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China expelling all North Korean businesses, this could be good or catastrophic

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The latest round of UN sanctions, along with the tough new U.S. policy of shutting down North Korean access to banking systems, seems to have China convinced that we mean business.

Instead of pushing back against the sanctions, the press is reporting that China has ordered all North Korean companies to leave or shut down within 120 days.

This could be great news. China accounts for the vast majority of North Korea’s trade. Now Chinese businesses along the Yalu River are complaining that they can’t do business with their North Korean clients, and it’s hurting them financially. Some of them are blaming America. I’m not particularly worried about that, or about Beijing being tweaked that the U.S. is causing them some pain. They know where their bread is now buttered, and it’s definitely not with Kim Jong-un.

It could also be catastrophic, if not handled correctly. The last country to be so isolated, with a vast military infrastructure and motivated population was pre-World War II Japan. That led to Pearl Harbor and war. If Kim is backed into a corner, we really don’t know what he will do. Almost the last thing the Chinese want is a war on the Korean peninsula. The only thing that would be worse is having American troops or an American-allied government ruling in North Korea, right on its border.

There’s really no possibility of Kim Jong-un winning a conventional war with South Korea. But he could kill millions in losing one. And what would “winning” look like with millions of starving, ungovernable North Koreans continuing to resist and fight in the mountains for years? It could be a tragedy beyond anything in the last fifty years. And if the war went nuclear, the results could be unimaginable and lasting (radiation and poisoning Japan’s fishing waters).

Perspectives

Chinese government orders all North Korean firms to close in China | The Independent

The Chinese government has ordered all North Korean companies based in the country to close as a result of UN sanctions over Pyongyang’s latest nuclear missile tests. The move comes amid intense international pressure on China to act to rein-in its neighbour. This week, North Korea said it was “inevitable” that its rockets would hit the US mainland in future, and said remarks by Donald Trump amounted to a “declaration of war”.

How to Tell If North Korea and America Are Actually Headed to War – The Atlantic

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/09/trump-kim-words-korea/541164/“If you’re actually going to go to war, you have to do a lot of things—primarily in terms of logistics and communications and mobilizing reserve forces … and you don’t see any of those on the [U.S.-South Korean forces] side to the south of the [Korean Demilitarized Zone] nor to the north of it,” said Dennis Blair, a former director of national intelligence and commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific. In 1994, for instance, when Blair was commanding a battle group in the western Pacific and the Clinton administration nearly decided to strike a North Korean nuclear reactor, Blair’s deployment was diverted from the Persian Gulf to Korea, Patriot anti-missile batteries flowed into the region, and a range of military units were put on alert to carry out war plans against North Korea.

World War 3 latest: Russia on war footing as Putin’s troops amass on North Korea border | World | News | Express.co.uk

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/859456/World-War-3-north-Korea-Russia-USA-Donald-Trump-PutinPhotos captured some of the troops patrolling the top of Zaozyonara Hill, a meeting point between Russia, North Korea and China. President Putin has indicated that the world will have to accept a nuclear armed North Korea, warning the rogue nation would rather “eat grass” than go without weapons. That action, in the south-western Russian region of Astrakhan, came after weeks of arguments over controversial military drills in Europe.  Russia has also carried out a number of maneouvres with China in recent weeks.

North Korea-US war now ‘a real possibility’, warns influential RUSI think tank | The Independent

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/north-korea-us-war-donald-trump-kim-jong-un-real-possibility-rusi-think-tank-a7972706.htmlA war between North Korea and the US is now a “real possibility”, and would likely result in thousands of people being killed or injured, a respected defence think tank has warned. War between the two countries would likely involve a full scale invasion of North Korea, and combat would be neither “surgical nor short”, the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) said in a report. In the event of an attack by either country, the UK would only have a few hours “at most” to decide how to respond, it adds.

China Is Kicking Out All NK Businesses | The Daily Caller

http://dailycaller.com/2017/09/28/china-is-kicking-out-all-north-korean-businesses/?utm_campaign=atdailycaller&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=atdailycaller&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=atdailycaller&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=SocialWhen it comes to Chinese efforts to halt North Korea’s march to greater power, the implementation of sanctions has been inconsistent. It is unclear what is driving China’s sudden shift, but it is clear that there are tensions between Beijing and Pyongyang.

