Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
The KOREAN PENINSULA
“We’re not trying to pick a fight so don’t try and give us one,” US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley relayed a message for North Korea via reporters yesterday, Edith M. Lederer reporting at the AP.
The US cannot rule out using military force against North Korea, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said during a visit to Britain yesterday, William James reporting at Reuters.
North Korea’s state media warned the US of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” following Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comment that America is looking at ways to put pressure on Kim Jong-un’s regime over its missile testing, Ju-min Park reports at Reuters.
Three volleyball games captured in full swing in satellite images of North Korea’s nuclear test site were probably intended to send a message, analysts say, while what that message was meant to be remains unclear. William J. Broad reports at the New York Times.
Russia vetoed a proposed UN Security Council statement condemning North Korea’s latest missile test and telling North Korea not to conduct any further tests that was tabled by the US, CNN’s Euan McKirdy and Richard Roth report.
China has “a unique and specific role to play” in putting pressure on North Korea to stop its “illegal behavior,” Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in Tokyo today, adding that Australia intends to work with Japan, South Korea, the US and China to ensure that “china use its unique position.” Mari Yamaguchi reports at the AP.
The USS Carl Vinson is finally heading to North Korea, the commander of Carrier Strike Group One telling those onboard yesterday that the deployment has been extended 30 days “to provide a persistent presence in the waters off the Korean Peninsula,” Simon Denyer and Emily Rauhala report at the Washington Post.
The White House did not mislead allies about the destination of the USS Carl Vinson and its strike group, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted yesterday, while the Pentagon acknowledged that it “communicated this badly.” Ben Kesling, Gordon Lubold and Jonathan Cheng report at the Wall Street Journal.
The revelation that the USS Carl Vinson was not heading to North Korea after all was met with ridicule in some parts of Asia and suspicion in others, Chun Han Wong, Jonathan Cheng and Alastair Gale report at the Wall Street Journal.
South Korea felt “bewildered, cheated and manipulated” by its most important ally the US, raising the question of whether America’s allies were even told of the aircraft carrier’s whereabouts – and whether the misinformation will undercut President Trump’s strategy to curtail North Korea’s nuclear ambitions with empty threats. Choe Sang-Hun writes at the New York Times.
“Dangerous buffoonery.” Richard Wolffe berates the “small-time businessman who knew nothing about foreign affairs” who now “bluffs and blusters” his way through international crises, now revealed as a “fool” for misstating the mission and location of an entire aircraft carrier group at the Guardian.
Trump’s talk on North Korea is altering how the region sees the long-running conflict, Kim Tong-Hyung explaining how the President has shaken up the Koreas and their neighbors, nation by nation, at the Washington Post.
President Trump is making a big mistake if he thinks that threatening military strikes and increased sanctions will persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. Joel S. Wit, senior fellow at the US-Korea Institute at John Hopkins University and the founder of website 38North explains how to defuse the crisis with North Korea at the New York Times.
The spectre of a President Trump angered by public snickering at the emptiness of his threats and tempted to show his muscle “blundering into a new Korean war” is faced by Nicholas Kristof writing at the New York Times.
The choice is between war with North Korea and Kim Jong-un “sitting on a warhead that can take out Chicago,” suggests General Rob Givens writing at The Daily Beast.
The “striking similarities” between Kim Jong-un’s regime in North Korea and Bashar al-Assad’s in Syria are explored by Zahra Ullah and Ivan Watson at CNN.
The nuclear agreement with Iran is in danger of repeating the mistakes of past US policy toward North Korea, Tillerson also said, a day after he certified to Congress that Iran is complying with the terms of the nuclear accord, Felicia Schwartz at the Wall Street Journal noting that it was unclear whether his comments reflected the Trump administration’s hard line on Iran or forecast a more serious policy shift.
Tillerson stopped short of threatening to scrap the 2015 nuclear deal or confirming whether the Trump administration would hike up sanctions against Iran yesterday, Gardiner Harris observes at the New York Times.
A political solution between the Saudi-led coalition-supported Sunni Arabs and the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen was called for by Secretary of State James Mattis from Saudi Arabia yesterday, when he completed two days of meetings with the Saudi King and other top officials. Helene Cooper reports at the New York Times.
Mattis is considering additional military support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen in the hope of forcing the Houthis into peace negotiations, he said yesterday, Gordon Lubold reporting at the Wall Street Journal.
Houthi landmines in Yemen have killed and injured hundreds of civilians and prevented displaced persons from returning home, Human Rights Watch says in a new report.
