Deciphering Kim Jong Un’s Motives

Trump should take a cue from President Richard Nixon. In preparing for his historic meeting with the Chinese leader Mao Zedong in 1972, Nixon made sure he understood how to play the game by thinking about his opponent’s aims. On a piece of paper, he outlined what Mao wanted, laid them out against the goals of the United States, and then mapped out areas of potential agreement. Trump should do the same, thinking strategically about the motivations of all the summit’s key players: North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia. So what is it, then, that they really want?

the author then notes..

The other key item on Kim’s agenda is a relaxation of economic pressure. The Trump administration’s sweeping sanctions played a role in bringing the North Korean leader to the table, but it is also likely that Kim knew he would be sanctioned after he threatened the United States with his Hwasong-15 ICBM test last December. Although North Korea’s ultimate goal is for the United States to end its unilateral sanctions, it’s not an absolute necessity since China is likely to soften its own pressure once the negotiation process is under way—no small gain for Kim given that China accounts for 90 percent of North Korean external trade. Tactically, Kim will look for dramatic gestures and a slow-rolling “action-for-action” approach to negotiations that will drag things out until he is ready to escalate again (a well-established pattern that senior regime defectors like Hwang Jang Yop once predicted will continue into the future).

This will be very interesting to see how this drama unfolds. I don’t read too much into the recent threat of NK threatening to cancel the summit. Trump is, after all, just as erratic in the foreign policy realm. Just ask Tillerson.

Frankly, I can’t ever imagine that NK will denuclearize. I assume this most likely an attempt to weaken the economic coalition (mostly China and South Korea) which is clearly starting to bite into the North’s economy.

The author is  and you can read the rest here.

Why Europe needs the U.S. more than U.S. needs Europe

There is simply no alternative to a strong transatlantic partnership. There is no available spare superpower with which Europeans would share enough interests to build a new form of alliance: China and Russia offer no such thing. Besides, transatlantic flows of trade and capital stand at the heart of the global economy, and they are irreplaceable.

 

Another reason to maintain a partnership with the US is the magnitude of the security risks Europe faces. Islamic State might be militarily defeated, but jihadist terrorism is a generational challenge: we cannot afford to turn our backs on cooperation with the US. The trauma of terrorist attacks in Europe remains vivid.

 

And then there is Vladimir Putin’s Russia, a regime challenging our continent’s security and actively seeking, through various means, to weaken and divide Europe and the west. Make no mistake, the first country to benefit from a breakup between the US and Europe is authoritarian Russia.

The author is Bruno Tertrais and you can read the rest here.

The United States, frankly, has a huge amount of leverage in this relationship and should start using it to open up markets and demand Europe share more of the burden for their own security.

Japan-China relationship is on the mend

There is this..

First is the economic aspect.

 

The two countries are faced with uncertainty and risk in the midst of trade friction with the U.S., in particular increasing concerns about a trade war between China and the U.S. that could hurt their own economies as well as those of their major trading partners, including Japan. Strengthening economic ties between Japan and China would benefit both countries. During the summits they shared an understanding of the importance of free trade.

and regarding the political ties, the author rights…

 

However, if you focus too much on a few sensitive pending issues, you might invite such repercussions as excessive nationalism that could hurt or even destroy the entire relationship. In this regard, it is a minimum but steady achievement that Japan and China agreed to implement a “Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism” between their defense authorities to avert unintended clashes between their armed forces in and above nearby water.

The author is Masahiro Kohara and you can read the rest here.

 

China and the Future of Democracy

But this confident forecast misses a key point. Democracy may be messy, but it contains a built-in course-correction mechanism. When policy goes awry, the incumbents responsible for the mistake can be, and often are, voted out of office, to be replaced, in principle at least, by more competent rivals. 

An authoritarian regime has no such automatic adjustment mechanism. Autocratic leaders will not give up power easily, and may choose, in their wisdom, to double down on failed policies. There is no orderly way of compelling them to do otherwise. A popular uprising, like the Solidarity movement in Poland, or a revolt of the nomenklatura, such as in the Soviet Union, can force the issue. But this typically happens only when an extended political and policy stalemate must be broken – and it often comes at a high cost in terms of public violence and loss of life.

This article could not have been written 3 months ago, when Chinese leadership was disciplined enough to insist on the regular rotation of leadership.

Making Xi Jinping leader for life will be at some point considered the beginging of the end of the Chinese model.

 

You an read the rest of the article here.

Don’t let Israel and Saudi Arabia drag the U.S. into another war.

Here is the editor’s note.

We have listened to the siren call of war in the Middle East too often in the past. A “New Middle East!” we are told. But the results have been disastrous.

