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
Key parts of the US-built THAAD missile defense system are being installed in a southern county of South Korea today, though it remains unclear whether the installation is ahead of schedule, Choe Sang-Hun and Gerry Mullany report at the New York Times.
The US Air Force will test launch a nuclear-tip capable intercontinental ballistic missile from California today, a demonstration of US nuclear capabilities at a time of high tension between the US and North Korea, the Washington Examiner’s Travis J. Tritten reports.
There is still room for a diplomatic resolution to instability in the Korean Peninsula, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said yesterday as North Korea conducted its largest ever live-fire drills and the US, South Korea and Japan carried out military exercises, Anna Fifield reporting at the Washington Post.
Japanese aircraft are integrated with ongoing training by the USS Carl Vinson’s air wing as it heads for the Korean Peninsula, according to a statement released by the US Navy today, the AP reporting on this and other live developments.
The arrival of one of the US’ most powerful submarines the USS Michigan in South Korea escalates the Trump administration’s confrontation with Pyongyang and is no coincidence despite being billed as a “routine visit during a regularly scheduled deployment” by the Navy, writes David Axe at The Daily Beast.
Female activists from North and South Korea urged President Trump to defuse military tensions and begin peace negotiations today as the White House prepared to brief members of the Senate of North Korea today, Choe Sang-Hun reports at the New York Times.
Several countries aren’t enforcing UN sanctions on North Korea properly, presenting a challenge to the orchestration of international pressure on Kim Jong-un’s regime, Ben Kesling and Alastair Gale report at the Wall Street Journal.
New sanctions on North Korea is “worth a try” not least because it will test if China is prepared to confront “the threat it has helped to nurture,” writes the Wall Street Journal editorial board following President Trump’s message to the UN Security Council to adopt new and stronger sanctions against Pyongyang Monday.
Is war with North Korea imminent, or are the military deployments and inflammatory rhetoric traded between the two nations on a weekly basis just the “growing pains” of the Trump administration figuring out how to deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un? Joshua Berlinger and Brad Lendon consider this question at CNN.
President Trump is being pressed to provide legal justification for his missile strike on a Syrian airfield earlier this month by top Democrats Sens. Tim Kaine (Va.) and Adam Schiff (Calif.) in a letter released yesterday, the Hill’s Rebecca Kheel reports.
The chemical analysis of samples taken from the sarin gas attack in Syria this month “bears the signature” of President Assad’s government and demonstrates that it was responsible for the assault, Thomas Adamson and Nataliya Vasilyeva report at the AP.
US-backed Syrian Kurds want the coalition to provide air cover over Syria to protect them from Turkish and Assad regime air raids, they said today, the AP reporting.
The US was “deeply concerned” after Turkey carried out airstrikes against US allies fighting the Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq yesterday, US officials said, Ryan Browne and Elise Labott reporting at CNN.
Turkey failed to coordinate with the US and Kurdish fighters on its air raids in Syria and Iraq yesterday, which left at least 30 dead, roiled Washington and threatened to scupper plans for an assault on the Islamic State’s most important Syrian stronghold Raqqa, Dion Nissenbaum writes at the Wall Street Journal.
British Islamic State fighter Reyaad Khan killed in a drone strike in Syria posed a “very serious threat to the UK” according to a UK parliamentary committee report. Ewen MacAskill reports at the Guardian.
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 19 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Apr. 24. Separately, partner forces conducted 16 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
A US Navy vessel fired a warning flare toward an Iranian Revolutionary Guard ship approaching it in the Persian Gulf, a US official said today, Jon Gambrell at the AP calling it the latest tense naval encounter between the two nations.
President Trump instructed his aides to toughen a State Department letter declaring that Iran was compliant with the nuclear deal last week, according to senior US officials, Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee reporting at the Wall Street Journal.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY
Czech President Milos Zeman’s trip to the US has been postponed due to the tense situation with North Korea, which “fully dominates the planning of President Trump’s schedule,” the new Czech ambassador to Washington said yesterday. The AP reports.
Congress was urged to maintain American leadership at the UN by fully funding its operations in a letter from nine former US ambassadors to the UN released yesterday, a response to the administration’s proposal to cut funding to the international body and other international organizations as part of the reduction by a third of the State Department’s budget, Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley urged the Security Council to impose an arms embargo and new sanctions on South Sudan yesterday, a move that both Russia and China blocked, Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.
A new “Trump Doctrine” of foreign policy. President Trump’s decision to launch cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase in response to the Assad regime’s deadly chemical weapons attack was part of a new doctrine governing his foreign policy, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said yesterday, Jordan Fabian reporting at the Hill.
Trump’s uncritical embrace of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his dubious human rights record could make it harder for the US to help Egypt to become more successful, Emily Tamkin arguing that it is time to rethink the US-Egypt relationship at Foreign Policy.
The successful release of US citizen Aya Hijazi after three years’ imprisonment in Egypt does not justify Trump’s so-far unqualified embrace of the “most oppressive regime in Egypt’s modern history,” writes the New York Times editorial board.
Pakistan wants the US to help it to resolve its decades-old conflict with India over Kashmir and is offering to assist the US in stabilizing the region as Washington escalates its fight in Afghanistan, a senior Pakistani official said yesterday ahead of talks with national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. Ian Talley writes at the Wall Street Journal.
