Monday, June 11, 2018

U.S. and North Korea Try to Hammer Out Last-Minute Details for Summit

Senior U.S. and North Korean officials were locked in last-minute negotiations Monday trying to iron out differences ahead of a summit meeting between the two countries’ leaders, while America’s top diplomat said Washington’s position on denuclearization was “clear and unchanged.”

While teams from the two sides huddled in a conference room at the Ritz-Carlton hotel, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said President Trump was “well-prepared” for his face-to-face meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, set for Tuesday morning in this wealthy city-state.

Earlier on Twitter, Pompeo said: “We remain committed to the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” North Korean state media reported on Monday that Kim outlined goals for the summit, including establishing new relations between the two countries and building a permanent peacekeeping mechanism, as well as denuclearization.

President Trump met Monday with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. “Great to be in Singapore, excitement in the air!” Trump wrote on Twitter before departing the Shangri La hotel. At the table, Trump told his hosts: “We’ve got a very interesting meeting in particular tomorrow, and I just think it’s going to work out very nicely. We do appreciate your hospitality, your professionalism, and your friendship.”

Some of the summit details began to take shape, as administration officials confirmed that Trump and Kim will meet one-on-one Tuesday after their ceremonial greeting at 9 a.m. local time (9 p.m. Monday night Eastern Standard Time). The two men, joined only by their interpreters, could talk as long as two hours, depending on how well their conversation goes, according to a senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private details.

Following their one-on-one time, Trump and Kim will hold an expanded bilateral meeting along with senior members of their delegations, the official said.

The private meeting without aides represents a risky attempt by Trump to build a personal rapport with the young authoritarian leader. Trump has said he believes he will be able to determine quickly whether Kim is serious about taking steps to denuclearize. Washington Post, Wall Street Journal
Foreign Policy: Here’s How the Trump-Kim Summit Could Play Out


The Justice Department’s reputation is in the worst danger since Watergate: “Thursday brought a sad moment for the Justice Department,” said the Washington Post in an editorial. “The department filed a brief in a frivolous legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. But instead of following nearly all past practice, the department sided with the challengers. Defending major, duly passed federal statutes is a core Justice Department responsibility. If it defended only laws the president liked, uncertainty about the permanence of many laws would reign, particularly as the presidency changed hands.”

What would it take for the Singapore summit to succeed? “Trump has lost whatever upper hand he once held,” said Fred Kaplan in “He has signaled to Kim, his negotiators, U.S. allies, and the rest of the world that he wants—he needs—some kind, any kind, of deal.”

Trump turns the G-7 into the G-6 vs. G-1: “Even in year one of the Trump era, it would have been possible to dismiss our dire prediction,” said Max Boot in the Washington Post. “Trump did not, after all, pull U.S. troops out of allied countries, exit NATO or lift sanctions on Russia. He still hasn’t done any of those things, but, hey, he’s only been in office a little more than 500 days. Give him time. In just the past few weeks, he has taken a giant step toward destroying the global system that the United States created after 1945.”

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President Trump left America’s closest allies dismayed Sunday after he yanked the U.S. endorsement of a Group of Seven communique and then unleashed a Twitter attack — echoed by further harsh criticisms from his White House advisers — on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trump’s actions deepened the divide between the United States and its allies, and European leaders Sunday expressed shock and resignation at this latest sign that the president is eager to defy diplomatic norms and blow up trade relationships that have been strong for decades.

Trump and his advisers went on the attack after Trudeau reiterated his objections to Trump’s imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum , accusing Trudeau of “betrayal” and a “stab” in the back, even as Canada, Germany and France pushed back against what they called the American president’s “insult” and “inconsistency.”

“There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad-faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door,” economic adviser Peter Navarro said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “And that’s what bad-faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference.”

There is no obvious precedent for such a coordinated and acerbic series of attacks by White House advisers on a stalwart U.S. ally. Some foreign policy experts argued that North Korea’s Kim could see the chaos at the end of the G-7 gathering as an opening to gain leverage on Trump in negotiations, with Trump looking to avoid having two summits collapse back to back. New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg
Financial Times: Inside the Chaos of Donald Trump’s Trade Wars
A former CIA case officer faces life in prison after he was convicted on Friday of betraying his country to spy on behalf of China. Kevin Mallory, 61, of Leesburg, Va., was found guilty of espionage charges and lying to the FBI about his contacts with Chinese intelligence.