Here is one bit,

In 1982 it was Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon who was the self-proclaimed prophet. Israel would invade Lebanon, destroy the Palestinian movement, drive Syria out of the country, impose a pliant Maronite Christian government in Beirut, and then Lebanon together with Jordan would make peace with Israel. A New Middle East would follow. The United States would provide diplomatic cover and peacekeepers to facilitate the transformation. Washington signed up.

The author is Bruce Riedel and you can read the rest here.

Growing Persecution in India

Bishop D’Souza notes authorities are turning a blind eye. “Our Constitution gives us religious freedom,” he says. “These radicals may know religious freedom means you can worship any god you want and eat any food you want. But the fact that a Christian, Dalit or Muslim may eat beef, it’s enough for them to attack us.”

and this…

Baskaran also raises questions about an emerging issue — the Aadhaar digital identity system established by the Indian government. Indian residents provide their fingerprints, iris scan and other information to receive an Aadhaar number. This secure government system is then linked to a person’s bank account, cell phone signal, travel and other data.

India has been the worlds largest democracy for the past 75 years and it is still home to the “Hindu Taliban.”

Dictatorships, ironically, can be more tolerant of minorities, Egypt being a good example.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Mission Creep in Syria

The tiny outpost at Tanf, surrounded by vast desert, was established during the battle against the Islamic State. But its purpose changed last year when Iranian-backed forces began bearing down on the isolated garrison.

U.S. officials feared that a small, exposed force of special operators there could be overrun as Iran, fighting in support of the Syrian government, sought to lock down a land route to Damascus and the Mediterranean Sea. U.S. strikes on the encroaching forces risked pulling the Pentagon further into Syria’s civil war.

But for some senior aides, the tense encounters around Tanf were an opportunity: a chance to bolster an operation that had become an accidental bulwark against Iran, and launch a larger campaign against Tehran’s military reach in the region.

The rest can be read at Wapo here.

The Lowy Institute Asia Power Index

Can be found here.

It’s an interactive map with lots of interesting power comparisons.

Here are their top 8 CURRENT overall powers.

  1. United States
  2. China
  3. Japan
  4. India
  5. Russia
  6. Australia
  7. South Korea
  8. Singapore
  9. Malaysia
  10. Indonesia
  11. Thailand
  12. New Zealand
  13. Vietnam
  14. Pakistan
  15. Taiwan
  16. Philippines
  17. North Korea
  18. Bangladesh
  19. Brunei
  20. Sri Lanka
  21. Myanmar
  22. Cambodia
  23. Mongolia
  24. Laos
  25. Nepal

Here is the projected distribution for 2030.

  1. China
  2. United States
  3. India
  4. Indonesia
  5. Russia
  6. Japan
  7. Pakistan
  8. South Korea
  9. Bangledesh
  10. Philippines
  11. Vietnam
  12. Thailand
  13. Australia
  14. Taiwan
  15. Malaysia
  16. Myanmar
  17. Singapore
  18. Sri Lanka
  19. Nepal
  20. North Korea
  21. Cambodia
  22. New Zealand
  23. Laos
  24. Mongolia and Brunei (tie)
  25. Brunei

 

Public opinion versus popular opinion.

OF all the heresies afloat in modern democracy, none is greater, more steeped in intellectual confusion, and potentially more destructive of proper governmental function than that which declares the legitimacy of government to be directly proportional to its roots in public opinion-or, more accurately, in what the daily polls and surveys assure us is public opinion. It is this heresy that accounts for the constantly augmenting propaganda that issues forth from all government agencies today-the inevitable effort to shape the very opinion that is being so assiduously courted-and for the frequent craven abdication of the responsibilities of office in the face of some real or imagined expression of opinion by the electorate.

The author is Robert Nisbet and the outlet was National Affairs (or The Public Interest).

The piece was published in 1975.

 

Is North Korea balancing against China?

HONG KONG — The immediate causes of the recent diplomatic breakthrough on the Korean Peninsula are well known: stronger international sanctions against North Korea, approved by even China and Russia, and President Trump’s bellicose response to the recent intensification of nuclear and missile tests under Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader since 2011.

 

But a more fundamental driver is being overlooked: China’s growing ambition to dominate East Asia. Mr. Kim’s apparent move to reconcile with his South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in, is above all a gambit to get closer to America to keep China in check. He hopes to reduce North Korea’s overarching economic dependence on China and curb Beijing’s aspirations to control the future of the Korean Peninsula. After another surprise meeting between Mr. Kim and President Xi Jinping of China on Tuesday, the second in two months, the Trump administration announced on Wednesday that North Korea would release three American prisoners.

Could this be a new aspect of the pivot?

The author is Jean-Pierre Cabestan and you can read the rest here.