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
President Trump requested Chinese President Xi Jinping’s help in confronting the “growing threat” of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program during a phone call yesterday, also speaking to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the White House said. Javier C. Hernández reports at the New York Times.
Both China and Japan’s leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula during their conversations with Trump, the White House said, the calls taking place ahead of the G20 summit in Germany later this week, Jeff Mason reports at Reuters.
Abe praised Trump for U.S. sanctions imposed on a Chinese bank and individuals accused of laundering money to North Korea during the leaders’ phone call, Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda told Kyodo News.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in discussed a strategy of sanctions and pressure but also “dialogue at the same time” to resolve the North Korea nuclear problem in a meeting with former U.S. president Barack Obama today, Moon’s office said, Reuters reporting.
The grave threat posed by the U.S.-built T.HA.A.D. missile defense system deployed to South Korea was stressed by Chinese President Xi as he set off for a visit to Russia today, saying that China and Russia hold very close views on the T.H.A.A.D. deployment in an interview with Russian media, Reuters reports.
The meetings between President Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the end of last week cap what was one of the most influential and successful weeks for U.S. foreign policy in recent memory, and all it took was for Trump to throw away two or even four decades of U.S. settled China policy, saving America’s six-decade-old alliance with South Korea in the process, writes Gordon G. Chang at The Daily Beast.
The Trump administration signaled it is losing patience with China’s failure to stop North Korea’s nuclear program by imposing “long overdue” sanctions against Chinese entities aiding North Korea and a new $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan, and Beijing needs to understand that the U.S. can escalate on both fronts and that there is pressure from both parties in the U.S. Congress to do so, writes the Wall Street Journal editorial board.
SOUTH CHINA SEA
China accused the U.S. of a “serious political and military provocation” yesterday after a U.S. warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of a disputed island in the South China Sea, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Simon Denyer report at the Washington Post.
The U.S. Navy sent guided-missile destroyer the U.S.S. Stethem close to the China-controlled Triton Island in the South China Sea yesterday, the second such operation confirmed by American officials within a week, Gordon Lubold and Jeremy Page report at the Wall Street Journal.
The Pentagon declined to comment on the “freedom of navigation exercise,” which took place days after the Trump administration made a number of moves that seemed to anger Beijing including imposing sanctions against Chinese entities as punishment for doing business with North Korea and the approval of new arms sales to Taiwan, CNN’s Ryan Browne and Brad Lendon report.
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (S.D.F.) have almost sealed off the city of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital, and Russian and American commanders have agreed on a 12 mile buffer zone between Raqqa and the area where pro-Syrian government forces are permitted to operate, Michael R. Gordon explains at the New York Times.
The S.D.F. captured territory on the southern bank of the Euphrates River in Raqqa yesterday and are facing fierce resistance from Islamic State fighters as they advance toward the city center, AFP reports.
At least 18 people were killed in bombings in the Syrian capital of Damascus yesterday, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, marking the deadliest attack in the capital since March, with Syrian State T.V. claiming that the number of casualties had been minimized because the security forces had prevented the “terrorists from reaching their target,” Al Jazeera reports.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack and the intended target of the explosion was not immediately clear, however it took place near the Syrian Air Force’s intelligence branch – a military base known for its brutal crackdown on dissenters, Raja Abdulrahim reports at the Wall Street Journal.
The construction of dams upstream from Syria and Iraq was criticized as “dangerous” for the entire region by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani today, the AP suggesting that his comments were pointed at Turkey, which has built several dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in recent years, though he did not mention Turkey by name.
Who controls what in Syria after years of fighting? Shakeeb Asrar provides a map at Al Jazeera.
A glimpse of what is to come for Syria is offered by the impending military defeat of the Islamic State group in Raqqa: the battle is going better than expected, U.S.-Russian cooperation may be possible, and the Kurdish-led S.D.F. can be successful with the support of U.S. airpower, but this will mean that once the Islamic State is defeated the vision of governance will be determined by the Syrian Kurds and their Arab allies. David Ignatius writes at the Washington Post.
The battle to recapture the Islamic State-controlled Iraqi city of Mosul should be completed “within days,” a commander in Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service said yesterday, Mallory Shelbourne reporting at the Hill.
Women suicide bombers are targeting Iraqi soldiers as the fight for Mosul nears its end, a new tactic for the Islamic State as it loses its grip on its last stronghold in Iraq, observes Andrea Rosa at the AP.
A suicide bomber killed at least 14 people at a camp for internally displaced peoples in western Ramadi in the Anbar province yesterday, the Islamic State claiming responsibility for the attack in a statement posted by the group’s media wing Amaq, Euan McKirdy reports at CNN.