North Korea refuses to meet with Chinese envoys, and there is a great deal of contempt between North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Furthermore, North Korea’s repeated provocations are destabilizing Northeast Asia, making the regime more of a liability rather than a strategic asset for the Chinese government.

Reactions

Final thoughts

If there’s a war to be fought, the thought that America somehow started it is foolish and politically motivated by American liberal self-hatred. For years–decades–the United States has put up with North Korea’s bellicose threats. They’ve declared war on us multiple times, and have attacked and killed our soldiers along with South Korean (ROK) troops. Now they’re threatening more than just local carnage. We have to draw a line somewhere, and to date, the U.S. hasn’t done anything outside of normal diplomatic efforts, with the exception of President Trump’s tweets and name-calling at the UN.

Something worked, however, since China has now pivoted to the strongest position it has ever taken to rein in Kim Jong-un. This is in itself a major advantage. Either there will be a change of leadership in North Korea, or there will be some kind of verifiable path to denuclearization and even disarmament and peace. Or there could be war. There’s a small percentage change it could be a nuclear war, but let’s not cry Chicken Little here. So far, this is a win for the good guys.

Foreign Affairs

State Department denies claims MBS involved in Khashoggi killing

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State Department denies claims MBS involved in Khashoggi killing

Yesterday, reports were flying across the news wire that the CIA had concluded Saudi Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The State Department issued a statement today denying the claim, stating no conclusion has been reached.

My Take

This is a lie. The State Department has seen and heard the mountains of evidence. The various cover stories put forth by the Saudi government have been hollow and debunked. They aren’t investigating further. They’re simply buying time and hoping other stories will help sweep this one under the rug.

Either MBS is so incompetent and disrespected that members of his own team went behind his back to murder someone, or he gave the order. The fact that Saudi Arabia wants us to buy the “rogue killer” is absolutely pitiful.

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Economy

Pacific Rim summit highlights strained China-US relations

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Pacific Rim summit highlights strained China-US relations

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (AP) — A meeting of world leaders in Papua New Guinea has highlighted divisions between global powers the U.S. and China and a growing competition for influence in the usually neglected South Pacific.

The 21 nations at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Port Moresby struggled to bridge differences on issues such as trade protectionism and reforming the World Trade Organization, making it likely their final statement Sunday will be an anodyne document.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and China’s President Xi Jinping traded barbs in speeches on Saturday. Pence professed respect for Xi and China but also harshly criticized the world’s No. 2 economy for intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers and unfair trading practices.

In Port Moresby, the impact of China’s aid and loans is highly visible. But the U.S. and allies are countering with efforts to finance infrastructure in Papua New Guinea and other island states. The U.S. has also said it will be involved in ally Australia’s plan to develop a naval base with Papua New Guinea.

On Sunday, the U.S., New Zealand, Japan and Australia said they’d work with Papua New Guinea’s government to bring electricity to 70 percent of its people by 2030. Less than 20 percent have a reliable electricity supply.

“The commitment of the United States of America to this region of the world has never been stronger,” said Pence at a signing ceremony. A separate statement from his office said other countries are welcome to join the electrification initiative provided they support the U.S. vision of a free and open Pacific.

China, meanwhile, has promised $4 billion of finance to build the the first national road network in Papua New Guinea, among the least urbanised countries in the world.

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Foreign Affairs

The Saudi predicament requires radical changes in our foreign affairs positions

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Saudi predicament requires radical changes in our foreign affairs positions

The United States is at a foreign affairs crossroads. One of our most important allies in the most important region in the world is being led by a man that U.S. intelligence (and pretty much everybody else) believes ordered the murder of a journalist living in our nation and writing for one of its biggest news outlets. How can we reconcile between what’s right and what’s smart?

Further evidence was leaked today that Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month. The CIA concluded this based on multiple pieces of circumstantial evidence, including phone calls intercepted between Khashoggi and Mohammed’s brother assuring Khashoggi’s safety if he went to the Saudi consulate where was murdered.

CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/cia-concludes-saudi-crown-prince-ordered-jamal-khashoggis-assassination/2018/11/16/98c89fe6-e9b2-11e8-a939-9469f1166f9d_story.html?utm_term=.718b2d26599cThe CIA’s conclusion about Mohammed’s role was also based on the agency’s assessment of the prince as the country’s de facto ruler who oversees even minor affairs in the kingdom. “The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,” said a U.S. official familiar with the CIA’s conclusions.

