The Early Edition: June 12, 2018

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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.

TRUMP-KIM SUMMIT

Talks between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at their summit in Singapore resulted in a document signed by the two leaders, but the document – although described by Trump as “very comprehensive” – contains few specific new commitments by Pyongyang on surrendering its nuclear weapons. Michael C. Bender, Michael R. Gordon and Jonathan Cheng report at the Wall Street Journal.

The full text of the document signed by Trump and Kim is provided at NBC.

The document suggests that Trump and Kim agreed to four vague commitments: to establish new U.S.-North Korean relations “in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity;” to join “efforts to build a lasting and stable peace” on the Peninsula;” to reaffirm the declaration Kim signed at his summit with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in; and to recover the remains of Americans lost or killed during the Korean War. Rebecca Kheel and Jordan Fabian report at the Hill.

The document indicates that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean officials will hold follow-up negotiations “at the earliest possible date,” but some analysts have cautioned that the symbolic gains made at the summit merely mask the lack of tangible achievements. Steve Holland, Jack Kim and Soyoung Kim report at Reuters.

The document made no mention of the international sanctions leveled against North Korea for pursuing its nuclear weapons program, nor did it contain any reference to a peace treaty that would formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. Steve Holland, Jack Kim and Soyoung Kim report at Reuters.

Trump announced that he will order an end to regular “war games” that the U.S. conducts with its ally South Korea, a reference to annual joint military exercises conducted by the two nations. Trump described the exercises as “inappropriate” and “very provocative” and highlighted the expense involved, David Nakamura, Philip Rucker, Anna Fifield and Anne Gearan report at the Washington Post.

Trump claimed that after the signing of the document, Kim pledged to destroy a missile-engine testing site, commenting that “I got that after we signed the agreement…I said, ‘Do me a favor; we’ve got this missile-engine testing site. We know where it is because of the heat.’ It’s incredible the equipment we have, to be honest with you.” New York Times reports.

The day began with a carefully choreographed handshake between the two leaders and Trump hailing the start of a “terrific relationship…I feel really great…It’s going to be a great discussion and, I think, tremendous success… I think we will have a terrific relationship. I have no doubt.” Kim added: “it was not easy to get here. The past worked as fetters on our limbs, and the old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles on our way forward. But we overcame all of them, and we are here today.” Mark Landler reports at the New York Times.

The two retreated for a private meetings where according to Trump, the president showed Kim a vision of what North Korea could look like if the country embraced peace: “As an example, they have great beaches…you see that whenever they are exploding the cannons into the ocean. I said, ‘Boy look at that view…Instead of doing that, you could have the best hotels in the world.’” Live updates by Ben Westcott, Veronica Rocha, Brian Ries, Meg Wagner and Amanda Wills at CNN.

Trump told reporters that human rights issues were “discussed relatively briefly” as part of the meetings, adding that “it will be discussed more in the future.” Eliana Johnson, Nahal Toosi and Nancy Cook report at POLTICO.

The private meeting lasted 48 minutes and was conducted with translators but without aides, with the two leaders then entering a meeting room where their top aides were waiting: on the U.S. side were White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, and a senior state department official acting as an interpreter. Julian Borger reports at the Guardian.

The leaders and advisers conducted a further two hours of talks, before sharing a working lunch that 0f prawn cocktail, beef short rib and vanilla ice cream. Michael C. Bender, Michael R. Gordon and Jonathan Cheng report at the Wall Street Journal

Trump followed the talks with a press conference that lasted over an hour, which he ended by characterizing the summit as an important event in world history, although he also remarked that “I want to get it completed, because if we don’t get the ball over the goal line, it doesn’t mean enough.” Live updates by Matthew Weaver and Kate Lyons at the Guardian.

“My meeting with Chairman Kim was honest, direct and productive,” Trump told reporters during the press conference, adding “we are prepared to start a new history … and write a new chapter between our nations.” Demetri Sevastopulo, Bryan Harris and Stefania Palma report at the Financial Times.

