Posts Tagged ‘US’

US military planes carrying aid arrive near Venezuelan border

February 17, 2019

Self-declared interim President Juan Guaido has vowed to bring aid into the country and set up a volunteer network for citizens to participate. Nicolas Maduro denounced the aid as a planned US invasion in disguise.

    
US Air Force plane with humanitarian aid unloading in Cucuta

Two US Air Force cargo planes landed in the Colombian city of Cucuta on Saturday. The shipment is part of self-declared interim president Juan Guaido’s plan to deliver humanitarian assistance to the country. He said aid deliveries would begin on February 23.

Cucuta, a border city that has been near the epicenter of Venezuela’s migrant crisis, has been designated as one of several collection points in the opposition’s aid strategy.

The humanitarian aid strategy is the most recent battleground in the ongoing power struggle between Venezuela’s acting President Nicolas Maduro and Guaido, who has been recognized by the US, Germany and a wide range of world nations as Venezuela’s legitimate president.

Read more: Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis sets stage for political showdown

“This wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last,” Mark Green, administrator of USAID, said of the aid in Cucuta. “More is on the way.”

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Mark Green

@USAIDMarkGreen

Toured the warehouse in , where @USAID is working with to pre-position humanitarian aid, including food, hygiene kits & medical supplies, for the people of .

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Lester Toledo, an exiled politician appointed by Guaido to coordinate the aid effort, was with Green. “We are saving lives with these airplanes,” Toledo said.

Saturday’s shipment included 180 tons of basic-needs items, such as high-energy food products, soap, toothpaste and other goods for more than 25,000 people.

Read more: ‘Time running out for Nicolas Maduro,’ Venezuela’s Juan Guaido tells DW

New volunteer initiative

Guaido spoke to a crowd of supporters in eastern Caracas on Saturday and touted the humanitarian support, encouraging citizens to participate in the efforts.

His interim government has sought to coordinate the incoming humanitarian efforts through a program called “Volunteers for Venezuela.” The plan allows people to help in various ways, from helping disseminate information on social media to participating in delivery operations on the ground.

On Twitter, Guaido said  600,000 people had so far signed up for his volunteer program, though he did not specify in what capacity.

Juan Guaidó

@jguaido

Cada día estamos más cerca del para que la entre al país. Todo el país le hace un llamado a la FANB a ponerse del lado del pueblo, a dejar pasar la porque esto también es por ellos, por sus familias.

¡Ayúdennos a salvar vidas!

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“The entire country calls on the Venezuelan army to side with the people, to let the humanitarian aid get through, because this is also for them, for their families. Help us save lives!” Guaido wrote, in one of a series of tweets on the subject.

Read more: How long can Maduro hold on?

Maduro: ‘We are not beggars’

Maduro held a rally on Friday to announce his own aid efforts, saying that 6 million families had received subsidized food boxes. The embattled leader said he bought 933 tons of medicines and supplies from China, Cuba and Russia, three nations that currently back his regime.

“We paid for it with our own money because we’re beggars to no one,” Maduro said.

Read more: Opinion: A new Cold War in Venezuela?

In lieu of Guaido’s humanitarian push, Maduro has asked the military to reinforce the border and denounced the aid as a “booby trap” and a cover for a planned US military invasion.

“They hang us, steal our money and then say ‘here, grab these crumbs’ and make a global show out of it,” Maduro told The Associated Press on Thursday, in reference to how the US has hurt his government financially.

The White House has placed Venezuela’s US assets, including oil company Citgo, under Guaido’s control and has banned financial transactions by Maduro-controlled entities. A large number of Venezuelan officials have also faced personal financial sanctions in the US.

jcg/sms (AP, Reuters, dpa)

https://www.dw.com/en/us-military-planes-carrying-aid-arrive-near-venezuelan-border/a-47553025

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China says no to Germany’s call for arms control deal with US and Russia

February 17, 2019

Germany Doesn’t Understand China-Russia Ties or Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces — and China’s Advantage — “More than a NATO issue”

China on Saturday rejected German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s appeal to join a cold war-era arms control treaty that the United States accuses Russia of breaching, saying it would place unfair limits on its military.

