Category: China
South Korea Presidential Frontrunner Pledges to Review Divisive THAAD Deployment


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Moon Jae-in, the leading candidate in the upcoming presidential election in South Korea, is determined to reassess the controversial deployment of the US-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system since it “did not follow a democratic procedure,” his press team said in a statement seen by Sputnik Korea.

“The THAAD deployment is an issue that must be decided by the next administration based on close discussions with the US and a national consensus, and approached with the best national interest in mind. Since this is an issue of great impact to our national security and comes with great economic costs, it must be ratified by the National Assembly as per the Constitution,” Yoon Kwan-suk, a spokesman for Moon Jae-in said.

The press office also commented on United States President Donald Trump’s suggestion that Seoul should pay for the deployment of a system worth $1 billion.

“The Liberty Korea Party, Bareun Party and the Ministry of National Defense have until now argued that the US will bear the cost of the THAAD operation,” the press office said. “If the reports are true, it is now clear that the decision to deploy the THAAD had a major flaw to begin with.”The statement urged senior politicians in the former ruling party, as well as high-ranking defense officials, to disclose the details of the deal between Washington and Seoul on THAAD.

On Wednesday, the South Korean Defense Ministry said that components of the THAAD system have been deployed to their intended destination in the North Gyeongsang province. Washington has said that the move comes in response to North Korea’s muscle-flexing, but Jeong Uk-sik, the president of the Peace Network NGO, told Sputnik that THAAD will also be targeted against China.

“Undoubtedly, [Washington] has indicated that the US missile defense system must be alert not only to North Korea, but also China,” he said, citing the testimony made by Admiral Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command, during a hearing at the House Armed Services Committee.

“Harris’s report clearly shows that US Pacific Command has fostered closer ties with Japan, South Korea and Australia to create a comprehensive missile defense system based on THAAD and the radar deployed to South Korea is one of its links,” the analyst added. “As a result, THAAD and the radar are targeted not only against North Korea, but also China since they are links of a single US missile defense system.”China has been opposed to the THAAD deployment, saying that the move “seriously undermines” strategic security of Beijing and other countries in the region.

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There Will Be No Russophobia Reset
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts after delivering his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, U.S., February 28, 2017

There Will Be No Russophobia Reset

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Pepe Escobar

In the end, there was hardly a reset; rather a sort of tentative pause on Cold War 2.0. Interminable days of sound and fury were trudging along when President Trump finally decided NATO is “no longer obsolete”; still, he wants to “get along” with Russia.

A picture taken on April 4, 2017 shows destruction at a hospital in Khan Sheikhun, a rebel-held town in the northwestern Syrian Idlib province, following a suspected toxic gas attack.
© AFP 2017/ Omar haj kadour

Just ahead of meeting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin had stressed on Russian TV that trust (between Russia and the US) is “at a workable level, especially in the military dimension, but it hasn’t improved. On the contrary, it has degraded.” Emphasis on a pedestrian “workable,” but most of all “degraded” – as in the National Security Council releasing a report essentially accusing Moscow of spreading fake news.At the apex of the Russia-gate hysteria, even before the extremely the controversial chemical incident in Syria and the subsequent Tomahawk show – arguably a cinematographic show-off — a Trump-conducted reset on Russia was already D.O.A., tomahawked by the Pentagon, Capitol Hill and media-misguided public opinion.

Yet only armchair Dr. Strangeloves would argue it’s in the US national interest to risk a direct hot war against Russia — and Iran — in Syria. Russia has all but won the war in Syria on its own terms; preventing the emergence of an Emirate of Takfiristan.

The notion that Tillerson would be able to issue an ultimatum to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov – you’re either with us or with Damascus and Tehran – is laughable. Moscow simply is not going to yield its hard-earned sphere of influence in Southwest Asia to the Trump administration or the US deep state. What Moscow really wanted to know is who’s making Russia policy in Washington. Now they’ve got their answer.And then, there’s the Big Picture. The Iran-Russia strategic partnership is one of the three key nodes, along with China, in the big story of the young 21st century; Eurasia integration, with Russia and Iran closing the energy equation and China as the investment locomotive.

