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US House Bill on Port Controls Amounts to ‘Declaration of War’ – Russian Senator
| May 5, 2017 | 8:07 pm | Analysis, China, DPRK, political struggle, Russia | No comments
The port of the town of Nakhodka in Russia's Primorye Territory

US House Bill on Port Controls Amounts to ‘Declaration of War’ – Russian Senator

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A US House of Representatives bill establishing control over the Russian Far East ports envisions a show of force and thus amounts to a declaration of war, the chairman of the Russian upper house of parliament’s international committee told Sputnik.

“This bill, I hope will never be implemented because its implementation envisions a scenario of power with forced inspections of all vessels by US warships,” Konstantin Kosachev said Friday.

His comments follow the reported passage on Thursday of a House bill enhancing sanctions against North Korea, outlining “inspection authorities” over Chinese, Iranian, Syrian and Russian ports. The latter include the ports of Nakhodka, Vanino and Vladivostok.

“Such a power scenario is beyond comprehension, because it means a declaration of war,” Kosachev underscored.

Is Trump Really President? by Jack Rasmus

Is Trump Really President? by Jack Rasmus

Is Trump Really President? by Jack Rasmus

These are strange times in American politics. And stranger still is the emerging character of the Trump presidency. Events are appearing with growing frequency, raising the question who is really running the White House and the US government? Is Trump really the President?

Trump sits there on the second floor, spending late evenings into early mornings tweeting to the world. In itself, that’s politically weird. But even more strange is what he’s tweeting and the next day fallout.

We hear about the aircraft carrier task force in Asia that was reportedly steaming at full speed to the North Korean coast a few weeks ago, only to learn soon after it was actually headed in the opposite direction to Australia. Did Donald imagine that? Was the US Navy informed or requested by its titular commander in chief to turn around and go north…and then didn’t? Was Trump’s command to go north perhaps countermanded by some head of Naval operations, or maybe someone else in the White House or government? Or did he just imagine it all and never even informed the Navy to head to Korea? All the possibilities are strange. Very strange.

And then there was the tweet by Trump that his big budget was going to be announced in a few days. It wasn’t even prepared. Government bureaucrats had to quickly slap something together in a couple of pages to provide to the press.

Trump did it again, tweeted announcing his big tax cuts. Again the bureaucrats were caught off guard and had to throw some general outline together and issue it to the press. All this happened after it was generally known that the tax cut proposals were not going to be developed until late summer, and that the Obamacare Repeal bill had to go forward first. The Obamacare repeal was a necessary prerequisite for the general tax cut. Its $592 billion in tax cuts for business and investors had to come first. Until it was resolved, it made no sense to publicize elements of the yet bigger tax cuts of trillions of dollars more scheduled to follow. But Trump tweeted it anyway, and the bureaucracy jumped, putting something down on paper. Who’s communicating what to whom? Is Donald just lobbing electronic policy missiles out of the second floor of the White House, hoping some bureaucrat will catch them before morning?

Or perhaps Trump is being allowed to sit up there on the second floor of the White House and do his tweet thing, while others actually run the government. By others, perhaps it is vice-president Pence in charge, working with some inside committee of key cabinet officers and the intelligence spooks in the NSA-CIA-FBI?

Is Trump being allowed to ‘play at President’ for public consumption, while the generals, spooks, and Goldman Sachs financial pirates run the show?

It’s hard to believe that the members of his administration and the government State bureaucracy knew in advance of Trump’s recent tweets welcoming Philippines President, Duterte, to the White House. Or that Trump would tweet recently that he’s willing to meet with North Korea’s president, for whom he, Trump, had great respect. You can imagine the political constipation that comment caused the spooks and the generals in charge of State, Defense, and National Security.

Last November 30, 2016 this writer wrote a piece predicting that Trump the right wing populist would be successfully ‘tamed’ by the political elites of this country that really run the show. I laid out some ideas how that would be accomplished. (see my blog, jackrasmus.com). But I didn’t think it would happen so fast and so easily.

The past month has witnessed Trump doing a total ‘about face’ on virtually all his right wing populist proposals during the election. He’s backtracking so fast it’s a wonder he hasn’t tripped over himself. (Check that, he has). What explains his 180 degree turnabout?

Was his talk of right wing populism during the campaign all political election hype? Tell the people whatever they want to hear to get elected, and then go do whatever the moneybags really running the show want from you—which is big tax cuts, massive across-the-board deregulation, end the taxation on Obamacare and we don’t care what happens to the rest of it, give us some infrastructure spending deals that resurrect wheeling-dealing commercial property investments with big tax loopholes, and just tweak and rearrange existing free trade treaties.

