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Kim Jong-un's Big Speech Is Missing Something: South Korea

January 4, 2020 in Economics

By Eric Gomez

Eric Gomez

The report on North Korea’s 5th Plenary Meeting of the 7th Central Committee talks at length about nuclear diplomacy and outlines what the future may hold for U.S.-North Korea talks. This emphasis is unsurprising after a year of frustrating diplomatic setbacks and false starts in U.S.-North Korea relations, and many talented analysts are trying to decipher the plenum’s implications for Washington. Yet equally notable is the country not mentioned in the report—South Korea.

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The report of the 5th Plenary Meeting is a stark reminder of the depleted role that South Korea plays in negotiations with North Korea. This wasn’t always the case.

Not long ago, South Korea was an important player in nuclear diplomacy. President Moon Jae-in’s outreach around the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics kicked off a promising year that included two inter-Korean summits. The second of which, in Pyongyang, produced an important military agreement that significantly reduced the likelihood of military escalation along the demilitarized zone. The military agreement was very detailed and laid out mutual, reciprocal steps that North and South Korea quickly implemented. The fine-grained inter-Korean military agreement stood in stark contrast to the vaguely worded joint statement from the U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore.

After racking up early diplomatic victories in 2018, Seoul had its knees cut out from under it by the failure of the February 2019 U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi. South Korea and the United States faced some difficulties getting on the same page in 2018 with the former pushing for more broader relationship improvement with North Korea and the latter prioritizing denuclearization. The tentative draft of the Hanoi joint statement released shortly before the start of the summit indicated that the United States was willing to broaden the scope of diplomacy beyond denuclearization and lift sanctions that were blocking inter-Korean economic projects. This would have brought Washington and Seoul’s diplomatic strategies into closer alignment.

Instead, the collapse of the Hanoi summit resulted in Kim relegating South Korea to the sidelines and prioritized pressuring the United States to lift sanctions. High-level …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Donald Trump's Iran Policy Comes Down to One Word: Chaos

January 4, 2020 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Imagine a neutral Germany carefully balanced between dueling America and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and celebrated war hero arrived in Berlin, where he was met by the head of a local pro-U.S. militia. Meetings also were planned with German leaders. As his vehicle left the airport Soviet planes struck the chairman’s party, killing him and his host.

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As stunned U.S. officials processed the news, Moscow announced that the action was meant for self-defense and to deescalate the situation. America’s president then called a press conference, telling reporters: “I guess that makes it okay. No hard feelings. Let’s have those negotiations on U.S. disarmament that the Soviets proposed.” The lion laid down with the lamb as Americans and Soviets held mass rallies holding hands while singing Kumbaya.

No, that’s not what the president would say. Nor what the American people would do. Nor what would happen. Especially if Donald Trump was president.

Perhaps it is unsurprising that those representing the world’s sole superpower (or hyperpower or unipower) originally acted as if the U.S. is the essential nation that stands taller and sees further, in Madeleine Albright’s infamous words. And which can act unilaterally, imperiously, and recklessly without consequence—deciding, for instance, again in Albright’s words, that killing a half million Iraqi babies is a worthwhile price to achieve American objectives.

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What is shocking is how today’s officials ignore years, even decades, of interventionist failure. To believe that Washington can kill a top official of one nation in a strike on a third country without consequence is the triumph of hysterical arrogance over sustained experience. Yet the Trump administration targeted Qassim Suleimani, the notorious head of the Quds Forces of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Also killed was an Iraqi national, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an Iran-supported militia, and a number of others. Suleimani’s convoy was hit by missiles as it left the airport.

No one should shed any tears …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Did Donald Trump Just Start a War with Iran?

January 4, 2020 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

The U.S. drone strike that killed Major General Qasem Soleimani, one of Iran’s top military leaders, is an extremely provocative incident. It triggered immediate vows of retaliation from Tehran, and there is every reason to assume that the clerical government intends to fulfill those vows. Soleimani was the commander of the Quds Force, which coordinates military and intelligence operations with Iran’s allies in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, and other countries, making him an especially crucial figure in the Middle East’s bruising geopolitical struggles.

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Washington’s strike is the latest move in a dangerous tit-for-tat escalation over the past week that began with an assault by a pro-Iranian Iraqi militia that killed a U.S. “civilian contractor” at a base in Iraq. Washington launched retaliatory attacks on several militia installations in both Iraq and Syria. Demonstrators in Baghdad, egged on by militia leaders, then stormed the U.S. embassy, occupying part of the building and forcing staff members to take refuge in a special safe room. President Trump warned that Iran would “pay a very high price” for the embassy siege. The killing of Soleimani appears to have been that “very high price.”

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But Washington’s move constitutes a reckless escalation. It is a huge provocation that Iran almost certainly will not (indeed, cannot) tolerate. The drone strike especially puts Iraq’s leaders in an impossible position. The current, fragile government already is under intense pressure from demonstrators because of widespread dissatisfaction with economic conditions, political corruption, and other issues. Those demonstrations have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians at the hands of government security forces and forced the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi at the end of November.  Exacerbating those already severe problems, the long-standing, simmering campaign by pro-Iranian militias and other Shiite factions to expel U.S. forces may reach a full boil because of Soleimani’s assassination. Iran is well-positioned and has every incentive now to stoke those tensions to the maximum.

Iran’s retaliation for the drone strike may …read more

Source: OP-EDS