That leads us to the real heart of the matter: the War Party’s fear of Eurasia integration, which inevitably manifests itself as acute Russophobia.

Russophobia is not monolithic or monochord though. There’s room for some informed dissidence – and even civilized inflections.

Enter Dr. K

Exhibit A is Henry Kissinger, who as a Lifetime Trustee recently spoke at the annual meeting of the Trilateral Commission in Washington.The Trilateral Commission, created by the late David Rockefeller in 1974, had its members meticulously selected by Dr. Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski – whose whole career has been a slight variation on the overarching theme that the US should always prevent the emergence of a “peer competitor” in Eurasia – or, worse still, as today, a Eurasian alliance.

Kissinger is the only geopolitical practitioner that manages to get President Trump’s undivided attention. He had been, so far, the top facilitator of a dialogue — and possible reset — between Washington and Moscow. I have argued this is part of his remixed balance of power, Divide and Rule strategy – which consists in prying away Russia from China with the ultimate aim of derailing Eurasia integration.

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (File)

Kissinger felt compelled to tell his supposedly well-informed audience that Putin is not a Hitler replica, does not harbor imperial desires, and to describe him as a global super-evil is an “error of perspective and substance.”So Kissinger favors dialogue – even as he insists Moscow cannot defeat Washington militarily. His conditions: Ukraine must remain independent, without entering NATO; Crimea is negotiable. The key problem is Syria: Kissinger is adamant Russia cannot be allowed to become a major player in the Middle East (yet with Moscow backing up Damascus militarily and conducting the Astana peace negotiations, it already is). Implicit in all that is the difficulty of negotiating an overall “package” for Russia.

Now compare Kissinger with Lavrov who, while quoting Dr. K, recently issued a diagnostic that would make him cringe: “The formation of a polycentric international order is an objective process. It is in our common interest to make it more stable and predictable.” Once again, it’s all about Eurasia integration.

The Russian and Chinese national flags are seen on the table as Russia's President Vladimir Putin (back L) and his China's President Xi Jinping (back R) stand during a signing ceremony at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on November 9, 2014.

Putin was already outlining it, in detail, five years ago, even before the Chinese fully fleshed out the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) concept in 2013. OBOR can certainly be interpreted as an even more ambitious variation of Putin’s idea: “Russia is an inalienable and organic part of Greater Europe and European civilization… That’s why Russia proposes moving towards the creation of a common economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, a community referred to by Russian experts as ‘the Union of Europe’ which will strengthen Russia’s potential in its economic pivot toward the ‘new Asia.'”The West – or, to be more precise, NATO – vetoed Russia. And that, in a flash, precipitated the Russia-China strategic partnership and its myriad subsequent declinations. It’s this symbiosis that led the recent report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission to admit China and Russia are experiencing what is arguably their “highest period of bilateral [military] co-operation.”

The War Party never sleeps

Exhibit B, on a par with Kissinger stressing that Putin is no Hitler, reveals the theoretically preeminent professional journal of American diplomacy compelled to publish a quite remarkable essay by Robert English from the University of Southern California, and a Ph.D. in politics at Princeton.

Under careful examination, the inevitable conclusion is that Prof. English did something very simple, but unheard of: with “careful scholarship,” he challenged “the prevailing groupthink” and “thrashed the positions” of virtually the whole US foreign policy establishment addicted to Russophobia.The Russia-China strategic partnership – uniting the Pentagon’s avowed top two threats to America — does not come with a formal treaty signed with pomp and circumstance. There’s no way to know the deeper terms Beijing and Moscow have agreed upon behind those innumerable Xi-Putin meetings.

It’s quite possible, as diplomats have let it slip, off the record, there may have been a secret message delivered to NATO to the effect that if one of the strategic members is seriously harassed — be it in Ukraine or in the South China Sea – NATO will have to deal with both. As for the Tomahawk show, it may have been a one-off; the Pentagon did give Moscow a heads up and Tillerson, in Moscow, guaranteed the Trump administration wants to keep all communication channels open.

The War Party though never sleeps. Notoriously disgraced neocons, re-energized by Trump’s Tomahawk-with-chocolates show, are salivating over the “opportunity” of an Iraq Shock and Awe remix on Syria.