Among the intelligence assembled by the CIA is an audio recording from a listening device that the Turks placed inside the Saudi consulate, according to the people familiar with the matter. The Turks gave the CIA a copy of that audio, and the agency’s director, Gina Haspel, has listened to it.

This is much more complicated than deciding whether or not to punish Mohammed. The stakes are unfathomably high, including balance of power in the Middle East, a potential oil crisis that could cripple the world economy, and the future of a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians.

Unfortunately, what’s right and what’s smart are diametrically opposed in this situation.

What’s right?

Every ounce of evidence points to the near-certainty that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. He was a permanent residence of the United States who lived in Virginia and worked at the Washington Post. While not a citizen, he lawfully earned the right to fall under our nation’s protections.

The right thing to do is to condemn the Crown Prince, even if that will irreversibly damage our relationship with Saudi Arabia.

What’s smart?

Based on the current geopolitical status quo, Saudi Arabia is our best proxy to keep Iran in check in the Middle East. They are also the reason the dollar is still the world’s reserve currency despite efforts by Russia, China, and other nations to change that. This status allows the dollar to maintain artificial stability. There are many factors in play that could cripple the dollar if Saudi Arabia and OPEC started dealing in other currencies, bur national debt alone would be enough to catastrophically collapse our entire economy if the world had the means to turn its collective back on us.

Saudi Arabia and the so-called “petrodollar” is the force that maintains the illusion of stability.

The arms we sell Saudi Arabia account for a substantial chunk of revenue and jobs in the United States, but more importantly it gives them the technological edge they need over Iran. If the Saudis turn to Russia or China, our influence over the region would diminish greatly.

The smart thing to do is to sweep this under the rug. Throw symbolic punishment at some sacrificial Saudi lambs and move on.

Time for change

There is no way to do what’s right and still do what’s smart, so it would seem the White House has to pick between the two.

Perhaps they don’t. Perhaps there’s a third option.

Even if we do the “right” thing by condemning Saudi Arabia Mohammed, ties will not deteriorate immediately. There will be a wind down during which time the Saudis will be looking for other partners and the Americans will be trying to salvage the relationship.

What if we didn’t? What if we acknowledged for the first time that Saudi Arabia is more than just the country that murdered Khashoggi. Their human rights record is atrocious. They have directly or indirectly harmed the United States for years, including a significant role in terrorist attacks. They spread Wahhabism across the world. If you haven’t heard much about Wahhabism, it’s because the radical Islamic sect that drives the House of Saud is protected from media scrutiny. See Network, which only partially satirizes the influence the Saudis have on U.S. media.

Saudi Arabia is a horrible ally. They’re necessary because we’ve made them necessary, but if we drastically cut budgets and spending, the economic ramifications of a break with them would be mitigated. It’s time to make deals with nations that do not smile at us in public and subvert us in private. Nations that do not like us, including Brazil and Venezuela, could be brought under our wing to replace Saudi Arabia on the oil front. It’s unimaginable now, but we live in fast-moving times.

Also, build the Keystone XL pipeline.

As for stability in the Middle East, it’s time we go all-in with Israel. They are the only true democracy and the one nation in the Middle East we can count on to not stab us in the back. They are capable of being the check against Iran. Abandon all talks of a two-state solution, work with Israel as our primary proxy in the Middle East, and make Saudi Arabia turn to others for support.

All of this sounds dangerous because, well, it is. The dominoes that will fall when we take drastic measures against Saudi Arabia will be painful. But there’s one thing to consider before balking at this. We may be heading in this direction already. The difference is it wouldn’t be us initiating (and therefore prepared for) these changes. Saudi Arabia has been quietly seeking a better deal for decades. They haven’t found it yet, but someday they will. When that happens, they’ll pull the rug out from under us.

We should be the ones pulling the rug. If we’re not, the permanent repercussions will be devastating.

Radical change in our foreign affairs stance is long overdue. Saudi Arabia is the worst kind of ally to rely upon, not just because of Khashoggi but because of everything else they’ve done. None of this seems feasible now, but it may be the only path forward.

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