So what we actually got so far from Trump during his first 100 days is government by ‘executive orders’—i.e. repealing environmental protections, gutting immigrants’ rights, going after sanctuary cities, opening up national monuments and parks to mining and cattle exploitation, subsidizing killer coal companies, attacking consumer protection, smoke and mirror changes to H1-B skilled worker import quotas that haven’t changed, gutting K-12 education and shifting funds to private schools from public, opening up offshore drilling, and so on. But elsewhere it’s been a wholesale retreat from his election positions, proposals and promises. Here’s a short list:

Trump does a reversal on China, from declaring it a currency manipulator to offering it major concessions at the Mar-a-Lago meeting, in exchange for help with North Korea. One wonders if China’s offshore islands expansion is also part of the deal.

From NATO is a waste of money and unnecessary, Trump shifts to NATO is the great bulwark against Russia. From Putin the great leader to Putin is responsible for Syria using poison gas–of which still no proof thereof by the way. (Is it true, or is it all in that great American tradition of ‘yellow cake’ (2003), ‘babies thrown from incubators’ (1990), ‘tonkin gulf’(1965), ‘the war on drugs’ (Panama invasion), ‘Soviets are in Grenada’, and ‘remember the Maine’ (Spanish-American War) incidents that always precede and justify US going to war).

From Mexico is going to pay for the wall, to there’ll be no wall (latest per Homeland Security Secretary). From dumping NAFTA, to ‘I’m not going to terminate NAFTA’ (Trump quote).

And then there’s Trump’s staged press conferences with companies like Carrier Corp., indicating they’re not going to export some jobs to Mexico for now (as they continue to plan to export still others at the same time). And the list of companies announcing jobs they intend to hire in the US without saying when, or that they already had planned to hire them anyway prior to the press conference.

From cancelling the TTP free trade deal (already killed in Congress), to declaring a reopening of the TTIP free trade deal with Europe. And what about the silent deal Trump struck with Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, when he was here? It’s been leaked that Japan will pick up the lead on the TPP renegotiations and the US will join it later. Or Mexico’s recent offer to the US to just apply the TPP terms to a new ‘reform’ of NAFTA by Mexico and the US? Watch both these back door free trade resurrections, they’re coming too.

And what about Trump’s organizational about face, with right wing ideologue Steve Bannon banished from the National Security Council and pro-Russia general Flynn banished from the government?

What I also find interesting is the intense media attack on Trump— focusing on his Russia connection, his tax returns, nepotism in the White House, his companies’ benefiting (a violation of the emoluments clause of the US constitution) and calls for impeachment in Congress—all of sudden all the above have disappeared from view in the media front page. They’ve been put on the back burner in Congress and the press. And there’s no more damaging leaks coming weekly from the intelligence spooks either. Instead, what we hear is talk about ‘now he’s coming around’, beginning to appear presidential! Is all that just coincidental? Hmmm.

Is this a presidency where the Donald gets to sit on the second floor of the White House and do his late night tweets, and the bureaucrats scurry the next day to clean up? Where Donald is brought downstairs to the oval office for Executive Order signings or occasional reporter interviews and then trotted back upstairs? Is it a presidency where he makes his late night calls to his moneybag friends, like the billionaire Mercers and others, to find out ‘how am I doing guys’? While the rest of the representatives of the economic and political elite run the show?

Is this a Trump presidency, or a government by Generals-Goldman Sachs-Pence, with son in law Kushner functioning as intermediary between them and the Donald? A government of second floor tweets and first floor executive order signing events?

The quality of the American presidency has been in steady decline for decades. From the crook Nixon to the inept peanut farmer, Carter; from the movie-actor, camera friendly Reagan to the morally sleezy opportunist Bill Clinton; from know-nothing George Bush to the super-cautious false progressive Obama; and now to the fake right populist, blowhard, tweety-bird called Donald Trump.

We’re going to need a lot of luck to get through the next three and a half years folks!

China Calls on US, North Korea to Stop ‘Reckless Provocation’
| May 3, 2017 | 8:18 pm | China, DPRK, political struggle | No comments
The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson transits the South China Sea while conducting flight operations on April 9, 2017.

China Calls on US, North Korea to Stop ‘Reckless Provocation’

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After North Korea threatened the US by saying their war games over the Korean Peninsula brought the region closer to the “brink of nuclear war,” Beijing advocated for all sides to “lower the temperature” in both their rhetoric and frequent displays of military prowess.