Moscow sights
© Sputnik/ Grigoriy Sisoev

The War Party’s cause célèbre is still a war on Iran, and that now conflates with the neoliberalcon’s Russophobia – deployed via the currently “disappeared” but certainly not extinct Russia-gate. Yet Russia-gate’s real dark story, for all the hysterics, is actually about the Orwellian surveillance powers of the US deep state, as stressed by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern and whistleblower Bill Binney.Whatever the practical outcome, in the long run, of the turbulent, two-hour, trilateral Putin-Lavrov-Tillerson meeting, ultimately Russophobia – and its sidekick, Iranophobia – won’t vanish from the US-NATO geopolitical spectrum. Especially now that Trump may have finally shown his real face, a “housebroken dog to neocon dogma.”

The masks, at least, have fallen — and these relentless intimations of Cold War 2.0 should be seen for what they are: the War Party’s primal fear of Eurasia integration.


The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

‘US Strategic Assets’ to Be Deployed In South Korea Against Northern Threat
B-2 Stealth Bomber.

‘US Strategic Assets’ to Be Deployed In South Korea Against Northern Threat

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Military & Intelligence

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South Korea’s Defense Ministry said Friday that they’ve reached an agreement with the US to regularly deploy “strategic assets” from Washington as part of efforts to stave off provocation from North Korea.

South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense reported that the two allies agreed to institute “measures available in all aspects, including the regular deployment of US strategic assets.”

These assets include the US B-52, B-2 and B-1B bombers; F-35 fighter jets; and aircraft carriers usually housed at American bases in South Korea, Japan or Guam.

The announcement came during a media briefing on the biannual Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) meeting between the US and South Korea that took place in Washington, DC, on Thursday.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David F. Helvey represented the US delegation at the defense meeting with his Korean counterpart Wee Seung-ho, deputy minister for policy.

Seoul and Washington also reiterated that the US’s recently deployed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system was intended purely for defense purposes. China has complained that the THAAD’s strong radar could be used to spy on Beijing.

China demanded South Korea remove THAAD on Wednesday. THAAD’s presence “destroys the regional strategic balance and further prompts tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, UPI reported.

“Cancel the deployment of THAAD. Otherwise China will decisively take necessary measures,” Geng warned.

When it was announced earlier this week that THAAD was close to being operational, China carried out a military drill using “new weapons” in order to “defend national security and regional stability.”

Washington and Pyongyang have been engaged in a war of words in recent weeks, trading barbs as the North continues its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons tests and the US threatens military action in retaliation.

Tensions have calmed somewhat since the flashpoint of North Korea’s recent Day of the Sun celebration, when another nuclear test was feared. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that Washington was open to talks with North Korea about denuclearization, a tactic China has called for for some time.

When asked about the possibility of talks, Tillerson said, “Obviously, that would be the way we would like to solve this. But North Korea has to decide they’re ready to talk to us about the right agenda,” according to the BBC.

Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, suggested that, “The use of force does not solve differences and will only lead to bigger disasters … Peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and negotiations represents the only right choice that is practical and viable.”

There are about 285,000 American troops currently stationed in South Korea.

China Calls DPRK, US to ‘Push the Brakes’ as Tensions Rise on Korean Peninsula
Military parade in North Korea

China Calls DPRK, US to ‘Push the Brakes’ as Tensions Rise on Korean Peninsula

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Asia & Pacific

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China actively maintains contact with the US in an effort to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula and prevent a military conflict near its borders. On Monday, Donald Trump and Xi Jinping held a conversation regarding the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

The deputy director of the Institute of Asian and African Affairs at Moscow State University, Andrei Karneev, spoke to Sputnik in an interview about this.“As the situation in the region becomes tenser the diplomatic activity of all the stakeholders increases, the direction of these efforts can be counter-productive,” Karneev said.

He elaborated that the current US administration sees a way out only by increasing pressure on Pyongyang but there are others who believe that the threats and power methods being used are just another way to a catastrophe.

“However, the former euphoria which manifested itself in Trump’s assurances that the US, if necessary, can solve the Korean nuclear missile problem alone is gradually fading,” the deputy director said.