Image result for DF-26, pictures

China DF-26

Fearing a nuclear arms race between China, Russia and the US after the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which the US is withdrawing from, Merkel made her call for a global treaty.

“Disarmament is something that concerns us all and we would of course be glad if such talks were held not just between the United States, Europe and Russia but also with China,” she told the Munich Security Conference.

Russia and the United States are the signatories to the 1987 INF treaty that bans land-based missiles with a range between 500km (310 miles) and 5,500km, and which US President Donald Trump started the six-month withdrawal from this month, blaming Russian violations.

Moscow denies any wrongdoing, but the US and its Nato allies want Russia to destroy its 9M729 nuclear-capable cruise missile system, which Washington says could allow Russia to strike Europe with almost no warning.

Merkel’s suggestion of involving China in a negotiation is seen by European Nato diplomats as a potential way out of the impasse because a new treaty could address American concerns about a growing military threat from China and Russia.

Maas has shuttled between Moscow and Washington in recent weeks trying to save the INF treaty

Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister shuttled between Moscow and Washington in recent weeks trying to save the INF treaty. But he failed to realize the overshadowing China problem.  AFP/File

But China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi, who spoke on a panel in Munich, said that Chinese missiles were defensive.

Image result for Victor Gevers' heat map, Xinjiang, pictures

“China develops its capabilities strictly according to its defensive needs and doesn’t pose a threat to anybody else. So we are opposed to the multilateralisation of the INF,” he said.

China’s stated ambition is to modernise its People’s Liberation Army by 2035, improve its air force and push into new technologies including very high speed cruise missiles and artificial intelligence.

Its defence budget grew nearly 6 per cent between 2017 and 2018, according to the London-based International Institute for Security Studies.

Russland Iskander-M Marschflugkörper (picture-alliance/dpa/Tass/Y. Smityuk)

Russian INF missile on a launcher

Retired Chinese general Yao Yunzhu told delegates a new arms control agreement would only work if it included sea- and air-launched missiles, as well as land, because most of China’s military technology was ground-based and the country would not want to put itself at a disadvantage.

Cheaper to build, more mobile and easier to hide, ground-based rocket launchers are an attractive option for China as it develops its armed forces, experts said, whereas the United States operates more costly sea-based systems to comply with the INF.

“China is traditionally a land power and the Chinese military is a ground force,” Yao said.

“If China is to enter into these kinds of negotiations, I think it ought to be more comprehensive to include not only land-based but also air and sea-based strike capabilities … and that would be hugely complicated,” she said.

Reuters

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The Trump Administration cited China as a major reason behind its decision to announce U.S. intentions to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia.

China is not a party to the INF Treaty, which has allowed Beijing to rapidly expand its missile arsenal as part of a military strategy designed to counter U.S. and allied military power in Asia.

China has consistently refused to accede to the accord and expressed its opposition to U.S. withdrawal, positions that implicitly recognize the advantages Beijing derives from being unconstrained by the treaty’s limits.

This report explains the importance of China’s ground-launched missiles to Beijing’s overall military strategy; surveys Chinese reactions to the potential U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty; and assesses both the positive and negative implications of U.S. withdrawal for the military balance in Asia, global arms control regime, U.S. relations with Asian allies, and China-Russia ties.

https://www.uscc.gov/Research/chinas-missile-program-and-potential-us-withdrawal-intermediate-range-nuclear-forces-inf

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Heather Nauert withdraws bid to be next US ambassador to the UN

February 17, 2019

Former Fox News anchor and State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Saturday withdrew from consideration to be the US ambassador to the United Nations amid criticism that she lacked the gravitas for one of the top diplomatic posts.

“The past two months have been gruelling for my family and therefore it is in the best interest of my family that I withdraw,” Nauert said in a statement.

The announcement came after weeks of often mocking criticism over President Donald Trump‘s nomination of Nauert, who had no foreign policy experience until two years ago when she was named State Department spokeswoman.

