The Early Edition: November 30, 2017

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 U.S. called for the international community to suspend diplomatic ties with North Korea and further isolate the regime at an emergency U.N. Security Council session yesterday, following North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (I.C.B.M.) on Tuesday, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley also said that the council could revoke Pyongyang’s U.N. privileges and voting rights, demand that countries expel North Korean laborers and impose sanctions on its crude oil imports. Farnaz Fassihi reports at the Wall Street Journal.

“We have never sought war with North Korea, and still today we do not seek it,” Haley said yesterday, adding that if a war comes “make no mistake – the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.” Zachary Cohen reports at CNN.

Trump spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping by phone yesterday and urged Xi to apply more pressure on Pyongyang, Trump saying in a tweet after their conversation that “additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!” China’s state Xinhua news agency reported that Xi told Trump that China is committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Simon Denyer reports at the Washington Post.

“Little Rocket Man, he is a sick puppy,” Trump said yesterday at a public event in Missouri, referring derogatorily to the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Julian Borger reports at the Guardian.

Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. Vassily Nebenzia urged the U.S. and South Korea to refrain from holding military drills next month, saying at the Security Council session yesterday that all concerned parties should “stop this spiral of tension.” Reuters reports.

The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called on North Korea to “desist from taking any further destabilizing steps,” in a statement issued on Tuesday by Guterres’ spokesperson, separately the top U.N. political affairs official urged all Security Council members yesterday to unite “to prevent an escalation.” The UN News Centre reports.

North Korea fired a “Hwasong-15” I.C.B.M. and its capabilities have caused alarm among missile experts, Anna Fifield explains at the Washington Post.

North Korea’s test of the Hwasong-15 I.C.B.M. appeared calibrated to avoid provoking a U.S. military response and was a demonstration of Pyongyang’s status as a nuclear armed state, analysts have said. Andrew Jeong and Jonathan Cheng explain at the Wall Street Journal.

The fact that North Korea fired the I.C.B.M. late at night suggests a broader strategy, demonstrating that it could launch a missile at any time and from anywhere with little warning, Adam Taylor observers at the Washington Post.

A U.S.-Canada hosted international meeting in January on North Korea would try to “come up with some better ideas” to deal with the threat, Canadian officials said yesterday, David Ljunggren reporting at Reuters.

President Trump is the “first president who’s been able to get the attention of the Chinese who are actually squeezing the North Koreans as we speak,” the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in an interview broadcast yesterday, praising the president for his handling of the situation and expressing hope that the U.S. could avoid a war in the region. Mallory Shelbourne reports at the Hill.

“Is it time to accept that North Korea will never give up its nuclear arms, and try to reach a deal to stop its arsenal growing further?” Mark Landler and Choe Sang-Hun explain at the New York Times that this is the question that must be addressed “sooner or later” by the U.S. and its allies following the latest missile test.

The toughest sanctions on North Korea have not yet been imposed and the latest U.N. sanctions are being slowly implemented, there is still more economic pressure that the U.S. can put on Pyongyang and China can do much more to rein in the regime. The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.

The latest missile test could “signal a chance for a new diplomatic opening,” many have considered that North Korea would not enter into serious negotiations until the regime has achieved its nuclear ambitions, therefore now may be the chance to pursue dialogue. The New York Times editorial board writes.

A Cold War strategy of “mutually assured destruction” has a different dynamic when it comes to North Korea depending on what the U.S. seeks to achieve and what it prioritizes, nevertheless it has been made clear that Kim Jong-un has not been deterred by the increased pressure over the past few months and the direction of travel seems to be in favor of the U.S. accepting that North Korea would have nuclear capability. David E. Sanger writes at the New York Times.

The missile test has reiterated seven critical truths, including the fact that North Korea is a nuclear power now and probably has the ability to strike Washington D.C. and New York, Max Fisher explains at the New York Times.

The prospect of a new Korean war should be taken seriously, it is unlikely that more economic pressure would drastically change their behavior, it would be better to “try talking” to avoid a precarious situation. Nicholas Kristof writes at the New York Times.


Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner met with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team earlier this month as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to two sources familiar with the matter, and Mueller’s team questioned Kushner about the former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Gloria Borger, Pamela Brown, Evan Perez and Kara Scannell report at CNN.  

Questions put to Kushner focused on a meeting between Kushner, the former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Flynn during the presidential transition, according to a source briefed on the investigation, the interview with Mueller’s team does not entail that Kushner is a particular focus of the investigation but would have been important in Mueller’s case against Flynn. Matt Apuzzo reports at the New York Times.

“Mr. Kushner has voluntarily cooperated with all relevant inquiries and will continue to do so,” a statement by Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said yesterday, the BBC reporting.

The meeting with Kushner comes amid the special counsel’s investigations into Flynn’s connections to Russia and Turkey, there are signs that Flynn may be cooperating with federal investigators, the AP reports.

