CIA gets first female chief with confirmation of Gina Haspel
By DEB RIECHMANN and LISA MASCARO
Friday, May 18
WASHINGTON (AP) — Veteran spy Gina Haspel will become the first female director of the CIA after six Democrats joined Republicans in a Senate confirmation vote that overrode concerns about her role in the spy agency’s harsh interrogation program after 9/11.
Thursday’s 54-45 vote split both parties, and the margin was the closest for a CIA nominee in the nearly seven decades that a nod from the Senate has been required. Haspel, who has spent nearly all of her 33-year CIA career in undercover positions, is the first career operations officer to be confirmed since William Colby in 1973.
Haspel, 61, is a native of Kentucky but grew up around the world as the daughter of an Air Force serviceman. She worked in Africa, Europe and classified locations around the globe and was tapped as deputy director of the CIA last year. She worked under former CIA director Mike Pompeo until President Donald Trump moved him to secretary of state.
Haspel was backed by many in the CIA rank-and-file and was robustly supported by senior intelligence officials, including six former CIA directors and three former national intelligence directors, who said she earned the chance to take the helm of the nation’s premier spy agency. National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said Haspel has integrity and both frontline and executive intelligence expertise. “We salute Director Haspel, a trailblazer who today becomes the first woman to lead the CIA,” he said.
Her opponents argued that it wasn’t right to promote someone who supervised a covert detention site in Thailand where terror suspects were waterboarded, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning. They said the U.S. needed to slam closed what was one of the CIA’s darkest chapters that tainted America’s image with allies abroad.
Several senators said Haspel was not forthcoming in answering questions about her role in the torture program or the CIA’s decision to destroy video-taped evidence of the sessions. They also had questions about her rejection of the now-banned techniques.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a floor speech that Haspel “offered up almost the classic Washington non-apology.” He asked how the Senate could take seriously Haspel’s “conversion on torture?”
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the world was watching the confirmation vote, which he called a “referendum on torture.” He said the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” the CIA used at black sites, including slamming detainees against walls and confining them in coffin-shaped boxes, amounted to “government-sanctioned torture.”
Haspel has vowed never to restart such a program and says her “strong moral compass” would prevent her from carrying out any presidential order she found objectionable. That was enough to coax some senators into the “yes” column. But Leahy said he still questioned her judgment and lamented that she has never publicly condemned torture as “immoral.”
He wondered aloud what Haspel would do if she’s asked to do something that goes against America’s core values. “Should we trust that she will have the moral compass to stand up and say ‘No?’” he asked. “Based on what we’ve seen, I do not.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the nomination was not just about Haspel, but the U.S. grappling with its past mistakes.
“The bottom line is this: No one has ever been held accountable for the torture program and I do not believe those who were intimately involved in it deserve to lead the agency,” Feinstein said before casting her vote against Haspel.
Since Trump nominated Haspel, her confirmation has been clouded by debate over the CIA’s former interrogation program. A protester in the Senate visitor gallery briefly disrupted speeches ahead of the vote with shouts against the CIA.
Three Republicans opposed her: Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is battling cancer and did not vote; Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky; and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona.
Six Democrats, however, were heartened by her pledge to never restart harsh interrogation programs, even if Trump requested. They said they voted for Haspel because they thought her experience was essential in confronting today’s threats from U.S. adversaries like Russia, North Korea, China and Iran.
Among Democrats supporting Haspel were several up for re-election this fall in states where Trump is popular, including Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Sen. Bill Nelson in Florida. Also voting yes were Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking member of the intelligence committee.
“This has not been an easy decision,” Warner said, adding that he’d met and talked with Haspel many times in the past several weeks. He said he’s convinced that Haspel could and would stand up to Trump, who has voiced support for waterboarding and has said “torture works.”
After the vote, human rights groups quickly issued statements denouncing the confirmation and the now-defunct program.
“The Senate has now rewarded that atrocious conduct by promoting someone that reportedly administered it to lead one of the government’s most powerful agencies,” said Daphne Eviatar at Amnesty International USA.
In order to make this a more perfect union we need to stop electing people that are willing to vote for a torture lady.