A Russian government think tank under the control of President Putin established a plan to influence the US presidential election so that Trump would be successful and voters’ faith in the US electoral system would be undermined, US officials told Reuters’ Ned Parker, Jonathan Landay and John Walcott.
Former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page’s trip to Russia last July was what precipitated the FBI investigation into possible Trump campaign-Russia connections, report Scott Shane, Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman at the New York Times, citing former and current law enforcement and intelligence officials.
President Assad’s military is believed to have as much as three tons of chemical weapons, senior Israeli defense officials said yesterday. [AP]
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 21 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Apr. 18. Separately, partner forces conducted 12 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
ISRAEL and PALESTINE
President Trump will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in May to discuss Israeli-Palestinian peace options, the White House confirmed yesterday, Kelsey Sutton reporting at POLITICO.
Two Palestinian women from Gaza were caught attempting to smuggle explosives into Israel for use in attacks, according to Israeli authorities. [AP]
The US was forced to dispatch aircraft to intercept two Russian bombers approaching Alaska for the second time in as many days late Tuesday, ABC News’ Luis Martinez reports.
The mastermind behind the attack on the St. Petersburg metro earlier this month has been identified by Russia’s Federal Security Service, Reuters reports.
Russia and the Philippines began joint naval exercises today as part of a push for closer security ties under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest foreign policy angle of courting the traditional enemies of Washington, Reuters reports.
An inquiry into reports that “foreign vessels” near China’s manmade islands in the South China Sea harassed Filipino fishermen has been ordered by the Philippines, Reuters reports.
The European Court of Human Rights has no jurisdiction over the fact that any opposition challenge to Turkey’s referendum would be rejected by the constitutional court, Turkey’s justice minister said today, Reuters reporting.
Petitions submitted by three political parties to annul the results of the weekend’s referendum were rejected by Turkey’s electoral commission yesterday, a decision that was expected since the head of the electoral body – which opposition parties have accused of improperly siding with the state during the electoral process – had already validated the results. Margaret Coker reports at the Wall Street Journal.
Dozens of members of Turkey’s political opposition were arrested in raids yesterday morning as part of a crackdown on those questioning the legitimacy of President Erdoğan’s referendum success, Patrick Kingsley reports at the New York Times.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY
Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed the strategic partnership between the US and Indonesia after meeting with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo yesterday at the start of a tour of Asia, the AP reports.
An Exxon Mobil proposal to waive sanctions on Russia to drill in the Black Sea in a business venture with Russia’s state oil company Rosneft is before the Trump administration at a delicate time in US-Russia relations, reports Clifford Krauss at the New York Times.
The mixed signals on key national security issues from senior Trump aides in the past two weeks suggest that the administration has not fully developed its policies or a broader international agenda and that its key agencies are not communicating with one another, or the White House, write David Nakamura and Karen DeYoung at the Washington Post.
Beneath the surface of an apparent mainstream foreign policy, a more troubling trend lurks of policy incoherence and not-so-benign neglect that risks hollowing out American leadership, former deputy secretary of state William J. Burns writes at the Washington Post.
TRUMP’S WIRETAP CLAIM
CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY
The CIA and the FBI are searching for the person behind the leak of top-secret CIA material to WikiLeaks, believed to be an agency insider, CBS News’ Jeff Pegues reports.
It would be “wise” to have separate leaders for the National Security Agency and for US Cyber Command, with a civilian head for the NSA, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.) said yesterday, Morgan Chalfant reporting at the Hill.
An escalating series of US intelligence leaks by the self-styled “Shadow Brokers” could be a message from Russian President Putin, and could only have come from within the NSA or the CIA, or both, writes Kevin Poulsen at The Daily Beast.
The Dubai-based Emirates Airlines is paring back flights to the US because the security restrictions imposed by the Trump administration have weakened demand in Middle East countries, a statement from Emirates citing actions in relation to visas, heightened security vetting and restrictions on electronic devices in aircraft cabins. Jason Slotkin reports at NPR.
British police have been told they might have to shoot terrorists at the wheel of vehicles to stop them being used in attacks and have been given ammunition that can penetrate doors and windows in the wake of attacks in Westminster, Nice and Berlin, the BBC reports.
There is insufficient evidence to remove Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from power, was the Pakistani Supreme Court’s ruling on corruption allegations based on the Panama Papers leaks that could have seen him disqualified from office today, Syed Raza Hassan and Saad Sayeed report at Reuters.