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Could Trump’s trade war lead to a real war in Korea?

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When Donald Trump issued his in-name-only tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, he immediately alienated many of America’s strongest allies due to fears of a new trade war. Unfortunately, as we are seeing in Japan and South Korea, these fears are beginning to materialize.

As the South Korean government works on getting a get-out-of-tariff-jail-free card like Canada and Mexico received before the tariffs even took effect, steel producers in South Korea have decided to halt steel exports to the US, even though we are their third largest customer.

So, how is Trump responding?

In a speech to donors at a fundraiser in Missouri, Trump informed those in attendance that he is prepared to take action against South Korea over what he sees as an unfair trade relationship.

“We have a very big trade deficit with them, and we protect them … We lose money on trade, and we lose money on the military. We have right now 32,000 soldiers between North and South Korea. Let’s see what happens.”

Yep! Trump is threatening to essentially begin dismantling the US Pacific Command (est. Jan. 1941) if South Korea doesn’t cough up his extortion money.

Besides the fact that Trump could be lying about a trade deficit—he admitted to the donors that he lied to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in their trade discussions—he displayed an incredibly dangerous ignorance with his threat to withdraw US troops.

In remarks before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Command, addressed Trump’s threat:

“I believe [regime leader Kim Jong Un] would do a victory dance. I think he’d be a happy man if we abdicated our alliance with South Korea and Japan.”

Trump’s threat is beyond stupid, but it follows a recent announcement that he will be meeting with Kim Jong Un to discuss ways to denuclearize North Korea. Seems to me that the man who brags about being a great dealmaker just surrendered one of his biggest bargaining chips.

What motivation will the North Korean dictator have to disarm if the US abandons the region? Wouldn’t the absence of US troops be an open invitation for Kim Jong Un to invade South Korea? At the very least, it would make an already unstable situation much worse.

Abandoning our allies is familiar territory for The Donald. You may recall that Trump attempted to bully NATO for not paying their “fair share” during his first foreign trip as President less than a year ago.

Legislation has been recently introduced that will return the power to levy tariffs back to Congress. We should hope that it becomes law because not only could it stop a trade war, but in the age of Trump, it could stop a real war in places like Korea.


Originally posted on The Strident Conservative.

David Leach is the owner of The Strident Conservative. His daily radio commentary is nationally syndicated with Salem Radio Network and can be heard on stations across America.

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Foreign Affairs

Netanyahu to push for town in Golan Heights to be named after President Trump

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Netanyahu to push for town in Golan Heights to be named after President Trump

The relationship between the leaders of Israel and the United States is at its strongest point in decades, possibly ever. President Trump has fulfilled his promise to reverse the damage done by his predecessor in foreign affairs, particularly with certain allies like Israel. Now, the Prime Minister of Israel is calling for a nice tribute.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video Tuesday detailing his desire to honor the President following the Passover holiday.

Opinion

When the President announced the need for America and the rest of the world to recognize the Golan Heights as a sovereign part of Israel, most on the right in both countries cheered. It was a departure from a long-standing policy, one that has been overdue in need of changing.

This gesture should not be dismissed. It’s significant because the United States has been one of the few allies for the Jewish state, but that status was put in jeopardy by President Obama who called for a return to the pre-1967 borders. Such a move would put Israel in a strategically untenable position, making it practically impossible for it to defend itself against attacks from the north.

Settlements in the region have been greatly misunderstood, mostly due to United Nations propaganda. These settlements are not intended as a middle finger of sorts towards the U.N. and all the nations calling for the land to be returned. It’s a strategic maneuver that empowers Israel to protect its vulnerable borders.

By naming a settlement after President Trump, Israel will help solidify the relationship for at least another two years and possibly much longer than that.

Quote

“Therefore, after the Passover holiday, I intend to bring to the government a resolution calling for a new community on the Golan Heights named after President Donald J. Trump.” – Benjamin Netanyahu

Final Thoughts

Israel is the one true democracy in the Middle East and the only ally in the region that shares our values. Our future is as tied to them as their future is tied to ours. It’s imperative that this relationship remains strong.

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Foreign Affairs

Diplomacy and defense

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Diplomacy and defense

In one sense, diplomacy is our first line of defense. It is always preferable to have diplomats in civilian attire working with their counterparts around the world to not only promote trade but moreover to keep countries away from each other’s throats over ideological differences.