UN Jerusalem vote: General Assembly rules against US, declaring recognition of Israel capital ‘null and void’
Several Latin American and African nations abstain from vote after America threatened to cut aid programmes
Mythili Sampathkumar New York
Thursday 21 December 2017
In a humiliating blow for Donald Trump on the world stage, the United Nations General Assembly has voted by 128 to nine to declare his controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “null and void”.
Just days after the US used its veto power at the UN Security Council to block a similar measure, the General Assembly resoundingly condemned the America’s unilateral action, which most observers said would hamper efforts to secure peace in the Middle East.
While the vote has little practical impact – it is not legally binding – it is a considerable embarrassment for the US as it reflects global opinion.
As the US licked its wounds, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah seized on what he said was a “victory for Palestine”.
“We will continue our efforts in the United Nations and at all international forums to put an end to this occupation, and to establish our Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Mr Rdainah said.
Thirty-five countries, many in Africa and Latin America, abstained from the vote.
Experts had predicted at least 150 votes in support of the motion. There was speculation that the high number of abstentions was a result of the Trump administration’s threat to “take names” of countries and cut off humanitarian aid funding.
Rwanda, Uganda, South Sudan, Malawi, and several Caribbean and Pacific island nations all abstained. Canada, Poland, Australia, and Mexico also joined them in sitting out the vote, in perhaps a nod to other political pressures from the US.
Britain voted for the motion, as did India and Russia.
Ahead of the vote, the US’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, had warned that the US would would be “taking names” of any countries who supported a resolution criticising Washington’s actions.
The Associated Press said Ms Haley had written to most of the 193 UN members states warning of possible retaliation. She said the President was taking the matter personally.
Speaking to members of his cabinet on Wednesday, Mr Trump said he liked what Ms Haley had spelled out. “For all these nations, they take our money and then vote against us. They take hundreds of millions of dollars, even billions of dollars and then they vote against us,” Mr Trump said.
“We’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”
In 2016, the US contributed approximately $13bn (£9.7bn) in economic and military assistance to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, and $1.6bn to states in East Asia and Oceania, according to the US Agency for International Development.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he completely rejected the “preposterous” UN resolution.
He said in a video on Facebook that Jerusalem “always was, always will be” Israel’s capital. He also said he appreciated that “a growing number of countries” had refused to participate in the “theatre of the absurd”.
Mr Netanyahu also thanked Mr Trump for his “stalwart defence of Israel”. Also joining the US and Israel were Togo, Guatemala, Nauru, Palau, Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Honduras.
Despite the disapproval of so many countries, Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told The Independent the vote is still a “win for Trump in a perverse way”.
“It fits with his tough guy, anti-globalist image. If he had backed down in the face of UN pressure he would have looked hollow to his domestic supporters,” Mr Gowan said.
However, it is not a “win” for Ms Haley in his estimation. ”She looks diplomatically isolated and a little inept, and has undone” the work she has put in to build relationships with diplomats, Mr Gowan noted.
The White House has not publicly commented on the vote as yet, but Ms Haley took to Twitter to “appreciate these countries for not falling to the irresponsible ways of the UN”, and included a list of all those that voted “no” and abstained.
Fox owner Rupert Murdoch and Dick Cheney and big banker Rothschild are invested in a company called Genie oil. Genie oil just received licenses to drill in the Golan Heights from Netanyahu. The problem here of course is the Golan Heights is owned by Syria. How much oil you ask? It is supposed to be more oil than all of Saudi Arabia the motherload of oil. So if you are Putin who controls both Syria and Iran what would you do if you knew Dick Cheney just stole your oil? And Netanyahu was on the take as well. I think it’s time for us to look at Netanyahu as the corrupt pig that he is and also look at the people of Israel is trapped with their leader as the United States is trapped with their leader. Now the remaining question is will United States troops run to defend the stolen OIL in the Golan Heights, protecting Cheney and Murdock.
Those guys, and others, are the real world manipulators, y’all. They play both ends. They finance and profit from both sides of all war. They orchestrate it from lofty towers. Their children will never die in their wars yet ours will sacrifice their lives for rich mans oil.
Your comment is the synopsis of the book called “War is a Racket” but General Smedley Butler. It details who gets the money and how it is made from war. He pulls no punches and was the then most decorated soldier of all time. Book is available on Amazon and only about a quarter inch thick. easy read and every American should read it.