“Stop irritating each other,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the US flew B-1B strategic bombers right over the Korean mainland, which was condemned by Pyongyang as a “reckless provocation.” Meanwhile, in Washington, US President Donald Trump said he would be “honored” to meet North Korean leader Kim Jung-un.

If North Korea fails to heed diplomatic calls from China, the results could be dire. North Korea maintains that the nuclear program is needed for the county’s very “existence and development.” If the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea follows through with a sixth nuclear test, the Korea Times reported, Beijing will sever economic ties, condemn its former ally and even blockade Pyongyang’s trading ports.

According to Chinese users of Weibo, a popular social media platform essentially synthesizing Facebook and Twitter, a memo has circulated in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in which the DPRK was provided notice of punitive measures that would ensue following another nuclear weapons test.

Rumor has it that Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi requested one of his officers to read out a warning to DPRK official Park Myung-ho. During the exchange, the DPRK diplomat was told about the harsh steps that would be taken.

The DPRK previously balked when Beijing ceased importing North Korean coal in compliance with United Nations sanctions against North Korea. The decision to end the energy imports was made in February, but according to 38 North, a North Korean research blog, China managed to send about $219 million for its coal in the first two months of 2017, according to Chinese customs data.

Beijing has not denied the substance of the story circulating on Weibo.

“North Korea is completely surrounded by enemies now,” one social media user commented.

Nuclear war ‘closer’ with US drills near Korean Peninsula, Pyongyang’s media warn

https://www.rt.com/news/386808-north-korea-nuclear-war/

Nuclear war 'closer' with US drills near Korean Peninsula, Pyongyang's media warn
The US activities in the vicinity of the Korean Peninsula – namely, US strategic bomber joint flights with South Korean and Japanese forces – may see the two Koreas end up in a nuclear war, the North Korean state agency KCNA has said.

According to Pyongyang, the US forces are carrying out “a nuclear bomb dropping drill against major objects” in its territory at the moment when US President Donald Trump as well as “other US warmongers are crying out for making a pre-emptive nuclear strike” against the North.

“The reckless military provocation is pushing the situation on the Korean Peninsula closer to the brink of nuclear war,” KCNA wrote, as cited by Reuters.

Seoul defended the drills, saying the war games were held to prevent provocations from the North, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun.

The flight of the two supersonic B-1B bombers occurred on Monday, on the same day as Trump said he would be ready to meet with Kim Jong-un.

“If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it,” Trump told Bloomberg News.

However, the White House was more reluctant to see the meeting in any near future, with spokesman Sean Spicer saying, “Clearly conditions are not there right now. I don’t see this happening anytime soon.”

Tensions have been escalating over the past weeks, with Trump saying on Thursday that “a major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible, and China warning that the situation on the peninsula could spiral out of control.

On Saturday, the North test-launched a missile, and it marked the latest in a series of missile-related activities, as well as two alleged nuclear tests, showing an unprecedented pace of such steps since the beginning of this year.

Washington Is the Real Threat to Peace on the Korean Peninsula
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Washington Is the Real Threat to Peace on the Korean Peninsula

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The current crisis on the Korean Peninsula is the product of a militarized state, led by an unpredictable and capricious leader, which cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons. That militarized state is of course the United States, and that unstable and capricious leader is Donald Trump.

If Western media is to be believed, of course, the precise opposite is the case. How could it be otherwise, given that the dominant historical and news narrative is written to suit the interests of the powerful at the expense of the less powerful or powerless? It is why we are continuously fed a distorted rendering both of the current crisis and nature of the DPRK (North Korea).

Indeed, from this rendering you would be entitled to believe that it was North Korea that, in its history, had used nuclear weapons — and used them against civilians — rather than the United States. You would also be entitled to believe that it was North Korea that had destroyed one country after another since the Second World War rather than the United States and its allies.This is the trouble with Western ideology; it rests on foundations of historical distortion and, dare we say it, fake news.

North Korea’s crime is not that it is led by an anti-democratic despot, as we are expected to believe. How could it be so when among Washington’s closest allies is a Saudi kleptocracy for whom even the mention of the words democracy and human rights will earn you a flogging, and perhaps even worse? And how it could it be, considering that the various other anti-democratic despots that Washington has counted among its friends and allies over the years?

The reality is that the demonization of North Korea, the aggression being leveled against it, has more to do with imperialism than democracy. It is the same imperialist aggression responsible for destroying the country between 1950 and 1953, during the most destructive war fought since the Second World War. Up to 5 million Koreans, north and south, perished — the majority of them civilians — while North Korea was almost completely obliterated courtesy of a US bombing campaign that took the carpet-bombing of towns, cities, and villages to a new level of wanton destruction. It was, as with the Vietnam War a decade later, a war that was fought in the context of a Cold War that by then was underway between East and West.

