TrumpWatch, Day 164: Trump to China “Put a Heavy Move on North Korea” — But What Does That Mean?

Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, April 2017

Trump tries to press China, but US appears at a loss over next steps on North Korea

Developments on Day 165 of the Trump Adminstration:

See also The White House Campaign Behind Trump’s “CNN Bodyslam” Tweet

Did Trump Just Tell China To Attack North Korea?

[UPDATE 1000 GMT: North Korea said on Tuesday that it has successfully conducted its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The US military said hours earlier that Pyongyang sent the missile aloft for 37 minutes. That duration suggests a significant improvement in the missile range, possibly as far as 4,000 miles to reach Alaska.

The missile took off from the Banghyon airfield in the northwestern town of Kusong and flew 578 miles before landing in the sea between North Korea and Japan, the South Korean military said.]

Donald Trump uses Twitter to send a message to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, following their phone call on Sunday.

Trump’s tweets are yet another shift in his public position on China and North Korea, including Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

During his 2016 campaign, Trump denounced Beijing for “raping” the US economy. However, he appeared to pursue rapprochement after receiving Xi at his Florida resort in February, praising the China leader and saying that he was looking forward to constructive relations with Beijing over the North Korean issue.

However, in March the Trump Administration stumbled in an attempt to pressure North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, with the Trump’s declaration of a US “armada” moving to the Korean coast only raising uncertainty and confusion as Pyongyang responded with its own threats. So attention returned to the possibility of China — North Korea’s largest and arguably essential trade link — putting economic pressure on Pyongyang.

On June 20, Trump used Twitter to say that the attempt had failed:

The Administration accompanied this with a series of steps that appeared to be punishment of the Chinese, including a $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan and sanctions on a Chinese bank, as Trump said the time for “strategic patience” with North Korea ended.

Trump’s latest tweet appeared to be an acknowledgement that the US has no effective approach without cooperation from the Chinese, while at the same time holding out the prospect that Washington could use a combination of enticement and punishment to shift Beijing’s position.

US officials said they hoped that tough US steps would bring Xi to reconsider his reluctance to press North Korea, although one official said Trump “now has fewer illusions that China will radically alter its approach”.

There was no indication from the officials of a US alternative policy. Trump and his advisors have ruled out diplomacy, and there seems to be no prospect for a military plan.

Instead, Trump’s phone call to Xi on Sunday, raising the “growing threat” of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, came after an American guided-missile destroyer sailed near disputed territory claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea. China denounced the “serious political and military provocation”.

Following the Trump-Xi call, the Chinese said the relationship was being “affected by some negative factors”.

Court Blocks EPA Effort to Suspend Obama-Era Methane Rule

A federal appeals court rules that the Environmental Protection Agency cannot suspend an Obama-era rule to restrict methane emissions from new oil and gas wells.

The US Court of Appeals for Washington DC ruled 2-1 against EPA head Scott Pruitt, who is trying to roll back dozens of environmental regulations.

Pruitt had first imposed a 90-day moratorium on enforcement of parts of the EPA methane regulation under the Clean Air Act, later extending this to two years. He argued that his action was not subject to judicial review, but the appeals court ruled that his actions were “unreasonable,” “arbitrary”, and “capricious”.

The judges said that the EPA had the right to reverse the methane regulations but would have to undertake a new rule-making process.

Senior Justice Department Official Quits Over Trump Administration’s Ethics Issues

A Justice Department official responsible for corporate compliance has quit, saying that she could no longer force companies to adhere to ethics laws when members of the Trump Administration have conducted themselves in a manner that she claims are not acceptable under those laws.

Hui Chen served in the department’s compliance counsel office from November 2015 until she resigned in June.

“To sit across the table from companies and question how committed they were to ethics and compliance felt not only hypocritical, but very much like shuffling the deck chair on the Titanic,” Chen wrote on LinkedIn.