Trump and John Bolton just took action to cripple our ability to stop Russian hacking
May 18, 2018
By Robert Haffey
Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton — the bloodthirsty vulture who swooped in to replace H.R. McMaster — is determined to repeat, if not outright one-up, the extensive damage he did to the United States, its international reputation, and the rest of the world during his tenure in the Bush administration.
Given his bombastic rhetoric and hawkish worldview, one might expect Bolton to be at the forefront of safeguarding America in the digital war theater, or at the very least pretending to care about it, especially after the unprecedented campaign waged by the Russians to undermine the 2016 election and install Trump in the Oval Office. Political parties aside, surely Bolton would want to protect our cyber infrastructure from future attacks of a similar kind? Apparently, the answer to that question is a resounding no.
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According to Politico, the Trump administration has done away with the top cyber policy advisor position. The “cyber coordinator” was a job created during the Obama years to prepare the United States security apparatus for the digital challenges of the coming century.
Eric Geller of Politico explained the importance of the role:
“The cyber coordinator led a team of directors and senior directors who worked with agencies to develop a unified strategy for issues like election security and digital deterrence. The coordinator also represented the administration in meetings with foreign partners and at conferences and other public events.”
John Bolton had been pushing to remove the position and while the White House is attempting to paint the termination as an effort to “streamline” the government’s cybersecurity capabilities, one can’t help but see it in the disturbing context of Trump’s repeated refusal to condemn Russian cyber interference or take any kind of substantive action to prevent it from happening again in anticipation of the 2018 midterms.
The cyber coordinator role was held by Rob Joyce, a former NSA employee who left the position last week and will now return to the NSA. The Hill reports that during his time at the NSA, Joyce headed the Tailored Access Operations Unit, a high-level hacking group for the U.S. government. Clearly, he was someone qualified to help Trump and his infamously incompetent administration with cyber warfare policy.
After Joyce left the White House last week, many urged Trump to simply appoint a new coordinator rather than abolish the position altogether. He ignored the concerns, including those of Senator Mark Warner (VA), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Warner tweeted about the strange decision:
Whether this decision is part of the usual Republican fetishization of removing federal jobs and cutting government bureaucracy or an overt attempt to weaken our cybersecurity to help the Russians is unclear, but what is clear is that it makes our nation less safe. Trump and his cronies are leaving us wide open to bad actors from foreign nations, and they must be removed from office before more damage can be done.
Robert Haffey is a political writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.
Washington Press is a political news website dedicated to providing our readers the most accurate, concise, and breaking political news of the day.
Thanks to The View for recognizing the Vietnam vets who NEVER had a parade.
Donald Trump’s threat to Kim Jong-un: make a deal or suffer same fate as Gaddafi
Asked about ‘Libya model’, Trump says: ‘That model … was total decimation. That model would take place if we don’t make a deal’
Julian Borger in Washington
Fri 18 May 2018 02.01 EDT
Donald Trump has threatened Kim Jong-un with the same fate as Muammar Gaddafi if the North Korean leader “doesn’t make a deal” on his nuclear weapons programme.
The US president issued the threat at the White House when he was asked about the recent suggestion by his national security adviser, John Bolton, that the “Libyan model” be a template for dealing with North Korea at a summit between Trump and Kim planned for 12 June in Singapore.
The model Bolton was referring to was Gaddafi’s agreement in December 2003 to surrender his embryonic nuclear weapons programme, which included allowing his uranium centrifuges to be shipped out to the US.
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But Trump appeared to be unaware of that agreement, and interpreted the “Libyan model” to mean the 2011 Nato intervention in Libya in support of an insurrection, which ultimately led to Gaddafi’s murder at the hands of rebels in Tripoli.
“The model, if you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him. Now that model would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely. But if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un is going to be very, very happy,” Trump said, suggesting that the regime’s survival could be assured if Kim agreed to disarm.
“This with Kim Jong-un would be something where he would be there. He would be running his country. His country would be very rich,” the president said.
“We’re willing to do a lot, and he’s willing … to do a lot also, and I think we’ll actually have a good relationship, assuming we have the meeting and assuming something comes of it. And he’ll get protections that will be very strong.”