Karneev further said that it seems that the US president following the meeting in Mar-a-Lago is increasingly believes that the US military power is not enough to intimidate Pyongyang and is unlikely to solve the problem.

Furthermore, the military parade held in Pyongyang on April 15, displayed the seriousness of the North Korean leadership’s intentions and it seems that currently there is no way to stabilize the situation because despite the ongoing dialogue of the different parties involved, so far it is being held without the participation of the DPRK.

The Xinhua News Agency reported that during the recent conversation of China’s president with his American counterpart, “Xi Jinping urged all parties to exercise restraint to avoid escalation of the situation,” the expert said.

“Xi Jinping also confirmed that China opposes actions that run counter to the line of the UN Security Council,” Karneev said.

An expert of the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, Lu Chao, in an interview with Sputnik,said “China is steadfastly in favor of maintaining a stable and peaceful situation on the Korean Peninsula, calling for ‘pushing the brakes.’”

The expert further said that despite the fact that the US has not yet responded to such a call, it is obvious that as soon as the situation starts to change, the US will immediately become involved in the country’s affairs; but that is not what the foreign policy of the Korean Peninsula is.

“Recently there have been speculations that the DPRK will hold nuclear tests on the day of the creation of the Korean People’s Army on April 25. If it happens, it will be a disaster for the DPRK. Even China, being a friendly neighbor who is in favor of mitigating the situation, will certainly support the position of the majority in the UN Security Council on tightening sanctions with regard to the DPRK if another nuclear test is conducted. Undoubtedly, this time this will lead to catastrophic consequences for North Korea,” Chao said.

The expert further said that there are opinions that the DPRK’s position is to force China to abandon further economic pressure and drop its negative attitude toward nuclear testing.

“But here they [DPRK] have miscalculated: China opposes the development of nuclear weapons, at least because of the responsibility and involvement in the international control of nuclear weapons, as well as to maintain stability in Northeast Asia and ultimately for the security and expediency of North Korea itself,” Chao concluded.

China’s Xi urges restraint during Trump call as ‘USS Carl Vinson’ heads for Korean waters

China’s Xi urges restraint during Trump call as ‘USS Carl Vinson’ heads for Korean waters
The Chinese president called for all sides to exercise restraint during a phone call with US leader Donald Trump on the issue of Pyongyang. It came as North Korean state media warned the US of “catastrophic consequences” of its deployment of the ‘USS Carl Vinson.’

President Xi Jinping told Trump during the call that China strongly opposes North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, according to CCTV.

He also said that Beijing opposes any actions that run counter to UN Security Council resolutions, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement, as cited by Reuters.

Xi added that Beijing “hopes that all relevant sides exercise restraint, and avoid doing anything to worsen the tense situation on the peninsula,” the ministry said, paraphrasing the president.

The Chinese leader said the nuclear issue can only be resolved quickly if all relevant countries are pulling in the same direction, adding that Beijing is willing to work with all parties – including the US – to ensure peace.

Commenting on the call between the two leaders, the White House said Monday that Trump criticized North Korea’s “belligerence” and “destabilizing” actions during the conversation.

It went on to state that Trump and Xi reaffirmed the urgency of the perceived threats posed by Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs during the call, and committed to stronger coordination between Washington and Beijing.

The phone call between the two leaders comes as Trump continues to press Xi to exert greater pressure on North Korea over its nuclear program. China is North Korea’s main economic lifeline and sole major ally.

Trump has long criticized China when it comes to Pyongyang, stating earlier this month that the US will “solve the problem” of North Korea with or without Beijing’s help. The president has warned that all options are on the table when it comes to dealing with Pyongyang, including a military strike.

The US president has, however, recently praised China’s efforts to rein in the “menace of North Korea.”

Despite being an ally to the North, China has been recently angered by its nuclear and missile programs, and is frustrated by Pyongyang’s belligerence on the world stage.

The Monday call took place amid speculation that Pyongyang could be planning to hold a sixth nuclear test this week.

‘Catastrophic consequences’

As the ‘USS Carl Vinson’ moves closer towards Pyongyang, a commentary in Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ party, called the aircraft carrier’s deployment “an extremely dangerous act by those who plan a nuclear war to invade.”

