called at the request of the United States, Japan and South Korea.

INTELLIGENCE GAPS

John Schilling, a missile expert contributing to Washington’s 38 North think tank, estimated it would take until at least 2020 for North Korea to be able to develop an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S. mainland and until 2025 for one powered by solid fuel.

But Coats acknowledged gaps in U.S. intelligence about North Korea and the thinking of its leader Kim Jong Un.

He cited technological factors complicating U.S. intelligence gathering, including gaps in U.S. intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), which rely on assets like spy satellites and drone aircraft.

“We do not have constant, consistent ISR capabilities and so there are gaps, and the North Koreans know about these,” Coats said.

Washington has been trying to persuade China to agree to new sanctions on North Korea, which has conducted dozens of missile firings and tested two nuclear bombs since the start of last year.

New data on Tuesday showed China raised its imports of iron ore from North Korea in April to the highest since August 2014 but bought no coal for a second month after Beijing halted coal shipments from its increasingly isolated neighbor.

U.S. President Donald Trump has warned that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea is possible over its weapons programs, although U.S. officials say tougher sanctions, not military force, are the preferred option.

Trump’s defense secretary, Jim Mattis, said on Friday any military solution to the North Korea crisis would be “tragic on an unbelievable scale.”

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Related:

 (China and Russia don’t generally agree on this)

 (They say it didn’t happen but eye wintesses say it DID HAPPEN)

 (China did not even criticize North Korea…)

North Korea says missile meets all specifications, ready for mass-production — “Raining warheads on America!”

May 22, 2017

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves to North Korean scientists and technicians, who developed missile ‘Hwasong-12’ in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) May 20, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS
By Ju-min Park and Jack Kim | SEOUL
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North Korea said on Monday it had successfully tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile which met all technical requirements and could now be mass-produced, indicating advances in its ambitions to be able to hit the United States.

The North fired the missile into waters off its east coast on Sunday, its second missile test in a week, which South Korea said dashed the hopes of the South’s new liberal government under President Moon Jae-in for peace between the neighbors.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test of the Pukguksong-2, which confirmed reliable late-stage guidance of the warhead and the functioning of a solid-fuel engine, the KCNA state news agency said.

It quoted Kim as saying the Pukguksong-2 met all the required technical specifications so should now be mass-produced and deployed to the Korean People’s Army strategic battle unit.

Pyongyang has defied all calls to rein in its nuclear and missile programs, even from China, its lone major ally, saying the weapons are needed for defense against U.S. aggression.

The U.N. Security Council is due to meet on Tuesday behind closed doors to discuss the latest test, which defies Security Council resolutions and sanctions, at the request of the United States, Japan and South Korea, diplomats said on Sunday.

The test could also alter the dynamics of Moon’s plan to review a controversial deployment of the THAAD U.S. anti-missile system in the South that is angrily opposed by China, which sees its powerful radar as a threat to its security.

“Saying with pride that the missile’s rate of hits is very accurate and Pukguksong-2 is a successful strategic weapon, he approved the deployment of this weapon system for action,” KCNA said, quoting Kim.

(For a graphic on nuclear North Korea, click tmsnrt.rs/2lE5yjF)

“EARTH IS BEAUTIFUL”

The launch verified the reliability and accuracy of the solid-fuel engine’s operation and stage separation and the late-stage guidance of the nuclear warhead which was recorded by a device mounted on the warhead, KCNA said.

“Viewing the images of the Earth being sent real-time from the camera mounted on the ballistic missile, Supreme leader Kim Jong Un said it feels grand to look at the Earth from the rocket we launched and the entire world looks so beautiful,” KCNA said.

The use of solid fuel presents advantages for weapons because the fuel is more stable and can be transported easily in the missile’s tank allowing for a launch at very short notice.

The Pukguksong-2 flew about 500 km (310 miles), reaching an altitude of 560 km, South Korea’s military said.

The South’s military said the test provided more “meaningful data” for the North’s missile program but whether the North mastered the re-entry technology for the warhead needs additional analysis.

The reclusive state has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland and on Saturday said it had developed the capability, although Western missile experts say the claim is exaggerated.

Some experts believe it will be 2030 or later for the North to develop the technology. But KCNA said last week’s missile test put Hawaii and Alaska within range.

North Korea regularly threatens to destroy the United States which it accuses of preparing for invasion. South Korea hosts 28,500 U.S. troops to counter the threat from the North, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

JAPAN “CANNOT TOLERATE LAUNCH”

Experts say solid fuel engines and mobile launchers make it more difficult to detect signs of launch preparations.

“For military purposes, solid-fueled missiles have the advantage that they have the fuel loaded in them and can be launched quickly after they are moved to a launch site,” David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a blog post.