But diplomacy has its limits. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain honestly thought he could talk Adolf Hitler out of the military conquest of Europe. He fell for the Fuehrer’s lies hook, line & sinker.

Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry were equally naïve and gullible in negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Donald Trump made the right decision by scrapping this deal which was just enabling Iran to be able to develop and deploy nukes.

Take a quick look at this official U.S. Department of State list of all former Secretaries of State. How many of them do you recognize?

5 of the first 10 plus number 17 went on to become President of the United States. Hopefully you remember Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams and Van Buren.

Buchanan was President during the time that led to the U.S. Civil War. No Secretary of State has since become President. The book is not yet closed on #67 Hillary Clinton, but don’t hold your breath.

It would appear that American diplomats are not held in as high esteem nor does being Secretary of State further their political career since the early days of our Republic. In recent decades, the President of the United States far overshadows his top diplomat.

Carter hosted the Camp David Accords with Begin and Sadat. Reagan challenged Russian dictators directly as in Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall [in Berlin]. Obama orchestrated everything for Hillary and John Kerry. Some have already forgotten Trump’s first Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who didn’t make much of an impression on anybody. Mike Pompeo is more high-profile but is faltering somewhat these days. North Korea doesn’t even want to talk to him anymore.

Even with nation states, it is not possible to always sit down and talk out differences. Heck, Republicans and Democrats can’t even work out differences between the two major U.S. political parties. With that kind of negative example, how should we expect anybody else in the world to respect our diplomacy?

But the biggest failure of diplomacy comes with non-state actors. Pretending to be able to talk to the Taliban is a farce. We couldn’t and shouldn’t negotiate with Al-Qaeda or ISIS. Islamic Sharia law demands world domination and the elimination of all human government and man-made constitutions. What could you possibly find negotiable in that stance?

SRI LANKA

Which brings us to the current tragedy on the teardrop-shaped island of Sri Lanka, once famous for Ceylon tea. Credible reports are that both the United States and India provided very specific intelligence to Sri Lanka as long ago as April 4th which even gave the names of suspects who would commit multiple Jihad attacks on Easter Sunday targeting primarily Christians.

Just in the last 48 hours, it has become obvious that the Sri Lanka government is totally dysfunctional. The Prime Minister was not informed by intelligence and law-enforcement agencies of the intelligence information received. There is no indication that churches and hotels and the public were aware of the threat. No law enforcement or military presence was in place to prevent the attacks.

I say that to say this. Alaina B. Teplitz is the incumbent Ambassador from the United States to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. U.S. Embassy is located in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. She would hopefully have been privy to the intelligence information about the Easter Sunday threat.

Between her and her Chain of Command through U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo all the way up to President Donald Trump, why did no one speak out to warn U.S. citizens and others of the impending danger so they could take proper precautions, especially on Easter Sunday?

Now a U.S. State Department Sri Lanka Travel Advisory has been issued apparently due to the threat of a second wave of attacks. It is dated April 21st which was Easter Sunday. Whatever time of day it was issued, it would not appear to have reached potential victims in time to avoid churches, hotels and public places on that date. Exactly where one traveling in a foreign country could go for safety is also not clear.

The art of diplomacy involves not offending national leaders and other countries. But I submit that is a less crucial concern than providing for the safety of Americans abroad. If anything was in the media about the threat to Sri Lanka prior to Easter Sunday, many of us who follow world events closely did not see it.

When diplomacy fails as it did in Benghazi and again in Colombo, we need to re-examine our priorities. A lot has been said and written about what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did or did not do on the night of September 11, 2012 when the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was attacked and four brave Americans died. Neither prevention nor response worked as they should have.

Instead of pursuing the Mueller report ad infinitum and ad nauseam, there should immediately be a very serious investigation into how our diplomatic and intelligence channels failed miserably in Sri Lanka this month of April 2019.

DIPLOMACY VIS-Á-VIS DEFENSE

When diplomatic mechanisms fail, then we must resort to our national defense capabilities. We need to take all steps to ensure that Americans in Sri Lanka who have a good reason to be there are safe if there is a second wave of attacks.