“I just think that we are now going to start the process of denuclearization of North Korea. I believe that he’s going back and will start it virtually immediately,” Trump said in excerpts of the interview broadcast on Fox, adding that “it’s a process and it’s really moving rapidly”. Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey report at Reuters.

Trump said he ‘absolutely’ would invite Kim to the White House. Breaking news from the AP.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in pledged today to write “new history” with North Korea, praising Kim’s decision to hold the summit. A statement released by Moon’s office said that “leaving dark days of war and conflict behind, we will write a new chapter of peace and cooperation…we will be there together with North Korea along the way.” Hyonhee Shin, Haejin Choi and Heekyong Yang report at Reuters.

South Korea’s presidential office said today that it will need to seek clarification of Trump’s intentions after his comments regarding the halting of joint military exercises, with a Blue House spokesman stating that “at this point, we need to find out the precise meaning or intentions of President Trump’s remarks.” Hyonhee Shin reports at Reuters.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe commented that “I’m determined that Japan will have to directly face North Korea and resolve [the abductions] bilaterally,” despite the fact that Trump claimed that he had raised the abductions with Kim and that the North Koreans “are going to be working on that.” Live updates by Matthew Weaver and Kate Lyons at the Guardian.

Iran has warned North Korea against accepting any nuclear deal with Trump, with semi-official Fars news agency quoting an Iranian government spokesman as saying “we are facing a man who revokes his signature while abroad.” Reuters reports.

“We can only welcome the fact that an important step forward has been made,” commented Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, although he added that “of course the devil is in the detail, and we have yet to delve into specifics.” Maria Kiselyova reports at Reuters.

China has suggested today that sanctions relief could be considered for North Korea if the country abides by U.N. resolutions. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang commented in a daily news briefing that “the U.N. Security Council resolutions that have been passed say that if North Korea respects and acts in accordance with the resolutions, then sanction measures can be adjusted, including to pause or remove the relevant sanctions,” Christian Shepherd reports at Reuters.

A roundup of quotes from the today, with a reminder of the leaders’ previous messages on Twitter, is provided at the Financial Times.

TRUMP-KIM SUMMIT: OPINION & ANALYSIS

Trump’s embrace of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stood in stark contrast to his aggressive approach toward allies at the G-7 summit in Quebec three days earlier, with the setting for the summit in Singapore putting both leaders on equal footing. Philip Rucker and Anne Gearan provide an analysis of the meeting at the Washington Post.

Experts have cast doubt on the agreement signed between Trump and Kim and the sincerity of North Korea’s commitment to denuclearize, while Trump supporters and Republicans could use the outcome of the summit to bolster their image ahead of domestic midterm elections. Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom provide an analysis at Reuters, also offering a comparison with former President Richard Nixon’s visit to communist China in 1972.

The four key takeaways from the meeting between Trump and Kim is provided by Chris Cillizza at CNN.

The process of disarming North Korea’s nuclear arsenal could be long and challenging. Benjy Sarlin provides an analysis at NBC News, drawing on comments by the nuclear weapons expert Jeffrey Lewis.

Trump “has a fake diplomatic achievement for his reality show,” Jeffrey Lewis writes at The Daily Beast arguing that, in the rush to get a photo op, the president has ignored the “boring work of governing,” neglected the fact that U.S.-North Korea relations “can’t be fixed in a 30-minute episode before the writers move on” and that “at this end of this episode, North Korea will still have nuclear weapons.”

North Korea’s ballistic, cyber, chemical and biological weapons programs are key elements of the threat posed by Pyongyang and a deal on denuclearization should recognize the broader picture. Troy Stangarone writes at Foreign Policy.

There has been cautious optimism around Asia and the world about the prospect for peace on the Korean Peninsula, however concerns remain about the sincerity of the attempts to achieve denuclearization and peace. The AP provides an overview of the reactions in China, South Korea and Japan.

Trump has “made diplomacy great again” for his supporters, Blake Hounshell writes at POLITICO Magazine, arguing that Trump, like Obama, has embarked on a strategy of talking to America’s enemies but, unlike Obama, has managed to demonstrate this is a strength rather than a sign of weakness.