AFP | Heather Nauert, pictured in July 2018

Leading Democrats questioned whether Nauert, despite her poise at the podium, had the skills to negotiate on complex international issues or go head-to-head with seasoned diplomats from adversaries such as Russia.

But with Trump’s Republican Party in control of the Senate, her nomination did not seem to be in serious jeopardy, raising questions on why she announced her withdrawal abruptly in the evening on a holiday weekend.

Bloomberg News, quoting anonymous sources, said that a White House background check had discovered that Nauert employed a nanny who was legally in the United States but not authorised to work.

Trump, whose tough line on immigration is his signature issue, started looking Saturday for a new nominee, the report said.

Latest Trump vacancy

Trump, an avid viewer of conservative-leaning Fox News where Nauert was once an anchor on morning show “Fox and Friends,” told reporters in December that he wanted her as UN ambassador.

Her nomination, however, was never formally submitted to the Senate and she has vanished for over two months as she prepared for a confirmation hearing — and, eventually, the job.

The UN post has been vacant since the start of the year after Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor and rising star in Republican politics, decided to leave.

State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said that Trump would put forward a new name “soon.”

Trump is notorious for the turbulence in his cabinet with top players including secretary of state, secretary of defence, chief of staff and attorney general all quitting or being pushed out in only the first two years of the administration.

In an administration that regularly denounces the media, Nauert enjoyed comparatively smooth relations with reporters as State Department spokeswoman, a position that does not require Senate confirmation.

She generally avoided gaffes, other than a befuddling remark last year when she cited D-Day — the Allied assault in 1944 on the coast of Nazi-occupied France — as evidence of strong US-German relations.

Growing scrutiny

But as she prepared for Senate confirmation, liberal activists and media outlets poured over her output at Fox News, including an episode in which she gave a platform to conspiracy theories about Islamic sharia law taking root in the United States.

Nauert, 49, suggested in the statement that she was leaving government entirely, saying: “Serving in the administration for the past two years has been one of the highest honors of my life.”

Nauert, whose family remained in New York during her tenure, did not return a message asking to confirm that she would leave as State Department spokeswoman.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised Nauert in a statement, saying that he had “great respect” for her “personal” decision to withdraw.

Representing the United States at the United Nations is no easy job under Trump, who is open about his low esteem for the global body and has pulled out of broadly supported accords including the Paris climate agreement.

Martin Edwards, an associate professor in the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, said that Trump appeared set on sending fresh faces to the United Nations.

“Given his penchant for real outsiders (as with Nikki Haley), it’s clear that other countries, who send trained career diplomats to the UN, will continue to outflank and outfox us there,” he said.

(AFP)

China tells world to ignore Mike Pence ‘lectures’

February 16, 2019

European leaders should disregard “lectures” from Vice President Mike Pence and other U.S. officials about Chinese encroachment into Europe, a top diplomat from the communist nation said Saturday.

Pence — amplifying warnings by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — told the Munich Security Conference that Huawei, a Chinese multinational telecom company, posed a threat to regional security.

“Chinese law requires them to provide Beijing’s vast security apparatus with access to any data that touches their networks or equipment,” Pence said in his prepared text. “We must protect our critical telecom infrastructure, and the United States is calling on all our security partners to be vigilant and to reject any enterprise that would compromise the integrity of our communications technology or national security systems.”

Yang Jiechi

That prompted a rebuke, during a question-and-answer session, from Yang Jiechi, a top diplomat in China’s Communist Party.

“People all know where their interests lie, so let there be fewer lectures [lest] people actually doubt whether they have the interests of the Old World in their mind or they have their own group’s self-interest in mind,” Jiechi said.

“People should not and cannot be misled,” Jiechi [sic] added. “Huawei as a company is cooperating very closely with European countries. In the fourth industrial revolution, we should all work together, and Chinese law doesn’t require companies to install backdoors to collect intelligence.”

Jiechi also delivered a pointed critique of the Trump administration’s public diplomacy.