We definitely should have sent the Marines into Benghazi. It’s not time to do that into Colombo just yet. But we need to be prepared to do what has to be done if Americans are targeted. We also need to candidly admit that it is American Christians and Christians from other nationalities who are in the center of the bullseye.

Credible reports indicate that Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri who took over after UBL was killed had not long ago declared that A-Q would be looking eastward toward the Indian Subcontinent. As ISIS loses its territorial Caliphate in Iraq and Syria, terrorists will be dispersed into other vulnerable areas.

The dysfunctional Sri Lankan government is particularly vulnerable. It is noteworthy that the majority in the island nation are Buddhist Sinhalese. Islam targets not only Christians and Jews but all non-Muslims of every faith.

United States has to be prepared for further attacks throughout Asia. ISIS was instrumental in the siege of Marawi City in the Philippines.

IRAN

We must not be misled by disingenuous statements by Iranian “diplomats” condemning the Sri Lanka attacks. Iran has long harbored Al-Qaeda. While they found ISIS a competitor for hegemony in the Middle East, mutual hatred for non-Muslims is a far stronger motivating factor than the schism between Shia and Sunni Muslims for domination in the Islamic world. They are both willing and capable to cooperate and work together against the mutual enemy.

The United States Department of State and Department of Defense need to be on the same wavelength. When diplomats succeed, then military conflicts can be precluded. But nothing Neville Chamberlain could have done with Adolf Hitler would have prevented World War II. Frankly, nothing Mike Pompeo does with KJU will dissuade the North Korean madman from doing whatever he thinks he can get away with.

CHINA

Likewise, when our Secretary of State left Hanoi after the Circus Summit between Trump and Kim, he stopped over in Manila to assure Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that the United States has his back in dealing with China in the conflict in the Spratly Islands.

To say that the current Philippine President is unorthodox and undiplomatic, while true, would obscure the fact that he is at least a realist. He knows the tiny Philippines cannot go to war with a mega-power like China.

But right now he has a dilemma to sort out. Was Mike Pompeo just being a diplomat and saying what diplomats say, or would the United States really confront China militarily when Beijing occupies islands long claimed by the Philippines?

One thing is certain. Trump response will be exponentially greater than the Obama response would have been. But nobody is going to risk global nuclear war over a few specks of land in the South China Sea. Not even for the Philippines which is our closest ally in Asia and was our only long-term colony in the region.

That’s why rather irresponsible statements like saying Washington has Manila’s back against Beijing can lead to unanticipated and undesirable consequences. If such things are said at all, they should be behind closed doors and not made public.

So what is the United States doing to deter China’s worldwide ambitions for economic and military influence, if not outright control? China’s debt trap diplomacy is now moving beyond the Pacific Basin into Scandinavia and the Baltics as Beijing offers to finance an undersea tunnel between Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia.

U.S. COAST GUARD

Well for one thing, oddly enough, the U.S. Coast Guard which is part of the Department of Homeland Security now has Coast Guard Cutters in the Western Pacific reporting to the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, showing up in places like the Taiwan Strait.

South China Morning Post, April 21, 2019, ‘Oversubscribed’ US Navy leans more on coastguard to help counter China

“The coastguard brings some authorities below the threshold of war. We’re US warships, but we look different, with a white hull and an orange stripe.”

While keeping a wary eye on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, United States resources at this point must focus primarily on both the People’s Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Iran. But, those are just the nation states that we must contend with.

TERRORISTS

It’s a lot trickier to deal with non-state actors such as Al-Qaeda, ISIS and an indigenous group from southern India and Sri Lanka that is thought to be responsible for the Easter Sunday Massacre. Our diplomats and other personnel assigned at our embassies abroad need to do their jobs. That obviously would include CIA Station Chiefs under whatever may be their diplomatic cover.

It is significant that the former United States Pacific Command not long ago rebranded itself the Indo-Pacific Command. This was obviously in recognition of the expanding role of the United States military along with the interconnectivity between the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean and the countries around them.

Now, along with U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Defense, the Trump Administration is superimposing U.S. Department of Homeland Security into the picture. New Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenen has his work cut out for him in overseeing the U.S. Coast Guard role in joint patrols with the U.S. Navy to counteract China’s influence.