“The United States should not run amok and should consider carefully any catastrophic consequence from its foolish military provocative act,” the commentary said.

“What’s only laid for aggressors is dead bodies,” it continued.

It comes just one day after a commentary in the same paper said that North Korea is ready to illustrate its “military force” by sinking the “nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a single strike.”

The ‘Carl Vinson’ was deployed to the waters off the Korean Peninsula in response to mounting concern over the North’s nuclear and missile tests, and its threats to attack the US and its Asian allies.

Although Washington has not specified where the vessel is as it approaches the area, US Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday that it would “arrive in days.”

Two Japanese destroyers have joined the carrier group for exercises in the western Pacific, according to Reuters. South Korea has also said it is in talks about holding joint naval exercises.

Trump also spoke to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday, as the two countries participate in the joint exercises. Abe told reporters that the two sides “agreed to strongly demand that North Korea, which is repeating its provocation, show restraint.”

Would China Strike North Korea?
President Donald Trump gestures as he and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk together after their meetings at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla

Would China Strike North Korea?

© AP Photo/ Alex Brandon

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China’s military were reportedly put on high alert this week, with US officials saying that Beijing is preparing to respond to any potential situation in North Korea.

The “extraordinary” mobilization of bomber aircraft was reportedly acknowledged by China’s foreign ministry, giving no further details.The general assumption is that China is taking a defensive position in case the US administration of President Donald Trump follows through on its repeated threats of carrying out pre-emptive strikes on North Korea’s nuclear facilities.

Traditionally an ally of the communist government in Pyongyang, Beijing is widely assumed to be protecting its junior partner by flexing a deterrence force against the US. China has openly urged the US to not take unilateral military action against North Korea over the latter’s controversial nuclear program.

Beijing has been calling for a diplomatic solution to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, a crisis which seems to be intensifying following a dire warning this week from US Vice President Mike Pence that the “sword is ready,” which was met with reciprocal threats from North Korea that it would “reduce the US to ashes.”Despite calls for diplomacy from China, it is also clear that Beijing is becoming exasperated with North Korea, known formally as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. China is perplexed by what it sees as the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-Un forming an “epicenter of instability” on its borders.

Earlier this month, there was even an editorial carried by Chinese state-run media warning that China might be forced to launch its own military strikes on North Korea if it comes down to the “bottom line” of preserving stability and security in the region.

China certainly has strong historic ties with North Korea. It sided with the country during the Korean War (1950-1953) and probably salvaged the North from defeat by the US and its South Korean ally.China is also a vital trading partner for North Korea, helping it to cope with decades of Western-imposed economic sanctions.

However, the once-strategic relationship has soured in recent years. China’s President Xi Jinping has never met North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un since the latter came to power nearly six years ago. It is increasingly evidently, too, that Beijing and Pyongyang are not on the same page when it comes to the nuclear issue.

While North Korea asserts that it will never give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile technology, Beijing has officially repudiated this path for Pyongyang, contending that the international community will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.It is also apparent that China’s global strategic interests are being hampered by its association with North Korea, which is portrayed as a pariah state in the Western media. One can safely assume that China views a sound economic partnership with the US as much more important than being in hock to North Korea.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping appears to have developed a close personal relationship with his American counterpart, Donald Trump. Since their friendly dinner at Trump’s Florida beach resort earlier this month, the two leaders have shared several phone calls.

The Trump administration has exerted pressure on China to get tough on North Korea and Beijing seems to be obliging, having recently slapped sanctions on North Korea’s coal imports and commercial air travel.

The Trump administration is reportedly offering China concessions on trade in exchange for its cooperation to rein in North Korea. Trump’s sudden turnaround in declaring that China is “not a currency manipulator,” in contrast to what he had repeatedly claimed in the past, seems to be a sign of tactical tango.

This week as news of China’s military mobilization was emerging, Trump sounded confident. He enigmatically told reporters: “As far as North Korea is concerned, we are in very good shape. I respect [President Xi Jinping] very much, and I think he’s working very hard… Some very unusual moves have been made over the past two or three hours and I really have confidence that the president will try very hard.”