“Building large solid missiles is difficult,” he said, adding it took decades for major superpowers such as France and China to go from a medium-range missile to an intercontinental ballistic missile.

U.S. President Donald Trump has warned that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea is possible, and in a show of force, sent the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group to Korean waters to conduct drills with South Korea and Japan.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said economic and diplomatic pressure would continue.

“We cannot absolutely tolerate the missile launch on May 21 and repeated provocative remarks and actions by North Korea,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Monday.

“It is important to lower North Korea’s foreign currency earnings and prevent nuclear missile related shipment and technological transfer in order to prevent North Korea’s nuclear missile development. We will fully implement our own sanctions against North Korea.”

China repeated its call for all parties to exercise restraint to not let tension mount further.

On Monday, the South’s Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Duk-haeng said while Seoul will respond firmly to any provocations by the North, “it would not be desirable to have ties between the South and the North severed.”

Moon took office on May 10 after winning an election on a platform of a more moderate approach to the North, with which the South is still technically at war since no peace treaty was signed at the end of their 1950-1953 conflict.

(Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko in TOKYO and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Michael Perry and Nick Macfie)

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 (If you believe that, Maybe you’d be interested in buying some swamp land in Nigeria….)

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Trump Urges Muslims to Fight Extremism in Saudi Speech — Plus Photos of Events in Riyadh

May 21, 2017

As he continues his first overseas trip as president, Trump aims to strike a conciliatory tone toward Muslims

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and suit

President Trump speaks at the Arab-Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

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Updated May 21, 2017 11:24 a.m. ET

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia—President Donald Trump called Sunday on Muslim leaders across the globe to confront “the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds,” in a conciliatory speech aimed at corralling Arab allies around a new, combined effort to combat terrorism.

His speech at an Arab-Islamic-American summit in the Saudi capital marked a dramatic departure from rhetoric during his presidential campaign, most notably was his deliberate decision not to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” as he pointedly did as a candidate.

Instead, Mr. Trump sought to draw a distinction between religion and terrorism carried out in its name. It “is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations” but “a battle between good and evil,” he said.

“Terrorists do not worship God. They worship death,” Mr. Trump said.

“Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear,” he added, if you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief and your soul will be fully condemned.”

Mr. Trump sought to underpin his pursuit of a renewed campaign against terrorism with new measures aimed at combating groups such as al Qaeda and Islamic State, and countering Iranian aggression in the Middle East.

Arab leaders agreed take steps to target terrorism financing, and the U.S. and Saudi Arabia opened a center in Riyadh focused on that effort. The U.S. also agreed to some $400 billion in economic investments with Saudi Arabia including $110 billion in new arms sales to Riyadh.

As president, Mr. Trump issued two travel bans targeting Muslim-majority countries he deemed terrorism threats, fulfilling one of his signature campaign promises. Both executive orders were halted after being challenged and tied up in U.S. courts.

In a February speech to both chambers of Congress, Mr. Trump said his administration was “taking strong measures to protect our nation from radical Islamic terrorism,” stressing the last three words.

Roger Stone, a Republican operative who was closely involved with Mr. Trump’s campaign, responded to a photograph of King Salman placing a medal around the president’s neck by writing on Twitter: “Candidly, this makes me want to puke.”

Mr. Trump has repeatedly criticized his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, for refusing to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.” He also said his Democratic opponent in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, was “afraid” to say it, though she had said she would.

While many Saudis have been delighted by Mr. Trump’s visit, and he received a warm welcome from the royal family, the reaction from Arabs across the region has been more critical.

From Islamists to pro-democracy advocates, many have responded harshly to a U.S. president who has spoken of a ban on Muslims. Others simply saw Mr. Trump’s elaborate reception from the Saudi monarchy as another sign that the administration wouldn’t push the region’s autocrats toward democratic reform any time soon.

U.S. officials didn’t publicly raise human-rights abuses by Saudi Arabia that the American government has criticized in the past.

For the White House, Mr. Trump’s speech on Islam was a chance for the new president to persuade a wider audience that his views aren’t hostile to the religion, as he tries to kick-start closer cooperation with Muslim leaders to combat terrorism.

Sunday’s summit could also help Saudi Arabia convey a message to the wider world about its commitment to fighting religious extremism. The country, which practices an austere interpretation of Sunni Islam, has struggled to shed its reputation as a hub of radical Islam since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on America. The perpetrators were mostly Saudi citizens.

Since then, Riyadh has emerged as one of Washington’s closest counterterrorism allies, and under King Salman has sought to lead regional efforts against terrorism.