Asked whether his comments meant that he disagreed with his national security adviser, the third of his administration, the president said: “I think when John Bolton made that statement, he was talking about if we are going to be having a problem, because we cannot let that country have nukes. We just can’t do it.”
Joel Wit, a former US negotiator who is now a senior fellow at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, said: “This is probably the wrong time to be making threats, three weeks before the summit.”
The inflammatory comments come at a time when the June meeting is in doubt. The regime in Pyongyang reacted strongly against statements by Bolton over the weekend, who insisted North Korea would have to dismantle its nuclear arsenal completely and immediately. A senior official said on Wednesday that Kim would not take part in a summit with such “one-sided” goals.
Pyongyang has also complained about joint military exercises being conducted by US and South Korean forces. The regime’s mission to the United Nations issued a statement on Thursday claiming that nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and F-22 fighter planes were taking part in the exercises. He described it as “an extremely provocative and ill-boding act”.
However, Trump said that despite Pyongyang’s threats to call off the summit, “they’ve been negotiating like nothing happened”.
The state department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said: “We are continuing to push ahead and plan our preparations. Those continue at this time for a meeting between the president and Kim Jong-un in June.”
At a meeting in Tokyo on Tuesday, a senior state department official suggested that a substantial but partial disarmament by North Korea might be acceptable as the first stage of a deal with North Korea.
Speaking to a meeting of business executives in Tokyo organised by the Wall Street Journal, Susan Thornton, the acting assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, said that in Kim’s conversations with South Korean officials, he had said “there will be a big downpayment, a big up-front demonstration of his intention” to dismantle the North Korean nuclear weapons programme completely.
“The question is: what could be front-loaded in a process that’s inevitably going to go on for some time? And then what would be acceptable to the North Korean side in return for that front-loading?” Thornton said.
It was unclear whether Thornton’s remarks had been coordinated with Bolton, who has suggested that North Korea would have to dismantle its nuclear weapons completely before receiving any benefits.
Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at the New America thinktank who has played a lead role in back-channel talks with North Korea, said: “Given the high degree of distrust between Pyongyang and Washington, anything short of a phased approach with confidence measures built in along the way is pure fantasy.”
School Shooters and CIA Torturers, All Together Now?
by Kary Love
Every CIA agent (as well as all other US Government agents and even State Officers) is required to take an oath to defend the Constitution. Preserving and protecting the supreme law is supposed to be “Job One” of every federal employee, all uniformed military, the CIA, the NSA, (the other 13 secret spy agencies), and especially including the President. Defending the Constitution is the very justification for their jobs, their paychecks and their office. They are all creatures of the Constitution and bound by oath to preserve it.
This includes the Bill of Rights provisions such as the Fifth Amendment adopted as part of the supreme law since 1791 which states:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In my judgment as a citizen of the USA, I regard the Constitution as the “social contract” between the people and their government. Most of the Constitution, but especially the Bill of Rights, exists to protect the people from government abuse of power—and makes that protection enforceable by lawsuit, and this is what makes America great, a nation of law with citizens who have rights, not subjects who have only the grace of the King to protect them. Thus, Americans have an interest in every person nominated to governmental office and a duty to inquire if such person has a history of behavior regarding the Constitution that may give insight into how they would wield the power of office. Folk wisdom going back to at least the Bible teaches the “leopard does not change their spots,” or “by their fruits shall ye know them.” Or, “once a crook, always a crook,” for a more modern version.
“Dining with the Devil? Bring a long spoon,” wrote Ambrose Bierce
Gina Haspel’s nomination and confirmation for head of the CIA could be the capstone on a long history of erosion of law. It is the predictable result of making compromises of principle deemed “necessary” due to “emergency” situations. The fear and anxiety of perceived emergencies in history has resulted in making kneejerk changes to long cherished principles in the heat of the moment often to the long-term injury of the nation doing so. The CIA torture program is one of those. Recent reports indicate Gina Haspel was a “leader” of the CIA torture:
But in his 2014 book, John Rizzo, a longtime senior CIA lawyer, indicated that Haspel was responsible for the incommunicado detention and torture not of two men, but of dozens, potentially. Former intelligence officials interviewed by The Daily Beast have portrayed Haspel’s experience similarly.