Donald Trump Jr. is scheduled to appear before the House Intelligence Committee on December 6, providing lawmakers the opportunity to question the president’s son on a series of issues, including last June’s meeting with Russian operatives at Trump Tower, however Trump Jr.’s attorney declined to confirm or deny that his client would appear at the hearing, which is expected to take place behind closed doors. Manu Raju reports at CNN.

The House Intelligence committee have issued a subpoena to comedian Randy Credico in relation to the Russia investigation calling on him to appear before the committee next month, Credico said on Twitter on Tuesday, a person familiar with the matter said that Credico has been identified as the link between WikiLeaks and Trump’s adviser Roger Stone. Maggie Haberman reports at the New York Times.


President Trump shared videos posted by the deputy leader of a British anti-Islam, far-right, nationalist group on Twitter yesterday, the deputy leader of “Britain First,” Jayda Fransen, was convicted last year of abusing a Muslim woman wearing a hijab. In response to the President’s actions, a spokesperson for the U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said it was wrong for Trump to have shared Britain First’s videos. Courtney Weaver, Shawn Donnan, Mark Odell and Henry Mance report at the Financial Times.

Trump hit out at Theresa May in response to her criticism of his sharing of the videos, saying in a tweet that she should “focus on the Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom.” Trump’s actions have drawn widespread condemnation from British lawmakers, and some have questioned the nature of the U.S.-U.K. “special relationship,” David Smith reports at the Guardian.

The veracity of the videos shared by the President have been brought into question, however the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters yesterday that people looking at the source of videos were “focusing on the wrong thing” and a White House spokesperson Raj Shah said in response to a question whether Trump believed Muslims pose a threat to the U.S., that “the president has addressed these issues with the travel order.” Louis Nelson reports at POLITICO.


The rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near the Syrian capital of Damascus experienced shelling yesterday in spite of a ceasefire deal proposed by Russia that coincided with the beginning of U.N.-backed Syria peace talks in Geneva, with the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claiming that at least one person was killed. Al Jazeera reports.

“We want more pressure on the regime to engage in the negotiation and continue in the negotiation to reach a political solution in six months,” the head of the Syrian opposition delegation, Nasr Hariri, said at ahead of the Geneva talks yesterday, calling on Russia and other countries to use their influence over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Tom Miles reports at Reuters.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (S.D.F.) have made significant gains in the country and Arabs in Syria have expressed concerns about their control, particularly in areas which are mostly Arab-populated, the Financial Times reports.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 11 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between November 24 and November 26. [Central Command]


The Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for an independent investigation into the violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar during a press conference with Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday. Niharika Mandhana reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Top diplomats have been leaving the State Department in huge numbers and this constitutes a national security emergency, demonstrating the Trump administration’s “disdain for diplomacy.” The former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright writes at the Washington Post.

The Trump administration’s support for the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is fraught with risk, the soon-to-be-ruler is “young, untested and clearly impulsive” and could provoke further instability through a confrontation with Iran. David A. Andelman writes at CNN.


The U.S. military denied that any civilians were killed in when it accompanied Somali forces on a raid in August, the U.S. Africa Command saying in a statement yesterday that those who were killed were “enemy combatants.” Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.

An investigation strongly suggests that U.S. Special Forces killed civilians in the raid, Christina Goldbaum reveals at The Daily Beast.


The White House is set to host the Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj tomorrow, the White House said in a statement yesterday, Reuters reporting.

The founder of the private military contractor Blackwater, Erik Prince, has proposed a “humane and professional” plan to intervene in the migrant crisis in Libya, saying that a privately-trained police force could stop, detain, house and “repatriate” hundreds of thousands of African migrants trying to get to Europe via Libya. Stephanie Kirchgaessner reports at the Guardian.


The former Egyptian Air Force general Ahmed Shafik claimed that he has been blocked by leaders of the U.A.E. from leaving the country, who do not wish him to run against the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sissi. Nour Youssef and David D. Kirkpatrick report at the New York Times.

Russia set out a draft deal with Egypt to allow both countries to use each other’s airspace and air bases for military planes today, Reuters reports.


A suspected U.S. drone attack targeted a Haqqani militant network hideout in Pakistan today, killing four people, according to Pakistani officials, Saud Mahsud reports at Reuters.

The Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has indicated that he may withdraw his resignation next week following a crisis that was triggered when Hariri announced his resignation from the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Nov. 4, Reuters reports.

The Pentagon has sold almost $42bn in weapons to foreign countries over the past year, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said yesterday, Ellen Mitchell reporting at the Hill.

The Bosnian-Croat military chief Slobodan Praljak drank poison at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia yesterday and died, he declared “I am not a war criminal” before drinking the liquid, despite being convicted of war crimes. Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reports at the Washington Post.

Lawmakers have been debating the renewal of a surveillance authority and the requirement of a warrant to access information, Katie Bo Williams explains at the Hill. 

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About the Author(s)

Pouneh Ahari

Assistant News Editor at Just Security and Legal Researcher at JUSTICE, a law reform and human rights organization based in the UK