Seven ways in which the world has changed since Trump entered the White House are identified at the BBC.
Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn may have violated federal law by failing to fully disclose his business dealings with Russia when seeking a security clearance to work at the White House, top House oversight lawmakers said yesterday after the chairman of the House oversight committee Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and other lawmakers on the panel examined classified documents related to Flynn. Emmarie Huetteman and Adam Goldman report at the New York Times.
Questions about the extent to which the White House was aware of Flynn’s activities when in post are raised by its refusal to provide the panel with a swath of documents related to what Flynn reported when he was vetted to become national security adviser, a request it has labeled “extraordinary, though both chairman Chaffetz and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) were careful to say that they don’t think the White House is obstructing the panel’s investigation yesterday, writes Katie Bo Williams at the Hill.
Flynn’s ties to Russia keep on raising questions the White House won’t answer and creating suspicions it can’t dispel weeks after he was fired as national security adviser, observes the New York Times editorial board.
The Senate Intelligence Committee needs to speed up its probe of Russian interference in the presidential election, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said yesterday, the Hill’s Jordain Carney reporting.
Rod Rosenstein was confirmed as deputy attorney general by the Senate yesterday, passing him responsibility for the federal investigation into Russian interference in the US election after Attorney General Jeff Session’s recusal last month, Seung Min Kim reports at POLITICO.
China launched its first home-built aircraft carrier, its second aircraft carrier to date, taking another step toward its mission of establishing a world-class navy, Jeremy Page reports at the Wall Street Journal.
The launch signals China’s ambition to become the most powerful and influential country, according to analysts, Christopher Bodeen explaining the significance of the new ship at the AP.
The EU wants closer dialogue with Russia on key foreign policy issues, but sanctions and other issues are creating a wedge between the two sides, Laurence Norman at the Wall Street Journal citing the development as the first significant sign of a thaw in relations as well as a reflection of increasing concerns in the EU over US foreign policy.
A claim of responsibility for the recent bomb attack on St. Petersburg’s subway was posted on a website that has previously carried al-Qaeda messages yesterday, Ivan Nechepurenko and Rukmini Callimachi reporting at the New York Times.
Ten people were arrested as part of an investigation of suspected suppliers of the weapons used by one of the attackers who killed 17 people at Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher store in Paris in January 2015, the Paris prosecutors’ office confirmed today, the AP reporting.
The credibility of the judges who oversaw Turkey’s referendum is being called into question because they were hastily appointed after President Erdoğan purged the existing judiciary following the failed coup last summer, reports Patrick Kingsley at the New York Times.
Turkey has been put back on the watchlist of leading European human rights body the Council of Europe over “serious concerns” about democracy and human rights, Jennifer Rankin reports at the Guardian.
The EU was requested to formally suspend talks on Turkey’s membership of the bloc if it adopts the constitutional changes backed at last week’s referendum by Member of the European Parliament Kati Piri today, Gabriela Baczynska reporting at Reuters.
Turkish police arrested 1,000 suspected of being members of the movement of Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who is held responsible for last year’s coup attempt, while another 2,200 are sought, the BBC reports.
A.S.E.A.N. must take a stand on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous war on drugs which may constitute a breach of the association’s charter, Amnesty International said, the AP reporting.
The International Criminal Court should promptly open a preliminary investigation into the killings that have taken place under Duterte’s war on drugs over the past three decades writes the New York Times editorial board following the formal request by a Filipino lawyer to the ICC to charge Duterte with mass murder and crimes against humanity Monday.
CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY
The most challenging threat faced by the US comes from cyberspace, says outgoing top CIA lawyer Caroline Krass, Jenna McLaughlin writing at Foreign Policy.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo is waging war on WikiLeaks and other news and investigative human rights organizations, characterizing them as “intelligence agencies” and threatening to muzzle the work that these transparency organizations do to keep the US and the global public informed, explains WikiLeak’s editor Julian Assange writing at the Washington Post.
The TRUMP ADMINISTRATION
Fox News anchor and correspondent Heather Nauert will take over as State Department spokesperson from acting spokesperson Mark Toner next week, Emily Tamkin and Robbie Gramer report at Foreign Policy.
The relationship between the “mercurial and inexperienced” President Trump and “unflappable” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is examined by David Ignatius at the Washington Post.
The MEXICAN BORDER WALL
President Trump’s plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border is an “unfriendly, hostile” act, Mexico’s foreign relations secretary said yesterday, criticizing Trump’s campaign promise as a “bad idea” and warning that Mexican authorities could cut back on cooperation with the US in areas like immigration, the border, and trade ahead of upcoming talks between the two countries on trade and immigration, the AP reports.
Three lessons learnt during Trump’s first 100 days in office: the best things happen when the “Backdown President” retreats; the US will be paying for the border wall, not Mexico; and Trump, so soon in his presidency, has managed to bring the government close to crisis on “a promise that was always a con,” writes Kathleen Parker at the Washington Post.
Wading into the “forever war thicket.” Defense lawyers representing Abd al Hadi al Iraqi accused of running the al-Qaeda army in Afghanistan asked a Marine judge if he would be released from Guantánamo Bay detention center if he is aquitted yesterday, Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.
Venezuela threatened to leave the Organization of American States, the world’s oldest regional organization aimed at promoting peace and justice, solidarity, territorial integrity and independence for member states, yesterday, the AP reports.