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.
NORTH KOREA TESTS AN I.C.B.M.
North Korea is “behaving in a very dangerous manner” and “something will have to be done about it,” President Trump said at a news conference in Poland today, adding that he has some “pretty severe” options available to him when asked whether he would take military action against Pyongyang following its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile this week, CNN’s Dan Merica reports.
The U.S. will use its “considerable military forces” against North Korea “if we must,” the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council yesterday, warning that its recent actions “are quickly closing off the possibility of a diplomatic solution” to the growing crisis, Andrew Rafferty reports at NBC News.
The U.S. would prefer to use its “great capabilities in the area of trade” to deal with “those who threaten us and … those who supply the threats,” Haley said, specifically warning China that it risks its considerable trade with the U.S. if its business dealings with North Korea violate U.N. sanctions. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.
The U.S. will introduce new sanctions against North Korea in response to its launching of an intercontinental ballistic missile this week, Haley told the Security Council, adding that the resolution would seek to cut off North Korea’s main sources of currency, restrict oil flows and maritime activity, and target senior North Korean officials, Farnaz Fassihi reports at the Wall Street Journal.
China and Russia were accused of “holding the hands” of North Korea by Haley, who lambasted them for opposing a Security Council resolution condemning North Korea and imposing additional economic sanctions on it for its “sharp military escalation,” David Nakamura and Emily Rauhala report at the Washington Post.
All sides were encouraged to remain calm and exercise restraint by China’s foreign ministry today after America said it would use force against North Korea if it had to, a ministry spokesperson adding that China fully implements U.N. sanctions on North Korea. Reuters reports.
A peaceful resolution to the North Korea crisis was called for by Chinese President Xi Jinping today when he met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in ahead of the G20 summit, Xi telling Moon that China remains committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Reuters reports.
N.A.T.O. demanded that North Korea immediately halt its nuclear and missile programs today and “engage in real dialogue,” the AP reports.
South Korea fired guided missiles into the sea during drills in the East Sea today in a display of military power aimed at boosting readiness against potential maritime aggression from North Korea, Hyung-Jin Kim reports at the AP.
We need a more promising approach to diplomacy when it comes to North Korea, involving playing the China card – but not in the way it has been played before, suggest former national security adviser to former-Vice President Joe Biden Jake Sullivan and former director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council Victor Cha writing at the Washington Post.
Washington needs a more promising negotiating strategy in order to deal with the threat posed by North Korea, not just additional sanctions, and it should not balk at accepting an interim deal on the way to what would hopefully be North Korean nuclear disarmament, writes Michael E. O’Hanlon at the New York Times.
President Trump must now unite Republicans and Democrats both within the U.S. but also across the widest range of like-minded countries worldwide to counter the threat of North Korea, but is he up to it? The Washington Post editorial board offers some advice to the president.
Military options to destroy North Korea’s nuclear arsenal are “more grim than ever,” with even the most limited strike risking massive casualties, since North Korea could retaliate with the thousands of guns it has positioned along its border with the South, beyond which there is no precedent for a military attack aimed at destroying a country’s nuclear arsenal, writes Motoko Rich at the New York Times.
China’s President Xi Jinping is stuck on North Korea, the usually precise and bold leader reluctant to confront North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and he will likely continue to do little if anything following Kim’s July 4 test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, Jane Perlez concludes at the New York Times.
President Trump’s clumsy approach to North Korea has helped push China and Russia closer together, as their unusual decision to issue a joint statement in response to Tuesday’s missile test demonstrates, and there are two main reasons why: first, Trump’s public pressure on Beijing highlights the ways in which China’s strategic goals overlaps with Russia’s when it comes to North Korea – and how they differ from America’s – and second, Trump’s repeated cajoles of and threats to Beijing about North Korea imply a lack of respect for President Xi’s role, suggests the Guardian.
Lampooning Kim Jong-un is a mistake not because it’s disrespectful but because it represents a major underestimation of the leader against whom further sanctions will not work. David C. Kang makes the case for the continued use of nuclear weapons as a deterrent by the U.S., alongside making steady progress in alleviating the humanitarian and economic problems rife in North Korea at the New York Times.
The U.S. is prepared to consider working with Russia on joint stability operations in the battle to defeat the Islamic State in Syria, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement yesterday in which he said that cooperation with Russia over deconfliction zones in Syria “is evidence that our two nations are capable of further progress,” Karen De Young reports at the Washington Post.
The U.S. is prepared to work with Russia on measures “including no-fly zones, on the ground, ceasefire observers, and coordinated delivery of humanitarian assistance” in Syria, Tillerson said ahead of President Trump’s meeting with Russian President Putin at the G20 summit in Germany tomorrow, Max Greenwood reports at the Hill.