“I hope some Americans will have a little bit more confidence in themselves and be a little bit more respectful to other people in the so-called Old World,” he said.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/defense-national-security/china-tells-world-to-ignore-mike-pence-lectures

US steps up patrols in South China Sea to counter Beijing’s ambitions

February 16, 2019

Actually, the U.S. Navy patrols are supposed to be demonstrating that no nation may “own” the ocean. That’s why they are called “freedom of navigation” exercises — using language enshrined in international law — which China is ignoring.

  • Two of the operations have already been carried out in the disputed waters this year and American officials have signalled there will be more to come
  • Observers say the pressure is unlikely to deter Beijing
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 February, 2019, 10:05pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 February, 2019, 11:28pm

South China Morning Post

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The United States has stepped up its freedom of navigation operations in the disputed South China Sea as it challenges Beijing’s efforts to strengthen its maritime claims in the region.

American officials have signalled Washington will boost measures to counter China’s expansion in the area, and include allies in future missions, but observers say Beijing is unlikely to be deterred.

The US has already conducted two freedom of navigation operations in the disputed waters this year. In January, the USS McCampbell sailed near the Paracel Islands, and on February 11, the USS Spruance and the USS Preble sailed near Mischief Reef in the Spratlys – both actions triggering condemnation from Beijing.

Washington reportedly carried out five such operations last year and four in 2017, according to a defence department report. That compared to four in both 2016 and 2015.

Remarks this week from Admiral Phil Davidson, head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, suggest the operations will become more frequent. Davidson told the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday that Beijing was spreading its influence “through fear and coercion”, and there would be more freedom of navigation operations by the US and its allies, including Britain, to send the message that the international community did not accept China’s claims in the region.

Addressing the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, US Vice-President Mike Pence said Washington was committed to the Indo-Pacific region. Speaking at the same event, China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, said Beijing firmly opposed any activities that undermined its sovereignty and security interests under the pretext of freedom of navigation.

The patrols have angered Beijing, which has previously sent vessels to “warn off and dispel” US warships, sometimes risking collision.

When the USS Decatur sailed into the Gaven and Johnson reefs in the Spratly Islands in September, China sent its Luyang destroyer to warn the US ship that it would “suffer consequences” if it did not change course. The two vessels were as close as 41 metres (45 yards) from each other, prompting calls that rules for navy encounters should be amended as the risk of confrontation between the two militaries was rising.

Yue Gang, a retired People’s Liberation Army colonel, said China was facing growing pressure from freedom of navigation operations and would send more vessels, including coastguard ships, to the South China Sea.

But he added that the risk of a major conflict between China and the US was contained, because neither side wanted to go to war. Yue said the US sent one or two ships for each patrol and did not have too many warships in the South China Sea at one time.

“If the US sent a large number of warships, then China would do the same in order to maintain a balance, so that would increase the risk of confrontation,” he said. “But China doesn’t want a military conflict in the South China Sea, and the claim America is willing to stage a war against China is an overstatement.”

Earlier this month, Admiral John Richardson, chief of US naval operations, said the US should explore new ways to enforce the rules designed to govern encounters between navies and extend them to coastguards and maritime militias – the so-called second and third sea forces that Beijing has used to advance its sovereignty claims.

Admiral John Richardson said the US should explore new ways to enforce the rules designed to govern encounters between navies, and extend them to coastguards and maritime militias. Photo: AP

But Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said freedom of navigation operations would not be enough to change Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea, and the US needed to use a more “holistic set of instruments in a more concerted manner”.

“While freedom of navigation operations may be one of the ways the US expresses its security commitment to the governments, they will have a negligible effect on Beijing’s continued strategic and economic forays – especially via the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ – throughout the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

“[Instead] Beijing may likely use the intensified foreign military presence, including joint FONOPs, as a justification for these build-ups.”

Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy, a visiting fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, also said the operations had a limited role in restraining China’s ambitions in the region.

“It will have a very limited impact unless backed by a solid economic strategy and consistency in approach,” he said.

Additional reporting by Laura Zhou and Minnie Chan

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Image result for south china sea, nine dash line, pictures

Above chart shows China’a “Nine Dash Line.” China says it owns all ocean territory north of the Nine Dash Line. There is no international legal precedent for this claim. On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid and is not recognized under international law.

