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 fired a ballistic missile over Japan early this morning, flying over the northern island of Hokkaido and landing in the sea, prompting the Japanese government to warn its citizens to take cover in case any parts of the missile fell on land. Choe Sang-Hun and David E. Sanger report at the New York Times.
It appears that North Korea launched a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile, which Pyongyang has threatened to fire at the U.S. territory of Guam; the test coming after North Korea launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month theoretically capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. Anna Fifield reports at the Washington Post.
“This outrageous action of firing a missile over our country is an unprecedented, grave and serious threat,” Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in response to the missile launch, calling for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting and adding that he had spoken to President Trump who expressed his “strong commitment” to Japan’s security. Jonathan Cheng and Peter Landers report at the Wall Street Journal.
“We can confirm that the missile launched by North Korea flew over Japan,” the Pentagon said in a brief statement today, refraining from immediately providing additional details about the test. Bryan Bender reports at POLITICO.
The Japanese military did not attempt to shoot down the missile as it flew over its territory, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said today, adding that the missile may have broken into three pieces. William Mallard and Jack Kim report at Reuters.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and South Korea’s Foreign Minister agreed to consider tougher sanctions against North Korea in response to the missile launch, a spokesperson for the South Korean government said today, Reuters reports.
China called for restraint from all sides, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said today, Reuters reports.
North Korea “must respect” U.N. resolutions, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today, during a visit to the U.A.E., Reuters reports.
“We fully support calls for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council today,” the E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement today, Reuters reports.
The U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May “is outraged by North Korea’s reckless provocation,” a spokesperson for the U.K. Government told reporters today. Reuters reports.
South Korea released footage of a missile test conducted last week in response to the North Korean missile test today, the AP reports.
The South Korean air force staged a live-fire drill simulating the destruction of a hardened target today, hours after the missile launch over Japan, a South Korean Defense Ministry official stating that the “drill reconfirmed South Korea Air Force capability to destroy the enemy’s leadership in cases of emergency.” Ben Westcott and K.J. Kwon report at CNN.
The missile launch came amid U.S.-South Korea joint annual military exercises and may have been a show of defiance in the face of what Pyongyang considers to be a dress rehearsal for war. Justin McCurry reports at the Guardian.
The U.N. Security Council should discuss U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises, North Korea’s ambassador to the U.N. Ja Song Nam complained in a letter to released yesterday, stating that the drills have created a situation that “is just like a time bomb.” Jennifer Peltz reports at the AP.
The missile launch came a week after Tillerson praised North Korea for exercising restraint and avoiding carrying out missile tests or provocative actions since the Aug. 5 U.N. Security Council resolution, and also coming a week after Trump boasted about his North Korea policy at a rally in Phoenix, giving Pyongyang the opportunity to humiliate the President and the Secretary of State. Gordon G. Chang observes at The Daily Beast.
The missile launch was provocative because it was the first time North Korea had fired “an overtly military missile, with a potential nuclear capability, across Japan,” Rupert Wingfield-Hayes offers an analysis at the BBC.
Michael Cohen, a close business adviser to Trump, requested “assistance” from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on a Trump Tower development project in Moscow in mid-January 2016, according to documents submitted to Congress yesterday and a source familiar with the email, with Cohen saying that he did not recall receiving a response from Peskov in a statement to congressional investigators. Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig and Tom Hamburger report at the Washington Post.
Cohen discussed the prospective project in Moscow with Trump on three occasions during the presidential campaign, Cohen said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, stating that he did not tell Trump about sending an email to Peskov and informed Trump in January 2016 that he had killed off the proposal. Rebecca Ballhaus reports at the Wall Street Journal.
“Our boy can become president of the U.S.A. and we can engineer it,” Felix Sater, a business associate of President Trump, said in an email to Cohen in 2015, boasting of his connections to Putin and adding “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process,” though there is no evidence in the emails between Sater and Cohen that Sater delivered on his promises, with Cohen stating that Sater “has sometimes used colorful language and has been prone to ‘salesmanship.’” Matt Apuzzo and Maggie Haberman report at the New York Times.
Cohen was portrayed as a key player in the alleged Trump-Russia collusion and Peskov was singled out as being in charge of the Kremlin operation to help Trump’s candidacy in the dossier of allegations compiled by former British intelligence official Christopher Steele, Julian Borger observes at the Guardian.
Two Russian investigative reporters reveal important context about Putin’s motivations for allegedly interfering in the U.S. presidential election, Adam Taylor interviews the journalists at the Washington Post.
Former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort’s ties to the Obama administration and the attempts to whitewash actions by the pro-Putin Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych, demonstrates that a truly independent investigation into Russian election interference would implicate figures from the Democratic Party. Spencer Ackerman explains at The Daily Beast.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is planning to “integrate certain envoys and special representative offices” at the State Department and “eliminate” positions that have “accomplished or outlived their original purpose,” he stated in a letter to the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations committee Bob Corker (R.-Tenn). Elisa Labott, Nicole Gaouette and Jeremy Herb report at CNN.