It’s a fair bet that, in the scale of things, China views its future economic relationship with the US as more crucial than past “ideological” ties with North Korea. For China, it wants a stable North Korea that causes Beijing no aggravation with others. At the moment, North Korea is acting incorrigibly in the opposite way, from China’s point of view.

Beijing also does not want a full-blown conflict to erupt as would happen if the US were to preemptively strike Pyongyang. In the latter scenario, the North would retaliate by hitting South Korea and possibly Japan, with untold consequences.An attack by the US could also lead to regime change in Pyongyang, with the installation by the American forces of a regime that is subordinate to Washington and hostile to China. China would henceforth lose its North Korea “buffer zone.”

Rather than waiting to respond to events, it may be speculated that China is preparing to take the initiative. Given the reported mobilization of Chinese military forces and the aforementioned threats from Beijing of launching its own strikes on North Korea, one can envisage two scenarios.

Firstly, in the event of a US pre-emptive strike that decapitates the North Korean leadership, China’s forces would be ready to immediately move across the Yalu River to fill the ensuing power vacuum. Such a move would prevent massive refugee dislocation into China’s territory, and it would allow Beijing to shore up a new regime in North Korea according to its political interests, not Washington’s.A second, a more far-reaching scenario is that China views the present situation as being so unstable and prone to eventual war that it seizes the moment by taking military action against North Korea before the US does.

All such contingencies are fraught with immense danger as well as legal and moral hazards. But in light of the huge strategic interests at stake for China, the notion of an unprecedented action based on instincts of self-preservation is not inconceivable.

The dilemma for China arises from its seeming acceptance of the false premises put forward by the US on dealing with the Korean Peninsula. If the crisis is viewed narrowly, and erroneously, as stemming solely or largely from North Korea’s recalcitrance and its desire to develop nuclear weapons, then ultimately the solution begged by this logic is to neutralize North Korea.But such a narrative is flawed. North Korea and its nuclear weapons are not the primary problem. They are but symptomatic of the underlying cause of US aggression. As former US State Department official Lawrence Wilkerson, among others, has pointed out, Washington has repeatedly betrayed commitments to resolve the Korean crisis through dialogue and political concessions.

In the past, China has urged the resumption of multi-party regional talks which the US abandoned during the George W. Bush administration. China has also proposed a mutual de-escalation of military forces on the Peninsula by North Korea and the US.

One wonders, though, has the calculus now shifted in Beijing to the point where it is considering “taking care” of the North Korea problem in a drastic way?

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

Why Washington is Terrified of Russia, China
The Russian and Chinese national flags are seen on the table as Russia's President Vladimir Putin (back L) and his China's President Xi Jinping (back R) stand during a signing ceremony at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on November 9, 2014.

Why Washington is Terrified of Russia, China


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Pepe Escobar

The Russia-China strategic partnership, uniting the Pentagon’s avowed top two “existential” threats to America, does not come with a formal treaty signed with pomp, circumstance – and a military parade.

President Donald Trump gestures as he and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk together after their meetings at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla
© AP Photo/ Alex Brandon

Enveloped in layers of subtle sophistication, there’s no way to know the deeper terms Beijing and Moscow have agreed upon behind those innumerable Putin-Xi Jinping high-level meetings.Diplomats, off the record, occasionally let it slip there may have been a coded message delivered to NATO to the effect that if one of the strategic members is seriously harassed — be it in Ukraine or in the South China Sea – NATO will have to deal with both.

For now, let’s concentrate on two instances of how the partnership works in practice, and why Washington is clueless on how to deal with it.

Exhibit A is the imminent visit to Moscow by the Director of the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Li Zhanshu, invited by the head of the Presidential Administration in the Kremlin, Anton Vaino. Beijing stressed the talks will revolve around – what else — the Russia-China strategic partnership, “as previously agreed on by the countries’ leaders.”

This happens just after China’s First Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, one of the top seven in the Politburo and one of the drivers of China’s economic policies, was received in Moscow by President Putin. They discussed Chinese investments in Russia and the key energy angle of the partnership.But most of all they prepared Putin’s next visit to Beijing, which will be particularly momentous, in the cadre of the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) summit on May 14-15, steered by Xi Jinping.