Rizzo, in his memoir, Company Man, looked back on his time in a Langley controversy he likened to “a big turd dumped on my desk”: the fateful November 2005 decision, made by Haspel’s then-boss Jose Rodriguez with her support, to destroy 92 videotapes depicting the 2002 torture of Zubaydah and al-Nashiri.
Rizzo wrote that Rodriguez’s then-chief of staff—who was Haspel, though he didn’t name her, as her identity was then an official secret—was deeply involved in the agency’s torture program.
It is a legitimate question for an American citizen to weigh her suitability for appointment against her oath to the Constitution. Are her actions “running” the torture program consistent with her oath to defend the rights of the 5th Amendment: No person… shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
The right not to be compelled to be a witness against yourself, your right to remain silent was hard won by civilized people over centuries of Kings and Emperors torturing their own people to extort confessions to supposed crimes. It would appear fidelity to this provision, and her oath, render suspect Ms. Haspel’s fidelity to this principle.
But the CIA torture program was not part of a “criminal prosecution,” Ms. Haspel’s defenders could claim, thus this provision does not apply. Whether this is correct would require a case-by-case analysis, some torture program targets were prosecuted for crimes. We do not know, but “running” a torture program for the CIA certainly seems contrary to the supreme law proscribing “compelling” one to give up their right to be silent, not to be a witness against themselves at the very least.
The fifth amendment lends further support to disqualification by its following proscription: No person… shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law….” Surely torturing a person deprives them of liberty—the right to be free from infliction of pain by government agents is long recognized by US Law. In some cases, the CIA torture program resulted in deprivation of life, or the threat thereof, similarly suspect as “due process of law.” In fact, due process of law ordinarily means only after legal process resulting in a court order can a person be deprived of “liberty.” The opposite of due process, as Mark Twain trenchantly put it is, “We will have the trial right after the hanging.” Such a process, though used by many tyrants and dictators, is not the American way. Again, torturing first and then having the trial (if ever) again colors Ms. Haspel’s suitability for high US office.
I am not going to belabor the legal technicalities, though many other questions of legitimacy of torture under the Constitution exist. I think it sufficient to look at it this way, if your child had been tortured by a US government employee, would you think that person suitable for promotion—not only because of what they did to your child, but because of their fidelity to their oath? And, if they violated their oath, what does that say about their character? If they took their oath to god, not mere affirmation, did they lie to god? And if they lied to god, can you trust any promise they make to the people in their confirmation hearings? Can the leopard change its spots? Oaths are the foundation of human law making, arguably a gift from god.
Sadly, with her confirmation by the US Senate, at the request of the US President, the oath breaking is complete—as all US Senators and all US Presidents also swear an oath to preserve and defend, not undermine and destroy, the hard won rights declared in the supreme law. A government of oath breakers is a government of liars. It is no surprise to find it is also a government of torturers. Once the line of personal integrity is gone, no law, no oath, can save it. These leopards have shown their spots, what is a citizen to do? I think a government of such moral depravity provides an unfortunate example, one followed by school, nightclub and hotel shooters—if lawlessness is good enough for those who swore an oath to the law, surely it is good enough for the lowly ordinary citizen?
Kary Love is a Michigan attorney who has defended nuclear resisters, including some desperado nuns, in court for decades and will on occasion use blunt force satire or actual legal arguments to make a point.
In Iran and North Korea, China Holds Some Cards
By Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump made his television reputation by telling people “You’re fired.” The same bullying approach now substitutes for his international diplomacy, with Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran and cancelation of the summit with North Korea the latest examples. In both cases, Trump is convinced that “maximum pressure” will eventually bring those countries’ leaders around. Far more likely is that they won’t, and China will be one of the beneficiaries.
I have argued for many years that positive US-China relations create opportunities for cooperative diplomacy in Asia and beyond, whereas negative relations undermine those opportunities. Trump’s demands that China revise its trade and foreign investment practices are among the reasons US relations with Beijing are at another low point these days. Trump may prattle about his good personal relations with Xi Jinping, but the reality is that the Chinese leadership resents the strong-armed US approach and has no intention of bending to it. Instead, expect Beijing to urge continued diplomatic efforts with Iran and North Korea while increasing its influence with them and various US allies.
