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 unwise conduct of the U.S. will only speed up its own extinction,” North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said in a statement yesterday, railing against new sanctions imposed by the U.N. aimed at closing loopholes that allow North Korea to create foreign revenue and maintaining that Pyongyang’s nuclear program is a legitimate option for self-defense “in the face of a real and nuclear threat posed by the U.S.,” Ben Otto, Jake Maxwell Watts and Farnaz Fassihi report at the Wall Street Journal.
“We will, under no circumstances, put the nukes and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table,” Ri also said, the tone of the statement suggesting that Pyongyang has concerns about the impact of the sanctions which, if China and Russia fully enforce them, will penalize North Korea’s economy by around $1bn, according to U.S. officials. Jane Perlez and Rick Gladstone report at the New York Times.
North Korea will take “physical action” in response to the U.N. sanctions, according to a statement relayed by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency today, suggesting that the regime could conduct another nuclear or missile test, observes Choe Sang-Hun at the New York Times.
“We must be tough and decisive!” President Trump tweeted his support for efforts made by the international community on “addressing the dangers posed by North Korea” but called for decisiveness in confronting the North Korean threat in a tweet this morning.
“It will mainly be China paying the price for implementing the resolution” on account of its “traditional economic ties with North Korea,” China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday at the A.S.E.A.N. summit, stating that China would “fully and strictly properly implement the entire contents of the relevant resolution” to protect the region and the international community. Ben Blanchard reports at Reuters.
Most A.S.E.A.N. members are “not for unilateral [actions] and largely not for sanctions,” A.S.E.A.N. secretary-general Le Luong Minh said yesterday, expressing a preference for diplomacy and “mutual existence” over sanctions. Jake Maxwell Watts reports at the Wall Street Journal.
“Now they [North Korea] see the international community standing with one voice,” the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told Fox News yesterday, praising the U.N. Security Council for unanimously voting to impose sanctions on Pyongyang, Mallory Shelbourne reporting at the Hill.
North Korea’s threat to Japan has reached “a new stage,” according to a security review conducted by Japan’s defense ministry released today noting Pyongyang’s increased intercontinental ballistic missile (I.C.B.M.) capability and the progress of its nuclear program, Kiyoshi Takenaka reports at Reuters.
The Pentagon would be “favorably inclined” to allow South Korea to develop more powerful ballistic missiles, Pentagon spokesperson Capt. Jeff Davis said yesterday, stating that the Pentagon is reviewing bilateral ballistic missile guidelines, Reuters reports.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Thai leaders to take stronger action against North Korea and encouraged Thailand to take as many North Korean refugees as possible during a meeting at the A.S.E.A.N. summit today. Amy Sawitta Lefevre reports at Reuters.
China has a significant role to play in ensuring that new sanctions against North Korea are effective and, while there are restrictions in certain areas – such as financial transactions and the coal trade – the sanctions fall short in other areas, meaning that the U.S. may have to apply greater pressure on China in the future to curb Pyongyang. The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.
The new sanctions against North Korea are not enough to rein in the belligerent nation, and although the unanimous U.N. Security Council reflects the sense of alarm shared by the international community, it is unclear whether sanctions would have the necessary impact and the Trump administration lacks a coherent strategy to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear program. The Washington Post editorial board writes.
Ripping up the Iran nuclear deal would send a message to North Korea that the U.S. does not respect its agreements, presenting the U.S. with two dangerous nuclear crises and undermining its credibility with nations whose cooperation it needs to neutralize the threats. Aaron David Miller, Richard Sokolsky and Robert Malley write at POLITICO MAGAZINE.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY
Plans to conduct military strikes against the Islamic State in the Philippines are being considered by the Pentagon, two officials said today, stating that the attacks would be part of collective self-defense. Courtney Kube reports at NBC News.
The U.S. plans to impose sanctions against more individuals connected to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, according to two anonymous sources, Saleha Mohsin and Jose Enrique Arrioja report at Bloomberg News.
U.N. peacekeeping forces must step up efforts to stop the spread of illegal arms in southern Lebanon and recognize the threat posed by Shi’ite militia group Hezbollah, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said in a statement yesterday, stating that the U.S. is seeking “significant improvements” to the peacekeeping U.N.I.F.I.L. forces and reiterating the U.S. support for Israel against the Hezbollah threat. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has managed to be “both ineffectual and destabilizing,” undermining the State Department’s values, avoiding discussion of human rights and freedoms, and damaging morale, Michael Gerson writes at the Washington Post.