US pullout from Syria risks boosting Russia, Iran influence: Merkel

February 16, 2019

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Saturday that Washington’s plan to swiftly pull its soldiers out of Syria risks allowing Russia and Iran to boost their role in the region.

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Daesh group fighters have been boxed in to a scrap of land in the battle for their last remaining territory in northeastern Syria and their final defeat is expected imminently.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (File/AFP)

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Once they are defeated, US forces are set to soon withdraw after President Donald Trump in December announced the pullout of around 2,000 troops.

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But Washington is struggling to convince allies to stay on in Syria after it leaves and Merkel warned of the risks of leaving a vacuum in the region.

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“Is it a good idea for the Americans to suddenly and quickly withdraw from Syria? Or will it once more strengthen the capacity of Iran and Russia to exert their influence?” Merkel said at the Munich Security Conference.

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Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan on Friday pledged ongoing backing for the fight against Daesh — but kept allies guessing as to how that would be achieved once US forces pull out, and won no solid pledges of support.

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Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said the US had told partners in the global anti-Daesh coalition that its soldiers would leave in “weeks rather than months”.

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The decision has stunned allies including France, which contributes artillery and about 1,200 forces in the region, including soldiers who train Iraqi troops.

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French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian asked why the US would create a vacuum in Syria that could benefit its enemy Iran, calling the approach a “mystery”.

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A French government source told AFP it was “totally out of the question” to have French troops on the ground without US forces.

AFP

Pence chastises EU, rejects Merkel’s call to work with Russia

February 16, 2019

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence rebuked European powers over Iran and Venezuela on Saturday in a renewed attack on Washington’s traditional allies, rejecting a call by Germany’s chancellor to include Russia in global cooperation efforts.

Describing the results of Donald Trump’s presidency as “remarkable” and “extraordinary”, Pence told senior European and Asian officials the EU should follow the United States in quitting the Iran nuclear deal and recognizing the head of Venezuela’s congress, Juan Guaido, as the country’s president.

“America is stronger than ever before and America is leading on the world stage once again,” Pence told officials at the Munich Security Conference, listing what he described as U.S. foreign policy successes from Afghanistan to North Korea.

Addressing an audience that included Trump’s daughter Ivanka, Pence’s speech was the latest attempt by a Trump official to put the president’s “America First” agenda into a coherent policy plan.

European leaders are troubled by Trump’s rhetoric, which they say is erratic and disruptive, citing his decision to pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal as undermining an arms control agreement that prevented Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during Munich Security Conference

But Pence — who last week during a visit to Poland accused Britain, Germany and France of undermining U.S. sanctions on Iran — repeated his demand that European powers withdraw from the deal.

“The Iranian regime openly advocates another Holocaust and it seeks the means to achieve it,” Pence, who also visited the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz, told delegates.

“The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal and join with us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure,” Pence said.

Pence, who used his trip to Europe to push Trump’s policy of favoring sovereign states as opposed to alliances and blocs, took aim at the European Union as a whole, saying “once more the Old World can take a strong stand in support of freedom in the New World” in Venezuela.

“Today we call on the European Union to step forward for freedom and recognize Juan Guaido as the only legitimate president of Venezuela,” he said, calling President Nicolas Maduro a dictator who must step down.

MERKEL’S VIEW

His speech contrasted sharply with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s robust defense of Germany’s foreign trade relations and ties with Russia, urging global leaders meeting in Munich to work together to tackle the world’s problems.

Speaking before Pence, Merkel questioned whether the U.S. decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal and withdrawal from Syria was the best way to tackle Tehran in the region.

She defended plans for a new natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany that Pence again criticized.

Trump has accused Germany of being a “captive” of Russia due to its reliance on Russian energy, but Merkel argued:

“If during the Cold War… we imported large amounts of Russian gas, I don’t know why times should be so much worse today that we can say: Russia remains a partner.”