The General Office of the CCP – directly subordinated to Xi — only holds this kind of ultra-high-level annual consultations with Moscow, and no other player. Needless to add, Li Zhanshu reports directly to Xi as much as Vaino reports directly to Putin. That is as highly strategic as it gets.

That also happens to tie directly to one of the latest episodes featuring The Hollow (Trump) Men, in this case Trump’s bumbling/bombastic National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. HR McMaster.

In a nutshell, McMaster’s spin, jolly regurgitated by US corporate media, is that Trump has developed such a “special chemistry” with Xi after their Tomahawks-with-chocolate cake summit in Mar-a-Lago that Trump has managed to split the Russia-China entente on Syria and isolate Russia in the UN Security Council.It would have taken only a few minutes for McMaster to read the BRICS joint communiqué on Syria for him to learn that the BRICS are behind Russia.

No wonder a vastly experienced Indian geopolitical observer felt compelled to note that, “Trump and McMaster look somewhat like two country bumpkins who lost their way in the metropolis.”

Follow the money

Exhibit B centers on Russia and China quietly advancing their agreement to progressively replace the US dollar’s reserve status with a gold-backed system.

That also involves the key participation of Kazakhstan – very much interested in using gold as currency along OBOR. Kazakhstan could not be more strategically positioned; a key hub of OBOR; a key member of the Eurasia Economic Union (EEU); member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); and not by accident the smelter of most of Russia’s gold.In parallel, Russia and China are advancing their own payment systems. With the yuan now enjoying the status of a global currency, China has been swiftly promoting their payment system, CIPS, careful not to frontally antagonize the internationally accepted SWIFT, controlled by the US.

Russia, on the other hand, has stressed the creation of “an alternative,” in the words of Russian Central Bank’s Elvira Nabiullina, in the form of the Mir payment system — a Russian version of Visa/ MasterCard. What’s implied is that were Washington feel inclined to somehow exclude Russia from SWIFT, even temporarily, at least 90 percent of ATMs in Russia would be able to operate on Mir.

China’s UnionPay cards are already an established fixture all across Asia – enthusiastically adopted by HSBC, among others. Combine “alternative” payment systems with a developing gold-backed system – and “toxic” does not even begin to spell out the reaction of the US Federal Reserve.And it’s not just about Russia and China; it’s about the BRICS.

What First Deputy Governor of Russia’s Central Bank Sergey Shvetsov has outlined is just the beginning: “BRICS countries are large economies with large reserves of gold and an impressive volume of production and consumption of this precious metal. In China, the gold trade is conducted in Shanghai, in Russia it is in Moscow. Our idea is to create a link between the two cities in order to increase trade between the two markets.”

Russia and China already have established systems to do global trade bypassing the US dollar. What Washington did to Iran — cutting their banks off SWIFT – is now unthinkable against Russia and China.

So we’re already on our way, slowly but surely, towards a BRICS “gold marketplace.” A “new financial architecture” is being built. That will imply the eventual inability of the US Fed to export inflation to other nations – especially those included in BRICS, EEU and SCO.

The Hollow Men

Trump’s Generals, led by “Mad Dog” Mattis, may spin all they want about their need to dominate the planet with their sophisticated AirSeaLandSpaceCyber commands. Yet that may be not enough to counter the myriad ways the Russia-China strategic partnership is developing.So more on than off, we will have Hollow Men like Vice-President Mike Pence, with empurpled solemnity, threatening North Korea; “The shield stands guard and the sword stands ready.” Forget this does not even qualify as a lousy line in a cheap remake of a Hollywood B-movie; what we have here is Aspiring Commander-in-Chief Pence warning Russia and China there may be some nuclear nitty-gritty very close to their borders between the US and North Korea.

Not gonna happen. So here’s to the great T. S. Eliot, who saw it all decades in advance: “We are the hollow men / We are the stuffed men/ Leaning together
 / Headpiece filled with straw. Alas! / Our dried voices, when
 / We whisper together 
/ Are quiet and meaningless
 / As wind in dry grass / 
Or rats’ feet over broken glass / 
In our dry cellar.”


The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.