The Saudi monarchy—eager to cultivate better ties with the U.S. under Mr. Trump than it had under Mr. Obama—has largely overlooked some of new president’s past positions. Saudi Arabia sees the U.S. as a vital partner in efforts to counter the influence of rival Iran in the region, and has enthusiastically welcomed the new administration’s more hard-line stance toward Tehran.

The World Bank announced at an event with the president’s daughter and senior White House adviser, Ivanka Trump, that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pledged a combined $100 million to a fund that will assist women entrepreneurs and small-business owners.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi take part in a bilateral meeting in Riyadh on Sunday.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi take part in a bilateral meeting in Riyadh on Sunday. PHOTO:MANDEL NGAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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Mr. Trump held individual meetings Sunday with leaders from Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt and Kuwait. The summit included representatives from the six Persian Gulf countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Noticeably absent from Sunday’s summit is the Sunni kingdom’s regional adversary: Shiite Iran, with whom Riyadh severed diplomatic relations in early 2016. Tensions between the two countries, which back opposite sides of conflicts in Yemen and Syria, have played out across the Middle East, heightening tensions between Sunnis and Shiites.

Mr. Trump is seeking warmer U.S. relations in the Middle East, in part to push for a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians and a broader thaw between Israel and its Arab neighbors. It also wants America’s Persian Gulf allies to take more of a leading role to counter Iran’s influence and help stabilize the volatile region.

Mr. Trump noted the tense relations as he met with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, saying “there won’t be strain with this administration.”

He told the king the two countries have “many of the same things in common.” The king replied that they have a “very good foundation of mutual understanding and strategy” that has “led to a great stability in the region.”

Write to Carol E. Lee at carol.lee@wsj.com and Margherita Stancati at margherita.stancati@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trumps-saudi-speech-to-mark-bid-to-ease-muslim-tensions-1495359283

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President Trump speaks at the Arab-Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
President Trump speaks at the Arab-Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS
President Trump attended a meeting with Gulf Cooperation Council leaders in Riyadh on Sunday.
President Trump attended a meeting with Gulf Cooperation Council leaders in Riyadh on Sunday. JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS
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Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud waits to receive Mr. Trump for the Arab-Islamic-American Summit.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud waits to receive Mr. Trump for the Arab-Islamic-American Summit.JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS
Mr. Trump, flanked by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Senior Adviser Jared Kushner and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, meets with Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
Mr. Trump, flanked by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Senior Adviser Jared Kushner and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, meets with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS
Mr. Trump pauses during a meeting with leaders at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit.
Mr. Trump pauses during a meeting with leaders at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit. EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS
First lady Melania Trump plays with children during a visit to the American International School in the Saudi capital.
First lady Melania Trump plays with children during a visit to the American International School in the Saudi capital.GIUSEPPE CACACE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
A worker in Riyadh walks past a balloon with a U.S. flag on it as part of welcome celebrations ahead of the visit of Mr. Trump.
A worker in Riyadh walks past a balloon with a U.S. flag on it as part of welcome celebrations ahead of the visit of Mr. Trump. HAMAD I MOHAMMED/REUTERS
Mr. Trump and King Salman arriving for a reception ahead of a banquet at Murabba Palace in Riyadh.
Mr. Trump and King Salman arriving for a reception ahead of a banquet at Murabba Palace in Riyadh. BANDAR AL-JALOUD/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
Mr. Trump is welcomed by Saudi King Salman on Saturday.
Mr. Trump is welcomed by Saudi King Salman on Saturday. BANDAR AL-JALOUD/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
King Salman gives Mr. Trump the kingdom’s highest honor, the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal.
King Salman gives Mr. Trump the kingdom’s highest honor, the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal. SAUDI PRESS AGENCY/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
White House senior adviser Jared Kushnerr and his wife, Ivanka Trump, arrive at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushnerr and his wife, Ivanka Trump, arrive at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh. MANDEL NGAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGE
Mr. Trump greets diplomats at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh.
Mr. Trump greets diplomats at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh. SAUDI ROYAL PALACE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGE
Mr. Trump and King Salman stop for coffee.
Mr. Trump and King Salman stop for coffee. MANDEL NGAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
From left, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross take part in a bilateral meeting with King Salman in Riyadh.
From left, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross take part in a bilateral meeting with King Salman in Riyadh. MANDEL NGAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
In the front row, from left, Abu Dhabi‘s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, U.S. President Donald Trump, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Jordan’s King Abdullah II at a summit in Riyadh on Sunday.
In the front row, from left, Abu Dhabi‘s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, U.S. President Donald Trump, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Jordan’s King Abdullah II at a summit in Riyadh on Sunday. JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS
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