Trump’s meeting with Kim demonstrates “his willingness to coddle real strongmen,” which offers a revealing juxtaposition to his approach to allies at the G-7 summit. Ishaan Tharoor writes at the Washington Post.

An overview of the atrocities and human rights abuses committed by the Kim regime is provided by Maya Salam and Matthew Haag at the New York Times.

G-7 SUMMIT

“I’m very confident that relationships between our countries, the United States and those G-7 countries, will continue to move forward on a strong basis,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday, speaking after a fractious G-7 summit in Canada which saw leaders of the group of industrialized nations clashing with President Trump on trade policy and tariffs. Joshua Zumbrun reports at the Wall Street Journal.

British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday praised Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the face of attacks by Trump on the Canadian leader, adding that the summit was “difficult” at times and there were “some very candid discussions.” The BBC reports.

“There was a good reason why the G-8 became the G-7,” May also said yesterday, pushing back against Trump’s suggestion that Russia be readmitted to the group of industrialized nations due to Moscow’s meddling in other countries’ affairs. Reuters reports.

The G-7 summit is “likely to accelerate a reassessment by European governments of how to manage relations with the Trump administration,” Stephen Fidler and Laurence Norman write at the Wall Street Journal, noting that European leaders’ approach did not change Trump’s decisions on the Paris climate change accord, the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and trade policy with Europe.

YEMEN

The U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock warned yesterday that it was imperative to prevent a “battle” for the strategic Yemeni port city of Hodeidah due to the humanitarian implications of an escalation. Separately, Yemeni security officials said yesterday that fighting between pro-government forces, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels had killed more than 600 people on both sides in recent days, Ahmed al-Haj reporting at the AP.

Staff members of the U.N. and the International Committee for the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.) have withdrawn from Hodeidah, officials said yesterday, ahead of fears of an attack on the port city which is home to 600,000 people. Margaret Coker and Eric Schmitt report at the New York Times.

“We are, at the present moment in intense consultation … I hope that it will be possible to avoid a battle for Hodeidah,” the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said yesterday, adding that the U.N. special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, is engaged in shuttle diplomacy between Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi to try to avert an assault. Al Jazeera reports.

The U.A.E. has given the U.N. less than 48 hours to negotiate a Houthi ceasefire at Hodeidah before it carries out an assault, saying that the port has been used by Houthi rebels to smuggle arms and missiles. Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.

A closed-door U.N. Security Council session was held yesterday to discuss Yemen at the request of the U.K., following escalating violence near the port city. Michelle Nichols and Yara Bayoumy report at Reuters.

“We urge you to use all available means to avert a catastrophic military assault on Yemen’s major port city of Hodeidah by the Saudi-led coalition,” a bipartisan group of lawmakers have said in a draft letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, which is being circulated for signatures. Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday called on all parties to the Yemeni conflict “to honor their commitments to work with the U.N.,” but did not explicitly call on the Saudi-led coalition to avoid an assault on Hodeidah. Experts have said the mild U.S. response makes it responsible for what may happen at the port city, Keith Johnson, Colum Lynch and Robbie Gramer report at Foreign Policy.

SYRIA

“A special solution needs to be found for all these groups inside [the Syrian opposition-held province of] Idlib, because the current composition makes it highly explosive,” the U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Panos Moumtzis, warned yesterday, referring to the escalating violence between the various opposition factions within the province and the increased number of displaced people. The U.N. News Centre reports.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 134 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between June 1 and June 10. [Central Command]

TAIWAN

The U.S. today held a ceremony to mark the opening of a new de facto embassy in Taiwan, in a show of support for the Taiwan government amid increased Chinese pressure on the self-ruled island. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce – the highest ranking US official in attendance – claimed that the opening will “make possible even greater co-operation for many years to come,” Edward White reports at the Financial Times.