During a question-and-answer session, she added that it would be wrong to exclude Russia politically, but Pence said Washington was “holding Russia accountable” for its 2014 seizure of Ukraine and what the West says are efforts to destabilize it through cyber attacks, disinformation and covert operations.

“Geostrategically, Europe can’t have an interest in cutting off all relations with Russia,” Merkel said.

Trump has also criticized the large trade surplus that Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, has with the United States and has threatened to put tariffs on German cars in return.

“We are proud of our cars and so we should be,” Merkel said, adding, however, that many were built in the United States and exported to China.

“If that is viewed as a security threat to the United States, then we are shocked,” she said, drawing applause from the audience.

Reporting by Paul Carrel and John Irish; Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Helen Popper

Reuters

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Pence rebukes European powers over positions on Iran, Venezuela

Failed trade talks with China point to false promise of ‘winning’ a trade war

February 16, 2019

President Trump kicked off his press conference Friday morning talking about China. Although he didn’t offer much new information about the ongoing trade talks with Beijing, it’s clear that negotiations remain a stalemate.

By Erin Dunne
Commentary

Speaking about negotiations set to resume next week, Trump explained, “We’ve had a negotiation going on for about two days. It’s going extremely well.” Undermining that positive assessment, he added, “Who knows what that means?” only to come back with, “because it only matters if we get it done.”

Image result for Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, al jazeera, mar-a-lago, pictures

Xi Jinping knew how this would go when he went to Mar-a-Lago in April, 2017

Those remarks come amid speculation that Trump might opt to extend the March 1 deadline, set late last year, to work out a deal with Beijing. Given several months of talks between Chinese and American negotiators have made seemingly little progress, it’s unlikely that both sides will have reached an agreement by the end of the month.

But simply giving both sides more time to keep talking isn’t likely to yield substantially different results.

Indeed, Trump and his administration have made clear that what he hopes to achieve in talks with China is nothing short of rewriting the country’s entire economic model by cutting state ties to industry and opening up previously closed sectors to foreign investment. That’s not going to happen, as it would destroy the current political power structure that underpins the Chinese Communist Party. Chinese President Xi Jinping, much like Trump, is not one to willingly bargain away his authority.

For Trump, that means that he’s more likely to have to claim victory on “getting it done” when it comes to a deal with China rather than actually securing significant concessions. He likely knows this, hence the open-ended suggestion that it’s unclear what negotiations “going well” actually means.

In the end, the most likely result is that China will grant mild concessions and Trump will take it as a victory, never mind that such an agreement isn’t likely to be anywhere close to “covering everything, all of the points that people have been talking about for years and said couldn’t be done,” as Trump promised in his press conference.

If that’s going to be the outcome anyway, Trump would do far better to end the trade war with an agreement instead of an extension of negotiations, and with it, continuing tariffs. Then his administration can do the real legwork of targeting China as the Commerce Department has been quietly doing all along.

Trade wars, it turns out, aren’t quite the easy battles that Trump made them out to be.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/failed-trade-talks-with-china-point-to-false-promise-of-winning-a-trade-war

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Pence urges EU to recognize Guaido as Venezuela president

February 16, 2019

US Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday called on the European Union to recognize Juan Guaido as the president of Venezuela.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president last month. (AFP)

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“All of us must stand with the Venezuelan people until freedom and democracy is fully restored,” Pence told the Munich Security Conference. “So today we call on the European Union to step forward for freedom and recognize Juan Guido as the only legitimate president of Venezuela.”

AFP

Pence warns of the ‘threat’ from China’s Huawei

February 16, 2019

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is urging allies to take seriously “the threat” posed by Chinese telecom giant Huawei as they look for partners to build 5G wireless infrastructure.

Pence said Saturday the U.S. had been “clear with our security partners on the threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies.”

He told the Munich Security Conference they “provide Beijing’s vast security apparatus with access to any data that touches their network or equipment (and) we must protect our critical telecom infrastructure.”

He says “America is calling on all our security partners to be vigilant and to reject any enterprise that would compromise the integrity of our communications technology or our national security systems.”