She cited multiple court cases filed against Donald Trump over his ongoing ties to his business interests:

Even as I engaged in those questioning and evaluations, on my mind were the numerous lawsuits pending against the President of the United States for everything from violations of the Constitution to conflict of interest, the ongoing investigations of potentially treasonous conducts, and the investigators and prosecutors fired for their pursuits of principles and facts.

Those are conducts I would not tolerate seeing in a company, yet I worked under an administration that engaged in exactly those conduct. I wanted no more part in it.

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  1. US policy on North Korea is, that the policy in not on North Korea, it’s on China. It’s a longstanding US establishment strategy to “disappear” the greatest external threat to US economic power ( apart from it’s own bankruptcy of course ); the rise of China as the world’s biggest economic power.

    The Obama attempt to “pivot” toward the Pacific was the start of current US strategy, and focussed on attempting to contain China’s naval expansion, while keeping China engaged politically and economically. It failed to prevent or even arguably slow the Chinese down.

    Enter a new Republican establishment with the moron Trump as the plausibly-deniable-if-it-all-goes-wrong monkey* in the hot-seat, and the US is ready for a more aggressive policy towards China; as well as raising the naval stakes in the Pacific, the US is using North Korea as a pressure point to isolate China internationally.

    This is not the end of the matter though; the pressure is being raised with a specific purpose: and Henry Kissinger in Moscow right now is oiling the deal.

    If China can be isolated internationally and held up as an international pariah state because of it’s support for the universally condemned North Korean regime, it opens the door for other states to man the front lines in facing China.

    What the US needs, and what it’s quietly working on behind the scenes, is for Russia to take on China. This is what Trump is going to ask of Putin, to begin the process by condemning China for it’s support of North Korea. The US isn’t going to take on China itself, and will restrict itself to stoking tension and increasing pressure, while it wants Russia to be the active one and physically start a conflict with China. I call it the “reverse Nixon policy”, because Nixon did things the other way round, got China to break with the Soviet Union. Now the US wants Russia to break with China, and China will find itself completely surrounded by hostile powers. There are enough border disputes between Russia and China that have been on ice, that could be opened up, for things to quickly escalate and bring down China as the worlds superpower.

    But this plan assumes that the US has enough leverage over Putin, which it probably does; and that the Chinese are dumb enough to fall for the trap, which is unlikely; the Chinese have avoided getting too dragged in to the North Korea black hole so far and besides, it’s too little too late for the US – China is already a more powerful and influential economic power than the US.

    However, it does highlight the weakness of the US: it’s unable to contain China’s rise and totally unable to confront it directly. Hell, it was unable to even confront Qatar directly; and never mind Qatar, it can’t even take on the Taliban. China may well call the US’s bluff and continue to expand in the Pacific and back North Korea regardless of US pressure, and they can swat aside anything that Russia might threaten them with if the US plan works.

    *no offence to monkeys

  2. Your analysis is excellent, DP, but suffers from an unsupported assumption: what ‘sufficient leverage’ exactly does the Pentagovernment hold over Putin, who has laughed off their ‘mighty’ sanctions Wurlitzer as casually as one would a 5-year old having a tantrum, to induce him to turn against the China with which he has long cultivated healthy relations?

    Why would Putin reverse course to chain his country to the listing Yanki Titanic to aid its futile plot for aggression when Russia’s natural economic interest lies in a collaborative peaceful development with its dynamic neighbour, for example by being an integral part of the OBOR scheme?

    In short, what does Putin need from Yankistan that he cannot obtain cheaper and more reliably elsewhere? [For the sake of brevity let’s take it as read that windy promises/threats, the habitual Yanki stock-in-trade, are not something he needs.]

    Then, according to the DeepState dogma prevailing around here, Der Trumpenführer owes his job to Uncle Vlad, so how to reconcile this new irrational faith with the equally nonsensical older one that Exceptionalistan shall forever easily subdue and domineer all the Earthly enemies it chooses to make by mere Kraft des Willens?

    IMHO it is highly unlikely the wizened snake Kissinger or anyone else will sway the Vladster into serving the Yanki Imperial interest by slashing his own throat.

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