The suicide bomber was disguised in a woman’s all-covering robe, according to an Iraqi local official, the AP reports.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has defied expectations and built up significant goodwill through his leadership, narrowing divisions between Shi’ites and Sunnis, bolstering the Iraqi military, balancing the relationship between Iran and Sunni Arab nations, but significant hurdles remain and much more must be done to improve the security situation in Iraq. Ben Kesling writes at the Wall Street Journal.
The Islamic State group is losing territory in Iraq and its only stronghold is in Mosul. Yarno Ritzen provides a map of who controls what at Al Jazeera.
Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Bahrain, and Egypt extended the deadline for Qatar to meet their 13 demands before diplomatic ties can be restored by 48 hours after the initial deadline expired yesterday, meaning that Qatar would have to deliver a formal response later today, the BBC reports.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani arrived in Kuwait to hand over Qatar’s response to the 13 demands this morning, Al Jazeera reports in rolling coverage.
“This list of demands is made to be rejected. It’s not meant to be accepted or … to be negotiated,” Al Thani said Saturday in Rome, where has been attempting to drum up support for Qatar from Western countries. Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.
“No one has the right to issue to a sovereign country an ultimatum,” Al Thani also said Saturday, pushing back against the four Arab nations’ demands, adding that “Qatar is prepared to face whatever consequences” for refusing to acquiesce, the AP reports.
President Trump spoke separately to the leaders of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi to discuss the dispute last night, reiterating the “importance of stopping terrorist financing and discrediting extremist ideology,” according to Qatari media. Al Jazeera reports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed the need for a diplomatic solution to the Gulf crisis in telephone calls with the leaders of Qatar and Bahrain, as Russia tries to balance its good relations with Qatar with maintaining relations with Saudi Arabia, Alexander Winning reports at Reuters.
Qatar hosted delegations from Hamas and the Taliban at the “request” of the U.S., former C.I.A. director David Petraeus said in an interview with French newspaper Journal du Dimanche, Al Jazeera reports.
President Trump indents to discuss Syria and Ukraine when he meets with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany later this week, but there has not yet been a formal outline for the meeting, two administration officials told CNN’s Kevin Liptak.
Trump and Putin will come face-to-face for the first time this week, Stephen Collinson anticipating what will happen during “the meeting that could shape the world” at CNN.
The Trump-Putin meeting needs careful planning and straight talk, and Trump must not fail to reproach Putin for his attempts to interfere in the U.S. election or for his intervention in Ukraine, writes the Washington Post editorial board.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY
U.S.-China relations have been tested by “some negative factors” recently but “important results have been achieved,” Chinese President Xi Jinping told President Trump in their phone call yesterday, according to Chinese state media, while the White House statement on the conversation simply said that the two leaders had discussed a range of matters of mutual interest. Ben Westcott and Kevin Bohn report at CNN.
President Trump may make a “sneak” visit to the U.K. in the next two weeks, Heather Stewart and Patrick Greenfield report at the Guardian.
The more President Trump tries to assert U.S. global leadership, the less of a leadership role he plays, and this paradox looks set to play out at the upcoming G20 summit in Hamburg this week, writes Richard Wolfe at the Guardian.
Déjà vu in Afghanistan – but why? The reasons for originally sending U.S. troops to Afghanistan 16 years ago – to hunt down Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda in response to the 9/11 attacks – no longer hold, and there have been no clearly articulated national security interests justifying continued U.S. presence there since, writes Roy Scranton at The Daily Beast.
The LAPTOP BAN
Etihad Airways flights from Abu Dhabi to the U.S. were exempted from the Trump administration’s ban on laptops in cabins initially announced in March, Homeland Security spokesperson David Lapan saying that the U.A.E. had put tighter security measures in place as required. Al Jazeera reports.
American monitors will make further visits to the airport to check that the “enhanced security measures” required by the U.S. were being correctly conducted, Jon Gambrell reports at the AP.
Long-suffering Russia-based computer security company Kaspersky Lab’s creator Eugene Kaspersky is prepared to hand over source code – generally a closely-guarded secret – to U.S. authorities to prove that his company’s security products have not been compromised by the Russian government as U.S. lawmakers have repeatedly suggested in recent months, Raphael Satter and Veronika Silchenko report at the AP.
The leader of the Islamic State-linked insurgents who laid siege to the Philippine city of Marawi is believed to be hiding in a mosque within the city, the Philippines’ defense chief said today, the AP reporting.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Israel tomorrow in what Sanjeev Miglani and Tova Cohen at Reuters write is a public embrace of a country that India has traditionally kept at arm’s length in order to lift the curtain on a thriving military relationship.
Nine people were killed and dozens more abducted by suspected Boko Haram militants in an attack in southern Niger last night, Reuters reports.
At least 55 additional U.N. peacekeepers are accused of sexual exploitation and abuse of civilians across missions throughout the globe since Jan. 2017, new U.N. data reveals, Azad Essa reports at Al Jazeera.