China rejects the U.S. position, saying Washington has provided no evidence Huawei threatens national security.

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12:25 p.m.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is doubling down on his criticism of European nations working to preserve a nuclear deal with Iran, saying they should follow Washington’s lead and withdraw from the agreement.

Speaking Saturday right after Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the 2015 Iran deal, Pence said “the time has come for our European partners to stop undermining sanctions” by continuing to offer economic incentives in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear capability.

He says Europe should withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal “and join us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region and the world the peace, security and freedom they deserve.”

France, Germany and Britain, as well as the European Union, Russia and China, have been struggling to preserve the deal since the U.S. pulled out last year.

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12:10 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says U.S. authorities appear to have concluded that European cars are a threat to national security.

Merkel said at the Munich Security Conference that Germany is “proud of our cars, and we’re allowed to be,” and many of them are built in the U.S.

The European Union and the U.S. have been trying to ratchet down trade tensions in recent months and Merkel says she has “great hope” in the negotiations. But she added: “It is not entirely easy for me as German chancellor to read that apparently — I don’t have it in writing yet — the American Commerce Department says German, European cars are a threat to national security.”

Chancellor Merkel at CDU congress, 7 Dec 18

She noted that German automaker BMW’s biggest plant is in South Carolina “and if these cars … are suddenly a threat to the United States’ national security, that startles us.”

12 noon

Chancellor Angela Merkel is defending the development of the joint German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline, dismissing American concerns it will weaken Europe’s strategic position and assuring Ukraine it won’t get cut off from Russian fuel.

Merkel on Saturday told Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the Munich Security Conference his country would continue to be a transit country for Russian gas even after the Baltic pipeline is complete.

On security concerns, she says the question is “how dependent are we on Russian gas, and that has nothing to do with the delivery.”

She says Europe also has enough terminals to receive more LNG fuel from the U.S., has its own natural gas and has other options, too.

She says “there’s nothing that speaks against getting gas from the United States, but to exclude Russia is the wrong strategic signal.”

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11:50 a.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is defending European powers’ decision to stand by the Iran nuclear deal, describing it as an “anchor” allowing the West to exert pressure.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence accused Germany, France and Britain of trying to “break” American sanctions on Iran and called on them to follow Washington in pulling out of the nuclear deal.

Merkel told the Munich Security Conference Saturday the split over Iran “depresses me very much,” but downplayed the substance of the differences.

She said: “I see the ballistic missile program, I see Iran in Yemen and above all I see Iran in Syria.”

But “the only question that stands between us on this issue is, do we help our common cause, our common aim of containing the damaging or difficult development of Iran, by withdrawing from the one remaining agreement? Or do we help it more by keeping the small anchor we have in order maybe to exert pressure in other areas?”

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11:45 a.m.

Egypt’s president has called on Western countries to boost efforts at tackling extremist ideology in online media and mosques.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference Saturday, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi says countries must “tackle websites that are inciting hatred and spreading extremist and terrorist narratives among communities in the Islamic world and in the West.”

He also said authorities should “be very mindful of what is being promoted at houses of worship,” adding that extremists should not be allowed to preach. He underlined his efforts in Egypt to control the sermons in mosques.

Egypt has wide-ranging restrictions on free speech.

El-Sissi also mentioned that in the terrorism context, the failure to reach a fair and final settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict represents the main source of instability in the Middle East.

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11:15 a.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling on China to join international disarmament negotiations after the collapse of a Cold War-era treaty on nuclear weapons in Europe.

The U.S. earlier this month announced that it was pulling out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, accusing Russia of violating it. Moscow followed suit, strongly denying any breaches. The U.S. administration also worried that the pact was an obstacle to efforts to counter intermediate-range missiles deployed by China.

Merkel told the Munich Security Conference Saturday that the U.S. withdrawal was “inevitable” because of Russian violations. But she noted the end of a treaty conceived “essentially for Europe” leaves Europe trying to secure future disarmament to protect its own interests.

Associated Press

Mike Pompeo and Federica Mogherini (Reuters/O. Hoslet)

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