Over the decades since, North Korea has existed in a state of near splendid isolation, with China its main source of trade and, with it, income. Outside of that it has endured economic sanctions by the West, which combined with periodic natural disasters and famine, have served to impede its development, both economically and politically.

Putting it another way, you cannot place an entire country under the kind of economic and military pressure that Washington has placed North Korea and not expect its people and society to develop a garrison and siege mentality.

Currently the United States has around 30,000 troops stationed in South Korea, along with nuclear submarines and naval ships permanently within striking distance of Pyongyang. The notion that North Korea is the aggressor, taking this into account, is simply ludicrous, as is the claim made by successive US presidents that it is a threat to regional peace and stability.

On the back of President Trump’s remarkable about-face, which in his first 100 days in office has seen him go from a leader committed to ending Washington’s attachment to unilateralism and hard power to one of its most committed proponents, the world has never been more unstable. After his recent unilateral and illegal missile strike against Syria, we have in Trump a leader emboldened with a reckless and dangerous belief in his own infallibility when it comes to adopting a military-first strategy in dealing with major international crises, such as the one involving the Korean Peninsula.Lost in this worship of aircraft carrier battle groups, as the harbinger of peace and security, is the essential role of diplomacy and negotiation in averting the disastrous consequences of conflict and war. And when it comes to any potential conflict with North Korea, even the most conservative estimates provide a grim analysis of the likely consequences that would entail.

North Korea is not the enemy of peace and stability in the region, as claimed, just as the former Yugoslavia was not the enemy of peace and stability in Europe in the 1990s, and just as Iraq and Libya did not pose that threat in the Middle East in more recent times. What each of those states have/had in common was their defiance of Washington and its writ, which is the real reason they found themselves attacked and destroyed. The usual justification employed — i.e. democracy and human rights — was cynically employed as a smokescreen in order to gain domestic public support for unleashing war in each case.

 North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un watches a military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in this handout photo by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) made available on April 26, 2017
© Photo: KCNA
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un watches a military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in this handout photo by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) made available on April 26, 2017

The salient lesson the North Koreans took from the destruction of those states by the US and its allies was that nuclear weapons are a necessary protection against the same fate befalling them. Brutal logic, maybe, but logic nonetheless.

Only when the Washington ends, finally, its commitment to domination and embraces cooperation and respect in its dealings with the world will stability and peace cease to be a forlorn hope and at last become a reality.

Sadly, given what we know of Washington, nobody should make the mistake of holding their breath.

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

China Warns its Citizens in North Korea to Leave as Conflict with US Looms
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China Warns its Citizens in North Korea to Leave as Conflict with US Looms

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Fearing a possible US attack on North Korea, Beijing is urging its citizens there to return, as Pyongyang continues its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests.

The US-funded Radio Free Asia reported on Tuesday that the Chinese Embassy in North Korea sent out the warning less than a week before the 85th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army on April 25, an occasion some expected the North to use as an opportunity to conduct its sixth nuclear test.

Pyongyang instead conducted a large live-fire drill. Four days after the anniversary, the North carried out a missile test, but the projectile exploded several minutes after launching, a “failure” South Korean officials later surmised was intentional.

Amid holiday celebrations, the nuclear-powered USS Michigan submarine, armed with 150 Tomahawk missiles, joined a US Navy carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson near the Korean Peninsula, in a show of force from Washington.

A Korean-Chinese citizen who left Pyongyang after receiving the warning in late April told Radio Free Asia, “The embassy has never given such a warning. I was worried and left the country in a hurry,” according to the Korea Times.

He added that, despite mounting tensions with South Korea and the US, Pyongyang’s “peaceful” environment prevented a sense of urgency or panic amongst the Korean-Chinese population.

With the recent deployment in South Korea of the controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD), Washington’s threats of military action against the North and the US’s ongoing joint military exercises with South Korea, Pyongyang has accused the US of pushing the peninsula “to the brink of nuclear war” with its “aggression and hysteria.”

Through the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the North has stated that it will “continue to bolster its military capabilities for self-defense and pre-emptive nuclear attack,” with a spokesman saying in a statement Tuesday, “Now that the US is kicking up the overall racket for sanctions and pressure against DPRK, pursuant to its new DPRK policy called ‘maximum pressure and engagement,’ the DPRK will speed up at the maximum pace the measure for bolstering its nuclear deterrence,” the Guardian reported.

On Monday, KCNA also noted that the North was prepared to conduct its next nuclear test whenever leadership deemed it appropriate.

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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