Oh, yes, plus that other little matter of securing our border with Mexico at the same time. All the while, the U.S. Coast Guard will be hard-pressed to continue drug interdiction patrols in the Eastern Pacific and Latin America as they also shadow China at the behest of the U.S. Navy.

Remember that Coast Guard also does search and rescue missions for boaters in trouble, plus deals with oil spills and water pollution and myriad other non-warfighting duties. It remains to be seen whether using the Coast Guard to augment the Navy is a stroke of genius or whether it is just spreading our resources too thinly.

WHERE THE BUCK STOPS

It all really comes down to the guy at the top and his key advisers. Donald Trump undoubtedly appreciates the requirements of national security far better than his predecessor. So that’s why it’s crucial that he recruit and maintain the right advisers.

John Bolton obviously has the President’s ear. He is more knowledgeable and trustworthy to offer good advice than is Mike Pompeo. Kevin McAleenan would be an excellent choice to be nominated as permanent Secretary of DHS. The President should respectfully consider his recommendations for enforcement posture.

SECOND BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT

Members of Congress need to get their act together. The considerations we’ve been discussing here will have a much greater impact upon the future of our country than anything related to the Mueller report.

Remember, Senators and Representatives, you hold the purse strings to this government. Ponder that when you put your head on your pillow tonight. Cut out the cable talk shows and news conferences. By all means, tweet a whole lot less! Go back to Capitol Hill and do what we sent you there to do. Legislate rather than pontificate!

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Foreign Affairs

A Japanese F-35 is missing and that’s a very big deal!

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A Japanese F-35 is missing and thats a very big deal

While America’s elected officials of both political parties obsess over a nothingburger political scandal, meanwhile on the other side of the Pacific Ocean our warfighting capabilities and that of our allies are seriously threatened. A Japanese F-35A fighter aircraft has gone missing!

Media coverage has predominantly been from sources in the Asia-Pacific Theater. Following are excerpts regarding the disappearance and analyses of the significance.

The US and Japan still can’t find a missing F-35, and its ‘secrets’ may be in danger

One week has passed since a Japanese Air Self-Defense Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter mysteriously disappeared.

Japanese authorities believe the fifth-generation stealth fighter crashed in the Pacific.

A Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter flown by 41-year-old Maj. Akinori Hosomi disappeared from radar last Tuesday, April 9.

No distress signal was sent out as the aircraft vanished roughly 85 miles east of Misawa Air Base.

The F-35A is an airplane that contains a significant amount of secrets that need to be protected.

Tom Moore, a former senior professional staff member with the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted recently, “There is no price too high in this world for China and Russia to pay to get Japan’s missing F-35.”

US scrambles to keep F-35’s secrets safe from Russia and China

Japan’s F-35A that went missing is believed to be able to act like a high-performance radar in the air.

The U.S. has placed a never-before-seen level of priority on this crash. That is likely because the F-35A is expected to play a crucial role in the future of modern warfare.

U.S. has suspended delivery of F-35 equipment to NATO ally Turkey because of Ankara’s decision to purchase Russian-made missile systems with Washington citing an intelligence risk.

Any information on the technology in the F-35s is in high demand. China has reportedly already acquired parts of the F-35 blueprint through cybertheft. It has been advancing its own stealth fighter program, deploying its own J-20 jet to rival the F-35.

…[B]eing able to touch and analyze the actual material or radar-absorbing stealth paint used for the F-35 will boost its understanding to a new level….

It is not hard to imagine that the military and intelligence brass in Beijing and Moscow are salivating at the idea of an F-35A in the sea.

The fact that the U.S. military has taken the unusual step of sending a B-52 bomber to the crash area is a stern message that it will not allow anyone to touch the plane.

The F-35A that crashed into the Pacific this time is thought to be sunk on the seabed about 1,500 meters deep.

The crash site is roughly 150 km off Japan’s Aomori Prefecture and within Japan’s exclusive economic zone. China and Russia cannot conduct search or salvage operations without Tokyo’s permission. But it is not entirely impossible that the China’s People’s Liberation Army or the Russian military will deploy submarines or underwater drones to attempt to reach the F-35A.

The fate of the sunken F-35A has the potential of altering the air power balance between the major powers.