The U.S.-Russia relationship is “at a very low point,” Tillerson told reporters yesterday, noting that despite this, the two countries should identify areas of “mutual interest” in Syria, Alex Johnson reports at NBC News.
Tillerson’s statement avoided discussion of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s future, however it raised Russia’s obligation to prevent the Assad regime from using chemical weapons, Al Jazeera observes.
Deals signed by Russian contractors are rewarding private security companies for securing territory from Islamic State militants by providing a profit incentive to capture and guard oil wells and natural gas fields, Andrew E. Kramer reports at the New York Times.
TRUMP IN POLAND
Russia was most likely behind the hacking of the U.S. presidential election, President Trump said at a news conference with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda today, adding that “nobody really knows” if it was only Russia who interfered in the U.S. presidential election. The New York Times provides live updates on Trump’s trip to Poland.
N.A.T.O. allies were again urged to “get going” on spending more on defense by President Trump at the news conference in Poland, Marcin Goclowski and Roberta Rampton report at Reuters.
President Trump will warn that the future of Western civilization is at stake in his keynote speech in Poland’s capital Warsaw later today, pointing to Poland – whose right-wing populist government has been criticized by other European countries for its attacks on democratic institutions – as a country prepared to defend Western freedoms, the BBC reports.
Poland agreed to purchase Patriot missile defense systems from the U.S. hours before President Trump delivers his major speech in Warsaw today, Polish and U.S. officials working on deals in the defense and energy sectors since Trump’s visit to Poland was announced last month, James Shotter and Demetri Sevastopulo report at the Financial Times.
Trump’s visit to Poland will “demonstrate the unbreakable bonds” between the U.S. and Poland, writes Poland’s ambassador to the U.S. Piotr Wilczek at the Wall Street Journal, putting the “thriving” relationship down to the fact that Poland has been a reliable military partner to the U.S., its hosting of thousands of American troops, and its commitment to spending 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense as per N.A.T.O. requirements.
President Trump will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as soon as he arrives in Germany to attend the G20 summit this evening, Merkel repeating an earlier suggestion that Europe can no longer directly rely on the U.S. earlier this week, the AP reports.
Trump will hold a formal bilateral with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, tomorrow, at which the two leaders are expected to discuss North Korea’s latest missile test, with May expected to stress the importance of the international community uniting in condemnation for the test, the Guardian’s Anushka Asthana and Peter Walker report.
President Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to be tense in the wake of North Korea’s successful launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile Tuesday and what Trump sees as China’s failure to crack down on Pyongyang, a point of view he has expressed in a series of tweets following Tuesday’s launch, writes Katie Bo Williams at the Hill.
Chinese President Xi Jinping will be ready to quietly step into the widening gap between President Trump and his European allies and position Beijing as the new global defender of a multilateral, rules-based system, having already cemented his relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a state visit to Germany earlier this week, Steven Erlanger envisages at the New York Times.
It is “baffling” that President Trump has no specific agenda for his meeting with Russian President Putin on the sidelines of the G20 in Hamburg tomorrow, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted yesterday, following up with around a dozen suggests for topics including Russia’s interference in last year’s presidential election, Jordain Carney reports at the Hill.
Senior Trump administration officials want the White House’s best-know Russia hawk Fiona Hill to be present at the Trump-Putin meeting tomorrow in order to counter the perception that Trump wants to cozy up to Putin, according to two White House aides, though whether she will be allowed into the room remains to be seen. Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng report at The Daily Beast.
Russia’s work with the Trump administration is “unfolding uneasily” and “what is needed is the resolve not to miss” the “opportunities for positive turnarounds,” the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak told the Washington Examiner’s Joel Gehrke ahead of the Trump-Putin meeting tomorrow.
President Trump will have to show “strength, not charm” if he wants to assist U.S. interests abroad and his own at home at his meeting with Putin, the Wall Street Journal editorial board advises.
The “political and economic blockade will continue until Qatar revises its policies,” Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Cairo yesterday where foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the U.A.E. and Egypt discussed the rejection by Qatar’s of their 13 demands before diplomatic ties can be restored, with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri adding that Qatar’s reply yesterday reflected an “unawareness of the gravity of the situation.” Sarah Kent and Dahlia Kholaif report at the Wall Street Journal.
“We welcome any serious efforts to resolve our differences with our neighbors,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said yesterday, adding that Qatar would not “surrender” its sovereignty to appease the Saudi-led bloc, Al Jazeera reports.
“President Trump called on all parties to negotiate constructively to resolve the dispute” in a phone call to Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi yesterday, according to a White House statement. Olivia Beavers reports at the Hill.