The U.S. will have a “toe-print, not a footprint” at next month’s U.N. General Assembly, aides to Tillerson have told diplomats, stating that there will be a much smaller delegation and likely adding to concerns among U.S. allies about Trump’s approach to diplomacy. Nahal Toosi reports at POLITICO.
The State Department will remove envoys for the Iran nuclear deal and closing the Guantánamo Bay prison, Josh Lederman reports at the AP.
“The fact is I knew after the Afghan speech that the anti-M.A.G.A. [Make America Great Again] forces were in ascendance,” Trump’s former Deputy National Security Adviser Sebastian Gorka said yesterday, stating that he was determined to resign because “the wrong people are at the helm of policy issues.” Jonathan Easley reports at the Hill.
A suicide bomb killed five people and wounded nine in the Afghani capital of Kabul today near the U.S. Embassy, the Taliban claiming responsibility for the attack. Mirwais Harooni reports at Reuters.
The Pentagon has not finalized the number of troops to deploy to Afghanistan as part of the new Afghanistan strategy announced last week, Pentagon spokesperson Col. Robert Manning said yesterday, stating that decisions are yet to be made to implement the president’s “strategic goals,” Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.
Trump’s new Afghanistan policy has seemingly pushed Pakistan closer to China, the Pakistani government having indefinitely postponed meetings from two high-level U.S. officials as well as a planned trip by Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif to Washington. Farhan Bokhari, Yuan Yang and Kiran Stacey report at the Financial Times.
Trump’s Afghanistan strategy must deal with Pakistan’s support for extremists and terrorists and it requires holding China accountable for its policies in South Asia. Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton writes at the Wall Street Journal.
“We urge President Putin and President Poroshenko to fully respect their commitments, to support the ceasefire in a public and clear manner,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron said in a joint statement yesterday, calling on Russia and Ukraine to respect the ceasefire agreement in eastern Ukraine formulated in 2015. Reuters reports.
“I consider many countries as security threats,” Trump said yesterday, responding to a question at a joint press briefing with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö asking the president whether he considers Russia to be a security threat. Morgan Chalfant reports at the Hill.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack that killed one police officer and wounded another in Russia’s Dagestan yesterday, the AP reports.
N.A.T.O. is an alliance based on nostalgia rather than exerting genuine influence and countries like Sweden and Finland must understand the reality of the threat posed by Russia and rethink their relationship with the military alliance, the former U.S. ambassador to Sweden Azita Raji writes at the Wall Street Journal.
Iraqi forces face tough resistance from Islamic State militants as part of the operation to retake the city of Tal Afar, having driven out most of the fighters to the town of al-‘Ayadiya, 7 miles northwest of the city. Thaier Al-Sudani, Kawa Omar and Ahmed Rasheed report at Reuters.
A $22m U.S. Defense Department fund to the Iraqi Kurdistan region comes at a particularly tense time due to the planned Kurdish independence referendum in September, some of the funding helping to pay for the salaries of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters who are key to continuing the battle against the Islamic State. Paul McLeary explains at Foreign Policy.
A process transporting Islamic State militants and their families out of the Lebanon-Syria border region to eastern Syria began yesterday as part of a controversial ceasefire deal, the leader of Lebanese Shi’ite Hezbollah militia group Hassan Nasrallah declaring that Lebanon was now free of “terrorists” following the week-long operation that saw the Lebanese army fighting the militants from the Lebanese side of the border and the Syrian army and Hezbollah fighting from the Syrian side. Hassan Ammar and Sarah El Deeb report at the AP.
The militants and their families reached an exchange point in eastern Syria today, according to a Hezbollah military media unit, Reuters reports.
A contact group on Syria will meet at the U.N. in September, French President Emmanuel Macron said today, adding that the “main players” in the conflict would be involved, Reuters reports.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 34 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on August 27. Separately, partner forces conducted one strike against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
A potential new source of tension in U.S.-Iranian relations has arisen as a consequence of the conviction of an Iranian-American father and son accused of “collaborating with an enemy state,” namely the U.S., with the precise reason for the conviction remaining unclear. Rick Gladstone reports at the New York Times.
How can Trump get out of the Iran nuclear deal? Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton sets out an option for pulling out at the National Review.
“The timing of my visit shows the importance the U.S. attaches to our relationship with Sudan during this very important sanctions review period,” the head of U.S.A.I.D. Mark Green said yesterday, visiting the country ahead of the Oct. 12 deadline set by the White House for a decision on whether to end sanctions against Sudan. Carol Morello reports at the Washington Post.
There will be “no more uprooting of settlements in the Land of Israel,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday, making the comments in support of West Bank settlements days after Jared Kushner led a U.S. delegation to the Middle East to discuss peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine, the AP reports.
Human rights groups in South America have filed law suits against former Sri Lankan General Jagath Jayasuriya for alleged war crimes violations, Peter Prengaman reports at the AP.