The struggle for control over the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election is illustrated by the attempt by two U.S. congressional staffers to contact former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele in July, having been sent by the then-Committee Chairman and White House ally Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) to ascertain the reliability of the Steele dossier alleging collusion between Trump and Russia. Julian Borger explains at the Guardian.
“Our national security and rule of law is at risk. And that’s where our focus should be,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said yesterday, hitting back at Trump’s “bullying” over Twitter yesterday as an attempt to distract him from helping to lead legislation to prevent the firing by Trump of special counsel Robert Mueller, Mallory Shelbourne reports at the Hill.
The two bipartisan bills introduced last week to prevent the removal of Mueller do not go far enough, still providing the Trump administration with the ability to interfere with the investigation, and tougher measures are possible. Daniel Hemel and Eric Posner write at the New York Times.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s decision to impanel a second grand jury in the District of Columbia has raised some interesting questions, Alan M. Dershowitz writes at the Hill, the most obvious one being why is a second grand jury needed at all, when the first one, in Virginia, is fully capable of doing everything it needs to in relation to Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation.
The wide remit of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation risks repeating the mistakes of the Iran-Contra investigation, and Mueller should establish the facts as quickly as possible and focus on valid prosecutions. C. Boyden Gray writes at the Wall Street Journal.
Dozens of U.S. Marines are being deployed to Afghanistan to help with internal force protection, according to three U.S. officials, a move unrelated to the Trump administration’s yet-to-be-announced strategy on Afghanistan, Courtney Kube reports at NBC News.
Private military contractor Erik Prince has proposed a two-year plan for his private military forces to turn around the Afghanistan war in a report dated Aug. 2017 commenting that the Trump administration’s consideration of a troop surge was a “dumb idea” and arguing that there needed to be “some spending sanity,” Katrina Manson reporting at the Financial Times.
The various opposing parties in Afghanistan routinely lose and regain territory, reflecting the nature of the battle across the country – a “seesaw” back and forth between militants, government forces and commandos, with no one able to make a breakthrough. Mujib Mashal explains at the New York Times.
The fight for the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria Raqqa has become a war of attrition, with militants “fighting to the death,” according to a spokesperson for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (S.D.F.) Mustafa Bali. Louisa Loveluck and Thomas Gibbons-Neff report at the Washington Post.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (O.P.C.W.) plans to carry out an inspection at two facilities where the Syrian government produced chemical weapons, following an improvement in the security situation, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres encouraging “timely and good faith cooperation” between the U.N. watchdog and the Syrian government. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.
Guterres “supports the continued work” of the commission investigating war crimes in Syria, U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said yesterday, following the resignation of prosecutor Carla del Ponte from the panel due to frustration with the lack of progress of the investigation. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.
The war in Syria has given Iran the opportunity to exploit the chaos in the region and has aided its efforts to create a sphere of influence from Tehran to the Mediterranean with the support of the Lebanese Shi’ite militia group Hezbollah, and Hezbollah’s recent victory in the Syrian-Lebanon border area of Arsal should set off alarm bells about Iran’s threat to the region and the international community. Israeli Security Cabinet member Naftali Bennett writes at the Wall Street Journal.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 28 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Aug. 6. Separately, partner forces conducted six strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
Two U.S. envoys have arrived in Kuwait today to discuss a resolution to the Gulf crisis, and are scheduled to meet with the leaders of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, U.A.E. and Egypt in an effort to ease tensions following the Saudi-led isolation of Qatar. Al Jazeera reports in rolling coverage.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II met with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah yesterday amid increased tensions between Israel and Palestine and an attack at Israel’s embassy in Jordan, King Abdullah reiterating Jordan’s support for a Palestinian state and emphasizing the need to work with the Trump administration to restart the peace process. Isabel Kershner reports at the New York Times.
Saudi Arabia denied that it had targeted civilians in Yemen after a report that an air strike in Yemen’s northwestern Saada province that hit a house killed nine people, Reuters reports.
A meeting between the foreign ministries of China and Vietnam at the A.S.E.A.N. summit in the Philippines was cancelled amid tensions over the South China Sea, Reuters reports.
Three U.S. Marines who were missing in Saturday’s Osprey aircraft crash have been declared dead, the aircraft having been located by the Australian Navy yesterday, NPR reports.
A political party was launched in Pakistan yesterday by a charity designated by the U.N. as a front for the armed group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (L.e.T.), with members of the new Milli Muslim League (M.M.L.) accused of having links to the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Asad Hashim reports at Al Jazeera.