The four Arab nations refrained from imposing further sanctions against Qatar or expelling it from the Gulf Cooperation Council (G.C.C.), suggesting that pressure from Western governments to defuse the dispute – including a phone call from President Trump to Egyptian President al-Sisi yesterday – may have had an impact, Patrick Wintour suggests at the Guardian.
Germany will help Qatar to clear up accusations that it supports terrorist groups through an agreement for Qatar to “open all its books” to Germany’s intelligence service if there are questions about “certain people or structures,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said today, the AP reporting.
A military escalation in the Gulf no longer poses a risk, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said yesterday, Al Jazeera reports.
Trump’s mixed messages on the dispute may be exacerbating the problem which pits Trump’s approach of siding with Saudi Arabia against Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s more pragmatic approach, Declan Walsh writes at the New York Times.
The Saudi-led bloc’s claims against Qatar have been spurious, the blockade has had a detrimental impact on Qatari citizens and freedom of the press, and attempts to bully Qatar have been instigated by conservative actors who want autocratic regimes to prevail in the region. Qatar’s ambassador to Russia Fahad Bim Mohammed al-Attiya writes at the New York Times.
Suicide bombings by male and female Islamic State fighters are proving to be the main danger for Iraqi troops and the Iraqi Army is doing its best to minimize the risks, Florian Neuhof observes at The Daily Beast.
Thousands of civilians trapped inside Mosul’s Old City are being used as human shields by Islamic State fighters, with Iraqi military officials estimating that 200 militants remain in Islamic State’s de facto capital in Iraq – mostly foreigners refusing to surrender and resorting to desperate tactics, Asa Fitch and Ali A. Nabhan report at the Wall Street Journal.
The Iraqi Army is close to winning the battle in Mosul but the clear-up operation will determine whether the government can win the war, the scale of death and destruction and the mass displacement of civilians providing an enormous challenge and giving insurgents the opportunity to fill the vacuum, the Economist writes.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 33 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on July 4. Separately, partner forces conducted four strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
ISRAEL and PALESTINE
Israel’s plan to build 800 homes in east Jerusalem as part of settlement construction announced yesterday provides a test for the Trump administration’s Israel-Palestine policy, a White House statement reiterating that “the administration has made clear that unrestrained settlement activity does not advance the prospect for peace,” Ilan Ben Zion reports at the AP.
Trump’s decision to send his most trusted adviser Jared Kushner to the Middle East to negotiate an Israeli-Palestine peace settlement, whilst predictably futile, reflects a sound understanding of what the U.S. can achieve in the region and, more importantly, what it cannot. Steven A. Cook suggests that Trump’s Middle East policy is not universally bad at POLITICO MAGAZINE.
A U.S. soldier was killed and two others wounded in Afghanistan’s Helmand province as a result of “indirect fire,” the U.S. military said yesterday. Jessica Donati reports at the Wall Street Journal.
Members of the Senate Armed Committee have moved to bar the Pentagon from using software from the Moscow-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab due to concerns over Russian government meddling in the U.S., the founder of the company Eugene Kaspersky fighting back against allegations of ties with the Russian government, Morgan Chalfant reports at the Hill.
Qatar Airways has been removed from the U.S. laptop ban list today, joining Abu-Dhabi based Etihad, Dubai-based Emirates, and Turkish Airlines who were removed this week, having met U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s new security guidelines, Jon Gambrell reports at the AP.
President Trump’s pick for director of the F.B.I. will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next Wednesday morning, according to a notification from the Chairman of the committee Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) tweeted by the Hill’s Jordain Carney.
The last remaining Islamist militants and armed opponents have been driven out of the Libyan city of Benghazi, the head of the self-styled Libyan National Army, Gen. Khalifa Hifter said yesterday, the AP reports.
Germany could legally finance the British or French nuclear programs in exchange for protection, a review commissioned by the German Parliament has determined, the assessment following fears that Trump’s statements on European defense mean that Germany can no longer rely on U.S. security assurances, Max Fisher writes at the New York Times.
Former U.K. prime minister Tony Blair was not “straight with the nation” about his decision-making in the run up to the Iraq War, Sir John Chilcot, chairman of the inquiry into the war that reported a year ago, told the BBC in his first public comments since the inquiry was concluded.
The Supreme Court will have the chance to weigh in on the long-standing legal principle the “plenary power doctrine” which gives the president and Congress extraordinary power to take action in relation to immigration law if it decides to rule on the constitutional questions posed by President Trump’s travel ban in October – the “silver lining” to the executive order that bans travelers from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., write Adam Chilton and Genevieve Lakier at the Washington Post.