In the Iran case, Trump hopes the re-imposition of US sanctions will lead state oil companies such as China’s to dramatically reduce purchases of Iranian oil. Under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Europeans and just about everyone else bowed to US pressure and cut back on Iran’s exports. But that is unlikely to happen again, since all the parties to the Iran nuclear deal are upset with Trump’s decision and are looking for ways to get around it. China will probably continue buying Iranian oil, maybe at an even higher level than before. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman has already indicated that China will “maintain normal economic ties and trade” with Tehran, rejecting “the imposition of unilateral sanctions.” Meantime, US businesses and consumers will pay for this dramatic shift on Iran.
Beijing’s incentive goes beyond trade; it’s an opportunity to demonstrate defiance of the US, which wants to force foreign companies with branches in the US to comply with its sanctions or face penalties. China now will be in sync with America’s traditional European partners in lining up against US policy. Should the Trump administration follow through on what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called “historic” sanctions on Iran, with the goal of regime change, the US will be further isolated to China’s benefit.
Much the same opportunity awaits China now that Trump has scratched the summit with Kim Jong-un.
Xi’s revitalization of diplomacy with North Korea prior to the planned Kim Jong-un-Trump summit in Singapore conveyed China’s large stake in the outcome. At his first meeting with Kim in late March, Xi probably reminded Kim of China’s longstanding support, insisted that Kim be mindful of China’s interests when dealing with Trump, and perhaps told Kim he has his back in the event the summit with Trump goes badly and US threats resume. By their second meeting in Dalian this month, Trump’s threats to China on trade may have led Xi to strengthen his backing of Kim, as Trump evidently believes when he said on May 22 that “there was a different attitude by the North Korean folks after that meeting. I can’t say that I’m happy [with China] about it.”
Trump has discovered that his hoped-for quick timetable on North Korean denuclearization will not happen. If he had bothered to read his own defense department’s 2017 report to Congress on North Korea, he would have realized that Kim Jong-un was extremely unlikely to give up a deterrent to US attack. Trump would have had to settle for much less than “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization,” such as a nuclear-and-missile test freeze or a halt to nuclear weapons production. Some observers saw flexibility in Trump’s May 22 statement that “I don’t think I want to totally commit myself” to North Korea’s immediate dismantlement of its nuclear weapons. But John Bolton evidently was determined that Trump not meet Kim with concessions in mind.
Instead, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence resorted to threats. Both raised the “Libya model” as the US alternative if North Korea rejected a nuclear deal. Predictably, North Korean officials pounced on that Bolton-esque language to warn that the summit was in jeopardy. And so it was. Trump’s goodbye letter to Kim had some nice words, but it also confirmed to the North Koreans that the US nuclear option remains alive: “You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”
Beijing would certainly seem to have Kim’s back: It supports Kim’s position that North Korean denuclearization depends on US security assurances and an end to “hostile” US actions. Kim apparently also expects that sanctions will be eased as the nuclear issue is resolved—a view the Chinese not only support but are already putting into practice by reviving border trade with North Korean businesses. South Korean president Moon Jae-in likewise understands that if dismantlement of North Korean nukes under international inspection is ever to happen, incentives to the North will be necessary. Moreover, denuclearization must take place in stages, in line with the principle of “action for action” that was initially agreed upon in the 2005 joint statement of the Six Parties. The South Koreans were reportedly stunned by Trump’s volte-face on the summit, though they should have known that Trump’s expectations were unrealistic and would never be met by the North Koreans. Yet Moon had been counting heavily on the summit, and Trump’s decision severely undercut him. “I am very perplexed and it is very regrettable that the North Korea-U.S. summit will not be held on June 12 when it was scheduled to be held,” Moon said at a meeting of his top national security officials.
With US-DPRK relations back to square one, which could mean renewed trading of threats and insults, the China factor looms larger than before. China’s improved relations with North Korea put it in position to help or undermine another US diplomatic initiative with North Korea. But right now, China is not in a helping mood with Washington. US-China relations are deteriorating, due not only to trade and investment issues with China but also closer US ties with Taiwan and the US withdrawal of its usual invitation to China to take part in this year’s RIMPAC naval exercises. Trump would do well to recalibrate the importance of good relations with China and adjust his Iran and North Korea policies accordingly. Those policies are bad for peace, bad for business, and bad for US relations with longtime allies—and they make China look like a champion of them all.
Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.