********

China has to be the prime concern that they be prevented from obtaining the technology of the F-35 and reverse engineering it for their own military advantage.

It is pertinent to look at the variants of the F-35 and the role they play in military actions.

********

F-35 VARIANTS

Three Variants, Common Capability

The F-35 family includes three variants – all single-seat jets: the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant, the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant, and the F-35C carrier variant (CV).

The U.S. Air Force as well as the majority of our allied air forces and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) nations will operate the F-35A.

The F-35B model short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant is designed to operate from austere, short-field bases and a range of air-capable ships operating near front-line combat zones. [Used by U.S. Marine Corps.]

The F-35C carrier variant (CV) is the Navy’s first stealth fighter and the world’s only 5th Generation, long-range stealth strike fighter designed and built explicitly for aircraft carrier operations.

********

Japan says its F-35A stealth fighters made seven precautionary landings before crash

Marine Corps F-35B, capable of short takeoffs and landings….

The downed aircraft, which was the first F-35A put together in Japan….

Commanders have not set a time limit on the search for Hosomi and the missing aircraft.

Unfortunately, one pilot on board is still missing as of now and the location of the aircraft has not been identified but we will do our best to find them as soon as possible.

All Japanese F-35As have been grounded since the incident.

Though U.S. search and rescue efforts have ended, we will continue to coordinate with our Japanese partners on efforts to locate and recover the missing aircraft.

Japanese crash investigators will seek U.S. support since the F-35A has a special fuselage and contains classified information.

Carl Baker, executive director of Pacific Forum in Hawaii, said searchers would use sonar to try to find the aircraft. It’s stealth capabilities, which make it virtually invisible to radar, won’t be a factor underwater.

However, the size of the search area and the lack of precise coordinates could mean a long search.

********

Let’s take a moment to look at the vital role that American F-35s play in the daily standoff in the Middle East between Israel and all its hostile neighbors.

********

Stealth on Steroids: Meet Israel’s F-35I Adir (An F-35 Like No Other)

F-35I Adir — or “Mighty Ones” — will be the only F-35 variant to enter service heavily tailored to a foreign country’s specifications.

F-35I stealth fighters had flown on two combat missions on “different fronts”.

The first nineteen stealth jets received by Israel will actually be standard F-35A land-based fighters, while the following thirty-one will be true F-35Is modified to integrate Israeli-built hardware.

Israeli F-35Is uniquely will have an overriding Israeli-built C4 program that runs “on top” of Lockheed’s operating system.

An official told Aviation Week the IAF expects the advantages of the F-35’s low radar cross section will be “good for five to ten years” before adversaries develop countermeasures.

While Tel Aviv basically wants the United States to carry out such an attack, the F-35 makes an Israeli attack on Iran more practical.

The activities of Israel’s Adirs are likely to continue to remain conspicuously in the news, if less so on hostile radars.

********

As stated in the section above regarding Israel, each version of the F-35 is most effective until adversaries develop countermeasures. That’s why finding the missing Japanese F-35 is so urgent right now.

The F-35A, F-35B, F-35C and F-35I have each been developed to serve a specific type of warfighting need. For Japan, the near adversaries would be China and North Korea. For Israel, it would be Iran and potentially even Turkey.

If the wreckage of the missing plane is under many fathoms of water, then it is a scramble to locate it, protect it from adversaries and retrieve it. China and Russia are most in a position to try to beat us to it.

But the fact that there was no distress signal before the plane went down ~ and specious claims of having found small pieces but not the classified technology ~ indicate that at this point we must consider whether the pilot defected and potentially flew an F-35A straight to China. Hopefully not. But it behooves us to know for sure. Sooner rather than later.

The People’s Republic of China is a supplier and supporter of rogue countries all the way from North Korea to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Any American technology they can steal will certainly get into the hands of both the Madman of Pyongyang and the Ayatollah in Tehran. General Soleimani of IRGC Quds Force would exploit it to counteract Israeli air supremacy.

So don’t get too caught up in the political frenzy over the Mueller report. It’s just fodder for money-hungry pundits and power-mad politicians. But if China and/or Iran can reverse engineer an American F-35, the risk of a military confrontation increases greatly. NOQ Report will continue to monitor and cover this developing story.

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