The building, formally titled the American Institute in Taiwan, is situated in a suburb of the capital Taipei and will house U.S. representatives, aiming to serve American interests in the absence of formal diplomatic ties with the island. Ralph Jennings reports at the Washington Post.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen attended the ceremony and commented that the new embassy indicated both sides’ commitment to a “vital relationship,” adding that “the friendship between Taiwan and the U.S. has never been more promising.” Jess Macy Yu reports at Reuters.

The lack of cabinet-level visitors from Washington was suggestive of the U.S.’ unwillingness to upset China, Chris Horton reports at the New York Times.

RUSSIA

The U.S. Treasury Department yesterday imposed sanctions on five Russian companies and three Russian individuals for providing “material and technological support” to Russia’s F.S.B. security agency and its support for improving Moscow’s cyber-capabilities. Eric Geller reports at POLITICO.

“Obviously, retaliatory measures will be considered … We will take reciprocal steps,” the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said today in response to the U.S. sanctions. Reuters reports.

A meeting of Ukrainian, Russian, French and German foreign ministers in Berlin yesterday focused on implementing the 2015 Minsk agreement to bring an end to fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. The AP reports.

The meeting agreed in principle on a U.N. peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine but ideas on implementation were still “very much apart,” the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said yesterday, adding that negotiations on deploying a mission would be discussed “in the coming weeks.” Michael Nienaber reports at Reuters.

It would be “dangerous” for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (O.P.C.W.) to be given further powers, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. Vassily Nebenzia said yesterday, referring to a British-led attempt to expand the O.P.C.W. role to include determining responsibility for chemical attacks, and warning that the U.N. Security Council is the “only body that can authorize attribution.” Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.

TRUMP-RUSSIA

Trump’s personal lawyers have teamed up with attorneys representing other individuals caught up in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, under a joint defense agreement. Betsy Woodruff reports at The Daily Beast.

Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort will be arraigned on Friday after a third superseding indictment was filed against him by special counsel Robert Mueller lodging additional charges on accusations of witness tampering. The arraignment has been set to coincide with a previously scheduled hearing over whether Manafort’s bail conditions should be revoked, Sarah N. Lynch reports at Reuters.

While a presidential pardon may be politically significant, it does not prevent a prosecution in a state court, and a plea deal in hand may yet prove to be the wisest course for those in Mueller’s sights. Michael M. Conway comments at NBC.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY AND TECHNOLOGY

Facebook looks set to be embroiled in a new data-user scandal due to revelations that the social media giant had data-sharing agreements with device-makers, including the Chinese Huawei company. Harper Neidig reports at the Hill.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has included provisions on cybersecurity and cyber warfare in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (N.D.A.A.), setting the stage for a potential battle between senators and the Trump administration on the appropriate approach to cyberattacks. Morgan Chalfant reports at the Hill.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

At least five police officers have been killed in an attack in Afghanistan’s eastern Ghazni province, an official said today. Separately, the Islamic State group today claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack on a ministry in the capital, Kabul; the attacks have taken place ahead of a three-day Taliban ceasefire, which is set to begin this week to coincide with the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, the AP reports.

Qatar said yesterday that it had filed a case against the U.A.E. at the International Court of Justice for its “discrimination against Qatar and Qatari citizens” amid the blockade and isolation of Doha by the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain, which began on June 5, 2017. Jon Gambrell reports at the AP.

Forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Haftar of the self-styled Libyan National Army (L.N.A.) have made significant gains against local fighters and Islamists in the eastern city of Derna, according to a spokesperson for the L.N.A., with the fighting bringing the risk of undermining U.N.-led efforts for a political solution for war-torn Libya. Reuters reports.

“The Trump Doctrine is ‘We’re America, Bitch,’” a senior White House official with direct access to the president and his thinking has said, revealing the “delusional quality” of the doctrine which, if implemented, could in fact make the U.S. weaker. Jeffrey Goldberg provides an analysis of comments by White House officials on Trump’s foreign policy approach at The Atlantic.

An overview of the 10 individuals key to U.S.-China relations is provided by Derek Robertson at POLITICO Magazine. 

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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

Robbie Stern

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