The verdict capped a nearly two-week trial that offered a rare glimpse into the murky world of American espionage cases, which typically do not go to trial because of the difficulties involving highly classified information. New York Times, Chicago Tribune

After months of oblique references to an unnamed Russian associate of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, the special counsel identified the associate on Friday and charged both men with obstruction of justice. The associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, is a Russian Army-trained linguist prosecutors have accused of having ties to Russian intelligence.

The special counsel, Robert Mueller, has not publicly sought to connect Kilimnik or Manafort to Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but Friday’s indictment of Kilimnik could carry symbolic significance nonetheless.

The charges are the first in Manafort’s case against someone accused of having ties to Russian intelligence. And they come as Manafort’s lawyers — and Trump and his allies — are arguing that Mueller has ventured beyond his remit of investigating Russian election interference. Bloomberg, New York Times


An American Special Operations forces soldier was killed and four others were wounded on Friday in an attack in southwestern Somalia against fighters for the Islamic extremist group al Shabab, three Defense Department officials said. The casualties were the first to have been publicized in Africa since an ambush in Niger in October.

The American forces were alongside Somali troops at a small outpost near the town of Jamaame when they came under small arms and mortar fire, Defense Department officials said on Friday.

The American team was backed up by armed surveillance aircraft overhead, but it could not determine the location of the mortar fire in what one official called “a very quick engagement” by the militants. Al Shabab, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack; it has been fighting American forces in East Africa for more than a decade. New York Times, Daily Beast, NBC News

The United Nations launched an urgent diplomatic effort to head off an expected United Arab Emirates assault on Yemen’s most important port in the coming days, fearing an attack could create a humanitarian disaster and derail the most promising push in years to end the conflict, people familiar with the talks said.

Aid groups and U.N. officials working in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah are scrambling to get their international staff out after British officials warned them an attack on the city was imminent.

The U.N. special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, traveled to the U.A.E. capital over the weekend in an effort to forestall an attack. Griffiths had secured an agreement with Houthi rebels who control Hodeidah to allow the U.N. to operate the port jointly, the people said. But people briefed on the discussions said they doubted the U.A.E. would accept the offer or delay the planned assault. Wall Street Journal

Fire engulfs warehouse holding Iraqi ballots: A fire engulfed a depot on Sunday where ballots from Iraq’s national election were being stored ahead of a full manual recount, the latest setback for a process that had already been mired in accusations of fraud and other violations. The blaze created black plumes that could be seen for miles around the capital. There were fears that the destruction of ballots further risks the legitimacy of last month’s election, which saw a major shift in Iraq’s political order. Washington Post

Iran admits to helping al Qaeda before 9/11: A top Iranian official has admitted for the first time that Iran knowingly helped al-Qaeda terrorists — including some of the 9/11 attackers — travel secretly through the Middle East. “Their movements [through Iran] were under the complete supervision of the Iranian intelligence,” Mohammad-Javad Larijani said in a recently surfaced interview. Larijani, the secretary of the Iranian judiciary’s High Council for Human Rights and a former diplomat, is a prominent member of the regime. New York Post

Taliban announce brief ceasefire: In a move that could inject life into a long-struggling Afghan peace process, the Taliban announced Saturday that they would halt operations against Afghan forces for the three days of the Muslim festival Eid al-Fitr. New York Times


China has stolen sensitive data related to naval warfare from the computers of a Navy contractor, American officials said on Friday, in another step in the long-running cyberwar between two global adversaries.

The breach occurred this year, the officials said, when Chinese government hackers infiltrated the computers of a company working on a Navy submarine and underwater programs contract. The company, which was not identified, was doing work for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, which is based in Newport, R.I. Officials said that the data gleaned by China was unclassified.

The stolen data included secret plans to develop a supersonic anti-ship missile for use on U.S. submarines by 2020, according to American officials.Taken were 614 gigabytes of material relating to a closely held project known as Sea Dragon, as well as signals and sensor data, submarine radio room information relating to cryptographic systems, and the Navy submarine development unit’s electronic warfare library. Washington Post, New York Times


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International Law: A Casualty in the War on Terror?

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Editor-in-Chief, Karen J. Greenberg, Center on National Security, Fordham Law School

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